Yamaha MT-07 first ride.

Turns out this bike is really good at these, which is nice.
Yamaha MT07
Expectations count for a lot where motorcycles are concerned and I’ll be honest, after reading the spec sheet for the new Yamaha MT-07 I wasn’t setting my hopes too high. A parallel twin aimed squarely at the budget end of the market and designed to compete with the Kawasaki ER-6 is difficult to get excited about, right? But after the first flick of the clutch in second gear almost sent me sprawling over the back I realised that I’d maybe underestimated the new MT just a little bit.

Yamaha was keen to point out the fun element to its new 689cc machine. The development of the latest triple-engined MT-09 and the crossplane crank that adorns the MT-07 are signs that Yamaha is also taking innovation seriously in a market where change is harder to come by than ever. Wet weight is an impressive 179kg thanks to the use of fewer components, which, in turn, keeps costs down. Simplicity was also mentioned more than a few times in the marketing spiel. Yamaha has continued to use its latest slogan ‘Rise Up Your Darkness’ which apparently means this new wave of bikes ‘captures the dark side of Japan’.

What this really means is that the MT-07 is brilliant at wheelies.

I could quite happily write the entire review about the way this bike will get onto the back wheel and sit there until the next corner arrives and I’m convinced that a few cunning engineers within Yamaha have designed wheelies into the very fabric of this bike. The way the gearing and torque are perfectly suited so that a swift flick of the clutch in third gear will get the front wheel pointing at the sky is surely no coincidence, it seems to do it that well. It would seem ‘fun’ actually translates to ‘wheelies’ in Japanese then.

Turns out this bike is really good at these, which is nice.

Turns out this bike is really good at these, which is nice.

I’ll stop banging on about the ‘w’ word for a minute though to explain that the MT-07 is no one-trick pony, even if the engine is the standout feature on this bike. As I was walking up and down the row of MTs being warmed and prepared for the day’s riding a few things caught my attention. The blue/silver scheme that has been applied to what seems like every model in the Yamaha range really suits the MT-07’s styling. I was also surprised to see Michelin Pilot Road 3s on all of the bikes. Considering the new MT is supposedly a budget machine, those Michelins are firmly at the premium end of the rubber spectrum. The off-centre clocks that grace its bigger brother are gone and the 07 has the dash in the proper place in the middle, with the welcome addition of a gear indicator. For what is supposed to be a cheap bike the instrument panel is actually pretty swanky with a fuel gauge and an ‘ECO’ indicator to let you know when you’re riding too slowly.

Our route for the day was 120 miles around the island of Lanzarote and I’ll go out on a limb and say the roads here are some of the best I’ve ever ridden. Snooker-table smooth with a mixture of steep mountain switchbacks and fast open sweepers that would be pure heaven on a sportsbike. The MT-07 suspension isn’t up to sportsbike levels of finesse with non-adjustable forks and equally basic rear shock. But it’s important to point out that, although soft, it was perfectly up to the job – even when the riding reached Wacky Races pace, as we followed a mad Dutch lad from Yamaha who’d spent the last couple of weeks learning the island inside-out.

There’s been some criticism of the larger MT-09 for its perceived fuelling glitches as a result of the ride-by-wire throttle and adjustable riding modes which are less than perfect as standard. Thankfully the new MT-07 doesn’t suffer the same fate, thanks to a no-frills cable-controlled throttle without any gimmicky riding modes to dick around with. It all adds up to a smooth, refined package whether you’re using small throttle inputs around town or big ones. To pull wheelies. But I promised to stop talking about those so we’ll move on.

The kind folk at the Lanzarote Police Department closed some roads for us for photo opportunities near the coast. With the Michelins always up to temperature it was a (relatively) safe environment to see how the MT-07 coped with hard cornering using big lean angles and both sides of the road without any oncoming tour buses to contend with. The budget suspension held its own once again, proving to be worth more than the sum of its parts and happily getting far enough over to scrape pegs onto pristine black Tarmac. With a crowd watching I let enthusiasm get the better of me and momentarily caught my knee on the ground too, scuffing up my nice new Draggin jeans in the process. Oops.

