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Yamaha MT-03: Is the U.S. Finally Worthy?

Introduced in 2006, Yamaha’s MT-03 features a liquid-cooled 660cc single-cylinder engine that makes close to 50 horsepower.  A modern steel frame and chassis features powerful dual front disc brakes and a uniquely mounted rear shock intended to centralize mass in the 390 pound machine (claimed dry weight).

The 17″ aluminum wheels allow the mounting of modern sportbike tires to take advantage of the extremely nimble handling (by all European accounts I have seen) and the powerful brakes.  The five speeds offered by the transmission are more than enough given the flat torque curve provided by the big single.  The upright, dirt bike-style riding position mates perfectly with the instant thrust and agility, again according to virtually every review of this machine I have read.

A remnant, perhaps, of the old adage among OEMs that “Americans just don’t like singles, and won’t buy them”, the unavailability of the MT-03 here might deserve a second thought from Yamaha.  We sense changing tastes, and a shift in interest toward simpler, less expensive motorcycles that offer good gas mileage along with plenty of the fun U.S. motorcyclists expect, whether commuting or play riding.


  1. JR says:

    Bring back the Buell XB.. make it in America.. sell it in America.. if not, not interested.

  2. blackcayman says:

    I too had the SR500 – with a Supertrapp exhaust. I was a great bike to about 75MPH. It was loud and alot of fun to ride – it wasn’t the best freeway bike if I’m being honest. If I was going to buy a second bike that was a single, I’m afraid I too would want more power and less weight. I also think the styling is…well it’s a miss. The side shock is terrible and the under seat exhaust is for 20 year old Hooligans on Race Replicas.

  3. Vrooom says:

    I used to love my old MZ street bike, but unless this things brings unbelievable gas mileage (80+) it won’t sell in sufficient quantities in the US. People are buying bikes for mileage, a dealer I just visited said they sold all of their Honda 250s based on people looking for an economical ride.
    It’s not that I need more bike, every time I ride my old KLR I wonder why I need 3x the horsepower, but as others have said an SV650 weighs the same and puts way more power out. If they can’t make a fuel efficiency argument there are few arguments left for it.

  4. RussellP says:

    A little late, and not very appealing to the eye.
    Back in the mid 1990’s this was here under a different name.
    Remember MuZ, it had this Yamaha 660cc Motor.
    Had 3 different versions, and they looked a lot better than this.
    I had one, put 35,000 miles on it. It was lots of fun!

  5. Brad Jarvis says:

    I’ve been begging for this bike for years. PLEASE Yamaha,I need this bike!

  6. zeus says:

    pre-dated garbbage!!!1 boy, there will try and dump anything on us,

  7. mr781 says:

    Looks like something I’d be interested in, nice standard upright seating position unlike all the cruisers and racing bikes you wont need a chiropractor to fix your back and wrists.. Would probably buy one if the price was right but with the dollar in the tank they will probably be asking way much more than people would be willing to pay, make it the price of a vstrom 650 or versys and I’d buy one. Unfortunately, I am in the market for a bike now and looks like I’ll be going with the new Triumph Tiger 800.. has everything I want plus a couple of extra cylinders.. Gotta love that triple!

  8. ziggy says:

    Too little too late. It might be a fine ride, but it’s at least one decade behind in terms of tech.

    Put something like this together with all modern gear and then we can talk…

  9. Ernest says:

    With only 50 hp at its weight, I don’t see the motorcycling press giving this bike much of a break, after the novelty wears off. They like bikes that are exciting to test, not necessarily fun to own. What will make or break this bike is the price. I expect it’ll be fast enough for commuting, casual riding, or even limited touring, provided one’s expectations aren’t too high. There are still bikes, like Suzuki’s S40, that continue to sell, in spite of the press’s snubbing, because they fill a niche. The key here, once again, is how much it will cost.

  10. YellowDuck says:

    Well…..better than a Buell Blast. That’s all I’m sayin’.

