The 2022 Yamaha MT-10 SP offers ample power and tons of rider aides in a comfortable and eye-catching package.
The bike’s looks won’t be for everyone, but they definitely set this hyper naked apart from the pack—even compared to competitors like the BMW S1000 RR or KTM 1290 SuperDuke R Evo.
With a starting price of nearly $17,000 USD, this isn’t a cheap machine—but with stock features like Öhlins Semi-Active Suspension and an Advanced Ride-by-Wire throttle, you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck.
The mountainous Macquarie Pass an hour south of Sydney is an infamous piece of road in the Aussie motorcycling scene. More of a bituminised roller coaster than a road per se, it’s essentially just a cattle path through a forest that was used in the 19th Century to drive livestock from a farming plateau down to the coast for transport. Then some local genius decided to make it into a public road—and the rest is history.
With a bunch of ludicrous corners, steep inclines, and precipitous drops into dark valleys only inches away from the road’s edge, it’s also plagued by waterfalls that have a bad habit of running straight across the road during heavy rain. Added to that, it’s a trucker’s nightmare with many, many big rigs meeting their demise here. I’ve spoken to the local transport authorities and they readily admit that it’s one of the east coast’s most dangerous and regretful pieces of road.
Yet here I am only a few hours after first riding Yamaha’s MT-10 SP, attacking it like Saint George attacked the dragon. In stark contrast, the first time I rode here in anger was in the wet on a 2011 GSX-R and I still have nightmares about it. When I slowed down to take the corners, I could see the rainbows of diesel bubbling up from the road’s surface. And the steep drops into the green ravines by the side of the road. And the downhill hairpins that were so steep, they had rain running down them like a garden water feature.
But today, I was the king of Macquarie Pass. Its arse was mine. Well, if the truth be told, it was mostly the MT-10’s, but you get my drift.
Now after my riotous encounter with the MT’s younger and more wayward brother, the new 2022 XSR900, you (and I) would probably be imagining that the MT-10 would be taking thing to a whole new, super crazy, “I’ve had 10 Red Bulls and chased it up with some PCP,” kind of level. But no. And while there’s no doubting that the MT-10 SP is a much more capable, faster, bigger, heavier, and angrier bike alongside the XSR900, it also had a maturity and sensibility that I just was not expecting. At all.
So up and down the pass I went, grinning from ear to ear with my newfound superpowers. Sure, the road’s still as dangerous as all hell and my focus was always laser sharp, but I was coming at it from a position of confidence and security knowing that the bike had my back. This powerhouse, 160hp nuclear weapon of two-wheeled hyper nakedness… Had. My. Back. Now I know how Putin feels.
What’s New On the 2022 Yamaha MT-10 SP
So let’s back things up a little. New for 2022, the Yamaha MT-10 SP is Yamaha’s biggest, baddest naked motorcycle with an engine that’s essentially the same crossplane powerhouse they have in their YZF-R1 litre sport bike. And as you’d expect, it has plenty of bells, whistles, and even more wish list gadgets—including new-for-2022 Öhlins Gen-2 semi-active electronic suspension. This makes the bike the first production moto in the world to have this factory fitted; and it’s on both the front and rear shocks, too.
Like the XSR900, it also has an avalanche of electronics to back all this power and suspension tech up. In the MT’s case, Yamaha tells us that there’s a 6-axis Inertial Measurement Unit that controls traction, slides, wheelies, engine braking and brake power. And it’d probably make you a mean cappuccino if you could somehow connect it to your coffee machine. There’s also an improved quickshifter and some new, more “R1” looks, too.
The galloping crossplane CP4 engine has had generational improvements like a tuned air intake system with larger ducts and (get this) “tank-mounted acoustic amplifier grilles that emit a deep roar for a spine-tingling experience as you open the throttle.” Now I didn’t know this until after I rode the bike, but I’d have to admit that it did sound good. Not that I noticed any sounds directly exiting these grilles, but I guess it all helps.
And as you’d expect for a bike at this level, all the other goodies are there: you’ll get a racey 4.2” TFT display, a quick shifter, cruise control, lean-sensitive traction control, slide control, and enough settings with all these options to make you consider busting out a spreadsheet to keep track of them. Colour options are exactly one; something Yamaha is calling the “Liquid Metal Raven” scheme. Unsurprisingly, it’s the one you see here. Oh, and all the lights are LEDs.
Turning to the Yamaha spec sheet, the engine’s a 998cc crossplane four pot running a rather healthy 12:0 compression ratio through a constant mesh 6-speed box. Power figures are 160 hp and 82 lb-ft of torque. The 17 ltr (4.5 gal) tank sits atop a 214 kg (472 lb) wet weight bike that will lift your good self 835 mm (32.5 inches) off the ground once you’re seated. The rubber is Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport; 120/70ZR17 up front and 190/55ZR17 at the back.
