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2011 Yamaha FZ8: MD First Ride

When the FZ8 was first rumored, and then teased by Yamaha, there was quite a bit of excitement. The bike was introduced in Europe last year, and some of the excitement died when it was learned that the frame, and, to some extent, engine were shared with the existing FZ1. We just rode the 2011 FZ8 here in Southern California, and were quite surprised by its performance and value. The bike has a completely different character than an FZ1 and, in many ways is both superior and cheaper to own.

When the naked FZ8 (the only model we are getting here in the United States) and its faired sibling, the Fazer 8, were introduced in Europe, we provided you with most of the important technical information.  That information is still valid for the U.S. model, with minor exceptions.  Nevertheless, here are the highlights.

The 779cc inline four-cylinder motor has the same stroke as the FZ1 with a smaller bore.  The relatively long stroke allows the power to come on lower in the rpm range, as does other changes from the FZ1 powerplant.  The entirely new cylinder head raises compression to 12:1, and milder cam timing spreads, and flattens, the power curve.  A significantly smaller throttle valve size (down from 45mm to 35mm) also provides snappier, and stronger, power delivery down low.  A lower first gear, and a lower final drive ratio, complete the mix of attributes that make the FZ8 very comfortable at street rpm levels. 

The chassis lacks the suspension adjustability found on the FZ1 (only rear shock preload is adjustable on the FZ8), but this is fairly common in this price range, and Yamaha has done an excellent job of finding a good compromise setting for aggressive street use and comfort.  The lone exception is a shock that rebounds a bit too quickly. 

One additional change that allows for a quicker steering, more nimble feeling motorcycle is a reduction in the rear tire size from a 190/50 on the FZ1 to a 180/55 on the FZ8. 

All of these changes create a motorcycle that feels far lighter and more nimble than the claimed 15 pound weight reduction (versus the FZ1) would indicate.  The relatively upright ergonomics, with ample seat-to-peg distance, provided a comfortable mount for the 120 miles, or so, that we sampled. 

The FZ8 has excellent fuel injection with very little snatch, or abruptness, when opening the throttle.  The power delivery is very linear and smooth, and comes on remarkably low for an inline four.

Decent acceleration out of corners can be had from as low as 4,000 rpm, and power increases seemingly all the way to the 10,500 rpm redline.  Peak power doesn’t feel dramatically high, although it should be close to modern 600cc supersports.  This is more than ample, and the FZ8 is much easier to ride on the street with its usable power readily available in real world situations at real world rpm levels.  The FZ8 has dramatically more torque than a 600 supersport, based on my seat-of-the-pants analysis, below 8,000 rpm where you need it on the street. 

We had a blast carving extremely tight, twisty tarmac in the hills above Malibu where the FZ8 turned in quickly, but held its line through bumpy corners.  Although it lacked the latest sportbike rubber (we were running on Bridgestone BT-021s), there was good feedback from the front end and confidence at significant lean angles.  In short, the FZ8 is a blast through the canyons. 

The nimbleness of the FZ8 is coupled with outstanding straight-line stability.  The bike tracks where it is pointed without any argument, encouraging a very light touch on the bars.  On occasion, the rear shock seemed to rebound a bit quickly while pushing the pace through bumpy pavement, but this did not slow us down. 

The six-speed transmission shifted well, and reliably, and the R1/R6 derived brake calipers (earlier generation) offered strong, predictable braking that was very difficult to fault.

Overall, the FZ8 is a polished, refined package with a unique engine displacement that offers a much more usable powerband for street riding than supersport 600s.  Even though it lacks the peak power of a full 1,000, and the FZ8 won’t win many drag races, it might deliver you to the end of that twisty canyon road more quickly than the full supersports ridden by your friends.  At the same time, it offers comfortable, upright ergonomics and, in our opinion, attractive styling.

