Road test: seven thoughts after seven days with an MT-07

Light, mischievous and a lot of bang for not too much buck

I'VE been riding a Yamaha MT-07 for a week, mainly because I wanted see what all the fuss is about, and why it's received so much praise from the bike press.

We also thought it was worth a second look at the original after the launch of the retrofied version, the XSR700.

It didn’t take long for me to work out the appeal: its low weight and grunty engine make it a lot of fun.

But that wasn't my only conclusion. So, in an admittedly tenuous sort of link, here are seven thoughts on the MT-07 (thank God it wasn't the XSR700).

1. It's great value

The MT-07 costs £5,349 or £5,749 for this ABS model. It's crept up by £150 since the launch but I'm still not sure there's anything on the market quite so capable, up-to-date and desirable for the same money. You can get a middleweight Japanese twin for less, like Suzuki's £4,999 SV650 or £5,099 Gladius, but they've been around longer and lack the MT's joie de vivre. Kawasaki's ER6 range is more expensive, starting from £5,799 with ABS. Of course there's a new Suzuki SV650 on the way, which is really an updated Gladius. We'll give that a chance when it arrives. The MT-07's fuel economy isn't bad either, at 56.4 mpg (calculated from fuel receipts after riding on a mix of roads), giving a theoretical range of about 170 miles from the 14-litre tank.

2. I’m a hustler, baby

The MT-07 is light, easy to manoeuvre and handles well. Hustling it down gridlocked roads requires minimal effort because at slow speed the low weight, natural seating and bar position make it light and easy to control. It deftly negotiates tight turns and small gaps. Whenever I took the MT-07 in search of some faster, twistier roads, it was equally capable and changed direction with the same lightness it displays in town. The suspension on a £5k bike is never going to be top-notch but I’ve got no real complaints about the MT's fork and shock. Although a bit soft, they dealt with bumps without significant fuss. 

3. Tech specs: torque to me

It's got a 689cc parallel-twin engine which makes a very healthy 75hp. But don't focus on the power figure because this engine is all about torque. The peak of 50lbft is delivered at 6,500rpm and builds from a strong foundation lower down the range. And the MT-07 is light, at a claimed 182kg wet. Now, excuse the numbers, but that means 4hp more than the SV and Gladius and 3hp more than the ER6 (but 1hp less than the new SV). It's 3lbft more than all and any of those competitors. And it's 14kg lighter than the lightest of them. Hence its reputation for easy wheelies...

4. Fun factor

The engine pulls smoothly from the lower reaches of its rev range but is at its most effervescent when the throttle is opened with gusto. Wind the twist grip back with intent and the MT-07 shows its mischievous character, propelling you forward on a wedge of torque that has the front wheel off the tarmac in the first two gears. What I really like about the MT-07 is that it isn’t frustrating. It never made me long for an empty, twisty piece of road to have fun on because it doesn’t require that to be rewarding. In fact, the most entertaining rides I had on this bike were on stop-start journeys, when the torquey engine actually had me enjoying the broken rhythm I’d normally find frustrating on other bikes. Blatting between red lights, roundabouts and interchanges becomes another excuse to wind the throttle open hard and ride the engine’s torque.

5. The comfort seat isn’t that comfortable and the iPhone holder gets in the way of the ignition barrel

This MT was kitted out with some choice parts from Yamaha's accessories catalogue. It had an iPhone holder mounted above the LCD instrument panel which I loved and hated in equal measure. It was genuinely useful for using Google maps to help me navigate but also obstructed access to the ignition barrel. Getting the key in the ignition involved contorting my hand and wrist into an awkward position that quickly became annoying. This bike also had the comfort seat, which I didn’t find that comfortable, it just felt like any average seat. I was more appreciative of the other accessories – engine protection is always useful and the sports screen had to be better than no screen at motorway speeds. My favourite accessory was the tidy-looking Akrapovic exhaust system which gives the MT-07 a sound more commensurate with its personality. Maybe this is just me, but I think wouldn’t hurt for it to be a little bit louder. I was disappointed that my neighbours didn’t complain once.

6. It's simple

There are no ride modes, traction control systems, inertial measurement units or any of that stuff. The ’07 doesn’t want for them either. It’s just a good, pure, motorcycle.

7. It's got a snatchy throttle

Of course it could be improved – the throttle response is a bit snatchy from closed. No matter how smoothly or delicately I coaxed back the twist grip, the first instance of the throttle opening would always result in a jerky response. It doesn’t ruin the bike, which fuels well everywhere else, and feathering the clutch gets round the problem, but when the rest of the MT-07 is so good, it’s hard not to miss the choppy first initial tap of the gas.

Model tested: Yamaha MT-07 ABS

Price: £5,749

Engine: 689cc parallel-twin, DOHC, four-valve

Power: 75hp

Torque: 50lbft torque at 6,500rpm

Weight: 182kg (wet with a full tank of fuel)

Tank capacity: 14 litres

Seat height: 805mm

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