The Tracer 7 Is a very capable, very well designed all-rounder, or “Sport Tourer” that’s based on Yamaha’s super successful CP2 engine parallel twin platform; it’s essentially an MT07 that’s been tweaked for touring
It does a whole lot of everyday motorcycling tasks very well, including getting around the city and holding its own on some decent country corners. It’s also super comfortable and nicely designed to boot
The lack of cruise control seems a bit odd for a bike pitched as tourer and personally, I wanted just a touch more wow from the bike, which would be easily accomplished with an Akrapovic end can upgrade
Us Aussies call them “quiet achievers.” They’re the ones who achieve great things without the ticker tape parades and the celebrity status. Small on ego and big on generosity, they just get on with what they have set their minds to. Sure, they don’t stand out in a crowd or wow you with amazing feats or spectacular tricks, but when they’re done with their work, the results can often be amazing. Diseases are cured. Magical new technology is unveiled. Hungry people are fed. But with that said, it’s a very fine line between a quiet achiever and a nobody. And the fact that they both go unnoticed means you often can’t tell who’s who until years after the fact. Is that shy, retiring engineer or scientist over there in the corner actually going to change the world we live in, or are they just ticking boxes and taking home a salary in hopes of a quiet life and nothing more?
So too is the way of the “all-rounder” motorcycle. By their very nature, they trade off absolutes like extreme speed, incredible handling or off road abilities to try and appeal to more riders who are more interested in a bike that’s comfortable, rideable, economical and multi-talented. After all, why ride a World Superbike every day when you’re just commuting to work or grabbing some groceries? But these bikes walk a fine line; one that trades off excitement for useability. The inescapable fact here is that the more practical you make a motorcycle, the less exciting it’ll be. Cue a powerpoint presentation of Honda’s 2023 street bike line-up. All those CBs, CLs and CMXs – and each one as brutally reliable, vanilla and uncharismatic as the last. Now I’m not sure about you, but I definitely don’t want to live in a world where we’ve all somehow managed to take the fun out of the sport of motorcycling. Hell, isn’t the speed, noise and element of danger why we all got into this crazy hobby in the first place?
So now the spotlight in the Yamaha big top is cranked upwards and we all gasp as the powerful stream of photons bounces off the dust motes and liquid smoke particles to reveal a 2023 Tracer 7 on the high wire. Precariously balanced, we all gasp as it tries to walk between the relative safety of the tent’s two main poles while maintaining a death-defying balance between thrills and practicality, between speed and comfort, and between cornering ability and not having a tingling arse after a decent Sunday ride to the coast. Can the Tracer make it to the other side? Can the bike prevent itself from toppling off the left side of the wire into bland anonymity, or off the right into the dark chasm of pushing too hard and not getting the all-rounder balance right?
The mysterious lady in the Yamaha fortune-telling tent reminds me that Yamaha have been truly on song for the past little while, with barely a boring bike to be seen. Even their tiny little YZF-R15 has this fantastic spark that makes it feel like so much more than it looks to be on paper. The company’s seeming inability to be dull is really admirable; but has it carried through to the Tracer 7 or is this just an accounting department exercise in product repurposing to make more money from the already profitable MT platform? I donned my skid lid, sharpened my pencil, realised that a sharpened pencil on a motorcycle isn’t a good idea and swapped it for an iPhone, and rode the new Tracer 7 to find out what’s what.
Features of the 2023 Yamaha Tracer 7 Sport Tourer
As just mentioned, the Tracer 7 is very clearly an MT-07 with a fairing. But in the same breath, writing it off as nothing more than that is probably doing it a disservice. Its adjustable front suspension is a prima facie example of how that’s just not true, because the last MT-07 I laid eyes on definitely did not have this available. So let’s dive in by wading through the Yamaha marketing guff to sort the wheat from the features chaff. Befitting the all-rounder category, they use a lot of words like “middleweight,” “flexibility,” and “versatility” to introduce the bike. But when we drill down to the features, it’s all there in black and white. The bike’s adjustable suspension is complemented by a larger tank than the MT-07, along with twin LED projector headlights, an adjustable screen, a “contoured, dual seat” and a TFT display with smartphone connectivity, but without the ability to display maps or guidance. Oh, and the forks are right-side-up items, and not USDs.
