MT07 vs MT09. Ref: Street Triple R (09)…

Published by Nick on June 22nd, 2014 - in REVIEWS

Fact: Yamaha dealers unsurprisingly report potential MT09 buyers are checking out the cheaper MT07 as a possible alternative:  the face off is right here. 

We all know that hysterical rapture is the default media response when a new machine comes along and freshens things up a bit, and the last year or so has been something of a vintage for hyperbole spotters. The MT09 arrived first: here – apparently – was a machine to challenge Triumph in the triple for everyman stakes; launch reviews were effusive. Then, before the 07′s launch, whispers reached us that the smaller, cheaper bike was even more fun than the 09. Come that launch and the press couldn’t get enough of it – but subsequently shied away from the obvious: pitting the two MTs against each other, despite the fact that they are both medium capacity nakeds. Maybe it would have been embarrassing to hail a second coming, only to have a third show up from the same stable, holding the aces. It’s the scrap no one wants to promote. Street Trip vs 09 tests duly started putting in an appearance, but that wasn’t what we wanted to know about. What we wanted to find out was whether or not the 5 grand 07 was a tastier option than its pricier 09 stablemate. And that is what we’ve done, using the same test route for both Yamahas, in the same conditions. With the added bonus of our old Street Triple R (09) as an obvious reference point, since the market for all three bikes has a degree of overlap – and a sorted, clean R could be purchased for less than the price of an MT07.

MT 07

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It must be seriously doubted if a finer urban conveyance exists than the MT 07. Towns and outskirts are where this machine rules – the combination of low gearing and light weight proving irresistable exploiting gaps and finding openings in traffic. On road, low weight is often associated with smaller capacity screamers: think Aprilia RS 250, Kawasaki ZXR 400. Which are massive fun, but the 07′s slim build is allied to grunt – which means a totally different user experience: wheelies available off the throttle, on demand – and down shifts surplus to requirement for sharp overtakes.The slick gear box and perfectly adequate brakes are useful accomplices in cutting through slow moving traffic, and fuelling is unblemished. The ride position is forward but not ‘sat on the bars’ supermoto style, and the bars themselves are narrower then the average motard. Which actually raises a question….

Once a bike hits a certain speed – usually around 85 mph – the wind blast starts properly getting underneath the front end and the pilot: even faired sportsbikes are susceptible, which has the beneficial effect of taking the weight off the riders wrists, suddenly rendering cramped ergonomics tolerable. On a naked bike wind blast effects are magnified: the riders arms are pushed up, the whole front end lightens, the upper body is buffeted. Push on another ten or fifteen mph and you are teetering on the brink of instability, as is the case with the 07. The lighter the naked, and the shorter the wheelbase – in this courtesy of the horizontal rear shock – the more exposed the experience becomes. The 07 needs assistance at speed: some kind of funky cockpit fairing or judicious screen would help, and as Yamaha already offer one as an official accessory,  this maybe a problem with a solution at the ready. It’s a good thing that those bars feel narrower than expected: wider ones would exacerbate high speed flightiness while increasing manoeuvrability at lower speeds – an area where the 07 is far from wanting. In other words the ergonomics probably represent the best compromise for a variety of conditions, but without any protection you are still going to be all over the shop if you nail it and hold it there. As one might expect.

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As well as feeling more composed below 80 mph in a straight line, the 693cc twin feels a tad happier on slower and medium speed corners. The temptation with a light bike is to use maximum corner speed and sacrifice as little as possible on the brakes: the exact opposite of riding an old school muscle bike, where getting stopped and composed well in advance, and on the throttle pre apex is the key. The Yam’s low gearing and twin cylinder lump means engine braking feels especially strong: learn to use it as an ally, and with the lack of bulk you feel that most corners can be made with minimal conventional braking, encouraging that fast entry approach.

Which works up to a point. Try pretending you are on a KTM 690 and really nail it in the twists and you’ll find the suspension’s limits: damping that worked fine flicking around town and on an uneven B roads suddenly goes missing on full attack, or when encountering very fast bends. The 07 is a brilliant machine within certain parameters, defined by spirited rather than seriously fast riding. Any bike which makes riding in towns an experience to be savoured is going to be loved in territories like the UK, where total bike miles feature a high percentage of urban or semi-urban riding.

The Tech

Full spec HERE.  The Mt 07 motor’s lineage stretches directly back to the 270 degree TRX: the same firing order was employed in later TDMs. I remember  riding a TDM 900 with a 2-1 Akra fitted and it transformed the whole feel of the machine, emulation of a 90 degree V2 being the key reason for employing 270 firing: a liberated 07 should be a sound worth hearing (see pic below).

