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2017 Yamaha FZ-09: MD Ride Review

When Yamaha introduced the FZ-09 in 2014, it presented a great performance bargain, but that bargain price came with a couple of flaws. Namely, the stock suspension was too soft and lacked sufficient adjustability, and the fuel injection mapping left an abrupt throttle response in two of the three available engine maps (“Rain” mode was fine, but reduced power). Yamaha set out to address these concerns and make other changes for the 2017 model year.

We attended the press launch of the 2017 FZ-09, and came away impressed with the changes Yamaha had made, but we wanted to spend more time with the bike and asked Yamaha if we could have a test unit to evaluate on familiar roads over the course of a few weeks.  This is our report.

As a reminder, the FZ-09 is an extremely light (claimed wet weight is 425 pounds) inline three-cylinder 845 cc naked bike that Yamaha introduced to the press in September of 2013. Our ride at the original press launch left us in love with the three-cylinder engine’s power and character, which seemed to combine the torque of a twin and the high-end rip of an inline-four. It didn’t hurt that it sounded fabulous when on the boil. More time on that original model revealed suspension that was much too soft (under-damped for both compression and rebound) and fuel injection tuning that left a snatchy throttle response.

For 2017, in addition to the new styling that includes LED headlights and a radically changed rear end, Yamaha added adjustable traction control (two positions, plus off), an entirely new adjustable front fork (with independent compression, rebound and preload adjustments), and an “Assist and Slipper Clutch” that not only offers a traditional slip feature to reduce wheel hop when braking, but substantially reduces clutch pull effort. ABS brakes are also standard this year.

The FZ-09 is a bike that reacts quickly to rider inputs. It changes direction with very little effort due to a relatively short wheelbase and aggressive steering geometry. Throttle response, although much smoother than the original model, is still crisp and immediate, particularly in the Standard Mode and Mode “A” (a third engine map, Mode “B”, softens power delivery considerably).

The ergonomics are bolt upright thanks to a high-mounted handlebar (an aluminum fat bar) and a relatively low seat height that still offers decent leg room.

The brakes, including dual rotars and calipers up front, are still excellent, particularly at this price point, and the addition of ABS is welcome. Both power and feel are hard to argue with, and approach the performance of much more expensive race replica machines.

Clutch pull is indeed very light, and the six-speed transmission changes gears positively, and with little effort. Sixth gear offers relaxed rpm levels at highway speeds.

New suspension tuning, particularly from the new front fork, is a big improvement. The quick-handling chassis is now complimented by bump absorption that allows the rider to confidently push the bike through twisty roads, and also reduces fork dive when hard on the brakes. The 2014 FZ-09 was far too powerful for the sloppy suspension, but that has been fixed.

That powerful engine is as sweet as ever, pulling from just above idle to redline smoothly and powerfully. This is a fast bike, particularly given the low curb weight. The intake and exhaust noises are music to a rider’s ears, as well.

The 2017 Yamaha FZ-09 refines, and improves, an already exciting motorcycle to make it more controllable and comfortable to ride. It is available now at your Yamaha dealer at an U.S. MSRP of $8,999. Have a look at Yamaha’s web site for additional details and specifications.


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83 Comments

  1. Davo says:

    As many have commented, the front headlight isn’t great looking. And, it is less safe by making the bike less visible with its small lights. I see so many bikes with aftermarket auxiliary lighting I wonder how long it will take motorcycle manufacturers to see the light! Fix the lighting and the license bracket and this bike is a winner.

    • Tim C says:

      Size isn’t the issue – there are now plenty of bicycle LEDs out there that are actually high-beam blindingly bright (annoyingly so). I haven’t seen one of these on the road so I don’t know how these ones look in particular, just saying the form factor is not a limitation in this regard whatsoever.

    • Scott says:

      The new headlights are more than bright enough to be seen coming down the road.

      The actual problem, as I understand it, is that the “edge” of the light beam is so definitive, you can’t see anything outside its scope. People are saying that when you lean into a curve at night you can only see directly in front of you, and any further ahead you see nothing but pitch black.

