Riding A Yamaha Tracer 900 GT Across The American West

Part 2 of Nick’s COTA MotoGP Adventure

Last week Nick chronicled the preparation of his long-term Yamaha Tracer 900 GT before he set out on a ride to the Circuit of The Americas for MotoGP. This week, he shares tales from the road on his Tracer.

The Adventure

My twin-brother-from-a-different-mother, Chris Carr of AHRMA fame, and I have both battled a bit of cancer this year: me getting part of my ear cut off, and him going a few steps further with the big C. To celebrate our health and give cancer the middle finger, we bought VIP tickets to the Grand Prix at COTA; I couldn't think of a better way to get there than via the Tracer, hoping it would stop snowing in Colorado long enough for me to sneak south. If my choices are to push a Tracer through the snow or get on another airplane, I'd have to really study before answering.

But I wouldn’t go directly to Austin; I’d ride south and west to our April two-day school at Inde Motorsports Ranch near Willcox, Arizona. I would make a little money while riding with my gang, great students, and guest instructor Bradley Smith, then head directly east to COTA.

With snow on the sides of the road and temps hovering in the high 20s, I fortified my body with Venture Heat electric clothing, but regretted not adding the heated boot warmers halfway through the San Luis Valley! The boot warmers sat snuggly in the saddlebags, but it was too cold to stop and put them in, plus I knew I’d be turning south any minute. Note to self: Start with it all. And if you don’t have electric riding gear, get it. This might be my number one bike mod.

The Tracer GT and I covered 2,500 miles and my enthusiasm for the bike has soared. Initially I felt the bike wasn’t substantial enough for hard-core mile eating, but three 800-mile days has shown me the Tracer 900 GT is the real deal in terms of comfort, speed, and capability. I’m going to let the photos tell the story of this “Comfort Mods” update across four states in the great American West.

