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Jayzonk

Picking up a 2020 Tracer GT Tomorrow

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Just wanted to say hello to the members out there.  I've sold my R1200GS and am going to give the Tracer a try!  The Beemer looked great, and handled well on the road, but I wasn't a fan of a few things.  First, I found that it always wanted to tip slightly left or right as I came to a stop.  Perhaps it was the Michelin Annakees causing that, but not sure.  Secondly, despite the engine creating a low center of gravity (supposedly!), I still felt quite a bit of weight up top, and I had some concerns about the biking leaning too much in emergency situations (two emergencies that I experienced!).  I didn't like the engine too much, but it was okay in sport mode, and, as I say, the electronic suspension was good, but I only ever enjoyed riding it in the firmest setting, Dynamic Pro (the rest seemed way too spungy for the road).  

So I am interested in getting the Tracer out for an initial ride tomorrow.  I've known the dealer for quite some time, and he's adamant that the Tracer, as a road-only adventure bike, which is what I requested, will be very enjoyable for me.  I'm hoping for a smoother engine (almost guaranteed when you consider the Yamaha's triple versus the Boxxer twin!), a lighter, more manageable feeling at low speed, equal or better handling at highway speeds, especially on curvy roads, and hopefully as good as suspension.  I have forgone the ability to adjust suspension on the fly, but I am hoping to have a good road setup that I can just leave in place.  I will start with stock, but likely ease up on compression slightly.  I will check the damping on a few known road sections as well.  

All in all, I thanked another dealer today for letting me test ride a Triumph and told him I went with the Tracer.  He told me that he thought the Tracer was "built to a budget," and that the suspension on the bike was cheaper, and not as good as he is used to using, as he rides a bike with full Ohlins.  Despite this, I am hoping that I can set the bike up very well, with only a few minor adjustments.  I would really like to see this bike work out well, as I am a firm believer that me, as a mere mortal, can be equally at home on the stock suspension of the Tracer, as with the higher spec forks.  I think there's some overselling on "good" suspension under normal, or even spirited road use, so we will see if my hypothesis holds true.  
Short ride happening tomorrow.  Looking forward to meeting the Tracer Forum members.  

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Welcome aboard. You'll be smitten with the engine after a few rides, it's a bike that brings the grins back to biking.

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Welcome, I think a good choice. 

I went from a Multistrada with semi active Ohlins to the the Tracer and I made the move for some of the reasons you mention.  Top heavy bike, was more than I needed.

I have very much enjoyed the GT and have not been tempted to spend on the suspension - yet - after 10k miles.   I know I am not comparing apples to apples, but all in all very happy.

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I will definitely let you know how it goes.   I've got high expectations for the Tracer.

The BMW had a lot of great components,  but I'm not sure they added up to a greay whole riding experience.   I hope the Tracer does!

FYI, I did a riding coaching program on the track (its a course that a lot of races take but I am no racer!), and the instructors were on Tracers.  They had no problem keeping up with any of the students on their siperbike 600's and 1000's, and their bikes were bone stock, other than replacement tires.  So I am hoping to get acclimatized to the bike and really make riding it enjoyable. 

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Welcome @Jayzonk, and congratulations on the new Tracer.   They are really entertaining motorcycles, so I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.   The CP3 motor is a gem, and the overall package is hard to beat.  

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.  

-Scott 

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Congrats and your cross over to the dark/bright side!! 
 

Used to be curious why all pointed to GS , in my country, it’s more of a lavish lifestyle when one owns a GS over practicality. Met a couple of GS whom cross over to other bikes on the reason, Asian size are smaller and many times when riding straight/twisties highway no issues, when it comes to emergency or unravel road, the bikes is too large to handle. hence local bmw use to organised lesson to deal with their bikes. 
 

compare with spare parts and my income level, will stick to japs. 

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I have ridden a BMW R1200GS a couple of times and I don't get the attraction.

It is the best selling motorcycle in South Africa.

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Anybody needs to ride a GS more than "a couple of times" to get it.


Wordsmith - a 1939 model.   Previously owned a 2019 Tracer 900 GT, Midnight Black.   Now enjoying a 2020 Yamaha MT-09 SP.   Happily living near the sea in Redland Bay, SE Queensland, Australia.

