Long-term test: Yamaha MT-07 review

The MT-07 has a subversive attitude few Japanese bikes can muster these days

IN October I bought a new Suzuki SV650S because, at £4,975 list, it seemed the best value motorcycle on the market by about a mile.

I didn’t know that Yamaha was about to launch an instant classic, for £5,200.

I picked up my MT-07 long-term test bike a week ago, and got as far as the first set of lights before wondering whether I perhaps shouldn’t have bought the SV. The lights turned green, the MT-07 did a torque wheelie and the seed of doubt was sown

Not since two-strokes has a bike offered a higher ratio of fun to pound sterling. I’m probably not the first to say it but that’s why, in many ways, the MT-07 feels like the natural descendent of the RD350LC.

It’s compact and uncomplicated. It’s accessible to young riders looking for a step-up from a 125, especially as Yamaha is throwing in restrictor kits for A2 licence holders.

But also, it captures some of the attitude of 1980s two-strokes that appealed so much to me as a teenager. It feels subversive. That’s something I haven’t thought about a Japanese bike for a while.   

It wants to wheelie. In first gear, just open the throttle, lean back a tad, and up pops the front. The difficult part is resisting the urge to do it all the time. It feels naughtier than a wheelie on a super naked because the MT is half the price.

When non-motorcyclists see a wheelie, they don’t think the rider is cool. They think he’s a tool. As a 42-year-old riding an MT-07, this occurs to me regularly. It’s like walking in on yourself.

I’ve been trying to keep them low so it looks like it could be an accident. Then it becomes the perfect crime, like a silent fart in a packed lift. 

In contrast, the SV doesn’t do anything to warrant a lift fart analogy. I have to acknowledge I’ve been having more fun riding the MT.    

It helps that wherever it goes it attracts attention. At traffic lights, other riders ask me what it is. On my way to pick it up, I stopped for a coffee at a burger bar and the staff asked me to come back and show it to them.

A lad collecting trolleys in a supermarket car park wanted to know all about it. He said he had a 125, and his enthusiasm reminded me of how I hankered after a 350LC as a teenager. I think he went away trying to work out where to find five grand.

Credit is due to Yamaha for building a machine which can make motorcycling seem as exciting and accessible to his generation as it was to mine, despite today’s quagmire of licence rules.

That’s not to say I’m entirely convinced I’ve made the wrong choice in the SV. In some ways it feels like a better all-rounder and a more complete motorcycle than the MT. It’s more pillion-friendly, with a grab rail. The seats are more padded, with a bigger storage compartment underneath. It’s got a fairing and two helmet locks.

I'm ever-so-slightly worried about the MT-07's build quality. The pillion seat moves from side-to-side.

And look at the tool kits: the SV’s is like a mobile workshop while the MT’s consists of two screwdrivers and two hex keys. Also, my SV was actually only £4,600 (pre-registered, with 12 miles on the clock), about £800 cheaper than the MT once on-the-road charges are added.

In short, it’s more sensible but lacks the MT’s subversive spirit.

It's also true that the MT-07 has a better-equipped instrument panel, with a fuel gauge and average mpg, where the SV shows its age with a basic fuel warning light.

So I don’t know whether I bought the wrong bike. What do you think?

I’ve got plenty of time to reach a conclusion. I’m borrowing the MT for two months – more of a mid-term loan than a long-term one – after which I’ll replace it with a bike from another manufacturer.  

Later this week I’ll be riding it at Silverstone with the California Superbike School. Read about that in my next update.

Model tested: Yamaha MT-07

Price: £5,199 plus on-the-road charges (£5,499 with ABS)

Power: 75hp

Torque: 50lbft

Wet weight: 179kg (182kg with ABS)

Colours: grey, white, blue, red, purple

Availability: now

Read part two of my Yamaha MT-07 long-term review

Read our Yamaha MT-07 first-ride review

Read our Yamaha MT-09 first-ride review