Our bikes: MT-03 offers a lot
The MT-03 might only have 321cc, but it uses them all well
My time with Yamaha’s 321cc twin has come to an end and I’m not ashamed to say that I’m going to miss it. For easy-going fun and practicality, the bike has properly won me over.
It’s more than 20 years since I passed my test, so I was worried that running such a modest machine would turn out to be a backward step, but it made more sense when I’d done some soul-searching and thought about what I really wanted from two wheels.
I’m in the lucky position of already having a big bike, so what I was after was a workhorse that would save miles on the No1 bike and make the car redundant. But it wasn’t just about the daily grind. I also wanted a companion that could tackle longer-distance trips and maybe even cope with a passenger. So how did the MT measure up?
Fuel efficiency is a big deal when it comes to getting to work. It’s a pain for too much of your cash to be soaked up in just reaching the office. Of course, something like a 125cc scooter would be the most thrifty mode of transport, but I’m not quite ready to go down that route yet. My route to work is mainly back roads, often with the entertaining Benefield bends thrown in. Some quick, back-of-an-envelope calculations reveal fuel figures for the average journey to work of around 68mpg. Not bad and the MT was more fun than the car through the twisty bits. Score 8/10
Room for two?
It might not be the obvious choice for a two-up outing, but Yamaha designed it with two seats so why not? For this part of my MT challenge I enlisted my mate Simon – at 5ft 7in and not much more than nine stone I thought he’d make the ideal guinea pig for an evening rideout. Even without adding preload to the rear shock (the only adjustment available on the budget Yam) the ride wasn’t too bad. Initial acceleration was pegged back a little and braking took more effort but it was more than acceptable and Simon reported that the pillion seat was fine. You wouldn’t want it for serious two-up riding but for the odd outing it was no problem. Score 6.5/10
Small bikes can be a pain when everyone else has more capacity and more shove, but with 321cc at your disposal things are just about OK. A trip to Kent and back in the summer found that the MT would cruise at 70mph and accelerate fast enough down slip roads to make joining the flow easy. Better still, the narrow bars, upright riding position and low seat height made for superb filtering. The only thing lacking was roll-on power, leaving little in reserve. There’s no real wind protection but the narrow bars mean your body isn’t turned into a sail. Score 7.5/10
One recall aside there were no reliability issues with the MT during our 4000 miles together – which is exactly how it should be. The chain needed little adjustment and the bike used no oil to speak of. What wasn’t so good was the finish on the downpipes. Even before the roads were salted the surface was becoming badly discoloured. I suspect the paint was too thin. The finish on other components has been fine. Score 6/10
What about the tyres?
The OE Michelin Pilot Street (£130 a pair before fitting) were perfectly fine in both wet and dry conditions. I used them for the first 700 miles but then picked up a nail in the rear. That gave an opportunity to try something different and I opted for Bridgestone RS10S. More expensive at around £153 before fitting, they gave a sportier ride and lasted well – although the rear was squaring off a little towards the end. In all honesty, for my commuting I’d have been OK sticking with a pair of the Pilot Streets. Score 8/10
Back at the start of the year I wanted to see if a small bike could be both fun and practical. Could it have enough vim to keep me interested? The answer is a qualified yes. When I am riding the MT I love it and feel properly engaged in the process of making the most of its power, but when I fire up my own bike (a Ducati Scrambler FT) I have even more fun. In other words, I love the MT, but wouldn’t want it as my only bike. Overall 7.5/10
Room for two (just about, anyway)
The MT is nicely put together but the finish on the pipes lets the side down
Been riding 20 years, has a Scrambler FT in the garage at home HEIGHT 5ft 9in WEIGHT 70kg SIMON BROWN