It’s been said before, and we’re saying it again. A motorcycle, at its essence, is an engine, two wheels, a frame and the ability to put a grin on the rider’s face.

Naturally, Yamaha took a look at this formula, and produced the 2018 Yamaha MT-10, alongside the smaller bikes in the range, the MT-09, MT-09 Tracer and MT-07.

We have, over time, ridden all the MT-range bikes available locally, along with a couple we’re not going to talk about. But the one everyone wanted to ride but could not, simply because it was not officially imported, was the MT-10. Building on the theme of ‘darkness’, Yamaha touts the MT-10 as a “hyper-bike” and designed for outright hooliganism.

But, is the MT-10 what it is said to be? It’s easy enough to make a naked litre-plus sportsbike: most manufacturers take a 1,000 cc superbike out of the range, detune it for more torque, slam it into a different frame – sometimes not even then – put on a headlight and pillion seating and call it a day.

And the formula works, as evidenced by the success of machines such as the Aprilia Tuono and the Ducati Monster (the original Monster in 900 cc was Ducati’s way of getting rid of surplus air-cooled cylinder heads and barrel; it also saved Ducati in the 90s, but that’s another story for another time.)

So, whilst in the midst of reviewing bikes for Hong Leong Yamaha, we walked into the head office expecting to pick up an MT-09, which we were scheduled to test. Imagine our surprise when the Yamaha media liaison – a big shout-out to Aishah – said to us, “here, you can be the first to test the MT-10.”

Now, it has been known that despite the market success of the Yamaha MT-09 and MT-07 in the local market, Hong Leong Yamaha Malaysia, as the official distributor, has been a little, shall we say, reluctant, to bring the MT-10 in. We don’t blame them, a high-ticket machine like the MT-10 has a limited market, and despite many MT fans saying they would buy one, we do wonder, when push comes to shove, how many actually would.

There were many calls of “oh, I would buy a naked R1!” Well, let’s set the record straight, the MT-10, while it might be based on the R1 engine and chassis, is not quite a direct translation and anyone expecting 300 km/h performance is going to be disappointed.

For one thing, the MT-10 weighs 210 kg, which, while heavy for a pure sports machine, is well within the upper limit of the weight range for a litre-class naked sports bike. Gone are the titanium valves and con-rods from the R1, along with the variable length air intake and dual-port fuel injection.

The cylinder head on the MT-10 is again different, designed for mid- and low-range torque, along with different valves, cam profiles, pistons. What is carried over is the Crossplane 4 crankshaft, with its 270-180-90-180 degree firing order with all the performance components necessary for race track use omitted.

Physically the MT-10 is a wide bike, and dwarfs the MT-09 and MT-07 when we placed all three alongside each other. The MT-10 is very much wider in the tank, taller than you think and we felt the weight somewhat when moving it around, although steering effort was suspiciously light.

Peeking under the triple clamp revealed an electronic steering damper, and getting into the saddle was easy, with the MT-10’s 825 mm seat height. Grabbing the 790 mm wide handlebars puts the rider in a head- and torso-forward riding position, with the rider’s head located primarily over the rear half of the 17-litre fuel tank.

Starting the 998 cc liquid-cooled inline-four brought the irregular firing order to life, sounding for all the world like a flat-six, reminding one of an air-cooled Porsche from the 70s. This was especially so at high revs, with the engine grumbling and growling, wanting to be let loose to terrorise the women and children.

Unfortunately, while the aural symphony of the MT-10’s four-pot mill was nice, it would have been much better if an after-market exhaust was fitted. This is something which every MT-10 owner should do anyway, because the standard exhaust is too muted to cause suitable stirrings in the pants region.

Moving off on the MT-10 revealed a heavy clutch effort, which we did not really mind at first, till we got stuck in city traffic and had to use the clutch more often. If you have dainty, delicate hands, you might want to give the MT-10s cable-operated clutch a miss.

Shifting through the gears on the six-speed gearbox, we found the MT-10 had a stiff, but positive, gear shift. What was missing was a quick-shifter as standard, which this gearbox really, really needs.

Twisting open the ride-by-wire throttle and shifting through the gears as quickly as we could to keep pace with the engine, we noticed the engine was not as eager to reach the top of the rev range like the R1. This is neither here-nor-there, as the engine puts out 158 hp at 11,500 rpm, and torque peaks at 9,000 rpm with 111 Nm.

What this means is that the MT-10, with its 1,400 mm wheelbase – by comparison the Honda CBR250RR’s wheelbase measures 1,389 mm – will refuse to keep its front wheel on the ground. Although the MT-10 has three ride and switchable traction control modes, unless it’s left in traction mode 3 and ride mode “Standard”, the front wheel leaves the ground very quickly, and stays aloft as long as the rider has the cojones to leave the throttle pinned while shifting through the gears.

