The Yamaha MT-07 (née FZ-07) is a motorcycle destined to be canonized as one of The Great Standard Bikes of the 21st Century. At $7,599, it's a massive overachiever. As a turnkey daily rider, a racebike project, a first bike, or a thirtieth bike, the MT-07 transcends its categorization. It's not a budget bike; it's a bargain bike.

When Yamaha released the FZ-07 in 2015, it became an instant hit, filling the budget commuter/racer niche left vacant after Suzuki turned its beloved SV650 into the milquetoast SVF650 Gladius. I mean, Gladius? It sounds a bit too, I don't know… anatomical. I can very well imagine a doctor scolding an afflicted patient: "I told you to stop taking such hot baths; they're bad for your Gladius," or "Your Gladius doesn't come with a tool kit, which is why you need to get it inspected annually."

Fortunately, Yamaha came to the rescue with the FZ-07. The Fuzz was the right bike for the right time. Its 270-degree, parallel-twin engine was rowdy and characterful; it handled well; it had modern styling; and at $6,990, it was the right price. Since then, Suzuki has seen the error of its ways and re-released a proper SV650, Honda has joined the fray with the 2018 CB650F (though it looks curiously similar to the FZ, if you ask me), and Kawasaki released the Z650. In other words, the lightweight "hyper naked" class is really hot right now.

It’s so hot, in fact, that Yamaha says the FZ-07 is the highest-selling motorcycle in its entire lineup.

Zack and Ari have been raving about this thing since day one, so when they asked me to attend the launch of the '18 model in Marbella, Spain, I couldn't wait to see what all the fuss was about.

Yamaha MT07
Usually, I get dozens of photos taken at a bike launch. Because of the weather, which only got worse from here, the standard photo shoots were canceled. Instead we followed a cameraman in the back of a van as he took some tracking shots. I got three shots total.Courtesy of Yamaha

Unfortunately, I got about three corners into the ride before the heavens opened. We’re talking can’t-see-10-feet-ahead-of-you, lose-the-front, “shoot-I-just-peed-a-little” levels of rain here. My wife, Leah, said it was actually warmer in Upstate New York than it was in the south of Spain. Just my luck.

But I was still getting paid to ride a motorcycle, so things could be worse.

For 2018, Yamaha ditched the FZ moniker, giving it the MT name consistent with the nomenclature used in the rest of the world. MT, if you’re wondering, stands for “Master of Torque,” as though the bike received a graduate degree from some second-rate university that’ll pretty much let you study whatever you want as long as you give them money. Still, it’s way better than Gladius.

Yamaha seat
The revised seat is one of the first things noticeable on the ’18 MT-07. I think it looks better than the original, but more importantly, it’s all-day comfortable. It has plenty of squish and a supportive shape.Courtesy of Yamaha

Yamaha also updated the bodywork from nose to tail. It takes a keen eye to notice the differences, but I find the lines simpler and more attractive. Plus, moving the tank cover forward 10mm makes the rider and passenger seats slightly roomier. The bars are narrower than on some naked bikes, which coupled with the slender tank, makes the whole package feel slightly shrunken. That’s not necessarily a negative, considering testers as tall as 6-foot-3 didn’t feel cramped on the bike. In fact, I appreciated how diminutive the bike felt, especially when maneuvering at low speeds—something I’m not generally great at.

When building a bike to a price point, suspension is typically one of the most evident areas of cost-cutting. Finding the perfect balance between a comfy ride for the daily commute and a firm, adequately damped ride for carving the canyons on the weekends, further complicates matters. In search of the sweet spot, Yamaha revised suspension spring rates and valving front and rear, and added rebound adjustability in the rear to go with the existing preload adjustability.

MT-07 Windscreen and controls
The 2018 MT-07 shown here with accessory windscreen and controls.Courtesy of Yamaha

It’s a real shame the weather didn’t cooperate, but in my brief time on dry roads, I was duly impressed by the suspension’s level of composure. Yamaha did a great job of dialing in the settings to get the best out of these “budget” parts. Hitting some pretty serious Spanish speed bumps (fascist speed control measures leftover from Franco’s regime, no doubt), the MT felt plush and controlled. Suspension on a bike this inexpensive isn’t supposed to be this good.

