First Ride – 2018 Yamaha MT-07

In Japan, Reviews, Sport by AbhiLeave a Comment

22 hours and 40 minutes. That’s how long I spent on planes and in layovers to get to the Costa del Sol region of Spain to try out the successor to the FZ-07. But the weather gods apparently don’t know what “del Sol” means, so they only gave me half an hour with the new MT-07 before rain, wind, and fog conspired to change my riding experience from having a blast on a wheelie-prone machine to just wanting to return the bike in the same shape I got it in – the conditions were poor enough that two riders went down. I wish I got more miles in the dry but even in my abbreviated time with the MT-07 it’s clear to me that this is an upgrade over its FZ predecessor. I’ll be asking Yamaha for one to ride in the dry climate of California for more comprehensive testing in the near future. Until then, here’s what I’ve got for you:

We begin with a lesson in nomenclature:
You most likely know Yamaha’s naked sportbike (or as they call it, Hyper Naked) lineup as the FZ-07/09/10, but in every other country it’s called the MT. For 2018, we’re getting the same name in what Yamaha calls a “global marketing alignment.” I call it “a cheesy acronym” because MT stands for “Masters of Torque” but I’ve missed the boat on complaining about the name considering it goes back to the MT-01 of 2005:

Who cares if the name is goofy when the bikes are this cool. As a refresher, here’s the Yamaha MT-01 – the original Master of Torque. Photo by By Nitot via Wikimedia Commons

Just keep that in mind as I occasionally refer to both FZ and MT below, OK?

What I like:
  • At $7,599, it’s one of the best bargains in motorcycling.
  • One of the most enjoyable parallel twin motors available.
  • Compact design, upright ergonomics, and a wet weight (not including the rain) of 403 pounds.
What I don’t like:
  • Weak exhaust note, and it won’t be cheap to fix as the headers/cat/muffler are all one piece.
  • It’s not able to control the weather. I’m still not sure if the new suspension is up to the task and I’ll need more time in the dry to be sure. Initial impressions are good, for what that’s worth.
The Yamaha FZ-07 was already my favorite of the ~650cc naked sportbikes. Now with a few tweaks and a name change, it’s even better!

Check out the 2018 Yamaha MT-07!

Photos by Yamaha.

The FZ-07 was a game-changer when it came out as a 2015 model, partially because Suzuki screwed up when they replaced the SV650 with the Gladius. The mid-sized Yamaha was such a success that by 2017 Suzuki had brought back the SV650 and Kawasaki debuted the Z650 to compete. So after steadily increasing sales in 2015 and 2016, there was a slight drop last year and it was time for an update.

The FZ-07 is currently Yamaha’s best selling motorcycle in the US with 3,981 units sold in America in 2017 (and the R3 was right behind it). Just as a reminder about how behind we are when it comes to motorcycling, Yamaha sold 17,170 units of this bike in Europe last year. The FZ/MT lineup sales are up 260% since 2012 in the US, and the bulk of that comes from the -07. It’s obviously a popular motorcycle and any changes could have a serious impact – so, what did Yamaha update?

On Paper

For 2018, Yamaha had two main goals:

The only significant complaint about the previous model was the budget suspension. The springs were soft and the damping was, to be polite, inadequate. Yamaha has responded by beefing up everything in the new KYB units. The 41mm front forks have a 6% increase in spring rate and a 16% increase in rebound damping, while the rear shock has an 11% increase in spring rate, 27% increase in high-speed rebound damping, and a 40% increase in high-speed compression damping. The rear also gains adjustable rebound damping in addition to the pre-existing preload adjustment.

The preload adjustment is now easier to access.

In addition, Yamaha has slightly increased the size of the seat to give the rider and passenger more room. The rear of the tank cover has been shifted 10mm forward and both seats have been extended towards the rear.

The FZ was aggressive in both performance and styling, which I liked. The MT is even more so as Yamaha is going with a theme of “The Dark Side of Japan.” Though both generations of bikes look similar at first glance, every piece of bodywork is new this year. The dark side is emphasized with black touches like the handlebar, footpeg mounts, and radiator.

The US gets three color options: Matte Gray, Intensity White, and Team Yamaha Blue.

I prefer the Matte Gray, but I’d take Team Yamaha Blue if it meant the rain would go away.

The CP2 (CrossPlane concept Twin) motor is untouched, but that’s a good thing because it’s fantastic. It puts out 75 horsepower and an impressive-for-the-displacement 50.2 lb-ft of torque. The MT-07 was developed for younger, less experienced riders but the motor is so good that it attracts veterans as well. I don’t know if it’s due to the gearing, but this motor feels stronger than 689 cubic centimeters of metal and explosions should. It also returns an impressive 58 miles per gallon on regular unleaded, which makes it cheap to buy and to run. Valve check intervals are a solid 26,600 miles apart but Yamaha loses some points in the operating cost column because services are scheduled in 4,000 mile intervals. [UPDATE: Turns out the Z650 and SV650 have identical intervals so in this context it seems unfair to knock Yamaha for it.]

As Vy will attest, good things can come in small packages.

Previously, ABS was a $400 option. Now it’s standard and the MSRP has been bumped up accordingly to $7,599 – so you’re basically getting all the suspension upgrades and styling revisions for free.

On paper, everything sounds hunky dory. But does it translate to the real world? Indeed it does.