      I’m waiting to hear from someone who knows how to properly adjust a headlight to confirm that it truly isn’t possible to fix this. I really can’t believe Yamaha would have produced a bike that you can’t ride at night…

  2. Dan says:

    I struggled with my FJ-09 purchase due to the fact that I wasn’t too happy with the looks. However it fits the bill perfectly as a lightweight (500lb) weekend sports tourer, and the engine is so wonderful I’ve started to actually (sometimes) like the looks. The FZ with its lighter weight must be a blast to ride

  3. Gary says:

    I am sure it is a blast to ride. But it is so damned ugly I wouldn’t hit my dog in the butt with it. Seriously. Does anyone think this transformer styling is nice looking? That tail section looks like a malignant, inoperable tumor.

  4. Al-X says:

    The black headlight housing looks aftermarket – as in I crashed and replaced the headlight with what I could find on Ebay. It might look better if it matched the tank & fender.

  5. Nick says:

    Yamaha offers a normal license plate bracket to replace the weird stock unit on their accessories list for the FZ-09.

    • WillieB says:

      The stupid license plate holder is, well, stupid. It adds unsprung weight and inertia to the swingarm (not much but still), looks like it complicates tire changes. Why they felt they needed to devote design and engineering resources to that instead of an actual improvement….?

      And I would still like to see a 5 gal gas tank so I could use as a sport-tourer.

      I know thats what the FJ is for but its fugly.

      • austin zzr 1200 says:

        just lose some weight, you’ll go farther 😉

      • Motorrad says:

        It may be “stupid”, but not for any of the reasons you stated.It adds no ‘unspring weight’ or ‘inertia’ to the swingarm. Physics fail for you.

      • PRINCE OF DARKNESS says:

        @WillieB I don’t suppose you’ve seen MV Agusta Brutale 800 with ‘Dragster’ treatment?

        One look at The Dragster and it’s clearly evident from where Yamaha got that irrational idea! Dragster was the first bike with that ‘monstrosity’ dangling from the swingarm, if my memory serves me right.

        Anyhow, license plates are a necessary evil. Even Ducati couldn’t think of a better accommodation for the plate with its ‘all about looks’ Monster line-up…

      • RyYYZ says:

        Fully agreed. I like what the FZ and FJ have to offer, but the FZ is too naked for my idea of touring, and like you say, the FJ is just ugly. And that’s coming from a guy who owned and rode a V-Strom 1000 for 10 years. A real sport touring version of this package would be great. I’m not holding my breath.

  6. PRINCE OF DARKNESS says:

    Am I the only one here who find this bike less painful to the eyes than the original model?

    Anyhow, it’s indeed perplexing to see Japan’s reluctantcy to embrace single sided swingarms. They look classy and downright ‘regal’ and extravagant, while at the same time clean and minimalistic.

    My humble Triumph Speed Triple (2007) is, in no way, a premium bike and yet people often take snaps of it as if it’s an ultra rare, hand crafted piece of exotica with ‘crème de la crème’ origins, such as Italy, for example. People with little to no knowledge about motorcycles, of course.

    In any case, am I the only person here who is immensely fascinated by the “SSS”? Almost enchanted?

    • mickey says:

      I test rode several bikes last weekend, a couple Yamaha’s, a Triumph and a BMW. I couldn’t tell you if any of them had a SSS. Doesn’t make a winks difference to me.Not even something I look for. Like tank seams. Couldn’t tell you i f any of them did or did not have tank seams either.

    • Norm G. says:

      Q: am I the only person here who is immensely fascinated by the “SSS”? Almost enchanted?

      A: meh.

      re: “it’s indeed perplexing to see Japan’s reluctantcy to embrace single sided swingarms.”

      no worries, they pioneered the modern iteration (chain drive).

      • PRINCE OF DARKNESS says:

        Ah! Seems like most people here prefer functionality over form!

        Fair enough! My work-horse is a 2012 Suzuki DL650 V-Strom, brilliant bike to say the least. But for a weekend ride, I prefer something brash, raw, exotic while at the same time positively ballistic!

        And in my humble opinion, nothing is better than a motorcycle that possess an exposed steel trellis frame with engine serving as a ‘stressed member’, a Single-sided swingarm and a thunderous, big-inch 90-Degree V-Twin coupled with a wicked exhaust note reminiscent of an old American V8!

