Spring is in the air!
Yamaha’s gone back to the drawing board with its middleweight mentalist and given it some subtle tweaking.
It was four years ago that Yamaha launched the MT-07 and they could never have guessed it would’ve become such a chart-topper. A third of the brand’s hypernaked sales are ’07s, and with volume demand more consistent than a Saharan weather report, it looks as though this little gem is going to be a linchpin in their line-up for a very long time – especially now it’s had a bit of a fettle.
Money talks and with a price tag so low it left other manufacturers spitting feathers, there were one or two areas that weren’t exactly premium, let’s say… such as the suspension. If you like a ride with more bounce than a pogo stick, you’d have found yourself a fan of the original MT. But for the rest of us, it was the Achilles heel to an otherwise respectable middleweight naked. It needed sorting out, and so did the bargain parts bin guise of the MkI, which Yamaha’s addressed with this second iteration. While the frame, brakes, engine (it’s now Euro 4) and running gear stay exactly the same, the aesthetics of the bike have had the Gok Wan treatment. A first gen MT-09-style headlight and seat unit have joined the mix, and so too has a remodelled tank and a much more comfy (and fat-arse friendly) rider seat. But the major change is to the suspension, which is still pretty basic and non-adjustable. That said, it now comes with 130mm of travel at either end, and they’ve both benefited from increased damping and spring rates. Job done, then? Well, we headed to Spain to find out…
When you accept the MT-07 for what it is, it’s tough cookie to fault. There will be those that consider it about as technophobic as a rock, but why should a bike with 74bhp demand traction control, power modes, and all such minded gubbins that often combine to castrate your riding experience and hit your wallet where it hurts? Arguably the MT-07 is cheap and cheerful… but in the best of ways.
It’s always delivered on its promise of a decent riding experience for not a lot of dollar, and I can vouch that the performance-for-pound ratio has just moved up a notch. Aesthetically it now looks a nice bike; the new headlight, seat unit and remodelled tank have made
it look less parts bin special and more representative of the whole MT family. And ergonomically, the new tank design means you get to sit a bit further forward on the generously resized saddle. Happy days. But if you’re looking for a whole-hearted game of spot-the-difference, you’ll be left longing as the cockpit, switchgear and all the other such bits and bobs have stayed the same.
For that reason, it felt like a pair of old slippers as we headed out for our 150-mile joyride, disturbing the tranquil Ronda region’s excessive number of golf courses en route to some stonking mountain roads where we’d get our first taste of the MT’s refined capabilities. The old bike felt nice and nimble, so there was no surprise when I was reminded of its effortless ability to fall on an ear without needing muscling, but what did pleasantly surprise me was the drastically improved road-holding.
I’d stop short of saying the MT felt plush when hitting fourth gear corners at knee-down angles, but it was definitely a lot more steadfast and predictable. Part of the charm of the old bike was never knowing whether a big enough bump in the road was going to be the instigator of the mother all slappers, but those days of mystery seemed relegated to the past. The front end feel was trustworthy, and the back of the bike just seemed to follow suit without any complaints. I was impressed, and had it not been for the half-arsed lean angle that’s governed by some mahoosive hero blobs, I dare say you’d be able to cause bigger bikes some serious embarrassment owing to the sheer flickability of the bike.
I wish the bike’s damping was a little more refined, though. It had a tendency to rebound with a bit of ferocity after hitting a bump in a corner, and that had me wondering on a few occasions whether I’d go down in history as the first man to launch a second generation MT-07 off one of the relentlessly shouldering cliff faces – I obviously wasn’t trying hard enough. With no adjustability on the cards, it was a case of just riding out whatever road imperfections decided to unsettle the bike’s pogos.
Despite the engine now being Euro 4 (not a lot of work was needed to make that grade), the engine remained the hooligan-friendly weapon of old. When I wasn’t throwing this bike into bends, I couldn’t resist hooking the thing up in wheelies and relishing in the brilliance of the torquey, playful CP2 motor, which was aided by decent gear ratios and fuelling that offered firm control. My only criticism would be the harshness of the initial throttle pick-up, and the associated backlash which was about as abrupt as one of Boothy’s chat up lines.
The MT’s dubbed a user-friendly bike but there were one or two times in town where the motor felt a bit cumbersome, and when riding some slippery mountain roads the harsh pick-up had us replicating Bambi on ice. The gearbox also felt a little harsh on my bike, clunking into place with no blipper or shifter to help smooth things out. I’ve known worse, and it’d probably get better over time with more bedding in miles completed on our box fresh bad boys, but that notion was no use to me there and then.
I also found the gearbox a doddle to lock-up with a hasty down shift, which would get the rear hopping as the rear wheel and engine speeds fought it out to find equilibrium. Still, it was fun to do and with the right amount of clutch, rear brake and front end anchorage, the ’07 proved a dab hand at backing in. Generally speaking, the brakes were good. The MT’s no heavyweight and more times than not there’d be no drama in getting the bike to slow down, but both me and the test rider I was following
nearly hit the deck when our bikes’ ABS disengaged in a downhill hairpin and aimed us right at a car. That was more the surface’s fault that anything else, and the real problem was that we were riding the bikes like loons – but that’s what the MT makes you do.
It’s such a simple bike that it’s almost inadvertently brilliant fun to ride. It’s powerful enough to be playful, but docile enough for you to be the boss. Without listing the entirety of my misdemeanours, let’s just say my group and I found every imaginative way to have the best of times on the Yamaha. More power, more tech and more weight would have blunted the experience, so there’s a huge part of me that’s grateful that the Yamaha hasn’t been subjected to more control aids and other such nonsense. The MT-07 is a pure bike to ride, and Yamaha’s approach is that if you want more trimmings, you simply buy an MT-09 instead. But in my opinion the wee Yamaha ticks the boxes for what it’s meant to be, representing great value for money and opening the door to fun times for all riders of all ages, experience and even heights.
That’s probably the last thing to touch on; the comfort of the ride. The MT comes with a pretty low seat height (735mm), but my 5ft 10in frame didn’t feel cramped or achy. For a naked, I though the ergonomics were actually pretty comfortable, with a relaxed reach to the ’bars and plenty of leg room too for all those people with battered knee joints. It is vibey, though, not to the extent of replicating a washing machine at full bore on a fast spin, but vibrations were notable through the ’bars, pegs and seat. Still, it’s nothing a pair of thick marigolds, some rubber wellies and a cushion couldn’t sort. Now there’s a thought!
Hot- cakes can't hold a candle to the sales figures of the MT range.