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This bike is more than a R3 without the fairing – it’s the bike we all wanted on our Ls

Many LAMS bikes are easy to ride and great value – small bikes are easy to build that way. But it’s much harder to compete at this level with a machine that’s truly full of character – how do you make a bike with a small, cheap engine stir the soul in a meaningful way?

Throw 200hp at anything and it’s declared ‘soulful’, give a rider 180Nm of twisting force and they are enamored. But when you are talking power to weight ratios aimed at new riders progressively learning the art of motorcycling, it’s difficult to get the heart really throbbing.

The engine is the centerpiece of most motorcycles – most that are worth getting excited about, anyway – but while there’s a LAMS requirement on the build sheet, it’s a hard thing to deliver a powerplant that talks to the rider in that way bigger ones do.

And yet with the MT-03 – a model designation rapidly gaining a solid and fun reputation – Yamaha has done an excellent job of creating the happy-go-lucky nature of other LAMS bikes out there, but with an added edge. It’s a big bike in a LAMS package, a motorcycle that can do all the jobs that larger ones do.


Of course, the 321cc engine won’t rocket you to nine-second quarters; the same parallel twin that powers the R3 isn’t allowed to be a rocketship for reasons above, however, it is an enjoyable engine for something so small.

It loves to rev, but also gets off the line pretty hard for its size. The breadth of the engine’s power helps the bike act out scenarios like a big bike – you could tour the MT-03 happily, not something many of the LAMS bikes of this price point ($5699 incl. GST) would handle.

So while the engine isn’t a powerhouse, it did allow a bunch of us adult-sized, but child-minded journos to attack sections of the Royal National Park while grinning at each other like idiots. It’s not quite in the ‘if-you-back-off-then-downshift’ class of smaller LAMS bikes, but it does help if you are pushing hard to keep that tacho needle bouncing high. This is not unexpected for a 321cc engine.

What is unexpected is how well the rest of the bike allows you to treat it that way.

The bike is impressively stable, another reason it feels like a big bike, rather than the small one it actually is. Flitting from corner to corner, it eggs you on. It took a few lackluster corner exits to remember the throttletube needs stretching to keep that parallel twin boiling away, but once the brain is switched into attack mode, it’s easy to keep the bike purring.

Will a new rider ride like that? No, not at first anyway, but the fact the MT-07 is versatile enough to do so is encouraging, because it sure is easy to dodge witch’s hats and ride slowly on.


Just the mention of the Pre-Provisional test U-turn  is enough to send some L-platers into shutdown (depending on where you live), but on this bike the low-speed manvouering stuff really is so easy. This bike walks that in.

A light clutch, good steering lock, responsive throttle and easily managed engine all join forces with the bike’s natural balance and talkative feel to provide a P-test smashing platform – worth investigating if such things loom in your future.

This is one of those bikes that allows you to pull up to a stop and remain stationary with both feet up for a moment, without even really trying. It is naturally balanced, feels rock solid and its ride position helps here, too.

You do sit deeply in this bike, on a seat that never grew teeth despite a pretty solid day in the saddle at the official launch. That low seating feel will suit shorter riders, though my 178cm is right at home, too. The main point is that seating position lends itself to confidence in tricky manoeuvring and new riders will love that as much as the experienced riders did on this ride – especially when the soccer balls came out!

We had already wended our way through the line of hot pink witch’s hats Yamaha had supplied for a bit of fun, and it only took a few laps of that to know the bike handles it well. So when the soccer ball arrived, we saw a new opportunity to land on our face and happily took it up!

Somehow, we managed to avoid each other, as we cavorted around an empty carpark like a pack of badly dressed clowns, but the point was it was a very easy exercise, with plenty of solid boots landing the ball – and not the bikes themselves – in the shrubbery.

Had we found the magic combination of motorcycle sport and ball sport required to get motorcycling mainstream? Maybe not, but we were all impressed by how easy these bikes were to ride.

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When it come to features on a $5699 (incl GST) motorcycle, it’s hard to add too much electrickery without blowing the budget, so Yamaha spent its sheckles on making it not only one of the more practical bikes in this genre, but also one of the best looking. The R3 looks good, but is obviously a miniature sportsbike – the MT-03 just works better in my opinion and with its corporate Yamaha colours, looks every bit the big bike it acts like on most fronts.

To me, of all the colours, the Silver/Blue was the most Big Bike, the Black version the most run-of-the-mill, and the Red the one that most 17-year-old males will buy.

Because of the lightness of the bike (168kg wet, claimed), the above mentioned low-speed abilities and the sheer practicality of the MT-03 in these terms, it really is great across a variety of uses – perfect for taking on the adventure I mentioned in my last column. You don’t need to second-guess whether this bike is appropriate for the job or not: just take it to Perth, a ride day, into town in the wet, wherever. That’s exactly what new riders need – a bike that gives you so many reasons to ride, rather than excuses not to.

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It isn’t totally pigeon-holed into one genre, so it can operate in marginal settings. It also lets riders get through the realities of being an L- or P-plater and improve their skills by complementing whatever they do.

Given the sticker price and the design brief, I can’t fault the MT-03 in any way that looks like anything more than an even-up complaint following a great review. I believe it nails its intended purpose and even in swollen market, filled with excellent bikes such as the Kawasaki Z300 and the Honda CBR300, it stands out with its playful character and broad range of abilities.

Yes, it would be better with an adjustable clutch lever, you can’t switch the ABS and another disc up front would complete the look, but this is minor stuff – and again, in the ballpark given the price tag.

For $5699, the MT-03 is a magnificent place for people to hang L- or P-plates, or to just to ride something cheap and very very cheerful. Yamaha’s recent onslaught of great value, well-built bikes, designed by people who understand what riders want, continues to impress.