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Well, it's a nice fall day, 17 degrees Celsius and clear as a bell.  I will have only a twenty minute ride today but will let you know how it goes.  

The BMW was fine on the highway at highway speeds, it cornered quite nicely.   As I said, it was the slow speed maneuvering that I personally didn't like.   I agree with the idea that the BMW is a lavish bike.  Before the BMW, all I had was Japanese bikes, and I asked myself with the BMW if I had actually paid extra for anything that was enhancing the general riding experience.  Not sure if I will be able to answer that question today but will see.  

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2 hours ago, Jayzonk said:

Well, it's a nice fall day, 17 degrees Celsius and clear as a bell.  I will have only a twenty minute ride today but will let you know how it goes.

If you are able, take the test ride on as many varied conditions as possible, city, stoplight to stoplight, rural winding country roads and highway - even do some figure 8's in the dealer parking lot to get a diverse experience of weight distribution, speed and handling. 

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***2015 Candy Red FJ-09***

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While not a GS, I test rode an RS a few years ago as I really love the looks of that bike. Granted, this was a 1200,  and not the 1250 (which is supposed to be better) but I was so not impressed with the boxer engine. I'm sure it's a thing you get used to, but the power band was so much different to what I was used to that I couldn't justify the $20K on a bike who's engine didn't thrill me.

And this was all before I bought my Tracer - talk about an engine that thrills you!

Hope you find that you get the same experience on the Yamaha as many of do @Jayzonk! 

Cheers,

Rob

 

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I made the trip home from the dealership on the Tracer 900 GT and extended the ride to about an hour.  I rode some higher speed city roads, the 401 Express Highway (busy, wide, excellent tarmac), ramp entrances and exits, followed by some single lane (each way) secondary highway with some short radius curves.  From this initial jaunt, I can fairly conclude several things about the ride experience.  I want to clarify that, from my point of view, the ride experience on a motorcycle is so much more important than the motorcycle's features, where the features aren't really worth much if they do not enhance the riding experience.  I am mentioning this because adding electronic gadgets to motorcycles tends to confuse what's important about motorcycling, and I dare to say that adding features, without considering the bike as a whole, does not translate into a better purchase or a better ride for the owner.  I also think the riding/driving experience is much more important on a motorcycle than in a car, because the motorcycle rider generally has to concentrate more when moving down the road - using the eyes, arms, legs, and brain, of course, adjusting to the road frequently, forecasting what's coming up, and generally paying more attention to safety.  The gadgetry is just less of a priority, including electronic gadgetry.  So, from my first ride, I can conclude the following:

Any remorse I had about selling the BMW R1200GS Rallye is gone completely.  

First, the Tracer doesn't feel heavy in the front like the BMW.  The Tracer moves easily from side to side in my hands while stopped, just like a sport bike would.  This immediately translated to confidence as I headed off on the bike.  As expected, there was no heavy feeling in the front as I made my turns, consistent with that light feeling while stopped.  Good going Yamaha.  I now am much much less concerned about the bike leaning too far in an emergency braking situation - the Tracer just feels so much lighter that I am confident that I can keep the bike supported even if it is leaned over further under an avoidance maneuver.  Better yet, there is no trace (pun!) of any imbalance in the Tracer, toward the left or the right, when coming to a stop, unlike the BMW.  The BMW left me feeling somewhat less at ease when stopping, as the bike tended to start to lean either left or right when slowing to a stop.  I tried modulating the braking differently on the BMW, so that I was applying more rear brake force than front to see if that would rectify the issue.  It did to a small extent, but that was it. Perhaps the easy tipping is from the profile of the Michelin Anakees, especially the front tire, as it has a very high midline profile, likely to help induce turn-in on cornering.  Whether it was the tire, or whether it is the design of the BMW, I cannot say for sure, but I practically forgot to assess this issue when riding the Tracer, because the problem simply wasn't happening at all.  Another win for the Tracer.  With less weight on the front end and less tippiness, I felt way more confident on the Tracer than I ever did on the BMW.  On the BMW, I felt like I needed to "learn how to ride it."  On the Tracer, I pretty much rode it away from the dealership like I stole it.  

