First Ride Review – 2022 Yamaha YZF-R7

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On paper, the new Yamaha YZF-R7 made little sense to me until Gerrad Capley (Yamaha’s Street Motorcycle Communications Specialist) shared a fascinating fact – over the last five years, 87 percent of R6 sales were in the used market. If you’re in the new motorcycle business, that’s a serious problem.

Yamaha’s serious solution is the 2022 Yamaha YZF-R7.

I don’t know how to be serious, which is why I pretend that each “A” sign is for “Abhi”


What I like:
  • Not just a MT-07 with fairings, there’s lots of thoughtful upgrades.
  • $8,999 is a bargain for what you get.
  • I think it’s what the target market needs.
What I don’t like:
  • It makes me feel old, but this should have been called the R7S.
  • This chassis begs for another 20 horsepower.
  • I’m not yet sure it’s what the target market wants.

Verdict

If you can get over the name (and you can), the new R7 offers a compelling street-legal track package at a very reasonable price. Yamaha’s got a simple argument – sportbikes are too expensive and too capable for the average 19-26 year old buyer, so they made one that’s more approachable in terms of price and ease of use. It’s a triumph of common sense: the 2022 Yamaha YZF-R7 is what the average sportbike rider needs in terms of style, chassis, suspension, and braking, but there’s a not-so-small part of me that wonders if ~75 horsepower is what they want.

Check out the 2022 Yamaha YZF-R7!

First Ride Review – 2022 Yamaha YZF-R7
Photos by Drew Ruiz.


History Lesson

It’s no secret that middleweight sportbike sales have been dismal since the 2008 recession (Yamaha’s R6 sales in December of 2020 were roughly 7% of what they were in July of 2008), but manufacturers are responding in different ways. Honda and Suzuki have basically given up – the new CBR600RR is Japan only with a sales goal of 1,000 bikes, and I couldn’t remember the last time the GSX-R600 was given a significant update. I had to look it up – it was arguably 2006, depending on how you define “significant.”

2021 or 2006 – you tell me. (That doesn’t mean it’s a bad bike)

Kawasaki fought back in 2019 with an impressive update to the ZX-6R, but the attention-grabber of the last few months has been Aprilia with their all-new RS 660. When I was at the launch, Aprilia said that the issue with this segment was that the bikes had become “too extreme” with powerbands that were only good on the track and ergonomics that leave you wrecked after a couple of hours.

Their solution was to relax the ergos and shove a torquey twin in the frame. Photo by Kevin Wing.

Yamaha disagrees – they think that there are still plenty of riders who love aggressive clip-ons, dragging knees, and the overall culture of sport bikes. Instead, Team Blue thinks the problem is due to a general lack of green.

Who doesn’t love crossing the finish line in a full tuck?

In the last two decades, the price of a R6 has gone up by 53% as material costs rose and the bike got better components: last year’s bike had magnesium engine cases, magnesium subframe, aluminum fuel tank, titanium valves, titanium muffler, and ceramic-composite-plated cylinder bores. That doesn’t sound like something you’d sell to a 18 year-old, it sounds like something you’d send to space – and that’s even before the electronic whizbangery like multiple ride modes, multi-stage traction control, and an optional data logger. So the price and the performance ceiling kept rising, but after market research it became clear to Yamaha that their average customer wasn’t able to afford what the R6 had become (not to mention the insurance) nor get near the limit of what the bike was capable of – several riders said the R6 was “easy to ride”, which surprised Yamaha employees. Turns out these riders were staying on the street and never really revving past 6 or 7k rpms!

It also surprised me, because my first time on a R6 led to my first (baby) stoppie. What a sweet bike.

That’s what leads to the opening factoid of 85% of R6 sales over the last five years being used, so in 2016 (a year after the FZ-07 was released) Yamaha decided they had to make something more approachable for the average rider both in terms of ease of use and cost. They also wanted it to be equally at home on the street or the track, which is why I found myself at Atlanta Motorsports Park last week for the US press launch.

16 corners in two miles with short straightaways made AMP the perfect testing site for the nimble and not-overpowering R7.

First Impressions

The new R7 sure looks the part, mostly because it looks very similar to the R6 with a deep-set central projector headlight (which should give you MT-07 vibes).

I have no idea if the lights are any good in terms of road output.

Our bikes had been track prepped so the mirrors and turn signals were removed, but the R7 gets full LED lighting (meaning you’ll get nice LED turn signals instead of the pumpkin indicators that Yamaha’s finally been getting rid of).

