Yamaha 2023 Tracer 9 GT Sports Tourer Ride Review

Review Summary

  • As an unofficial replacement for the brand’s legendary FJR1300, the new-for-2023 Tracer 9 GT is a supremely capable bike that somehow manages to take the brilliantly hooligan CP3 triple engine found in their fabbo XSR-900 retro sportsbike and integrates it into a multi-purpose sports tourer without the whole thing seeming like a Frankenbike.
  • For $14,999 USD you get ALL the toys. And if you’re in the right part of the world, this can include Yamaha’s world-first “Radar Linked Unified Braking System” that automatically slows the bike if it detects a braking vehicle ahead that you don’t react to.
  • No, it’s not focused on a single-purpose and it’s clearly trying to do a few things at once, but if you’re after a bike that’s all-day comfortable, has mucho accessories, is relatively quick through the corners and a little bit naughty when you are in the mood, you can’t go far wrong here.

As a rider (and writer) who cut his teeth during the whole cafe racer boom of the Noughties, I was trained to embrace bikes that were laser-focused on a single job. In a custom cafe racer’s case, that purpose was making sure that a factory bike was as light and as fast as possible on public roads so that it could win illegal street races from cafe to cafe. This also has led me to be quite wary of bikes that try to do many things at once. Like a restaurant that claims to cook food from multiple countries, it often turns out that what they gain in variety, they lose in taste and authenticity. The new Tracer 9 GT purports to defy this logic. But how? Let’s talk about it.

Apart from a few notable exceptions in Italy and the Middle East, emergency services crews don’t often find themselves in balls-to-the-wall sports vehicles. Yes, you may have seen a few Lamborghinis tarted up in police lights and sirens, but a PR stunt or two does not a precedent make. Be they police bikes, ambulances or rescue boats, these professional tools not only need to go fast; they need to be tough, dependable, easy to service and they also need to carry a whole metric butt-ton of gear, too. So I think it’s fair to say that while these motorcycle-riding pros definitely have different uses for their bikes, most of us have similar expectations for ownership.

Gold touches add some visual panache to a largely monochrome colour scheme. Image via Yamaha MC.

Down here in Australia, many police forces opt for the imitable Yamaha FJR 1300. Sure, there’s a few Hondas and BMWs in the mix as well but as a Sydney-sider for the past millennia, more often than not you will see these Yamahas making up substantial numbers. Now the FJR 1300 is currently a two-decade-old bike, and while it’s not going anywhere soon you’d have to wonder if there aren’t some better options for these pros that might be able to teach the old FJR some new tricks.

Enter stage left the new Yamaha Tracer 9 GT. With its tall screen, acres of fairings and the big booty bags as standard, it definitely looks the part of a bike that could keep the emergency services (and a substantial number of regular riders) happy with its sporty-yet-practical pretensions. And rumour has it that the Aussie police are interested, too. But what about us members of joe and joanne public?

A 2023 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT Motorcycle
…likewise the black colourway. John Player Special, much? Image via Yamaha MC.

Features of the 2023 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT

Right now, the big kid in me wants to detail the features of the new Tracer by simply saying, “ALL OF THEM,” but that’s not much help? Upon reflection, it’s also not as funny as I first imagined. Needless to say, but it has been stocked to the gills by Yamaha with more bells and whistles than a Navy Marching Band doing Christmas carols. So let’s go through them.


With the same 890cc crossplane triple as the brands’ MT-09 and XSR-900 bikes, you shouldn’t let the fact that it’s available in multiple models deter you here. It’s an absolute corker of a powerplant that in one fell swoop managed to make a whole bunch of competitor brands think twice about whether or not they needed to lift their games. And no, I’m not being overly objective here; such is the impression the engine left me with after riding the new XSR-900 last year. It’s just a laugh riot of usable power, revs and glorious, glorious noise.

 A 2023 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT Motorcycle
Luggage on the GT is great, but it adds width to the Tracer’s rear limiting lane-splitting options. Image via Yamaha MC.

Electronically-Controlled, Semi-Active Suspension

Made by KYB, the Tracer 9’s trick shockers aren’t as fancy as (say) the Ohlins’ jobbies you’d find on their MT-10 SPs, but are still a notch above their passive KYB stablemates. Entitled “KYB Active Damper System” by the Japanese boffins who created them, the tech is best described as having electronics attached to the shocks that are able to adjust damping settings on the fly at many times per second. Thanks to direct connections to the bike’s six-axis Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) and Engine Control Unit (ECU), the shocks know whether the bike’s turning, cruising, braking or accelerating and can adjust accordingly.

