MotorcycleDaily.com – Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

Yamaha 2014 FZ-09: MD First Ride

092113top-i

092113side1

Instrumentation includes a useful gear position indicator.

For those of you endlessly ranting “I need less weight and more power,” your ship finally came in … with a surprisingly low price.  The 2014 Yamaha FZ-09 we just rode in Northern California seems to set a new benchmark in the “light/powerful/low price” sweepstakes.  It is not without its flaws, but overall it is a damned impressive piece of work.

When Yamaha unveiled the FZ-09 a few months ago, we gave you all of the juicy details. Those include an 847cc three-cylinder, fuel injected engine with four-valve cylinder heads and an equal firing interval (that Yamaha characterizes as a “crossplane crank”).

A six-speed transmission transfers power through chain drive to a 17″ cast aluminum rear wheel shod with 180/55 section rubber. The 17″ cast front wheel holds twin, 298mm discs squeezed by a radial mount brake caliper that exerts its force through a 120/70 section tire.

The overriding first impression of the FZ-09 is its small size and light weight, perhaps exaggerated by an extremely narrow width between the rider’s knees afforded by the three-cylinder engine, which is held by a frame designed to take advantage of every millimeter saved in comparison to an inline four. Yamaha’s obsession with making the ergonomics as narrow as possible is evidenced, in part, by the mounting of the swingarm pivot on the outside of the frame.

As our riding impression confirmed, the U.S. MSRP of $7,990 is quite remarkable. The build also underscores solid value, as this is far from a “parts bin” motorcycle with its unique engine and components. Yamaha was fastidious about weight savings and included a new aluminum frame and swingarm employing its controlled-filled, die cast technique that allows precise control of shapes and wall thicknesses. Other lightweight components include a magnesium cylinder head cover, aluminum oil cooler, aluminum triple clamps and handlebar, and forged aluminum shift/brake pedals and footrests.

092113middle1

The wheels are also unique to this model and are lighter than those featured on the now discontinued FZ8. The choice of 298mm front brake discs reflects a desire to reduce reciprocating, unsprung weight for lighter handling as well as improved acceleration and braking. The result is a claimed 414 pounds of fully fueled weight, a remarkable 53 pounds lighter than the FZ8! For comparison, the impressive Triumph Street Triple we recently tested is derived directly from a supersport platform (the Daytona 675) has a significantly smaller engine displacement, less horsepower and torque, yet weighs only 14 pounds less than the new FZ-09.

The first day of our test was conducted in downtown San Francisco where we immediately appreciated the bolt upright, dirt bike-style ergos with increased leg room compared to the outgoing FZ8. The stock seat is relatively hard, and has some tendency to push the rider forward, but it is far from the worst stock seat we have experienced, and provided reasonable comfort for shorter rides.

The suspension, both front and rear, offers spring preload and rebound adjustment.  Our first day exploring the tight, choppy streets of downtown San Francisco was addressed with softer settings that worked quite well at absorbing the abuse doled out by the journalists storming through town.  We rode the steepest streets I have ever encountered, including the famous Lombard Street.  Ultra steep launches and stops tested the new, stronger clutch and brakes.  Both held up quite well to the abuse (more about the brakes later).

The engine is remarkable for both the outright power and its broad spread.  I was told the FZ-09 puts out more torque than a Yamaha R1 everywhere below 8,000 rpm, and I have no reason to doubt this claim.  The counter-balanced engine is very smooth.  Vibration was never an issue during our test, and the triple is characterful, if not as melodious as the engine in the Triumph Street Triple.

092113middle2

The FZ-09 launches from a stop with a fury matched by very few street legal motorcycles … certainly surpassing that of the race replicas (both supersports and superbikes) tuned for peak power output at the upper reaches of the tachometer.  The cages crowded on the city streets were no match for us.  Those cages were also easily navigated by our “dirt bikes on steroids” making for one of the most enjoyable and unique days I have spent at a press introduction.  This might be the ultimate inner city weapon.

On Day 2, we escaped the city via the Golden Gate bridge and stormed into Marin County for a faster, more flowing ride through the gorgeous roads unique to that area (an area favored by many manufacturers for press launches).  For this portion of the test, Yamaha dramatically stiffened the suspension, both front and year.  Spring preload was maxed on both the shock and the fork, with appropriate adjustments to rebound damping.

