Cape Town – While Yamaha’s slightly insane 1670cc MT-01 remains a niche bike, it has spawned a range of smaller, equally attitudinous but less intimidating street-bikes.

This one, the MT-07, has a 689cc eight-valve parallel twin engine with 270-degree offset crankpins derived from the 1980s TRX850 to give it a V-twin-like beat and low-range torque. It’s fed by slightly old-fashioned cable-operated fuel-injection; fly-by-wire is cheaper, more versatile and more fuel-efficient but can’t match the butterfly throttle for smoothness of operation.

The engine is a honey; it makes big torque from 3000 to 6500rpm, with peak power of 55kW at 9000. The offset crank produces enough mid-range shakes and top-end buzz to give the bike some character – although aftermarket pipe-makers are going to bless Yamaha all the way to the bank for the wussy burble that comes out of its outstandingly ugly standard exhaust system.

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Gearshift action is notchy but positive, as is to be expected from a six-speed vertically stacked Yamaha ‘box. Mid-range acceleration is deceptively strong – not much kick in the butt, but a whole lot of extra momentum on tap whenever you ask for it.

Top speed, according to the digital speedometer, was 199km/h at somewhere around 8400rpm; the silly little bar-graph rev-counter is very difficult to read. However, Yamaha is as aware as everybody else why even the best bar-graph rev-counters are a problem so I’m not going to belabour the point.

We tried very hard both ways over the entire length of the infamous Six-Kay Straight to get it to click over to 200 but no dice, although it hit 199 four tries out of six, which leads me to wonder if the bike is electronically limited. True terminal velocity, as reported by Mr Garmin and his friends in the sky, was 186km/h, reflecting a speedometer error of seven percent - acceptable for a car, less so for a motorcycle.

The chassis is very short-coupled, with a wheelbase of only 1400mm, and carries its 182kg wet weight low down and well centralised. The suspension - non-adjustable in front and for preload only at the rear - is on the harsh side of firm, but keeps this remarkably agile bike reassuringly stable at naughty speeds, even on our bumpy test section.

It took us over the ride and handling section of our standard test ride at a commendable 128km/h average where 120 is the threshold for sports bikes. A little dab on the brakes to settle the steering and load the front tyre, and the bike could be thrown at a corner like the motard it would love to be.

NICELY BALANCED

The MT-07’s seating position is best described as sit-up-and-beg, as is to be expected of a short-coupled round-towner, but nicely balanced, lending itself to superb control and reinforcing the bike’s agility, although I would have preferred the foot-pegs a finger’s width further back.

The seat is hard and thin (a Yamaha tradition – the term 'plastic plank' was originally coined to describe the saddle of the 1986 FZR400) but it’s wide and flat, well-shaped so that the bike’s range rather than your protesting posterior will dictate the frequency of pit stops.

Fuel consumption over a week of mixed riding was 5.34 litres per 100km, which is better than respectable for a short-geared three-quarter litre twin. Nevertheless, that still means that the 14-litre tank is going to run dry (not on to reserve, but walk-from-here bone dry) shortly after 260km - and yes, Cyril, there are still places in South Africa where there is more than 260km between fuel stations.

‘SOFT’ BRAKES

The Sumitomo monobloc four-piston front brake callipers should be razor-sharp but were in fact noticeably soft, with very little feel up to the point where the front tyre began complaining. Initially I thought that this particular machine needed its brakes bled, but a click or two of the mouse revealed that the ‘soft’ brakes are a recurring thread in almost every road review and chat-room comment on the MT-07.

If the bike were mine, I would rebuild the brakes with braided stainless-steel hoses before even replacing the standard exhaust system.

In contrast, the ABS on the test bike was superb. Even when I stomped on the rear brakes hard enough that I knew it was working, I couldn’t feel it in action. And despite the lack of feel in the front brakes, the front tyre never went further than a mild growl of protest even when intentionally mishandled.

Fashionable insectoid styling places the headlight too low on the forks, reducing its effectiveness (especially on high beam on unlit roads) but the positioning of the instrument pod over the handlebar clamp is not as awkward as it looks. It’s a little too far out of the rider’s eyeline but everything other than the rev-counter is easily legible.

The combined kill-switch/start button gimmicky but clever; placing the hooter button above the indicator slide-switch is less so. That’s because indicating is always a premeditated act whereas hooting is reactive, which is why the hooter button should be below the indicator slide, closer to the rest position of your thumb. That’s Ergonomics 101; it comes as a bit of a surprise that Yamaha should get it wrong on something this basic.

VERDICT

The MT-07 is a round-towner, a short-range hooligan tool capable of spectacular wheelies, very neatly put together but with some odd ergonomic quirks. Its engine is its best feature, but its agile, stiff chassis is what makes it so much fun.

FACTS

Yamaha MT-07

Engine: 689cc liquid-cooled parallel twin four-stroke.

Bore x stroke: 80 x 68.6mm.

Compression ratio: 11.5:1.

Valvegear: DOHC with four overhead valves per cylinder.

Power: 55kW at 9000rpm.

Torque: 68Nm at 6500rpm.

Induction: Digital electronic fuel-injection with double-barrelled 38mm Mikuni throttle body.

Ignition: Transistor-controlled electronic ignition.

Starting: Electric.

Clutch: Cable-operated multiplate wet clutch.

Transmission: Six-speed constant-mesh gearbox with final drive by chain.

Front Suspension: 41mm conventional cartridge forks non-adjustable.

Rear Suspension: Link type with offset horizontal monoshock adjustable for preload.

Front brakes: Dual 282mm petal disks with Sumitomo four-piston callipers and ABS.

Rear brake: 245mm petal disc with single-piston Nissin floating calliper and ABS.

Front tyre: 120/70 - 17 tubeless.

Rear tyre: 180/55 - 17 tubeless.

Wheelbase: 1400mm.

Seat height: 806mm.

Kerb weight: 182kg.

Fuel tank: 14 litres.

Top speed (measured): 199km/h.

Fuel consumption (measured): 5.34 litres per 100km.

Price: R99 950.

Bike from: Helderberg Yamaha, Cape Town.

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