Our bikes: MT-03 offers a lot

The MT-03 might only have 321cc, but it uses them all well

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week -

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?

Easy com­muter

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

Mo­tor­way ma­chine

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

4095 MILES

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

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