It was one of the first purpose-built LAMS bikes in the New Zealand market, with a sleeved engine to bring the bike's cubic capacity to within the LAMS rulebook, but how has the model fared nearly half a decade on from its initial release? More importantly, is this still the #1 LAMS bike you want to buy to get into motorcycling?
Words and Photos: Mathieu Day-Gillett
Back in 2014 I was lucky enough to be part of the press contingent who got to test the MT07LA in Sydney before its official New Zealand release. With a close friend (my Powerband Podcast partner in crime, Ray) having already put money down on the bike, I knew there must be something incredibly appealing about Yamaha's first purpose-built LAMS machine.
As mentioned above, the main difference between the LAMS and full power (High Output in Yamaha speak) variants of the MT07 is the LAMS bike's sleeved CP2 engine, which has a reduced capacity of 655cc versus the 689cc of the HO. This brings both power and cubic capacity to within the LAMS limits of <660cc and 150kW per Tonne, but if you think the LAMS MT07 is lacking in the grunt department you've got another thing coming.
While the throttle stop is typically LAMS restricted also, the way the MT07LA delivers its power is unlike many of the other restricted learner approved bikes in the circa 650cc category. For instance, the Suzuki SV650 is both restricted at the throttlebody and at the ECU, but it delivers its power all down low. Rev the SV650 out, and it doesn't feel rewarding. Instead, the Suzuki feels like it hits a brick wall in terms of power as the revs climb, necessitating the rider to short-shift to get the most out of the bike. The MT07 on the other hand has a silky-smooth power delivery from woah to go. There's no feeling at all that the bike is restricted in its power at all, and it revs cleanly to the rev limiter.
This might sound like a bit of nit-picking against one of the Yamaha's main competitors, but a smooth and predictable power delivery is one of the best traits a learner machine can have, especially once a rider has enough confidence to venture out onto the open road and start overtaking traffic.
NEW AND IMPROVED
After a few years out in the marketplace, Yamaha decided to give the MT07 a facelift, which to be honest I'm quite glad they did. There was just something about the small headlight of the previous model that never quite sat well with me on a personal level. While the bike looked quite muscular with its wide 14-litre tank immediately behind the small headlight, the bike's proportions seemed all wrong.
Thankfully, the main update made for the 2018 model year was to slap a bigger headlight on the MT07 amongst a few other more subtle changes. The result is a bike with the same performance pedigree, but even better looks.
Also new for the 2018 bike is minor tweaks in the handling department. While not a major update, like completely new forks and monoshock would have been, Yamaha upgraded the handling with increased damping and stiffer springs up front and new rebound adjustment out back.
Yamaha also saw to it that rider comfort was address via a new seat, although, I honestly wouldn't have known it was a new seat as there is very little visibly different to it.
If there is one area I wish Yamaha had seen fit to hit wit the upgrade stick, it would definitely be the switchgear of the MT07, with remains possibly its biggest weak point. While everything else on the bike screams quality, the switches feel by comparison to be a blatant cost cutting measure.
The worst offender being the indicator switch, but the rest of the left hand switchblock isn't far behind. You see, I am a firm believer in a tactile indicator switch, and I can't abide switches which have next to no feeling in them. If you have to look down at your dash to confirm that your indicator is switched off, well, that's making the rider take their eyes off the road for too long in my books.
ANSWERING THE BIG QUESTION
So after spending some time with the updated MT07 what are my final thoughts on the bike?
Well for starters, it is still one of the best picks for someone who wants to get into motorcycling but wants a bike that will last the distance.
Not only is the build quality of the MT07 right up there with the best in the business (bar those annoying switches), but the way in which it delivers its power means that while you will get used to the level of grunt the bike has to offer - and indeed may desire more - the MT07 LAMS is more than capable of serving as a long term option for the Kiwi motorcyclist.
Would I still recommend it to new riders? That's almost a certain yes depending on the rider who is asking. While the competition in the LAMS sector has undoubtedly only become more fierce, the MT07LA is a bike that not only has a proven track record as an excellent bike overall, it has 4 years of happy riders singing its praises to back it up.
If you can't go the whole hog to drop over $11,500 on the new and improved MT07LA - which to be honest is probably the biggest downside to the overall quality of the bike - the older bikes have come down to nearly half that and I would still recommend them as an option even with the many other newer options now on the market.
So in a nutshell, despite its premium price, the Yamaha MT07LA is still right up there in terms of the best LAMS spec bikes on offer in New Zealand. If you're looking for a sporty naked motorcycle to get into riding with, I'd definitely suggest on taking an MT07 out for a test ride.
2018 Yamaha MT07LA Specs
Engine Type Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, DOHC, 4-valve, 2-cylinder
Bore x Stroke 78.0 x 68.6mm
Compression Ratio 11.0 : 1
Lubrication System Wet sump
Fuel Management Fuel Injection
Starter System Electric
Fuel Tank Capacity 14-litres
Final Transmission Chain
Transmission Constant mesh 6-speed
Frame Type Diamond
Suspension Front Telescopic forks, 130mm travel
Suspension Rear Swingarm (link suspension), 130mm travel
Brakes Front Hydraulic dual discs, 282mm - ABS
Brakes Rear Hydraulic single disc, 245mm - ABS
Tyres Front 120/70 ZR 17M/C(58W) Tubeless
Tyres Rear 180/55 ZR 17M/C(73W) Tubeless
Seat Height 805mm
Ground Clearance 140mm
Wet Weight 182kg