Spring is in the air!

Yamaha’s gone back to the draw­ing board with its mid­dleweight men­tal­ist and given it some sub­tle tweak­ing.

Fast Bikes - - WELCOME - WORDS: DAN­GER­OUS BRUCE IMAGES: P JAN DC O ./ YAMAHA

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…

Notably bet­ter

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.

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