Yamaha MT-01 SP

Power Horse

A ferociously torquey cruiser engine shoehorned into a well suspended sports bike frame

It’s big, it’s grunty and it’s packed with Ohlins suspension but with a meaty price tag of $25,999, will it pull the punters in?

If you are after attention, I can assure you the Yamaha MT-01 SP, which is a special limited edition, draws looks from bystanders and gives you plenty of laughs when you see people driving in the opposite direction snapping their necks trying to have a look.

Yamaha engineers were given a “freer” hand when designing and building the MT-01 SP, although they still used a principle called “Kodo”. This is a Japanese concept meaning soul or pulsation that resonates through the body and mind; or the external expression of latent power. The SP model has been built to elevate this to an even higher level than the standard MT-01.

The engine in the MT-01 SP is still the massive 1670cc V-twin from the Yamaha 1700 Warrior cruiser and “Kodo” it has in spades. At idle there is a lot of pulsating and when you twist the wrist, the torque propels you forward at a rapid rate.

This bike is not for those riders wishing for “sports bike” inline four levels of performance but is more for those who are after something different and don’t wish to change their underwear each time they go for a ride. It pulls strongly in any gear, even from around 1500rpm in fifth. Two thousand rpm is right in the sweet spot of the, I won’t say power band but torque band, making you more relaxed. You don’t have to worry about having the bike in the right gear for each and every piece of the road, as you do on some other bikes.

If the power or sound is not enough, Yamaha offers three stages of performance kits. The first stage, at $2405.05, is a set of Akrapovic slip-on mufflers but you will also have to buy the Akrapovic muffler ring kit for $280.07 to keep the dual seat. The second stage consists of a revised ECU, plus a full-titanium Akrapovic exhaust system for $6269.10. The third stage performance kit retails for a whopping $10,014.31. For this you get high-compression pistons, camshafts, velocity stacks, special clutch and valve springs and gaskets. Power is up to around 160hp and torque is significantly increased. Oh what a bike it would be to ride then! I think you would need to have your arms welded into their sockets just to hold on.

The main changes from the standard MT-01 to the SP model are Ohlins suspension front and rear, Pirelli Diablo Rosso tyres, fatter 28.6mm tapered bars, complemented by a stylish machined aluminium handlebar crown and the special Yamaha Racing colour scheme. This consists of the red and white tank and the fabulous looking gold wheels. A two-tone black and red seat, red front guard and additional chrome on the engine and chassis accentuate this model. To remind you that you are on something special, there is a red chrome “MT” logo right in front of you on the tank.

I need to get one of the very few things I didn’t like about this bike out of the way here. It’s the seat. It is very wide at the front making it a bit uncomfortable and limiting the range of riders who could physically handle the bike, as you will need longer legs to get around it. Someone over 180cm could handle it competently; those shorter may struggle. While on this point, because of the weight (265kg with oil and fuel), you will need to have a bit of muscle to maneuver the SP around as well.

Ohlins suspension is some of the trickest stuff out there on the market and looks pretty damn good, too! The MT-01 SP shares some of its suspension with the R1 (swingarm and wheels) and I was expecting it to be quite hard but the valving and spring rates work perfectly for our rough roads, soaking up the bumps with ease, then having the right stuff when you want to have fun through smooth corners.

Riding the SP through corners calls for a little pressure on the inside bar to start with thanks to its fast turn-in, then a bit of muscle to keep it there as it settles down mid-corner. The Pirelli Diablo Rosso tyres give massive amounts of grip and feel, ensuring most riders won’t get anywhere near their limits. That makes for a relatively safe handling bike on our substandard roads.

The six-piston radial front calipers (also courtesy of the R1) require some heat at first but then pull the SP up well with plenty of feedback. The rear brake gives even better feel and is very handy when riding in slow city traffic.

Having quite a small fuel tank with a big V-twin engine doesn’t make the SP any sort of long-distance machine but I don’t expect anyone will buy it for that reason. I achieved 7.8l/100km, which combined city and country riding. This should see about the 192km mark from the 15 litres on offer.
The central dash is basic in layout with the one round display. This houses an analogue tachometer around the edge, a digital speedometer, trip meter, odometer and fuel, oil and engine warning lights. Not having a fuel gauge, as such, will see the orange low fuel warning light glowing quite a bit on this bike.

Being a limited edition model, you would think there is not much more you could do to customise it but Yamaha offer lots of carbon bits and pieces. There’s a total of about $4000 worth, along with a set of adjustable foot pegs, performance grips and levers and a nice silver/transparent tank pad with the same ‘MT’ logo as the red chrome one that would be just above it. In total, with engine mods and the bits and pieces just mentioned, there is just over $25,000 more you could spend on the SP. I know, I just picked my chin up off the floor as well!

Overall this bike is very hard to judge against anything else on the market. All I can say is if you like a bike with a combination of a big V-twin engine in a sports bike frame with top-class suspension and looks to stun, the MT-01 SP fits your list perfectly. Yamaha says the MT-01 SP is like holding onto the reigns of a horse; well, giddy up, I say!

Yamaha MT-01

Model: Yamaha MT-01
Price: $25,999 (plus on-road charges)
Warranty: Two years, unlimited distance
Power: 66.3kW @ 4,750rpm
Torque: 150.3Nm @ 3,750rpm
Engine: Air-cooled, 4-stroke, OHV, 4-valve, V-twin
Bore x stroke: 97 x 113mm
Displacement: 1,670cc
Compression: 8.4:1
Transmission: Five-speed, wet multi-plate clutch, chain final drive
Suspension: Front, 43mm inverted fork with adjustable rebound damping and spring preload, travel 120mm. Rear, monoshock, adjustable preload and rebound, 117mm travel.
Dimensions: Seat height 825mm, kerb weight 265kg (with oil and fuel), fuel capacity 15 litres, wheelbase 1,525mm
Tyres: Front, 120/70 ZR 17. Rear, 190/50 ZR 17
Frame: Aluminium CF die-cast
Brakes: Front, twin 310mm discs with six-piston monobloc calipers. Rear, 267mm disc, twin-piston floating caliper.
Top speed: N/A
0-100km/h: N/A
60-100km/h: N/A
Fuel consumption: 7.8 litres/100km, premium unleaded
Theoretical range: 192km
Colours: Cloudy white (Yamaha Racing Scheme)
Verdict: Grunt! Grunt!