Founded in 1955 as an off-shoot of its musical business, Yamaha today is second only to Honda in world motorcycling both in terms of scale and range of machines, not to mention its sporting success. Its modern line-up of machines ranges from 50cc scooters to the inimitable R1 superbike while past icons include its affordable Fazer, incomparable V-Max and world-leading Tenere adventure bikes.
Which Yamahas are best for me?
The choice of new and used Yamahas is so great the only limiting factor is you. What sort of bike are you after? An A1-licence 125? Novice-friendly middleweight or full-bore superbike, adventure machine or tourer? Next, what’s your budget? This might dictate whether you’re better off buying used. Oh, and don’t forget Classic now out-of-production Yamahas such as the V-Max or MT-01. Here’s our pick of the best new Yamahas, plus a couple of brilliant used buys and a pair of 'golden oldies'…
Best new and used Yamahas in 2019
Spec: 999cc / 197bhp / 199kg / 855mm seat height
Price: £10,000 (used) - £16,799 (new)
Yamaha’s flagship superbike has been the most celebrated of Japanese litre-class sports bike ever since the original revolutionised the class back in 1998. Successively updated since, the latest, MotoGP-inspired version came out in 2015 and is effectively a road-going replica of Valentino Rossi’s GP racer, complete with compact riding position, a host of electronic riding aids and ballistic 200bhp powerplant.
Updated and face lifted slightly for 2020, Yamaha have done enough to just about keep up with the latest BMW S1000RR and Kawasaki ZX-10R without leaping ahead. But for GP looks and the Rossi factor, nothing comes close.
BUYING ADVICE Since the 2015 update, MCN readers have given this latest R1 nothing but glowing reviews so there should be no reliability concerns, but, if buying used, cosmetic condition is important, as can be accessories such as a quality silencer such as by Akrapovic.
2019 Tracer 700GT
Spec: 689cc / 74bhp / 196kg / 835mm seat height
Price: £7499 (used) - £7999 (new)
The first Tracer version of the MT-07 twin arrived in 2016 a year after its 900 triple big brother and, like that bike, is a half-faired, slightly roomier (larger seat) version of the roadster base bike. As such it was an instant hit thanks to its value and practicality without losing any of the MT-07’s ease, punch and liveliness. This GT version again followed the example of its bigger brother and arrived in 2019 and is a higher spec version with adjustable high screen, plusher seat and two 20-litre panniers, together making the GT a brilliant value all-rounder and tourer.
BUYING ADVICE There have been no significant mechanical concerns with either the GT, Tracer or base MT-07. The GT is so new there will be few issues but the slightly older Tracer and MT-07 need looking after cosmetically and, being often novice buys, can bear some scars or suffer from neglect.
Spec: 847cc / 115bhp / 191kg / 815mm seat height
Price: £5750 (used) - £8999 (new)
Like Yamaha’s Tracer, the XSR is a variant of the base MT roadster – in this case the 900cc, three-cylinder MT-09. That bike, launched in 2014, was, and remains a brilliant value, perky, thrilling road naked lacking only looks and spec – both addressed by the XSR.
With revised, retro-inspired styling, new headlight, seat and huge customising potential, the XSR has all of the fun-factor of the MT, most of its affordability and with a welcome added dose of style and street cool. Retros don’t get much more entertaining.
BUYING ADVICE The base MT-09 has had few mechanical concerns other than, as with the MT-07, a need to keep on top of the cosmetics and the same is true of the XSR version. That said, with higher quality finishes and cosmetics, there’s little to worry about here, either ads long as it’s been looked after. Even the bolts used are unique to the XSR.
2016-on MT-10 Touring
Spec: 998cc / 158bhp / 210kg / 825mm seat height
Price: 9000 (used) - £12,649 (new)
The latest MT-10 was launched in 2016 as a super-naked version of the latest R1 and, if that sounds like something of a beast, you’d be right. However, as the cross plane crank motor has been retuned for more midrange it’s not quite as mad as you might thin.
In fact, it’s a brilliant road engine with excellent handling and manners. Better still, there’s also an Ohlins-equipped SP version and, since 2017, this even more practical 'Touring' version complete with panniers and screen. Super nakeds don’t get much better – or more real world practical, even if it does look a bit odd!
BUYING ADVICE Yamaha has a great reputation for build quality and reliability and the MT-10 follows this envied tradition. It’s based on the current R1 and early gearbox recall aside (which doesn’t affect this model), there have been no major problems reported.
Spec: 1301cc / 143bhp / 296kg / 825mm seat height
Price: £8800 (used) - £14,499 (new)
Although originally launched way back in 2001, Yamaha’s big sports-tourer has been repeatedly updated since. Now including the likes of a slip-assist clutch and LED lights to go with its creamy, grunty, shaft-drive four, decent handling and plenty of comfort thanks to roomy ergonomics and an electric screen.
