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Yamaha MT-01: Torque of the town

Published Jun 1, 2005




Four-stroke air-cooled 1670cc V-twin.


66.3kW at 4750rpm.

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150Nm at 3750rpm.


Dual floating 320mm front discs, single floating 267mm rear disc.

Fuel Capacity:

15 litres.

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Around £9 400 (about R116 372)

MT stands for mega torque. That needs little explanation but Yamaha doesn't leave it at that. It describes this 1670cc V-twin brontosaurus according to a Japanese concept called "kodo".

This translates as "pulse", "sound that resonates within the mind and body" or "marketing drivel", depending on who you ask.

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The motorcycle that became the MT-01 started life six years ago as a styling concept. Normally, aesthetic daring is ruthlessly eliminated during development, but not here.

Citroën does this with cars. Triumph did it last year with the mighty Rocket III. It takes courage but the risk/reward equation applies. When radical design works it produces classics. So, is the MT-01 destined to be regarded as one?

It doesn't look quite so radical on the road as it did at the Tokyo auto show in 1999. The two exhausts snake intriguingly below the engine before emerging under the seat the size of organ pipes. The fuel tank is covered with aluminium.

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Perhaps the most distinctive feature is the headlight unit that consists of two lights of different diameters, one above the other. Head on, there is nothing that compares with this.

But the MT-01 is distinctive rather than unique. It does not have the ground-breaking characteristics of a Harley-Davidson V-Rod or Rocket III. This is a bold and imaginative development of the naked roadster concept rather than a wholly new shape of motorcycle.

Judged on acoustics alone ,this motorcycle is special. It sounds like two pneumatic drills operating in tandem. At very low speed, vibration through the seat conveys the same impression.

But that is not to say it's uncomfortable. The rider's seat is one of the best I've encountered. The machine performs, too. In fact that is parsimonious. It is huge fun to ride.

66.3kW is a modest output for such a large engine but the oceanic reserves of torque compensate. Its acceleration between road-legal speeds is phenomenal. This roadster can take advantage of the tightest overtaking opportunity.

Between 60 and 100lkm/h in third the pick-up feels more like warp drive than internal combustion.

Racing pedigree

Its handling is impressive, too. Through tight bends and fast, sweeping curves the MT-01 reveals the virtues of Yamaha's racing pedigree. The huge, inverted front forks hold the front wheel as if on rails.

You have to be travelling really fast before the weight begins to make physical demands on the rider.

Though large, the MT-01 isn't broad. It filters easily through traffic and feels light during low-speed manoeuvres.

The engine note doesn't suggest contentment at low revolutions, but again the reality surprises. It is also so potent that even pensioners in Nissan Micras notice you're there - a peculiar safety feature but useful all the same.

Basic instruments

The MT-01's instrumentation is basic but clear. A large analogue rev-counter is partnered by a digital speedo, clock and trip-meter. This is all most readers will need because the MT-01 is not a motorway cruiser.

Its naked design makes it exhausting at sustained high speed and, even with earplugs, the engine soon becomes intrusive.

On twisty roads, country lanes and in town the MT-01 is an absolute hoot. The torque is such that a lazy rider could stay in third gear for hours on end. If motorcycles were allowed to pull caravans this one would do so without breaking into a sweat.

Classic status can only be conferred by public approbation and the MT-01 hasn't been around long enough for that. It is bold and imposing rather than beautiful but the sensations conveyed by riding it are special.

It pulls like a carthorse from only 1500rpm. With the MT-01, Yamaha has combined muscle, handling and style to pleasing effect. - The Independent, London

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