Yamaha FZ1

Yamaha decided to stuff the venerable R1 mill into a mostly naked, rider-friendly streetbike called the FZ1 back in 2001 and it has been an overdressed staple of the streetfighter scene ever since. Although we came away impressed after sampling the revamped 2006 model, we were unable to procure a test unit and left it out of our inaugural comparo. As you might imagine, the public was outraged and our embarrassment for omitting it knows no bounds. So, when it came time to put together Streetfighter Comparo II, we couldn’t wait to stick the ’07 Fazer into the mix and find out how the R1’s alter-ego fares against the rest of the hooligans.

In describing the 2007 Yamaha FZ1, it would be inconceivable to start anywhere other than the motor, which in case you haven’t had it pounded into your head yet, is based on the R1 powerplant. The 998cc Inline-Four motor achieves its displacement courtesy of a 77mm bore, 53.6mm stroke and utilizes the pre-2007 R1’s 20-valve (five-valve-per-cylinder) configuration. On the dyno the FZ1 flexed its juice-free four-cylinder muscle by taking top honors in peak horsepower with an impressive 129.3 at 11,500 rpm and second-place in the torque courtesy of a bulging 66.2 lb-ft at 9,500 rpm. The FZ1 means serious business in a Clark Kent sort of way.

The real world application on the pavement is a broad, linear powerband which climbs steady all the way up to its peak – a full thousand rpm higher than any of its rivals. In spite of the mammoth horsepower on tap, the delivery of that power, while not anemic, is not as brutish or lively as the other four in this class. One test rider went so far as describing the obedient power delivery as electric. The ultra-refined, polished feel is somewhat misleading because the further that needle climbs up the tach, the more and more the Yamaha resembles a rocket ship. At the strip the FZ1 might not be super hero-esque but a based on the R1 powerplant. The 998cc Inline-Fourh is nothing to be ashamed of. That is a wee-bit quicker than the S4R and considerably faster than the defending class champion Tuono as well.

“The Yamaha’s power delivery is extremely smooth and docile and the exhaust note is deceptively quiet,” explained graphics guru Chamberlain, “but it will get you to the end of the next straight pretty damn quick!”

The fuel-injected motor runs so smooth from top to bottom that it was almost possible to stick the Fazer in second and ride it like a high-speed scooter on the track. Chugging smoothly thru low-speed corners then twisting the throttle and calling in some of those 130 ponies for a jaunt on the straights will keep a kid grinning big time. Throttle response is as seamless as the power delivery. Of course, we didn’t ride the FZ1 around in second the entire time and when you do need to shuffle gears, the Yamaha’s six-speed transmission is, surprise, ultra smooth. It rated well with out testers, trailing only the Kawasaki on the score sheet. You’d have to be a first-degree ignoramus to get lost in the precise, forgiving gearbox.

With the Yamaha serving up seemingly endless acceleration it’s a good thing the brakes are up to task. Bringing the Yamaha to a safe halt is a pair of 320mm rotors with four-piston calipers up front and a 245mm rear disc with single-piston caliper out back. The monoblock front binders deliver powerful stopping power, although they lack the initial bite or feel of the comparo-leading Tuono. Together the braking combo on the Yamaha is beyond adequate, even if its 7.7 rating in our evaluation put it middle of the pack.

“The brakes of the Yamaha are pretty damn good,” said Hutch, whose succinct evaluation sums up the braking pretty damn well.

When the roads get tight and curvy the plush Yamaha comes up a smidge short in the scything department, feeling more akin to a sleek sport-tourer than a quick-turning streetfighter. After our street ride, test riders had plenty of good things to say about the FZ1 in terms of outright comfort and being stable in the fast sweepers, but it was anointed as the least nimble of the bunch. At the track the Yamaha’s handling score plummeted even further. We chose Horsethief Mile because it features a bunch of corners we feel represent some typical canyon roads with elevation changes, tight decreasing radius, esses and a very fast bend before the uphill. In most cases the FZ1 felt softly sprung and never really inspired a lot of confidence when it came time to push hard.

The FZ1’s 25-degree rake and 4.3 inches of trail are almost identical to the Aprilia Tuono (trail 0.2-inch shorter), but in the handling portion of our scoresheet the bikes were on the extreme opposite ends of the spectrum. Where the intuitive Tuono changes direction without effort, the Yamaha lumbers through transitions, a fact we’ll give partial blame to the 57.5-inch wheelbase, the most lengthy of the group. Although the Kawasaki was heavier, the Yamaha felt like the biggest bike in our comparo and while the FZ1 hides that bulk well at low speeds, once the pace picks up a rider starts to feel all of its tank-empty 467 lbs. The Yamaha tended to drag metal in the turns too, with the low rubber-mounted pegs scraping in aggressive leans. The FZ1 is also the only bike in our group with a center stand, a component whose convenience far outweighs some scraping at the track and honestly, it never touched down on the street.

