Frequent Common Tread readers might have noticed a pretty big miss in our coverage earlier this year. We published no first-ride impression of Yamaha’s new YZF-R7.
Our contributor who was set to attend the press launch for the R7 got sick (not COVID-19) and we couldn’t find a last-minute solution. Excuses, excuses. We're always disappointed to miss the introduction of a new bike, but this was particularly a grade-A bummer because new sport bikes are a rare thing these days and this one had all the makings of a fun ride. Ostensibly, Yamaha wrapped the popular, 689 cc MT-07 naked machine with racy plastics. But, as our man Greaser wrote in his first look article on the R7, there are plenty key of differences between the $7,700 MT and this $9,000 R version.
Anyway, to make up for not providing you with that first ride article, we've put together three reviews in one, giving you multiple perspectives on how the R7 works and where it fits in the world of motorcycling. First, a quick breakdown of the spec sheet.
Aside from the styling, the most notable work was to the front of the R7, which is more aggressive than the MT-07. The steering-head angle has been steepened to 23.7 degrees (for context, the MT-07 is 24.8 and an R6’s is 24.0 degrees). The fork tubes are inverted, use stiffer springs, and the triple-clamp offset has been reduced compared to the MT-07. The shock also uses a stiffer spring, predictably, and the rear ride height of the machine has been raised. All of this means the R7 has a shorter wheelbase and less trail than its fraternal twin, as well as more front-end weight bias and a taller seat. Sportier, in other words; no big surprise there.
In addition to the foundational tweaks, Yamaha upgraded some basic components for the R7’s intents and purposes. The front brake hardware is similar, with the exception of a beefy, radial-pull master cylinder made by Brembo, including an adjustable lever. There’s also an optional quickshifter (up only), which is plug-and-play with the preprogrammed ECU once the $200 piece is purchased. Yamaha says the R7 is the “most narrow R-series ever” and it certainly feels trim and light. It weighed in on our scales at 415 pounds — that’s nine pounds up on the MT-07 despite saving a claimed 2.4 pounds by using a fancy, lithium battery from the R6 parts bin and holding 0.3 gallons less gas in the tank than the MT.
This is a significant bike for Yamaha, because it steps into an R6-sized hole in the company’s brochure as well as aiming at the mid-size, mid-power, affordable-sport-bike market that Aprilia recently started harvesting. Not to mention this bike revives the legendary R7 moniker made famous by the Noriyuki Haga-era OW-02 World Superbike, a rare, homologation special.
On the topic of racing, a few of us here at RevZilla are amateur knee draggers — not nearly as quick as Haga-san, obviously, but nevertheless we were keen to get the R7 on a closed course. Most of the team here in Los Angeles spent time on the bike, including a day at Buttonwillow Raceway, and so rather than present a standard first impression we thought we would offer multiple takes on how Yamaha’s newest sport bike stacked up to our respective expectations. Think of it as three reviews in one.
Thank goodness for the R7. Finally, a bike that has the looks the squids want but with an engine that actually makes sense in the real world. The YZF-R6 that the R7 was designed to emulate was great at what it was designed for — winning Supersport championships — but it was a truly terrible street bike with punishing ergonomics and a powerband that was unsuited to life on public roads.
And yet R6s are everywhere on the streets of Los Angeles, and the unfortunate fact is that they seem to be the ambition of many a new rider. So, if the R7’s aesthetic can lure folks in the way the R6 did, then those motorcyclists will be astride less expensive, less demanding, and far more practical machines that still look (and feel, at least from the perspective of the riding position) like they belong on a race track. If the lower redline and lack of a shrieking exhaust note bum them out, hopefully they’ll find solace in the fact that the R7 is easier to wheelie, and its parallel twin actually makes more power than a YZF-R6’s inline four up until 9,000 rpm.
Here’s who I see buying the R7: New and/or vain riders who are powerless against the fact that it looks like the winningest 600 supersport of all time, or more experienced riders who recognize the fun and versatility of a punchy, affordable, lightweight sport bike.
And you know what? Both groups are going to be stoked with their purchase.
