We traveled to Marbella, Spain to commemorate the rebranding of the Yamaha FZ-07 as the MT-07, though Mother Nature did her best to dampen the celebration.Despite the rainy conditions that made full testing of the new 2018 Yamaha MT-07 impossible, we did enjoy about an hour of spirited riding through the mountains of Andalucía before the heavens opened up on us.
Following are the fast facts from our 2018 Yamaha MT-07 First Ride Review.1. Yamaha’s 689cc naked sport bike embraces the world and takes on the MT-07 moniker in America. For 2018, the American-only FZ line gets rebranded with the model name being used in the rest of the world. Tapping into the ever-expanding knows-no-borders social media and Internet community, Yamaha’s goal is to connect MT riders worldwide to share their experiences.2. The Dark Side of Japan, as Yamaha calls the new MT line, brings styling updates to the MT-07. To underscore the edgier/rowdy side of the MT-07’s personality, Yamaha has given the MT-07 a darker look, blacking out the handlebars, radiator, footpeg brackets, and other bits on the bike. The headlight, taillight, air intake ducts, and tank cover have all been redesigned, with more aggressive lines that reference the MT-10 and MT-09, also part of Yamaha’s new Hyper Naked line.3. Incremental changes in positioning and design produce a 30 percent larger seat and passenger pillion for 2018. The seat now wraps down around the tank where one’s thighs grip the tank, providing just that much more of a grippable connection to the MT-07. The seat is also marginally longer in the back, with an unbroken connection to the slightly larger passenger pillion. The MT-07 seating is definitely more comfortable than the FZ’s.4. The 2018 MT-07 has revised suspension settings, in addition to a new shock with rebound damping adjustability. Although the suspension on last year’s FZ-07 was well balanced, it was on the soft side. For 2018 the MT-07’s KYB fork gets a higher spring rate and more rebound damping, while the KYB shock also gets a higher spring rate setting, and the high-speed rebound and compression damping is increased. One doesn’t need to understand the physics to appreciate the firmer handling when riding more aggressively, though its likely novice riders will not notice these changes.5. Although I didn’t get nearly enough time in the dry twisties, the MT-07 retains the FZ-07s neutral handling. Not as aggressive as the Kawasaki Z650 or as stately as the Suzuki SV650, the MT-07 has an intuitive feel. This is enhanced by the firmer suspension, and its natural handling served me well in treacherous conditions—both mixed and fully wet. In town in the dry, it’s a great, fun ride.6. The Bridgestone Battlax BT-023 Sport Touring tires worked in the dry and wet. I didn’t have much time to push them hard in the dry(ish) conditions and testing the wet limits didn’t seem like a good idea on unfamiliar roads. Still, they felt good underneath me. Feel free to upgrade if you’re a hard-core sport rider. Also, half of the MT-07s will be delivered with Michelin Pilot Road 4 rubber.7. A compact design, reasonable seat height, and low-curb weight make the 2018 Yamaha MT-07 an easy bike to handle. Without being ‘small,’ the MT-07’s ergonomics fit the average sized rider. The 31.7-inch saddle keeps the bike accessible, and the 403-pound curb weight is nicely manageable.8. The Master of Torque delivers—the 2018 MT-07 dishes out torque any which way you want it. The parallel twin is in the 650 class, with the advantage of a bit more displacement. It has plenty of low-end and mid range torque, served up with a V-twin twist, courtesy of the uneven firing order of its 270-degree firing order and crossplane crankshaft. That low-end torque provides a welcoming environment for novice riders to hone their skills. With a healthy twist of the throttle, the willing engine will happily pull strongly almost all the way to its 10k redline, keeping experienced riders engaged. Torque peaks at just 6500 rpm, so over-revving isn’t really necessary.9. The clutch pull is a bit of a reach. While the pull is not heavy, a stock adjustable lever would seem obvious on a bike targeted to newer riders (and women). I wear women’s large gloves—about men’s medium—so I don’t have especially small hands. Yamaha Genuine Accessories offers a couple of fairly pricey solutions—adjustable aluminum clutch levers from Gilles Tooling ($186) and ASV Inventions ($134).10. The MT-07’s brakes perfectly match the bike’s intended audience. The front lever has the softer initial response you want for novice hands, and the linear response engages confidently the harder you pull. There is enough stopping action in the 282mm twin front discs for the more experienced rider taking advantage of the bike’s ready-to-party, feisty side, and if you’re feeling you’ve reached the MT-07’s limits, it’s time to graduate up to the MT-09.11. The new MT-07 comes stock with ABS. You no longer have to shell out additional dollars for the ABS option, so you can put that money toward some MT-07 bling—there are plenty of Genuine Yamaha Accessories to add. We’ve always been fans of ABS, so we approve of this decision, especially on a bike targeted to novice and intermediate riders. I was glad to have ABS in the rain and could feel the reassuring pulse when slowing down.12. There are three liveries to choose from when selecting a 2018 Yamaha MT-07—Matte Gray, Intensity White, and Team Yamaha Blue. The aggressive palette of the Matte Gray and Hi-Viz wheels is a personal favorite—it reminds me of last year’s FZ-10, which I loved. However, it’s hard to argue against Team Yamaha Blue with matching blue wheels. Both color combinations embrace the darker persona that Yamaha has cast for the MT-07. The Intensity White has a bit of a retro-sport feel—there’s a 1979 Yamaha RD400F Daytona Special vibe going.13. Yamaha Motor Corporation, USA’s best-selling motorcycle in 2017 continues to be a great value in 2018 with an MSRP of $7599. The bike makes an excellent commuter with a claimed 58 mpg, and easily covers weekend fun-bike duties.
This week we ride two genre-departing motorcycles from the established American manufacturers. Jess McKinley gives us his thoughts on the all new Harley-Davidson Pan America Special, and Ron Lieback gives his on Indian’s latest version of the FTR 1200 S.