Long-Term Yamaha Tracer 900 GT Update, Performance Part 1

Our long-term Tracer hits the strip and racetrack.

Tracer 900 GT and Yamaha FJ-09
CW's long-term Tracer 900 GT parked next to its predecessor, the Yamaha FJ-09. The FZ-09, FJ-09, MT-09, and Tracers share the same unbreakable and rev-happy 847cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC inline-triple engine.4theriders.com

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

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.

Yes, 7,300 miles and counting, with more than a few on dirt roads. The Tracer’s light weight makes easy work of unpaved back roads, but Yamaha didn’t pretend to make it a dual sport machine.Nick Ienatsch

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.

My FZ1 loaded up…Nick Ienatsch

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.

Tracer loaded up
The Tracer loaded up. The saddlebags add significant luggage space and protection from the elements, plus overnight or even lunch-time storage under lock and key. Yamaha offers a rear luggage rack and Givi-produced trunk if Tracer riders want to keep everything out of the elements.Nick Ienatsch

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.

Tracer 900 GT
The Tracer 900 GT brings joy to any road through its eagerness to carve corners and addicting acceleration.Nick Ienatsch

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.

I ran the Tracer pre- and post-Ivan’s in the identical trim: no saddlebags, taller gearing, and larger touring windscreen in place. Ivan’s Performance claims a modest 3 hp gain on top, but the drivability is the biggest reason to spend $350 for the re-flash; at the dragstrip the bike was spinning through each gear quicker, finding me two-tenths even in the face of the headwind.RCSC


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.

Tracer GT storage
With a Tracer GT, you can run down the strip a few times and then stop for two bowls of cheddar-ale soup before heading home.Nick Ienatsch

If you are in this category, the Tracer will turn you on. A blend of impressive cornering performance and straight-line speed is sure to keep your attention, but comes in a forgiving package welcomed by all. The rider-aid technology built into the Tracer helps here, notably the ABS function and adjustable traction control—two pieces of technology I will always take when offered.

Tune in next week for more insight on the question: Can a Tracer GT do it all? Because we are going racing!

stock Tracer GT
The Tracer GT might have been the least-nasty vehicle at the RCSC (Racing Community of Southern Colorado) Friday night drags in Pueblo, Colorado. Some vicious weaponry was on display, but the stock Tracer GT proved itself. Some think that drag racing is easy…until they try to go quicker. Quite a jigsaw puzzle and tenths are precious.Nick Ienatsch
muddy road
This ride ended in heavy rain on a dirt county road that was unbearably muddy. There were a few moments when the smoothness of the updated ECU were greatly appreciated, but the lightness of the GT was appreciated the whole time!Nick Ienatsch
mud spray
The mud spray illustrates how a radiator guard (this one by Cox, coxracinggroup.com) protects a bike against what could be a catastrophic puncture. It’s cheap insurance and many feel it’s mandatory at the track to protect against rocks flung by a leading bike. I installed it for Mark’s upcoming race.Nick Ienatsch
ECU-re-flash numbers
I only needed two runs for the pre-ECU-re-flash numbers, both decently good launches as reflected in the consistency. The taller gearing (17/43, Driven Racing, drivenracing.com) had me abusing the clutch. I recommend stock gearing if you like to run your Tracer in the quarter-mile.Nick Ienatsch
Pueblo Motorsports Park
I ran with the RCSC at Pueblo Motorsports Park. The strip serves as the front straight of a road course featured later in this story (part 2 next week), and sits at 4,900 feet. These aren’t open-class literbike numbers, but the get-up-and-go of the Tracer is impressive.Nick Ienatsch
The ECU is simple to reach in the cover of the airbox, but as on most modern bikes, the bodywork fasteners seem overkill in number and application when compared to the simplicity of racebike designs.Nick Ienatsch
updated ECU
The updated ECU improved the quarter-mile time by two-tenths to 11.84, but a miserable 15-plus-mph headwind at Pueblo Motorsports Park held the terminal speed at 112.32—no real improvement. Ivan’s Performance expects a 2 or 3 mph gain in calm weather conditions.Nick Ienatsch
The re-flash from Ivan’s Performance improved fuel consumption while boosting midrange performance. The flash also removed the speed limiter and allows for cruise control to work in all gears at all speeds. Most importantly, initial throttle application is made much smoother.Nick Ienatsch
I ran the Tracer pre- and post-Ivan’s in the identical trim: no saddlebags, taller gearing and larger touring windscreen in place. Ivan’s Performance claims a modest 3 hp gain on top, but the drivability is the biggest reason to spend $350 for the reflash; at the dragstrip the bike was spinning through each gear quicker, finding me two-tenths even in the face of the headwind.RCSC
Mark Schellinger
Mark Schellinger, retired from racing for 15 years, puts the Tracer GT on the MRA Streetbike grid at Pueblo Motorsports Park…details and a Cooper Deville video next week.Nick Ienatsch

Tracer GT, Performance Part 2 next week!