  11. Max. says:

    >Americans hate singles.

    Ah yes, the ‘blame the fickle customer’ excuse. It really means “we can’t make enough money.” What Americans reject is over-priced, over-styled, fashion statement bikes.

    • Dave says:

      Interestingly, motorcycle manufacturers are in business to make money. If they thought they could make money selling such a bike here, it would be in the showroom today. Pretty much every motorcycle manufacturer has tried and failed to sell smaller bikes, so they are understandably hesitant to bring more to this market.

      Two of the best small bikes ever were sold here…the Hawk 650 and the TDM850 (ok, it’s not super small, but I think it counts). Both were terrible sales failures. FZR400: one of the best handling, most fun bikes ever…sales disaster. Transalp: super cool V-twin adventure tourer…sales disaster. SRX6: stunningly cool…sales disaster.

      On a side note, Americans have a long and distinguished history of embracing over-styled fashion statement bikes, despite your assertion to the contrary. Perhaps you’re familiar with Harley Davidson?

    • Jeff says:

      Yeah. Americans don’t buy Harleys…

    • RobbieAG says:

      “What Americans reject is over-priced, over-styled, fashion statement bike”

      Unfortunately, this is not true – witness all the pot bellied pirates riding Harley Davidsons…

  12. Zuki says:

    Simplicity? My perfect thumper has a single cam actuating one intake and one exhaust valve, a simple round headlight, and one muffler. I like the engine to be visible (ideally air/oil-cooled with fins) and have easy access for valve adjustment. I don’t like underseat mufflers. Maybe if it had just one muffler it would be more acceptable… but why not a Buell-esque exhaust system like the ER-6n?

    Kinda apples to oranges, but the SV650 (naked version) comes in at 370 lbs. dry with nearly 75 hp. It has more of a classic look that has aged well too, in my opinion.

  13. agent55 says:

    I love the look of it (almost forgot it existed actually), but the output and power don’t look like a good match. An SV650 doesn’t weigh much more and would run circles around this little darling. I know it’s no small feat to build, but it’s gonna take around 55-60hp at the wheel and near 300lbs to get me excited about a single for the street. Go ride a 450 supermoto with lights and you’ll understand the potential. If Yamaha could find a compromise between something like the MT-01 and a hardcore street-legal supermoto, I’d be powerless against it 🙂

  14. Brad Jarvis says:

    I’ve loved this bike for years. PLEASE Yamaha, bring it to the States. I NEED this bike!

  15. Hot Dog says:

    Hooligan cool, right along the lines of their bro’s, the MT-05 and MT-01. The cruiser crowd wouldn’t understand it, repli-racers would want to burn it and uppity blue bloods would put their snoot in the air because it’s not Euro Chic enough. Hence, we’ll not see it on our shores, but I’d sure like to throw a leg over one of my own.

  16. Stinky says:

    Pretty neat bike, but it’d have to be cheap, which I bet it’s not. I liked the comment about putting a normal headlight and simpler exhaust. It’s good to hear from the MZ owners. It’s a shame those bikes didn’t take off. Gotta love KTMs but hate the price and the underseat gas tank.

  17. SteveM says:

    I used to own the SRX-6 thumper and loved every minute. Sure it was slow and the kick-start only sometimes gave me grief, but it was still a fun and simple bike. Hopefully, this one will hit Canada’s shores soon.

  18. Jeremy in TX says:

    I think this is a great looking bike, but I doubt it would be much cheaper than comparable bikes making significantly more power. Fuel economy probably wouldn’t be much better either. If it made KTMish power, it might fly, but I don’t think it would sell unless the price were very attractive.

  19. The Rodney says:

    I too like street thumpers. Having owned a new 1982 Honda FT500 Ascot and a Yamaha XT500 way back when, I appreciate the riding dynamics those bikes offer. The GB500 and SR500 are still two of the best looking street bikes imho. One of my two current bikes is the BMW G650X XMoto. 355 lbs with a full tank of gas, and 49 hp at the rear wheel (Motorcyclist Magazine). At the price I paid ($5900 new) when BMW dumped the remaining stock on the market two years ago, it is a lot of bike for a low price (ABS, Brembo brakes, etc. and 60+ mpg).

