Ridden: Yamaha YZF-R7 is supersport style with a LAMS twist

Matthieu day-Gillett
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Yamaha YZF-R7 comes in both High Output and LAMS models.

There will always be an element of the motorcycling community who want the fastest-looking machine in the car park. Unfortunately for those entering the community on their L plates, of late there has been a serious lack of machines that fit that bill in the LAMS sector with essentially only one bike on offer with go-fast fairings. That was until Yamaha released the YZF-R7, which is available in both High Output and LAMS guises.

Legally suitable, but sporty YZF-R7 is not one for the absolute novice.

But let’s have a disclaimer straight out of the pits: I wouldn’t recommend an R7 for a complete motorcycling novice. While the engine is an absolute gem, and incidentally one of the first designed specifically to comply with LAMS legislation, the aggressive supersport riding position and tight steering lock make the R7 an involved bike to swing a leg over. Novices riders would probably be better off with the more neutral riding position, but the same excellent engine, found in Yamaha’s MT-07 or XSR700 offerings.

With that said, our test bike was the LAMS variant of the YZF-R7, which receives the sleeved 655cc version of Yamaha’s high-output 689cc CP2 parallel twin which originally debuted with the MT-07. The CP2 has earned its fans with a throaty 270-degree firing order and smooth power delivery making it a perfect companion for multiple genres. Since its release in 2014, it has found its way into almost every corner of Yamaha’s lineup.

The engine’s capacity is the only key difference between the LAMS and High Output models, giving restricted class riders a bike that is visually identical to the full-power version but with the benefits of being able to be legally ridden on a learner licence. You’ve got that YZF-R1-inspired fairing, clip-on handlebars and angular rear cowling that all scream “go fast bike”.

Not merely a looker: this Yamaha has a great chassis too.

There’s also the option for a quickshifter which helps snap through the 6-speed gearbox even faster, like the racebike the R7 aspires to be. Even in LAMS guise, the R7 puts down a pleasing amount of power and with the quickshifter fitted gets up to speed nicely.

Yamaha has designed the R7 to be a bike of balance; a sports bike that isn’t too much for the road - which arguably every 1000cc option has now become -  but cuts corners like a hot knife through butter.

That means the YZF-R7 isn’t just a great engine in a sporty-looking package. It’s got the chassis to back it up. Up the front, you’ve got adjustable 41mm upside-down forks from KYB to keep the front wheel planted firmly onto the road while the monoshock out the back has preload and rebound adjustability. It is a far cry from some of the ultra-premium electronic suspension systems found on modern superbikes, sure, but with the R7 priced at just $15,099, it’s a solid setup that more than does the job on our twisty roads. Even more so, the Yamaha is one of the only bikes in its class with that level of suspension adjustment with its closest competitors in price all featuring non-adjustable suspension.

Adjustable 41mm upside forks part of the package.

This chassis and engine combo hit a bit of a sweet spot in the marketplace, where the YZF-R7 has very little in terms of competition, with Honda’s four-cylinder CBR650R and Kawasaki’s Ninja 650 being its main rivals currently. The YZF-R7 HO has firm competition in the new Suzuki GSX-8R (which also lacks the same level of suspension adjustment), and an argument could be made that the R7 also competes with the much more expensive Aprilia RS660 despite the latters much more premium price point.

In the cockpit, Yamaha keeps things quite simple. In this mid-capacity segment finding a balance between price and features is crucial, and Yamaha has managed to thread the needle well with the R7. The dash unit is an inverted LCD and gives the rider the important info at a glance without drawing too much attention to itself. I’m not normally a fan of the inverted colour scheme LCD dash, but on the R7 it visually works well.

Yamaha has put together a really appealing offering in the R7 in a segment that has until recently been largely ignored by the majority of manufacturers. With its well-set-up chassis and that gorgeous CP2 engine behind that race-inspired fairing, you’ve got a bike that few manufacturers have a real answer to. At least for now.

The tide does appear to be changing with more manufacturers returning their gaze to the sports segment and we are already seeing other options creeping into the class that could bring true competition. Time will tell if Yamaha’s blend of great tunable chassis and the cult-favourite CP2 engine has what it takes to keep punters off bikes with more power and electronics.

If the YZF-R7 is all about balance, Yamaha has achieved just that in many respects.

PRICE: from $15,099
ENGINE:  655cc liquid-cooled DOHC parallel-twin (LAMS) 689cc liquid-cooled DOHC parallel-twin (HO)
POWER: 55kW@8750rpm, 68Nm@6500rpm (HO version)


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