Preparation to ride across the American West to COTA –

By Nick Ienatsch April 23, 20196

Tracer GT
The Tracer GT enjoyed the back roads of New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas…after sneaking out of a snowy and cold Colorado. It’s been in mothballs all winter and began the 2019 riding season with a 2,500-mile jaunt. –

How well-rounded is Yamaha’s Tracer GT? That is the question I hope to answer over the next few months as the 900cc triple attempts to be that most elusive of all motorcycles: the Perfect Bike. Have you heard of that? A single bike that does it all—is that even possible?

Here’s the plan:

The Comfort Mods: Ride it all over the place as a sport-touring motorcycle in the manner the designers intended. I already rode it from Las Vegas to Salt Lake City to southern Colorado when we first met, and have modified it slightly as outlined in this article for this Inde/COTA adventure.

The Performance Mods: Do trackdays, run it down the dragstrip, even race it! My favorite trackday bike is my trusty and gently modified 2006 Yamaha FZ1. Comfy, stable, reliable, and a ton of fun. Can the Tracer GT measure up? It will be put to the ultimate test when Mark Schellinger enters it in the MRA’s streetbike class later this year, and we’ll get Mark’s input on how it works in competition. Americans love to drag race, so the Tracer will visit the Pueblo Motorsports Park strip for a few runs now and then. The GT will be lightly modified to help all-things go-fast. But that’s in the future.

The Comfort Mods And Three 800-Mile Days

I’ve been on the Tracer a few times here in southern Colorado but it was my initial ride through Nevada, Utah, and Colorado that formed my thoughts on future mods. Talking with Yamaha’s Marcus DeMichele helped form the idea for “comfort mods” prior to my trip from Colorado to southern Arizona and then to Austin, Texas, for the USGP.

Tracer GT windscreen
The edges of the original Tracer GT windscreen are taped and it is laying against the new touring screen. The extra 3.75 inches of height worked very well for my 5-foot-8 frame, and you can see the extra width throughout. I found no downsides with this larger screen. – Nick Ienatsch

Touring Screen: Marcus recommended the taller touring windscreen, and that jived well with my experience with the stock screen that was too short and narrow, something very noticeable in cold weather and at the speeds the Western states can offer. The stock screen couldn’t be raised enough to eliminate helmet buffeting and the touring screen made a lot of sense. It bolts on in the same manner and can be raised and lowered.

Yamaha Comfort Seat (Not Used): Marcus also recommended the optional heated comfort seat but it added almost an inch of seat height so I left it home for this trip as I’m already a little nervous about my skinny arms holding up a fully loaded Tracer GT. The stock seat treated me well in our initial foray last autumn, so I will report on the optional comfort seat sometime in the future.

Updated Tires: Keith Culver, the YCRS COO, rode the school’s Tracer on the stock tires and couldn’t find much positive to say. I never built much trust in them either, but my Tracer has been parked over the Colorado winter while Keith has been riding his all around Southern California. “Get rid of those stock tires,” he told me.

I ordered two sets of Dunlops, the first set is Sportmax Roadsmart III for the sport-touring side of the equation and the second set is Q4 for the performance part of the bike’s future.

Tracer tire
I mounted the Dunlop Roadsmart IIIs in my garage using my No-Mar tire changer with relatively little swearing and sweating. I was surprised with the amount of road feel these sport-touring tires generated and they lapped Arizona’s Inde Motorsports Ranch with no drama at a fun pace. Wear was unnoticeable after 2,500 miles of Western-states riding.
– Nick Ienatsch

Tracer front tire

Front wheel removal necessitated an Allen wrench I didn’t own, so I ground flats into the threads of a bolt and used it as a wrench, then took it with me just in case. But the real problem is a motorcycle being sold without the tools to do basic on-road repairs: major fail. On the plus side, the Tracer’s centerstand makes work easy (once you make or assemble your own tools). – Nick Ienatsch

Taller Gearing: I felt that Yamaha missed the mark on the overall gearing as the bike spins 5,400 rpm at an indicated 80 mph with the stock 16/45 sprocket combination. Why gear this torquey triple so low? Perhaps it’s our love of acceleration that dictates gearing, but out on the open road I would like an engine that just loafs along sipping fuel at a less-busy point on the tach. How about five close-ratio speeds and a really tall overdrive sixth? How about seven speeds? Eight? Those choices were out of my hands so I called Driven and ordered up a 17-tooth front sprocket and a 43-tooth rear, choices that kept the stock chain length for convenience because I’ll swap back and forth depending upon the day’s activities. All the charts regarding gearing choices and chain lengths are on the Driven website and customer support was excellent. The gain was 10 mph at the same engine speed, so 5,400 was now 90 mph, with 80 mph happening at 4,800 rpm. Quieter, less hectic, better fuel mileage.

Keith Culver
A small bribe got Keith Culver to swap the stock sprockets for Driven pieces ( that fit perfectly. Up one tooth in front, down two teeth in back…gain 10 mph at the same engine speed and keep the stock chain! First gear was still easily managed from a stop in Standard or A mode. In B mode, the bike felt a big boggy off the line with the taller gearing. – Nick Ienatsch

In part 2 we hit the road.