I was melting; limits of my comfort reached. Not because of the bike, but because a heat wave that had parked itself atop the Columbia River near the border of Washington and Oregon. Sitting on the side of the road waiting for my turn during the fourth pass of a photo spot, the only thing I wanted to do was ride. Not only for the want of evaporative cooling of the sweat accumulating beneath my Alpinestars jacket, but because the Tracer 900 GT is an excellent motorcycle. Triple-digit temps or not.

FJ-09
The Tracer 900 GT gets a new look for 2019 and drops the North American name of FJ-09.Brian J Nelson

The 2019 Tracer 900 GT is a new model for Yamaha—sort of. More correctly it is a major revision to the the FJ-09 with a change to the new moniker for global market consistency. There is also a “base” model Tracer 900 available that does not include all the touring-requisite accoutrements that are fitted to the GT, including color-matched hard bags. With just $2,300 separating the two, the need for the non-GT is questionable.

The evening before the press ride, we sat back in comfortable leather chairs for a presentation to lay out the updates to the Tracer 900 GT. First and foremost is new bodywork. Many of the shrouds and panels are reshaped with a more mature styling that also increases function. The side cowls have a pyramid shape that adds to the new premium look with a beefier profile. It also increases wind protection for the rider while channeling the radiator’s hot air away from the rider. Much appreciated as the mercury hovered at a miserable level.

Reshaped side cowls
The reshaped side cowls offer more protection from the elements while channeling hot air away from the rider.Brian J Nelson

At the front, a new windscreen gives more protection from the elements. Adjustment of the screen can be done with one hand via a very simple and slick mechanism in the center. In the low position wind is deflected from my short torso and allows for the fairly stable stream of air to hit my head at highway speeds. In the high position, my 5-foot-10 frame slides right into the bubble with just a slight rumble of turbulence to the back of my Shoei RF-1200. Absolutely one of the best I’ve experienced in some time. Yamaha offers a larger accessory touring shield, but for me, it would be a waste of cash. It is great to have options from the factory however.

Windscreen
The new windscreen is easy to adjust with one hand, even at speed.Brian J Nelson

The rider triangle of the Tracer 900 GT has not changed from the FJ-09, and that is a good thing. Reach to the bars is comfortable even from the rear of the seat, but if you need more space, the handlebar mounts can be rotated for an additional 10mm of forward reach. The footpeg location is sporty but not too far back for a relaxed bend to the leg while cruising and just trucked enough when railing corners. The seat-to-peg distance is also roomy. If more space is needed, the seat can be raised 15mm in just a few seconds, giving the Tracer maximum seat height of 385mm or 34.1 inches.

More important is the shape and comfort of the saddle, it's extremely comfortable. Yamaha increased the seat foam 5mm from the FJ-09 seat as well as widening it slightly. The rear is wide with a slight dish to it that will be your go-to spot when the days are long and the roads are straight. When it’s time to put sport in the touring, slide forward for a narrow seat that allows for easy side-to-side movement. The press ride was just more than 200 miles—not a long stretch by any means, especially for a sport-touring evaluation. After the event I put in three 500-mile days to really put the comfort factor to the test and ended each 10-hour day in disbelief… How can a smaller sport-tourer such as the Tracer 900 GT could be so comfortable?

Reshaped seats
The reshaped seats of the Tracer 900 GT have an extra 5mm of foam padding for one of the most comfortable saddles in sport touring. The color matched saddlebags are standard on the GT.Brian J Nelson

Rider comfort was a priority with the redesign of the Tracer. Yamaha added 5mm to the passenger seat along with redesigning the shape. The grab handles are now mounted further outboard for more seat space. The biggest change to the passenger area is the extension of the footpeg brackets by 33mm. This adds legroom and comfort for longer riders. If the pilot is comfortable, and can go farther for longer, the passenger has to as well.

So the Tracer 900 GT keeps you comfortable, but can it excite and engage? Short answer: absolutely. Powered by Yamaha’s venerable 847cc crossplane triple, outright performance is spot-on for the intended purpose, shortening spaces between places via the most serpentine lines on a map. A growl, albeit muffled, emanates from the intake and exhaust that only a triple can produce when the throttle is opened in earnest, followed with an acceleration that is quick but not to the point of being frantic. For the majority of the public, it’s in the goldilocks zone in regard to power and torque. It can rev or chug out of a corner, your choice, and both are correct.

