Superbikes were massive sellers in the late nineties and early thousands but have been in decline for many years.
There is a huge number of reasons for their decline but a major factor is that Superbikes have become more and more extreme for the road.
Many Superbikes over the last 10 years have gotten peakier engines and longer gearing while becoming even less comfortable. As stock, their fueling is often not great too.
Preferences have changed, with a larger number of new and existing riders wanting something resembling Superbike performance and handling but have turned their attention to naked variants of the Superbike that they love.
The naked bike class over the years has evolved and has its own sub-class variants.
Alongside the less radical naked bikes, we have ‘Supernakeds’.
The machines in this class are often naked versions of their Superbike siblings, sharing a frame, retuned engine, suspension and more comfortable upright handlebars.
Back in 2001, while not a naked version of the R1 exactly, we had the Yamaha Fazer 1000. This was the first naked bike powered by the R1 Superbike engine.
In 2006 with the FZ1 we got our first actual naked R1. It shared the same frame engine and almost everything else with the 04-06 YZF-R1 it was based upon.
The Fazer 1000 and FZ1 had many revisions over the years but were ultimately replaced by the Yamaha MT-10.
Strangely, Yamaha did not produce a Fazer 1000 or a new motorcycle powered by their new MotoGP-derived Crossplane engine that arrived in 2009.
That engine powered the YZF-R1 up until 2014, with Yamaha choosing to continue with 04-06 YZF-R1 engine that had powered the Fazer (FZ1) until it was discontinued in 2015.
In 2015 Yamaha updated the YZF-R1 for an all-new model and also blessed us with what could be argued as the replacement for the Fazer (FZ1).
The Yamaha MT-10 was born in 2016. It is literally a naked version of the current Yamaha YZF-R1 with less power, and a little heavier but still provided those Superbike thrills.
MT-10 vs YZF-R1 Dyno Curve
|Power||141hp @ 11,500 rpm||184 hp @ 13,500 rpm|
|Torque||74 ft/lb @ 9500 rpm||80 ft/lb @ 9000 rpm|
The main objective of naked versions of existing Superbikes is to provide all of the same thrills in a more comfortable and accessible package.
Many Superbikes can hit close to 100 mph in first gear and 125 mph in second gear.
To even begin to enjoy the upper part of their rpm where their peak power is you have to be moving at a rapid pace on the road.
Not every rider wants to or has the opportunity to use the performance of a Superbike on the road, especially at closer to legal speeds where the meat of their power can’t be used as easily.
Also, the long gearing and high rpm power bias of Superbikes can mean that low down in the rpm their engines are not as responsive as many would like.
This is particularly the case when riding on the kind of roads that most motorcyclists enjoy, which tend to be slower and more technical roads.
To combat this, naked versions of Superbikes such as Yamaha’s MT-10 are powered by retuned versions of their donor engine.
‘Re-tuning’ often means losing a substantial amount of peak power compared to the original engine at high rpm, and redistributing at least some of it lower in the rpm, and where it is most useable to road riders.
Then in combination, these naked variants would also have lower gearing to make the best use of that repurposed power and torque.
Not every manufacturer has nailed this and there are plenty of hit-and-miss examples.
Even Yamaha’s own FZ1 from 2006 is powered by a detuned engine from the 04-06 Yamaha YZF-R1, but the results in the midrange and down low were not as good as many hoped.
Part of the issue is that the 04-06 Yamaha YZF-R1 is a short-stroke engine that is designed fundamentally to produce power at very high rpm with a cost to low rpm power and torque.
There is only so much a re-tune can do to redistribute that power and torque lower down the rpm.
With the MT-10, Yamaha had more successful results re-tuning and thus distributing power and torque lower down in the rpm compared to the donor engine.
This is quite impressive seeing as the 2015 plus Yamaha YZF-R1 is more powerful, has a shorter stroke and revs higher than the 04-06 YZF-R1 engine.
Many of the limitations of detuning an engine designed to make massive power at high rpm can be mitigated with the advancements in electronics that were not available 10-15 years ago.
You can also replace internals to which is the case with the MT-10.
MT-10 versus YZF-R1 engine performance
For the MT-10, Yamaha claims 160 horsepower at 11,500 rpm and torque at a claimed 82 ft/lb delivered at 9500 rpm.
The YZF-R1 on the other hand has a claimed figure of 197 horsepower 2000 rpm higher at 13,500 rpm. Torque is 83 ft/lb again produced higher at a claimed 11,500 rpm.
Once we take into consideration transmission losses we see that MT-10 produces 141 horsepower and 74 ft/lb at the rear wheel.
In terms of peak numbers, the YZF-R1 figure towers over the MT-10 laying down 184 horsepower and 80 ft/lb.
Both power and torque curves share a lot of similarities, which of course makes sense as they have the same, albeit (fettled differently) engine.
It’s almost as if the MT-10 power and torque curve has been pulled backwards, as it imitates the R1s delivery but at a lower rpm.