The only color available in the United States is black (Yamaha calls it “Raven”).  The MSRP is a reasonable $8,490 (roughly $2,000 cheaper than the 1,000cc competition, and $1,500 cheaper than BMW’s less powerful F 800R).  For additional details and specifications, visit Yamaha’s web site.

Motorcycle Daily attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.

47 Comments

  1. jimbo says:

    How ’bout comparing it to the coming Suzuki 750 standard?

  2. Victor says:

    I was rooting for Yamaha to bring us the Fazer8, the same model with the half-fairing. That has real appeal to me, akin to a Bandit 1250 on a diet that would improve fuel economy and still retain comfort with handling. Granted, these models sell poorly (witness the Kawasaki Z750, terminated after only 2 years in our market), and that is keeping the precious gems out of our hands.

    I would like to see comments regarding the effectiveness of the accessory flyscreen, as others have mentioned similar interest in. Maybe we could entice an article devoted to factory flyscreens, and include the Suzuki Gladius so equipped in it. The new headlight assemblies becoming popular now don’t accommodate National Cycle’s F15 screens and similar products, and we’re stuck with what the factory offers. Wind protection ranks high in my priorities, as pressure on my chest transforms a nice ride to hanging on for dear life.

  3. Alain says:

    I personally think it(FZ8)is a decent middle weight standard bike that would get a lot of attention next summer, especially in the province of Québec (Canada) where insurance/registration for sport bikes is way too expensive!!!

  4. Dave says:

    I liked the back and forth about the “japs” from Tom and Ziggy the best. As for the FZ8, c’mon Yamz, what’s with the overweight pig bikes? Ok, so I’m not getting a fairing, wind protection, or an adjustable suspension. Isn’t that bad enough? Why do you have to go and make the bike heavy too? What’s wrong with a Supersport 600 type frame like even the old yzf600 from 1997 and putting some higher bars on it and designing the new engine into that frame. That would handle better and be lighter than the FZ8.

  5. Austin ZZR 1200 says:

    Again with the black color..and stunting…does this emerging generation of riders want to live past 19?

    • Mickey says:

      That IS a pretty stupid ad, unless they are appealing to that specific crowd with this bike, which doesn’t really make any sense. Doesn’t that crowd go for clapped out 600 super sports?.

  6. Patrick says:

    This bike has not fared well in class comparisons, due to high weight, high price and poor handling. Yamaha is struggling with high prices at the present time too.

  7. Leo says:

    I posted a little while ago and indicated…”I think I’d stick with an Aprillia Shiver or Ducati 796″…

    This was a bit short winded and not intended to say the bike is bad. My comment was driven by the perceived market and price point. Yamaha builds a solid, reliable ride. I could roll on this thing all day, no problem. I just prefer the others. This bike will appeal to the masses more so than my choices.

  8. Slob says:

    I wasn’t too impressed when I read about the French launch of this bike last year. However, since it won the “Dark Dog Moto Tour 2010″ rally (sort of a motorised version of the Tour de France with special stages on racetracks like Le Mans, Magny Cours) against competition on almost all categories of bikes (e.g. litrebikes, supersports, supermotos, nakeds, tourers, classics, monkey bikes etc.), I now give it the benefit of doubt (although it’s true that the race FZ8 benefited from having full Ohlins suspension)..

  9. james says:

    I went to Yamahas website and they are listing this bike at 467lbs fueled and ready to ride. Thats not too heavy for a standard.

  10. Chris says:

    I don’t know what the limits are, but I think they should have bored and stroked the FZ6 instead of sleaving down the FZ1. Or maybe dusted off the YZF750 tooling, and then stroked that motor to 800-850 cc…

  11. Harry says:

    Sportbike, not standard.

  12. Cowboy says:

    Looked up the stats on this. Man, that’s a LOT of weight for a modestly powered bike to be hauling around…. Pass on this one.

  13. MikeD says:

    I just want to say is good to have more choices, even if said choices overlap each other a bit and for no apparent “decent” reason.
    Thanks Yamaha anyways for bringing it and the Super10 too. Now where’s that ligther/stronger Vmax, CrossPlane Cranked FZ1 and New FJR with a CrossPlane Crank too ? … Asking too much … I guess … LOL.