Like the suspension, the brakes performed better than expected, with plenty of power and feel to authoritatively slow down the 403-pound package. For 2018, the MT-07 is only available with ABS; it costs only $100 more than last year’s ABS-equipped bike.

Great-handling chassis, comfy ergos, and thoroughly vetted suspension aside, the engine remains the MT’s party piece. It’s a laugh-inside-your-helmet kind of motor.

MT-07 Crossplane Parallel Twin
The MT-07’s crossplane parallel twin is unchanged for 2018. That’s a good thing. The slick-shifting gearbox, tractable powerband, and great sound make for a real gem of an engine.Courtesy of Yamaha

Torquey from off idle and with a strong midrange, it feels more powerful than the numbers suggest. This thing pulls. It sounds pretty good too, especially when revving it in the echoey alleys of old Spanish towns (hopefully it wasn’t siesta time). It’s a bit too quiet as standard, but Yamaha USA’s media relations manager accompanied us, riding a bike fitted with a throaty Akrapovič exhaust that made the MT-07 sound the way it was meant to be heard. So there’s suggested mod #1.

The MT-07 is a Universal Japanese Motorcycle in the best sense. It’s predictable and easy to ride, which makes it an ideal bike for an inexperienced rider, yet it’s viscerally engaging and competent enough to be a willing accomplice for even the most experienced rider.

Yamaha MT-07 paint schemes
The 2018 MT-07 is available in three paint schemes: “Night Fluo” (pictured), “Tech Black,” and “Yamaha Blue.”Courtesy of Yamaha

Without a doubt, the MT-07 belongs in the motorcyclist’s canon of beloved machines. It’s the rare bike that can be at once a trackday weapon or an anonymous commuter that gets 58 mpg. It’s the obsessed-over parts-bin special and the neglected, barely maintained grocery-getter. It’s the beloved and the overlooked. All things to all people? Maybe not, but that it’s capable of satisfying riders with such disparate priorities is testament to Yamaha’s brilliance.

It follows in the tread marks of other overachieving commuters-gone-racing: the Yamaha RD400, the Honda CB400, the original Suzuki SV650. Like those machines, motorcyclists will be talking about the MT-07 for years to come. And if not talking, then certainly riding.

MT bodywork
Reshaped bodywork keeps in line with the MT family’s aggressive styling but has a broader demographic appeal than the Transformers-like MT-09 and MT-10. Note: turn signals are relocated to the sides of the radiator shroud for a cleaner front silhouette.Courtesy of Yamaha
Yamaha dash
The dash is unchanged for 2018. It requires the rider to look down a bit too much but is otherwise functional and legible.Courtesy of Yamaha
Reshaped tank
Reshaped tank covers are still plasticky, but for the price they look good.Courtesy of Yamaha
Yamaha exhaust
Underslung exhaust looks tidy. Although a bit quiet for my taste, at cruising speed it still has a pleasant growl.Courtesy of Yamaha
Trick pressed swingarm
Trick pressed swingarm. Fluorescent wheels.Courtesy of Yamaha
Redesigned taillight
Redesigned taillight looks similar to the MT-09’s.Courtesy of Yamaha
Yamaha rear shocks
Rear shock has a more accessible preload adjuster. Yamaha increased spring rate by 11 percent, high-speed rebound by 27 percent, and high-speed compression by 40 percent. Front suspension gets a 6 percent increase in spring rate and a 16 percent increase in rebound.Courtesy of Yamaha
Yamaha MT-07
The 2018 Yamaha MT-07.Courtesy of Yamaha
PRICE $7,599
ENGINE 689cc liquid-cooled parallel twin
CLAIMED HORSEPOWER probably 74 hp at 9,000 rpm
CLAIMED TORQUE 50.2 lb.-ft. @ 6,500 rpm
FRAME Tubular-steel double backbone
FRONT SUSPENSION KYB 41mm right-side-up fork; 5.1-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION KYB adjustable for preload and rebound; 5.1-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Dual Advics 4-piston calipers, 282mm discs with ABS
REAR BRAKE Nissin 1-piston caliper, 245mm disc with ABS
RAKE/TRAIL 24.8°/3.5 in.
WHEELBASE 55.1 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 31.7 in.
CLAIMED WEIGHT 403 lb. wet
AVAILABLE March 2018