It’s a testament to just how much confidence and feedback the MT-07 gives and is proof that you don’t always need Öhlins gas forks and a TTX shock to make progress. On a trackday then yes the MT would quickly reach the limits of ground clearance and tie itself in knots but as a road tool to make swift progress then it’s a worthy contender. It’s a weapon, albeit a small one like a Pepperbox Derringer. In the right hands though, it’ll still get the job done.

Look at that knee!

Look at that knee!

On more than a few occasions the quick pace, unfamiliar roads and distractingly beautiful scenery caught me out and I found myself approaching steep hairpins at an unsuitably quick pace. The brakes on the MT are on the user-friendly side of things, perfectly up to the job of stopping in a hurry but lacking that initial bite that you’d get from a more focussed setup. They are proper four-piston monobloc calipers but don’t expect eye-popping levels of performance from them. Seeing as the MT is aimed at newbies, and this was the non-ABS model then I think the lack of aggression on the brakes is a positive thing. If stoppies are your bag just tug on the lever a little harder than usual and the MT-07 will happily comply. The rear brakes were, er, thoroughly tested too, with lots of heavy downhill sections and there was no fade whatsoever. There were so many skids pulled I’m sure the outlines will appear on Google Earth in the coming months. For those who have grown out of pulling big skids then the ABS version will be available soon.

With the initial excitement out of the way I put my sensible head on and did my best to find any issues with the MT like a proper grown-up tester. Within a minute I was back pulling wheelies again. Sorry. It’s the engine that’s to blame. The torque and power figures just can’t translate the way this motor converts petrol into pure fun. You’ll never hit the redline on an MT-07 unless you’re trying to do it on purpose, it’s not about chasing revs. 77bhp isn’t the figure you need to be looking at either, it’ll get you to a totally irrelevant 120mph or so, the number you should be paying attention to is the 68Nm of torque. Whether you want to press on or just be a bit lazier on the gearbox the magic Nm figure will make everything easier. 40mph in top requires little effort if you’re in no particular hurry and Yamaha says this sort of gentle riding will be rewarded with MPG figures up in the high 60s.

When all the lights come on, you haven't hit the jackpot, you've lunched the motor.

When all the lights come on, you haven’t hit the jackpot, you’ve lunched the motor.

It makes a refreshing change to be able to just get on a bike, thumb the starter and ride without setting up riding modes, adjusting ABS settings or traction control. It’s back-to-basics fun that has more than a little RD350LC about it.

We stop for a break and I take some time for an up-close look at my MT from ground level, sat on the floor beside it listening to the engine ticking. My notepad is looking pretty empty in the ‘cons’ panel with just a small scribble with the words ‘noise’ next to it. I’ve been warned about launch fever, how a sunny climate on a first foreign test and a brand new bike can have an impact on the decision-making process. With that in mind I almost wish the MT-07 had some sort of chink in its armour, some small flaw. The truth is ‘noise’ is all I can muster up, which isn’t even a credible complaint as Yamaha will happily sell you a shiny Akrapovic system with removable baffle if you’re feeling flash with your cash. You may have noticed a lack of detail about the crossplane 270 degree crank in this review so far. The truth is there were some very complicated -looking diagrams about single axis balancers, inertial torque and various gear-driven spring absorbers that had me pulling faces and tilting my head like a confused dog. In practice I can say that the 270 degree firing order certainly translates into a peach of a motor, with a wide spread of linear shove.

More friendly police with road- closing powers saw us lined up along a half-finished row of holiday villas with a virgin, unused roundabout at the end that lead to nowhere, a sign of the economic troubles perhaps. Whatever the case, it made for a cracking little playground. A dodgy shoulder means my left-handers are a little ropier than my rights so I was relieved to hear we could do a few laps in both directions. Pegs were scraped and it was only when pushing around hard during the biggest lean angle that the MT would give a bit of a protest in the form of the odd wobble. Nothing serious but enough to let me know that it was time to back off a little.