There’s even a semi-automatic AS version, too. Not cheap, looking dated and newer rivals from the likes of BMW may be tempting, but for a solid, effective and proven four-cylinder tourer the FJR is pretty much the only one.
BUYING ADVICE Although dating back to 2001, the last significant update came in 2016 with a sixth gear plus cosmetic and dash improvements. Mechanicals are as solid as they come but high mileages are common.
2019-on Tenere 700
Spec: 689cc / 73bhp / 205kg / 880mm seat height
Price: £8500 (used) - £8699 (new)
New adventure bike based on MT-07 twin cylinder mechanicals was hugely anticipated, brought a revival of the great Tenere name and, for the most part, hasn’t disappointed. By keeping to the MT ethos of keeping things simple and affordable without complicated electronics or fancy cycle parts but also designed to be a true, rally-style off-roader, the Tenere is a breath of fresh air – a genuine, dual purpose bike that’s accessible to all, truly versatile and temptingly priced, as well. Hard core looks are matched by its dirt ability and only road gripe is slightly small 16-litre tank.
BUYING ADVICE Possibly a little early to be certain but MT mechanicals are proven, even though the Tenere’s engine has been retuned slightly. Few used examples around yet but if buying used watch for off-road dings.
2010-on XT1200Z Super Tenere (used)
Spec: 1199cc / 110bhp / 265kg / 845-870mm seat height
Price: £6000 (used) - £12,399 (new)
Yamaha’s big adventure bike first came out in 2010, has been largely unchanged since and so is now getting a little long in the tooth and in terms of spec and electronics has fallen behind the latest from BMW and KTM – but by being unfashionable it makes a great used buy. Its shaft-drive, parallel twin is a gem, handling is decent, it’s rugged and, though lacking the latest electronics, has everything you actually need.
It’s also durable. New, it today starts at a difficult-to-justify £12,399 (for which you can get a Ducati Multistrada 950, for example), but good, fully loaded used examples can be had for as little as £6500.
BUYING ADVICE Uncomplicated, solidly built, with a strong track record plus shaft drive, as long as a Super Ten is in decent cosmetic nick there’s little to fear – there’s plenty to choose from, too, many loaded up with luggage, heated grips and more.
2008-2017 YZF-R6 (used)
Spec: 599cc / 133bhp / 166kg / 850mm seat height
Price: £4000 - £8000 (used)
There’s an argument that when Yamaha brought out its all-new, ride-by-wire, electronics laden R6 in 2006, supersports 600 reached their zenith – and we’d go along with that. Slight update in 2008 apart, the screaming, razor sharp 600 then remained unchanged for a decade, its rivals (partly due to a collapse in supersport sales) stopped competing and Yamaha’s little jewel remained the go-to 600 racer ever since.
Even Yamaha’s own 2017 successor hasn’t the sheer speed of its predecessor. Being so long lived and popular also means it’s a great used buy – but shop wisely, there are plenty of thrashed and crashed versions out there, too.
BUYING ADVICE There’s no major mechanical issues to speak of but this is a bike that get’s ridden hard and many also end up on track. If you can afford it, go for a pampered low-miler with quality accessories such as an Akrapovic pipe.
Spec: 1679cc / 197bhp / 310kg / 775mm seat height
Price: £11,000 - £15,000 (used)
Yamaha’s brilliant re-imaging of its legendary original 1980s VMAX was a triumph or excess, engineering and exuberance – but not commercially. Although a fabulous lump of metal built to Yamaha’s highest standards and with a straight-line drag bike thrill nothing else can still match its peculiar style and over-£20K price meant UK buyers were few.
Killed off by Euro4, that very quirkiness, however, means residuals aren’t great either. Add all that together, along with generally low mileages and a pampered life and it means one of Yamaha’s greatest ever bikes can no be had for as little as £11,000.
BUYING ADVICE The unique, shaft drive V4 is bulletproof, components such as Brembo brakes are among the best and the VMAX is one of those bikes that Yamaha builds to the very highest quality. What’s more, it’s generally pampered and mileages are usually low – if you can find one.
2006-2013 FZ1 Fazer
Spec: 998cc / 150bhp / 199kg / 815mm seat height
Price: £2850 - £5500 (used)
Yamaha’s final incarnation of its big, affordable Fazer, first launched in 2000 as a naked, budget, half-faired R1, came in two forms – the naked FZ1 and this half-faired Fazer. And although both were killed off by the MT-09 in 2014 and are to today cruelly underestimated, the latter in particular remains a great all-round road bike – and now at a better price than ever.
The 2002 R1-derived engine is grunty and fast, its chassis is decent, it’s comfortable and good-looking and is versatile, too. Best of all, today, good used examples can be had for as little as £3700.
BUYING ADVICE Although the R1-derived mechanicals are generally solid, the Fazer’s budget nature means quality and finishes are a little circumspect, so watch out for evidence of corrosion and neglect. On the other hand, a pampered version with a few quality accessories can prove an absolute steal.
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