2022 Yamaha R7 review: a thrilling sportsbike for first-time track riders?
Yamaha's new supersport bike is amateur friendly – but does it still have an exciting edge?
We're done with big-power sportsbikes. Yamaha near-as-damn-it told us so in the press presentation for the new R7. Over the past decade, buyers of new bikes have got fed up with trying to hold on to 180hp+ sportsbikes on the road, and have instead moved onto more comfy naked bikes and upright adventure thrones.
But recently there have been signs of life in the sportsbike market among lower-powered machines with more road-appropriate amounts of go. There's been a slight resurgence of sportsbikes that won't terrify you with 140mph wheelies – bikes that won't cost the thick end of £20,000 to buy and another grand or two to insure for a year. Bikes such as the Aprilia RS660, which we thoroughly enjoyed earlier this year.
Now it's Yamaha's turn to enter the fray. And it's done it in a pretty sensational way with the new R7 – watch the video below to see how a fairly amateur road and track rider got on, or scroll down for more words about the bike.
What is it?
It's a brand-new sportsbike built around the basic components of the ever-popular MT-07 naked bike. This means it shares the same 689cc crossplane-crank parallel twin engine with 73.4hp and 67Nm of torque, but sporting a new throttle body for improved engine response. It also has the same frame, albeit with some aluminium stiffeners above the footpegs, and it's now blessed with a fully adjustable upside-down front fork, replete with radially mounted brakes attached to a Brembo master cylinder.
It's available in black (with electric blue details), blue – or the white/red/gold 60th anniversary colours
It has some other pretty racey appointments too. The riding position is traditional sportsbike, with the clip-on handlebars set down inside the nose fairing, and the 835mm seat and high footpegs forcing you into an extreme riding position. The tyres are grippy Bridgestone S22s, and you can add a quickshifter for £130 – but it's only good for going up the gears sans-clutch, not down them.
What's it like?
After two hours and just under 100 miles on the serpentine, super-smooth roads in the hills near Almeria in Spain, the R7 showed itself to be a perfectly capable bike for real-world riding. That engine has a lovely amount of low-end and mid-range shove, and it's a pleasure to surf along without having to ping the digital rev-counter off the stratosphere as you would've needed to on the old (much faster) R6 with its revvy inline-four engine. That said, you can hang on to the R7's 10,000rpm redline and it hustles along at a decent lick, but you're never going to be blown away by the bike's speed – or intimidated by it. Which is sort of the point.
You get an LED headlight and an aggressive snout – but that hole isn't really an air intake, it's just aesthetic
While the R7's engine has plenty of any-gear flexibility it does lack a bit in soul. The Euro 5-compliant unit thrums along, and there's little airbox noise to tickle your pickle either. Yamaha did later turn up with a bike toting the full Akrapovic exhaust system and that sounded ear-splittingly good. But you'd never get it out of the road in the morning without annoying the neighbours.
The mirrors are actually pretty decent for a sportsbike – they're mostly vibration free and you can see past your elbows
It's become a bit of a cliche that Yamaha's standard sportsbike brakes aren't really up to snuff – but because they've only got 73hp to tame, the R7's stoppers are plenty good enough. You get loads of feel through the lever and they shed speed really well for faster road riding, with no disappointments on track either. Speaking of which…
After a morning on the road, we headed to the Andalucia Circuit – next door to the bigger Almeria track – to see if the R7's sporty ingredients had enough substance to look after someone who's only done a couple of novice trackdays and a few days of track training.
The news is all good. Three 20-minute sessions were plenty to discover the R7's easy-going charm. Despite not offering traction control in any form, the R7's smooth power delivery gave us plenty of confidence to get hard on the gas out of every turn, and we never found ourselves worrying for grip.
A front-end that's full of feel and sticky tyres give the R7 a real friendly feel on an unfamiliar track
Admittedly our track ride was on bikes with stickier road-legal-but-race-focused Bridgestone R11 tyres, but within a couple of laps of the ridiculously swoopy and twisty circuit we were happy to push as hard as our admittedly average skill level allowed.
Sessions two and three disappeared in a blur of knee-down cornering and huge grins, and perhaps the best compliment to pay the R7 is that it never got in our way of having a huge amount of fun – we were free to concentrate on improving our riding and going faster and faster.
A big part of this is down to the R7's front end. It feels so good on track, and you get plenty of mid-corner feedback to know exactly how much you can trail the front brake to the apex. You also get plenty of feedback to have confidence carrying big speed through some of the circuit's faster fourth-gear sweepers, knee-down with your eyes hunting for the next turning point. It's ace, and a brilliant gateway drug to a lifetime of trackday fun.
It'd be nice for the blue bike to get coloured fairings – but we're not exactly designers
Through the tighter, more complex sections, the R7 showed the same easy flickability it showed on the road, and you never need exert much pressure to flop it from one side to the other. The 13-litre tank is narrow between your legs, but is well sculpted to give you plenty to hold onto with your thighs, so tiredness wasn't an issue either. And of course, you're not exactly ever going insanely fast so you're not fighting fatigue hauling yourself down from 170mph at the end of every straight either.
It's definitely the sort of sportsbike that feels as if it's fully on your side, with exactly the right amount of power for its pared-back electronics suite (you get ABS but that's it). Calling it a Goldilocks bike is a massive cliche, but it leaves you with perfectly cooked porridge all over your grinning face.
Looking at the faster journos hammering the R7 around the track at speeds we could only dream of, it seemed as if it had plenty to offer faster riders as well – the world-wearied hacks all came back into the pits beaming and praising the nimble chassis and the huge corner speeds it encouraged.
What about the rest of it?
The white-on-black dash is straightforward, with a gear indicator, fuel gauge and a couple of trips
The Yamaha R7 will cost £8,200 in the UK when it goes on sale in November, or £8,500 for the 60th red/white/gold anniversary colour scheme. And it does feel like an affordable bike in places, with some ugly bolts holding the side-stand on, a fairly basic cast top yoke and a simple black-and-white dash.
The top yoke looks a little cheap, but the switchgear is all easy to use
The dash is easy to read, however, and it can show you all the usual stuff such as the gear you're in, as well as your fuel economy – and yes, it has a fuel gauge. Huzzah.
Should I buy one?
Yum. The Yamaha badge even has a slight gold tint on the 60th Anniversary model
When we first saw the Yamaha R7 we had images of it being a slightly soft, comfy sportsbike for the road. But that couldn't really be further from the truth. While it does work perfectly well on the road, the riding position is pure race bike – this isn't a bike designed for comfort, and an Aprilia RS660 is a more cosseting ride – albeit one that costs £2,000 more, has more power and more tech.
The Yamaha R7 has been built to give sportsbike thrills to riders for an affordable price. But it feels as if Yamaha's done more than that, and actually produced a stunning two-cylinder supersport bike that could turn in some seriously decent laptimes with an expert on board, while also entertaining novices like us. It's a corker.