Yamaha are on a model offensive to reclaim lost ground in the sport bike market. The first salvo consisted of the MT-09, which received rave reviews and has now been spun off to include an adventure model (MT-09 Tracer) and a motard (MT-09 Street Rally). Of course, they also have the all-singing and dancing YZF-R1 about to hit the streets (grey import only in Malaysia for now) while buyers at the lower end of the spectrum will be able to place their orders for the twin-cylinder 250cc R25 in a few weeks.
Then there is the Yamaha MT-07. Launched in Malaysia during the 2014 Malaysia MotoGP weekend, the 689cc parallel twin powered ‘Master of Torque’ 07 took Europe by storm last year and promptly landed several accolades by combining useable power, fun handling and an affordable price in one cohesive package. However, what works in Europe doesn’t always translate to our local conditions.
To put the theory to the test, we recently reviewed the MT-07 and covered over 600km of mixed Malaysian roads at all sorts of speed and if we were still smiling at the end of it, then Yamaha has a winner on its hands.
Visually, the MT-07 takes many styling cues from its bigger brother the MT-09. The mass-forward design pushes most of the bulk towards the front of the bike leaving a clean and almost austere tail section. There are faux intake shrouds either side of the fuel tank paying homage to the V-Max while the front turn signals are mounted above the headlights like a pair of ears. The tank is low and flat, almost like a café racer so it gives the impression you’re sitting on rather than in the bike.
Thankfully, the ergonomics are more street-sport rather than all-out sport bike. The handlebars for instance rise up above the fork yokes and are a comfortable reach for even smaller riders. We love the digital instrument panel and the easy to read display but mounting the key ahead of the LCD screen and almost on top of the headlight is a bit odd. It feels a little exposed so an aftermarket screen mounted above the headlight would be a good investment.
The hardware list is pretty conventional, as Yamaha seems to have built the bike to a strict price point. Therefore, suspension is via unadjustable 41mm conventional forks and a horizontal rear shock, there are no engine modes or electronic trickery and there is no ABS. Don’t however think this makes the MT- 07 a low-tech bike though.
The 689cc twin uses Yamaha’s crossplane crank technology, meaning it has 270-degree firing intervals, to produce a healthy 74.8hp at 9000rpm and 68Nm at 6500rpm. That’s more than enough when you consider it has a wet-weight of only 179kg, thanks to the use of a lightweight aluminium backbone chassis and compact dimensions. It also helps to have a smallish 14L fuel tank.
Either by chance or by engineering genius, the components making up the MT-07 combine with spectacular results. The wealth of low-end torque makes it simple to wheelie in first and second using the throttle alone while dumping the clutch while whacking open the throttle in third is enough to get the front-end hoisted. Unlike super powerful sport bikes, there is very little fear when performing such stunts and if you’re careful with the throttle even the Eco light will pop up on the dash.
Translating the engine’s urge to road riding means the Yamaha is very eager to push on. It feels incredibly urgent from about 4000rpm, meaning you end up ripping through the gears well into threefigure speeds, so blasting down a winding road is both fun and potentially very fast. Aerodynamics call time on the speed eventually, though you can hit well over 200km/h if you’re willing to put your chin on the handlebars, but honestly the smallish dimensions forewarned us well in advance.
Matching the engine’s enthusiasm is the nimble chassis. The low weight and some nicely chosen spring rates mean the MT- 07 changes direction quickly like a small commuter but has the urge to pull away like a bigger bike. It’s a confidence builder and pretty soon, we found ourselves mixing it up with the dispatch riders in traffic jams before pulling away once the road cleared.
Up the ante and the handling responds accordingly. The Yamaha is an inherently well-balanced bike, meaning it’s a stable platform from which to select cornering attitudes. Experienced riders will revel in its predictable nature while those new to the sport bike game won’t be frightened off as they get used to riding a more powerful machine. Ultimately, the suspension will get caught out by dips and ruts when you ask too much of it, but then similarly priced rivals would have been left behind a long time ago.
If you haven’t guessed by now, we were rather impressed by the Yamaha MT-07 and the way it performed in all sorts of riding conditions. As a commuter, its light handling and comfortable seating position means it’ll deliver the rider to work and back easily yet all you have to do is find an empty bit of road and whack the throttle open to discover its dark side.
Overall, this is easily the most impressive middle weight naked bike we’ve ridden in a while and if there is one caveat, it would be that it fits smaller riders better than big fat ones. At RM42,000 for the CBU version (local assembly will start later in 2015) it makes perfect sense for those just discovering big bikes or those who want a more manageable daily ride rather than a superbike. We love it and we wouldn’t hesitate in giving the MT-07 two thumbs up.