Now a very well-known quantity – at least in my head – Yamaha’s CP2 engine is a 689 cc parallel twin with Yamaha’s stock-in-trade 270 degree crank angle to give the engine a more memorable, beefier power delivery. While not as balls-to-the-wall as its big brother triple – the incredible CP3 donk – the CP2 still more than pulls its weight. In Australia, the CP2 engine has previously been available in two flavours; the “LA” or “Learner Approved” version that reduced the horsies to make sure that the bike was able to be sold to new riders on a restricted licence and a “HO” or “High Output” version that, while it sounds quite edgy with its muscle car parlance, really only meant that the engine wasn’t hobbled and that it put out the same amount of power as everywhere else in the world. And while my new favourite parallel twin is Aprilia’s incredible Factory 660, the CP2 is still a gem of a power plant.
What first struck me on first seeing the bike was the bloody great USB and 12V sockets on the bike’s dash – again, this is about as convenient as convenience gets and a clear sign of Yamaha’s intentions to make the thing super versatile. What struck me on second sight was the distinct lack of cruise control. Now that’s not so versatile. Just how much touring are they expecting this sport tourer to do without cruise control? But more on that later. There’s the now-obligatory TFT display with Bluetooth and notifications. It also had two different display modes, “Street” and one called “Touring.” Yamaha says that the Touring display is more functional, while the Street setting is more “stylish.” Hmmm. It’s also pre-wired for (what I assumed) is an optional quickshifter that you’ll no doubt find in the parts catalogue.
To add to the bike’s touring pretences, Yamaha has given us a screen on the Tracer 7 along with the option of additional luggage, much like the bike’s Tracer 9 big brother. I should also note here that the Tracer 7 also comes in a GT variant, which gives you the cases as standard, along with a rear carrier bar, tank pads and a more comfy seat. The screen on both bikes is adjustable and this new “handle” design makes it just about as easy as I’ve ever experience on any bike; any height required is accomplish quickly and easily by simply unclamping the handle, using it to raise or lower the screen, and then simply reclamping it into position. For 2023, the bike’s front brakes have also been upsized to 298mm. And last but not least, Yamaha is quick to point out that the bike is the lightest in its class.
The now ubiquitous CP2 engine in the Tracer 7 is a 689 cc, liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, DOHC, 4-valve, 2-cylinder parallel twin unit with that afford-mentioned 270-degree crank. Sucking and blowing is handled by a chain-driven DOHC, and it has four valves per cylinder. Compression is a middling 11.5:1 and it manages to produce 75hp (54kW) at 8750 rpm and 67 Nm (50 lb ft) at 6500 rpm. Unofficial top speed is around 193 kmh (120 mph) and the tank has a 17 ltr (4.5 gal) capacity. Fully fueled and lubed, the bike weighs in at a manageable 197 kgs (434 lbs) and the seat height is an average-ish 835 mm (32.8 in). My bike was rolling with very Michelin Road 6 GT rubber, with a tubeless front at 120/70 ZR 17M/C (58W) and a similarly sans-tube rear at 180/55 R 17M/C (73W).
Initial Impressions of the 2023 Yamaha Tracer 7 Sport Tourer
It’s red! That was my first impression, but I’m a simple guy with simple needs. I can’t remember the last bike I rode that was red, but it makes me wonder why all motorcycles aren’t red. It just seems to make so much sense to my addled, overly-lucid brain. After this I do a quick pirouette around the bike and take a few notes. The fairing gives the bike a solidity and width that the MT-07 just doesn’t have which seems to make the Tracer 7 look like more of a big boys/and/or/girls bike. The screen is adjustable, so I make a mental note to see how it performs in both adjustment terms and bashing away the oxygen atoms at speed. Similarly, the bike’s Michael Bay robot face has these natty little bar-mounted ears that seem to be designed to deflect the wind so that the direct blast from out front goes up and over your hands rather than directly into them. They also shelter the front indicators like little roofs. Oh, and it’s here that I first note with a puzzled look on my face that the bike doesn’t have any cruise control. That’s a puzzling choice for a “sport tourer”, isn’t it?
Robots in Disguise
While I have been wary in the past of Yamaha’s “design language” and how it will fare when we all look back on it in 30 year’s time, I have to admit that the Tracer’s “face” did grow on me. And while it’s not as extreme as say the R1 or the MT-10, it still has those “squinty projector” headlights that I fear may be more of a 2020s fad than something that we will look back on and admire. Of course, that’s a completely subjective statement in many ways, and as the saying goes, “There’s no accounting for taste.” I’m probably showing my age here, but I can see a little Gundam in the bike’s front half that also makes me think of modern jet fighters and (dare I say it?) the Ducati Panigale. The upshot is that after the bike spent two weeks staring at me from over my shoulder as I worked aways in my home office/garage/man cave, I kind of warmed to its looks.