    Ok, i’ll settle for less, How about a WR450X ?

  14. Bill Letourneau says:

    They should have blacked out the forks and calipers. Looks like a fun ride!

  15. Dennis says:

    I’m in the market for a new bike and I’ve been waiting to see and read about this bike for a while now. I think it looks promising and I can’t wait to throw a leg over one at the Cycle Show in New York next weekend.
    Judging from the variety of comments posted here, it’s no wonder the manufacturers have a hard time marketing bikes here. You can’t get everything you want, because everyone wants something else or isn’t completely happy with whats offered. You can’t have everything. Sometimes you’ve go to add or subtract some stuff to make it “just right”.
    This bike looks close the UJM’s of the past and it appears that Yamaha is ready with some useful accessories. An optional side stand? It’s about time. There are those who would say, why isn’t it standard equip? Some may not want it.
    Judging by the video on the Yamaha web site, the target audience appears to be the urban/stunt crowd. I think they will find that this thing is going to sell better to the all around set more. Again, think UJM.
    I don’t need a 1000, really don’t want a 600, but a 750/800 sounds just about right.
    I’m not knocking the Italian bikes, but from what I’ve seen of their parts supply line and service(at least my buddies bikes), they do leave a bit to be desired. We just lost 1 Ducati dealership in my area and I don’t even know where to buy an Aprilia around here.
    The DR is a nice bike if you don’t look at it. Two of my riding buddies have either had one or still have them and they are really good bikes.
    I’ve been looking hard at a Versys, the new Ninja 1000 and the FZ8. All different bikes in different price ranges.
    Should make for an interesting choice come spring time.

  16. Seattle Knight says:

    Very nice review. Love the 800cc size. Wish we had more sport bikes that had the 750 or 800 cc engine size. Hope the 800 cc size catches on. Like many of said, a 600 is fine on the top end but having more low end torque would be nice. A 1000 cc bike is over the top for my ability and insurance budget.

    • DaytonaJames says:

      Not sure what the insurance categories are like down in Seattle but up here in BC, the 800 is in the same insurance class as the 1,000. 101 – 400, 401 – 750, 751 – 1050, 1050 – 2xxx. Factor in unit value and claims history of course. Too bad there wasn’t insurance standard classes that the manufacturers could market for. They certainly aren’t going to produce units to fit the relatively insignificant market of Canada. Hrmmph!

  17. Leo says:

    I think I’d stick with an Aprillia Shiver or Ducati 796.

  18. Alpster1 says:

    I picked up a Bandit 600s a couple years ago and it’s great fun, but a little more motor to go with those ergo’s would not hurt my feelings either. If it can handle a tall rider comfortably it will go on my short list with the new Tiger 800’s, the Shiver, and the new CBR nekkid.

  19. Calvin and Hobbes says:

    i think i’ll go buy a DR650 instead

  20. Morris Minor says:

    Get the Aprilia Shiver. It’s a far better bike for the same money.

  21. todd says:

    “2011 FZ8… is both superior and cheaper to own (than an FZ1)”.
    in the same manner, the FZ6 is both superior and cheaper to own than the FZ8…

    -todd

  22. Steve P says:

    When I first heard that the FZ8 was coming to the U.S. I was very excited. Then I became disappointed when I learned that the suspension was not adjustable, it wasn’t going to have event at least a half fairing, and it weighed only 15 lbs. less than an FZ1. It would be nice to have ABS , heated grips and factory hard luggage as options as well. My hopes were dashed for a mid size bike that would be versatile and could be made into a great mid sized sport-tourer were dashed. Maybe Kawasaki will offer a 750 Ninja soon if the Ninja 1000 does well.

    • ziggy says:

      The japs are wasting our time again. Bring us an exciting bike!