The higher speeds only made the engine performance more impressive, as the FZ-09 pulled with a fierceness out of sweepers that entertained me all day long.  The new suspension settings worked well, although I took some of the preload out of the fork (two lines) to add a bit of weight to the front contact patch, and increase feel.  Ground clearance was never an issue despite some seriously aggressive riding through the tighter sections of the twisties.  The brakes offered excellent power and feel without any noticeable fade.

The longer ride on Day 2 introduced some seat discomfort.  Padding seemed a bit stiff under my sit bones, and the new suspension settings  seemed to push me toward the tank a bit more than on Day 1.  Otherwise, the ergonomics remained comfortable and functional.  I should point out here that Yamaha will have FZ-09 specific accessories, such as a “comfort seat”, bikini fairing, soft saddlebags, and other items available in dealerships in January of next year.  In addition, there are several current Yamaha accessories that fit the FZ-09. Yamaha’s web site (see link below) should be updated with details shortly.

092113middle3

The FZ-09 has a ride-by-wire throttle and three-position engine mapping that allows the rider to select from Standard, A and B modes.  All three modes offer the same peak power, but the “B” mode offers a softer, smoother response off the bottom.  The “Standard” setting is quite aggressive, and the “A” setting is the most aggressive in terms of throttle response.  Off-idle throttle response is abrupt in both the “Standard” and the “A” settings.  The throttle response issue is most noticeable when exiting corners, as it tends  to mildly upset the chassis when you get back on the gas.  Selecting the “B” mode largely resolves this issue, and the bike is still plenty fast, but I otherwise preferred the “Standard” setting for its greater entertainment value on a faster ride.

The transmission and clutch worked flawlessly despite repeated, very aggressive launches and clutchless shifting.  Quite impressive, actually, given the torque they were coping with.

We did not have a chance to test Yamaha’s claimed 44 mpg, so we can’t comment on the range available from the 3.7 gallon gas tank.  I can say we rode hard for several hours on Day 2 with the throttle frequently twisted to the stops without needing to take on fuel.

The new FZ-09 is a remarkable motorcycle for many reasons.  A skilled rider will find the entertainment value off the charts.  Having ridden virtually all of the modern sport bikes and other high performance motorcycles, I can hardly imagine someone being disappointed by the raw acceleration, and usable spread of power offered by this new 847cc triple.  Without qualification, this is a very fast motorcycle, particularly at real world rpm levels.

092113bottom

The power can be abrupt off the bottom, particularly for less experienced riders, and I did spin up the rear tire a couple of times during corner exits.  Most riders would benefit from selecting the “B” mode that tames the low-end power somewhat and softens off-idle throttle response.

At times, I also felt I was lacking some feedback from the contact surfaces of the tires, although I became much more comfortable with the perceived traction level as my test ride progressed.  I suspect that any traction feedback issues relate more to the tires than the chassis, although we conducted our entire test on the optional Dunlops (Dunlop and Bridgestone tires will be split roughly 50/50 on production units).

The bottom line is that, unless you compare the weight of every modern, high performance motorcycle to that of the Hodaka you helped your father carry out to the trash when you were a teenager, Yamaha’s brand new 2014 FZ-09 is hard to fault as a lightweight weapon.  It will wheelie on command, and accelerate like a top fuel dragster, while feeling nimble and able to change direction seemingly without effort.  Huge fun, and affordable, as well, at the $7,990 suggested retail price for any of three available color options (Yamaha has added Blazing Orange to the Liquid Graphite and Rapid Red versions originally announced, and photographs of all three color options appear in this article).  For additional details, visit Yamaha’s web site.

092113bottom2

160 Comments

  1. RichBinAZ says:

    Check your insurance costs before taking the plunge (I’ll think I’ll do it anyway) but the 07 bandit i’m trading for it was $200/year via Flo. Same coverage on the FZ is around $750/year.
    Of course, your mileage may vary, but I think the insurance companies have been reading these reviews and declared it a “Hoon bike” and hiked the rates.

