First Ride: 2006 Yamaha MT-03

Rob Hoyles writes about Yamaha's new MT-03

Being original isn't easy. Particularly in the world of two-wheelers where not only are manufacturers tasked with creating a machine to meet the practical needs of their target market, they also need to satisfy these often fickle potential buyers that their bike will set them aside as an individual, reflect their personality and, most importantly, leave them grinning from ear to ear after every ride.

It's a difficult task and none more so than in the small capacity market where, up until very recently, choices were limited to downright mediocre bikes built to a budget that clearly didn't stretch to styling or charisma.

Yamaha's new 660cc, single-cylinder MT-03 will hit the UK's streets early next year. And refreshingly, it's a bike that's very difficult to pigeonhole.

It's an 'urban supermoto'. No, er, hang on... it's a town bike. Well, actually it's neither. This futuristic-looking machine combines the best of both worlds. It's more practical and comfortable than a Supermoto, as versatile as any town bike and, on the mountain switchbacks and hairpins we encountered on our test route, more fun than either.

Things are looking up ... adding fun to commuting

The single-cylinder motor that I expected to cause vibration-induced pins and needles after more than an hour in the saddle performs faultlessly with only the very lightest of buzzing through the footrests at speed.

It's also very smooth. Single-cylinder machines tend to be a little lumpy - not so with the MT-03. Smooth delivery in virtually any gear means that even the most inexperienced of throttle hands will seldom be punished with the embarrassment of stalling or the indignation of kangaroo-ing down the road in the wrong gear.

MT Roads ahead ... Freelancer Rob Hoyles

And there's plenty of torque on tap too. It's fairly low geared which not only makes for rapid acceleration away from the lights, it also allows higher gears to be used in slower corners, the motor grunting its way out smoothly all the way up to a top speed of just over 100mph - impressive stuff for such a simple engine.

And it's no one-trick pony. The chassis and suspension set-up is near on perfect. The front forks feel controlled and the innovative, horizontally mounted rear shock gives a plush ride without any wallowing when pushed hard. It's nimble in town and almost idiot-proof under hard braking into misjudged corners - even running hot into unfamiliar s-bends hard on the brakes fails to upset the bike's balance.

No strings attached ... Hoyles could wheelie a tea-trolley

It's a reassuring bike to ride in every sense of the word. The low seat makes it less daunting for smaller riders, it forgives the odd mistake, it's comfortable, it's well screwed together and whether you're crossing the capital or blasting down B-roads, it'll take it all in its stride.

While you can't please all the people all of the time, it seems that this new Yamaha should please most of the people, most of the time; particularly those living in congested towns and cities that want something that's as fun and funky as it is functional.

The new MT-03 will be available in the UK early in the New Year 2006. The price is expected to be around 4800.