JOHANNESBURG, Gauteng - Some bikes have a way of surprising you – the spec sheet might lead you to believe that it is gutless, only for the bike to disprove your perception in real life.The Yamaha MT-07 did exactly that with me. Wedged between the Kawasaki Z1000 and the BMW S1000R in my review schedule, the prospect of testing the smallest-engined member of the SA Bike of the Year finalists was hardly exciting.However, it took only two city blocks for me to develop a suspicion that I was in for more fun than I had bargained on.SEATING UPRIGHTThe MT-07, says Yamaha, was designed to bring fun, affordability and enjoyment back to the street. It sports an all-new 689cc inline two-cylinder engine using what the Tuning Forks company calls its “special crossplane philosophy”, which endows the bike with linear torque and surprisingly quick acceleration.IMAGE GALLERY: Yamaha MT-07The engine is nestled in a tubular-steel frame: not particularly hi-tech but, being made of several types of high-tensile steel, it manages to be a whopping six kg lighter than the frame of Yamaha's XJ-6 Diversion. The seating position is upright but fairly forward in the frame, which makes the bike feel a lot smaller than it actually is. The seat is also considerably lower than I expected, making mounting and dismounting easy even for short riders. Despite this, the seat-to-footpeg distance proved to be perfect for my 1.8m frame and even during my 50-minute low-speed commutes,I found the bike perfectly comfortable.EFFORTLESS SPEEDThe proof of this particular pudding was in the riding and it is in this department that the MT-07 is bound to steal hearts. Although the maximum torque is nothing out-of-the-ordinary for its engine size, the fact that there is meaningful acceleration available from as low as 3000rpm makes the bike a blast to ride.Ridden hard, the MT-07 actually surprises by how effortlessly it picks up speed – it takes some vigilance to stay on the legal side of even the highway speed limit. This, combined with its light and nimble handling, imparts the bike with a sense of playfulness that makes you want to take the longer way to your destination.The review bike was shod with Bridgestone Battlax rubber, which provided ample grip even on winter-cold roads. The combination of this grip, the lightness of the bike and the reassurance of the anti-lock brakes allowed me to really explore the MT-07’s performance, which at times left me breathless with sheer exhilaration.Sure there are vastly quicker and more powerful machines out there but few that can match the MT-07’s almost perfect balance of performance and handling. FUEL: PLANNING NEEDEDLike all other bikes, the MT-07 is not without fault. Its main failing is lack of brake feedback. Although the brakes are quite good, they feel spongy enough to erode some of the confidence inspired by its handling.It could also do with a bigger fuel tank tank - - 14 litres is OK for urban riding but would require careful planning if you wanted to undertake a longer trip.What may count in its favour: Nippy performance and great handling.What may count against it: Limited fuel capacity and spongy brakes.2014 BIKE OF THE YEARThe 2014 Amid motorcycle show, scheduled for the Nasrec expo centre in Johannesburg, Gauteng (August 8-10) will once again host the announcement of the 2014 South African Bike of the Year. 2014 Bike of the Year finalists:• BMW S1000R • BMW R1200GS Adventure • Ducati 899 Panigale • Ducati Monster 1200 • Kawasaki Z1000 • KTM 1290 Super Duke • Suzuki DL1000 V-Strom • Yamaha MT-09 • Yamaha MT-07VOTE FOR YOUR FAVOURITEWheels24's DRIES VAN DER WALT will take you along on the journey to the August announcement. Over the next few weeks we will bring you reviews of as many of the finalists as are available for us to test:Suzuki DL1000 VStromKTM 1290 Super DukeYamaha MT-09We’re interested in your opinion, so read the reviews (more will appear over coming weeks) and launch reports, pick your own favourites,let us know which bike you think will win the coveted award, and what you think sets it apart from the rest.You, just like the actual judges, have a vote too!Which bike do you think should win the 2014 SA Bike of the Year award? Email us and we’ll publish your thoughts on Wheels24. Vote for your favourite in our homepage voting booth!You could be one of three email entrants to win one of three R500 shopping vouchers - just for voting!