      • Tom Barber says:

        ziggy, if the “japs” are wasting your time, why don’t you just ignore them and stop making blatantly derogatory, race-oriented remarks on a public forum such as this. You need to know that there are not really very many people who will look up to a person who behaves in this manner. This does not improve your cache. Rather, it does the opposite.

        • Jamboa says:

          How bout slant eyed lil people?

        • ziggy says:

          It’s just short for Japanese dude. I eat their food, drive their cars, and ride their bikes. WW2 was 70 years ago, get over it.

          …and yes they are wasting our time with banal bikes–unlike the Krauts and the Limeys (!)

        • Tom Barber says:

          Dude, it is most definitely not “just short for Japanese”. It is a derogatory, race-oriented term that originated during WWII when the world was at war and the USA in particular was at war with Japan. My father and one of my uncles fought in the Pacific during WWII, one of them in bitter hand-to-hand combat on Iwo Jima. Only on vary rare occasions and never more recently than sometime in the ’60s, I heard one of them used this term. But they could be forgiven, and they knew it was wrong, and they stopped using the term more than four decades ago. Given that people of that generation who actually fought in that war were able to discipline themselves to stop using that blatantly derogatory term, it just seems inexcusable that a much younger person of a different generation would think it appropriate to use this term.

          • ziggy says:

            “Dude” is a derogatory term from another time that you have recontexturalized and are now using in modern parlance. You can publicly tear your shirt and expose your sensitive bleeding heart to improve your cache among the politcally-correct motorcyle crowd all you want, but I ain’t taking it back. Few few people under 40 or outside of the US consider it to be a racist term. And yes, “some of my best freinds (and family) actually are Japanese”. Among folks of your ancient generation, the term was taboo, but for those of us who don’t pilot scooters around the old folks home, it has about as much sting as when my “Jap” friends call me a “redneck”…as we slurp miso soup and scarf tuna tataki together…

          • ziggy says:

            Maybe you best look at this:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jap#Across_the_world

            Across the world

            In Singapore and Hong Kong, the term is used freely as a contraction of the adjective “Japanese” rather than as a derogatory term.

            In Canada the term is also generally accepted as a contraction of the adjective “Japanese”. The Australian news service Asia Pulse also uses the term.

            In 1970, the Japanese fashion designer Kenzo Takada opened the “Jungle Jap” boutique in Paris. In Japan itself, most Japanese are apathetic about the term, according to a 2004 study.

            In all my years of riding I’ve had soccer moms wave fingers at me, had scrapes and scraps with Harley dorks, and the occasional ticket or two. But I’ve never been confronted by sanctimonious baby boomer liberal busybodies who think California culture is the world’s template. Now I’ve seen everything.

          • Tom Barber says:

            I strongly resent your pretense of knowing anything at all about my motives. I do not have a “bleeding heart”, and if I did, it would not ever occur to me tear my shirt, etc., etc. You are in denial. When I read what you wrote, my blood pressure elevated instantly, just as it is at this instant. It has nothing whatsoever to do with any sort of conscious effort on my part. It is simply that I have a strong aversion to the lack of racial sensitivity. It is my sincere hope that each and every time that you use the term “jap” in the future, that there will be someone there to tell you how pathetic you are, and that eventually through osmosis you will develop a healthier attitude toward people who do not look the same as you.

  23. Mickey says:

    Nice looking bike and it has the best looking muffler of late, or at least the least offensive.

    Over on the FZ boards they wonder why someone would want a bike of roughly the same weight as the current FZ-1 but with less horsepower. As an Gen 1 FZ owner who never uses all the power available in his current liter bike, I for one would be interested when I’m due for a replacement. Initial buy in would be cheaper, insurance would be cheaper, chain, sprockets and tires would last longer and best of all it’s not another repli-racer with horrible ergonomics.I think it’s main competition at this point will be the 675 Triumph Triple.

    I do wonder when the mfgs are going to give us a decent two up saddle, and anormal rear fender tail light combo.

