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I started my motorcycling journey in 2001 with a single-cylinder 180cc motorcycle that made a healthy 15 horsepower. In 2017, I went around Australia on a near-270 bhp Ninja H2. And today, I have these two motorcycles here; that very Ninja H2 and the new Yamaha R7. This has made me think about a very important question. Both of these motorcycles are poles apart in some regards and quite similar in others but regardless, where does this need for power end? How much power do you really need?
The differences between these bikes are quite obvious; engine, power, design purpose, and so on. The similarities lie in the emotion both of these motorcycles evoke- that of riding a motorcycle and feeling the wind in your face. Another similarity is how polarizing they both have been. The Ninja H2 drove people nuts. A motorcycle with a supercharger was outrageous. But that was exactly what the Ninja H2 was going for; the absolute limit!
Coming to the Yamaha R7, it was the same deal. With its design language that is in line with other R-machines, people thought that they’d get their hands on an inline-4 that’d scream to 15,000 rpm- just like the R6 did. Instead, they got a motorcycle powered by the same engine as the MT-07. A crossplane inline-twin engine that makes 72 bhp. People were baffled and they let it show on the internet. So many comments, so many opinions and whatnot. Here I am, having ridden both of these motorcycles, thinking about what the hoopla is all about.
If I have to be honest, you do not need anything more than what the R7 has to offer. Frankly, you do not even need 72 horsepower. An example could be the place where I got to ride the R7- Australia. Away from major cities such as in the northern territory, the speed limit is 130 km/h. In most places, it’s 100-110 km/h. And how much power do you need to go that fast? Stuff like that makes the H2 an instant overkill and a motorcycle like the R7, well, a little more than what you need.
The debate about how much you need is not logical and can never be concluded. Motorcycles like the RR 310 and the RC 390 can do those speeds. They are still scarily fast around corners. Compared to those, even the R7 is bonkers. So what is it all about? Basically, it is about bragging rights, knowing that you have arrived somewhere in life. Most of our dreams consist of things we don’t need but that does not invalidate our dreams. Not in their entirety anyway. If so, even the R15 WGP 60th Anniversary Edition that I rode in India a little while ago would be enough. I say that because, in the WGP 60th Anniversary Trim, the R7 can easily pass off as the R15 and vice-versa.
So what is it all about then? It is about having fun because bragging rights are getting a little ridiculous. Companies know that they can extract more than 200 bhp out of motorcycles but they also wonder how far they are going to go just for that… bragging rights. With motorcycles like the H2, you have to think about how much you can twist the throttle before you break the law and if you are unfortunate enough, something else too.
With a motorcycle like the R7, you can wring the throttle to a degree where it’s fun and remain within the confines of the law. That is fun. There is a saying that it is more fun to ride a slow motorcycle fast than a fast motorcycle slow. Fits like a glove in this situation that we find ourselves in. So I am glad that the collective motorcycling mind is maturing to where we are dialling things down. Motorcycles like the RS660, Tuono 660, and Trident 660 are good examples. And so is this new R7.
In most cases, unless someone is willing to hit the racetrack every day, the only point of buying a big bike is not because we need more power. It is because they are a mark of success. It is like going right back to school- 99% or nothing. I wonder how much of those percentages translate to being successful and happy in your life. Numbers are just that- numbers, unless they are defined by what you make of them. So you can have more fun with 72 bhp than 272 bhp, what do you need the latter for? You may ‘want’ it to validate you achieving your dream but you don’t ‘need’ it.
So it was easy for me to drop off the Ninja and ride off on the R7… and I did. So, let us talk about the bike a little more.
If I am being honest, I did not expect the R7 to be as much fun as it was. Maybe I too was caught up with numbers for a tiny bit but it did not take me long to see the light. It is an amazing bike to ride and an even better one to ride hard. It is light, has manageable power, and you do not have to worry about the rear sliding when you really let it rip. It can do that but not as easily as something like the H2 which even the electronics have a hard time keeping up with.
I also love how the torque is delivered on the R7. It is there right from the get-go. Usable power and torque are what make the R7 such a wonderful motorcycle to ride. In the corners, you can exit confidently and grab a handful of throttle and you know that you will get the exit you like but not without overloading the chassis or the tyres or your skillset. That is why I feel like the R7 would be an amazing track tool as well. For someone who is looking to brush up on their basics or for someone looking to graduate from a beginner to an intermediate track rider.
On the racetrack, the limiting factor is always the corner speed and for the most part, in terms of corner speed, you can carry nearly as much as litre-class bikes. Having ridden it in the hills, I can tell you that the R7 is as nimble as a cat. It leans in so well and it holds the line so well and we have already talked about its near-perfect exit. I just wish the tyres were a bit stickier. Here we have the Dunlops but some markets get the stickier Bridgestones, as far as I know. But then again, tyres are something you can change. Everything else; the suspension, the geometry, and the chassis is bang on!
It can go like a beauty but there is another thing I have to talk about and that is the looks. Because everyone wants a nice-looking motorcycle. I feel like the R7 looks beautiful. With the R lineage, it was bound to be. People expected it to be an R6, as I mentioned earlier, but it sort of turned out to be better. A smaller engine meant that Yamaha could make it sleeker than they could have had with the inline-4 engine. Everything about this motorcycle is classic R-series. Recessed headlamp, the DRL, the gills on the tank, and the rear; it is beautiful and this particular livery enhances its visual profile even more.
So all in all, it seems like a perfect road bike that can be a great track tool too and all of that in a very, very approachable package. I would love for this motorcycle to be available in India. If it is brought in as a CBU, the pricing will be predictably outrageous. But if it can be brought in via the CKD route and assembled in India, I think Yamaha can price it very well. If so, it’d sell like hotcakes. We do not need more litre-class missiles. We need more motorcycles that can make motorcycling fun and not just about numbers. The R7 can do that and I’d love for it to be able to do the same for the Indian motorcyclist.