Adaptive Cruise Control with Radar Linked Unified Braking System

Yeah, it’s a mouthful but put simply it’s a (currently EU only, but apparently coming to other regions later this year) radar cruise control system that’s also connected to the bike’s brakes in such a way that it allows braking bias adjustments, too. So if the truck in front of you jumps on the brakes and you are slow to react, the bike will not only cut the throttle, but it will also adjust the front/rear bias so that if you do have to stop in a hurry, you’ll do so with an optimal mix of force on both callipers. This feature also adds a “+” to the bike’s GT nomenclature. Sadly, the bike I rode for this review didn’t have this system installed.

Other Features

I’m trying to be concise so as to not write an essay here, but the Tracer also comes with up and down quick shifting capabilities, a bunch of different ride and suspension modes, LED lights with active cornering adjustments, a joystick and jog wheel to navigate the TFT displays, smartphone connectivity and luggage as standard.

A 2023 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT Motorcycle on a European Road
You get extra points if you can scrape the luggage. Image via Yamaha MC.


Put a ruler to the Tracer’s spinny metal bits and this is about what you’ll get. The 4-stroke, crossplane, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 4-valve, 3-cylinder engine has an 11.5: 1 compression ratio and generates a peak of 117 hp (87.5 kW) at 10,000 RPM and 93 Nm (68 lb⋅ft) of torques should you twist the throttle far enough. A 18.7 ltr (4.9 gals) tank perches on a bike that when wet weighs 223 kgs (492 lbs). The adjustable seat height is variable from 820 to 835mm (32 to 33 in) and my Aussie-delivered model came with the aptly-named Bridgestone Battlax Sport Touring T32s with a 120/70 ZR17 front and a 180/55 ZR17 rear.

Initial Impressions of the 2023 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT

Walking up my driveway to meet Sean – my friendly neighbourhood Yamaha employee – the first thing that struck me about the white Tracer 9 GT he’d deposited at the end of the concrete was how tall, white and wide it was. And I don’t say “tall & wide” like I would with (say) a Harley. Or as my mate said when he laid eyes on it, “It looks like a minotaur.” In other words, it’s kind of lean. The stock screen and baggage fitted to the bike is properly tall and it means that the bike’s rear is about as wide as the ‘bars and mirrors. No biggie, then, but I was duly warned by Sean not to get too excited when lane splitting lest I tear one off on some poor, unsuspecting soccer mum driving an SUV through Sunday traffic.

A 2023 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT Motorcycle on a European road
Sometimes, a ride is not all not about the bike. Image via Yamaha MC.

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Licence & Registration Please

For a similar set of reasons and the fact that I’d received the white colourway then led me to think just how much it looked like a police bike. Maybe that wouldn’t be such a strong impression if my local law enforcers rode Harleys or Boxer Beemers, but their FJR predilections left me with this exact feeling. Now overwhelmed by the desire to don blue jodhpurs, black knee-high boots and to start pulling random members of the public over, I instead set my mind to a quick once-over of this nifty new toy.

A detail shot of a 2023 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT Motorcycle in a Sydney Park
Aussie models have this split screen dash, but the GT+ gets a larger, single screen like the XSR-900. Image via Machines That Dream.

With similar levels of fit and finish to all my recent Yamaha loaners, you’d have to be pretty damn fussy to find fault with it. They sure do have their touchy feely game up to scratch. Throwing a leg over, you’re greeted with a view not too dissimilar to someone about to slide into a freshly-drawn bath from the tub’s pointy end. There’s acres of glossy white tank and fairing between you and the instruments, which are neatly split in two like some kind of retro 80s shades. The rest of the cockpit is an impressively festooned one, with a multitude of buttons, dials and even joysticks to keep your thumbs muscly. If you like that “I’m in command of a spaceship” feeling with your displays, the Tracer 9 GT will really push your buttons. Pun fully intended. I dig that white and gold colourway, too. There’s something very restrained and clean about it.

A Smallish Kind of Big

It’s easy to let the Tracer’s physical presence fool you; the high windscreen and big-ass baggage can lead you to make assumptions regarding the bike’s weight and just how easy or otherwise it’ll be to manoeuvre at slow speeds or in your driveway, but the fact is that the bike is around 30 kilos (66 lbs) heavier than the very sporty and chuck-able XSR-900. And with a wet weight of only 223 kgs (492 lbs) it’s nowhere near the rather serious heft of similar sports touring models from BMW or even the FJR 1300 it seems to be tilting at.

A detail shot of a 2023 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT Motorcycle in a Sydney Park
Storage for helmets – but check yours fits first. Image via Machines That Dream.

