Yamaha resurrects the R7 nameplate, but definitely not the spirit
You knew it was coming... Yamaha has stuck its peppy 689cc CP2 parallel twin engine into a supersport chassis that looks like a proper racebike, but will be much more approachable and accessible for road riders. The problem is, they called it the R7.
The original R7, also known as the OW-02, was a thoroughbred racebike, a homologation special produced in the minimum possible numbers to allow it to run in the 1999 World Superbike series. It had the best of everything, from its top-spec Ohlins suspension to its titanium valves and conrods, and just 500 were sold worldwide at a stratospheric price around US$32,000 – on top of which racers had to spend thousands more to de-restrict its engine and make the thing competitive on track. It remains one of the most exotic and hallowed machines you can trot out in a modern-era collection.
Pretty much exactly the opposite approach, then, to the R7 that Yamaha rolled out today. This new one takes the punchy, efficient, street-focused motor that shines so brightly in the MT07/FZ07, the XSR700 and the Tenere 700, and blasts it with the ol' makeup shotgun, draping it in a racy set of plastics to make "R/World a reality for many younger riders who yearn for the Supersport lifestyle."
And you know what? It looks terrific. The bodywork is slick, sleek and fits right in with the R1, R6 and R3. It has a bigger number on it than the R6, despite making significantly less peak power, but it may well put a gap on the R6 up to the speed limit thanks to the grunty torque of that parallel twin. The R6 with its high-revving horsepower will run rings around it on a fast racetrack, but the R7 will be much easier to spank around on the street, and probably a barrel of monkeys to ride.
Yamaha claims a peak power of 72.4 horsepower and a peak torque of 67 Nm (49.4 lb-ft), and a wet weight of 188 kg (414 lb). Geared short 'n' crazy, it'll get away from the lights with alacrity thanks to a super-light assist/slipper clutch that'll be a joy to use around town. You can option it up with a factory quickshifter, but it's only for upshifts.
If those mirrors fold in, this bike will be a lane-splitting weapon in traffic. That super-slim parallel twin engine has allowed Yamaha to make the R7 the narrowest R-series sportsbike it's ever built; skinnier even than the R3 and R125. That'll certainly help make it accessible to a wider range of riders, too, although this isn't a bike for real shorties. Its 836 mm (32.9 inch) seat height is closer to the R1's seat height than the R3's.
The R7's sporting pretensions don't stop dead at the fairings; Yamaha seems to have supplied some decent enough suspension and brakes as well. Brakes are radially mounted, with an equally radial Brembo master cylinder. The forks are 41mm inverted KYB units with adjustable preload, and rebound and compression damping managed on opposite forks for easy fiddling. The shock is a step down, only offering preload and rebound damping adjustment. But the bike's sharpish geometry and forward-biased weight balance should make it quick and nimble to steer.
The compact single headlight is an LED unit, surrounded by feathery LED driving lights, the dash is LCD with a shift light built in, the tank holds 13 liters (3.4 gal), and it'll ship in a feisty Yamaha blue with funky matte-blue side panels, or a glossy all-black, which ... doesn't seem to photograph as well.
I'm all for anything that generates rider confidence, and the R7 looks to me like it'll be thoroughly thrashable and fun, giving new riders the flashy looks and sweet cornering performance of a superbike without the kind of unhinged performance figures that tend to frighten people out of the sport.
Priced at US$8,999 and hitting dealerships this October, the R7 is well pitched as a less exotic, less expensive, but handsome and bulletproof alternative to something like the Aprilia RS660. We expect to see restricted learner versions in the appropriate markets, and a whole bunch of these things on the road – after all, anyone who would complain about the new R7 not being an ultra-exotic racer ... well, they ain't the target market here.
Now, we're totally dreaming here, but are we going to see something similar in an R9 one day, using that hilarious 890cc triple from the MT-09? You could put that donk in a golf cart and I'd be interested.
Enjoy a nice snappy video below.