  24. jd says:

    I checked out the link to Yamaha. Sorry video there on the page it brings you to. I thought maybe the video would get me excited. Instead, I’m confused and annoyed. The bike is shown in the dark, a black bike. Squids are stunting on it, doing burnouts and other hooligan tactics. Would have been nice to see the bike in motion on a canyon road, or close cockpit/component shots.

    Is this bike for stunting or riding in the twisties? I’d think the it would be built best for one or the other purpose. Are stunters really the main segment buying bikes these days? And do they really want to throw an $8500 bike down the parking lot? I know, I know, have I *seen* motorcycle marketing in the last century, but this video just…oh well, we’re all just manics in the media anyways!

    I liken this bike to the Aprilia Shiver 750. Same price roughly. Just my two cents, I’ll have to check one out at the dealer. Could be a bike for me, I was thinking Shiver but Aprilia dealers are dropping like flies in my area.

  25. Robbo says:

    Overall nice bike that I would seriously consider owning.

    My only complaint would be that sci-fi, alien insect, headlight thingy. Nekkeds are more simple, traditional types of motorcycles and the nice round headlight seems to fit that style better.

    Just my 2 cents worth. Probably the Yamaha market research trying to target some demographic, which I am obviously growing (aging!) out of. Oh well, I guess I’ll swing a leg over my CB1300 and go for a burn. That always makes me feel better. ;-)

  26. Sean Browne says:

    Amen to the wide bars comment. After owning many sportbikes living in the Ca santa cruz mountains I’m finally down to a BMW GS and a DR350. After riding the same bumpy back roads on both a Mille and an XT225 you start to see why supermoto’s are popular. The FZ8 looks like a fun bike and nice compromise of ergos and power.

  27. GaryF says:

    Thanks, Dirck. It’s on my short list.

  28. MarkF says:

    Sounds like a great bike. The rear shock can be replaced and the front doesn’t seem like a problem. Will there be saddlebags available for the FZ1 & FZ8? It could be a great do-it-all.

  29. Goose says:

    Dirck,

    Nice review but PLEASE stop repeating the stupid myth that bore/ stroke ratio influences the shape of the power curve. As the late, great Gordon Jennings said many years ago (paraphrasing): “Its like saying the gasoline know the shape of the combustion chamber and reacts differently in short fat one rather then tall thin one”. Many thing influence shape of an engine’s power curve, bore to stoke ratio isn’t one of them.

    Long strokes do, generally, give the engine more flywheel effect and narrower combustion chambers have less room for the valves but many engines with very short strokes have very broad power bands. Take a look at the bore stroke ratio for the Gas Gas 300 (http://www.gasgas.com/2011_raga_300_specs.htm). 79mm X 60mm is hardly a long stroke design yet trials engines produce the lowest, smoothest power band in motorcycling.

    Goose

    • Tom Barber says:

      Wow. What an utterly mindless, misinformed, crass comment. All one has to do, to realize the truth of the correlation between the bore/stroke ratio and the overall shape of an engine’s torque curve, is to take out a sheet of graph paper, then study as many dyno charts as you can find, then come up with a way to measure the peakiness of the torque curve (or the power curve), and plot that as a function of the bore/stroke ratio. The correlation is manifest and undeniable. If you want to look for a common fallacy, try the where V configurations are supposed to be “high-torque” designs. That one comes with bogosity on at least two levels, one of which is the notion that the overall shape of the torque curve (or the power curve) is a matter of a trade-off between torque and power. That is a ridiculous contrivance. If it weren’t a contrivance, then instead of having two different curves each spanning the full operating range of the engine, we’d have a single curve with some sort of funky kink somewhere to identify the point that divides the torque portion of the curve from the power portion of the curve.

      Dude, the torque of an engine at a particular rpm is linearly coupled to the quantity of air (and fuel) that it consumes, per individual rotation of the crank, or per individual intake stroke, at that particular rpm. This is a fundamental fact, and it is necessarily true given that torque is linearly coupled to the quantity of work performed in relation to fixed increments of angular displacement of the crankshaft (and due to the equivalence between work and energy, and due to linear correspondence between fuel quantity and energy quantity).