        Duke R and Monster 1200S comes to mind…

  7. red says:

    well.. it’s not pretty but from these pics slightly better than v1.

    It also seems less fugly that the fz-10 even with the headlight. Again, maybe just the photo. The back end is the best part, I like the shorty swingarm fender/license plate, it cleans up the tail section/seat area. Also it has a flattish seat and no “stinkbug” effect.

    would pay the extra for XSR > FZ09 purely for aesthetics.

  8. Bob says:

    I’m not sure if i like the changes in styling here, but i like the updates to the powertrain.

    More importantly, i like that these same updates on now on the FJ-09 too – so that’s what i’m buying as soon as i sell my current bike.

  9. Mike says:

    Both the FZ-09 and XSR900 have an 847cc engine, not 845cc. The riding modes of standard, A, and B, all affect throttle response. In A mode the throttle response is immediate and gives the impression of lots of power, right now. Standard mode has a bit less throttle response…in other words, you have to twist the throttle a greater distance to get the same power out. B mode makes you twist even further, which is good for rain or other slippery road conditions. I have an XSR900 and love it. The throttle response is really a non-issue in any mode. A mode is a blast, and if you have experience with lots of motorcycles, it really is loads of fun. I am 68 and have owned 96 machines over the years. To me, this is the ultimate toy. I fit better on the XSR, and that is why I bought it instead of the FZ-09. The suspension is outstanding, and holds a line like it was glued to the road. The engine is fantastic! So smooth, torquey, and lots of power.

  10. Vrooom says:

    I don’t find the bike as ugly as most of you, excepting that thing on the tail they consider a mud guard. Remove that, mount the plate higher, it would be fine. How about an adventure version?

  11. paquo says:

    Thing is beautiful, especially compared with the abomination that is kawasaki. I bet though, at 6’3″ it would be cramped

  12. Grover says:

    Have to agree with most, this bike is just plain ugly. The performance is great though, too bad about the looks.

  13. PN says:

    I sat on one but didn’t like the wide handlebars. The stance felt nervous to me, not relaxed,

  14. Provologna says:

    Rip off that hideous little alleged rear fender extension. Is Yamaha telling me all that clutter, ugliness, and forlorn disgrace, is an upgrade from an 80s Fazer plastic fender comprised of one nice smooth piece of round black ABS echoing the curvature of a tire tread? R-E-A-L-L-Y?

    At your favorite motorcycle recycler, find a classic rear fender of appropriate dimensions for this application, and install on your new FZ-09. Add appropriate license plate holder/rear LED assembly, done.

    Don’tcha wanna have a long talk with whoever conceived that rear end treatment, and the dope up the food chain who signed off on it?

    • mg3 says:

      ++ cheese man. My feelings exactly. In fact I have been whining about the way modern motorcycles are designed for 10 years now. It does no good, they keep making them uglier and more uncomfortable (especially for the passenger), and now I am getting too old to ride anyway. Ah Haa, maybe I just answered my own question, but do young riders REALLY like the way these things look? REALLY? Can you put your girlfriend on the back and take a ride longer than 15 minutes? I can’t see it happening.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      I had to google up a pic of an ’80s Fazer. The FZ09 is a monumental step forward designwise.

  15. Your Uncle Bob says:

    Too tiny for me. I’d prefer a regular styled bike like a Bandit.

  16. CrazyJoe says:

    I understand a stamped frame is cheaper and lighter, a liquid cooled engine more powerful meets emission standards but if their not hidden by plastic panels does the rest of the bike have to hurt the eyes. In today’s terms try to make it look like Marvel’s Ironman not the robot that just kicked his butt.

    Would Captain America ride it?

    • Motoman says:

      “I understand a stamped frame is cheaper and lighter”…. I believe the frame and swing arm are vacuum-die-cast.

      • Bob says:

        Correct. The frame is CF die-cast in two pieces, then bolted together permanently.

        • RyYYZ says:

          It’s a great technology, I don’t know why more manufacturers haven’t embraced it. Maybe it’s a Yamaha exclusive? Thinner walls, smoother finish, less parts. My Fazer 8 has it and I love the look of the swingarm – the frame appears to be a regular casting, though. It’s not stupid heavy, but certainly nothing like as light as the FZ09.

