2019 Yamaha Tracer 900 GT: Triple-Powered Sport-Tourer

Text: Bryan Harley • Photography: Brian Nelson, Yamaha

Ahead of me, a runaway train of 2019 Yamaha Tracer 900 GTs barrels up the winding road. I’m wringing out second gear in between connecting corners to keep up, the screech of the bike’s inline triple reaching its highest register. Wind River Road is ideal testing ground for Yamaha’s latest sport-tourer, and the lead pack of journalists is pulling away. We race to keep their last rider within sight before he disappears around the tightly stacked turns.

If Tracer 900 GT sounds unfamiliar, it’s because you’re probably accustomed to calling Yamaha’s mid-level sport-tourer the FJ-09. The change is part of Yamaha’s move to standardize model names. While the 2019 Tracer 900 GT has plenty of carryover from previous generations, the latest version is sharper than ever thanks to a host of modern revisions. 

Style and Performance

The upgrades include a fully-adjustable 41mm KYB fork, with a compression dial on the left tube and rebound and spring preload on the right. The new KYB rear adjusts for rebound and has a remote preload adjuster located under the seat. The control-filled swingarm is 60mm longer than previous models, and die-cast so that it’s thinner and lighter. To accommodate the new seat and swingarm, the rear subframe is 5mm longer and the new seat sits 5mm higher. It can be raised an additional 15mm which for me, at six feet tall, made it a stretch to touch the ground at a stop. The higher position doesn’t affect the rider’s triangle so much as it shifts pressure points. Even in the lower position, though, the Tracer 900 GT feels tall.

The 2019 model sports bodywork that is more angular and pronounced than its predecessor. Viewed head-on, it looks wider than the old FJs because the front panels shrouding the radiator are more triangulated. The headlight assembly has also been sharpened up, and the windscreen is bigger and reshaped to deflect air better. The windscreen can be raised up 50mm one-handed by pinching the handle above the instrument display and pushing upward on the mount. On the back end, the passenger hand grips have been pushed out and the seat pad is both wider and thicker. The passenger foot-peg brackets are 33mm longer to provide a bit more comfortable pillion perch, but overall the accoutrements for two-up remain relatively basic. 

Features

The instrument display has been updated with a full-color TFT screen. Vitals like speed and rpm take up the majority of space, while secondary information like fuel level, traction control, and ambient temperature fills the rest. A small wheel on the right handlebar housing lets the rider toggle through menus and perform functions like setting trip meters. The system is able to sense when it’s dark outside and automatically switches background colors. 

Storage is provided by 22-liter hard saddlebags that can either be locked while they’re on the bike or removed easily to store inside your lodgings. The saddlebags are big enough for a three-to-four day road trip, but overall storage space is average. Yamaha made sure the mounting hardware for the bags is cleanly integrated into the overall flow of the bike so the Tracer 900 GT looks natural without them. 

Chassis and Handling

Heading out of Stevenson, WA, Lewis and Clark Highway is sandwiched between the Columbia River and thick pine forests. The road is straight for the most part, and as much as I’d like to whack open the throttle, traffic is necessitating patience. Finally, a quarter-mile gap opens, and I wind out the first few gears. Stretching second to redline, some minor head-shake creeps in, the bars mildly vibrating in my grip. At our first pull-out I give the rear dial a few twists and have one of the Yamaha techs tweak both the compression and preload. Issue solved: after that it never shakes again under hard acceleration. 

Yamaha’s tried-and-true inline triple-cylinder engine provides rapid acceleration with a heavy dose of bottom end. In the middle gears, a sweet power surge comes on around 6,000 rpm. Play on the clutch is light, and the six-speed gearbox rows smoothly through each. It’s a lively engine, torquey enough to tackle mountain ranges, powerful enough to dispatch freeway traffic. In its standard setting, the powerband is even and usable, but after acclimating myself to the nuances of the bike I wanted just a bit more. Switching to Mode A delivers a heavier crack off idle. It allows the engine to wind out a little longer on top as well. 

Most of the late afternoon is spent wringing out second and third as we mob up Wind River Road, the passage so stacked with curves I hardly see the upper gears. This isn’t a bad thing. The bike is poised at lean, making it fun to hustle through the hills, though its center of gravity does feel a tad tall when transitioning. While it’s equipped with ABS, the front binders are strong enough to mitigate having to use anti-lock. Used independently, the bite of the rear isn’t overly aggressive, but the front and ABS more than compensate, and overall braking is solid and reliable. 

Last Impressions

On the homestretch, I thumb the cruise control button on the left hand grip to engage, then push again to set, the process quick and convenient. It’s not the only feature touring riders will find handy, as heated grips come standard on the Tracer 900 GT. The bike also features a 12-Volt electrical outlet to the left of the digital instrument display, another practical feature. 

There are two sides to the sport-touring equation. Thanks to its punchy engine and stout suspension, the 2019 Tracer 900 GT has the sport side covered. The bevy of new rider aids and amenities boosts the touring side as well. An all-day saddle and more storage space would make it a next-level tourer, as the seat felt a little wooden by the end of the day. But soon as you crack the Tracer 900 GT’s throttle, those small grievances quickly disappear, replaced by anticipation of the next bend in the road.