The new bike is offered in two colors: Performance Black and Team Yamaha Blue. The blue has dark blue side panels for some extra contrast, and it’s the choice I’d go with personally.

Unlike the color options on the RS 660, you’ll pay the same price whether you prefer blue or black.

I was hoping that there would also be a red/white/black option like the original R7 – but that reference requires its own section.

Does the combination of R and 7 upset you? Read on.

Every time I mentioned to someone that I was going to the R7 launch, they stopped in their tracks with an expression that simultaneously conveyed delight and shock. “Yamaha’s making a new R7?” Then I’d have to spend two minutes explaining why the answer was “sort of“, and the disappointment was palpable. I’ll admit that I was pretty upset with Yamaha when I originally heard they were going to bring back the R7 name for a ~75 hp budget bike that would be built to a price, because the original was an incredible homologation special that cost twice as much as a Honda RC51 at the time.

We sold this ~2,400 mile example for $53,500 over at Iconic Motorbikes.

In fact, when Yamaha USA originally proposed the idea for the 2022 model and suggested that it be called the R7, there were apparently a few engineers in Japan who thought that was “sacrilegious.” Yamaha does not take this decision lightly, and they knew it would cause some concerns. They considered names like MT-07R but those “did not meet consumer expectations” about what a tuning fork supersport should be called. Most riders in this new bike’s target market (19-26 year-olds) aren’t familiar with or don’t care much about the original R7. What they will care about is feeling like they’re part of the R-World family – it’d be harder for Yamaha to sell one of these to a young rider who wants the sportbike lifestyle if it had a diluted name like MT-07R.

So while it will upset some passionate fans (and it makes me feel old), at the end of the day Yamaha’s looking to get a new generation of riders in and to them it’s more valuable to say “R7” so that it fits with in the family with R3/R6/R1. Despite that, I still think R7S (remember that Yamaha used to have a R1S as a toned-down R1) was the right way to go from a naming standpoint. Respect your elders!

At the end of the day, the name won’t matter if the bike is crap. So what did Yamaha do to the MT-07 to create something they thought was worthy of the “R” name?

7 Changes for the R7

During his presentation to reviewers, Mr. Capley said that we “shouldn’t mistake this for a MT-07 with bodywork.” Keeping to the theme of the day, here’s what I think are the seven biggest changes:

1.) The frame has been tweaked all over: steeper rake (23.7° vs 24.8°), shorter trail (3.46″ vs 3.54″), and shorter wheelbase (54.92″ vs 55.11″). The rear suspension mounting point was changed to increase seat height: 32.87″ vs 31.69″ (the R6 had a 33.46″ seat height), and there are now aluminum braces mounted at the swing arm pivot to reinforce the frame.

It ain’t pretty, but it’s effective.

This provides more stability under the stresses of cornering and braking, and it pitches the chassis to put more weight on the front wheel which makes the R7 way less wheelie-prone than the MT-07.

I mean, it’ll still do them.

2.) Upgrades to the suspension are focused up front to deal with the increased demands. The new forks are 41mm Kayaba upside down units that are adjustable for preload, rebound, and compression. They’re also set wider apart (8.27″ vs. 7.48″) and 28% stronger (18N vs. 14N). A couple of the faster riders wanted a little bit more out of the forks and noted a small amount of chatter, but I was quite happy with them at my level of riding and I think they’re more than enough for the target market.

The adjustability comes with a little splash of color.

The Kayaba shock is adjustable for preload plus rebound and is 13% stronger than its counterpart on the MT-07 as well – 135N vs. 120N. The shock has seven levels of preload adjustment, and Yamaha started us all out on level 5. After the first session I went up to six, and after a couple of sessions Josh Hayes (yes, that Josh Hayes) suggested that I set it to seven after following me for a few laps. Seven clicks is where I was happiest, but in general I’d like a stiffer shock. This was especially evident in corners with significant elevation changes, and AMP has several of those.

The suspension is like a mullet – better in the front than it is in the back.

3.) Also upgraded are the stoppers. The front wheel is slowed down by a 16mm Brembo radial master cylinder with radial ADVICS calipers (30mm + 27mm) biting on 298mm rotors. Yamaha notes that this is the first use of a radial Brembo master cylinder on one of their production bikes.

In the rear, another Brembo master cylinder is paired with a Nissin rear caliper. ABS is standard and it cannot be turned off unless you want to get cute with fuses. In general I thought the brakes were good enough but stainless steel lines would be a worthwhile upgrade, particularly for track riders.