  20. steveinsandiego says:

    woot! i’d ride it in a heart beat!!

  21. Trpldog says:

    Yuck. Gag me with spring… I mean fork.

  22. Bud says:

    I’m not accustomed to being the one that disagrees with the crowd by liking the styling but I do. All except for the view from the back. Dual mufflers on a single is just silly.

  23. John says:

    Ummm, cool looking, but how would this be better than a 20 year old Honda Hawk? I submit it wouldn’t be. And that wasn’t exactly a huge sales success either. At least put a modern twin in there. You need legs for American freeway.

    • bikerrandy says:

      I’ll have you know I’ve ridden hundreds of miles on my MZ 660 @ 75mph getting 55 mpg doing it on regular gas. A hotrod it isn’t. But it’s adequate.

    • Neil says:

      We have twins. I own a Suzuki TU250 and now that it is broken in and I went one up on the front sprocket I am fine on the highway at 70 mph. It is better on the highway than my Harley Nightster. There is nothing like the simply thumping of a single. I shipped the TU to FL and my brother who owns a Multistrada has taken the TU hundreds of miles around Florida and GA.

  24. jmz says:

    For everyone suggesting the Duke 690 instead: I’ll bet Yamaha wouldn’t try to sell a single cylinder bike for $10,600 like KTM did (it’s no longer being imported). You can buy a lot of bike for that kind of money. That’s about enough to buy a new DRZ400S and a SV650 at the same time.

    The Duke 690 was also an extremely limited release for the first couple years. I tried to buy one in ’08 and only a few dealers within hundreds of miles had got one, and they had all been presold. By the time they were widely available (late ’09), KTM had bumped the price from $8500 to $10,500, which was ridiculous when leftover CBR1000RRs were selling for $6000 new, and Daytona 675s were going for $8000.

    • Zombo says:

      I guess that depends on where you live , right now a KTM dealer near me has a leftover 2009 690 Duke for $8499 and used ones pop up on craigslist now and then in the 6-7K range . But a better comparison to the Yamaha might be the 5 speed Duke 2 with 55 horsepower and supposedly 320 pounds dry weight . I see lots of low mileage examples of those for sale on craigslist in my area . Hell , I had a ton of fun on a 89 Honda NX650 Dominator fitted with street tires for that metter ! Bought it for $1300 , rode it for 3 years and sold it for $1800 . If money is a main concern used is the only way to go .

  25. bikerrandy says:

    This Yamaha bike looks like it has the same 5 valve motor my `00 MZ 660 single has. But my MZ is a lot better looking than this thing. My MZ has a Yamaha motor just like the 1 in their later Raptor quad.

    • Brad says:

      This bike has a different 660 motor than the MZ had. This motor is based off of the 700(686) Raptor motor with fuel injection and 4 valve head and roller rocker arms.

  26. fazer6 says:

    I *love* this bike.
    But it won’t happen–The MT-03 is Italian made, not Japanese (or other asian-origin), and there’s no way Yamaha can sell this in the US for a profit at any kind of price that wouldn’t make an R6 blush.

  27. steve says:

    50 hp 400 pounds no thanks, my ktm 690 makes 60plus and weighs 300 pounds and is fun because of the low weight and high power. That thing is not only ugly but has beginner bike dynamics

    • Tom R says:

      You are exaggerating the weight of the Yamaha up, and your KTM down. Why? It is perfectly OK to like and tout the motorcycle you have without resorting to fudging the numbers.

      Also, the KTM 690 is really an “experts” motorcycle. Unlike yourself, few others can do justice to its performance abilities. The Yamaha would be appropriate (and great fun) for a much greater number of riders.

