Our long-term Tracer hits the strip and racetrack.
By Nick IenatschNovember 13, 2019
Warning: I am often accused of loving every motorcycle made.
But that’s not true… Well, not entirely true. I might use the word “love” a bit too much in this industry because most bikes offer a lot of lovely things, but when I’m writing a bike review that you might spend your hard-earned money on, I won’t wax poetic unless the machine deserves the endearing accolades.
I love this Tracer GT.
A New Friend
The relationship started neutrally—friendly, but no fireworks—a year ago in Las Vegas at the AIMExpo. I rode the Tracer 900 GT from Las Vegas to Hurricane, Utah, then spent the next morning in Zion National Park, and ended the ride at my mom’s house in Salt Lake City.
There, I washed it for the first time and found it fiddly to clean; numerous wheel spokes and mechanical parts not covered by full fairings meant this thing was a mess.
And, frankly, I didn’t think it was very pretty. Nor did I care for the wind buffeting with the stock screen, or the traction and feel of the stock tires, and the gearing felt too low in sixth for a ground-covering machine running untethered carrying only 4.8 gallons of fuel.
Until now, my usual sport-touring bike was a 2006 Yamaha FZ1. In comparison, the Tracer reminded me of an eager puppy rather than a stoic and hard-working service dog like the FZ. I like puppies, but sometimes there’s significant work to be done, places to be, and deadlines to meet. Sometimes, you need to cover big miles in short hours. It takes substance, strength, and unrelenting speed delivered in flowing rivers of “braaap” across highways designed to be entertaining speeds that tax touring machines.
The morning after unpacking the Tracer in my mom’s garage, Gary Klein joined me for a few runs up a local canyon—the first miles I put on the Tracer sans luggage. We traded bikes and the back-to-back comparison with his 2008 Yamaha FZ1 had us both praising the extra leg room, the outstanding brakes, and the entertaining revvy engine of the Tracer. Nice puppy.
Mods And Miles
The trek from Salt Lake City to southern Colorado included subfreezing temperatures only to be followed by rain. At this point, all I wanted was to get home and park the Tracer in my garage. We knocked out an 11-hour day with surprising ease and comfort, including some of my favorite roads. We hauled butt for a long time. My admittedly “mild” respect for the GT grew. Pretty good dog.
In order to extend fuel range and mellow the bike at speed, I installed taller final gearing to the Tracer 900 GT. That, paired with Yamaha’s touring windshield and a set of Dunlop Roadsmart tires, put the Yamaha into a zone that I wanted from a sport-tourer.
My vocabulary began to change about the Tracer. It grew from a “cute little fella” to “I’m thinking it’s the real deal.” I had pressed it to deliver long, fast days and it came through with aplomb. Soon I admitted that the Tracer had my FZ1 covered in almost every sport-touring department—except highly illegal cross-state speed runs that may or may not have happened. The smaller 900cc engine pushing that big fairing can’t generate the mph the slipperier and more muscular FZ1 can. Or at least I’ve heard.
My FZ1 is a terrific track companion and sport-tourer, and this installment puts the Tracer into a similar performance world. I am enamored of the sport-touring motorcycle in the real world of sporty-mile-eating where comfort, speed, ease of use, handling, and reliability all combine to make a bike worthwhile. Our first 6,800 miles had cemented a relationship that had me looking forward to every ride, whether a local back-road blast or multi-state drone. This bike possesses significantly more tricks and little more personality than my FZ1, mainly due to the flat-plane-crank triple that is simply addicting, not to mention a butter-smooth quickshifter.
As with my FZ1, I sent the ECU to Ivan’s Performance to smooth out the triple—performing drag runs before and after—then asked Mark Schellinger to race it in the MRA’s (Colorado’s Motorcycle Roadracing Association) streetbike class that allows riders to get a feel for local racing. Mark hadn’t raced for 15 years, so tune in next week for that chapter in the Tracer GT’s life that includes a Cooper Deville video.
This long-term story launched a year ago with very clear questions: Is Yamaha’s Tracer GT a do-it-all motorcycle? Could it be the only bike in your garage? As a 58-year-old rider I feel well-suited to judge this bike in those terms because I value a luggage-carrying touring bike as equally as I do a motorcycle capable of getting up and down a Colorado canyon well and around a racetrack quickly.