The power curve of each machine is a little undecided at lower rpm and a little erratic with the MT-10 producing a little more power and torque between 3000 – 6000 rpm, though both get their acts together and provide a massive kick/surge in power/toque as they cross different thresholds in their rpm.
For the R1, after a lull, the engine picks up like a two-stroke from 7000 rpm delivering immense drive right to 14,000 plus rpm.
The MT-10 does the same but at a thousand rpm sooner, 6000 rpm instead of 7000 rpm but also delivering a substantial jump in power and torque.
The most pronounced difference between the two engines is the difference in power and torque from 6000 rpm and up to 8500 rpm, and of course from 8500 rpm onward. The MT-10 has an advantage in the former and the YZF-R1 in the latter.
In that key midrange area between 6000 and 8500 rpm, the MT-10 has up to a 15 horsepower and 12 ft/lb advantage.
From 9000 rpm the R1’s power and torque towers over the MT-10 with a 45 horsepower advantage at peak and holds on to its power for 2500 rpm longer than the MT-10.
The above defines the differences between these two engines.
Yamaha MT-10 vs YZF-R1 in-gear acceleration
Above we can see how the YZF-R1 and MT-10 deliver their power in each gear.
What makes motorcycles like the MT-10 appealing and more useable than their Superbike equivalents is the extra power and torque that they often provide in the midrange.
This is the portion of the rev range that is used more often and is more useful in most road-riding situations.
If we look at the in-gear thrust curve above, despite being down 45 horsepower the MT-10 really does punch above its weight.
In the real world, the MT-10 is a lot closer to the YZF-R1 than what the dyno curve would suggest.
To make the best use of that extra midrange grunt the MT-10 is geared lower than the YZF-R1.
It has the same individual gear ratios as the YZF-R1 but runs with a final drive ratio of 2.6875 (43-16) vs the YZF-R1 2.562 (41-16).
Yamaha has tuned the MT-10 engine to deliver its power and torque lower down in the rpm range.
Lowering gearing will increase thrust and have the added effect of bringing that available thrust to lower road speeds in each gear too than it otherwise would if the MT-10 shared the same final drive ratio as the YZF-R1.
For example, if we compare peak thrust/acceleration in first gear, we can see that the MT-10s peak thrust is made between 50 to a little over 60 mph, while the YZF-R1 produces it peak thrust between 60 and a little over 80 mph.
The YZF-R1 produces its peak thrust over a wider speed range because its torque curve is spread over a wider rpm, while also having longer gearing.
In all gears, The MT-10 nearly delivers the same peak thrust/acceleration as the YZF-R1, albeit at lower speeds.
In the first half of each gear, the Yamaha MT-10 provides more acceleration than the YZ-R1.
The YZF-R1 needs to run a gear lower to come close to matching the MT-10 in the middle of each gear, which not surprisingly is the same rpm on the dyno where the MT-10 produce more power and torque.
How does this translate on the road?
If both motorcycles are below 9000 rpm and share the same gear as the YZF-R1, The MT-10 engine is quite a bit more accelerative than the YZF-R1.
It does not matter what gear as long as both motorcycles are below 9000 rpm
Any roll-on gear for gear the MT-10 will leap ahead of the YZF-R1 providing rpm is lower than 9000 rpm on both motorcycles.
MT-10 vs YZF-R1 speeds in each gear
|Speed at 5000 rpm||MT-10||YZF-R1|
|1st Gear||32.9 mph||34.5 mph|
|2nd Gear||39.3 mph||41.2 mph|
|3rd Gear||46.4 mph||48.7 mph|
|4th Gear||54.1 mph||56.8 mph|
|5th Gear||61.9 mph||64.9 mph|
|6th Gear||68.4 mph||71.7 mph|
For the average rider, what this means, is that on the vast majority of roads that most riders will encounter the Yamaha MT-10 provides more acceleration, and is less gear-dependent.
When making rapid progress on the YZF-R1 on slower twisty country roads, second and third gears are used most.
Second gear generally works the best, though even in isolation and below 60 mph it’s not as responsive as you might want, especially between 6000-7000 rpm.
You can always choose to use first gear but it all becomes a bit too frantic even if you got your race face on.
Most riders would likely want to use third gear on slower roads but the YZF-R1 in third does get a little ‘chuggy’ below 50 mph and won’t get you out of slow corners like the MT-10 or many other rival motorcycles.
The MT-10 in comparison is much more useable, with that extra power and torque low down combined with that lower gearing making it much more punchy from corner to corner if comparing both gears.
Gear choice for the same twisty road scenario is similar, but on the MT-10 you can use third gear at much lower speeds, without getting ‘chuggy’.
The MT-10 will still be driving hard enough out of the corner to put a smile on your face or keep up with hard-charging friends.
You wouldn’t use first gear either on the MT-10 blasting from slow corners unless, of course, you wanted to wheelie.
The MT-10 will easily do that in second gear too once the rpm breaks throguh 6000 rpm and around 50 mph.
Out on faster roads, the YZF-R1’s engine makes much more sense.
You still can’t afford to be in too high a gear or have your rpm too low if you are asking for instantaneous acceleration.