Initial Impressions of the 2022 Yamaha MT-10 SP
As I mentioned, I was expecting the bike to be totes insane. After my giddy ride on the XSR900, I was actually a little cautious in the initial stages of the ride. If the XSR900 was so over the top, what the hell would the MT be like? On paper at least, you’d take one look at the specs above and say “twice as nuts”. But no. At least, not unless you really try to unleash the beast.
Because unlike the XSR900’s tauntings and brash encouragements, the MT-10 SP came across more like a bike that knows what it’s capable of. Instead of broadcasting its capabilities all over the shop, it just speaks quietly and carries a VERY big stick.
Rolling it out of the garage, it felt a lot like the 214 kg on the spec sheet would suggest. With that said, it’s not a big bike but it instead looks and feels more like a little nugget of energy with all its weight clearly focused in and around that monstrous in-line four.
Sitting atop it, what you notice straight up is the none-too-subtle air intake that encircles the bike’s headlights, forks and front screen section. Like horns on a bull they sit proudly proclaiming the unabashed intentions of the bike’s design; too look as fast as it goes, and then some. It’s from this angle that you’ll also notice these tricky new acoustic grilles. On any normal bike, that’d stand out like a bonnet shaker air scoop on a 70s muscle car, but not here.
That’s right; subtlety is not a word that appears in the MT’s handbook. And while it clearly doesn’t try to kill you with a barely-in-control rider experience, it sure doesn’t hold back on the eyeballs. I have my own thoughts here (which I’ll detail a little later), but for now, I think it’s fair to say that you’ll either love them or you won’t. There’s no middle ground, and I’d suggest that just the way Yamaha intended it.
Other notes from my iPhone include the fact that the standard can on the bike is a completely generic one should you fail to check the Yoshimura box on the showroom goodies list. And while it does sound very impressive, it also feels a little plain on a bike that comes to you from the factory with Öhlins semi-active suspension as standard.
Maybe this is included as a cost-saving exercise to keep the whole package below a certain price point. But I can’t help but think it’s just a little vanilla when set against all those other super blingy add-ons.
Riding The 2022 Yamaha MT-10 SP
Riding in the City
Starting the MT up delivers all the shock and awe you’d expect; and while it’s not too rude to the neighbours on a Sunday morning at 7am, they’ll definitely know you’re not sleeping in. As the TFT dash flashed to life, the first thing that caught my eye was the 12 grand redline. TWELVE GODDAMN THOUSAND REVS.
Calling you like a mythical Greek siren onto the sharp coastal rocks, there’s exactly zero doubt that should you explore this region of the bike’s performance envelope on public roads you will most likely be dead, in jail, or up against the local armed forces dispatched to deal with you. Or all three. As with most litre bikes these days, even spirited riding on quiet roads in the country will see you barely scratch the surface of what it can do.
But it’s not like the thing is a badly behaved bastard until you unleash its full force and get it in the zone. Quite the contrary; it’s as civilised and as quiet as you like. And unbelievably, it’s also pretty comfortable. Like all day comfortable.
Even the exhaust note keeps itself in the box unless you decide that blipping it at the lights is a fun thing to do. Which I most definitely did. And while I always knew that all hell would break loose if I were to give it some beans, it barely drew a raised eyebrow or turned head from Mister and Misses Average Suburbanite.
Of course, riding like this meant the bike was rarely out of first, and what with all that low-down torque, this isn’t the kind of bike that needs a fist full of revs so as to not stall off the line. So with our light well and truly hiding under a metaphorical bushel, off me and the Yammie went southwards and towards less SUVs and more curves. MANY more.
Riding in the Curves
Now comes the Nasho. Sydney’s famous and closest set of proper curves, it’s much more to the MT’s liking. As with most things in Sydney over the past few years, it’s damp thanks to an unprecedented “La Niña” weather pattern that’s drenched the coast and rendered even the most dry roads damp and slippery. Nevertheless, I push on and the MT gets a little closer to where it’s meant to be. But only a little.
Yes, it’s faultless through the entire stretch of rainforest-encrusted tarma, but unlike the XSR900, it still feels caged. Revs rarely rise above four grand. I begin to feel like the bike’s getting a little bored. This stands in stark contrast to my wide-eyed enthusiasm and racer hunch. Clearly I’m the one in this relationship not pulling their weight. Not that you’d know by the exhaust note the thing was making.
Just how something so not deafening and restrained can also sound so kick arse is completely beyond me, but it managed both deftly and always left me wanting to hear more.
Trying out the quickshifter and some very brief applications of throttle, the Yamaha was perfectly on the money all of the time. Try as I may, I couldn’t catch it out, make it think twice or confuse it. Slightly embarrassed, I got stuck into the active suspension settings. Somewhat naively, I was expecting that once properly engaged, this fancy, high tech suspension would somehow separate me from the roads and instead float me on a kind of sci-fi magic carpet ride of smoothness.