Jumping on the stationary bike, the dash instantly impresses. Not only does the fairing allow for a more cosy, cockpit-esque setup that nicely envelopes you, it also allows for the very convenient placement of the rubber-sealed USB and 12V outlets either side of the high quality five inch TFT display. Furthermore, the TFT is nicely recessed into this vista to allow for less reflections and a better contrast between blacks and whites. Interactions with the dash are limited to a pretty basic “jog wheel” style control located on the right-side ’bar. There’s no maps available but as I’ve discussed before, Yamaha’s insistence on limiting their map-enabled bikes to displaying only Garmin maps, which require you to pay a subscription fee seems like a bad call to me. If I can run the very excellent Google or Apple maps on my car’s dash for free, I’m not quite sure of the logic of making users pay for something that I seriously doubt can hold a candle to these two tech giants. My personal moto solution to this challenge is to run Google maps on my phone and pair it with my noise cancelling Apple Airpods inside my helmet. That way I get music, spoken directions and I save what’s left of my hearing. But I digress…
Then there’s the bike’s catalytic convertor. Positioned on the bike’s right-hand side and in a position you’d usually reserved for crash bars or daytime running lights, its position is partially camouflaged by Yamaha’s addition of an anodised aluminium cover. But it just seems so out-of-place. Sure, it’s exactly the same on the MT-07, but still… Whether or not cooling was a consideration for its placement isn’t clear, but boy does it look awkward once you notice it. Why they weren’t able to put it in a more concealed position in an east-west alignment directly behind the front wheel and tucked under the front of the engine is probably a question that silly old me would ask the Yamaha engineers and subsequently be laughed at. But from my layman’s point of view, it’s a very strange design decision indeed.
Riding the 2023 Yamaha Tracer 7 Sport Tourer
Riding in the City
I mix things up for my on-road time with the Tracer 7 by adding two additional legs to my journey. Alongside my usual dash from Sydney’s Inner West southward through the Royal National Park and back again, I also decide to ride the bike to my parent’s farm in Sydney’s South West and subsequently take it on a group ride organised by my mates at Sydney’s Sabotage Motorcycles that is an official Throttle Roll Custom Bike Show event. And I’m glad I did, as it revealed more than a few things about the bike that may have otherwise gone unnoticed, while also testing its claim to being “versatile.” So Sunday morning comes around and I’m heading south on my way to the Nasho. Two things strike me immediately. No. Strike that. Three things strike me. It’s comfortable straight out of the box. No ifs or (sore) butts. At least not yet.
Next I notice that the exhaust note is basically non-existent. Sure, it can be a good thing if you’re riding the bike on long trips when the scream can get tiring, but if you call your bike a “sports tourer,” I’d be expecting to hear a little more oomf. And like all of Yamaha’s recent creations – including their scooters – the suspension is definitely more on the stiff side of the equation. No, it’s not overly so. But neither is it hiding the road’s imperfections or expansion joints. To be honest, I prefer it this way and I also understand that Australia’s tiny population when combined with its stupidly large size means that our roads are often repaired much less often than those in Europe or the US. Speaking of bumps, the mirrors work well in most situations, and are easily adjustable when needed.
The tank’s increased capacity clearly impacts the space it occupies: both between your legs and in the bike’s overall width. This is exacerbated by the fairing needing to wrap around it, too. But somehow Yamaha has managed to keep both the bike’s overall weight down and also ensure that it’s still svelte enough to split any lanes that may require it. And like the Aprilia I reviewed (and crashed) previously, the fairing is a “twin skin” jobby that is apparently designed to take the hot air exiting the back of the radiator and channel it away from the rider. Just as well then, because on this particular day the forecast is for 38°C (100°F) so I’m going to need all the cooling help I can get. I’ll also be making good use of the Yammie’s outside air temperature measurements shown on the bike’s dash. Of course, fairings on bikes are great and all until the mercury gets properly high. Then they are just protecting you from a cooling breeze while also ensuring that the heat rising up from the engine is not properly dissipated.