Budget biking just hit the premier league.

Budget biking just hit the premier league.


We arrived back at the hotel after a detour through the harbour to beep at pretty ladies outside coffee shops and by now the panic had set in a little. How could a budget naked with a relatively small engine, a complete lack of toys and bargain-basement suspension be this bloody good? I wasn’t aching, I could still feel my fingers and to be honest I’d have happily carried on riding until the Federales eventually caught up with me. Just as well the Yamaha grown ups took the keys back when they did.

As far as competition goes, the MT-07 blows the current class-leader, Kawasaki’s ER-6, out of the water completely in terms of fun, character and performance. Indeed, I honestly can’t think of a bike I’ve ridden recently that has encouraged such irresponsible levels of pissing about regardless of price.

Yamaha has announced a restricted version available in the near future that’ll be A2 category compliant, aimed firmly at taking a slice of the learner legal cake currently enjoyed by the KTM390 Duke, Ninja 300 and co. With the MT-07 priced at £5,199 and a Yamaha PCP deal available at £100 a month, it’s easy to see it becoming another Yamaha sales success.


Words: Shaun Pope

Posted in Bike Tests
19 comments on “Yamaha MT-07 first ride.
  1. Brad says:

    What kind of a rider forgets that he is wearing jeans and puts his knee on the floor!!

  2. Jeff says:

    I wish I hadn’t read this. At age approaching 40, I learned to ride late last year, but haven’t ridden since I passed my test – my family really don’t want me to ride a bike (not worried about my ability/me doing something stupid; just concerned about the ‘inherent’ danger of riding a motorbike).

    The MT 07 sounds perfect for me to enjoy biking. I have no need for a bike in my day to day life, and I have nowhere near enough experience to be ready for a serious big bike, so the MT 07 would really fit the bill. And I can afford it (and even the extortionate insurance cost).

    Just have no idea how to get the idea past the family :-(

    • Stewart says:

      When it comes to family, I’ve always found it easier to apologise afterwards than ask permission first!

    • matt says:

      “Just have no idea how to get the idea past the family”

      Just turn up on it. They’ll get over it. Or not. It’s cheap enough to slap on the credit card so you can apply for forgiveness later, much later, perhaps when you need another set of tires. Seriously, just turn up on it.

    • keith says:

      jeff, with over 25 years of motorcycling experience riding big twins, sports fours, and v four tourers, i test rode the mt07 and i can say if you get one it will probably be the only bike you will ever need, i was hooked by its simplicity, and how easy it was to ride, who needs to be ready for a “serious big bike” when you have a package so good like the mt07, its not always about the cc”s, it ticks my boxes, so good luck with the family.

    • Duncan says:

      I am 55 and have been riding the Suzuki SV650 (2 of) since there release 15 years ago and after having test ridden the MT07 I ordered one straight away.It is all what everyone says,Fun torquey and a peach to ride,Big grin on face again thanks Yamaha….

  3. Gary says:

    Welcome back Yamaha. A quality fun bike at a reasonable price! It’s been hard not to believe that bikes had become sidelined and irrelevant (low sales, little investment in new models).
    Bikes with the performance envelope of an RD350 just hit the spot if they are fun. I feel sorry for those who haven’t had the pleasure of riding / owning one. SV650S came close sort of.
    Presently have a WR250X, brilliant quality, mega fun commuter, still teaching me about my riding and i’ve had many faster bikes. RG500 anyone that was fun!

