Yamaha did not lose the MT-07′s easy-to-like character in the updated 2021 model.Jeff Allen
The most impressive thing about Yamaha’s MT-07, now updated for 2021, is who’s been buying the prior versions. The MT has been one of Yamaha’s best-selling motorcycles in the US since it was introduced, as a FZ, in 2014, with a total of 25,000 sold. It’s been purchased by almost as many members of Generation Z as by boomers. And while 27 percent of the owners have just bought their first motorcycle when they picked up their MT-07, even more (36 percent) of them have been riding for more than 20 years. What is it about this machine that gives it such broad appeal? And has Yamaha sustained it with the new version?
The appeal starts with the concept. According to Aaron Bast, senior product planner at Yamaha Motor Corporation, USA, the MT-07 has always been focused on delivering three things: easy sports excitement (defined by torque and agility), easygoing character, and smart value. The purchase price was perhaps the thing that most defined the first 07: It was introduced seven years ago at what was then a mind-blowing suggested retail of $6,990. Even the 2021 version, with its LED headlight, standard ABS braking, and other upgrades, has only gone up from that number by 10 percent, to $7,699.
2021 Yamaha MT-07 Engine Details
As engineers like to point out, it’s harder to build a really good inexpensive bike than a high-priced, high-performance superbike. From the beginning, Yamaha was focused on keeping the MT-07′s design simple, doing only what added value and nothing else.
Take the 07 engine: It’s a 689cc twin-cylinder in the same family as the three-cylinder MT-09 engine; the two share a four-valve combustion chamber, a valvetrain design, and their general layout. But the MT-07 goes for a proportionally longer stroke, with valve timing that even further emphasizes midrange over high-rpm power. This engine is the product of a company that never gave up on the parallel twin, a company that reinvigorated the configuration with a 270-degree crankshaft that gave it the firing order and much of the feel of a 90-degree V-twin. It’s an engine whose mild tuning has allowed Yamaha to continue to use, even in 2021, standard rider-controlled throttle bodies rather than more expensive throttle-by-wire.ADVERTISEMENT
The engine changes for 2021 are focused on what had to be done to meet Euro 5 regulations, including a new intake system with shorter intake runners, a redesigned exhaust with the catalytic converter moved forward for quicker warm-up, and a couple other minor changes for rideability and durability. The exhaust-valve seats are made of an alloy with higher cobalt content to handle the higher heat brought by the Euro 5-compliant calibration, and the dog spacing on second and third gear has been tightened by about 5 percent for less drivetrain lash. The new valve seats also allow the valve check interval to be moved out to 26,600 miles. When we dynoed the 2021 machine, we found that the power and torque were very similar to past years, with a peak of 67 hp and 42 pound-feet.
How Does the 2021 Yamaha MT-07 Ride?
Riding the 2021 reassured us that the bike’s hooligan character remains unchanged. With relatively short gearing and a torque curve that stays above 40 pound-feet from 3,500 to 8,800 rpm, the MT-07 rockets away from traffic lights. It’s a machine that feels strong anytime 4,000 shows on the tach; a machine that you can ride like a supersport, keeping the rpm high, or relax a little and let the torque pull you along with less engine speed. The twin-cylinder feels relaxed on the freeway, only starting to get a little buzzy if the speed is pushed above 80 mph in sixth gear. It’s a 407-pound bike that feels much lighter. Some of that is because the 2021 got a handlebar that’s 1.3 inches wider and is positioned about half an inch higher and closer to the rider, for a slightly more upright riding position and more steering leverage. The MT feels like you can place it anywhere on the road at any time. It’s quick and responsive and agile, a motorcycle that will make any rider feel as if his skills have improved just by hopping on.