Of course, such a dramatic shift away from what riders have come to know and expect would be an insane course of action. Instead, all I felt on these public roads is a clearly expensive, incredibly composed, almost velvety ride that performs no other trick than to keep the bike rock steady and deftly planted no matter what the road surface or riding conditions.
I rock up at the cafe located at the southern end of the National Park and hop off the SP to grab a coffee and to collect my thoughts. The biker crowd that is always gathered here eyes the bike and while no one gushes over it’s arrival, I do see a few of the more sportbike-looking riders coyly note that yes, this is indeed the SP version, as you can see by all those wires sticking out the top of the magical, golden front forks.
Having a hoot of a time, I was infatuated with the bike’s potential but also frustrated that I couldn’t push it a little harder. I made a spur of the moment decision to throw the thing at the Macquarie Pass. This would also give me a little time on some freeways on the way, letting me try out things like the cruise control and also to see how it handled long, boring, straight roads at proper speeds.
So off we go. And it’s here that the MT reveals another of its myriad skills; it turns out that it’s also a damn fine tourer, too. No, it doesn’t have a bunch of luggage that you can click on and take it on a transcontinental jaunt, but it’s immense reserves, electronic helpers, and naked riding position (no, not like that) means it eats distance up like PacMan eats snack pellets. Who’d have thought?
And so I arrive at the base of the Macquarie Pass and the rest is history, of course. MT meets mountain. MT laughs in face of mountain. MT makes me feel like the King of the Mountain. Take that Macquarie Pass. Not so big and scary now, are you?
What Could Be Better on the 2022 Yamaha MT-10 SP?
I’m just going to come out and say it. The bike’s looks—especially when it comes to the front end—aren’t for everyone. You’d never call it a “timeless” design. Not even a little bit. I won’t wear my heart on my sleeve here and tell you my personal opinions as to be quite honest, they mean nothing. You’ll either think the bike looks amazing or you think it looks like a grumpy robot from the Transformers movie franchise.
What I can say is that if I had to put money on how the bike will look in 20 years’ time, I’d suggest that it’ll be very easy to date it from this moment in time. Just like a bright yellow mega bass Walkman or a pair of Air Jordans, you may think that they transcend their moment in time and become something more than fashion, or like flares and beehive hairdos, they might seem a bit stuck in their era. The call is yours.
Other than that, the only gripes I have were some niggling little useability qualms that were likely more about me being a fussy little bugger than anything that needs serious fixing. But what I will say is that for a rider that was just plonked on the bike for a few days and let loose, showing text on the wheelie and traction control settings like “3” means nothing to me unless I have done my homework.
Does “3” mean that all my wheelies will be safely managed and that I don’t have to cover the rear brake, or does it mean that the bike will do a spectacular loop-the-loop and send both of us off to the motorcycling afterlife? At a glance, I just couldn’t tell, and the upshot was that I was always a bit worried that if things got a little exciting, the bike might not do what I wanted it to.
Final Thoughts on the 2022 Yamaha MT-10 SP
If you’re down with the aggressive looks of the MT and you’ve got suitably deep pockets, there’s next to no doubt at all that this bike will blow your socks off, both in the early days of the romance and way down the road when you and the bike are old and grey. It’s that good.
Handing the keys back at the end of my time with the bike, a thought entered my head about the thing being like a martial arts sensei of sorts. The way the MT carried itself up and down the Macquarie pass was nothing short of incredible. I was faster and more composed at every instant and the bike’s amazing ability to balance a seriously insane amount of power with a reserved, almost gentlemanly composure really took me by surprise. I expected Heath Ledger’s Joker and instead I got Sir Alec Guinness’ Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Finally, it’s important to note that the almost limitless well of performance the bike has does raise the question as to where exactly you’d be able to ride it at its full potential? Sure, it’ll be an absolute blast at your local track, but unless you’re seriously skilled up or you race World Superbike in your spare time, the MT’s capabilities will never be seriously tested by mere mortals like us. But let’s not kid ourselves; with the 2022 Ducati V4 Streetfighter, the BMW S1000RR and Kawasaki ZX-10R, this bike is forty plus horsies down on the bleeding edge bikes. Mind blowing, isn’t it?
But still, riding the MT-10 SP does bring you that little bit closer to the Gods of Speed, and while you may never really threaten them in any meaningful way, just sharing the same rarified air as them—even if only for a few minutes—is an incredible experience that most humans only get to dream about.
In closing, I used to think that these high tech gadgets on modern hyper bikes were all just gimmicks to allow manufacturers to tell consumers that their bikes had a thousand horsepower when in reality, the bike was almost always electronically neutered to the point where getting everything to the ground all at once was an impossibility. But now I’m more of the opinion that the tech has reached a point where it’s lifting the bike up, and not holding it back. It’s adding to the experience and not taking away from it.
The MT-10 SP does this in spades. It makes you feel like more rather than less. It makes molehills out of mountains without taking away the fun with digital kid gloves. And best of all, it makes you feel like a much better rider. Do check it out.