And speaking of the screen, the Tracer’s is a manually adjustable affair that is easy enough to get into the position you need it to be in while stationary or on the move. We’ll discuss its effectiveness soon, but for now I can assure you that it’s a “proper” screen that works well and won’t leave you constantly shifting it up and down, trying in vain to keep yourself protected from wind blast and kamikaze bugs.

My last task before fanging the thing was to have a decent fiddle with the bike’s electronic accessories. While the learning curve felt a little steep (there’s both a joystick and a jog wheel to play with, so exactly what does what can take some time to figure out) I got there in the end and all with zero handbook consultations. Like the hardware, it all feels nicely slick and has clearly had someone with a decent amount of interface design experience give it the once-over. As is the trend of late, Yamaha have included on-screen maps functionality but as with most of their current lineup, you’ll need to download their app and subscribe to a Garmin account to get it working. Why anyone would want to jump through all these hoops when Google or Apple maps do stuff like this much, much better and for free is beyond me. And if you’re anything like me, you’re trying to reduce the amount of apps in your life, not increase them. Your mileage may vary, though.

A detail shot of a 2023 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT Motorcycle in a Sydney Park
Meet the CP3. Arguably the best triple currently in production. Image via Machines That Dream.

Riding the 2023 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT

Riding in the City

A quick relocation of the family SUV was required before I had the Tracer pointing in the right direction and located at the street-end of the driveway. While my front yard is a prime example of a previous owner planting small trees way too close together and overcrowding the space, it’s also a great test of how easy and or “Titanic” the bikes I review are to manhandle in confined spaces. Intentionally not removing the bags to make things simpler because I wanted the full-fat experience, the Tracer stayed true to its reverse-TARDIS vibe and felt smaller to reverse than its initial looks might suggest.

And then there was wind. Not only was this provided by my forward momentum down my street and towards the Royal National Park route I call my test loop; it was also there in spades from Mother Nature. If ever there was a good day to test a bike’s behaviour in crosswinds, this was it. But for now I was still familiarising myself with the Tracer’s basics. And what fun I had in the 30-odd seconds that task took. Yes, I have been riding a good amount of Yamaha’s machinery of late, but I’d still contest that they are second-to-none when it comes to ride-ability and accessibility. I’ve had packets of peanuts that were more difficult to get into than the Tracer. Sucks to be me, as that doesn’t give me much to bang on about here, but boy, this bike is user-friendly. It’s super comfy, too.

A detail shot of a 2023 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT Motorcycle in a Sydney Park
That’ll teach the council to leave my local park gate unlocked. Image via Machines That Dream.

Assuming that the CP3 engine would have been reigned in somewhat for this undoubtedly more sedate, less “set your grandmother on fire while playing a guitar solo” application, I was quickly proved wrong. And while I’m not saying that this powerplant is a mirror image of the XSR-900’s, the rock ‘n’ roll is still here in spades. Eager to taunt you and raucous on the exhaust, there’s a large dose of Sheep-in-wolf’s-clothing. The surprising thing for me was the fact that it didn’t feel like some weird Franken-bike mashup. The boom is there if you want it, but it’s also well-behaved until such time as you lift the latch on the beast’s box. Mind you, it’s not missing at other times; you are never left wondering where the engine’s intentions lie.

By now I was crossing one of the handful of bridges that stand between me and my destination at the southern edge of the Royal National Park. And if I thought it was windy before, this open location doubles down on the gusts with its elevation and its exposure to the nearby Pacific Ocean. Realising that giving the screen a fair review thanks to the unusual conditions was pointless, I instead started to think about the bike’s behaviour in the winds now whipping across the road from east to west. It’s not what I would call bad, but the screen and luggage are definitely adding to the forces that are making the bike tricky to keep centred in the lane. Gusts being generated by other traffic on the road only adds to this effect.

A detail shot of a 2023 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT Motorcycle in a Sydney Park
The taller the screen, the better the protection. But it also catches crosswinds… Image via Machines That Dream.

Once out of the bluster and back onto some more protected suburban roads, I return to the screen. Positioning it is a one-handed job that’s pretty easily accomplished once you know how. And while the gusts from the coast are still a bother, I’m finding it pretty capable. I’m always afraid that screens like this have to invade your field of view to do their job properly, but I’m happy to report that this one manages to keep a low profile while also dispatching the worst of the blast up and over your helmet.

