There’s something about inexpensive twin-cylinder middleweight naked bikes like the Yamaha MT-07 (and former FZ-07) that appeals to us. Their simplicity and practicality, combined with their spirited riding attributes make them hard not to love. Clearly, the riding public feels the same, as other manufacturers are starting to get in on the action, making the choices in this category bigger and bigger. Through it all, the MT-07 has been a mainstay since its introduction in 2015.
In fact, since its introduction, Yamaha has sold more than 25,000 FZ/MT-07s, proving just how popular the bike is. Looking deeper into the rider demographics, Yamaha revealed a nearly identical percentage of owners spanning different age groups ranging from 25-55, with most owners in their early 30s, but only by a few percentage points.
The same even split can be found in the riding experience of the various owners, with a nearly identical percentage of owners reporting less than five years of riding experience as those with over 20 years of riding under their belt.
With such a vast field of owners, Yamaha clearly understands that it has a popular model in its hands. However, looming Euro 5 regulations are forcing every manufacturer to update their models to suit. Yamaha’s response with the MT-07? KISS – or Keep It Simple, Stupid.
In this sense, the newly updated 2021 Yamaha MT-07 is very much the same bike we’ve come to know and love for all these years. The same basic chassis remains unchanged, and in fact, most of the motorcycle will be fairly familiar to many. From a visual standpoint, the 07’s styling has now been revamped – including the wasp-like LED headlight – to more closely match the MT-09. To that end, full LED lighting is now found throughout the MT-07. Say goodbye to the bulky orange pumpkin turn signals!
Inside the engine bay, the same 689cc CP2 parallel-Twin with uneven firing order remains, but with subtle changes. There’s a revised air intake duct design and optimized fuel-injection settings, as well as a new 2-into-1 exhaust with the collector routed much closer to the exhaust port for more efficient expelling and burning of the spent gasses. This is topped with a new ECU. Inside the engine you’ll find new valve seats on the exhaust side and different cut angles for the dog gears in the transmission. The former helps with engine reliability while the latter improves shift feel.
The result, says Yamaha, is more linear engine response and a smoother torque curve. For those also concerned with the vanity of their engines, the 2021 engine also features new Crystal Graphite engine covers as well as a new silver-colored exhaust pipe and new muffler and exhaust protectors.
Power always gets the attention when it comes to almost any vehicle, but when it actually comes time to ride, it’s usually the brakes you’ll appreciate most – cuz, you know, you gotta stop eventually. For 2021, Yamaha ditched the 282mm wave-type rotors in favor of 298mm discs in the usual round shape. Calipers are still axial-mounted, but it’s not like this bike has ever needed the radial-type. Some might call that a cost-saving measure, but then again, a very affordable price point has been the name of the game with the MT-07 since the beginning. ABS comes standard on the MT-07, again a result of mandatory regulations in Europe.
When the rubber meets the road, as they say, those duties will be handled by new Michelin Road 5 tires, replacing the Bridgestone rubber used before.
A change riders will likely notice is the new, 32mm-wider handlebar. They’re also a little bit higher, too. Yamaha says this comes as the result of “numerous evaluations of clay models and many test rides using riders with different physiques.”
Lastly, we see a change in the LCD meter, with larger readings and the ability to access the display via buttons on the left bar instead of pushing the dash itself.
Make no mistake – from a manufacturer’s perspective, those changes are fairly significant. The cost, R&D, and all the other factors that come into making any change on the production line are taken seriously. However, from where we’re sitting, the results are rather minor. This is a good thing, though, because the MT-07 is a bike we’ve loved from the start, so keeping its character the same is actually the goal.
You can’t help but be lured by the 07’s inviting nature. The lack of bodywork and unassuming stance is a large reason why the bike has sold so well among young and/or inexperienced riders. But even someone like me, an old jaded hack, can treat the MT like a play bike. The 31.7-inch seat height isn’t hard to throw a leg over, and the slim midsection of the bike makes it easy to put my feet on the ground. Or at least the balls of them.
Even simply sitting on it, the fit and finish is nice for a budget-minded motorcycle. No panels are out of place, no wiring is sticking out, and all the touch points solid and secure. There’s nothing flimsy about it. Of course, these are things we’ve come to expect from the established Japanese brands.
