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Future collectibles – Yamaha MT-01

(October 2020)

Yamaha MT-01

Fast Fusion

by Guy ‘Guido’ Allen

Yamaha MT-01

Looking for something a little different that's worth putting away? You could do a lot worse than Yamaha’s MT-01 fusion of sports bike and cruiser

Not all collectibles are gold-plated, or have an obvious long race/road pedigree that makes them an easy choice. Gold-plated models include any HRD/Vincent V-twin, while the obvious moderns include early Ducati 916, Suzuki GSX-R…the list goes on.

Also out there are a host of bikes that were brave designs which, at the time, didn’t quite get market acceptance. Yamaha has been prominent in this sphere, because it has taken some big risks along the way. It may not have always paid off commercially, but I think the courage has added to its overall image as an imaginative manufacturer.

Want an example? Its GTS1000 sport tourer, with the RADD-designed front end. It was an expensive sales flop, but remains highly-regarded among a sub-set of collectors. Want another? The MT-01, a fusion of cruiser engine in a street chassis.

The whole premise behind the MT-01 was very attractive. In a world filled with frenetic fours and V-twins with clear race intentions, why not match a big lazy powerplant to a sharp chassis? Then you could have the best of both worlds: a relaxed beat from the engine room, tied to a package you could trust and flick hard into the next corner.

In some ways, it might have been Vincent re-imagined, but with a sharper focus. It was also a dream being chased by numerous boutique American builders at the time (not least of which was Buell), trying to mate Harley-style engines to the ultimate chassis. Yamaha labeled the category as “torque sports”.

Yamaha MT-01

First shown as a concept bike at the 1999 Tokyo Motorcycle Show, the design was leaked in increasingly-refined forms for a few years until it hit production in 2005.

The final power unit was a fuel-injected 1670cc pushrod V-twin (with maintenance-free hydraulic lifters) from the Warrior series cruisers, which had already been in the market for several years. So Yamaha was working with a known and sorted engine.

For this application, the tuning was a little more high-end (90 horses) with a lighter crankshaft for more immediate throttle response.

According to the factory gumph of the day: “Crankshaft and connecting rod design is unique to the MT-01. Inertia mass is reduced 18 per cent and weight is reduced by 10 per cent compared to the Warrior crank. The crank flywheel shapes are also different.

“Large-diameter pistons feature durable and lightweight forged construction to accommodate higher-rpm performance with reduced vibration and less reciprocating mass.

“Larger-bore ceramic composite-plated cylinders provide uniform heat dissipation, reduce weight, reduce friction and increase cylinder service life.

“Cooling fin thickness is optimized for maximum heat dissipation, thereby eliminating the need for liquid cooling, maintaining that traditional clean, air-cooled engine appearance. Special lower mounted aluminum air duct directs air toward the cylinders for additional cooling.

Yamaha MT-01

“40mm, twin-bore, downdraft Mikuni AC40 throttle body fuel injection (FI) with throttle position sensor (TPS) ensures optimal fuel delivery, great throttle response, reduced emissions and maximum power. Choke-less design means no-fuss, sure starts.

“12-hole Mikuni injectors provide great fuel/air atomization for maximum power output. Specially designed air box features a solenoid controlled variable intake to provide excellent throttle response.”

Much of that was not unusual for the time, but it does at least confirm that this was not just a sketch-pad model, so far as Yamaha was concerned. It did take the project very seriously.

As for the transmission, there were five gears on board – no point in going crazy with a sixth cog when you have a grunty engine. At the time, the potential market would have looked kindly on this simplicity. That lot was mated to a wet multi-plate clutch and chain final drive.

The frame was a new cast alloy unit, and Yamaha kept pointing to the performance roots such as an R1-derived swingarm. It was matched to a beefy 43mm upside-down fork and a rear monoshock, both with full adjustment for spring preload, compression and rebound damping.

Braking was handled by twin radial-mounted ‘monobloc’ four-piston calipers on big 320mm floating discs at the sharp end, and a two-spot Nissin caliper on a single 267mm floating rear.

By any measure, this thing had serious chassis credentials.

Yamaha MT-01 SP

I’ve ridden three of them: standard, dealer-modified and the final SP model (above). At the time, first impressions were, “What in hell have we got here?” They look vaguely sporty, but you hit the starter and get this giant V-twin cruiser engine thumping away (albeit enthusiastically) underneath you.

MT-01s have been criticised for being top-heavy which, strictly speaking, isn’t the case. They don’t carry a lot of weight up high, but they are tall and feel short in comparison to their height. That can be a little disconcerting. This is one of those bikes that takes a little while to learn – it’s a mind-over-matter gig.

Once you get over that initial impression, and start to swing it into bends, it’s a whole lot of fun. You can be lazy on the gearshifts, as there is plenty of drive from low revs, and just enjoy throwing the thing around.

Steering is medium in speed, the braking is strong and predictable and the suspension well-sorted. Once you get your head around the slightly odd architecture, it’s a surprisingly sharp toy.

Medium to tall people will suit it best and you need to keep in mind this is no flyweight at 265kg dripping wet.

The only grizzle is the modest 15 litre fuel tank capacity. MT-01s can sip fuel to get high teens per litre at cruise, but that number sinks if you work them hard.

Yamaha MT-01

There’s a single instrument binnacle with lots of info. Meanwhile creature comfort for the rider is decent, but I wouldn’t regard this as a serious pillion bike.

The one thing that’s most often forgotten with this model is the overall build quality and level of finish is exceptionally good. This was a bit of a golden example for Yamaha presentation, which was trying hard to justify the steep price of $19,700 plus on-road costs. In fact, it may be the best-built bike you ever come across from that marque.

They respond well to minor tuning, which means intake and exhaust mods that are properly done, otherwise they should be left alone. Yamaha itself offered a series of upgrades, including Akrapovic pipes and even an alternative ECU. One to look for is the last of the series, the upgraded SP version (2009) with Ohlins suspension and a few cosmetic tweaks.

At the moment, prices range around Au$10-15k for a solid example. That looks like good value.

These things are a thoroughly enjoyable ride and have a ton of character. I wouldn’t bet the farm on them gaining hugely in value, but reckon a well cared-for example will do just fine over the medium to long term.

Yamaha MT-01

See the dodgy video from 2006!

Yamaha MT-01

Heaps of character
Lots of fun
Great build quality

Not so good
Limited fuel range
Not for shorter riders

Yamaha MT-01
2005-2012 internationally


TYPE: air-cooled pushrod V-twin, four valves per cylinder
CAPACITY: 1670cc
BORE & STROKE: 97 x 113mm

FUEL SYSTEM: 40mm Mikuni EFI

TYPE: five-speed, constant-mesh, 



FRAME TYPE: cast alloy
FRONT SUSPENSION: 43mm USD fork, full adjustment
REAR SUSPENSION: monoshock, full adjustment
FRONT BRAKE: dual floating discs with monobloc 4-piston calipers
REAR BRAKE: single floating disc with 2-piston Nissin caliper


DRY/WET WEIGHT: 245/265kg


FRONT: 17-inch cast alloy, 120/70-ZR17
REAR: 17-inch cast alloy, 190/50-ZR17


POWER: 60kW (90hp) @ 4750rpm
TORQUE: 150Nm @ 3750rpm
TOP SPEED: 210km/h

Price when new: Au$19,700 plus ORC (2005)


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