The Telelever front end on the BMW would contribute significantly to the heavier, and more tipsy feeling on the BMW.  With modern suspension being so advanced, so adjustable, and just so darn good, I really wonder why BMW persists with it.  The Tracer's suspension was excellent, with good feedback, where I felt very connected to a light and responsive front end.  

The engine on the Tracer feels so much better to ride than the rattly Boxxer.  It's quick, it's smooth, and first and second gear are tall for easy city navigation.  This is just so much of a better feeling than the BMW, where the Boxxer grunts just way too much for the level of performance that it makes.  It's not a fast engine, and every gear feels like you're reaching the upper end of the rev limiter, even at normal riding speeds and throttle inputs.  I don't like the grunt of the twins, whether they be Boxxer twins or parallel twins, and the Boxxer engine in particular does not accelerate quickly, nor does it have a top end speed that feels comfortable at the higher end of freeway speeds.  The Boxxer, at 80mph in sixth gear, feels okay, but it seems like it is running out of additional oomph, and it's not fun riding a bike that feels like it's topping out at highway speeds.   The Tracer, on the other hand, is cruising nicely in fifth gear at 80mph, and there's still one gear left to go!  To me, this is a more reassuring feeling while riding at freeway speeds - there's more reserve power in case you need to pass someone quickly.  

High speed sweepers and secondary highway curves (with what I would call a slightly tighter radius)are handled really well by the Tracer.  This is not an area of complaint I had with the BMW, as I felt that it performed well.  I was a little more aware of the BMW's 18" wheel size when cornering - it makes the bike feel big, but you can move it.  The Tracer feels smaller than what it is, possibly due to the 17" wheels, so the intimidation factor was down a bit from the BMW, but, overall, there is nothing to complain about.  As far as trail braking into a corner, I felt the Tracer was very good, where there was just enough fork compression to plant the front tire well and turn the bike.  This appears well engineered by Yamaha, where the fork settings match what needs to happen upon application of the front brake for turning.  The rear stayed completely composed.  The suspension was providing just the right composure for the bike.  Well engineered.  

I think another reason why the Tracer handled well in the curves was due to the increased room in the cockpit and a very slightly forward-leaning seating position compared to a sport bike or standard, where I had a lot of room for body positioning when cornering.  The fact is, though, the chassis responded extremely well to those body inputs, and the bike felt very stable.  

The clutch lever pull on the Tracer is short and light...shorter and lighter than on the BMW, and I think that this is something that helps me differentiate the bikes in a general way.  The short and light clutch on the Tracer is just another part of the overall light, nimble package that the Tracer offers.  The heavier, longer clutch pull on the GS goes along with its heavier chassis, and I cannot see where this would ever be a benefit when riding.  I guess, if you were going to ride 600 kilometers per day in a long stretch, the clutch pull would mean a lot less than if you were in stop and start traffic.  But even then, I just do not appreciate the long, harder pull, and the higher initial throttle required to move the GS.  

The quickshifter action on the Tracer is extremely smooth, and really really fun to engage.  However, the rider can only quickshift up (from first to sixth) on the Tracer, not down.  But I loved it.  On the contrary, the BMW quickshifter allows for upshifts and partial downshifts (throttle in the off position when downshifting), but it was extremely notchy, creating lurching movements in the bike.  It was bad enough that I went back to the dealer to confirm that the bike actually had a quickshifter.  Perhaps it has been improved on the 1250GS, but I do not know that.  

The TFT screen on the Tracer is the perfect size and has been placed perfectly on the bike to minimize interference with the rider's focus on the road.  This was one area that I wasn't expecting to assess, but I realized quickly while riding that the Yamaha's TFT display was positioned on the bike from the point of view of what the rider should actually be experiencing on the bike.  The Yamaha engineers positioned the TFT display lower behind the screen, below where a rider would be looking when focusing on the road.  If the rider is looking down the road toward the horizon, the TFT screen is placed below his/her field of view, keeping the TFT unobtrusive to the riding experience.  On top of being lower, the TFT screen is tilted upward, so that the rider looks down slightly to see it, rather than having it in their face all of the time.  That was one of my main gripes with the R1200GS - the TFT screen was facing directly at the rider, sitting high in the cockpit, which meant I was always staring at the screen when going down the road. This creates a split screen for me, meaning my faculties (my brain functions) are divided between looking at the road and trying not to be distracted by the screen (and the navigation unit, which sits above it, making even more interference with the riding field of view).  If accidents can be avoided within fractions of a second, I dare to say that BMW's choice of positioning the TFT unit creates a distraction for me, diverting my attention away from the road, and thereby creates a less safe, and potentially dangerous driving experience.  I do not want to battle electronic equipment while riding, and I don't want it competing for my attention on the road.  I really have to hand it to Yamaha for putting the screen in the right spot - lower down, and tilted up, keeping it out of the rider's direct field of view when scanning the road.  And yes, thank you Yamaha for putting a normal fuel gauge on the main screen.  The BMW required going through the menu to see the fuel indicator, which was one of those "how many km's until empty" types of gauges.  No thanks.  A fuel gauge is primary information and I do not know why it isn't preset on the main screen, in the traditional fashion of a fuel gauge.  