Track riders will also end up doing what Yamaha did for us at the launch: swapping out the stock hoops (Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport S22s, 120/70-R17 front and 180/55-R17 rear) for Bridgestone Battlax Racing R11s.

Also different from the MT-07 is final drive gearing of 42/16 (vs. 43/16 with the same chain length)

4.) One of the biggest changes from the MT is the riding position, which features clipon handlebars, deep cutouts in the tank for your knees, and the aforementioned taller seat to provide the supersport experience. The clipons rest in-between a new cast top triple clamp and forged lower triple clamp, and the grips are just a few millimeters up and in from the R6. Yamaha calls it an “aggressive riding position with consideration to comfort,” and I found it to be absolutely fantastic on the track. As a reminder, I’m 6’2″/195 pounds and I was much more comfortable than I thought I’d be.

I thought I would be cramped, but I felt great all day.

5.) The R7 gets what appears to be a much improved gauge cluster with a larger screen and additional information such as a gear position indicator to complement the usual features and the fuel gauge that the MT-07 has. But I found it very hard to see while on the track – it was more effective as a mirror than a dashboard.

It looks good in promotional materials with perfect lighting…

…but it’s very hard to see in the real world, doing 116 mph leading into the main straight.

6.) The drivetrain is relatively untouched compared to the MT-07, however the R7 gets an assist and slipper clutch – the first A&S clutch for any of Yamaha’s CP2-powered machines (MT-07, XSR700, Tenere 700, Tracer 700). It’s claimed to reduce the required effort by 20% and I found I could easily operate the clutch lever with one finger, though I prefer to use two by habit anyway.

I asked if the clutch could be retrofitted to other CP2 engines if someone wants the upgrade and I was told it would be “likely” but wasn’t able to get full confirmation in time for this review.

7.) Lastly, the ECU is now pre-programmed for an optional quickshifter (up only) that costs $199.99. The first thing to note is that the quickshifter won’t work if you switch to a GP shift pattern, which is something I desperately wanted at Atlanta Motorsports Park because there’s one long left-handed sweeper that required me to stand the bike up a bit twice to get enough room for my boot to get under the shifter. The second thing to note is that the quickshifter is rather abrupt, and it’s one of the clunkiest units I remember using in years. Maybe it hadn’t broken in yet, but I wasn’t particularly happy with it and I wouldn’t be excited about handing over two Benjamins for the feature. The good news is that I only had one instance of a 2-3 upshift bouncing back, so while the feel wasn’t great, the mechanical efficiency was solid.

7 wasn’t enough.) I might be the only person who cares about this, but the horn button on the MT-07 (as well as the MT-03 and R3) is in a stupid place – above the turn signal switch and well to the right, which is different than almost every other motorcycle out there. I think it’s dangerous and I hate it – which means that I love that the horn button on the R7 is in the correct place, underneath the turn signal switch. I never used the horn once all day seeing as I was on the track but I still want to point this out as a good decision. Thank you, Yamaha.

Smaller changes include a new shape for the upper radiator to clear the upside down front forks, revised cooling fan cover to specifically draw out of the side fairing vent, and a smaller battery which saves 2.4 pounds. I tried to give you little notes on each individual change, but overall I was quite impressed with how it all came together on the 2 miles and 16 corners of Atlanta Motorsports Park.

Track Time

When I got off the 2017 Yamaha R6 after a day at the track, my first thought was “this bike is better than I am.” My skills have definitely gone up since then (thanks, California Superbike School), but I felt pretty well-matched with the 2022 Yamaha R7. Normally when I’m on a new bike with a new track it takes me a session or two to get comfortable with both. I felt at home on the R7 within two laps, which meant I was able to learn the course layout much faster than usual.

Nothing like a new bike at a new (to me) track!

The above changes to the frame, suspension, and brakes all come together quite well to make the R7 a genuinely fun track toy. What makes it stand out to me is the combination of a 414 pound curb weight, narrow chassis/bodywork (it’s skinnier than a R3), and the huge improvement in suspension compared to the MT-07. This made quick transitions easy, both at low speeds (Turn 12 to Turn 13 is a sharp right hander up a 25 foot hill with a blind crest into a loooooong left, and you only get good exit speeds if you flipping all of the bike’s weight from right to left early) and high speeds (Turn 15 to Turn 16 has you switching from left to right at over 100 mph with an elevation change as well). These would be physically demanding transitions on bigger bikes but the R7 requires minimal effort to tip-in and mid-corner behavior is neutral so it was easy to make adjustments if I wasn’t happy with my initial line or if I was negotiating Turn 4, which I treated as a double apex.