      Given that the torque of an engine at a particular rpm is linearly couple to the quantity of air consumed at that particular rpm at open throttle, the question of whether bore/stroke ratio does or does not influence the overall shape of the torque curve (and the power curve) reduces to the question of whether the bore/stroke ratio influences the quantity of air that enters the cylinder on the intake stroke, and whether this influence is different at different engine rotational speed. Said more precisely, the question is whether the way in which this influence is different at different engine speeds is different for different bore/stroke ratios. The answer is decidedly yes. The reason is that as the piston slows down near the end of its travel on the intake stroke, the air that has entered the cylinder, which behaves as a spongy fluid of sorts, rebounds off the piston face. The amount that escapes before the intake valve closes depends partly on how far the air must travel to escape and therefore on piston stroke, and also on how much time elapses before the intake valve closes, which varies with engine speed. Stroke and engine speed interact in a way that largely determines the amount of air+fuel consumed per individual intake stroke, at each given engine speed, thereby determining the overall shape of the torque curve.

      Dirck did an unusually good job this time around with not making low-speed engine performance to be expressly about “torque”, which is a contrived perspective that most moto-journalists adhere to as though it is the prime tenet of their profession. I was especially pleased when he wrote, “The relatively long stroke allows the power to come on lower in the rpm range …” The reason this pleased me is that he avoided making the performance at low rpm expressly about “torque”. To my way of thinking, it is simpler, cleaner, and less contrived to talk about the power of the engine even when talking expressly about its performance at low rotational speed, the reason being that no matter how low the rotational speed, torque at the wheel at any instant is still linearly coupled to power. So I was pleased to see that, and similar wording further down in the article, and I was preparing to write a comment commending him for that. Then I came across your comment. I would never have anticipated that anyone would come along and write a comment of the sort that you wrote.

      • Tom Barber says:

        Where I wrote:

        “Given that the torque of an engine at a particular rpm is linearly couple to the quantity of air consumed at that particular rpm at open throttle”

        I should have written:

        “Given that the torque of an engine at a particular rpm is linearly coupled to the quantity of air consumed per each individual intake stroke at that particular rpm at open throttle”

      • Zuki says:

        I doubt Goose would understand an educational spill if he doesn’t comprehend in the first place. Why not simply state that what Dirck wrote makes perfect sense to people with an inherent understanding of how an IC engine works and leave it at that?

  30. GaryF says:

    Good review. Thanks. I wonder if you could add a few details regarding motor smoothness and the availability of a centerstand. Is the motor counterbalanced. Does it need to be? Is a centerstand available? I ask the questions as someone with carpal tunnel who does his own maintenance … which, as you know, is greatly facilitated by a centerstand. Thanks in advance.

    • Dirck Edge says:

      The FZ8 is very smooth. Vibration was never an issue during my ride. Yamaha has a centerstand available that bolts to existing mounts on the frame.

      • Austin ZZR 1200 says:

        Also, any comment on the wind-blocking effectiness ( or lack thereof, of the fly- screen)?

      • SteveR says:

        Can you add any info on cruising rpm, like at 60 or 65 mph? I previously owned an FZ6 and was annoyed with the vibration and the rpm at 60 mph.

  31. uncle quinn says:

    I’ve owned litre bikes for years, and recently canabalized a 600RR for fun “naked” riding. Yes it’s slower, but OMG is it fun! Who knew less power and motocross bars could be so much more fun on the street…I look at this FZ8 (and bikes like it)with new eyes now. Comfort, cool looks, easy to ride, still very quick, everything you want except the “cool” factor of a big bad-ass “race bike.” Maybe i’m getting old, but really, who cares if somebody’s bike is ultra-fast; odds are they arent, and a fast bike can’t change that…I say have more fun and you will be better for it….Group hug???