      • steve says:

        the 690 is an expert bike just like the thousands of race reps sold to all those experts,sure. Lose the stock nuclear reactor exhaust , tune and you are at 305 pounds and over 60 hp. You want a heavy single with moderate to low power go ahead get one, you will be in a very small group.

  28. Ruefus says:

    660 cc, 50 horse, 385 pounds.

    KTM 690 (actually a 654) single – 63 hp, 327 pounds

    The MT-03 sounds like fun. But 20% MORE power, and 15% LESS weight from the KTM sounds like a riot.

    • Tom R says:

      Having ridden the KTM I can attest that it is an exciting motorcycle to ride, but I suspect that they are fibbing at least a bit on the both power and weight claims. Also, it is very tall and has a thinly padded 2×4 stud for a seat.

      50 hp at 385 lbs is plenty for a short, compact bike like this, but it IS kinda weird looking from the front.

  29. Kjazz says:

    Before you go all dark on the styling of this bike, consider the Kawi Versys. That thing has been a reasonable HIT for Kawasaki and it looks pretty wonky at best. I know, twin vs. single, but still. They are both nimble, light(er), simple and affordable machines. I think this thing from Yamaha would be in the running for fans of simple transportation. And as a bonus, they get really comfortable ergonomics, sit up visibility, good economy, decent performance, and hey….even these things can LEAN way over!!

    BTW, in answer to the comment that black wheels dont show details….they also dont show oil, dirt, grime, road kill etc. etc. etc.

  30. JIM S says:

    I love the idea of a modern big street single. I currently own a 82 Honda Ascot. Great bike, can easily run highway speed and my commuter to continuing education at night and weekends. I park close, get 45 mpg and have a blast with the light torquey thumper. The looks of this Yamaha are not to my tastes but I would love to have an updated Ascot, with liquid cooling. The KTM is too expensive for my budget but if I could get a used one reasonably priced, I could let the little Ascot be my museum piece. It draws a crowd where ever it goes.

    • John says:

      They made an updated version. Almost 30 years ago!

      • Jim S says:

        They didn’t make an updated single. The v-twin ascot was nice too. But it needed to be at least a 750. It wasn’t. If Honda built a 1000cc Ascot I’d buy one tomorrow. I loved the flat track styling of both ascots.

  31. Desjardins says:

    I still own 2 SR500 and I miss an SRX6. This one would be a nice addition but should be lighter. Zombo’s right about KTM. They really know street singles.

  32. Dannytheman says:

    I wouldn’t want the hair on my legs getting caught and torn out of that shock rebounding.
    Geez, that looks like a pinch pain waiting for a place to happen! Not a big fan!

  33. Nomadak says:

    so….Yamaha copied Aprilia’s Shiver, slapped a single cylinder motor in (instead of Aprilia’s excellent 750cc V-twin) and forgot to take one of the tail pipes off. Should sell like hot cakes….yeah right!

    Good to see someone trying to innovate again though!

    • Phil says:

      Get your facts straight – the MT-03 came out in 2006 and the Shiver came out 3 years later in 2009.

  34. Garbonzo says:

    My favorite bike was my Yamaha SR500. I have always been a Yamaha fan and a 4-stroke single fan even though I have neither currently.

    The idea of this bike is, as a result, quite attractive to me. In reality, it is the headlight that turns me off. The rest of the bike looks quite nice in my view. In the end, I would probably accept the headlight to get the rest of the package.

  35. Jack says:

    I have to wonder if thats the best place to position a rear shock, the hottest place on the whole bike.

  36. Zombo says:

    Not a bad looking bike , from the rear anyway . But KTM already offers the 690 Duke single which has 64 horsepower , 6 speeds , and weighs over 60 pounds less if the published dry weight figures are to be believed . Slap an aftermarket seat to take the place of the narrow vinyl coated stock brick that KTM calls a seat and you’ve got your super single back road blaster . Since they’ve been making it for a few years you could probably pick up a low mileage example for less than Yamaha would charge for this bike – if they ever brought it here , which they won’t .