A good segue from the TFT screen is to discuss the switchgear, and once again I have to say kudos to Yamaha.  There is no cheap feeling in the switchgear whatsoever.  It feels as good and as durable as the BMW, at least at this point, and likely into the future.  For one, the on/off switch on the Tracer is now integrated with the kill switch, into one rocker switch, which makes sense and frees up space for other functions.  Because it's all one unit, there's no more scanning for buttons for the start switch or the kill switch - it's all packaged very nicely as one red rocker switch.  Secondly, any of the adjustments having to do with the ride are located on one panel (the left one), and close to each other.  This means that the ride modes and the traction control switches are both on the left switch box, and near the top.  I love this.  This means I can make a change from B to A or to Standard ride mode, then compare the traction controls at each level, all using my left index finger.  It's easy.  Because there are three positions on each, there is no need to monitor the screen for the changes I am making.  Rather, the switches motivate me to make changes based on how the bike responds to a change in the switch - it encourages me to experiment and find settings suitable to me.  The BMW, on the other hand, is not so conducive to making connections between riding settings.  My 1200GS had a ride mode switch on the left, and a suspension setting switch on the right (no traction control settings but the idea of having two switches for ride control is very valid and important to the riding experience).  Confusing things more, some of the riding modes were named the same as the suspension settings, and I never really could remember, or never really knew, what the names were supposed to reflect.  For example, there was a dynamic riding mode, and also a dynamic pro riding mode that were supposedly different.  On the suspension side, those were two of the choices as well, dynamic, and dynamic pro, and it just wasn't so intuitive as to how the modes would work with one another.  And having the switches on two different hands seemed to remove an element of intuitive coordination of the overall riding experience for me.  The Yamaha is better, configuring the choices as essentially levels.  The ride modes are essentially power levels that can be controlled, and the traction control is also set up as levels of traction control interference with braking.  It is much more intuitive to consider levels (like volume buttons), than try to correlate names of modes with what they are supposed to be accomplishing. 

But I need to add another layer to the riding modes, and switchgear issue.  With the BMW, the ride modes and the suspension modes pop up on the TFT display and become menu-operated for selecting among the choices.   In other words, you can see what you are switching to on the screen and toggle to them.  This is very much operated like a computer interface that you would have on  your personal computer to find something in a menu, and it seems like BMW is trying to create an interface that would replicate what you do when you are in front of a computer.  My issue is that it is, once again, a really big distraction that is happening, and for what?  You don't need to be scrolling through choices on menus when you're riding, and you certainly don't want to be wasting a lot of time stopping to do it on the side of the road.  The Yamaha is better - you switch a riding mode or level, and it just appears on the screen as that change, and you don't need to look and you don't need to scroll to view choices - three levels on each switch (ride mode and traction control) means that you can make a change, and change again soon if you don't like it.  This is a much better system, because the motorcycle is not encouraging you to look at computer screens, which distracts you from the road.  Rather, it keeps you focused on the road.  It seems to me that the Yamaha engineers must have adopted a safety point of view with their incorporation of riding modes, traction control, and the TFT, and once again, focused on the riding experience.  I agree with their philosophy and their implementation entirely.  I do not agree with BMW's at all.  The addition of extra functions through the electronics could and should not ever compromise the riding experience and safety. 

