Yamaha MT-07. The bike of 2014?

Yamaha MT-07 on test in Spain
Back in 2005, Yamaha introduced the MT brand with the MT-01, a pointless fusion of sports bike chassis and cruiser engine. It was, they said, what jaded sports bike riders were crying out for and their marketing bods started talking nonsense about ‘Torque Sports’ and ‘Kodo’. Rumour has it that a warehouse full of unsold stock was crushed a few years ago…

The MT-01 marked the beginning of a decline for Yamaha, who felt the full force of the ‘credit crunch’ towards the end of the decade. For a while it seemed that the once great manufacturer, the company that created classics like the RD350, XT500 and the original YZF-R1 lost its way. A succession of overpriced-but-not-quite-good-enough bikes saw sales decline and attention switch towards the Asian markets.

But now Yamaha is back, not with a game changing MotoGP replica but with a bike much more important and relevant than that – it’s called the MT-07.
On paper it doesn’t look like much. It’s a 689cc parallel twin pumping out 75bhp. It’s nothing ground breaking, but there is one figure on the spec sheet that stands out: £5,199.

That’s right, after nearly a decade spent charging premium prices for inferior products, Yamaha is not only undercutting the competition with the MT-07 – they’ve produced a damn fine motorcycle to boot.

Kawasaki's ER-6n feels nimble around the cones on Michelin's test facility
For years, if you wanted a budget parallel twin then the only real option was Kawasaki’s very worthy ER-6. Although marketed in Europe as a commuter bike, Stateside the ER-6 wears the famous Ninja moniker. They are also a common sight in club racing paddocks, as the weapon of choice in Supertwins categories, and who can forget James Hillier winning last year’s Bike Social Lightweight TT on a modified ER-6, posting a 119mph lap on the way.

The point, when I get to it, is that these ‘boring’ commuters are still more than quick enough to put a smile on your face, as we rediscovered when we got the chance to ride both the Kawasaki and Yamaha back-to-back at the launch of Michelin’s excellent new Pilot Road 4 tyres in Spain recently.

A glance at the spec sheet shows plenty of similarities between the two. The 649cc Kawasaki makes 72bhp, the Yamaha 75. Both share an 805mm seat height and both have the option of ABS.

The Kawasaki is a cracking little bike. It’s easy to ride and no wonder we see so many at training schools. Riding it on the road and at Michelin’s handling track, the unfaired ER-6n feels, just like the classic 650 twins of years gone by, like a ‘proper motorbike.’

Jumping on the Yamaha, you immediately notice how light it is. At a claimed 179kg ready to ride, the MT-07 comes in at a 25kg less than the Kawasaki and feels it, not that the ER-6 feels heavy by any manner or means.

Carving through the flowing Spanish mountain roads, the MT-07 put a smile on my face in the same way that the original Street Triple did back in 2007. The Yamaha feels lovely and light, with a smooth gearbox and eager motor. The slither of an LCD dashboard is easy to read and includes a fuel gauge and gear indicator, belying the budget price tag. Indeed, it’s only really on really bumpy roads that you notice the low end suspension.

One area where the Kawasaki has the upper hand is as a tool for covering bigger distances. If the practicality factor outweighs the fun factor when it comes to making your buying decision, the ER-6 may just swing in your favour.  With an extra two litres in the fuel tank, the option of a half fairing (ER-6f) and accessory hard luggage, the Kawasaki can move in different circles if you want it to.

Motorcycle journos and bike snobs may poo-poo the MT-07, pointing out that it ‘only’ makes 75bhp and that the budget suspension lacks the adjustability of something like a Street Triple R. What they’ll be forgetting about is that all important figure. IT COSTS FIVE THOUSAND, ONE HUNDRED AND NINETY NINE POUNDS! This, my friends, makes the MT-07 seriously good value and just what our industry needs.

MT-07. Fun in the twisties

At a time when we are bemoaning the lack of new riders getting into motorcycles, and the high costs associated with them, Yamaha has hit the nail right on the head with the MT-07. Here is a bike that’s affordable, light, easy to ride and, above all, immense fun. There’s something for anyone. Whether you are looking to get that first big bike or a day-to-day commuter, you won’t go far wrong with either of these bikes. Even experienced riders will have a lot of fun on the MT-07 and I’d bet that it’s the perfect bike for those older riders who are looking to downsize, but who can’t bear to go down the Bonneville or Harley route.

Forget your Panigales and S1000Rs, Yamaha’s MT-07 is not just my bike of 2014, it’s the perfect bike for 2014.

Welcome back Yamaha.

Thank you to Michelin for arranging the bikes, the event and their new Pilot Road 4 tyres.