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.