In other words, I got lots of riding time at a fast (for me) pace and I felt much less tired than usual at the end of the day/sore the following day compared to my recent track experiences with a BMW S1000RR at Streets of Willow and an Aprilia RSV4 at Laguna Seca.

We had to refill the 3.4 gallon fuel tank in the afternoon.

I also can’t overstate how much better the suspension is compared to the MT-07. As noted above, I could probably use a slightly stiffer spring in the shock but I didn’t experience the usual wallowing I feel on the MT even with much higher cornering speeds. The R7 made me feel secure and let me know what the tires were doing, which is important when getting a tiny bit of slide out of the rear tire (which is I almost never do) and don’t have electronic nannies like traction control to save me if I make a mistake. I was less impressed with the brakes – the front setup is strong and I liked the feel in the lever, but the rear pedal was a little sloppy and when I intentionally got too heavy with my foot I felt that the rear ABS was a little slow to cycle, especially considering the excellent weather and quality of the pavement.

I’ve gushed about Yamaha’s CP2 engine for years because the drivetrain has been fantastic from the day it debuted and it’s been absurdly reliable. It’s a 689cc parallel-twin engine paired with a six-speed transmission, and it’s also currently found (with slight variations) in the MT-07, Tenere 700, Tracer 700, and XSR700. The crossplane crank ensures it sounds much better than the typical parallel twin and it gives it a rowdy nature that no other engine in the class has been able to match. What elevates it from great to excellent is the sublime throttle feel from the non-ride-by-wire system, and that was especially noticeable on the track. The fueling on the R7 is spot-on, giving you complete control over 72.4 horsepower (@ 8,750 rpm) and 49.4 lb-ft of torque (@ 6,500 rpm). Atlanta Motorsports Park is perfect for the new R7 as the straightaways aren’t terribly long, so you get all the perks of a nimble bike and don’t have to suffer too much because of the relative lack of power compared to the usual 600cc supersports.

The emphasis is definitely with low-down torque over top-end power, so in corners that required me to choose between short-shifting or winding the motor out to redline I was faster when going with the former. The good news is that the torquey twin will make the R7 much easier to live with on the street (where Yamaha estimates riders of this model will be spending 95% of their time) than the R6. The bad news is that the R7 is the first CP2-powered bike where I found myself wanting more power. It’s one thing on the street, but while on track I kept thinking that the chassis could easily handle another 20-30 horsepower and that this bike would be simply stunning with 95 hp. I realize it doesn’t make financial sense for Yamaha to extract that kind of power from the current engine and that if they did the cost of the bike would significantly increase (which defeats the point of the R7 being approachable), but I couldn’t shake the thought. I just had to keep reminding myself that the R7 only costs $8,999, and that makes it a wonderful sport bike for the price.

A Yamaha R9 with the 117 horsepower/69 lb-ft CP3 engine sounds mighty tempting. Maybe next year?

Once you spend that coin, Yamaha’s got a few extras they wouldn’t mind selling you, either.

Accessories

In addition to the aforementioned $199 GYTR quickshifter, Yamaha is offering the following factory accessories:
GYTR frame sliders ($209.99)
GYTR radiator guard ($99.99)
Fender eliminator ($179.99)
Sprint screen ($94.99)
Rear seat cowl ($159.99)

If I was picking one of these up for track duty, I’d snag the frame sliders but omit the quickshifter and just go with a GP shift pattern. If I was commuting with it and doing the occasional track day, I’d likely stick with the normal shift pattern and get the quickshifter, reluctantly. I wasn’t impressed with it but $200 seems like a reasonable price for the upgrade. Either way, I’d also buy the rear seat cowl because that makes every bike look better.

Photo from Yamaha.

Competition

I started this review with a reference to the Aprilia RS 660, and that’s arguably the closest competitor to this new Yamaha. But the Aprilia is a sporty street bike that will set you back $11,299 and the R7 is what Yamaha is calling an “attainable, race-replica supersport” that costs $2,300 less. Honda’s CBR650R could also be cross-shopped but it’s also a sporty streetbike. I’d argue the R7 sits in a class of one when it comes to pairing supersport ergos with a mid-sized parallel-twin motor. Why is that? Sometimes you have no competition because you’re able to create something that no one else can match, but sometimes you have no competition because no one else thought the product was worth making.