Crossplane triple
The Tracer 900 GT’s crossplane triple is most happy pulling out of a corner, as is the rider.Brian J Nelson

In between those two options is really the only gripe I have with the Tracer. It’s a hiccup that has been the same for many since the first review of Yamaha’s triple-powered machines—throttle response. More precisely, a snatchy response. It’s improved over the years, but it’s still there. For me it’s a combination of semi-abrupt fueling response, strong engine-braking, and driveline lash. Roll out of the throttle and the engine-braking is strong, back-loading the transmission; crack the throttle and the engine springs to life reversing the load on the drivetrain. The end result is a bit of herky-jerkiness that you don’t find in other sport-tourers. Is it a massive issue or a deal breaker? Absolutely not. It’s the personality of this triple—a small annoyance in an otherwise stellar powerplant.

The Tracer now features a quickshifter, although it is for upshift only. It works as advertised with no issues. Placed on the shift linkage is the mechanism to signal the ECU to cut the ignition and allow selection of the next gear without the clutch. As refined as the Tracer 900 GT is, the quickshifter itself looks like an afterthought. Perfectly functional, but not especially pleasing to the eye.

Tracer 900 GT
The Tracer 900 GT’s quickshifter works flawlessly for both spirited riding and just cruising along.Brian J Nelson

The Tracer GT does get a new throttle body, to allow for the addition of cruise control. Controlled by an easy-to-use switch gear on the left, the cruise control fueling while activated is silky smooth. The system functions between 31 and 100 mph in fourth, fifth, and sixth gear. I often use cruise control as a speed limiter in town and wish that cruise was available in third gear as well, so you could set it as low as 25 mph.

TFT display
The TFT display on the Tracer 900 GT is clear and concise with a day and night mode. Night mode is pictured.Brian J Nelson

A small light illuminates next to the new TFT full-color meter, alerting you to cruise control activation. The high-contrast display relays expected info such as speed, rpm, and fuel level along with a gear position indicator and trip data. Ambient air temperature is also relayed, and I can say it works perfectly up to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Adjustment of the ride modes, traction control, and the heated grips all go through the display as well. A wheel on right grip controls the heated grip setting and can be used to scroll through trip data functions. The reach to the wheel is a stretch for my size-large hands and could be more precise in its construction. Third and final nitpick.

Tracer
The Tracer is just as ready to shred a mountain road as it is to chew up 500 miles in a day.Brian J Nelson

On the road the Tracer GT is as refined and sure-footed as any $12,999 sport-tourer could be. A new 41mm KYB upside-down fork features compression, rebound, and preload adjustment and are well sprung for intended duties. Out back, the shock is adjustable for rebound and preload; compression is what it is. That said, the setting is spot-on and the only adjustment I made was the addition of a few clicks of preload to the rear to get a smidgen more footpeg clearance when slicing the roads up towards a lookout of Mount St. Helens.

Handling is light and nimble but not flighty, thanks to a new swingarm that is 60mm longer, increasing the wheelbase to 59.1 inches. This adds an extra dash of straight-line stability. Ground clearance is more than adequate for blasting through corners though the long peg feelers do touch down early, apparently with plenty of margin before the sport-touring-required centerstand grinds. By the end of the first day, the feelers had lost the ball at the end and I had a great time making said modification.

Tracer 900 GT sport touring
A combination of a willing engine, shorted chassis and creature comforts make the Tracer 900 GT an excellent sport touring motorcycle.Brian J Nelson

In most circumstances, distance and heat magnify the flaws of a motorcycle and can skew options toward contempt. The Tracer 900 GT beat the heat and my misery to make even a most uncomfortable day into one of the best I’ve had in recent memory. What a tremendous motorcycle.

TECH SPEC

PRICE $12,999
ENGINE 847cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC, inline 3-cylinder
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 6-speed/chain
FRONT SUSPENSION Kayaba 41mm fork adjustable for compression, rebound, and preload; 5.4-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Kayaba shock adjustable for rebound and spring preload; 5.6-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Dual 298mm hydraulic discs; ABS
REAR BRAKE 245mm hydraulic disc; ABS
RAKE/TRAIL 24.0°/3.9 in.
WHEELBASE 59.1 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 33.5/34.1 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 4.8 gal.
CLAIMED WEIGHT 474 lb. wet (does not include side cases)