Full disclosure: I am a die-hard R6 lover. I have owned my 2008 Yamaha R6 since 2013 and it has innumerable track days and club racing miles on it. Like any other inline-four, 600 cc addict, the news of the R7 made me physically twitch with indignation. Replace the R6 with this MT-07 in wolf’s clothing? Preposterous! I really wanted to hate the R7 when I threw a leg over it. I rode it on city blocks, my favorite back country roads, and at the track trying to build the case I had already formulated in my head. But, the truth is, the R7 was endearing in unexpected ways.
My harshest critique of the MT-07 was centered on its lack of performance in handling, and it is nice to see that the R7 has remedied most of those ailments. The upgrades in braking and suspension had me charging into the corners with loads of confidence. This performance comes at a cost, of course, and that cost is rider comfort. The riding position is very aggressive, which should not be a surprise on a sport bike, particularly for one carrying the “R” badge in Yamaha’s lineup.
The CP2 motor is still as fun and playful as I remembered from the MT-07. I think it can be best described as “quick but not fast.” With a sensitive throttle response and a beefy bottom end, the R7 launches off the line in a manner that is most gratifying. However, in the upper mid-range of the powerband at higher speeds, say trying to overtake a slow car on a split-lane country road or on a long straightaway at the track, the engine shows its limitations.
Am I going to sell my R6? Absolutely not. That doesn’t mean, however, that I don’t see or appreciate a place for the R7 in the marketplace. The sales data here in the United States has clearly shown that lightweight sport bikes have been the strongest segment for several years running, and when these riders start graduating to the next bike they have not been choosing pedigree racing machines like the R6. So, a new breed is born in the R7, and if it means more sport enthusiasts to the fold then I welcome it with open arms.
My initial take on this R7 was that Yamaha missed the mark. I was really impressed with Aprilia’s RS660 — because it’s fast and sporty and yet comfortable enough to ride all day — and I thought if Yamaha could just follow that same recipe, minus some electronic luxuries and selling for a couple thousand bucks less, it would be sitting on a winner. Instead, it seemed like the BluCru did 80 percent of the work but in the end made the R7 too racy and uncomfortable to make sense.
To be clear, I love that the R7 is a more practical sport bike than an R6, because so many people who think they need an R6 simply do not. As Ari pointed out, the R6 only makes more power in five-digit revs, plus the R7’s lumpy twin makes as much torque at 3,000 rpm as the R6 does at 9,000 rpm. Riding it on the track is what really surprised me. In stock trim it’s a little loose and a good rider definitely won't get the same kind of precision or feel as they might on, say, an RS660. Then again, the blend of aggressive ergonomics and 65-ish horsepower that felt odd on the street is totally charming at a track day, and this thing handles well enough for anyone outside an expert-level race paddock. In other words, this bike is ready to scratch just about any itch a prospective R6 owner had or has, with less expense for Yamaha to build and less cost to the consumer.
I even rode the R7 back to back with Kawasaki’s Ninja 400 and came away thinking this new Yamaha would be an exciting and sensible step up for any Ninja 400 track rider. "Sensible" doesn’t necessarily write the checks, though. We don’t ride motorcycles because they make sense. So, maybe this is an uncomfortable or slightly impractical street bike. How many of those do we all see on any given ride? The R7’s introduction to the market will be an interesting test of who wants a sport bike because it looks and feels like a sport bike, and who is more attached to the idea of a 15,000 rpm rev limit than they care to admit.
|2022 Yamaha YZF-R7|
|Engine||689 cc, liquid-cooled, 8-valve, parallel twin|
|Frame||Steel-tube semi backbone|
|Front suspension||KYB 41 mm fork, adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping; 5.1 inches of travel|
|Rear suspension||KYB shock, adjustable spring preload, rebound damping; 5.1 inches of travel|
|Front brake||ADVICS four-piston calipers, 298 mm discs with ABS|
|Rear brake||Nissin single-piston caliper, 245 mm disc with ABS|
|Rake, trail||23.4 degrees, 3.5 inches|
|Seat height||32.9 inches|
|Fuel capacity||3.4 gallons|
|Tires||Bridgestone BATTLAX S22; 120/70-ZR17 front, 180/55-ZR17 rear|
|Measured weight||415 pounds|