Remember that kitten you had as a child? How soft and cuddly it was, and then it would suddenly turn around and sink its fangs and claws into you?
This is pretty much what the 2016 Yamaha MT-07 is like. Presented as Yamaha’s answer locally to the Kawasaki ER-6 series and Honda’s CB range of bikes, the MT-07 is a naked sports bike that tries to be many things, and succeeds at one or two of them.
The middle-weight market is a hotly contested one in Malaysia, representing the first step into the “big bike” world for many riders. At this price point, a mid-level two-cylinder makes a lot of sense as a car substitute.
A motorcycle is a versatile platform, able to perform many roles. As a balance between weight, power and size, a middleweight twin, in the 500 cc to 700 cc range, is just able ideal for any rider at any level.
Opinions on paultan.org reflect this, with many readers asking the Yamaha MT-07 to be reviewed, despite it not being a new model machine. We thus took the Yamaha MT-07 through the paces, to see what made it so popular with local riders.
Mid-sized motorcycles are wonderful things. Light, powerful and nimble, a bike with an engine between 500 to 700 cc is a good compromise between power and weight.
Almost any rider can get on a middle weight machine, and ride confidently. Despite the fact that there are many local riders who look upon middle weights with disdain, thinking that litre-class machines mean that they are “real” riders, there are many bikers on 600 cc machines who can ride rings around these “big” bikers.
For Yamaha, the middle weight market is an important one, proven by its dedication to the R6 sportsbike over the years. In Malaysia, though, its only offering is the MT-07, which was launched locally in late 2014.
Yamaha’s MT-series – MT standing for “Master of Torque” – is a series of bikes powered by parallel-piston engines, in two-, three- and four-cylinder flavours. With naked sports bike styling, you would be right in thinking the MT bikes are great for hooning.
Approaching the Yamaha MT-07, the first thing that strikes the rider is how small it actually is. From the pictures, we were expecting a hulking beast – which the MT-10 is, but Malaysia won’t be getting that one officially – but instead found a naked bike that wasn’t all that much bigger than an RD350LC YPVS.
Swinging a leg over the 805 mm tall seat, the narrowness of the MT-07 stood out. The fuel tank, a 14-litre steel affair, was cut narrow, unlike the Kawasaki ER-6n, the MT-07’s nearest market competition.
The MT-07 felt really light as well at standstill, weighing in at 179 kg wet and ready to roll. Thumbing the starter button – now an integrated unit with the kill switch – brought the 689 cc parallel-twin to life.
Settling into a muted idle, it was felt that something was lacking in the sound effects department. This wasn’t an issue, since every MT-07 we’ve seen ridden on public roads had some sort of aftermarket exhaust on it.
In fact, the very nature of the MT-07 begs for the owner to put some sort of aftermarket accessory on it, and this is pretty much true, since the last time we saw a standard, unmolested MT-07 was one that hadn’t left the showroom floor.
So, pulling the clutch and shifting the MT-07 into first, we discovered that when Yamaha called this bike an MT, they weren’t kidding. If you’re a wheelie merchant, we dare you to keep the front wheel on the ground through the first three gears.
We didn’t do this, of course, since Hong Leong Yamaha specifically warned us against doing so. So, yes, just take our word for it that the MT-07 will wheelie, and wheelie well.
The short 1,400 mm wheelbase certainly encourages this, and also makes the MT-07’s handling almost lightning quick. We took the bike up the usual mountain run, to see what 75 hp and 68 Nm would do.
Carving the corners on the MT-07 didn’t feel that confidence inspiring. The bike would corner, and heel over, but the lack of a properly adjustable suspension meant having to ride around the suspension’s shortcomings.
Standing the MT-07 up, and blasting down the straight, revealed more than enough power to be entertaining while upright. The distance between apexes was eaten up quickly, and the wide handlebars aided hustling the bike around.
But coming into a corner hot, showed that the MT-07 didn’t like being pushed to the limit, giving a slightly squirmy feeling. We put this down to the welded steel frame used, and the pressed steel swingarm stays.
