Welcome to the Dark Side of Japan.
Words: Allan Lane
When Yamaha announced that they were doing away with the FZ prefix for the US models of their hyper naked line, it was reasonable to ask, “Why?” If it’s not broken, why fix it? Think about it this way… If it can be better, make it so. Taken to task, that is what Yamaha did with their 2018 MT-07.
Understanding what MT stands for explains half of the theory. MT translates to Master of Torque. That aside, what we know in the US as the FZ line up has been known globally as the MT. The FZ models have sold tremendously well in the American market with sales topping 15,000 since their introduction in 2014. There are more FZs sold in North America than any other Yamaha model.
The MT line was launched globally in 2015 and had a stellar sales year in 2017 with numbers breaching 24,000 units sold. So why wouldn’t they unify the two brands internationally? Essentially, they are the same bike. It was high time that they did. And by doing so, Yamaha has unified the MT’s international brand, connecting MT owners across the globe. The opportunity for expansion of the lifestyle appeal of the MT has just gone through the proverbial roof with this move. Masters of Torque, unite!
And what better method of unification is there than the 2018 MT-07. Straight away, the 2018 embodies the true spirit of the hyper naked class. On its side stand, the bike looks like it is begging for a street fight and it has the muscle to back it up. The entire bike has been redesigned, in comparison to prior model years. Revisions include a new tank, seats (both rider and passenger), head lights, radiator covers, relocation of turn indicators and several other upgrades.
The 2018 MT-07 has an aggressive, ominous and in some manner, intimidating presence that plays off of the second generation MT design work. Powered by a 689cc inline 2 cylinder, 4 stroke, 4 valve engine, the MT-07 produces 50.2-foot pounds of torque. Impressively, the MT-07 offers commanding acceleration. That ability is courtesy of the famed Yamaha cross plane philosophy that is characterized by uneven firing intervals. In other words, the bike has plenty of get up and go.
The MT-07 provides a proper sense of agility and reliability thanks to its tubular backbone frame and impressive suspension setup. On the front end, the 41mm KYB forks work in harmony with the adjustable rear KYB rear shock to offer a sportier feel and performance. With a wet weight of 403 pounds, the MT-07 is better than stable. It’s damn near rock steady. That bodes well for the confidence department.
The press launch for the 2018 MT-07 took place in Marabella, Spain… where it rained for the duration of the road test. Riding through the small towns and up through the mountainous region, with rain attacking sideways… confidence in the machine was key. Despite the waterworks, the MT-07 performed extremely well. Acceleration through the ascending and descending turns was smooth and consistent. Powering out of the twisties, the inline twin engine pulled with strength and commitment. The, now standard and required, ABS braking system was much appreciated in the wet. It simply proved to be a solid machine in unfavorable riding conditions… And to be honest, that torrid riding atmosphere only made me long for the day when I can get my hands on an MT-07 in better riding weather.
With a length of 83 inches, a height of 43 inches and a seat height of 32 inches, my large frame (260 pounds, 6 feet in height) found the ergonomics of the MT-07 slightly compact. While the bike could be classified as an entry-level machine, it would be doing it a grand disservice. While it’s rider functionality, user-friendliness and price tag ($7,599.00) makes the MT-07 an easy and fun bike to ride, it has the substance to go beyond being an introduction into the world of motorcycling. If you are looking to get your hooliganism on, the MT-07 has the stones. The MT-07 checks several boxes ranging from commuter to asphalt slayer. This model has a tremendous amount of potential regardless of your individual riding style.
Yamaha is in the throngs of embracing their dark side. Culturally, you have to look at the ancient Japanese philosophical differences between light and dark. Light represents security, rationality, reason and the like. Darkness takes things to the other side to be inclusive of being aggressive, on edge and pushing the envelope. The MT-07’s style, presence, and attitude encapsulate the dark side of Japan beyond the Night Flou colorway (other color options include Tech Black and Yamaha Blue). The bike is engineered to evoke a specific emotion, a designated vibe that would connect rider to machine and machine to rider. Yamaha wants to take you to the dark side of Japan. And they want you riding the MT-07 all the way.