Extracted from issue 165…
Road Rider track test: Yamaha MY22 YZF-R7HO
A compact, easy to ride and affordable sport and track bike. What’s not to love?
Riding fast is an adrenaline rush; it’s why sportsbikes exist. The new Yamaha R7 will give you that rush, although it will do it for a lot less money than just about anything else you can describe as a full-size sportsbike.
Rounding up bigger, faster motorcycles in the twists and turns of Sydney Motorsport Park is an absolute buzz, the pleasure of being able to get hard onto the throttle early without much fear of the dreaded highside offering a different sports ride to a machine with mega horsepower and high-tech rider aids.
The R7 offers heaps of bang-for-buck in a compact package. It replaces the legendary R6 in the streetbike line-up, Yamaha dropping the road-registrable version for just track-only machines in 2022. The R7 now slots in as a machine between the R3, a very basic sportsbike that is great for learning the craft of sports riding, and the R1, Yamaha’s high-tech, high-horsepower-sporting flagship.
Critics will say it’s not fast, but it is — over 200km/h. Critics will say it lacks tech, but it doesn’t need it. Traditionalists will whinge it’s not a true descendent of the R7 from the 1990s, but hey, too bad. While there are smaller, cheaper sportsbikes, they are generally aimed at smaller, lighter riders: your editor doesn’t fit very well on an R3, but he was very comfortable on the R7.
So… a middle-weight track bike from an Oriental manufacturer… not trying to be the fastest in the class. This is new ground. However, the R7 has a higher calling; it’s been designed as a training platform for riders to develop race skills. Over the past decade or so, litre bikes have gotten gobsmackingly fast — only advanced electronics keep them rideable, and even then they can bite hard if a small riding error is made. 600 Supersport fours have gotten faster too, but their performance envelope has shrunk and shrunk and it’s gotten technically harder for the rider to extract serious pace.
The result is both classes now require high-level skills for a hot lap time. Acquiring that skill, when the next class down is a 300, has become a huge and difficult jump. Yamaha has identified the need for a machine to fill this riding difficulty void between 300s and the 600 Supersport/Superbike classes.
The R7 has what’s required — a chassis that can cut it on track, an engine with enough punch to require throttle control finesse (as opposed to 300s, which have stop and go) and it’s affordable. This will maximise the number of riders getting access to it, increasing the talent pool size.
To further develop basic race skills, it’s in an electronics-free zone, offering only ABS for rider safety (which is a legal requirement for road registration these days, too).
The R7 is a close relative of the MT-07, sharing its twin-cylinder engine and chassis. Power for the engine isn’t published for the Euro 5-compliant engine, although in other markets the claimed output is 74.8hp at 8750rpm with peak torque of 67Nm at 6500rpm. Australian models may differ a little. It results in an even power delivery with good midrange performance.
The chassis is differentiated for the MT-07 by having some structural aluminium-reinforcing plates at the rear of the engine. These strengthen the swingarm mounting point to better cope with track loads.
The brakes feature a Brembo radial master cylinder for the improved “on the limit” feel required for track riding and the rest of the package is well specified for this price point.
Suspension is matched to the moderate engine output. It doesn’t need to cope with 200hp and strikes a balance between acceptable performance and cost. That said, it does have some of the best specified suspension at its price point. The forks feature full adjustability, while the rear has rebound damping and preload only.
There are no electronics sitting between the rider’s actions and the machine’s response. This helps build good skills and reduces the likelihood of sophisticated electronics masking a riding weakness.
The final part of the package is an ergonomic set-up tailored to track riding with a racing crouch. It’s very similar to the R6, the main difference being it’s slimmer between the legs.
One thing closer inspection does show is stripping off the blinkers, taillight and mirrors isn’t a 10-minute job. The mirrors aren’t too bad, but a blanking plate is needed. The blinker and taillight assemblies don’t appear to have any “easily breakable” wiring connectors adjacent to their mechanical disconnection points. This should be feature 101 for a bike with track aspirations and something Yamaha might want to look at. It’s likely an owner regularly doing track set-up on a registered bike will fit some.
Yamaha gave us the opportunity to spend a day with a stock, registered R7 on the GP circuit layout at Sydney Motorsport Park — the perfect place to assess its primary design brief. Track prep consisted of setting tyre pressures and tightening up the suspension. It was a revealing exercise and showed the R7 can walk the walk… even
when ridden in straight from the showroom.
