YAMAHA TRACER 700 GROUP TEST AFFORDABLE ADVENTURE
These bikes prove that you don’t need to spend big cash on a pukka tourer, but is Yamaha’s £6299 Tracer 700 ready to go the distance?
MCN Senior Tester Age 46 Height 6ft CV Rode the Versys 650 at its launch in Sicily in 2014.
MCN Road Tester Age 35 Height 5ft 7in CV Rode the Tracer 700 at its launch in the Dolomites last month.
MCN Road Tester Age 50 Height 5ft 6in CV Ultra-experienced road tester and racer.
MCN Office Manager Age 46 Height 5ft 10in CV Riding for 12 years. Has owned an ER-6N and Street Triple.
MCN Online Editor Age 29 Height 5ft 3in CV 125cc newbie. Ridden pillion with dad for seven years.
Yamaha’s new Tracer 700 is all set to be another box-office smash. It has the youthful, beating heart of the utterly brilliant MT-07, handsome looks, a lightweight chassis and a price tag of just £6299. What’s not to like?
The Japanese firm started their current MT project in 2014 with the threecylinder MT-09. It was an instant sales success and revived Yamaha’s, up to then, fading fortunes. The adventure sport styled Tracer version that arrived last year was even more popular and few bikes offer such an enviable blend of performance, practicality and fun, for so little cash.
And now Yamaha have given the MT-07 the Tracer makeover. Starting with the bubbly MT-07 roadster they’ve added a snazzy half fairing with a manually adjustable screen, knuckle guards, and higher bars which are set further back towards the rider for comfort. Chunky rubber-topped pegs are in the same place but the seat is 30mm higher so there’s more legroom, and a new longer swingarm adds 50mm to the wheelbase for stability. Fuel tank capacity is up from 14 to 17 litres and, returning 50mpg during our test, gives a theoretical range of 186 miles.
It’s powered by a Euro4-compliant version of the MT-07’S 74bhp, 689cc parallel-twin engine.
You don’t get much in the way of goodies for the price – there’s no centrestand or remote rear preload adjuster, but Yamaha offers lots of other touring accessories, from luggage to comfort seats (see page 24). If you can get a test ride from your local dealer you’ll be impressed and if you’re in the market for an affordable, mid-capacity, adventure-styled sports tourer you’ll probably end up riding home on it. The Tracer 700 is nicely made, well finished, comfy, roomy and the small adjustable screen offers decent protection from the elements.
The motor is punchy and smooth, especially on the overrun. Like most parallel-twins, the engine gives you
‘You don’t get much in the way of goodies, but Yamaha offer lots of accessories’
a serene, freewheeling feeling, like you’re coasting on an electric bike. Unlike the bigger ride-by-wire MTS, the Tracer 700’s cable-actuated throttle is super smooth with no jerkiness at low speed. Clutch, gearbox and throttle are all light and simple to master, too.
Handing is solid and predictable, and the standard Michelin Pilot Road 4 sports touring tyres warm up quickly and offer instant confidence in today’s summer temperatures.
However, being longer and weighing 14kg more than the MT-07, the Tracer 700 doesn’t reach the bar set by Yamaha’s feisty naked. It’s lost some of the MT-07’S X-factor, there’s no playful punch or zesty zing.
The Tracer 700 is an impressive piece of kit but it’s not the best of the
middleweight sports-touring, adventure-styled breed, as MCN Production Editor and racer Emma Franklin, who first rode the Yamaha at its launch last month, explains: “It’s light, easy to use and handles well. The engine has decent grunt and power, but it doesn’t have the MT-07’S ‘joie de vivre’. It feels too small and toy-like in this company.”
MCN’S Office Manager Alison Silcox isn’t convinced by the Tracer’s build quality. “Some of the controls feel a bit flimsy,” she remarks, but is impressed with the rest of the package: “It’s low, narrow, light, manoeuvrable and comfortable. It feels more like a conventional road bike to sit on, with a traditional riding position and narrow bars, compared to some of the more adventure-inspired bikes here.”
The Tracer 700 wasn’t at the top of the list when it comes to riding twoup (see right), but neither is the Versys 650. But that doesn’t stop the Kawasaki heading both mine and Emma’s lists… and Bruce’s, too, when he’s riding solo.
Don’t be fooled by the Kawasaki’s budget price tag or its mid-capacity engine, this is a 650 that thinks it’s a 1000. When it got its makeover last year the Versys 650 went up a few dress sizes and is now so reassuring roomy, it makes the Yamaha seem spindly by comparison. The Versys 650 is a lot of adventure-sports for the money and the one you wouldn’t think twice about loading up for a continental trip.
It has the best wind protection of all the bikes here and the motor has lots of
‘Don’t be fooled by the Kawasaki Versys... this is a 650 that thinks it’s a 1000
punch, although it’s not as smooth as the Yamaha’s. It ties with the V-strom at the petrol pumps and returns 49mpg.
Handling is reassuring, but there’s some shimmy from the bars when you shut the throttle at sub-40mph speeds, both in a straight line and turning into corners, but it’s not distracting enough to cause concern.
Emma is smitten with the Versys and says: “It’s got all the best bits of the V-strom – smooth, refined with bigbike presence – but with the classiness and the good looks of the Tracer.”
But Alison isn’t as confident with the Kawasaki’s sheer size. “It’s cum- bersome,” she says. “It’s top-heavy and I found low-speed handling and U-turns quite tricky. The engine is smooth and the handling is good, but the screen buffets me a lot.”
Alison’s top choice is the Suzuki V-strom. She remarks: “I’ve always thought it looked cumbersome and dated, but I’m pleasantly surprised. It’s comfortable, agile, smooth and it gives me much more confidence than any of the other bikes. Wind protection is good, mirrors are exceptional and the seat isn’t too high.”
While all the other machines here have 17-inch wheels, the Suzuki has an off-road-inspired 19-incher up front, which gives Alison that unflappable confidence and stability on fast sweeping roads, at the expense of fast turning. But the V-strom surprised us all.
Having been around since 2004 it’s easy to dismiss it, but even by today’s standards it’s a cracker. The V-twin motor has a wide spread of power and the Suzuki is accurate and stable on the move. It’s a brilliant two-up bike, unimposing for the less experienced and interesting for those with more than a few miles under their belts. There are no bells or whistles, it doesn’t even