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Launch Report

Beyond Expectations

With Yamaha releasing the latest model to join the LAMs approved fleet, BRM headed to Sydney for a bit of commuting and a rip around the back roads to see if the sleeved-down MT-07 is as fun as it looks…

There used to be a time when we’d cringe about having to go on a launch of a learner machine, but with the advent of the LAMs system, that has well and truly gone out the window. The MT-07 is the latest bike to enter the market under the LAMs specification, with the model developed especially for the unique learner laws that are now in place in Australia and New Zealand. For the rest of the world, the MT-07 is powered by an all-new 689cc parallel twin, which to get it to within LAMs status, has been sleeved down slightly to 655cc for the Australasian models. That’s a pretty amazing achievement for the distributor to convince Japan that it’s worth making a model especially for us, going to show how much emphasis they are putting on the importance of having a decent LAMs model with which to encourage new riders into the Yamaha fold.

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Massive’ Torque

Sticking to the MT or ‘Massive Torque’ ethos with the new model, the MT-07 powerplant has been tuned to give a healthy bottom-end punch rather than the peaky power delivery that we came to expect from middle-weight four-cylinder machines a decade ago. With fun, lightness, economy and affordability scribbled at the top of the designers’ note pad, the MT-07’s spec sheet seems to indicate it ticks all the boxes. With a wet weight of 179kilos, Yamaha claim the MT-07 has the best power-to-weight ratio in the segment, and after spending a day hooning around south Sydney, I’m pretty confident in saying the claim can’t be far off. With 52.1PS (38kW) produced at 8,000rpm and a healthy 57.5Nm of torque at a lowly 4000rpm, the motor is designed to work best in the midrange where you normally find yourself sitting during everyday riding. Holding onto revs up above the 8000rpm mark isn’t really necessary, as the best drive comes from keeping the needle between 4 and 8000rpm, which is easily done using the sweet six-speed box.

Carving through the rush-hour traffic of Sydney CBD, (the timing obviously planned by Yamaha so we could experience the MT-07 in action as a commuter), the instant but linear power delivery lets you forget about what the motor is doing and focus on the next victim in your assault on the bumper-to-bumper traffic. With an extremely narrow waist thanks to the steel frame using the motor as a stressed member, the MT-07 is toy-like between your legs, letting you flick it from side-to-side with ease and leaving cars in your wake. The low 805mm saddle combined with the slim waist means getting your feet flat on the floor is easy enough for even the most vertically challenged riders, again adding to the feeling of ease when riding the MT-07.

Also brought over from other models in the Yamaha range and first featured on the flagship YZF-R1 superbike is the cross-plane crankshaft philosophy featured on the 270-degree crank. With the uneven firing order from this arrangement, the MT-07 feels and sounds almost more like a V-twin than a parallel twin, with the pulses also adding to the bottom-end surge. An offset cylinder design, which is also seen on the MT-09, means increased fuel efficiency thanks to less friction in the bore, while the 4-valve head, forged pistons and direct plated cylinders show that the MT-07 is no budget bike.

And that feeling carries on throughout the motorcycle, with a really awesome dash, twin front calipers gripping wavy discs and a sexy underslung exhaust all giving the MT-07 the impression of a much more expensive model. The latest LCD dash from Yamaha is incredibly simple, yet functional, with a big gear-change indicator pride of place in the centre. The revs show as bars across the bottom, while the speed and other readouts are above. It’s easy to read at a glance and gives you all the information you really need to know.

The suspension, as you’d imagine on an entry-level machine, isn’t the most sophisticated, but it did a surprisingly good job of soaking up the lumps and bumps while also staying composed as the roads dried out from the morning showers and the pace began to quicken. The 41mm forks, although non-adjustable, thankfully don’t feature the long-travel set-up seen on the bigger MT-09, with the 130mm of travel more than enough to deal with day-to-day use. They coped surprisingly well with the atrocious road conditions in places we ventured through in NSW, yet also managed to remain remarkably composed when pushing harder. The shock is interesting in that it is mounted almost horizontally, with the front connected directly to the rear of the engine block. The rear goes to a space within the short, steel swingarm, where a linkage takes care of damping, although it did feel like it could do with some more when the pace quickened. During normal riding, the suspension package worked better than expected after having an initial glance, and for dealing with urban conditions, it was spot-on out of the crate.

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Surprise, Surprise…

It wasn’t until we got to a popular biking haunt that the MT-07 really began to show its true character, the twisty road that worked its way down to sea-level through a canopy of gum trees was the sort of setting that sportsbike riders love and supermoto pilots dream about! But how would a learner legal parallel twin take it? Well, the answer was to come as the lead rider peeled into the first of the turns, and after telling us that the roads could possibly be slippery, put the hammer down and tried to disappear. The elastic effect on the following riders stretching us all out before we got the message and put our steeds to work, closing the gap and all enjoying the sporty characteristics of the small Yammie.

As Yamaha explained, this motor is all about the torque, and even though I tried holding onto the revs a few times in an attempt to gain some ground on the bike in front, it soon became obvious that clicking up through the gearbox as quickly as possible and having the revs sitting in the 4-5,000 rpm mark was where the MT-07 worked at it’s best. Unfortunately, the clutch lever wasn’t span-adjustable which I always find surprising on this style of bike, although luckily it doesn’t need to be used much thanks to the easy-shifting and positive gearbox that’s happy to be used without bothering the lever. The brake lever is adjustable, and although the package isn’t fierce, it’s more than ample for a bike this light and also means that newer riders are less likely to be caught out by grabbing the lever too hard and locking up. ABS is an option overseas, but Yamaha are undecided whether to bring it downunder due to the estimated $1000 premium.

