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Yamaha MT: the models, the rivals and the verdict

Popping a wheelie on the Yamaha MT-10 and MT 10 SP

The MT range from Yamaha is one of modern motorcycling’s great success stories. Starting with the 847cc three-cylinder MT-09 in late 2013, the new approach did away with the firm’s age-old detuned four-cylinder naked recipe, to create a set of affordable, exciting roadsters, popular with both new and experienced riders across the globe.

Although initially criticised for poor fuelling and crude suspension, the Street Triple-rivalling MT-09 paved the way for a roster of exciting new Yamaha nakeds, stretching from the CBT-friendly MT-125, to the middleweight MT-07 and up to the savage YZF-R1-derived MT-10

Still popular today, the range continues to thrive and has since spawned a number of variations, including the retro XSR700 and 900, as well as the touring-friendly Tracers.

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Yamaha MT-125 (2014-on)

A side-on view of the Yamaha MT-125

The smallest bike in the MT range, the 125 is designed primarily for new riders, often only possessing a CBT or A1 licence. Launched in 2014 and based heavily on the YZF-R125 sportsbike, the 14.7bhp naked is not only good looking, but handles and rides brilliantly.

Weighing just 138kg, it’s the ideal traffic-buster, with well-damped suspension and a powerful single radially-mounted front caliper giving new riders the perfect introduction to motorcycling.

What’s more, upside down 41mm forks, LED headlights and a slick LCD dash make it a machine to be proud of, perfect for showing off to your mates in the college carpark.

Yamaha MT-125 rivals

The naked 125 market is currently saturated with quality choices from the most of the mainstream manufacturers. These include the Suzuki GSX-S125, Aprilia Tuono 125, Kawasaki Z125, KTM 125 Duke and Honda CB125R.

Full Yamaha MT-125 review

Yamaha MT-03 (2016-on)

Cornering on a Yamaha MT-03

Based on the first incarnation of the YZF-R3 sportsbike, the MT-03 arrived in 2016 and is designed for riders possessing an A2 licence.

Producing 41.4bhp from its 321cc parallel-twin engine, it’s a bike that confusingly shares its name with another Yamaha naked, which arrived in 2006 and used the single-cylinder lump out of the old XT660 trailie.

Unlike the older machine, the latest model offers more a free-revving package, perfect for an aggressive back road blast and scything through inner-city traffic. Well-damped and complete with contemporary styling, it’s the perfect stepping-stone for riders wanting to progress through the UK licencing structure.

Yamaha MT-03 rivals

Unlike the 125 above, the solely A2-focussed naked genre is far more sparsely populated, with rivals including the 2019-on Kawasaki Z400, newly-updated Honda CB500F and ever-popular KTM 390 Duke. Although other machines can be restricted to be compliant (including other models in Yamaha’s range), these bikes are specifically designed to target this audience.

Full Yamaha MT-03 reviews

Yamaha MT-07 (2014-on)

Riding a 2016 Yamaha MT-07

When the MT-07 burst onto the scene back in 2014, it was a revelation. Simple, cheap and unbelievably fun on either one or two wheels, it won MCN’s prestigious Bike Of The Year Award in the same year and proved that you didn’t need huge power to have a great time.

Updated for 2018, the 74bhp two-cylinder received an improved look and tweaks to the suspension, which was the main complaint to the first bike.

With an all-new preload and rebound adjustable rear shock, the spring rate went up by 11%. High-speed rebound damping also increased by 27% and high speed compression by 40%.

At the front end, the KYB conventional forks remained non-adjustable, however gained 6% more spring rate and 16% greater rebound damping.

Yamaha MT-07 rivals

Back at its launch in 2014, the main rivals to the MT-07 would have been the Kawasaki ER-6n and the Suzuki Gladius, based on the SV650. Delivering more punch, better value and arguably more modern looks, the MT shot straight to the top of the pile and has remained there since.

This is despite the ER-6n being replaced with the Kawasaki Z650 and Suzuki returning to the SV650 platform, now complete with preload adjustment at the front and rear.

Full Yamaha MT-07 reviews

Yamaha MT-09 (2013-on)

Riding on the 2016 Yamaha MT-09

The bike that kick-started the revolution, the MT-09 was a completely new proposition from Yamaha and was an instant hit.

Boasting a 115bhp three-cylinder engine, the bike took the fight directly to Triumph’s Street Triple range, which had ruled the middleweight naked bike roost seemingly since dinosaurs roamed the earth.  

Despite being cheaper, crude suspension and a jerky throttle hindered the bike’s appeal, however in 2014 Yamaha improved the throttle map and in 2016 added a three-stage traction control system.

Following this, in 2017, the bike gained new styling, a quickshifter and a swingarm mounted number plate bracket. What’s more, the forks also gained compression and rebound damping spread between its two forks. These updates were then taken further with the introduction of the MT-09 SP just a year later.

Yamaha MT-09 rivals

As already discussed, the MT-09’s main rival has to be the Triumph Street Triple – both in its original 675 and later 765 guises. Both using three-cylinder engines, the Triumph remains the dominant of the species, however the Yamaha’s lower price tag keeps it in close contention.

Other bikes to consider would also be the four-cylinder Kawasaki Z900, Aprilia Shiver 750 V-twin and Suzuki’s inline-four GSX-S750. Another new addition to arrive in 2018 was the parallel-twin KTM 790 Duke.

Full Yamaha MT-09 reviews

Yamaha MT-10 (2016-on)

An MT-10 wheelies with its supernaked rivals

The biggest, most powerful one of the bunch, the Yamaha MT-10 is a supernaked capable of beating the Europeans at their own game and is powered by the 998cc crossplane-crank inline four engine lifted from the Yamaha R1.

Producing 158bhp and 82ftlb of torque, it’s a stunters wet dream, capable of lifting a wheel high into the sky with the slightest ping of the clutch. The bike is best enjoyed in standard mode, with both A and B being too sharp for accurate cornering and wheelies.

Available in both a standard and SP variant, as well as a pannier-shod touring version, it takes the fight directly to the V4 Aprilia Tuono with all the power you could ever need and a face only a mother could love.

Yamaha MT-10 rivals

Thanks to almost all modern superbikes skating around 200bhp and supersport machinery all but dead in the water, the popularity of supernakeds has arguably never been better, with most of the major manufacturers producing a bonkers upright. 

This includes the Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 (arguably the MT’s closest rival), the Triumph Speed Triple 1050 RS, the KTM 1290 Super Duke R and the BMW S1000R. Also to be considered are the Suzuki GSX-S1000 and the Honda CB1000R.

Full Yamaha MT-10 review

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