Before you start peppering me with hate mail about how on earth a Yamaha R7 could possibly be the best Sportbike, let’s remember what our MOBOs are about in the first place. It’s not strictly about performance. If that were the case, then clearly the Yamaha would be pretty far down the totem pole. How the machine works is a factor, sure, but it’s also about a motorcycle’s significance in the greater overall context of its category and motorcycling in general. Considered in this context, the R7 should start to make a little more sense.
I get it. You’re upset. How could Yamaha possibly perform something as sacrilegious as this? The name YZF-R7 belongs to one of the most iconic motorcycles in Yamaha’s history. A 750cc screaming inline-Four that was basically purpose-built for racing, with looks that have stood the test of time, the original R7 is a legend. To put it on this – on this – is simply unforgivable.
Earlier this month, we uncovered proof that Yamaha was planning a new YZF-R7 model for 2022. The new R7 was certified with the California Air Resources Board with a 689cc engine, likely the same CP2 engine powering the MT-07, leading to some debate whether a new Twin-cylinder bike would be worthy of the YZF-R7 name, or even as as a potential replacement for the now discontinued R6. The news also led some to wonder whether an R9 is in the works, using the MT-09‘s 890cc Triple.
Yamaha has been granted a 2022 CARB certification for one its most iconic model names: the YZF-R7. We know this because Motorcycle.com‘s very own Dennis Chung stares at CARB filings like other people stare at artwork. For anyone who has followed Yamaha’s sportbike history, the R7 holds legendary status as the ultra-rare, 750cc four-cylinder the company used to go Superbike racing with names like Haga, Gobert, and many others. Hearing of the model name’s revival, then, is understandably exciting.
Old soldiers might just fade away, but what happens to old race bikes? Basically the same thing. Though a few GP bikes still get destroyed to keep engineering secrets secret, most old race bikes, or many of them anyway, get bought up by guys with more money than they really need, to park in the den. Others get bought up by type-A riders who want the ultimate trackday weapon (but the joke is shortly on them, since the life expectancy of any competitive advantage is, well, it’s short). And some get bought up by collectors, possibly with the hope that today’s deeply discounted last-year’s greatest thing might someday be the next Crocker or Brough Superior or even gray-market RZV500R.
It’s been a couple years since we posted our Top 10 Honda Sportbikes list. There always exists subjectivity in such a list, but since the Honda topic was generally well-received, revisiting the idea, this time showcasing Yamaha sportbikes, seemed apropos. Like the Honda list, we’re keeping this one limited to street-legal models available stateside (except one, sue us).