You’d think that as the roads got faster the MT-10 would lose out, but it’s not the case.
The power delivery of its engine combined with that low gearing still provides more punch more of the time than the YZF-R1.
The YZF-R1 engine only can outdo the MT-10 in those rare circumstances where you can use the all that drive from 9000-14,000 rpm which is more often above 120 mph.
The MT-10 engine spends much more time in, or very close to where it produces peak thrust/acceleration.
Whereas on the YZF-R1 you spend more time out of where peak acceleration and thrust are delivered due to its power delivery and longer gearing.
MT-10 vs YZF-R1 Acceleration and Top Speed
The Yamaha MT-10 has a faster engine more of the time and in real-world situations.
If we look at outright speed then of course the pendulum swings in the other direction to where the Superbike with its extra 45 horsepower should reign supreme.
The question is not which is faster but by how much.
If you have experience riding big powerful motorcycles you’ll know that getting them off the line and achieving the best 0-60 mph ETs is more down to rider skill than how much power a motorcycle has.
Most lightweight motorcycles with 70-80 horsepower will be very close to 60 mph. From 60 mph how much power the motorcycle has will come into effect as the speeds get higher.
The YZF-R1 has a 45 horsepower advantage but that does not mean that it will necessarily be quicker from 0-60 mph
Both are wheelie machines though the YZF-R1 from 2015 does have very advanced wheelie control.
The first variants of the MT-10 don’t come equipped with the same fancy 6-axis IMU electronics package, instead relying on a more basic traction control system that can help reduce the tendency to wheelie.
As good as some anti-wheelie and traction control systems are, it best to leave them off if you want to get close enough to optimum ETs.
Keeping them on will mean that you will be much more consistent but will battle unwanted interventions when looking for that great ET.
To the numbers, and surprisingly it is the YZF-R1 that trumps the MT-10 from 0-60 mph with a time of 3.00 seconds flat versus 3.08 seconds for the MT-10.
But to 70 mph the MT-10 nudges the YZF-R1 by a fraction of a second.
To be fair, the MT-10 just has too much thrust available in first gear, which also is delivered at lower speeds making launching even more difficult.
Both motorcycles are capable of sub-three second 0-60 mph times but the stars have to align with a rider light and skilful enough to put it all together.
I thought the R1 was furious and mad when launching, but the MT-10 takes the insanity up a level.
Once out of first and into second the wheel is up in the air, even in third too. It does make launching very exciting and frantic.
If you can keep the front wheel on the ground more than in the air, the MT-10 will rocket from 0-100 mph in 5.60 seconds and only trails the YZF-R1 by a tenth vs the YZF-R1’s time of 5.49 seconds.
It’s at this point (100 mph) that it becomes less about skill and more about power, and then aerodynamics determines the outcome.
By any standard, the MT-10 still has immense acceleration from 100 mph even if its power deficit to R1 starts to show.
Still, the MT-10 cracks the quarter mile in blistering 10.24 seconds at 138 mph.
That terminal speed is very impressive for a naked bike but must have something to do with the throttle restrictions being removed on our particular MT-10.
The YZF-R1 is only a few bike lengths ahead at this point crossing the quarter mile @ 10.15 and with a terminal speed of 152 mph that really shows its top-end power.
The YZF-R1 had already started to create some distance between itself and the MT-10 from around 100-110 mph
This is a speed where the YZF-R1 can actually get its power down easier and start using that forty-five horsepower advantage that it has.
But it is from the quarter mile where that few bike lengths lead that the YZF-R1 has earned starts to open up and get wider as the MT-10 is comfortably left behind and gapped.
By the time the MT-10 has hit 150 mph from a dig, (which it does in 14.24 seconds) the YZF-R1 is north of 175 mph.
The MT-10 struggles from 150 mph and requires an impressive tuck to get it to hit its top speed of 160.3 mph.
At this point, the YZF-R1 can no longer be seen and hitting its electronically limited top speed of 189.9 mph quite some time before.
If the MT-10 was fully stock it would barely hit 150 mph as there are some sneaky restrictions.
The R1 on the other hand could hit a real 200 mph with an exhaust and ECU flash for sure.
Ultimately the R1 is the faster bike, but to realise it you need to take advantage of big straight roads.
The YZF-R1 needs to be above 100 mph for its extra power to count against the MT-10.
In pretty much every other road-going scenario the MT-10 has the faster engine. It has better in-gear roll-on performance and will blast from one corner to the next with more acceleration than the YZF-R1.
You can of course tune your R1 and lower the gearing.
R1s respond well to tuning and that big hole from 6000 to 7000 rpm can be filled nicely. The same can be done for the MT-10 too which kinda has!
|Speed||MT-10||2020 Yamaha YZF-R1|
|SS/QM||10.24 @ 138 mph||10.15 @ 152 mph|
|SS/KM||19.42 @ 157 mph||17.98 @ 183 mph|
|SS/Mile||27.86 @ 159mph||25.10 @ 189 mph|
|Top Speed||160.3 mph||189.9 mph|