Don’t get us wrong, the Yamaha MT-07 would corner, but the suspension didn’t like being forced to the edge and looking into the abyss. Transitioning the corners at normal sporty riding speeds was within acceptable limits, but fast and furious cornering would leave the MT-07’s suspension lagging a little behind.
So, the MT-07 isn’t an all out sports bike, but rather one designed to do most things well, in a general manner. Certainly under braking the MT-07 retained its composure, with the 282 mm discs in front and single 245 mm disc at the back keeping things on an even keel.
We found this out when a stray dog decided to cross the road outside Ulu Yam town. The MT-07 did the stop well, and there was enough power to slightly, very slightly, lift the rear wheel.
This was when we realised the Yamaha MT-07 does not come with ABS, something that we feel is lacking in a bike that is designed for general purpose urban and highway use. We do understand that Yamaha has to sell the bike to a price point, something that it pointed out to us when we tested the Yamaha YZ-R25 earlier.
It is a shame we think, as Malaysian riders would think that saving a couple of thousand ringgit for what we think is an essential piece of motorcycle safety equipment isn’t necessary. We don’t blame Yamaha at all for this, it provides what customers want, but attitudes must change, especially for road riders.
Taking the Yamaha MT-07 out on the highway revealed it to be a very capable highway cruiser. The back wash from trucks and buses didn’t bother it in the least, especially when tucked in over the tank.
There was more than enough power from the engine to let a rider lose their license, and top speed was, shall we say, enough. We did want a little more padding in the saddle though, for those extended highway trips.
Perhaps a young man in his 20s would be willing to suffer the discomfort, but if you’re an older rider, little extra padding wouldn’t go amiss. We get around this problem by riding with padded cycling shorts.
A tendency for the bars to buzz at specific engine speeds was noted, and while not enough to kill all feeling in the hands, at long saddle stints on the highway it intrusive to the point of being annoying, so wear proper gloves.
Through the entire duration of our review, the one thing we kept coming back to was the 270-degree Crossplane engine. While not being completely perfect – it had a tendency to stumble at very small throttle openings – the twin had more than enough to cope with anything we threw at it.
This included carving up traffic jams, a long cruise down country B-roads, and three different canyon strafing sessions. We didn’t notice any tendency to overheat, despite the rather diminutive radiator.
One thing that was sorely missed was a small screen for general purpose riding, to keep the worst of the wind blast off the rider. Something from Yamaha’s catalogue or from the aftermarket wouldn’t go amiss here.
Looking into the cockpit, a single large LCD panel takes centre stage. We liked the MT-07’s instrument panel, as we could ride without having to use our reading glasses.
The numbers were large and legible, with the speedometer readout occupying almost a quarter of the available space. The tachometer was a slim bar affair at the bottom of the LCD, and went from left to right.
A gear position indicator is included, as is an “Eco” indicator for when the bike is in optimum fuel saving mode. Not that it mattered really, since the one thing the MT-07 likes to do is accelerate furiously through the six-speed gearbox.
The 2016 Yamaha MT-07 currently retails for RM35,296, including GST, but excluding registration, number plates and insurance. There are two colours on offer in 2016 – Extreme Yellow and Deep Armour, while the red version we tested is a 2015 colour.
So, what’s the Yamaha MT-07 like to live with? For one thing, it’s a fun bike to ride, quick and nimble. Indeed, the closest we could get to it in our riding experience would be the 1984 Yamaha RD350LC YPVS.
While not designed as a proper hooligan bike, nor as a staid commuter, the MT-07 would fit both roles well, with a little accessorising. The power delivery, while quick, isn’t scary, and many riders will find the MT-07 very approachable.
However, the suspension on the Yamaha MT-07 lets down what is, overall, a very competent package. This can be addressed with uprated springs from the Yamaha catalogue, or checking out what the aftermarket has to offer.
And the 64 million ringgit question, who should buy an MT-07? For any rider, young or old, new license holder or experienced canyon strafer, the MT-07 offers many things. Accessorise to suit, and you have a hooligan bike, reliable daily commuter or long-distance tourer. The choice is yours.