How do you like your motorcycles served up? Do you like all-inclusive buffets, your touring/sports/adventure bike already equipped with all the bags/adjustable suspension/knobby tires you will need for a lifetime — OK, the next few years — of happy motorcycling? Or would you rather pick and choose, à la carte, if you will, and load up on a few specific items from motorcycling’s incredibly-healthy-these-days aftermarket?
The answer to that question could determine which of Yamaha’s two Tracers — the base $11,999 model or the fully-equipped $14,599 GT — you should buy. That you should, if you are indeed shopping the middleweight touring category, be considering the Tracer is without question: Yamaha’s 847-cc triple is a fine motorcycle, long on comfort, versatility and, for its size, performance.
What is up for discussion, however, is whether the $2,600 Yamaha Canada wants to move up from bare bones Tracer to fully-outfitted Tracer GT might be better spent buying some of those accessories individually. We’ll establish, in a moment, why you should buy a Tracer, but first, let’s look at the balance sheet that determines which Tracer might be best for you:
I first started wondering about the price Yamaha assigns to the GT’s upgrades after looking at its own accessory catalog. A quick perusal reveals that the two small 22-litre bags that are standard on the GT retail for a whopping $1,670. Peruse the same accessory catalogue a little further, however, and you’ll find Shad’s latest SH36 bags — larger, more robust and with a neat little load floor so the contents don’t fall out when you open the lids — retail for $716.95. Indeed, right from Yamaha Canada, you can get two SH36 bags and their mounting hardware plus Shad’s most excellent SH58X expandable topcase for just bout the same money as just the two bags that are standard on the GT. By way of comparison, the GT’s total carrying capacity is 44 litres; a regular Tracer with the full Shad treatment would be able to haul a kitchen sink-swallowing 130 L. What the GT’s standard bags do have going for them is that their mounting brackets are built into the rear tail section, making the arrangement a) extremely narrow when the bags are in place and b) almost invisible when the bags are removed (the Shads have a small, but still noticeable bracket visible when remove the luggage).
2019 Yamaha Tracer
That $2,600 uptick also includes a TFT screen/information system that Yamaha sees as a bump up from the Tracer’s dash. Admittedly, there’s a plethora of extra information available on the GT’s dash and the screen is bright enough to be read even during the sunniest of heat waves. But the darn thing is so small — the screen is about the size of an iPhone5. Frankly, the less informative display on the base Tracer ends up being more useful.
Oh, there are more useful aspects to the GT’s upgrades. Along with damping upgrades in the front, the rear gains a very handy hydraulic preload adjuster. The GT’s standard quickshifter is also kind of handy. Cruise control, another standard GT feature, would also be missed if you started with the base model.
2019 Yamaha Tracer GT
Tally it all up, though, and this is what balance sheet looks like. For about the same money as the GT, you could get a base Tracer, throw all of the Shad luggage at it and still, if you shopped judiciously, have enough left over for a quality aftermarket shock. So the question, then, is what do you want? The base model with the best luggage in the business and a truly premium rear suspension? Or would you rather get a well integrated package that includes cruise control, a quickshifter and a (tiny) informational screen, but with small, rather fiddly saddlebags?
Either way, you get Yamaha’s acclaimed mid-displacement triple. Smooth at all the right times, a little thrashy when it needs to be, the 847-cc inline three sounds a little like my old Laverda. OK, the crossplane crankshaft triple is not nearly as savage as a fully-Jota’ed RGS, but there’s just the right amount of low-level coarseness to remind you that this is not just another ubiquitous Japanese four.
2019 Yamaha Tracer
There’s also more than a modicum of power, the oversquare triple pulling nicely from 4,000 rpm with enough mid-range to spin at a soothing 5,000 rpm or so at a buck-twenty. Ring it out and there’s 115 horsepower at the crank — it feels like about a hundred or so at the rear wheels — which is for its intended purpose more than enough. Throw in a slick-shifting trannie — again, in the GT blessed with a quickshifter — and we’re talking perfectly satisfying.
The GT, as I said, benefits from slightly revised suspension, its 41-mm KYB inverted front fork getting adjustable compression damping while the rear shock gets a remote hydraulic preload adjuster. Said suspenders are also well calibrated, damped well enough to carry passengers yet compliant enough to be comfortable over the motocross tracks, er, Muskoka side roads, that we used for testing.
The sport-touring triple also gained 60 mils in wheelbase in transforming from FJ-09 to Tracer, the distance between wheel centres a lengthy 1,500 millimetres. Despite being fairly long — those 1,500 mm work out to 59.1 inches just in case you’re an old fogey who hasn’t yet fully grasped metric — the GT is surprisingly agile in the twisties thanks to its relatively-light-for-a-bike-with-saddlebags 227 kilo wet weight and a steepish 24-degree rake.
2019 Yamaha Tracer and 2019 Yamaha Tracer GT GT
The riding position, meanwhile, is almost adventure touring, albeit with a little narrower handlebar. That means that is far more comfortable than any of the chiropractor-friendly racks — stand up and take a bow, BMW’s R1200 RS — that call themselves sport-tourers these days. The seat is also, for those of irregular inseam, adjustable between 850 millimetres and 865 mm.
The one exception to this blissful comfort might be wind protection. The GT’s standard windscreen is pretty small. Oh, it does have a height adjustment, but that just creates more turbulence and precious little increased protection. Yes, Yamaha does offer a taller touring shield, but the Tracer’s sporty styling would probably make that look ungainly; think R1 with a Rifle fairing here. Nonetheless, for one of its intended purposes — short-haul touring — the GT is pretty darned comfy.
So, like I said at the beginning, by all means consider a new Yamaha Tracer if you’re shopping for a versatile middleweight. I’ll leave it to you, however, if you’d be better served with the more expensive fully-loaded model or building your own budget sport tourer à la carte.