Yoga class
Jenn Peris leads ChampBody yoga the first night of every school, and my body needed it after 800 miles in the saddle and a day of lapping Inde. Jenn is hidden at the front of the room, but far to the left is Scott Rybarik playing guitar for accompaniment, and if you look closely, you’ll see MotoGP star Bradley Smith in there among the students and instructors. We more “mature” riders really benefit from a few minutes of yoga, especially the programs that Jenn has put together.Nick Ienatsch
San Luis Valley, Colorado
Brrrrr…26 degrees in the San Luis Valley of Colorado just after sunup. I got an early start and paid the price of cold feet for the first few hours, but got a close-up view of an elk herd drifting across the road as the sun rose. The Tracer GT’s trick dash has a wealth of information, including how hot my grips are (full hot here!). My friends accuse me of getting soft with the Tracer’s many comforts (cruise control, heated grips, TC, ABS, shift-interrupt, adjustable windscreen, adjustable seat), to which I answer, “Jealousy does not look good on you.”Nick Ienatsch
Pie Town, New Mexico
Man, making decisions while traveling is tough! Readers with good long-term memories might remember Lance Holst, Jason Black, and I traipsing through America’s south in search of the perfect blueberry cobbler back in the Sport Rider magazine days. I continued south but hope to enjoy Pie Town [New Mexico] someday. À la mode please.Nick Ienatsch
Arai’s face shield
Most of these bugs would have been on me had I ridden my usual sport-touring bike, a 2006 Yamaha FZ1. The touring screen kept almost all bugs off my Arai’s face shield.Nick Ienatsch
Inde Motorsports Ranch
Just before sunset we rolled up to the Inde Motorsports Ranch gate after a pleasurable day spent on the back roads of Colorado and New Mexico. Hidden within these gates is an incredible racetrack and impressive fighter jet collection…some nice cars too. See how far the Tracer is leaned over? The sidestand is a bit too short and one must be careful where it is deployed, especially when fully loaded. My bike almost toppled over during the Pie Town picture and again when I parked in the gravel at the side of the road.Nick Ienatsch
Tracer wash
The Tracer got a bath at Inde and then a few laps, but little did I know that the dust storms of west Texas were laughing and had plans for my shiny paint.Nick Ienatsch
Dirt from interstate
No, I did not ride the Tracer off road—this is from Interstate 10 across New Mexico and Texas after I washed it at Inde! A long day spent in a sandstorm was made slightly better by a 30-mph tailwind. “But, officer, 100 mph only felt like 70…” If I had been heading west, this would have been a very difficult day.Nick Ienatsch
windscreen
Sometimes you get bored on I-10 and who can resist writing on a dusty windscreen? COTA was next. And isn’t it convenient that Yamaha built a little platform for my Valentine One radar detector?Nick Ienatsch
Texas hill country
The Texas hill country has entertaining farm-to-market county roads meandering in and around some amazing ranches. The best trips always include a few “where the heck am I?” moments on roads that kinda head in the right direction. The Tracer remained very nimble even loaded, and the Dunlop Roadsmart tires kept the steering light.Nick Ienatsch
Dairy Queen Blizzard
I’m big on celebrations and thought a Dairy Queen Blizzard was a terrific welcome to Texas after a full day of riding through sandstorms. My dad was really good at “enjoying” trying times like this sandy day, ending the drama with a celebratory something. He and I really enjoyed this Blizzard.Nick Ienatsch
Tracer wash
With the luggage stripped and stored in my dear friend Don Cook’s garage, Chris Carr and I washed the Texas sand off the Tracer. Carr has twice ridden from Alaska to Florida, only missing the time record due to a closed freeway in Florida during a hurricane. True story. He runs six MSF sites in and around Atlanta, races and announces in AHRMA (where he is a seven-time national champion), and is a joy to hang out with. Yes, that’s a lake in the background where Cook’s beer washes down the sand of Interstate 10. Lucky to have great friends...all due to motorcycling!Nick Ienatsch
Aprilia fuel tank
Bradley Smith gave Carr and me a private guided tour of the Aprilia GP garage just after Friday practice ended. We watched as the bikes were stripped and cleaned, marveling at the amount of parts and pieces packed into the small garage; there must have been 50 sets of brake rotors alone. Here is the underseat Aprilia fuel tank. I’d have taken more pics but would like to be invited back!Nick Ienatsch
Freddie and Nick
It was important to track down Freddie Spencer, now part of the marshaling team for GP racing. The Shreveport, Louisiana, native spends most of his time in Europe these days and can be seen at big events riding the 500 GP bikes that made him so famous. His great sense of humor is still in place and it was terrific to catch up to the man who gave me a job at his school in 1997.Chris Carr
Filling up the Tracer
The Tracer’s last fill-up in Raton, New Mexico. Almost home during an 870-mile day. Note: I was not in a hurry, I didn’t have to be home this evening, and that speaks to the Tracer’s ability to eat miles while coddling the rider, especially with the bigger windscreen and taller gearing.Nick Ienatsch

Final Thoughts

I didn’t do a scientific study of fuel mileage by riding the same route at the same speeds in the same weather conditions, but the taller gearing stretched each tank of gas by at least four miles per gallon at “extremely enjoyable” speeds, giving me averages in the mid-40-mpg range.

Summing up this bike’s ability to cover large distances certainly has to do with comfort, but even more so with the fun factor. The way the engine sounds, the eagerness in which it revs, the slick on-throttle shifting that is absolutely addicting, the light and exact steering—they all encourage back-road riding that makes each mile a joyous adventure. Yes, I slogged along Interstate 10 to get from southern Arizona to Texas, but that slog was done because the moment I got into the hill country I knew we’d be lost on the back roads again. There’s nothing better than miles of back-road twisties followed by lunch in some small-town diner with the Tracer patiently waiting for more.

We end this second long-term report with 5,357 miles on the odometer and fun plans for the future.

More next Tuesday!