First ride: Yamaha MT-07 review

Suddenly half a dozen other models look too expensive - Yamaha's new MT-07 is more for less

LOOK around at your next bike meet. If you can see more bald spots on the back of heads than greasy spots on faces, you'll realise that something exciting needs to attract new blood to biking. And Yamaha wants the new MT-07 to help address that issue.

That seems a tall order for a budget bike but the MT-07 is more than happy to accept the challenge. Aimed at 20-35-year-olds, this new bike is so much more than the commuter I thought it was going to be. It's brilliant and almost impossible to ride without smiling.

While it may share some DNA and a tin of paint with the MT-09, its bigger brother, the new MT-07 isn't intended for riders looking for a pure adrenaline fix. But don't think for a minute that means experienced riders shouldn't be interested in this new member of the MT family.

Yamaha’s recipe is to simply ensure it's easy to ride but fun too. If I was on failing cookery show The Taste, I'd say that by using light ingredients coupled with the new parallel-twin engine, they've got a winner on their hands (before asking Nigella if there was an after-party back at hers).

I covered 200km on the 689cc MT-07 during press launch but would have gladly carried on riding that same amount again. It's just ridiculously easy to get on with. There are no fancy riding modes to worry about. Just start it up and off you go.

The MT-07 offers a comfy and casual riding position, thanks to low foot-pegs. You feel at home on the bike immediately. With the exception of trying to cancel my indicator with the horn a couple of times, this wasn’t a machine I needed time to get used to.

The brand-new engine puts out a claimed 75hp. Yamaha plans to use the same plant in additional models. It's been designed with as few moving parts as possible, reducing assembly costs but also inner friction and weight, which in turn increases efficiency.

That peak power might not impress all of you, but it's about 3hp more than Kawasaki's ER-6 and Suzuki's SFV650. And it's the MT-07's torque that's really worth talking about. At 50lbft, it's 3lbft more than the Suzuki and Kawasaki.

At £5,199, the MT-07 is also cheaper than the competition. Kawasaki has already responded by slashing £500 off its price, making the ER-6n £5,399. The Suzuki SFV is still way out there, at £5,999.

The MT-07’s torque curve is guaranteed to give you a big grin when you consider the front end was designed to be as light as possible. 

The bike pulls well from low revs, meaning you can be really lazy through town if you want to leave it in second or third gear. Throttle response is really good and the low gearing helps give a feeling of good acceleration when you open the throttle up. This may be the bike’s trump card.

It’s more than happy for you to ride it hard and will happily lift the front wheel all day if you ask it to. But it’s certainly not intimidating in any way. It’s just as happy idling round town all day as it is stretching its legs on fast B-roads. I got a shock every time I remembered it did all this - and made me smile for the entire trip - for just over £5K.

Weight was mentioned several times during Yamaha's presentation on the MT-07. A compact chassis with a light tubular backbone frame were the starting point for the model. The horizontally sprung, adjustable rear shock is mounted straight to the engine, saving weight and putting less stress through the frame. A decompression unit allows a lighter starter motor that in turn means a lighter battery. The clutch is apparently one of the smallest ever in a 75hp bike.

The result of this weight-focused design means that, with oil in the engine and a full tank of petrol, the ABS version comes in at a claimed 182kg. The ER-6N's claimed kerb weight is 204kg.

Benefits of this diet-led design are two-fold. Firstly, less weight means the bike is more economical but it also becomes easier to ride. Combine it with a low centre-of-gravity and a short wheelbase of 1,400mm and you have yourself an agile bike indeed.

In fact Yamaha say the MT-07 could have forgone the 160-section rear tyre for a chunkier 180 without losing agility. This is one of the only places I can think of where they have opted to add weight but, as everyone knows, bigger tyres look better. And these look great wrapped around those 10-spoke rims.

Telescopic forks offer 130mm of travel up front with Yamaha using a narrow fork pitch to reduce steering inertia. The forks aren’t adjustable but handled everything thrown at them with ease throughout the day.

The rear asymmetrical swing-arm certainly looks the part. Once again, weight is kept down by using several different thicknesses of high tensile steel but the manufacturing process of advanced pressing and ‘high-speed welding’ allows them to be built quickly and helps keep cost down.

A relatively low seat-height of 805mm, coupled with a narrow seat, is great for shorter riders but also felt comfortable for me, and I'm over six foot.

My height brings me to a criticism of the bike. The digital dash looks good and displays all the essential information like speed, revs and fuel gauge (along with trip and outside temp). It’s neatly attached to the handlebars and angled to compliment the lines of the headlight. But as a taller rider, whenever I glanced down at my speed on the move, I just saw fresh air between the bike’s mirrors. I had to make a real effort to look down further to read it.

The brakes - twin 282mm discs with monobloc calipers up front and single 245mm disc at the rear - provide plenty of stopping power. It's a shame ABS is an option though, and not standard.

Yamaha was keen to stress the versatility of the model. While you might not want to spend all day riding it on the motorway in its standard, naked form, accessories include a touring screen. There's also a range of 'sports' accessories including Gilles Tooling levers, and 'urban' parts including crash bungs. If ABS was standard, you might not need those. 

Yamaha claims fuel economy of 68mpg, giving a range of over 200 miles from the 14-litre tank. I was down to a couple of bars on the fuel gauge after the press ride, which was pretty brisk.

Despite the low price, the MT-07 doesn't look like it's been built by penny pinchers. Yes, the 140mm forks could be improved upon and the brakes could perhaps have a bit more feel. But you'll be too busy congratulating yourself on what a bargain you've got to worry too much about that.

It's so easy to ride, the Department for Transport should do away with all this A1 and A2 licence nonsense and make learners have a go on the MT-07. If they fall off, they don't get a licence. Ever.

Until that measure is introduced, the MT-07 is available with a 48hp restrictor kit for A2 licence holders.

The MT-07 offers an amazing deal for new riders. It makes half a dozen other bikes suddenly seem overpriced. Like Honda's CBR500R at £5,299, and Kawasaki's Ninja 300 at £4,799. Yes, they're smaller but, since the MT-07 is available with a 48hp kit, they're all competing for the custom of A2 licence holders.

The new MT will quite rightly also tempt plenty of more experienced riders, and present an even greater threat to bigger bikes from the competition. We've already seen it with Kawasaki and the ER-6. Come on the rest of you - drop your prices.

And thank you MT-07.

Model tested: Yamaha MT-07

Price: £5,199 (£5,499 with ABS)

Power: 75hp

Torque: 50lbft

Wet weight: 179kg (182kg with ABS)

Colours: grey, white, blue, red, purple

Availability: end of February 2014

Read our Yamaha MT-09 first-ride review