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Yamaha suggest that a ‘cross plane crank philosophy’ went into the 07 design. In theory one 270 degree parallel twin crank is going to look very much like another, but if that philosophy simply means ensuring linear, ultra smooth torque production which mimics cross plane benefits, then you wont be complaining as the front wheel effortlessly and smoothly reaches for the sky. Again. And it’s no less a joy with both hoops firmly on the deck.

Frame construction is based around a steel tubular backbone, with the engine acting as a stressed member, and an elegant and fairly minimalist steel swing arm is employed. It all works really well: if you ride hard enough on this bike, flex will be the least of your worries. The most remarkable thing about the 07 is how a fairly conventional, steel framed machine with a capacity of almost 700cc can weigh in at 164 kgs dry, ie under 180 fully fuelled, oiled and road ready. In fact, it could have weighed in even lighter. On the launch Yamaha personnel confessed that the bike’s dimensions would have permitted a 160 section c/w a smaller rear wheel, which would have sharpened up the steering (and unsprung weight) to an even greater degree. There are signs of a welcome return to a skinny rubber ethos on the custom scene, and including a 160 would have been a truly radical styling move with practical benefits. Yamaha clearly get that lightweight motorcycles massively up the fun factor and should be applauded for listening to what riders want – but they drew the line with that rear section, sticking with a frankly unnecessary, conventional 180. Tyre manufacturers may prefer the one size fits all, homogenous approach, but it is is not in the best interests of getting the most out of an individual machine. (The Bg stable includes  a heavy, old school ZRX 1100 which makes twice the power of the 07 and runs standard 170s to keep things sharp – and they work a treat.)

 Comparisons

In terms of functionality, despite being of a similar capacity and category to the Street Triple, the Yamaha is the opposite of the Triumph. The latter excels in the faster stuff, when you really push the envelope: which is where the 07 starts to twitch – the Yam being far better suited to anything below 75 mph. Thus the two bikes have very different comfort zones. In a way it really is that simple: application is the key to getting the purchase right – where the majority of your miles are going to be ridden will determine choice. The original mk1 standard Street, with softer suspenders, is closer to the 07 than the more serious, firmer R – although the former has a very rudimentary rear shock, while the latter can take a bit of setting up to cope with indifferent surfaces. All Mk1 Streets are also geared more like the Yamaha, making the earlier triples a more obvious point of comparison than the newer, post 2012 bikes. And of course Mk1s are now far closer in price to the MT. Neither bike is an everyman conveyance: they are not natural contenders for touring, for example. In some ways the MT 07 is more application specific, because within its zone, it’s nigh on perfect. But that zone has limitations. The Street – by reason of being that bit better suited to distances – has slightly broader scope, despite being less fun in and around town. And nakeds like the Street, which are directly derived from sportsbikes – the Tuono and BMW S1000r also come to mind – are always going to be more capable when you really push on. But most people also want a bike which puts a grin on your face simply going down to the shops, and  the MT is very happy to oblige….

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The advice is simple: choose it how you’ll use it, and you’ll ride home on the right bike. The MT 07 is everything we have been urging manufacturers to produce for at least three years. Electronics are simple and functional. The presence of a throttle cable and lack of modal choice has delivered a bike with sweet, glitch free fueling – an area where the MT 09 is apallingly remiss. If we were looking for a new medium capacity naked bike, the 07 would take an awful lot of walking away from.

MT 09

One thing needs to be made clear from the off. While it is possible that the machine I tested was exceptionally deficient in its capacity to fuel smoothly, that there is a generalised fuelling issue with the first generation of 09s is beyond reasonable doubt – many riders having identified it. For some it is a mere irritation: for others it totally compromised their whole experience. What we don’t know is whether or not this divergence reflects rider subjectivity, or if in fact some 09s suffer less than others. This is a ride by wire machine – something Yamaha are well versed in – and my suspicion is that for whatever reason, this time around the technology has exacerbated some very indifferent mapping.

You can only report on what you have experienced. In two of the three ride modes the problem was so bad that comparisons with the very worst offenders in the field came to mind: early FI KTM’s (not ride by wire, and not as bad as the 09)) and a variety of MVs (the F3 675 being a notable example: another triple with ride by wire in situ which wasn’t up to the job). Since it was the hottest day of the year, trying the softest mode seemed counter intuitive, but it was the only way of calming the surges that exasperated your correspondent. Not least because they were liable to kick in coming on the power mid corner – there is no traction control, but unlike the MT07, the 09 feels like it could use it. Attacking uneven B roads smoothly was not an option, because other drawbacks emerged.

