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Yamaha MT07 "Darkside" Review

By Ren Withnell 

Review Date August '14

I got the chance to go to the Yamaha MT "Darkside" tour thingy and test ride the new MT07 or the MT09. The most obvious question is why did I test the smaller '07 rather than the larger, more powerful '09? Because if you read my missives often enough you'll already know I'm not into big bikes that drink fuel and have far more power than any normal sensible person can use on the road. To be honest...I'd was more interested in the MT125 but these were only available for novices to potter around the car park on.

Yamaha's "Darkside" thing is a marketing tool that should appeal to riders who want to see themselves as cool, mysterious, mean and moody. It's all about oriental fonts, grey and black logos and handsome people looking sultry on their exciting, dangerous new motorcycles. The only reason there's no samurai swords present is to prevent people getting confused with Kawasaki's Ninja. It's all about the image. And when it's all about the image I get concerned it's because there's no substance.

Darkside huh? I should be hoping that this test ride will be me on a wide open road or the feds chasing me through a gritty abandoned steel mill while curvaceous blondes get excited watching through broken windows. Nope. It's an empty car park around the back of a cinema in Manchester, some railings, a truck and a line of bikes. At least it's not raining, not yet anyhow. I'm not feeling sexy or at all dangerous.

I feel even less dangerous when I have to sign a disclaimer, don a stretchy orange vest and am told in no uncertain terms that I must behave myself, follow the marshal's instructions and don't break any laws. 

At least the MT07 is up to the job looks wise. It does look aggressive with all it's bulk up front and a skinny back end, like a cartoon bulldog. LCD clocks used to be trick but the gf's cheap Chinese bike has them. Upside-down forks, yeah old hat. Steel frame! As I look around there's nothing new here it's all styling. The blurb harps on about the 270 degree crank being part of Yamaha's crossplane technology. This means they're trying to tie in with the R1, but parallel twins with 270 degree cranks have been around for yonks, including the now ancient Yamaha TRX and TDM 850's. Nope, still not impressed.

MT07 digital clocks and the tank
Stylish, but nothing new or revolutionary.

It starts well, but then so does my CBF 125. I'm about 5 foot 8 and while it's a little tall I can get my feet flat and the weight is perfectly acceptable. I join our group and set off out the car park to go and explore my darkside, or bits of eastern Greater Manchester at least.

I have a soft spot for torque. Immediate, instant, hard acceleration without hesitation or waiting on revs. If I want thrills I want a motorcycle that feels like I've been rear-ended by a truck doing 100 mph when I open the throttle. Oh boy, yeah, that's the MT07's darkside allright, a brutal instant punch to the kidneys. As I curve out of the junction in second I blip the throttle and the bike sets off without me, whoa there! Maybe there's something about this bike after all.

Even with the threat of a kick in the ass it is simplicity itself to ride through the 30 zones. I'm sat bolt upright and high making observation simple and monitoring the other riders and marshals is hassle free. The clutch is light, the fuelling feels correct and all the controls come to hand and respond positively without offence. The brakes will bite and the throttle will kick but under ordinary usage they are friendly and comforting. I'm reminded of an ex, everything is fine as long as I don't say the wrong thing.

front brakes on the MT07, yamamha's silver dot
Serious brakeage will bite but perfectly friendly if treated with respect.

We hit the motorway. That bucking bronco acceleration is gone, once the initial punch is absorbed by my body the acceleration is firm and progressive. The motor produces about 75 horses and that is not going to out-gun any serious sports bikes. However at legal speeds it is more than enough and the motor is barely warming up at 70. I take a moment to back off and flick the throttle open again to relish in the grunt but the raw edge as gone as the speeds have risen. It's still satisfying, it's no longer exhilarating. If you like your protection then the MT07 offers none. Mean and moody types don't fear a bit of wind in the face do they.

We only get to take in a few lanes, corners and bends. Riding in the group means there's very little chance to push the bike. I try my best to back off and hammer it through a few and I find the handling acceptable, predictable and somewhat ordinary. I did not get that instant confidence I had last year when I rode Honda's CB 500 X and at one point over some rough tarmac I felt distinct vagueness from they tyres. I did manage to work out it prefers to be ridden super-motard style, tip the bike in while remaining upright, looking around the bend. This style helped a lot.

Through some tricky junctions and adverse camber streets I did note it was surprisingly easy to ride. Odd, this bike is aimed at the darkside and yet I can see this being a suitable step up for a novice post test. There is indeed an A2 restricted version and I can see why, it's well mannered and balanced. Then of course with attitude on the happy handle it'll be off like a scalded cat. Curious, and somewhat appealing to my all round sensibilities. 

After almost an hour we're returning to the car park and I notice a downside, not a darkside. The seat. It's a bit of a plank, there's not much padding on there and with the upright position my ass is getting numb. I don't know, bikes these days huh, it's all about the looks no-one seems to think we might want to ride them for a while too.

the MT07 seat, a good broad shape but little padding
Come on Yamaha - put some padding on will ya.

Yamaha's made a fuss on their website blurb about "Outstanding fuel efficiency". What the website neglects to mention is just HOW fuel efficient it is, that worries me. If it is impressively economical I'd expect to see the figure shouted out everywhere. I ask a Yamaha rep upon my return and he suggests "Around 70 mpg mate". Yeah, not bad, not bad compared to a Fazer or R6 but then against Honda's NC750 or CB500 it's not so good. Mind you, the MT07 has a lot more poke than these 2. It's good, but it's not outstanding.

So, what is this motorcycle all about? It is actually aimed at what I expect will be a popular market. Owners will likely be riders who are perhaps still a little new to motorcycling but want to look cool, to look like they can do rolling burnouts, half-mile wheelies and rolling stoppies. Thing is, this type of rider where image is all important will spend a few extra quid and have the full size big man machine, the MT09, MT07's are for girls right? There may be a few out there who can reign in their ego to look at fuel consumption, ease of use and lighter weight I suppose.

From my own point of view this is very much a fun bike. It's almost a super-motard in terms of hooligan ability and that bottom end punch will be just awesome through narrow twisty back roads. This was Yamaha's remit with the MT range, putting the fun back into their motorcycles. Unlike a full on motard it is a little more practical and town friendly, it can be perfectly well mannered if treated gently. What would not work for me is that it does not lend itself to big miles or lots of luggage. The seat is hard and the rear end is thin and spindly. 

So the MT07 is a toy, a plaything. Lets face it for most riders that is what a motorcycle is, a weekend toy. I suspect the MT09 will be more popular simply because it's the daddy although the 07 is probably a better real world bike on real roads with real speeds. Now, if Yamaha stick that engine in a sensible adventure or touring rig and turn the economy up some more they might just be onto a winner...

Yamaha MT07 engine
The mota is a peach, just in the wrong bike for my taste.

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Reader's Comments

Paul said :-
Pretty much my take on the bike after a brief ride. The seat is absolute crap and i would be lucky to tolerate for 1 hour. This bike is all about the motor. I agree that this motor is looking for a better type of bike. Some lightweight, more 'normal' fared or un-fared bike or even a dirt bike. What i would have given to have this motor in my off-road bikes from years past.
Bob said :-
The last paragraph is the key, come on Yamaha - stick this engine in the XT660R and you won't be able to make them fast enough.
Also I agree, having ridden the MT09 and the MT07 I'd have the MT07, as the big one is just too much for normal riding around.
Ren - The Ed said :-
Cheers Bob. MT07 meets XT660 grrrr...now ya talkin'.
kieran said :-
i just rode mine from Prague to holland.
the engine is amazing but the seat is the worst i've used in 30 years of biking still can't walk right....

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