Yamaha’s new FZ-09 is a class-breaking motorcycle designed to get motorcycling going again. For $900 less than the price of an FZ8 and $491 more than a 2013 Honda NC700X, this new 847cc three-cylinder naked puts a ton of the trickle-down technology of MotoGP into a sit-up standard for the first time. Its engineering is aimed not at staying within the narrow boundaries of a class but at delivering strong performance where riders actually use it—in the midrange and from the bottom.
Just before the economic downturn hit in 2008, sportbikes had become so tightly focused on performance that their true purpose had become to win the World Superbike Championship. Their specialization hurt broad sales appeal.
What about the average rider? Doesn’t he/she need and want the rideability advantages brought by a controlled-flex chassis, ride-by-wire fueling and a multi-mode engine? The tooling costs of these advanced racing/sportbike features have now been paid, and it’s time to offer them to all riders. This is the future of motorcycling.
Yamaha’s press release is loaded with a hefty dose of key phrases and brand-specific words designed to aid Search Engine Optimization. Ignore them. The message here is simple: The FZ-09 is engineered to deliver the kind of ride most people want—a responsive, punchy engine, an all-day riding position, a distinctive engine sound and a chassis that embodies the advances of the past 10 years of MotoGP. “We want to help all riders, not just Jorge [Lorenzo],” says Yamaha Senior Executive Officer Kunihiko Miwa, who served as project leader for the YZF-R1 and R6.
This is how technology evolves—from the top down. Digital flight control technology from the Apollo program was adapted to combat aircraft, then to commercial jets, then cars. And now it’s widening the performance envelope of motorcycling.
Controlled flex? Note that the front of the FZ-09’s chassis attaches to the forward-inclined cylinder head via four “spider legs.” The lateral flex of this kind of structure gives MotoGP bikes superior front-end feel, handy for warning when the front tire is nearing its limit.
The FZ-09’s chassis is purposely made narrower at the knees and footpegs. And its bars are higher (and pegs lower) than the FZ8’s to fit North American people better. Steering geometry (25-degree rake, 4.1-in. trail) is chosen for lightness and agility at low speeds, giving confidence in traffic and underscoring the point that the FZ-09 is designed for daily use.
Yamaha has greatly simplified manufacture of the FZ-09 chassis by making it in just two pieces that are bolted together. The steering head splits down a vertical central plane, half in the right frame element, half in the left. Cost control!
Continuing the trend toward mass centralization for more responsive handling, the muffler is located under the gearbox and forward part of the swingarm, which is made in “banana” form to provide clearance.
Suspension preload and rebound damping are adjustable, which Yamaha says will help the FZ-09 adapt to “different riding conditions and rider preferences.”
Styling? My first impression was “V-Max meets Transformers Robot.” Another viewer said, “Looks like a Supermono.” To sum up? The FZ-09 is an up-to-the-minute streetfighter, no bland revival of a 1970s’ UJM. Call it a new synthesis.
Decades after the XS750, Yamaha is back in the Triple game. When the company showed its Project P3 at Cologne in 2012, much was made of “crossplane crankshaft technology.” All this means is that its crankpins are not in a single plane like those of a conventional inline-four. Like any sensible three-cylinder, the FZ-09’s engine has its crankpins evenly spaced at 120 degrees from pin to pin, giving even firing intervals and delivering the musical “triple sound” that everyone likes. This fuel-injected Triple, with a 78.0mm bore and a 59.1mm stroke, stands out from the world of flat-crank (i.e. single-plane) four-cylinder engines that power so many bikes from 600 to 1000cc.
Any other reasons for choosing three cylinders? You bet—cost. The lower the parts count, the lower the price. If you want to sell into a shrunken but finally recovering market, there’s no better incentive than price. And there’s width—the FZ-09 team wanted an engine significantly narrower than a traditional Four as part of its fresh focus on rideability.
Current sportbikes have a bore/stroke ratio of around 1.5:1, but the new FZ backs that down to 1.32—about where sportbikes were in 1990. This is not backsliding. It is moving toward a more open, faster burning combustion chamber. The only reason for giant sportbike bores is to make room for valves that flow best on top-end. If the goal is solid rideability in the midrange, you need smaller valves that flow best at lower crank speeds. The FZ-09 engine’s high but not extreme 11.5:1 compression ratio does its part in boosting torque and responsiveness.
1 . Ride-by-wire throttles allow multiple riding modes. Steep intake ports are the norm.
2 . Vertically stacked gearbox shafts ensure a compact package, helping keep chassis weight bias forward.
3 . Relatively narrow 78mm bore helps speed combustion, working in a longish 59.1mm stroke.
4 . Vibe-quelling gear-driven balance shaft (not shown) runs in front of the engine, below water pump.
Ride-by-wire means that when the rider grabs a handful of throttle, the instruction goes to the computer, where stored information and signals from other sensors are processed. A stepper motor then opens the throttles to give the desired engine response. This is YCC-T, or “Yamaha Chip-Controlled Throttle,” first used on the 2006 YZF-R6.
Such a system makes it possible to provide three-mode engine performance. First is Standard. Then A-Mode gives “sharper throttle response in the low-to-mid-rpm range.” B-Mode “lets the rider enjoy milder throttle response than the STD-Mode.” When BMW was developing its S1000RR superbike in-house, the testers loved its “rain mode” because it made everyone feel like a better rider. Pick the response that suits your preference.
Each of the FZ-09’s three fuel-injection throttle bodies carries an intake horn of different length (82.8mm, 102.8mm and 122.8mm)—a clever and much less expensive way to distribute the approximately 10 percent torque boost of intake resonance over a range of rpm than providing motor-driven, computer-controlled intakes of variable length.
A 120-degree Triple has no net up-and-down crank-speed shaking force, but it does rock from side-to-side. For this reason, there is a “primary coupled-force balancer” just ahead of the crank that spins in the opposite direction at crank speed. This creates an equal and opposite rocking couple to cancel that of the crank, leaving the engine smooth.
At $7990, Yamaha’s new FZ-09, which goes on sale in September, is a market-breaker, priced well below its competitors. As a high-tech bike that combines sit-up comfort with carefully planned rideability, this Yamaha may prove irresistible to enthusiasts, regardless of their budget.
|ENGINE||847cc liquid-cooled dohc Triple|
|TRANSMISSION||Six-speed, wet multiplate clutch|
|FRONT SUSPENSION||41mm fork, 5.4 in. of travel (adj. preload and rebound)|
|REAR SUSPENSION||Single shock, 5.1 in. of travel (adj. preload and rebound)|
|BRAKES||Dual 298mm discs front, one 267mm disc rear|
|TIRES||120/70ZR-17 front, 180/55ZR-17 rear|
|SEAT HEIGHT||32.1 in.|
|FUEL CAPACITY||3.7 gal.|
|WEIGHT (WET)||414 lb.|
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