The standard set up meant that the front dived like a Brazilian striker in the box, with non adjustable compression damping – and even with rebound damping near maximum was liable to spring back up again in lively fashion. This was made worse by the harshness of the standard rear set up: while the front sank, the arse was unyielding. Combine this sensation with the unpredictable fuelling and uneven braking (there has already been an ABS based recall), and confidence quickly gets undermined. It all makes for a deeply frustrating ride, because the motor itself is smooth and very willing when given the right instructions.  A neutral throttle resulted in uneven pulses, a sure sign of iffy fuelling.

These problems can be sorted out, but there is no excuse for palming off new product of this standard. We’ve been here before: yet again a reviewer of a new motorcycle has no option but to opine that it is impossible to imagine a new car being offered with such a plethora of obvious shortcomings. This should not still be happening, especially when  such a major market player is involved.

And yet MT09 sales are reportedly strong. Reading between the lines of some of those original reviews, one can sense the writer’s hesitancy in applying yet another rubber stamp job, but inexperienced buyers could be misled by 4/5 star write ups. Reading non media testers impressions  tells a different story, and reveals an interesting picture. Experienced riders who have sampled the 09 have pointed out the obvious drawbacks. Owners, on the other hand, start off with lavish praise and enthusiasm before a reality check kicks in a while later. This could be explained by the fact that the 09 falls into the category of first big bike, purchased by those who rely to a certain extent on the judgement of others - which is exactly why professional testers / reviewers must speak as they find. Of course it’s wonderful to have a funky, lightweight triple out there at a reasonable price. But the concept should never obscure a harsher reality.

In the final analysis, a reviewer has to put to one side the opinions of all other testers, professional or amateur. In this light it makes no sense to add the kind of review detail you would normally find on these pages: this machine, in its current incarnation, does not yet deserve serious consideration. Get the bike sorted, and we’ll look again. That means more than just a remap which isn’t compromised by its own ride by wire: the suspension and brakes felt below par and not up to the potential of the motor, never mind coping with it in its current, unpredictable state. Meanwhile both a new 07 and an old Street Triple mk1 (R or standard) are simply in a different league.

 

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8 Responses

  1. Steve says:

    Great article that has been long overdue. I test rode back to back an MT07 and Street Trip. I came to the conclusion that if I wanted to play I buy the MT07 and if I want to ride I get a Street Trip…….simples.

  2. Doug says:

    Thank you for this article. Having test rode an MT 09, or as it’s known here the FZ 09, I walked away saddened by the horrible throttle response. The mutli-mode throttle settings are to me, just multiple answers to a question that was not asked.

  3. Zoe says:

    Thank you! Excellent article, hubby arguing for me to get the 09 rather than 07; I shall pass this info on to him. You just saved me lots of dosh! Cheers!

  4. robbo says:

    Yamaha seem to be offering a ‘re-map’ for the 09 – an electronic emulation of a snail cam.

  5. Eric says:

    I think your comments and review of the mt09 are very misleading to the potential buyer. What you have is a bike that delivers exceptional value when considering its price point. The throttle can be to a greater extent limited with the use of a G2 throttle tamer. Depending on type of riding you do and your weight etc the suspension cn also be modified simply. What you get with the mt09 is an exception engine and chassis combination. With a little work and expense you can transform this bike into an exceptional ride. After replacing the rear shock, fork springs and adding the G2 throttle tamer and taking into account the all up cost I have a truly fantastic bike which still cost far less than the triumph. This bike will not only smoke a street triple it’s power to weight ratio will see do the same to the speed triple. I have owned all 3 and have no doubt in my mind after the small issues are resolved which bike would be my choice.

    • Nick says:

      Thanks for commenting and feel free to do so again. You’re basically admitting that when this machine was first offered for sale, there were things that needed sorting out. Quite important things…. for me, as a consumer, that is simply not good enough. Why should the purchaser of a new machine have to start remedying its obvious shortcomings? I did say that the 09 engine felt like a good one, but the fact is that the MT07 was sorted at the point of sale. The MT09 was not. N.

  6. scot campbell says:

    i think you should suck it up, its and 850 that weighs 180kg, its meant to be aggressive, if you cant be bothered with the twitchy throttle, change to B mode.
    front suspension is naff out the box, but wait, its ADJUSTABLE for a reason.
    this is defo not my first bike, but defo my best to date. especially for the £££.
    the MT09 is clearly aimed at more experienced rider, of whom will know before riding that it will be aggressive and punchy.

    • Nick says:

      No compression damping on the front, and no excuse for the awful fuelling. The problem is that bad FI compromises aggressive riding because you can not gas it hard with a lot of lean. You have to be smooth to be fast.

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