IT is often said that the key to a great motorcycle design is an appealing, distinctive power plant. In the case of Yamaha’s new for 2018 Tracer 900, the tuning fork company are off to a good start – the engine is the 847cc Crossplane concept triple, a delightful and proven design established with the FJ09. The engine design is very compact, with the racer-style “Tri-Axis” stacking of the crank, main and drive shafts.
At the recent Canadian launch for the Tracer 900 and the more travel-ready 2019 Tracer 900 GT, Product Specialist Andrew Scott explained that the Tracer is a Sports Touring design, aimed at experienced riders in the age 35 to 55 range. Both Tracer’s engines are essentially unchanged from the earlier FJ, and the more expensive GT version has a host of additions to provide impressive versatility.
The engine is one of the most distinctive and enjoyable designs available, a sporty three cylinder with Yamaha’s distinctive “CP3” Crossplane that delivers both a strong mid-range and an appealing growl. Throttle control is fly-by-wire or Yamaha’s Chip Control Throttle (YCC-T), with two traction control modes as well as an “off” position.
Both Tracers start with revised bodywork and a revised, reshaped wind screen. The screen is now easily adjusted on the fly, with just one hand. The handle bars are slightly narrower, connected to narrower and lighter hand guards.
Both front and rear seats are redesigned, the alloy swing arm is significantly longer, and the rear end is generally tidied with a new fender, passenger peg mounts and better-integrated side case mounts.
The base Tracer comes with ABS, as well as the most helpful of often overlooked sometimes-accessories, the centre stand, a suitable feature somehow missing from the earlier FZ.
The obvious difference with the GT version beyond the well-integrated hard luggage is the larger, Thin Filament Transistor (TFT) instrument screen, offering a wide range of performance and status data. The GT gets a Quick Shifter, and that works well with the standard slipper clutch shared by both Tracers’ six speed transmissions. Heated grips are standard as is Cruise Control.
The GT’s Front forks are now fully adjustable while the rear shock is upgraded too, getting the luggage and passenger-friendly remote preload adjuster.
The stock side cases are color matched to the other bodywork, the overall presentation tidied up if somewhat subdued. There is even a 12-volt plug on the side of the GT’s fancy TFT display.
On the road, the new Tracer is certainly comfortable, the revised screen and roomier, firmer seat immediately attracting positive comments. The riding position is relaxed, fairly upright, with lots of space to relocate to change pressure points over a full day in the adjustable saddle.
I started off with the throttle setting in standard, and this seemed to provide a somewhat deadened response at low revs and low road speed. A quick and easy to follow switch to the “A” mode gave the direct response I was looking for, and got the triple snapping to attention in style. On our dry test, I didn’t bother with “B,” but that looks like a rough road or hard rain option.
The huge flexibility of the engine and broad power band mean gear selection is not a big deal, and the transmission shifts well, although it prefers some revs for the long throw controls. Horsepower is in the one hundred range on a rear wheel dyno, and there is certainly enough urge to have fun.
Chassis-wise, the steering is a little slower than I remembered, possibly due to the longer swing arm. Still the new Tracer steers well and is very stable while cornering, and has good ground clearance, even with the extended “curb feelers” mounted to the stock pegs.
Overall, we enjoyed both Tracers, and admit we would first recommend the GT. When you factor in the cost of the hard luggage and look at the convenience of the GT’s added features, the more expensive bike wins out, but both are friendly, strong performers.