It was only a matter of time when the Yamaha MT-03 would make its way Stateside and now, it finally has—that is, after a successful three-year run in Europe.
Since its US availability in February, I have seen a handful of riders astride MT-03s commuting on the coastal highways or on the popular Angeles Crest Highway that weaves through Southern California’s Angeles National Forest. The MT-03 has already been plucked up by riders who likely read the praises of the bigger brothers like the MT-07 (or even the pre-2018 FZ-10- or FZ-09-named ancestors), but these riders were obviously interested in something even more approachable. The keen crop of current owners saw that, like the bigger brethren, there is a lot of bike for not a whole lot of dough. When a beginner-friendly bike has a price tag under $5,000, promises sporty fun (hello there, 321cc parallel twin from the popular R3), and is wrapped in a clean, simple, yet sinister naked bike form, Yamaha knows how to get the US population’s attention and then deliver—just take the baiting and reeling of the 2021 Ténéré 700 for example.
Saddling up on the MT-03, I noted the plush seat’s height is an approachable Cycle World-measured 31.1 inches. The saddle fans out at the rear to provide support, but is thin enough at the front to assist in an easier boot-to-asphalt reach. The taller handlebar allows for a comfortable upright posture and with the wide, flat shape of the 3.7-gallon fuel tank yields ample elbow room, opening up the bar-to-seat ergos. Peg placement is also optimal, slightly back which gives the rider the opportunity to be more aggressive or relaxed if they so desire. With this positioning, my knees slot themselves right below the broad shoulders of the tank. While my 5-foot-10 colleague mentioned in his review that he felt cramped with the broad tank, the legs of my 6-foot-tall stature tuck right in, allowing for substantial grip to the tank. I suspect this may correlate to different leg lengths or body shapes. One complaint I have about the peg placement, however, is the closeness of the levers to the pegs. Braking or downshifting isn’t affected so much by the closeness, but in order to upshift, I need to finagle my size-10 foot under the lever more than usual. Something minor that I did acclimate to.
A heavy pull on the clutch lever requires a little extra grip strength, something I didn’t necessarily expect from a beginner bike, but the clutch communicates and engages well when simultaneously easing on the throttle. Throttle engagement is palpable and silky smooth—no hiccup or delay in power delivery.
Its 54.3-inch wheelbase and light 375-pound weight (weighed on the CW scale) made maneuvering a breeze, nimbly strutting around like a prize-winning show dog. At speed, the small naked transforms from show dog to not necessarily hellhound (leave that to the inline-four siblings) but rather hellhound pup with its 321cc parallel twin pulled from the R3. Its peppy parallel pulls you from the line with aCycle World-measured 20.2 pound-feet of torque and 37.1 hp. The short first and second gears require a quick shift through them when you pull away from a stop, but as you click up you can utilize more of the broader, spread-out power in the rest of transmission; fifth and sixth are both overdrive gears. As you can see from the torque curve below, it is relatively flat, providing torque nearly evenly across the rpm range. With a steady, gradual twist to full throttle, I did notice that the machine’s power tapers slightly at around 7,000 rpm only to pick up with a little more power in the 9–10,000 range—this too is proven by the continued increase in the horsepower curve section of graph until it reaches its peak at 10,590.