I need to assess the windscreen on the Tracer GT again.  Yes, I experienced some wind noise and turbulence on the 401 above 75mph, but it was particularly windy this Saturday, so I would like to test the windscreen again on a less windy day.  All in all, I think ear plugs solve the noise issue, but it was not unlike riding other motorcycles anway.  I must say that the BMW was extremely good at managing the wind, from both a turbulence and a noise standpoint, and I think that it has something to do with the thickness of the screen itself.  The BMW screen was thicker, with a solid, over-rounded border all the way around it that likely contributed to its stationarity.  This meant that the windshield itself was sturdy in the wind; if the windshield is sturdy, then it promotes more consistent airflow behind it.  I will consider some changes to the screen after I test it a few more times, and I do not like the fact that it is likely a relatively simple thing to engineer correctly from the start.  The wind protection on my legs and lower torso, being behind the tank, however, was excellent.  

I love the riding position on the Tracer.  I am upright, but slightly forward, just the way I like it.  This position means that all of my body weight is not directly above my lower back (I have lower back issues).  My knees have less bend than any other bike I've ridden, and my hips are also much much less bent.  My toes tip slightly forward, and, overall, I feel comfortable, yet in a very solid, alert, riding attack position.  

I did not have an opportunity to take the Tracer on broken pavement, recycled asphalt, or a gravel road.  I firmly believe that every motorcycle has a narrow range of surfaces it can travel, and that range is primarily dictated by the tires that are on the bike.  Since I am not going off road, and will not have off road tires on the Tracer, I see little need to test its composure on those surfaces with the road going tires that it has.  This brings up that quandary that we all have about adventure bikes in general - about whether they are really too big to be taken off road or not.  I think it suffices to say that, without off road tires specific to the type of off road riding that will take place, adventure bikes are made for the road.  There's nothing to consider until you've equipped the bike to go where you want it to. 

The GS, like other adventure touring bikes, is definitely made for crossing the Andes, going to Africa or Alaska, and so forth...the engineers have set out upon honest paths to achieve this.  But it means the bikes are engineered to cover a variety of terrain, and perhaps they've had to compromise in one area to create that multiplicitive use within them.  After riding the Tracer, however, I'm wondering if the GS is really the best continent crosser.  With the right suspension setup, tires, and windscreen, I'm thinking I would be more apt to take a Tracer anywhere over the GS. 

For my road use, however, I am extremely confident that the Tracer is the better choice.  It's also a better handler than the VFR1200F I had, with its heavy shaft drive (the VFR was a pretty good bike in all respects, though.  Really good wind protection behind a fixed screen, for example).  The engine also feels close but slightly better than the 2013 Speed Triple that I had, with its 1050cc triple.  Despite the slightly higher horsepower of the Speed Triple, the taller gearing, and deep pulling  of each gear on the Tracer, leads to a better engine and acceleration feel on the Yamaha (shorter shifting on the Speed Triple - perhaps more race oriented, sacrificing some real world practicality).  

 

Resized Tracer Front Side.jpg

Edited by Jayzonk
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A good Read review. same colour as mine. What was your height and weight if dont mind sharing, as you pointed out " Tracer's suspension was excellent" which many here found its towards the soft side. i myself is super light weight, hence its so far so good, still curios to try a Tracer with Ohlins/K-tech before i splurge my money on it. 

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I am 5'11" and 200lbs.  As for the suspension, I was taught on course by professional riders to not focus on the suspension.  Rather, focus on lever play when cornering to modulate just enough fork compression to create the flat area on the tire and turn the bike.  So I would say forget about the so-called Ohlins upgrade for now.  The bikes are engineered properly, with proper suspension for cornering.  If you feel the need to adjust, adjust what you have, but do not upgrade.  I guarantee that you will get frustrated with it and likely return to the stock suspension setup.  

With regard to rebound and damping, I am going to assess that when i ride over a less than stellar secondary highway ride tomorrow.  

Edited by Jayzonk
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18 minutes ago, Jayzonk said:

The bikes are engineered properly, with proper suspension for cornering.  If you feel the need to adjust, adjust what you have, but do not upgrade.  I guarantee that you will get frustrated with it and likely return to the stock suspension setup.

I'm not sure what you are actually meaning to say with the comment that you will get frustrated with upgraded suspension and return to stock? 🤷‍♀️

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***2015 Candy Red FJ-09***

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