Three months ago, Yamaha introduced an updated version of the hooligan-favorite MT-10 and it quickly became my favorite of the Japanese ~1,000cc naked sportbikes (Honda CB1000R, Kawasaki Z900, Suzuki GSX-S1000, etc) at the general price point.
Now America gets something we’ve never had access to – a SP (Sport Production) variant of the MT-10. It’s even better (but you’ll have to pay to play), and I feel this bike only makes sense if you need to have electronic suspension.
If for some reason you’ve been living under a rock and don’t know what the MT-10 is, the core concept is that it gets features from the supersport R1 but provides them in a more comfortable package: fully-adjustable KYB suspension, six-axis IMU with full electronics suite, and the R1’s CP4 engine which has been tuned for torque between 4k-8k rpm.
For 2022, the base model MT-10 got some excellent upgrades – highlights include Brembo master brake cylinders, a 4.2″ full-color TFT screen, a six-axis IMU, and air ducts which are actually functional and have cut-outs up top to make the induction sound louder for the rider. As a bonus, gas mileage is up from 30 to 36 miles per gallon.
If you have some extra time and want to learn even more about the base model, you can check out our video from the MT-10 launch in North Carolina earlier this year:
With that said, let’s focus on what’s different with the SP:
The base MT-10 is already a great bike, but the SP takes it to the next level with a few choice upgrades. The most significant is next-generation Ohlins electronic suspension (forks and shock), which is tied into the IMU, features Ti-Nitride finished inner fork tubes, and offers three semi-active damping modes and three manual setting modes.
The automatic modes are named A-1, A-2, and A-3 – the high the number, the stiffer the suspension. The system will automatically adjust rebound and compression damping on the fly, and the settings are simplified for a more casual user – instead of dealing directly with compression or rebound, the system just shows you how much “support” you’ll get while accelerating, braking, and cornering:
There are also three manual modes, and this is where you can specifically play with compression and rebound on the front and the rear. The details have to be set while you’re stopped, but you can switch between your suspension presets while riding (as long as you’re off the throttle). Modifying preload will require you to go back into the dark ages of manual adjustments.
The electronic suspension works brilliantly, and there’s enough difference between the automatic settings to make them useful. A-1 is too stiff for street duty (at least with the potholes of LA streets and the bumps of the 405 freeway) so I actually kept it in A-3 (the softest setting) for commuter purposes and A-2 when I wanted to get a little sporty on the weekends. A-1 seems best suited for the track, though anyone serious about spending time on courses is going to want to put the Ohlins in manual mode and configure it for their exact riding style.
I’m also highly impressed with how easy the MT-10 is easy to live with on a day-to-day basis thanks to a blend of comfort and technology. The wide bars provide excellent leverage to make steering low-effort and they afford riders the ability to sit quite upright at low speeds. There’s also enough room on the seat to slide back and get a little forward lean going to counteract wind when you start building up speed. The cockpit is a surprisingly comfortable place to spend some time and I’d have no problem doing a weekend tour with it despite the lack of wind protection.
Just as the MT-10 offers several settings for the electronic suspension, it also offers up four ride modes and several levels of adjustability for electronic aids which include Slide Control, Wheelie Control, Engine Brake Management, lean-sensitive Traction Control, and lean-sensitive ABS. You just have to spend a few minutes setting it all up early in your ownership experience and then you’ll have profiles for just about every riding situation you would encounter.
There’s also cruise control (with big chunky buttons that are easy to use) as well as a speed limiter which can be helpful if you have problems obeying the speed limit.
All these fancy electronics pair well with an excellent chassis – the MT-10’s Deltabox aluminum frame is nearly identical to what’s found in the supersport R1, only differing in mounting points for the bodywork as well as the color as much more of it is visible in this platform. There are moments (especially during quick side to side transitions) where the MT-10 feels like a much smaller bike and it’s a joy to huck around even in very tight corners. Rounding off the package are Bridgestone S22 Hypersport tires, which I have always had good results with.
