2005 Yamaha MT-01

It's not a sportbike. It's not a cruiser. And it's not coming to America in '05. Roland Brown figures Yamaha's inimitable new omnivore would be right at home on American roads--and so do we

"I find it boring if you lose one hour from your garage to the first empty road before you can exploit the potential of your machine."

That's what Yamaha's Shinichiro Nishimura says about this bike, and he should know. Nishimura is one of the engineers who shaped the original MT-01 prototype that stole the 1999 Tokyo Show. Like most frustrated sportbike fans, he dreamt of a bike that could be as much fun carving up commuter traffic as it was on some fantastic stretch of deserted tarmac.

The production-spec MT-01, presented to motorcycling's fourth estate in Cape Town, South Africa, is that motorcycle. Any decent sportbike would have been great on the handpicked South African curves of Yamaha's test route. But I can't think of anything that could make me put off a cool Beck's after a hot day on the road just to ride a few more miles. It's a pity Yamaha won't be bringing it to the States in '05. But be patient. Once word gets out on how good this thing is, those who make such decisions might reconsider. Remember the FJR1300?

Patience is a virtue where the MT-01 is concerned. Yamaha took five years to convert that first prototype into a remarkably similar production machine. It's like nothing else on wheels: a massive, iconoclastic sort of muscle-bike, defined by a gigantic air-cooled V-twin powerplant bolted to an intriguing cocktail of parts ranging from supersport-spec suspension to a pair of outrageous-looking megaphone exhaust cans.

The net effect rivets your attention before your butt even touches the seat and you take in the pleasingly simple instrumentation: a big round tach wrapped around the digital speedo and warning lights. Yamaha made the MT-01's riding position quite sporty, so the pilot leans slightly forward to the near-flat one-piece handlebar. Likewise, Yamaha positioned the rearset footpegs reasonably high, but a fairly tall saddle provides adequate legroom (unlike a Boeing 747 coach seat, for example).

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