The first impression was one of how quickly it makes the rider feel confident. Within a few laps I was starting to push, and apex speeds rose accordingly. It is a strikingly cohesive and balanced bike on track, far more so than its vanilla specs suggest.
Braking stability was a standout for me; I was able to trail brake at similar apex entry speed to my 1000cc superbike. The cornering clearance is such that even at high lean angles, nothing touches and edge grip is very good. A quick shout out to Bridgestone here — the OEM Battlax S22s warmed up very quickly and had race-slick grip levels.
Steering precision is top notch, both light yet stable. With the bike cranked over, it’s easy to place it on the desired line.
Ergonomically it is one of the best track riding experiences I’ve had. It was easy to get into and maintain a race crouch on the straight, and hanging off was also easy, with all the controls being reachable when doing this. Editor Nigel (who’s 186cm tall) also commented on how well the ergonomics worked for him, so it works for riders of all sizes.
The high-output MT-07 motor (one of our middleweight favourites) wasn’t completely out of its depth, with enough power to spin the tyre at high lean angles in slow corners.
The power is progressive, with a nice link between throttle input and rear tyre response, and there’s enough punch to feel racy. A ham-fisted rider could high side it but overall, traction control isn’t missed.
This is not a high-powered bike, so being in the right gear at the right time is very important. Fortunately, the gear shift is one of the nicest I’ve experienced. However, for track work, ARR would highly recommend ticking the optional quickshifter box. It was the first time in a long time I’ve had to deal with a clutch on the track and I’d forgotten how distracting it is, and how much extra work it is, and how much impact it has on trying to maintain a smooth riding style.
One thing that did jump out was the quietness of the OEM street exhaust. For track work it’s too quiet, and a lot of time was spent looking at the tacho, contemplating where the engine was at before changing gears. For street work it’s fine as the engine can be flogged and it won’t attract unwanted attention.
WHAT WE’D DO IF WE OWNED IT
We think it’s important for prospective buyers to think carefully about what they want from their future R7. The answer to those thoughts will impact the value and type of mods an owner may undertake. It all comes down to bang for the buck.
The R7 has been skilfully designed to offer what is needed and nothing more. When a rider has the talent to extract the maximum the engine can give, not only does lack of power become the limit, so does the suspension. It doesn’t run out of chassis or brakes though, which is good.
Putting money into suspension will help any bike, but that can range from $800 to $5000. Race-tuning the engine will give it a bit more, but it is not going to turn it from a wombat into a rhino no matter how much is spent. With all this in mind, where is the track modification sweet spot? Here are three scenarios.
One. It’s going to be used as a skill development bike only. In this scenario it won’t be about ultimate lap times, but about developing race track skills. Of course, measuring lap times is a great way to assess skill development, but it’s all about the percentage improvement rather than what the actual lap time figure is. To do this, only light modification is required. A slip-on exhaust, a modest shock upgrade and some race-style footpegs. The OEM pegs are fine on the street, but track pegs would be better for both grip and comfort.
Two. It’s going to be used as a race bike in some future R7 cup series. This is the serious end of the spectrum and to be competitive, mods will be the maximum allowed under the rules. Typically, things like a race fairing, titanium exhaust, race ECU tune, airbox and inlet tract mods, complete race suspension front and back, race brake pads and braided front brake lines would all be needed before rolling up to the start line — probably doubling the cost of the bike…
Three. It’s going to be used as a track day bike and it’s going to be all about the best possible lap time. In this scenario, owners aren’t constrained by the race rules; modifications are only limited by budget. At ARR, we’ve no doubt an R7, milled from a block of unobtanium, would be pretty quick, but probably not even close to a stock R6.
There’s nothing wrong with going down the extensive modification path of course, just be sure before starting; the desired outcome is a fast R7 rather than a fast bike. That’s the punchline; if a lot of money is going to be spent on R7 upgrades, why not just buy the R6? (Or… an R1!) Or do the minimum and just… ride it, ride it and ride it.
Yamaha sees the R7 as an intermediate class track bike and we’d agree it gives Supersport 300 riders a nice stepping stone to the bullets occupying the higher classes. The engine has a reputation as being durable, so many, many laps can be done without fear of financial surprise. The chassis is well executed, offering stability and a proper race bike feel. All in all, it’s a good option for those who want to be properly fast riders.
Apart from all this, it can be registered and ridden to work.