With a decent ride ahead of me, my attention turns to the Tracer’s fuel gauge. With about a third of a tank left, I think to myself, “Better safe than sorry” and pull into my usual service station for a brimming. A mere eight litres (2 gals) later and I can see the fuel lapping at the lip of the tank’s filler. Doing a double take, I stop to gather my thoughts. How did I manage to add only 8 litres to a tank that’s a third full? Assuming some margin for error from the dash’s fuel level read-out, this sports tourer’s tank may be more on the sports side than I had reckoned. And low and behold, it really is. With eighteen-and-a-bit litres (4.9 gals) when full, it’s only rocking 3.7 litres (1 gal) more than the XSR-900 which I felt was quite a small tank to be feeding an angry 900cc beast like the CP3.

A detail shot of a 2023 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT Motorcycle in a Sydney Park
Each bag can hold a full-face helmet and has been designed to reject any “road or wind chatter.” Image via Machines That Dream.

Nitpicking aside, on this particular Sunday morning the bike was more than a little impressive through Sydney’s southern suburbs without the frustrations of peak hour traffic and the throngs of the general public. But was this more comfortable, more practical iteration of a Yamaha sports bike still going to cut it through the subtropical rainforest twisties that the Royal National Park is famous for?

Riding in the Curves

I was now looking more than a little like a police vehicle and riding directly into the hornet’s nest of “spirited” Sunday riding that is Lady Carrington Drive, the Nasho’s main thoroughfare. But that’s also assuming I care. Fortunately, I have more pressing matters on my mind, like throwing this white knight around a bend or two hundred and twenty seven. Now well and truly out of the wind and riding deep in the very protected valleys of the park, pushing the bike around was now the sole responsibility of gravity and all the other associated centrifugal “whees!” and “whoas!” that cornering a motorcycle hard through a tight curve elicits.

The additional mass and cross-sections that the luggage and the rest of the bike’s goodies did indeed create some cornering differences. But from what I was able to discern between this bike and its more sporty brethren as the Tracer belted through the black ribbons drawn through the ancient red cedars amounted to little more than those directly attributable to the bike’s more comfortable design intentions. Slower to fall into corners and subsequently to lift back up out of them as exit throttle was applied, this wasn’t a bike that was less capable of cornering than the XSR-900, but more of a bike with a design brief lead by rider comfort rather than committing a bloody chainsaw massacre a la the “Nine Hunny.”

A detail shot of a 2023 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT Motorcycle in a Sydney Park
The influence of Yamaha’s current R1 and MT-10 design language are clear. Image via Machines That Dream.

There’s little doubt in my mind that the Tracer would give the FJR and the heavier, Euro-made sports tourers a run for their money here, too. While they might have the Tracer beat on power and torque figures, there’s not a lot you can do about the 50-odd additional kilos these bigger bikes carry around. All things being equal, I probably should have loaded up the panniers with some books or other stunt ballast to simulate the Tracer running through here with a full holiday load on board. But that would have involved a butt-ton of planning, forethought and common sense… which are all traits which my dear parents were rather unlucky in impressing on me during my formative years. The poor dears.

Suspension of Disbelief

Emerging from Australia’s version of Jurassic Park and onto the ridge runs that connect the Nasho’s leafy curves allowed me a little time to consider these fancy KYB semi-active shocks. I’ll confess a strange fascination in the way that shocks like these have to strike a delicate balance between retention of road feel and some kind of magic on-the-fly damping ability that could be the enemy of feel. I’d jump at the chance to ride identical bikes with and without these systems just so I know what’s bike, what’s shocks, what’s road and what’s hype. But as it stands, I like the subtle yet silky feel the shocks seem to impart from the road to your brain, especially across sections of Aussie roads yet to be repaired after the big floods of 2022. While the crappy, broken surfaces are still there, you do get the impression that they are hidden behind a layer of protection that makes them feel less intrusive on the bike’s ride quality.

A detail shot of a 2023 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT Motorcycle in a Sydney Park
The factory bags seem to attract scuff marks. This isn’t helped by the matt, textured finish. Image via Machines That Dream.

The eyeballs at the cafe that marks my test ride’s end were attached to the other more expensive and no doubt flashier rides scattered around the carpark. But it’s not like the new Tracer is trying and failing to be seen; when the only two colours you have to choose from are black and white, it’s a pretty safe bet that Yamaha wasn’t hoping that the bike would stand out in a crowd. Nor, I suggest, would its potential new owners. So nary a single person gave me the “I don’t recognise this bike that you’re riding and I’d like to chat about it” eyes that you might expect for something so new. But that’s OK. On a side note, I parked the Tracer right next to a Super Ténéré. Now here’s an interesting comparison, yeah? Sport touring versus adventure touring. Two cylinders versus three. And while I started to roll some cogs in my head, I think that’s maybe another topic for another day…

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