The final upgrade for the SP over the base model is steel braided front brake lines. I was very excited about this because one of my few complaints about the MT-10 was brake feel and strength. Unfortunately, it’s not enough – the brakes still aren’t great. The bike has a Brembo master cylinder but I’m not in love with the initial bite or the feel throughout the entire lever pull as they force fluid into the ADVICS calipers. They’re just not good enough for a bike this fast and sporty. After speaking with several MT-10 owners, the solution is to upgrade the pads.
Beyond that, I’m happy with the dynamic performance of the MT-10. With that said, it goes a lot better than it looks. They say that styling is subjective, but I’m still waiting to meet someone who thinks this face looks good. I really like the paint job and the gold accents from the Ohlins, but I’ve never parked this bike, walked away from it, and felt like I had to look back. I don’t mind the bike from the sides or the rear, but the front is a disaster. It’s such a shame, as Yamaha’s MT line-up (plus the Tracer GT) is full of amazing bikes for the money that just don’t look good.
Stylistically, the SP gets a model-specific paint job in “Liquid Metal/Raven” which is “inspired” by the R1M and is complemented by a gold chain, blacked out components, and a brushed/clear-coated swingarm. There’s also a 3-piece sub-cowl for a little extra plastic fantastic styling. Yamaha says it helps direct air to the oil cooler, as well.
Most of Yamaha’s promotional photos of this bike are at night, and I’m still not sure if it’s because it’s aggressive and urban or because they’re trying to hide the details?
My other minor complaints from the base model remain – the jog dial that controls most of the dash is a pain to use, and the clutch cable is in the way of the ignition switch so it’s annoying to put the key in or take it out at the beginning or end of each ride. This is small potatoes, but it’s also such a silly problem to have.
The Yamaha MT-10 SP is a steal.
Maybe I’m missing something (and please let me know in the comments if I am), but I believe the MT-10 SP is the cheapest way to get yourself a ~1,000cc naked bike with electronic suspension. I’m not saying that both of those things are requirements to have a good time on a motorcycle, but if you’re looking for both then you’d have to spend a lot more to get the same features from another company:
Aprilia Tuono Factory 1100: $19,499
BMW S1000R – $17,305 (but BMW NA is obsessed with packages so you’ll probably spend more)
Ducati Streetfighter V4 S – $27,595
KTM 1290 Super Duke R Evo – $19,599
Triumph Speed Triple 1200 RS – $18,500
Yamaha’s definitely giving up a few ponies to the above lineup. It’s not the like the MT-10’s ~160 horsepower is inadequate, but with the SP’s price increase it does become more noticeable.
The caveat here is that the base model MT-10 is an even better deal, so you’ll have to decide if electronic suspension, different cosmetics, and upgraded front brakes lines are worth $2,900 to you. It’s not an obvious question for me.
After I spent some quality time with the base model MT-10 earlier this year, I came away thinking it was the best of the Japanese ~1,000cc naked sportbikes (Honda CB1000R, Kawasaki Z900, Suzuki GSX-S1000, etc) at the general price point.
Obviously, the SP is even better, but with a MSRP of $16,899 (plus a destination charge of $475 and a freight surcharge of $375), the MT-10 SP is now encroaching on Euro pricing – a base model Aprilia Tuono is $15,999, and we love that bike here at Iconic. It’s also not much more of a stretch from that price to the Kawasaki Z H2 at $18,000, which has one of the greatest engines I’ve ever ridden in a naked bike (but somehow manages to be even uglier than the MT).
The Yamaha MT-10 SP is a wonderful bike, and if you absolutely need electronic suspension and your budget is capped at $17,000 for some reason, then Yamaha’s the only game in town. But there’s a specific reason I bring up both the Tuono and the Z H2 – that’s where I’d go with my money.
Interestingly, Yamaha already has their site up for the 2023 model, which appears to be the same but will retail for $17,199 instead. So if this bike tickles your fancy, you better act quick!