On the Road

Normally I give you a separate “First Impressions” section, but due to the weather my first impressions are my only ones! The biggest question I had when I was invited to this ride event was if Yamaha had addressed the complaints about the suspension, and as soon as I sat down it was obvious that the forks and shock had been stiffened. My 6’2″, 190 pound frame is a little tall for this bike but I appreciated how compact everything was – particularly the narrowness of the tank where it meets the seat. That sensation helps me feel like I’m part of the bike, not necessarily just riding on top of it. I’d enjoy slightly wider handlebars but again, I think I’m a little bigger than the average MT-07 rider.

During my brief riding time in the dry, it was clear that the suspension was a significant upgrade over last year’s model. Aggressive riders will probably want more but to them I’ll just say – remember the price!

As expected, the motor still feels great. The crossplane concept 270 degree crankshaft and offset cylinders come together to form a parallel twin motor that actually excites me (which is something I don’t say often). The fueling is great, which is important when your wrist discipline has to serve as old-school “traction control” in the wet – and having decent torque helps because you stay in higher gears and still accelerate quickly enough.

Going fast is fun, but in inclement weather, I’m more interested in the brakes. These are carryovers from the FZ, so you get twin 282mm rotors with four-piston calipers up front and a single 245mm rotor with a single-piston caliper in the back. They’re appropriate for the price point in that they work well but I would appreciate a little more feel from the front. Trackday fanatics might be upset that ABS is now mandatory, but I think it’s the correct call for a bike that’s designed for less experienced riders.

Once the rain, wind, and fog came out to play the day became more of a test of my rain gear than the bike.

The MT-07 feels light because it is light – at 403 pounds it weighs 29 pounds less than the Suzuki SV650. Going back to the common theme of new-ish riders, this lack of weight instills confidence, especially in conjunction with the 31.7″ seat height. As someone who likes upright ergonomics, I feel at home on the Yamaha. The riding posture makes it easy to leverage the bars and twist the bike around at low to medium speeds, but it also turns the rider into a sail at highway speeds. Yamaha offers a short black cowl which seems to be more of a styling element or a “Sport Screen” that looks ugly but will keep the wind off of you.

Survey Says…

The MT-07 was already good: cheap to buy, easy to approach, and fun to ride. The same applies for 2018, but it’s even better.

If you think the MT-07 is for you and want to try it out for yourself, Yamaha travels around the country offering test rides. Your first opportunity to ride the 07 will be at MotoGP in Austin. Here’s hoping you can get there in less than 22 hours!

Further Questions

As always, I asked you what you wanted to know before I rode this bike, and I tried to answer your questions as part of the review above. There were two questions I did not specifically address:

AJ Johnson asked, “Love my 2017 FZ-07. What is there about this generation of the 07 that would drive a current owner to purchase the new version?

If I was in your shoes, I wouldn’t buy the new bike – but I would search my couch for change to upgrade the suspension with some fully adjustable aftermarket options. At the end of the day (and despite the name change), this is a mid-model refresh so there’s lots of incremental changes for the better but nothing worth eating the depreciation you’ve just taken on a ’17 model.

PeeJay asked, “Ask if there’s a “delete color” option for the wheels. Polished aluminum, grey maybe, would be my preferred color.
You say the seat is larger. It still does not look comfy to the rider and the perch for the passenger, even less so.
Hopefully, the ergos will will be superb.

There is no such option. For someone with your wheel color preferences, your best option is the Intensity White as it is paired with black wheels:

The other wheel colors are blue and neon green.

With regards to the seating – I found the ergonomics comfortable all day, though we did have several stops on our ride. There’s enough room to scoot around so you’re not locked in one position all the time, and I believe it would be comfortable for several hundred miles in a day, as long as you can deal with the wind. I’ll have to wait till I have a long-term loaner to see what Vy has to say about the passenger accommodations, which don’t look particularly welcoming.

Engine Type: 689cc liquid-cooled DOHC 4-stroke; 8 valves
Bore x Stroke: 80.0mm x 68.6mm
Compression Ratio: 11.5:1
Fuel Delivery: Fuel injection
Ignition: Transistor Controlled Ignition
Transmission: 6-speed; multiplate clutch
Final: Drive Chain
Suspension / Front: 41mm telescopic fork; 5.1-in travel
Suspension / Rear: Single shock, adjustable preload and rebound damping; 5.1-in travel
Brakes / Front: Dual 282mm hydraulic disc; ABS
Brakes / Rear: 245mm hydraulic disc; ABS
Tires / Front: 120/70ZR17
Tires / Rear: 180/55ZR17
L x W x H: 82.1 in x 29,3 in x 42.9 in
Seat Height: 31.7 in
Wheelbase: 55.1 in
Rake: 24.8°
Trail: 3.5 in
Maximum Ground Clearance: 5.5 in
Fuel Capacity: 3.7 gal
Fuel Economy: 58 mpg
Wet Weight: 403 lb
Warranty: 1 Year (Limited Factory Warranty)
Color: Team Yamaha Blue; Matte Gray; Intensity White

Helmet: AGV AX-8 Evo Naked in Carbon Fury – $499.95
Jacket: Aerostich Transit – no longer available
Pants: Kushitani Explorer Jeans (waterproof), $530 but difficult to find
Gloves: Racer MultiTop 2 in WHite-Black, $149.99
Boots: Sidi Fast Rain – $175