  2. Ed says:

    Wow,9 bucks cheaper than a Gladius? I was stunned at the price Suzuki put on the bike I waited 4 years to come back to the USA. Now I know I was right to pass on it. Thanks Yamaha for making that painful decision justified. Guess I’ll go for the red one, too old for purple wheels.

  3. Peter says:

    Buyer beware.I purchased my new FZ-09 two weeks ago and learned today that the top speed is restricted to 132 MPH, about the same as a Ninja 650 parallel twin with 50 or so less horsepower.

    • Dave says:

      Yes, but the way in which it arrives at it’s top speed is an entirely different experience from the Ninja 650, is it not?

    • Dragfoot says:

      Awesome motorcycle! Let me ride a fz-09 and see if that ninja can catch me! I don’t think so scooter!

    • mickey says:

      ONLY 132 mph..tsk tsk what a POS… how fast do you want to go?

      You really be unhappy with the Honda CB 1100 which is speed limited to 112 (or 180 km as legislated in Japan)

  4. joe says:

    Looks like a great bike that will become even better over the next few years as ABS and some two up and touring considerations are addressed. Even in its current form it would make a better tourer than the CB and Nighthawk 750s I had great times travelling on once upon a time. My FJR is nearly 10 years old and an old guy like me would really appreciate a 414 – 450 pound sport touring bike Yamaha. Don’t make me wait too long.

  5. Stephen Douglas says:

    Dirck,

    It was good to meet you the other night at In-n-Out. Thanks for the great article. You are an accomplished writer. I thoroughly enjoyed your article on the FZ09, which I hope to add to my stable. Send me an email and I will send you my phone. If you ever need anything, get in touch with me. Take care.

  6. fred says:

    Great ride, will be on my wish list. However their is nothing wrong with low maintenance features if they can be done. See how much a 85 Honda CB700s will go for on ebay!

  7. Motorhead says:

    outstanding bike. Say it again, used bikes just became worth less due to this beautiful new bike.

  8. Mr.Mike says:

    Thank you Yamaha for cutting through to the essence of what motorcycle riding is about for many people, for a reasonable price.

  9. Cinderbob says:

    Let’s see, “the stock seat is ‘relatively’ hard, and has ‘some’ tendency to push the rider forward … and provided ‘reasonable’ comfort for ‘shorter’ rides.” Talk about equivocation! Just say owners will need to budget big bucks for an aftermarket seat, and leave it at that.

    • Randy says:

      I don’t disagree with your assertion. However, sometimes hard seats break in and become more comfy. Soft seats usually just go downhill.

      I hate the fashionable forward cant as much as the next guy, my 03 Multistrada was so bad I bought a only marginal better Sargent and was happy that at least I could go a few miles without having to stand up and un-scrunch the nether regions.

      I sometimes wonder why a company like (take your pick) can make such wonderful engines and chassis’s but can’t get the seat right.

      • Norm G. says:

        re: “I sometimes wonder why a company like (take your pick) can make such wonderful engines and chassis’s but can’t get the seat right.”

        oh they could, it’s done in car world all the time. unfortunately we’ve sent a clear message that we won’t come off the dime and value their efforts. like a parent disciplining their 6 year old, it’s all quite simple really. behavior has consequences. the consequence is we’ll got nothing and like it. wonder no more.

  10. falcodoug says:

    Would love to have this bike, I guess I am not picky enough.

  11. Randy says:

    I think the FZ09 is a brilliant, in the industry’s face, blast across the bow!

    ABS? For commuters I see this as a real issue – simple solution, get something else to wear out doing your daily grind. Hydraulic valve lifters? You’re absolutely got to be kidding, right? Shaft drive, let’s just start piling the weight back on.

    The modern chain drive is a non-issue, has been for many years. And I’ve never “worried” about a chain drive like I have with shaft drives. I’ve gotten by without a center stand on many Ducati’s and BMW’s, it’s not that hard! Service costs probably won’t be any higher than any other multi-cylinder bike, high would it be?

    Obviously, this bike isn’t a commuter, cruiser, beginner bike, touring bike, adventure bike, etc etc. It’s just a bike – very light, very powerful, and not very expensive. I think Yamaha crushed.