  37. mark says:

    Well I like it (the looks and the concept). two cans for a thumper seems a bit odd, but what the heck, I’ll reserve judgment until I see it in person.

    As far as simpler bikes (singles, twins, limited electronic gizmos) I think its about time.

  38. falcodoug says:

    HUH? What were they thinking?

  39. Brinskee says:

    Like everyone else so far, love the idea, not keen on the execution. Also, 390 lbs dry – are you kidding me? That seems quite heavy! Are two exhaust cans really necessary? I bet you could lose 20 lbs easy there… No USD suspension? I think the big four do it to themselves sometimes…

  40. Lowflying says:

    Hmm. Butter face. Never heard that one, but it definitely applies here. Solutions I would apply:

    1) Again, and I always whinge about this, what’s with the weird modern obsession with alien headlights? Put a nice round one on this bike, or a nice vertical stack of two smaller round ones for that streetfighter look.

    2) Ditch the dumb high exhausts (why do any bikes have them – it just weighs more and cooks your ass?) in favour of something small, short, light and cool.

    3) Black does nothing for wheels. You lose all the detail. Some sort of colour, polishing or maybe wire wheels with coloured rims would give us something to look at.

    Otherwise, I like this bike and could definitely see myself on it. I quite like the seat and rear supension. The shape of the tank doesn’t really suit what a big single is – tradition, but I can live with it. I can see why Yamaha designed it that way as it ties in with their other products, however big singles are supposed to be simple and that tank is anything but.

    Overall, a good effort, but maybe TOO MUCH effort?

  41. Wilson R says:

    Looks like a parts bin special. Dirtbike engine with sportbike swingarm and tires, headlight off a snowmobile etc… It would be nice if they hired a professional designer next time instead of a fledgling art student.

  42. Bob says:

    Nothing wrong with singles. Had plenty of fun on them in the past. But the looks are horrible. It might look good to the asians or euros, but not me. I didn’t like the looks of the mt-01 either.

  43. Motowarrior says:

    There are a bunch of really great motorcycles that never make it to the US, but I don’t think this is the place to start. The lightweight bikes that hot now are the 650-800 twins, that offer at least 20-30 more horsepower with not much of a weight penalty. The market for singles here is thin. Most of us who like singles are older guys, who might buy one as a second or third bike. This styling, however, won’t appeal to that group. If it is cheap enough it might find a following as an entry level bike, but I’m afraid it may be priced out of that market. Most entry level bikes in this economy are used ones.

  44. Steven T says:

    What would make this bike an absolute blast would be lighter weight. If it weighed 325 dry instead of 390, it would get alot more attention.

    Since my CBR1000 weighs 390 dry, I just can’t get excited about a 390 lb bike that only has 50 HP. But if it felt even reasonable close to a big dirt bike / dual sport, I would really consider it.

  45. Marty O says:

    Pretty bike. Would be a blast if they can keep it prices around 5 Thousand dollars or so. Would have to be cheaper than the Ninja 650’s, FZ6R’s etc. Maybe 6 tops. That seat looks really comfy.

  46. Just Joe says:

    Hate to say…”Butter Face”!
    She looks good from behind, but her face…
    Hopefully the riding dynamics are so good it doesn’t matter.

  47. Denny says:

    I am sorry to say this… but this is disappointing. Exposed spring on side of engine is pure BS. Also, and I canot believe this crappy trend lately… that lantern is – yuck. There is so many ways which can make better impression, just to be ready to get original and creative, away from stupid trend. Rest of it is quite good. I am fan of singles, so I make this comment with sense of pitty. It hurts me.

  48. R. Clayton says:

    Interesting but it needs one more cylinder. MT-01!

  49. Eric C says:

    I think that’s a cool looking bike! Looks comfortable and I dig simple motorcycling.

  50. Steve D says:

    I LOVE singles. But come on. The looks of this thing are not going to help sales. They aren’t difficult bike to style.