With the bikes provided either with Bridgestone’s Battlax or Michelin’s Pilot Road tyres, the combination of 17” wheels with a 180-section rear tyre mean there’s plenty of option for replacement rubber, although both worked well as we got to sample the different machines. For the damp roads of the morning, the Michelin’s definitely seemed to have the advantage, but as the roads dried and the pace heated up, the faithful Battlax’s got into their groove. Despite the steel frame and swingarm, the chassis was predictable with no one appearing to have any ‘moments’ during the ride, although nearly all of us were amazed with the unexpected wheelie ability of what is a learner machine. Thanks to the short asymmetrical swingarm and healthy torque curve, the MT-07 is a mono-master, with many riders able to loft the front hoop off the clutch in second gear and keep going on the back wheel at will. With no surprises in the power delivery, keeping the wheel up is almost child’s play, again accentuating the ease with which the MT-07 is to ride. It was a pleasant surprise and a feature that a few of us couldn’t stop testing again and again…

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So Much And More…

Okay, so the MT-07 is a LAMs bike, and as such learners are able to go and buy one from their local Yamaha dealer and spend their two years of restricted riding on a very pleasant and capable 655cc machine. And if I were a learner today, I would be absolutely stoked to be able to ride this machine. In my opinion it’s so much easier to ride than a smaller capacity LAMS bike, especially with the weight being close to some of the smaller machines and the saddle and centre of gravity being positioned so low. Despite being a larger capacity, the MT-07 isn’t the sort of bike to catch the unaware out due to its size. Instead, the benefit of an easier power delivery and higher spec peripherals is likely to make for a much more enjoyable learner experience that doesn’t necessarily need to end there. Even if you’ve got your full licence, you’ll still find the MT-07 will fulfil the role of being a ‘proper’ motorcycle that can handle open road duties and excel at urban commuting. With the same level of accessories available as the MT-09 bigger brother, you can outfit the MT-07 with luggage, a screen and even an iPhone holder, to really personalise your machine. The almost transformer looks give the MT-07 the sort of café style that is normally reserved for the likes of Ducati’s Monster, while the underslung exhaust produces a pretty raunchy beat which can be further improved with the addition of the aftermarket open Akrapovic exhaust.

The MT-07 has already arrived in New Zealand, and the first owners have taken to social media to proclaim how pleased they are they chose the MT-07 and how it has surpassed all their expectations. If there’s a bike that’s going to get new or returning riders to come to Yamaha and stay there throughout their riding career, then the MT-07 is probably it. It’s managed to achieve what the designers had originally scribbled on the top of that sheet; it’s fun, light and economical, and with a price tag of $10,999 it’s certainly affordable as well.

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The Competition

Honda CB500F

The Honda has a lower seat than the Yamaha at 785mm, but the engine is also smaller in capacity at 471cc and it tips the scales at 192kilos. It’s also a fraction cheaper at $10,995 but will be seen more as a commuter machine than an open road performer.

Kawasaki ER6NKL

Another parallel-twin, the Kawasaki is almost the same capacity as the Yamaha at 649cc, but with only a claimed 47hp it’s slightly down on the power stakes. Similar in style with an underslung exhaust and high, wide bars, the Kawasaki is also a great little performer and is currently on special at $11,995.

Street Triple

Probably the closest to the Yamaha, the Street Triple 660 was only released this year and similarly, blurred the boundaries between learner and ‘proper’ and has the undeniable credibility of the Triumph brand. With 55hp @ 9,300rpm and 54.6Nm of torque at 5,155rpm the power delivery will be similar to the Yammie, although at 195kilos wet, it’s also the heaviest. And at $13,990 you’d need to work out if the Triumph name is worth the extra price tag to you.

Ducati 659

There’s no denying the style of the smallest Monster, plus there’s the character of a real V-twin. Pumping out close to 50hp and 46.5Nm of torque, the red machine is close with the performance but is slightly heavier at 185kilos wet, and at $15,990 it’s also more expensive.

 

Specifications

Price: $10,990

Engine type: Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, DOHC, 4-valve twin

Displacement: 655 cm.

Bore x stroke: 78mm x 68.6mm

Compression ratio: 11.0:1

Lubrication system: Wet sump

Clutch Type: Wet, Multiple Disc

Ignition system: TCI

Starter system: Electric

Transmission system: Constant Mesh, 6-speed

Final transmission: Chain

Frame: Diamond type

Front suspension: Conventional telescopic forks, 130mm travel

Rear suspension: Linkage type monoshock, 130mm travel

Caster Angle: 24º 50

Trail: 90mm

Wheel base: 1400mm

Front brake: Dual 282mm discs

Rear brake: Single 245mm disc

Front tyre: 120/70 ZR 17M/C(58W) (Tubeless)

Rear tyre: 180/55 ZR 17M/C(73W) (Tubeless)

Dimensions

Overall length: 2085mm

Overall width: 745mm

Overall height: 1090mm

Seat height: 805mm

Wet weight (full fuel tank): 179kg

Fuel tank capacity: 14litres

Warranty: 24 months, unlimited km, parts and labour

Colours: Deep Armour, Competition White, Matt Grey, Racing Red