The 2014 Yamaha FZ-09 promises a lot when you look at the specification sheet. 414 pounds wet, an in-line triple displacing 847 cc, and crank horsepower and torque that easily trumps Triumph’s universally praised Street Triple. At the press launch (look back at our press launch report for all of the technical details of the machine), we were very impressed with the FZ-09, particularly the engine power, both peak power and the power spread. Our only real concerns were with throttle response and the stock suspension settings. After a fairly lengthy street test, these remain our two primary concerns with this remarkably affordable new motorcycle from Yamaha (U.S. MSRP $7,990).
The FZ-09 is a small motorcycle. It is not only light, it is narrow and with a relatively low seat height by today’s standards. The rider’s triangle is also quite tight, with the bars, seat and pegs adding to the sense of a small machine. Taller riders might find the ergos too tight, but our test riders (5′ 11” being the tallest) found the FZ fairly comfortable.
The instrumentation, although quite thorough (it even includes a gear position indicator), can be faulted where it requires the rider to scroll through options to get to an engine temperature display. We would prefer motorcycles to display engine temperature at all times, for obvious reasons. We found the built-in trip computer to be optimistic to the tune of about 4 miles per gallon, but the speedometer is very accurate.
The new triple created by Yamaha makes great sounds and, even more important, great power from idle through to redline. It is hard to overstate how impressed we are with the power Yamaha has squeezed out of this 847 cc motor. Coupled with the light weight of the bike as a whole, the FZ-09 is extremely quick, particularly around town where its acceleration, at first, can even be quite startling. This is why the FZ-09 can be such a blast to ride for a skilled pilot that can use what it has to offer.
Living with the fuel injection issues we pointed out in our initial riding impression was annoying, to say the least. With three engine maps available, including Standard, A and B, we frequently chose the softer power output of B, robbing the bike of much of its grin inducing acceleration, simply because the Standard and A positions were far too sensitive, and abrupt, in response to throttle position changes. Indeed, both Standard and A are so sensitive that bumps transferred through the suspension to the handlebars can lead to very slight throttle position changes (the ride-by-wire throttle has a very light return spring), and an unintended lurch forward or appearance of engine braking, depending on which direction your wrist moved.
When you are in the mood to ride aggressively and you are “in the zone”, Map A is a blast, so long as you open the throttle “sweetly” (to borrow a phrase from Valentino). If you are just cruising around, however, Map B might be your best choice.
Running several tanks of gasoline through the bike, our mileage varied from 38 to 47 mpg, with an average in the low 40’s.
We found ourselves essentially maxing out the suspension settings, dialing in as much preload and rebound damping as the FZ-09 permitted (rebound was not quite maxed on the shock) just as Yamaha did with all of the press bikes on Day 2 of the press introduction. This was an effort to get the soft stock suspension firm enough for fast, aggressive riding, and to work appropriately with all that engine power and quick throttle response.
The stock suspension is simply too soft, particularly the fork. The fork springs are much too light, and even with spring preload cranked all the way down, aggressive riding could be too much for the front end to handle. Rebound damping becomes an issue as the spring preload is maxed out, as well. With the spring squished by the preload caps, the fork wanted to rebound too quickly, but we had run out of rebound damping adjustment to deal with it.
The shock is not so bad, but aggressive riding, once again, probably calls for max spring preload in the back, and close to the maximum rebound damping.
A fast, experienced rider is simply going to want stiffer suspension settings than are available stock on the FZ-09. The chassis balance feels like it is good, but the suspension really limits how hard the bike can be pushed.
Yamaha got other details right, including a slick-shifting six-speed transmission, a positive, easily modulated clutch, and good brakes. Despite this, we think the front brake would benefit greatly from a more aggressive pad compound.
Weight balance appears about right, although the relatively short wheelbase and powerful engine will lift the front wheel from time-to-time if the rider is accelerating aggressively. We would really like to try the bike with dialed-in suspension to fully assess the chassis performance, however.
In the end, we found the Yamaha FZ-09 a somewhat frustrating riding experience. The engine is brilliant, except for the fueling issues, and the chassis appears to have great potential, but it couldn’t be pushed as hard as we would like during our testing due to the overly soft suspension. A “Diamond in the Rough”, perhaps, presenting a few issues to be sorted with the money you saved as a result of the low MSRP.
For additional details and specifications, visit Yamaha’s web site.