All up, the bike’s a pleasure to ride through urban landscapes, even if the temps are looking super toasty. It’s comfortable, capable, usable and powerful enough to make pretty much any city-based motorcycling a cinch. Add the optional luggage to the back of the bike and you’d even be able to ride it to work and get changed into non-sweaty, non-leather garments for the office. And if you work in a sauna business that specialises in leather gear, then you can fill them with salt pills and towels. So far, so good. Urban flexibility? Tick. But as we know, the other end of the Tracer 7’s equation is “long range”…
Riding in the Curves
The air temperature drops and we descend into the river valleys of the National Park thanks in large part to the cold air’s flow down the slopes and the natural cooling effects of all this ancient greenery. The dash shows 16°C (60°F) and while I know that the airfoils protecting my hands are definitely deflecting the wind-chilled blast of the morning air, they can only do so much to stop the cold from really setting in. In other words, they definitely are not going to see heated grips put out of a job anytime soon. But we’re here for the corners, not the comfort.
Pendulum-like, I rock the Tracer 7 back and forth through the park’s lovely, forested corners and leafy, light mottled straights as the bike and I see what’s what. Yes, the bike is again ticking those boxes. As I suspected, the right-side up forks were never going to blow my mind with their physics-defying poise or velvety lushness but for what is required on this road and at these speeds, they are much more than just adequate. I make a wish for a Yamaha Tech to try a few adjustments, but alas that’s not going to happen today. Besides, here comes the southern end of the park and that glorious view of the Pacific Ocean that just never gets old.
Despite the bike’s hot red paint, nary an eyeball is turned as I rock up and park at the cafe with the world’s best view. I guess to assume otherwise would be a wee bit naive. It’s just not that sort of bike; not on paper or in real life. Capable and adaptable? It definitely appears so. But don’t expect to see it thumb tacked to a teenager’s wall or on the notice board at your local mechanics. Sure that I wouldn’t be hit up for a chat by the other riders, I rambled over and ordered my coffee. By the looks of my spotty visor, the bike’s screen and the fact that everyone here is frantically waving at me, the flies must be bad today. I remove my helmet and they sure as hell are. Nasty little bastards.
“Is this new?” asks a fellow biker. OK. So there is a chat to be had. “Yep,” I nod. Assuming it’s mine, he proffers a piece of advice. “You should put an Akropovic on it,” he suggests. “I had an MT07 and I had one. It totally transformed the thing.” “Hmmm,” I mumble, synapses connecting in my head. “What differences did it make?” I ask? “That engine is a real gem, but you wouldn’t know it with the stock can on it. Put the Akro on and it’s a different bike. Louder. Much more sporty…” It gets me thinking. Maybe he’s right? Maybe just a little touch of rebelliousness is what the bike needs to make a few onlookers sit up and take notice. Slotting the thought into my mental filing cabinet, I notice the time while also remembering that the longer I piss fart about here in the cool morning air, the hotter my trip to my parents will be.
Cops and Chops
The landscape between the ocean lookout cafe and my folk’s place would best be described as rural, but not in the way many people might imagine an Australian farm landscape might be. Skirting the edge of Sydney propper, it’s far from long straight roads that disappear over the horizon without you ever having to take a corner. On the contrary, it’s a mix of country freeways with higher speeds and country lanes that have lower speeds and plenty of 90 degree corners. And ducks. Note here that the bike was comfortably cruising along at about 120 kmh in 6th (75 mph), doing 5,000 rpm. Road surfaces vary from fantastic to post-apocalyptic; and I’m not joking when I say that; some of these areas were hit badly by the 2022 East Coast floods. In all situations, The Tracer 7 had it covered. The ride wasn’t the most lush and smoother I’ve ever experienced, nor was the bike’s speed and torque tearing shreds off the broken road’s surface, but it managed to make the whole experience into a damn pleasant, if not down-right enjoyable experience.
Buoyed by that ride, I put my hand up for a group ride that was attached to Sydney’s premier custom bike show, Throttle Roll. Conscious that the Tracer is not even a little bit custom, I checked with the ride’s organiser’s – Andy and Giles from well-known Sydney custom bike shop Sabotage Motorcycles – to see if it was welcome. It was, and so off I went. The collection of bikes that showed up was spectacularly eclectic. From a 1973 two-stroke TY 250 Yamaha trials bike from 1973 to an ex-cop FJR1300A, this ride had them all. Choppers. Cafe racers. Bobbers. Classic restos. The Tracer stood out in two very important ways. It was by far the most practical bike there, by an Australian country mile. And it was the most vanilla bike there, too. And when you’re clearly a Plain Jane up against a police motorcycle, you know that’s quite the achievement.
