A launch ride - for any bike - is usually pretty frantic; half your brain is trying to suss out a bike you're riding for the first time while the other half is trying to stay out of the way of some of the world's craziest riders.

Bike - and car - companies lay out launch routes with the emphasis on safety and simple navigation; they tend to be mostly fast, open roads, not really representative of everyday riding. You only truly learn what a bike is about when you live with it for a while, as I did recently with Yamaha's immensely muscular 1670cc MT-01 V-twin.

On the world launch, held here in Cape Town, we learned the big street-fighter has torque to spare and superb brakes and that the rear shock tends to fade on long fast rides.

The deeply dished saddle holds the rider in one place all the time and the wide bars on cast risers give you plenty of leverage to throw this quarter-ton motorcycle around.

On the daily grind to work, however, the vibration which the Yamaha boffins deliberately engineered into the motor - they call it "kodo", the Japanese word for pulse - can be irksome and at traffic speeds the high centre of gravity created by the tall engine with its two huge cylinders makes the bike a little reluctant to turn in.

But the huge torque is a joy; just being able to crack the throttle anywhere above idle and have the bike surge instantly forward makes this a street bike with authority.

The crackling, spitting soundtrack notwithstanding, the power delivery is easily modulated thanks to Suzuki-style dual throttle valves that smooth out the twist-grip response without slowing down its immediacy.

The brakes are magnificent - not only immensely powerful but accurately modulated and marvellously controllable, emphasising the bike's straight-line superiority.

It goes and stops like nothing else in its class but because of its weight it loses a little in the swervery.

The only let-down was top speed; considering the big power and torque numbers quoted by Yamaha I was a disappointed when the bike topped out at 211km/h with the engine just above its 4750rpm power peak.

A slightly smaller rear sprocket would undoubtedly give the bike longer legs - but at the expense of some of that marvellous acceleration.

The ride, on Yamaha's median settings, is firm but supple, fine for town but underdamped for fast Sunday mornings; the MT-01 treated me to a mild version of the Hippy Hippy Shake a couple of times on long fast sweeps.

Longer rides

Despite my reservations about the seat, I found it comfortable on a longer ride; at the the edges of the frame were catching on the inside of my legs but this time around they were no problem - it's something you adjust to very quickly.

The bike's real limitations are its lack of wind protection and short range. The test bike averaged 6.4 litres/100km and that translates to only 225km from the 15-litre tank - less than the distance between some filling stations in South Africa.


Yamaha doesn't see this bike as a tourer; there's no screen in its accessory catalogue, which tells you something. But that's really not what this bike is about; it's an urban warrior, a short-range missile second only to Triumph's gargantuan Rocket III for straight-line punch - and a lot more wieldy than the Hinckley heavyweight.

At the risk of being accused of heresy, it's one of the finest commuters I've ridden, with an enormous Grin Factor.

Price: R105 000

Test bike from Linex Yamaha, Cape Town

Yamaha MT-01 specifications