The Paradox Of The 2019 Yamaha Tracer 900 GT

A ride-along video brings up a much deeper question

Yamaha’s Tracer 900 GT is a terrific motorcycle. Based on the ever-popular FZ/MT-09, it pumps out more than 100 hp, cruises down a highway or canyon like a demon, and comes with all of the touring and city options you could want. A first glance at the bike or its spec sheet make it seem to have it all, and you’ll read plenty of reviews that say just that. Then again, the blue-collar roots of the Tracer are as attractive as all of its features.

So what about the price? Asking $13,000 isn't unheard of in motorcycling, it's just that the Tracer 900 comes from a humble place. Remember that when the FZ-09 stepped on the scene in 2014 it did so for an amazing MSRP of $7,990. Sure, it wasn't (and isn't) perfect, but eight grand for one of the most exciting motorcycles for sale was a bargain in a time when there was mostly stagnancy from Japanese manufacturers. The basic, soft suspension and abrupt throttle response were shrugged off because of the price, as were the squishy brakes.

Here we are, five years on, and the new Tracer 900 GT suffers with some of these same problems. To be fair, the fully adjustable suspension on the GT is actually much better, but there’s still driveline lash and the same basic brakes are now in charge of stopping 60 extra pounds of motorcycle (with bags). Last of all, among the many reasons that it is very much not 2014 anymore, other companies have gotten their creative ducks in a row and are producing exciting, practical, cool machines for reasonable prices. (Even the MT-09 has company—it has grown into a $9,000 bike, which is a strata that includes the Aprilia Shiver 900 and KTM 690 Duke, both of which have full electronics and color dashes. Or, for that matter, Kawasaki’s Versys 650 LT, which we’ll come back to.)

So the Tracer 900 is competing in a whole new territory. For $13,000, you could just about have a Honda Africa Twin, a Ducati SuperSport (a base model, anyway), or a Kawasaki Ninja 1000 with luggage. All of those bikes have their shortcomings, but aren’t so much accessorized versions of a smaller, cheaper bike as they are stand-alone models. More to the point, those machines have brakes and chassis that were designed for touring, and to weigh 500-plus pounds.

Herein lies the paradox of the Tracer 900 GT: It offers incredible features—a TFT dash, adjustable suspension and windshield and seat height, cruise control, saddlebags, heated grips, a centerstand, and even headlights that adjust up and down with no tools—but how far does that take it? Does $4,000 worth of add-ons on a $9,000 bike automatically make it worth $13,000? How many accessories can you add before a machine ceases to be itself? There’s no limit, I suppose, as long as you know what you want. The Tracer 900 GT is going to make a lot of riders happy, as long as those riders are cool with the Tracer’s simple upbringing shining through from time to time.

As you can see in the video, I find the Tracer 900 to be a fun, engaging, and practical motorcycle. And I love the features. The dash is great, the quickshifter is a hoot, and I’m a fan of cruise control. Then again there’s the steadfast Versys 650, with terrific luggage, touring capability, and great chassis, all for $9,000. All of the Tracer’s fancy kit (and extra horsepower) might be a selling point for me, honestly, and make me consider this bike over some of the others in the category. But I would secretly wonder if a bike made for itself might be better than a dressed-up version of another model. So, Yamaha, how about a crossplane Tracer 1000? That’s got to be worth fourteen grand, right?

dyno chart
Some might say that 105 hp and 60 pound-feet of torque isn’t enough, but anyone who’s ridden Yamaha’s 847cc triple will tell you it’s just about as good as engines get. On/off throttle response still isn’t perfect, but there aren’t any surprises in the power curve.Zack Courts

Quick Specs

MEASURED WEIGHT 480/503 lb. w/ bags (218/228kg)
FUEL CAPACITY 4.8 gal. (18.2L)
SEAT HEIGHT 33.5/34.1 in. (851/866mm)
MEASURED HORSEPOWER 104.9 @ 9930 rpm
MEASURED TORQUE 59.8 lb.-ft. @ 8340 rpm