  4. ed hare says:

    Just buy it and turn up at your door jeff……………..SURPRISE lol

  5. Mark says:

    At 56, and having been away from biking for 17 years, I thought I’d test a demo bike. Guess what: after being as nervous as heck driving to the bike shop, I just got on the MT-07, and rode off as if I’d never been away from a two-wheeled machine – such was the ease of riding this brilliant Yamaha. Needless to say I have been impatiently waiting for the delivery of my bike (paid the extra £400 for ABS) for the last month. How much longer do I have to wait?

  6. Bam bam says:

    I have just bought a mt 07 I’ve owned 46 bikes and currently own a 08 gsxr1000 and rd 350 lc.Ive read all the reviews and yours is spot on.The bike is a doddle to jump on and just have fun just like the early days on all my rd’s.Its an absolute bargain and my advice to Jeff would be buy one

  7. CJ says:

    I’m not wild about the styling of the gas tank but I’m impressed with the simplicity and functionality of the machine! I think it would be a nearly perfect bike for the street – well done Yamaha! Bring it to the USA, – I”ll buy it.

  8. clive pears says:

    I have owned my MT07 three weeks now i am delighted with it.I could not have made a better choice i was about to buy a harley ( its an age thing ) being 60 but i heard about the mt07 its far quicker, lighter, better than a harley carthorse i am far to young for a grown up american thing lol. well done yamaha for getting back to where you started, with Good Reliable, well priced, perfection. clive

  9. Simon says:

    Saw one of these at the Motorcycle live show and just saw one at my local dealers. They really do look great. I have a full licence that I got years ago on a geared scooter and have only rode a crosser for a bit of fun. But I have never rode a Motorbike on the road. I’m thinking have a few lessons and get this bike. Is this a good idea?

  10. JefR says:

    There’s something about the MT-07 that I really, really like and I’m not sure why! I’ve so far resisted test riding one as I have a horrible feeling that I’ll order one, there and then.

    I’ve been riding since I was 13 (tut, tut) which was 30 years ago, and I’ve has everything from a step-thru moped, a C70 to chops, rats, customs and currently owning a satin black 1997 customised 1200 Bandit and 600 Bandit rigid chop. Almost everything’s been customised during this time so I wonder how long I could ride a totally standard bike with a warranty!

    Can I resist? We will see, but the review (and others like it) is slowly chipping away at my resistance…

  11. Clive says:

    I’ve been commuting from kent to London on a 2002 R1 for 6 years which has over 60,000 which has started to cost me more as things are wearing out so decided a change is needed. I tested the MT08 which in my mind I had already bought it was good on the open roads and fast corners but didn’t fill me with confidence for London traffic, the sales man new his stuff and put me on a XJ6 (99 quid a month and 99 down I’m on a budget ) but frankly coming from a R1 was slow but the deal for a commuter was attractive!. I hadn’t considered the MT07 but it was waiting for me on the return to dealer within two minutes I was on one wheel and full of it passing cars in one quick grunt and thinking of after market add on’s (bikini fairing, pipe, tail tidy, bobbins) which I’ve never been bothered about before.

    I’m off to get some new sliders.

  12. Mark says:

    Mark again. After a two-bloody month wait, I finally picked up my red MT-07A, bristling with accessories, and road back home steeped in even more frustration: I have to run her in! You see, it’s the sweet handling, flaming-beauty looks, road grip, torque, pent-up power waiting to be unleashed – and I’ve got another four weeks of keeping Flame (yes, her nickname, sorry) below 5000 rpm; damn! You’d be mad to turn a blind eye to an MT-07.

    • Paul says:

      Mark, Congrats on the bike, run it in relatively hard, on larger bore twins you really went to load the engine to get the rings to seat well. Dont rev the nuts off it but do ride it hard and load the engine on acceleration and run over, you will thank me in the long run

  13. Scot says:

    This was the best review I’ve read for a long time. I’m thinking about getting an MT-07 next year for my A2 license, I have a honda varadero 125 at the moment and looking for a complete change :P it’s like the perfect blend between a supermoto and a normal day to day commuting bike. Oh and they sound absolutely insane with the Acropavic pipes on.

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