Switch off the news and leave the politics behind; now’s the time to get into Europe. Grab your bike and your partner, load up your luggage and go touring. Transporting yourself and your kit to the continent’s biking playgrounds should be effortless, so you need a bike that’s smooth, comfortable, protective and economical enough to cosset you through the motorway miles. Then once you’ve reached your destination it should be fun, engaging and manageable enough for you to get the best out of the incredible roads you’ll discover there. Which is exactly the reason Yamaha have developed their new £6299 sports-tourer – the Tracer 700, and why they’ve chosen the awe-inspiring Italian Dolomites as the venue to launch it.
By combining elements from two of their most popular models, Yamaha hope to add another successful star to their stable. The new Tracer 700 is based on the 689cc parallel twin-cylinder platform of the naked MT-07, but its attitude and styling have been inspired by the three-cylinder Tracer 900. The engine is identical to that of the naked MT-07, however the air intake and exhaust have been revised to meet EURO4, but mechanically it’s the same character-packed 270° crank motor generating the exact same performance: a usable 74bhp and punchy 51ft lb of torque. These figures may seem modest on paper, but here on Italy’s most tangled of tarmac the Tracer’s output is ideal, and it’s making easy work of powering out of nadgery, steep hairpins.
The Tracer 700’s engine has plenty of charm, its uneven firing order making it feel more like a V-twin as it purrs along at 6500 RPM on the fat part of its torque curve. The roads we’re riding are all at an altitude of over 1500 m, peaking at the summit of the Passo Del Sella at 2500 m, meaning that the previously perky twin feels as though it’s lost some of its zest; low-range performance has been flattened and the motor’s running out of steam pretty quickly.
The MT-07 engine’s character is there underneath, it’s just that today it feels like it’s suffering with a bit of a hangover. Yamaha technicians said that the 8000ft of altitude could be robbing the engine of up to 18bhp and assure us that down at sea-level the Yamaha Tracer 700 will have the exact same output as the current MT-07.
|Comfortable yet commanding riding position provides stacks of easy confidence|
More than just an MT-07 with a fairing, the new Yamaha Tracer 700 features all-new ergonomics that make it feel like a much larger bike. The footpegs remain in the same place as before but a new rear subframe has raised the seat up by 35mm so there’s more legroom, meanwhile the bars have been raised and moved slightly backwards. These changes create a comfortable but commanding riding position, especially when combined with the cocooning effect generated by the new 17-litre fuel tank (three litres larger than the MT-07’s), and the subtle wind-cheating effects of the manually adjustable screen, small handguards and bikini fairing.
We’ve been attacking the technical mountain bends from the comfort of the soft one-piece seat for hours now and there’s not a hint of saddle soreness or lower back ache. Although a quick blast on the back of another rider reveals the pillion portion of the bench seat doesn’t have the same levels of cushioning as the rider’s. On the plus side, the large aluminium grab rails provide plenty of reassurance, and there’s easily enough room between rider and pillion for happy and harmonious two-up touring. For those who are concerned about the well-being of their posterior there’s always the Yamaha Tracer 700 luxurious optional Comfort seat (£128.99, or £289.99 for the buttock-pleasing heated version).
The other key change is the Tracer 700’s aluminium swingarm in place of the naked’s steel unit. It’s been extended by 50mm to provide greater stability when fully loaded, and has the effect of neutering the MT-07 platform’s instinct to wheelie. The suspension’s also been reworked, with the front fork running a heavier spring rate to cope with the added weight of the fairing, as well as longer travel for more touring comfort. The rear shock is longer with more travel and revised linkages, which has had the added effect of increasing the steering angle by a degree to 25 degrees.
|Performance is ideal, and it’s making easy work of powering out of nadgery, steep hairpins|
The ride is well-damped, but doesn’t lack control, while the lengthened wheelbase and increased rake have done nothing to dampen the agility. It feels like all of Europe’s bikers are here. The mountain passes are packed with French, Germans, Italians, Spanish, Brits, riding everything from supermotos, to sportsbikes, adventure bikes to retros, both solo riders and those sharing the experience with a friend on the back. It just goes to show that you don’t need a leviathan of a touring bike to get out and have an adventure; true sports-touring should be lightweight and effortless, and the Yamaha Tracer 700 follows this ethos to a tee. With a fully fuelled weight of just 196 kg, the lightest bike in its class, the gutsy twin floats around the outside of a red-faced German and his passenger on their half-a-tonne fully loaded BMW tourer as he levers his behemoth around a bend.
Flowing smoothly on to the region’s slightly quicker but no less twisty routes, the pick-up from the Tracer’s cable-actuated throttle is perfect and the fuelling feels good too. Flicking from side to side requires zero effort as the new Yamaha Tracer 700 strikes a brilliant balance of feeling extremely light between your knees without feeling flighty.
Although the same can’t be said for the rear shock, which is impressive when it comes to isolating your spine from the road’s hardest bumps but can be easily upset by rough down-shifting. Likewise the ABS-assisted four-piston front calipers provide decent performance but lack a bit of initial bite, and scrubbing off speed hard into a downhill hairpin – knees gripping the two rubber pads on the sides of the tank to take the weight off the bars – sends the brake levers pumping as the ABS kicks in a little too prematurely.
As the heavens open for the mother of all thunderstorms, I’m reassured by the Yamaha’s choice of tyres – Michelin’s all-round brilliant Pilot Road 4, which don’t give you any reason to give grip a second thought, be it dry or wet. It’s refreshing and pretty unique to have such a premium set of tyres fitted to a bike with such a modest price, and it underlines Yamaha’s thinking when it comes to how this bike has been designed.
Engineers have had the price in the forefront of their minds from the word go, so have been able to develop clever-but-cost-saving solutions, such as the rear shock mount that’s cast directly into the crankcase, so they could spend more on other things, like the accessory rail on the handlebar cross member. The clocks are excellent too, the full-digital display showing gear position, ambient air temperature, total trip and average fuel consumption – which today on our twisty, high altitude route was 54mpg.
The Yamaha Tracer 700 ticks all the touring boxes. Yet with its class-leading low weight, easy-to-use engine and agility, it’s the perfect fun bike too, and proves that sports-tourers don’t need to be big, bulky and expensive to put a smile on your face.
|At this price the Yamaha Tracer 700 is an unbeatable mix of fun and practicality. It’s definitely the lighter way to enjoy sports-touring.|
Yamaha Tracer 700 Specifications and Price
Engine : 4-Stroke, Inline-Twin, DOHC 8-Valve, Liquid-Cooled
Bore x Stroke : 80 x 68.6 mm
Capacity : 689 cc
Compression Ratio : 11.5 : 1
Induction : Fuel Injection
Transmission : 6-Speed, Chain-Drive
Power : 74 BHP @ 9.000 RPM (claimed)
Torque : 68 N.m @ 6.500 RPM (claimed)
Dimensions (LxWxH) : 2.138 x 806 x 1.270 mm
Wheelbase : 1.450 mm
Seat Height : 835 mm
Ground Clearance : 140 mm
Fuel Tank Capacity : 17 litres
Weight : 196 kg (wet, claimed)
Frame : Tubular Steel Frame, with Alumunium Swingarm
Front Suspension : 41mm Telescopic Fork
Rear Suspension : Swingarm (Link-type Suspension)
Front Brakes : Twin 282mm Discs, with 4-Piston Caliper, ABS
Rear Brakes : 245mm Discs, with 1-piston Caliper, ABS
Front Tyre : 120/70 – R17 M/C (58W) (Tubeless)
Rear Tyre : 180/55 – R17 M/C (73W) (Tubeless)
Price : £6299