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?

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Tracer 700 Group Test -

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

Un­der­slung ex­haust meets Euro4 regs Tells you quite a lot, apart from the time Ex­haust looks like it sounds: fairly bland... High-qual­ity dash packs plenty of info Fuel filler cap lives in the BMW’S tail unit Clear clocks but gear po­si­tion is an ex­tra Rem

Tiny Tracer is dwar fed by the big-bike wannabes, the BMW and Kawasaki MCN test team take a quick pit­stop to swap bikes and com­pare notes V-strom’s per­for­mance sur­prised on test Phys­i­cally very small, new Tracer 700 is very easy to han­dle

Ad­ven­ture-styled Versys 650 has a big­bike stance and at­ti­tude Smaller tour­ers are the lighter way to en­joy the coun­try­side This fru­gal fleet means fuel stops are few and far be­tween

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