Crunching the mental data the day after the ride, I returned back to my original ideas on the Tracer 7. Specifically, I thought about the Yamaha police bike and the Tracer 7. Both very capable all-rounders and supremely capable. It’s also interesting to note that I have heard a rumour that the Tracer 9 is being looked at by some police forces as being a replacement to their ageing FJRs. It’s testament to the Tracer’s capabilities, both in its parallel tien and triple cylinder configurations. They are looked at like this by police and governments precisely because they are terrifically capable and just a little vanilla. Unless you are with the Qatar police force with their penchant to drive around in luxury Italian sports cars, you’ll notice that all these automotive roles are given to the simple, effective, multi-role work horses. And that is exactly what the Tracer 7 excels at.
What Could Be Better on the 2023 Yamaha Tracer 7 Sport Tourer
I found the bike’s lack of cruise control quite confusing. For a motorcycle that’s marketed as having (and I’m directly quoting Yamaha here) “sport bike excitement combined with long-range versatility and urban flexibility,” the lack of a cruise control seems like a real oversight that turns highway rides over long distances into a bit of a chore. And that goes double for Australian roads where police tend to be super keen to book you for even minor speeding infractions.
The fact that bike’s parallel twin needed 5,000 rpm at freeway speeds to hold its speed also meant that even minor throttle adjustments or downhill slopes were enough to see you 10kmh over without knowing it. And let’s face it, spending a day watching your speed on a long ride is as tiring as it is tedious. Besides this, the only other thing that had me scratching my head was the awkwardly-placed catalytic convertor. No, it’s no show-stopper, but I know that if I ended up owning a Tracer 7, It’s something that would probably end up bugging me.
Final Thoughts on the 2023 Yamaha Tracer 7 Sport Tourer
One day, if global warming or a global religious war doesn’t kill us all first, someone will invent a motorcycle that will out fast, out comfort, out tech and out style everything else out there. Like Ford did with the model T or Apple did with the iPhone, it will completely up-end the apple cart and change what it means to own and use a motorcycle. Until that time, us riders are left to make a very important choice. Do we want a bike that does one thing very, very well and that disregards the rest of the things we need from a motorcycle like Santa disregards the laws of logistics?
Or do we want one that does a whole bunch of things to a point where we aren’t left wanting. Do we want to go very, very fast at the cost of comfort, fuel economy, practicality and common sense, or is comfortable fast perfectly OK when it’s also accompanied with a good serving of all those other things that, for almost all of the times when we aren’t going at warp speed, are important to keep us happy and safe?
So if balance and practicality is what you really crave, then you should be looking at the Tracer 7. Referring back to my opening gambit, I do actually think that Yamaha got the balance right. But what I would suggest to all prospective owners is that you seriously consider the Akropovic end can option while you talk turkey with your local Yamaha dealer. In my not-so-humble opinion, it’s the sexy little spark that the bike needs to turn it into something that will put a smile on your face, along with its very sensible retail price and super adaptable skill set. Being a factory piece of kit, it isn’t likely to make blood come out of your ears and I always find it amazing just how a little bit of bling like this can turn a good bike into something that you can really gel with. Seeing that lovely carbon fibre tip and that famous Akro logo revealed as the garage door opens on a sunny Sunday morning just might be enough to turn the Tracer you see here from a choice you’ve made with your head to one that you feel in your heart.
In the end, maybe the best way to look at the Tracer 7 is as a more affordable, less well appointed Tracer 9. Yamaha has repeatedly shown that the CP2 and CP3 engine variants are perfectly suited to answering the needs of both customers on a budget and those who want a little more of everything. Just like in their MT range, this twin donk ticks all the necessary boxes and the triple guilds the lily for those who want the sexy extra bits like cruise control and, if you really splash out on the Tracer 9 GT, cutting edge stuff like radar cruise control. So like a classic Chinese Restaurant, there’s a real multitude of great options for you to choose from. Also, did I mention the Tracer 7 GT?
But the real deal sealer here is when you compare the Tracer 7 to the competition; with the possible exception of the Triumph Tiger Sport 660, there’s precious little to choose from that tick as many boxes as the Tracer 7 does. If you are a rider that wants a proper, multidimensional bike and you don’t have the kind of ego that needs a “look at me” set of wheels to burn most of your pension on, the Yamaha Tracer 7 is probably right up your alley.