Don’t be confused by the new appellation: The MT-07 is the same Yamaha FZ-07 that’s won every MO middleweight mashup we’ve thrown it in since it was new in 2014, beating up on all sorts of bikes since then, including the KTM Duke 690, all Suzuki SV650 variants, various Kawasaki 650 mutations, Hondas of diverse specification, the H-D Street Rod, et al.
It would’ve done the same thing again this year, but there are no new challengers, so it’s been mostly sitting in the garage champing at the bit. Anytime anybody hops on it, though, they’re immediately reminded what a great little motorcycle the MT is. Little in terms of weight, at just 403 pounds wet. Big, really, in most other aspects of performance: 68.2 horsepower is plenty to get the job done, but the MT’s real talent lies in its midrange torque production – 47 pound-feet of twisting force at just 6500 rpm, courtesy of its 689cc parallel Twin. That motor’s texture is just as fine as its power production, thanks to its 90-degree offset crankpins making it sound and feel like a 90-degree V-Twin but without the bulk. Power delivery is spot-on, your six-speed gearbox and light clutch work as they should, triple disc brakes (now with standard ABS) are standing by, and you get real big-boy rubber including a 180/55-17 rear Michelin Pilot Road 4.
Nothing was wrong with the suspension according to most riders, but Yamaha fixed it anyway for 2018 and the transition to MT, giving the bike revised settings both front and rear. In addition to rear spring preload adjustment, the rear shock is now rebound-adjustable. It was already a great, quick-handling bike. Now it’s even more stuck to the road and controllable – and if anything the MT feels even more compliant and protective of your delicate underpinnings as it chaperones you on your mundane daily rounds over imperfect pavement. Maybe that’s down to its new seat, which Yamaha tells us is now serving up 30% more surface area for increased comfort.
Ergonomics remain right in the wheelhouse for most reasonably-sized hominids, with just enough lean into the (steel) handlebar to offset air pressure at a nice, smooth 80-mph cruise, and footpegs right where they belong for the best compromise between comfort and excellent cornering clearance when working out the Mr. Hyde side of the MT’s personality on twisty pavement.
Basically, we’re back again to that age-old question: Whatever happened to the simple little inexpensive high-performance motorcycles of my youth? Well sir, this one’s staring you right in the face. There has been a bit of price creep; we’re now up to $7,599 (that includes ABS), which is probably right there with an ’84 RZ350. OK, it’s not: $2,399 in 1984 would be $5,809 today. Oh well. Let’s not get into politics.
I really like the post-industrial dressed-chicken open-book look of the thing, but plenty of other people (read: millennials) prefer the MT’s sister ship XSR700, which Yamaha lists in its “Sport Heritage” section instead of “Hyper Naked.” The XSR uses all the main building blocks of the MT, but Yamaha wants $8,499 for that one – so the MT is, at least, a relative bargain. Hyper Naked seems a bit over-dramatic. It’s more “Soothing Naked” really. You don’t have to rev the pants off the Twin to dial up good speed, and it’s such a tactile engine you don’t really need the tachometer, either. Like all great vehicles, you just find yourself whistling along without much effort or drama.
Sadly, what with all the lightweight sportbikes, lightweight ADV bikes, big touring bikes and other things taking up most of our time these last few months, we didn’t put a ton of miles on the MT, but of course, she never failed to turn over instantly and happily perform whatever mission was asked of her without complaint. The onboard computer says we’re usually getting 43 mpg, but working it out is actually closer to 50. There’s little else to do but change the oil now and then, lube the chain maybe, check tire pressures… since the valves don’t need looking at until 26,000 miles.
How’s that old saying go? Happy bike, happy life? The littlest MT is a keeper. All that’s left now is to see if it will keep being one when the new KTM 790 Duke gets here. But that bike will match up pricewise closer to the $8,999 MT-09 in all probability. So for now, the 07 looks set to retain its middleweight crown indefinitely. It really couldn’t happen to a nicer little motorcycle.