Our final opinion on the R7 as a track machine: It will never win a world championship, but it will be ridden by many future world champions. If you want to be one, at some point you’ll probably have to buy one!
– Phil James
HO and LAMS
Yamaha provided Australian Road Rider with a full-power 689cc, $14,999 ride away ‘HO’ version: there’s also a 655cc LAMS approved model ($13,999 ride away) for those who don’t have an unlimited licence.
The HO version produces 72hp @ 8750rpm and 67Nm @ 6500rpm. The LAMS version, 52.1hp @ 8000rpm and 57.5Nm @ 4000.
There’s not a huge difference in the torque figures and maximum torque is reached much earlier by the LAMS version, so we expect there to be little difference in the riding experience until the motor is spinning hard and speeds start to get into three figures.
For anyone on a restricted licence the LAMS version will be a heap of fun and will let you develop your skills, but you’ll notice the reduced power on a track, especially a longer circuit like SMSP or Phillip Island.
If you have a full licence or only plan to ride your R7 on a track, the extra $1000 price is the cheapest 20hp you’ll ever buy.
LAMs machines usually sell in much bigger numbers than full power middleweights, but early interest in the R7 has been around 50/50 LAMs/HO.
Yamaha R6 track model
The road registered version of the R6 has been discontinued in Australia. Fortunately, Yamaha is offering limited numbers of a track only variant. It is essentially the road bike stripped of lights and fitted with a race fairing. There’s still a bit to be done to optimise it for track work. Sadly our market won’t get the GYTR model which is closer to a fully race prepped bike. Bugger…
The R6 has always been a favourite for 600 riders, and at ARR, we think it’s terrific Yamaha are continuing to make it available here.
Specifications: MY22 Yamaha R7
Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, DOHC, 4-valve, 4-cylinder
Bore x stroke: 80 x 68.6mm
Compression ratio: 11.5:1
Fuel System: Fuel Injection,
Power 74.8hp (56.5kW) @ 9000rpm [LA 52.1hp @ 8000]
Torque 68Nm (42.5ft-lb) @ 6500 [LA 57.5Nm @ 4000]
Type: 6 speed
Final drive: Chain
Clutch: Wet multiplate, Assist and Slipper function
CHASSIS AND RUNNING GEAR
Chassis: Delta Box steel with aluminium reinforcement at rear of engine.
Front suspension: Telescopic upside-down fork, compression, rebound, spring preload adjustment 130mm travel.
Rear suspension: Rising rate linkage single shock, rebound and ring style preload adjustment. 130mm travel
Front brakes: Radial-mount callipers, Semi floating dual discs, 298mm, ABS
Rear brake: Single piston calliper, single disc, 245mm, ABS
Tyres: Front: 120/70ZR17 (58W) Rear: 180/55ZR17M/C (73W)
ELECTRONIC RIDER AIDS
Brake Control (ABS): Yes.
Engine Power Modes: No
Traction Control: No
Wheelie Control: No
Engine Brake Control: No
Launch Control: No
Quick Shifter: Optional Bi-directional
Cruise Control: No
DIMENSIONS AND CAPACITIES
Rake: not given
Trail: not given
Claimed dry weight: Not Given
Claimed wet weight: 188Kg
Ground Clearance: 135mm
Seat height: 835 mm
Wheelbase: 1395 mm
Fuel capacity: 13L
Price: HO $14,999: LAMs version $13,999 (ride away)
Colours: Icon Blue, Yamaha Black
Test bike supplied by Yamaha Australia
Warranty: 2 years, unlimited kilometres
[Competition] Aprilia RS660
On paper the Aprilia 660 looks to be a competitor to the R7, but they are quite different beasts. The R7 is a supersport track specialist that works to some degree on the street. The Aprilia is more street focused yet works to some degree on the track (we assume, we’ve not ridden it there). The Aprilia runs a higher specification in terms of engine performance, chassis sophistication and electronics. Consequently, it costs $5000 more.
So… they are both in the same postcode, but don’t really live anywhere near each other.
Triumph Street Triple
A naked triple with three versions from the LAMs S-model to the 20K RS, there’s great spec and sporting ability available.
Kawasaki Ninja 650
Available in both LAMs and full power versions, Kawasaki’s Ninja 650 offers a twin cylinder engine, full fairing and reasonable road comfort. Not as track ready but quite a bit cheaper.