The front brakes are also noticeably more powerful, as the front discs have grown to 298mm (up 16mm from prior years), and ABS is standard on all US 07s. There are still limits to what $7,700 will buy you, and the MT hasn’t gained any of the sophisticated traction control, lift control, or cornering ABS of its 900cc stablemate. Neither has it received the inertial measurement unit (IMU) that would enable those systems to function. But the discs are now round rather than wave-rotor shaped, and the standard ABS system prevents wheels from locking and kept the rear wheel on the ground during the few stops that were hard enough to engage the front ABS.
The LED headlight, though, is cosmetically similar to the MT-09′s projector unit, and is one of the more controversial styling features of the 2021 MTs. It’s a clever headlight, with its low beam controlled by two projector lenses and the high-beam shaped through an internal reflector and the big front lens. The compact headlight allows the entire front of the bike to be pulled closer to the fork, a compact look that Yamaha stylists very much wanted. Not everyone is prepared for the stark modernity of the small headlight. But no one will complain that the headlight is brighter or has a better beam pattern, just as no one will dislike the more compact LED turn signals the new 07 has received, or the two LED running lights that bracket the headlight.
Similarly, the 07 foregoes the full-color TFT dash of the 09, but gets a revised cluster of its own with white numerals and bars on a black background. It has an analog tach gauge, a digital speedometer, a bar graph for fuel level, and a gear indicator. The tripmeter can be set with controls on the left-hand switch cluster.
2021 Yamaha MT-07 Chassis Details
Much of the chassis remains unchanged. The tubular steel chassis is dimensionally similar, and the Kayaba rear shock and 41mm Kayaba standard front fork return; the shock is still stroked directly by the swingarm, without a linkage. This is certainly one of the things that helps Yamaha meet its value target. And very occasionally, say when riding over sharp-edged bumps, you might wish for a more sophisticated suspension system. But generally, the MT’s suspension just works, and it won’t leave you worrying about whether you have set it up correctly. Only the shock offers choices, with preload and rebound damping adjustments available.
A lot of the MT-07 is like that: The specifications may be a little disappointing if you’re looking for the newest and the latest with all the clicks and contrivances. But the bike is so much fun to ride and its engine is so charismatic that you find yourself not caring. Yamaha’s new YZF-R7 sportbike, built around this same basic engine, gets a dual-acting slipper clutch, for example. But on initially riding the new MT, we weren’t even sure whether it had a slipper clutch or not, even when downshifting under hard braking in an attempt to get the rear wheel to hop or disobey, only to find it stayed resolutely in line. The answer: It doesn’t have a slipper, and it doesn’t really need one.
As many, many motorcyclists have found, Yamaha has reduced the motorcycle to its sporting core in the MT-07 by giving you the things that you really need, the things that reward you, and then stripping almost everything else away. It’s a brilliant job of engineering editing. For 2021, the Tuning Fork engineers have changed enough to make the MT seem new while keeping everything that has made a broad array of motorcyclists happy before. Bravo.
2021 Yamaha MT-07 Specifications
|Engine:||DOHC, liquid-cooled parallel twin; 4 valves/cyl.|
|Bore x Stroke:||80.0 x 68.6mm|
|Cycle World Measured Horsepower:||67 hp @ 8,700 rpm|
|Cycle World Measured Torque:||46.3 lb.-ft. @ 6,250 rpm|
|Fuel System:||Fuel injection|
|Clutch:||Wet, multiplate; cable actuated|
|Frame:||Tubular steel double backbone|
|Front Suspension:||KYB 41mm right-side-up fork; 5.1 in. travel|
|Rear Suspension:||KYB shock, preload and rebound damping adjustable; 5.1 in. travel|
|Front Brake:||Advics 4-piston calipers, dual 298mm discs w/ ABS|
|Rear Brake:||Nissin 1-piston caliper, 245mm single disc w/ ABS|
|Tires, Front/Rear:||120/70ZR-17 / 180/55ZR-17|
|Ground Clearance:||5.5 in.|
|Seat Height:||31.7 in.|
|Fuel Capacity:||3.7 gal.|
|Cycle World Measured Wet Weight:||407 lb.|