As the rain made its way between my mismatched waterproof motorcycle gear and we climbed in elevation through southern Spain’s pristine backroads, I thought to myself, there still isn’t anywhere I would rather be at this moment than atop the 2018 Yamaha MT-07 in the Spanish countryside.
You see, it might seem like this is the best job in the world to a motorcycle enthusiast, which I can assure you… is absolutely true. BUT! That doesn’t mean that it isn’t sometimes a grueling affair. We had traveled across the world to ride the MT-07 and were the last wave of journalists from all over the world to do so. It would just so happen that our four groups of journos would also be the only ones putting up with the torrential downpour that would intrude shortly into our ride day.
More than a week earlier Yamaha’s media relations manager had informed us of the likelihood of rain, which meant we were able to plan ahead and make our gear selections accordingly. Flash forward to the technical presentation the night before our ride, we were this time guaranteed of the rain – which had held off that entire day. After dinner, Yamaha’s Gerrad Capley and I discussed how we would rather continue through the entire route, even through the rain, than to have it cut short. I won’t speak for Gerrad, but my tune may have changed halfway through our ride day. For now, let’s take a look at what I learned from the technical presentation of the 2018 Yamaha MT-07.
The Statistical Breakdown
The motorcycle formerly known as FZ-07, the MT-07, has sold in substantial numbers across the globe and is the number one selling motorcycle for Yamaha USA as well as in Europe. We also saw graphical data illustrating motorcycle sales in the U.S. which have been fairly flat since 2012 with a slight increase leading up to 2015 and a slight decrease moving on into 2017. Within those sales numbers, a line graph revealed what has happened with the “Hypernaked” category, as Yamaha calls it (naked sportbikes), and therein lies optimism. According to Yamaha, the Hypernaked category, which in these statistics include all manufacturers, is up by a staggering 260% since 2012. As supersport sales have decreased, we see these more versatile machines rise in popularity.
Being that the FZ-07 was Yamaha’s best selling motorcycle, the company knew it would need to refresh the model with certain attributes to keep customers coming back. So, what is new for 2018?
What’s in a name?
An FZ-07 by any other name would ride just as well. Many of you are probably aware that the naming convention outside of the U.S. market has been MT-07 since the model’s introduction. As is the same for the MT-09 and MT-10 models.
Yamaha has decided that in this global community that we now live in, standardizing the model name around the world is the way to go moving into 2018. Specifically mentioned, was social media. Now, #MT07 will allow riders all around the world to celebrate their motorcycles globally.
While speaking to our Yamaha U.S. reps, they did mention they would have preferred the name change with the introduction of the FZ-09, but they are happy to see the standardization across the markets.
MT Family Styling
The 2018 Yamaha MT-07 boasts what Yamaha calls, 2nd generation MT design characteristics. Many of the outer plastic panels and covers have been slightly tweaked to offer a fresher and sleeker style. Although, at first glance, the styling changes are minimal, they do help to create a sharp, muscular looking motorcycle.
Perhaps more importantly to some, the seat has also been revised while staying at the same 31.7-inch seat height. The new seat offers more length and width, giving riders and passengers more space to move around.
Three colors will be available for 2018: Matte Gray, Intensity White, and Team Yamaha Blue – all coming in at an MSRP of $7,599 and all with standard ABS. This is an increase of $100 over last year’s ABS model. However, all colors now come standard with it rather than being relegated to one colorway.
Addressing the elephant in the suspension
Yamaha has listened to the complaints many had about the FZ-07’s soft suspension – both front and rear – and made some revisions for the 2018 model year.
While the fork is the same 41mm KYB unit used previously, it now has a stiffer spring, said to provide a 6% increase in spring rate, and revised valving resulting in a 16% increase in rebound damping force. Travel is also the same as the previous model at 5.1-inches. While this is a welcome addition, the fork still does not offer adjustability for those looking to tweak the stock settings.
The KYB rear shock which previously only offered preload adjustment, now offers rebound damping adjustment as well. Yamaha says the there has been an 11% increase in spring rate, a 27% increase in high-speed rebound damping, and a 40% increase in high-speed compression damping. As with the front, travel remains the same at 5.1-inches.
What we already knew
The engine remains the unchanged 270-degree, 689cc, fun-loving, DOHC parallel-twin, getting some of its personality from an uneven firing interval. Mileage is rated at 58 mpg. Our last dyno of the 2015 model produced 67.1 hp at 8,900 rpm and 46.7 lb-ft of torque at 6,500 rpm. The torquey engine makes this motorcycle a blast to ride around town. I do feel that the fun peters off too quickly as you climb through the rev-range, but the motor is still a lot of fun in the low- to mid-range.
Aside from the suspension, the chassis is unchanged from the previous model and uses a high tensile steel frame with variable wall thickness throughout. The engine also functions as a stressed member in the chassis. Just as before, the motorcycle boasts wonderfully light handling. The low MSRP and ease of use have made the MT-07 the Yamaha of choice around the globe.
Other specifications which are included in the spec chart below are exactly the same as the previous model.
But what’s it like to ride?!
The morning we set out on our ride, the sky was what one might call, dramatic. It was beautiful against the landscape of southern Spain, yet the nimbus build-up above was portending the rain to come. As we made our way out of town, I lost the front riding through the first roundabout – in the dry. While I recovered without issue, I wondered what this meant for the ride ahead. A precursor or, dare I say, an omen?
We had a brief section of fantastic twists and turns before our mid-morning coffee stop. The light handling and torquey nature of the MT-07 are a lot of fun on tight roads. You can be assured we were all more interested in riding than coffee, wanting to take advantage of the lack of rain. After being at the coffee shop for a surprisingly long time, I was told that a rider in a group ahead of us had gone down. Rider okay. More waiting…
We finally hit the road and for a few more corners, all was well with the world. Then it started raining. Before we made it to our first (and what would be our only) photo stop, we pulled to the side of the road as half of our group hadn’t been seen in an unusual amount of time. One of the Yamaha staff cruised back to check into the delay only to return with bad news, one of our group had a low-speed lowside going into a turn. Again, rider okay.
Thankfully, there would only be two mishaps the entire time and we were able to persevere through the rest of the day as the weather became exponentially worse.
At one point, I was the third person in line, and I couldn’t see the lead rider due to fog and rain – although I was, perhaps, a total of three bike lengths from him. As the rain blew sideways across my faceshield, I thought back to my conversation with Gerrad about riding the entire route versus taking a shortcut. It would turn out that the shortcut wasn’t really any shorter and was via the Ronda road, a snaking length of asphalt regarded as one of the best motorcycling roads in the world. Cheated of my chance to properly roost Ronda road, I hope to visit in a drier future.
We made our way down the mountain thoroughly soaked with a focus on minimizing lean angle. Our group stayed behind a tour bus for much of the route home, just to give you an idea of our speeds.
So how did it ride? From what I got to sample, really well. The motor offers power that comes on strong, even if it seems to drop off quickly higher in the rpm range, the revised front fork felt very well planted, and the brakes were adequately strong and easy to use. The rear shock is another story. It still felt very soft and quite bouncy, but I was unable to adjust the suspension to work toward a better setting. The new seat was a welcome revision and, to me, felt much more comfortable than the previous version.
So, what I’m saying is: In order to give the 2018 Yamaha MT-07 a fair and thorough review, we are going to have to wait for the press fleet to be available from Yamaha mid- to late-March. Testing the motorcycle on our home turf with time to make adjustments will help us deliver a more thorough and comprehensive review of the motorcycle anyway. So, look out for a more in-depth ride review and video coming in the next few months.
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