Yamaha’s sporty FZ-09 is a home run for the Tuning Fork brand. But it’s not resting on its laurels, instead choosing to release an enhanced version for 2017 — only three years after it first arrived on showroom floors. Considering the solid platform, engineers didn’t have to do too much to transform a good bike into an excellent one. We outlined the updates in the preview report from the AIMExpo, so let’s dive into the ride.
One of the Best Engine Configurations on the Road
Powered by Yamaha’s fantastic liquid-cooled 847cc CP3 Triple, the FZ-09 slots in as the middle sibling between the Parallel-Twin powered FZ-07 and the crossplane-equipped Inline Four of the FZ-10.
It’s a good position to be in. Agile and compact, the 425-pound FZ-09 is every bit as maneuverable as its more affordable sibling, yet has extra muscle and the same fun-loving character of Yamaha’s now signature crossplane engine architecture.
This results in an almost perfect powerband. It feels like there’s unlimited torque at all rpm, until the rev-limiter cuts the fun at 11,250 rpm. The only thing limiting acceleration is how speedy you are with your left foot. Yamaha has you covered there too, offering an electronic quickshifter as an OE accessory. Additional performance hard parts, including a Yoshimura Y-Series exhaust and carbon fiber bling, can also be purchased at the dealer through its extensive accessory catalog.
Also new is the addition of a slipper-action clutch, a handy feature included on more expensive bikes like the YZF-R1. The hardware eliminates rear wheel hop/chatter, say if you downshift in too low of a gear for vehicle speed. The design also employs half as many clutch springs (from six to three) which equals a 20% decrease in clutch lever pull effort.
The I3 sings a playful tune, similar to a certain British-built rival, however with a character all its own. Not too loud, nor too soft, it grabs the attention of motorists in congested city traffic, but isn’t so offensive to peeve neighbors when you pull into the garage after dark. It runs smoothly with minimal vibration, which means you can actually see what’s behind in the rear view mirrors. Simply put, this engine configuration is one of the best on the road today.
All the Latest Goodies
Although we didn’t get a chance to night ride, the new four LED “Twin Eye” headlamp is sure to be a huge upgrade versus the old halogen bulb setup.
The curious throttle response of the ‘14 FZ-09, in its standard (STD) D-Mode setting is also gone, replaced with a more natural feel, a’la Yamaha’s 2016 XSR900. Those looking for sharper, more intimate response can still opt for ‘A’ mode. On the other hand, ham-fisted riders like me, will appreciate the slower, more deliberate response of the ‘B’ setting.
Two-way adjustable traction control is another feature that trickles down from the XSR, and it comes in handy when riding in the wet or on unfamiliar roads. It can also be manually disabled, if desired, however the motorcycle must be at a stop to make a change. Conversely, D-Mode adjustments can be made while riding.
Perhaps the only chink in an otherwise excellent powertrain is fuel economy, with the dash registering high-30s on average. Pair that with the 3.7-gallon fuel tank and fill-ups are needed more often than we’d like. But considering its intended use as an urban sport bike, rather than a long-distance touring rig, it isn’t a deal breaker.
Easy to read, even in direct sunlight, and replete with all the right information the FZ-09’s monochrome digital instrumentation gets the job done. Sure it’s not as fancy-looking as some of its competitors, but we’ll take function over form any day.
Improved Front Suspension
The 2017 model carries 11 more pounds, mostly attributed to the ABS hardware, but you’d be hard pressed to notice the extra heft. The bike eats up curvy roads like no one’s business and is exceptionally easy to pilot through thick city traffic, too.
The updated fork, now fully adjustable via the addition of compression adjustment with 83% more internal damping, is vastly improved allowing for more sport-oriented riding with no decrease in comfort or supple bump-absorbing action. The new FZ is shod in both Bridgestone Battlax S20 rubber or Dunlop Sportmax D214 shoes. Our test bike was fitted with the Japanese rubber, and as always, we appreciate the do-it-all ability of these Battlax’s.
The heavier duty front suspension along with ABS facilitate more aggressive use of the front brakes during panic stops, without having to worry about skidding. Five-position lever adjustment is another welcome feature to accommodate various hand sizes.
A Excellent All-Around Street Bike
Size-wise the FZ-09 is more substantial through the mid-section than the FZ-07, but we can’t deem it as “large”. The aluminum handlebar has a near perfect bend that’s sporty when carving turns and cozy when cruising.
Improved creature comforts come in the form of a flatter seat, that’s also been elongated by half-an-inch for more passenger comfort. It sits atop a shorter subframe (1.14 in.) and redesigned tail section giving this FZ Triple a racier look the likes of the YZF-R6 Supersport. We also dig the license plate stay attaching to the swingarm’s left side, instead of the back fender, further cleaning up the rear end.
If the original FZ-09 was a little too good to be true, then this version is the real deal, and then some. Yamaha thoroughly addressed its customers’ gripes, delivering a substantially refined street bike. They also added well-engineered safety features, plus a top-notch headlight and styling bits that the competition wishes they could offer.