Turn the key and thumb the starter and you might keep your thumb pressed for too long. The engine is so quiet at idle you can carry a casual conversation. In fact, as I pulled up alongside boss-man Brasfield on his slip-on-equipped 790 Duke, his twin cylinders completely drowned out the meager purrs coming from the little Yamaha.
Pay no mind to the sound of other bikes around you, and the riding experience is nice and pleasant from the MT. Clutch pull is light, the gears shift into place with firmness, and the clutch engagement point is perfectly placed (and not too grabby) to modulate clutch release as you apply the gas.
The 689cc CP2 engine still sounds nice despite its quiet exhaust, with an equally cool induction noise when you open the throttle. Obviously, that sound is met with some pickup, and the healthy torque the engine makes gets the bike moving along with ease. Power delivery is smooth as ever, though I did notice a little drop-off in power high in the revs. A screamer this engine isn’t, so it’s best to keep it in the midrange and stay in the sweet spot.
Moving along through the city, the new bars keep you upright and give a commanding view of the road ahead. Despite the wider width, the MT-07 is still a very narrow and slim motorcycle, so slicing through traffic and filtering between cars was never an issue.
Hop onto the freeway and there’s no problem getting up to speed quickly. The traditional 41mm fork and single shock are damped nice and soft to give a comfortable ride, though I did notice the rear gives a stiff initial jolt over medium-sized bumps in the road. Those with a little more heft may not even notice. However, the biggest downside of the new bar position – at least for my 5-foot, 8-inch frame – is it turns my chest into a sail by 80 mph. The lack of any wind protection doesn’t help either and I’m forced to scoot back and tuck my head down to get any relief. Yeah, I know that’s the price you pay for riding a motorcycle without a fairing, but other naked bikes are still able to either shield the rider and/or place them in a slightly better position to cut through the wind.
The surprising thing? Once I cut the speed down a few mph, the sail effect was dramatically reduced.
Wider bars mean more leverage to bend the bike to your will. At a claimed 406 lbs fully fueled, it’s not like the MT-07 is a heavy motorcycle, but the little extra width was nice to have when bending into corners. Despite its soft suspension, it tracks through corners just fine assuming the road itself isn’t too beat up. If it is, then things get a little more hectic as the suspension and flexible chassis start protesting. The name of the game with the MT-07 is to stay smooth and flowing. Ironically, wider bars tend to encourage manhandling of a motorcycle, but in this case it’s better not to.
Stopping power has never been a huge issue with the MT, but the bigger discs up front definitely scrub off speed nicely for such a budget setup. The initial bite isn’t overwhelming (which is good considering the soft suspension), and once you get past that stage, things slow down with good feel and control. The adjustable brake lever is a nice touch (the clutch is non-adjustable), and ABS has your back if the conditions turn south.
Like we said at the top of this review, the MT-07 has been a perennial favorite here at MO for its easy-going nature, character-laden ride qualities, and, of course, its price. With this latest version, none of the magic is gone and the price has remained very reasonable – it has to if it wants to compete with the growing number of competitors in this field.
What’ll it cost, you ask? Retail price is $7699, and it’s available in three colors: Storm Fluo (seen in these pics), Matte Raven Black, and Team Yamaha Blue. If you have your eyes set on a MT-07 then you really can’t go wrong. However, as we’ve been alluding to, the competition is stiff in this field. Which means it’s time to get the players together and see how they stack up. Stay tuned for another MO Mega Test!
|2021 Yamaha MT-07 Specifications|
|Engine Type||689cc liquid-cooled, DOHC, 4-stroke, 4-valves per cylinder|
|Bore and Stroke||80.0mm x 68.6mm|
|Transmission||6-speed; wet multiplate clutch|
|Front Suspension||41mm telescopic fork; 5.1-in travel|
|Rear Suspension||Single shock, adjustable preload and rebound damping; 5.1-in travel|
|Front Brake||Dual 298mm hydraulic disc; ABS|
|Rear Brake||245mm hydraulic disc; ABS|
|Seat Height||31.7 in.|
|Curb Weight (Measured)||406 lbs. (claimed)|
|Fuel Capacity||3.7 gal.|
|Colors||Storm Fluo, Matte Raven Black, Team Yamaha Blue|