On the plus side, once it is turned and pointed in the right direction, the FZ1 is a stable, comfortable platform to put miles on. The fully-adjustable inverted 43mm Kayaba fork and rear shock provide a plush ride, sucking up all but the worst bumps in the road. None of our testers leveled any gripes at the Yamaha suspension, although we’d like to have tinkered with the boingers, stiffened things up a bit more and seen what it was capable of with a little more TLC.

Some people will still argue the point that on the sliding standard/streetfighter scale, the FZ1 is without question the most standard of the group, which begs the question: Does it even belong in this test? According to the inundated inboxes of hate e-mail we received in 2006, the answer is yes. The less-aggressive and quite upright riding position is a highlight for some riders and a deal breaker for others. It certainly pegged it as the odd duck in a more antagonistic streetfighter flock.

“The FZ1 is a great bike, but doesn’t quite fit the mold of the streetfighter,” is the opinion of our discerning streetfighter veteran Brian Chamberlain. “To me it leans more on the side of a sport-touring bike without any luggage, with the ergos a little too comfy for my tastes when it comes to aggressive riding.”

On the bright side, the Yamaha’s wind protection is the best of our nekkid group. It also is the most comfortable for long hauls, with rubber mounted pegs and a comfortable seat making freeway/commuter miles enjoyable, though the movement afforded by those same pegs was a bit disconcerting to some riders and takes a bit of time to get used to – especially when hopping off one bike and onto the Yamaha. In fit and finish the FZ1 pulled last on our scorecard, but it was a miniscule 0.1 behind the Ducati and Triumph, close to the competition but just not striking our fancy like the others. The instrumentation and cockpit display are clean and informative, with the digital fuel gauge a nice feature that takes all the anxiety out of wondering whether you’ve got enough gas to make it back when you’re following Hutch on a street ride out in the sticks.

Along with the handling, the other section on our scorecard where the Yamaha took a brutal hit is in Appearance. Most of the complaints from our testers centered around the front half-fairing or the boxy right-side exhaust. Opinions on style are always a matter of personal taste, but most of our testers agreed the Yamaha had the plainest looks out of the five.

“There was a concern going into this test that the Yamaha was not really a Streetfighter, although last year everyone blasted us for leaving it out,” said boss man Hutchy. “The FZ1 has the motor to hang with this group, but the pundits were right about the styling – it just seems a bit too civilized compared to the likes of the radical Z1000 and Speed Triple, but not everyone wants to be considered a hooligan. That’s were the FZ1 comes in – it is a hooligan hand with a velvet glove.”

Sporting a budget-friendly $9,199 MSRP, the Yamaha FZ1 delivers a lot of bike for the money. However, our critical testers feel it’s right in the middle and the third-best “Value” on the final score sheet. In real-world application, the FZ1 adds appeal because of its versatility. While it didn’t light our Streetfighter Comparo on fire, it’s a great machine that can do a lot of things well. If we had lined up the five comparo entries and told our testers – okay, we’re riding up to Portland on the I-5 and we’re not switching bikes until we get there – a mini riot of drunken-soccer-goon intensity to claim the Yamaha would have ensued. For a commuter bike that can double as a weekend playbike/tourer, the FZ1 is your machine. The relatively low MSRP also had our street hooligan, Steeves, listing off all the immediate changes he’d make to a potential project FZ1 with the thousands of dollars he’d save compared to the Italian bikes and he has a point.

As our resident master of mayhem, Steeves, a former bike salesman himself, summed up the Yamaha sales pitch and its place in our Streetfighter Comparo when he said:

“If two or more of the following four comments apply to you then the FZ1 is your best bet:"
1. You use a motorcycle to commute to/from work.
2. You spend more time with a helmet on than a seat belt.
3. You are taller than 6′.
4. You like the feeling of acceleration but aren’t looking to prove anything to the kid on the R6 who just eye-balled you on the freeway.

So, while it came in tied for third, the FZ1 is by no means a big loser. There are a lot of things to love about this machine, and we already understand why we’ll be getting a few nasty emails from FZ1 owners who think we’re morons for picking on their bike. If it makes you feel any better, the Yamaha did get chosen by one of our test riders in the For My Money section. For the right rider who piles on the miles, is working on a budget and doesn’t want to look like a thug, the 2007 Yamaha FZ1 is a perfect match.

Yamaha Scorecard:

  • Engine: User Friendliness 7.5
  • Engine: Open-Road Performance 7.5
  • Transmission/Clutch 7.5
  • Handling/Chassis/Suspension 5.7
  • Brakes 7.7
  • Ergonomics/Riding Position 7.5
  • Fit & Finish/ Instruments/Cockpit 6.7
  • Appearance 5.7
  • Grin Factor 6.2
  • Value 6.5