I really appreciate when companies get into their marketing thoughts at press launches, so Aaron Bast (Yamaha’s Street Motorcycle Senior Product Planner) gets some kudos from me for sharing Yamaha’s thoughts on used 600cc supersport buyers: typically 19-29 years old with 5 or fewer years of riding experience, with a further breakdown of 87% male, 95% street usage (but riding aggressively), and an annual income of $50,000. That last number is key because it illustrates why a new R6 was unattainable for a lot of buyers and why the $8,999 price point of the R7 is appealing. Aaron’s glad to remind anyone (like me) who wants another 20 horsepower or some fancy feature out of the R7 that Yamaha easily could have made “an aluminum-framed, IMU-equipped middleweight supersport but that would have been another $12k-$13k motorcycle” and again, that defeats the purpose.

In the end, the closest competitor to the new R7 for people who want to do this might be a used R6…but I don’t like comparing new bikes to used bikes as part of a First Ride Review.

Seeing as Yamaha recently announced that they were killing the R6, I know there will be some yet-to-be-informed buyers who think that the R7 is a replacement: 7 is better than 6, right? Hell, there were even some publications that basically made the claim. But that’s only a timing-based coincidence – the R7 was originally designed to be sold alongside the R6 and it was built to do something very different for Yamaha. Team Blue feels that supersport pricing has become a problem, and as an affordable option the R7 is part of the solution which will maintain and even grow the supersport market as it hopefully brings new riders in.

One thing to note – despite the low price, the R7 is made in Japan.

Yamaha facilitates that better than most OEMs as they will have the R7 available at most consumer shows as well as dealer demonstrations on the street and track, plus you’ll be able to use it at future classes with Yamaha Champions Riding School.

Conclusion

I had an incredible day on the R7, and I think it’s an excellent bike for the price. But was the target market actually asking for a ~75 hp parallel-twin supersport, or is Yamaha falling into the Field of Dreams trap because they already had the CP2 motor laying around – “build it and they will come“? So far, it’s looking good: Yamaha opened up pre-orders the day I was at the launch (Tuesday, May 18th) and they sold out within hours (but I haven’t been able to figure out how many bikes were available so who knows what that really means).

I had two questions going into my day with the R7. The first one was easy to answer – was the bike good, particularly on a track? Yes, and it was way better than I was expecting considering the MT-07 starting point. The second question is what I still struggle with a week after the launch – who’s it for? I know that Yamaha painted a picture for us but when I think of the people I know who bought 600cc supersports, they did so to go fast. I’m still on the fence about if they’re willing to take the horsepower hit, but I hope they do because I think the R7 is a great offering for Yamaha and for the sportbike market at large if it can get more people buying new bikes – if Yamaha’s market research is correct and a significant percentage of these riders are rarely getting into the second half of the tach, then they may even think the R7 is faster because they’ll actually be able to accelerate with some torque.

I only got to ride the bike on the track, but most R7 buyers will be doing their tucks on the street.

For me personally, the R7 is a fun motorcycle that’s 20 horsepower shy of being glorious. For a younger, less experienced rider (or just someone who prioritizes handling over speed), it might be exactly what Yamaha is hoping for. And for what it’s worth, at the launch I was sharing the track with a Pikes Peak Champion, MotoAmerica racers, and Josh Hayes, and they all proved that the R7 is capable of going faster than I am – so who am I to complain about a few ponies? Either way, I’m excited about what the future holds for this model. Hopefully you’ll start seeing it in Twins Cup racing and at your local track days in addition to on the street!

This is where I want your thoughts in the comments: am I overreacting about the 75 hp – is that enough for you with a bike like this? Would you buy one? I’d love any and all feedback about what readers are thinking when it comes to the new R7 as we attempt to predict how successful it will be! Thanks for reading.

Check out the 2022 Yamaha YZF-R7!

P.S. If you’re still hung up on the original R7 name, we can sell you one of those over at Iconic Motorbikes in street trim (email me) or race trim!

Our ex-BSB Yamaha R7. Jamie Robinson approves…because it’s his old race bike!


Helmet: Shoei X-Fourteen in Matte Black – $742.99
Helmet Design: custom design by Velocity Tape – $140
Suit: Spidi Race Warrior – $1,199
Gloves: Spidi Carbo 4 (no longer available, replaced by Carbo 7 – $179)
Boots: Sidi Mag-1 Air – $495
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