    • Selecter says:

      Well, there’s no way one could ride cross-country on a naked bike with a chain final drive, right? And without cruise control, heated grips, or a multifunction GPS/entertainment center?

      Oh, wait, I’ve done that. It’s not that bad, actually.

      You said it all better than I could have, Randy. This place is ludicrous sometimes.

  12. Willy Hipockets says:

    Most of you whiners aren’t buying, no matter what. Your negatrometers are pegged WFO. When you started riding, that is if you ever did, your fundamentals were polished by simple, functional bikes. What if you had to actually ride a bike, rather than have it monitor all your body functions. Take your shaft drive and stick it, your bladder couldn’t handle the range a extra gallon of gas would give and I’ll bet nobody cares what you look like on a bike, why should you Vanity Boy? Take your protein pill, strap on your helmet and just ride the damned thing.

    • Rocket says:

      Agreed. I’ve lost track of how many dealbreakers people have listed. The sense of entitlement here is on overdrive. How the heck did Ted Simon manage with just a Tiger 100 (Google him people)? And Pirsig wrote his seminal work with a total of 305 Honda cubic centimetres.

  13. JR says:

    OK.. I would take a real interest in this new Yamaha motorcycle “if” it had the following.. Hydraulic valve lifters, no one wants to hassle with labor intensive and costly bucket and shim valve adjustments. Get rid of the rear chain drive.. and install a clean belt drive with fixed rear axle and idler pulley. Again.. no adjustments or maintenance needed. Then install a center stand and lower the seat height. Until then I’ll pass on this one also.

    • MG3 says:

      Bullseye JR, those items would all be great. And to think Honda did the lifter thing 30 years ago. I especially don’t get the seat. Why does it need to stick up out back like that, like some kind of afterthought to the whole design? Occasionally we need to carry a passenger. Please, someone in the moto industry re-think this. Otherwise, absolutely brilliant.

    • GuyLR says:

      The valve check and adjustment schedule on the this bike is only every 26,000 miles and if they hold up as well as my ’92 TDM850 they won’t even need adjustment at the mileage. Non-issue. Belts have pluses and minuses but on this type of bike I think the o-ring chain is the right choice. The chain is relatively cheap to replace and allows for an easier change of gearing if you’re so inclined. The seat height is plenty low on this bike,it’s not a cruiser for novice riders after all. I’ll go along with you on the having a center stand. That would be a nice accessory.

    • Nicholas says:

      This bike isn’t for you, clearly. None of those items would remotely entice me to purchasing this model, and I’m very seriously considering it as a replacement for my 34k mile Honda 919. In short, while you might find those items preferable, you’re looking at the wrong bike if you think they’re deal-breakers. I’m clearly more in the target market, and I’d say this is a bulls-eye for my riding needs.

  14. Randy in Nebraska says:

    Great bike, but why no ABS option for the US market? Not having that proven, life saving technology as optional equipment(those who don’t want ABS would still be able to buy a machine without it)is a deal breaker for me.

  15. Gronde says:

    If you buy the bike and use it for it’s intended purpose, you will be very happy. Can you tour on it? Some would, but that’s not really it’s forte. It’s more of a city/hooligan bike that’s loaded with performance and suited to the experienced rider that is able to use most of it’s performance and handling without griping about the lack of cruise control, hard bags, windshield etc… This bike offers loads of performance for the money and will be a hit regardless of what the “ninnies” that need all the creature comforts say.

    BTW- not that many years ago we used to consider a 500cc bike sufficient to cross the country and nobody thought anything of it. I guess the modern rider is growing a bit soft.

    • Mike G says:

      I believe the modern rider is dealing with UAVs out the ying yang. Even a modern mini van is a robust piece of inertia, typically operated by a distracted, stressed-out nincompoop. I have small displacement bikes, but I also have a 102ci twin so that I can relax on the Interstate and mix it up easily with the UAV’s

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      “we used to consider a 500cc bike sufficient to cross the country and nobody thought anything of it. I guess the modern rider is growing a bit soft.”

      Not that many years ago, a bedpan was considered a sufficient place to take a slam. Progress makes us all a bit soft I suppose.

  16. todder says:

    The missing extra gallon is the only thing making me wince away from this great machine.