Yamaha has an impressive track record for pumping out good looking bikes and the FZ1 is no exception. The FZ1 has a clean, attractive design. The tank and upper fairing have enough curves and angles to keep things exciting and fresh. The exhaust is especially nicely done, the low slung exhaust looks modern and sleek. While the appearance of the FZ1 is attractive it is not especially mean looking for a naked bike with 150 HP and I wouldn\'t mind seeing a little more bad-tempered nastiness in the styling to really make the neighbors run for cover. Designing a naked bike is surely a difficult task however, it has to be made up of equal parts of freeway commuter, canyon carver and muscle bike. Yamaha have proven to us they can build a dangerous looking bike, after all this is the company that brought us the V-Max, but they went for a much more refined appearance with the FZ1.
Although it might not be the meanest looking bike on the block, it has the sound of a killer. Bang a few downshifts and the exhaust lets out a rumble that sounds more like a muscle car than a motorcycle. The roar of the FZ1 motor had me charging into stop signs a little harder than normal just so I could grab some hard downshifts with the revs up high to hear the beautiful music pouring out of the FZ1 exhaust.
So we know the FZ1 sounds the business but it was time to find out if the engine performs on the street or if it was a case of the bark being bigger than the bite. The FZ1 features an Ultra-lightweight 998cc, DOHC, 20-valve, liquid-cooled, 40 degree inclined, in-line four-cylinder engine producing 150 hp at 10,000rpm. The crankcases, pistons, cylinder and cylinder head are based on the 3rd generation R1 power-plant (\'04 to \'06). This is no dumbed down technology, camshafts that have been designed for more power at lower revs and the crankshaft has been given an increase in weight for better tractability. Yamaha\'s EXUP exhaust valve also helps with the low-end.
Looking at the specs on the FZ1 I was fully prepared to wear an oversized belt buckle proclaiming my intercontinental wheelie king status. Naked bike, 150 HP, and some Red Bull floating through the liver, the title was surely mine for the taking. I even took out stock on Yamaha fork seals figuring I would be going through them in the dozens.
It was not to be however. In reality the motor on the FZ1 is extremely smooth, maybe too smooth if that is possible. The power comes on seamless and strong but I couldn\'t help but wish it would tug on the arm sockets a little harder and really have you take notice. The motor has been toned down slightly from the R1 version to soften the hit and increase low end power. While this probably makes the FZ1 a better street bike I was looking for something a little more animalistic and unrefined. A little less Katie Holmes . . . a little more Jenna Jameson. The engine starts to get angry around 8,000 RPM and revs all the way to a strong top end redlining at 12,000 RPM and features a "soft" rev limiter to protect the engine.
The FZ1 uses R1-style fuel injection with computer-controlled sub-throttle valves for superb power delivery across the entire rev range. The R1 of recent years has a nasty dead spot down low in the RPM but none of this is evident on the FZ1. Fuel injection is crisp and throttle response is spot on.
The FZ1 weighs in at 485 pounds wet and features a light and rigid aluminum frame. Rolling around through the parking lot the FZ1 felt slightly on the heavy side, once out on the twisty roads the weight did not seem to be an issue and the FZ1 flicked from side to side quite effortlessly. Yamaha claims a mass-forward layout for the FZ1 with a 51 percent front-wheel weight bias to improve handling. This supersport-like weight bias, coupled with the wide motocross style bars giving great leverage, made the motorcycle very easy to throw into the corners at speed and overall gave me a good amount of confidence even at higher speeds.
Accelerating hard out of bumpy corners was getting the FZ1 slightly unsettled and causing a small wag at the bars, but it was slight enough that it never turned into a full blown headshake or caused me to have to back out of the throttle.
The Yamaha FZ1 uses 43mm fully adjustable inverted forks with compression damping circuitry in the left leg and rebound in the right, a trick used on the Yamaha Moto-GP bike. The rear Kayaba shock has adjustable preload and rebound damping. The suspension may have been fully adjustable but I\'ll admit I didn\'t fiddle much with the knobs. The truth is the suspension was set up pretty much to my liking, even if slightly on the stiff side. Some of this may be due to the stiff springs up front and this was likely the cause of the slightly unsettled feeling up front under hard acceleration over rough pavement. A quick pace through the scenic California landscape did not faze the FZ1 but some riders may look for a slightly more plush feel for the not-so-scenic freeway commute every day.
Braking on the FZ1 comes courtesy of two 320mm front discs squeezed by monoblock four-piston calipers and a single 245mm rear disc. While not radially mounted like the R1, the brakes do a good job scrubbing speed and feel from the front lever was top notch.
The transmission on the FZ1 borrows the R1\'s close-ratio six-speed gearbox with a slightly taller 5th and 6th gear to make the FZ1 more relaxed for highway speeds. I think the Yamaha street fighter could benefit from some slightly shorter gearing to liven things up around town. If longer freeway commutes are what you are used to, the FZ1 ratios may suit you just fine.
Comfort on the long hauls was never a problem for the FZ1. The footpegs gave ample room for my knackered knees and the wrists felt fine after a long day. Wind protection was fairly minimal as you would expect from a naked bike.
The FZ1 features analog tachometer, digital speedometer, dual trip meter with miles on reserve function, odometer, water temperature and lights for neutral, high beam, low fuel and turn signals—also a fade-in lighting feature with adjustable brightness. Speaking of that fuel gauge, the fuel level bars seemed to be disappearing mysteriously fast once the FZ1\'s 4.75-gallon fuel tank ventured past half empty. While heading back into the city from deep in the canyons on a route I have done many times before I did get a bit of a scare as the fuel bars were suddenly gone leaving me with one lonely one flashing repeatedly in my face. Fears of a man vs mountain lion showdown taking place on my walk back to civilization started to creep into my brain. Luckily the Yamaha brought me home and you won\'t be seeing me on "When animals attack" anytime soon.
Yamaha calls the FZ1 "the ultimate street brawler" but is the Yamaha really the toughest kid on the block? Well as we all know, it\'s not always the toughest looking fighter who wins the fight but the one with the most skills. The Yamaha may not have the looks of a killer but it definitely possesses the goods to hold it\'s own against any of the other so-called street fighters on the market. The FZ1 is an extremely well rounded motorcycle with few faults and it feels right at home in seemingly any situation. Now if only we could get Yamaha to do a little cross-breading with it\'s V-Max model to add a few vicious DNA!
2009 Yamaha FZ1 MSRP - $9790. Available colors - Granite Gray/Raven and Cobalt Blue.