  17. fred says:

    you can buy a good Honda 919 for 2500- 3000 dollars weight and performance almost the same

  18. SausageCreature says:

    I find it humorous (and more than a little sad) that the modern solution to an obviously poor design (the high, stubby tail section) is to apply other obviously poor designs, such as the loooong, flimsy mudguard and plate holders on most other bikes or the abomination hanging off the swing arm of this one.

    Here’s an idea, guys: lets return to the rational rear sub frames and seats of yore. You’ll improve pillion space, safety and comfort and provide more options for cargo, while also solving the “where the hell do we put the license plate” problem all in one shot. Who knows…they might actually block road spray worth a damn as well. Do you really think you’ll lose more sales to people simply must have a wasp tail rear end than you will gain from those seeking added practicality?

  19. Bill says:

    I’m so happy to see the new styling trends. I find them so repulsive it will be a simple matter to keep what I have.

  20. bmbktmracer says:

    Modern sportbikes tend to be good-looking. Not sure why Japanese standards are so obscenely butt ugly. I’d love to have an FZ-07, but it’s unbelievably hideous looking. One exception — maybe an act of kindness on my part — is the Honda CB500F.

  21. VLJ says:

    The other thing I’ve read countless times regarding this new bike is that while the forks have been stiffened up nicely the shock is unchanged, so it’s still way too soft, and the handling again suffers as a result.

    • Jon says:

      That would be ridiculous if true – the stock forks were not really that bad, whereas the stock shock was utter junk.

      • VLJ says:

        The stock forks on the previous generation were gawdawful. Doing the bounce test, there was so little rebound damping that the thing moved back up a second time before coming to rest.

        Doesn’t get much soggier than that.

        In any case, yes, the shock is unchanged. Only the forks were stiffened with this new version.

  22. Bubba says:

    Went with XSR900 myself. Liked the retro style. No complaints but lots of highlights.

  23. Scott says:

    Dirck, have you ridden the FZ at night? There are quite a few guys on the forums who say the new LED’s are absolutely useless on dark, twisty roads, and they swear they’ve tried adjusting them, to no avail. I figure you know what you’re doing, so if you can go for a ride after dark and report what you find that would be helpful…

  24. beasty says:

    This iteration is also ugly.

  25. Tim M says:

    Visual spaghetti, not a clean line anywhere, no thanks!

  26. Jim W says:

    And the ubiquitous “udder” lives on

  27. Tim C says:

    I guess it can also be said again, nothing really matters (anyone can see) until they offer this thing in a sporting-fairing/half-fairing configuration (not the FJ). Oh and that little fender thing is just dumb, otherwise it’s really pretty good looking esp various waspy transformers…. The headlight/little side pod thing is pushing it a bit, but I think those decals will come off and that would improve things a lot.

    • Dave says:

      “Oh and that little fender thing is just dumb”

      Until you must ride it in the wet…

      • Tim C says:

        For which a real fender might be a better approach

        • Dave says:

          Agreed, but then you don’t get the little tiny bookshelf, I mean passenger seat..

          Like many here, I wish they’d get back to regularly sized subframes, bodywork and seats. These minimalist tail sections have never looked good to me and they’re demonstrably inconvenient.

          • Random says:

            Take a look at the CB 650F. Not in the same class as this one but has a decent sized passenger seat and even grab rails and pins to strap things. Girls like the seat at least for short hops.

  28. Tim C says:

    “Throttle response, although much smoother than the original model, is still crisp and immediate” – as an FZ6 (stock, no PC or whatnot) rider this is a sensitive point. I read this as “we are being very polite as we must, but it is still a problem” – probably because of the “although.”

    Is it really a non-issue – direct response being desirable if not overdone – or is it still a bit of an issue (how much)?

  29. Dave says:

    Sounds like they nailed it.

  30. xLaYN says:

    Typo…
    “The brakes, including dual rotars” was that rotors?

    Also you mention “radically changed rear end” but doesn’t say how… after looking at photos of the old version seems like it’s related to the plate holder.

    I personally liked better the previous plate holder.

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