We did try the MT-10 with the traction control switched off and the OEM-fitment Bridgestone S20R rear tyre was easily enough spun up for sideways corner entry work, though we don’t recommend it for most riders. The MT-10 enters its power band very quickly and can take the unwary rider by surprise.

Riding the MT-10 through a mix of country roads and highway work, we noticed the suspension, adjustable front-and-rear, was a little on the stiff side, with a touch too much rebound damping. If we were to be riding the MT-10 for any length of time, some effort would have to be spent adjusting the suspension to suit our riding style and body weight.

Cruising around at highway legal speeds, the MT-10 was nice enough to ride around, and the upright riding position gives the rider a commanding view of traffic and the road, with the wide handlebars making it easy to steer the bike around. But, that is not the reason why you would buy an MT-10, would you?

Picking up the pace, the MT-10 built speed quickly, very quickly indeed. Before we knew it, the digital speedometer was in the upper triple digits, enough for the author to do a double-take at how fast the MT-10 actually going. Top speed? We know what it is and you aren’t going to find out from us, but it showed another thing the MT-10 needed.

Placing the rider right in the wind blast, the front end of the MT-10 sorely needs a windshield of some sort, especially if extended high-speed highway runs are going to feature in the bike’s career. Right after a high-speed run, as the radiator fan kicks in to deal with the excess engine heat, the rider is going to notice his or her left leg getting a little hot as the engine bay vents hot air off to the left.

Fuel consumption on the MT-10 was, well, we were not expecting it to be frugal, but the consumption was a little frightening – the best we recorded being 6.7 litres per 100 km. During one (very) high speed run, we saw it go up to 8.6 litres, so, be prepared to fill that tank often, especially if you have a heavy throttle hand.

Braking on the MT-10 was without fuss or drama, the twin 320 mm rotors in front clamped by house-brand calipers hauling the bike down from silly speeds with zero issues. We didn’t notice any fade or decline in performance during hard braking and in town, a single finger was enough to bring the MT-10 to a halt.

Seating for the rider and pillion on the MT-10 is a single piece affair, and the rider’s seat is cut nice and wide, if a bit firmly padded. We did not notice any real discomfort during a 140 km long highway run, and there is enough space for the rider to push the bum back and tuck in.

The pillion perch was another issue, being a small, thinly padded unit with the passenger foot-pegs set high, bringing the pillion’s knees up. We would reserve it only for short trips, and our regular 13-year old pillion complained that holding on during high speed work was a little difficult.

Inside the cockpit, a single monochrome LCD display showed everything the rider needs to know, with the ride and traction control modes set using switches on the right and left handlebar pods, respectively. Also included is cruise control and a 12-volt socket just under the handlebar clamp for charging electronics.

Styling on the MT-10 follows Yamaha’s design language for the rest of the MT-series bikes, except the fuel tank is a large and hulking unit. The MT-10 certainly has presence at a standstill, giving off a very menacing aura.

Many riders who saw the MT-10 while it was in our hands remarked on how good looking it is in real life, despite some comments about the primer grey and fluorescent yellow paint scheme. We liked the colour scheme from the get-go and perhaps the best compliment came from our riding buddy, who rides a Harley-Davidson to the exclusion of all else, saying “I like it, it grows on you and I don’t like sports bikes at all.”

With the updated nose splitting the LED projector lights to low- and high-beam, and LED DRL and lighting all-round, the MT-10 is bang up to date, electronics wise. That it looks rather like a pissed-off Decepticon is a plus-point, for the author.

So, who needs a 2018 Yamaha MT-10? Well, for one thing, you can’t have one, Hong Leong Yamaha is not bringing it in, as yet. Two, there is no official price for the MT-10, with a lot depending on what the Malaysian government has to say about import duty and taxes for this CBU Japan machine.

In the local market, competition for the MT-10 is stiff, notably from the BMW Motorrad S1000R at RM92,900 and the Suzuki GSX-S1000 at RM74,094. Other options in the big naked sports segment include the Ducati Monster 1200 at RM119,000, the KTM Super Duke R at RM118,000 and MV Agusta Brutale 1090 at RM93,000 as well as the Kawasaki Z1000 at RM82,000.

For the author, the Yamaha MT-10 can be summed up thus. When it first came home, it received intense attention from the author’s young riders. During the photo shoot, a driver actually turned around and parked his car to come over to talk to us about the MT-10.

The Yamaha MT-10 is not a bike for the shy or retiring type of rider and it attracts attention everywhere it goes. It needs a skilled rider to bring out the best in its performance. I want one.