Most press launches are composed with the utmost care so that they suit the bike perfectly. You get nothing but the greatest roads, just right for the intent of the bike, and typically with very little city or freeway riding, mostly because grinding it out in traffic is not what we dream about when we dream of riding.
But life, sadly, is sometimes not a dream. How does this fit with the all-new 2014 Yamaha FZ-09? This Tuning Fork Triple is an all-around motorcycle designed to carry you to work during the week and allow you that precious escape to great roads and big adventure on weekends.
So, for the San Francisco-based U.S. press launch, we spent the first day bashing around the city, splitting lanes and seeing the sights. Then, on the second day, it was our “weekend,” with a shot north across the Golden Gate Bridge to the great winding roads in and around Mount Tamalpais State Park and Stinson Beach.
Yep, a day ride in the city on a press launch can be filed under the heading of Almost Never Happens, but we rolled out after lunch and rode as a group on the streets of San Francisco for the rest of the day, dodging mirrors and threading our way through traffic.
Usually this is a nightmare on several fronts, not the least of which is trying to keep 8-10 bikes together in heavy traffic with hundreds of traffic lights and various other obstructions and hazards. But our day actually worked out very well.
We ripped our way into the shadow of the Golden Gate for a few pictures, then blasted up to the top of Twin Peaks for a panoramic view of the city and bay. After that, we found a huge empty parking lot for a few pictures after many bumps and jumps and potholes and slippery paint lines. I don’t think any mirrors were lost during all that lane-splitting, either.
The 2014 Yamaha FZ-09 makes for a great city bike. Bottom-end torque is excellent and the clutch is tough, consistent and easy to control, with only mild judder when used exceptionally hard. We essentially bashed around in the bottom three gears for most of the day with no missed shifts.
The Kayaba fork and shock offer spring-preload and rebound-damping adjustment, both set on the softer side for our city ride. The pavement is generally terrible in San Francisco, but the ride was decent. Steering is light and this claimed 414-pound-wet bike was easy to handle, whether pushing it around while parking or dodging trucks on Market Street.
Of the three D-Mode throttle-response settings, B (the least aggressive) worked best, offering the least “switchy” delivery as we were rolling on and off the gas so much. Both A (most aggressive) and Standard were too abrupt, although the midrange, mid-throttle-and-up aggression offered in A was fun once you let the revs rise. D-Mode reverts to Standard whenever the key is switch off. Engine braking is fairly aggressive in the lower gears, which makes the smooth response of B mode all the more attractive.
Overall, it was a decent day running around town, but I think Yamaha did this to make the second day out on the road all the more sweet.
We were up and out early and got a clean run across the Golden Gate Bridge to freedom. Mt. Tam has a great selection of roads and scenery and it only took a few corners to appreciate the agility and stability offered by the FZ-09. Steering is neutral and cornering clearance is ample. Chassis geometry features classic sporty numbers: 25 degrees of rake and 4.0 inches of trail.
Suspension was set at maximum preload and rebound damping front and rear. This was enough for fairly aggressive riding, but it is clear overall damping was set to be friendly for daily riders and commuters with a sporting bent.
You’ll recognize the Advics four-piston front brake calipers, which offer a lot of power with low effort but were slightly short on feel. That said, I can’t think of any bike in this price range ($7990) that has brakes this good.
The riding position is upright and in command, featuring higher bars and lower pegs than the FZ8 this bike replaces. The seat is touted as being long and flat, but I tended to slide a bit forward. Overall, though, the riding position felt comfortable all day for my 6-foot-2 frame.
What really shined was the 847cc inline-Triple. It sounded great from the saddle and runs awesome. If you leave the bike in sixth gear and drag revs down to 1000 rpm, the engine will pull cleanly right off the bottom and run strong all the way to the 11,250-rpm redline. There is no discernible jump in power anywhere—it’s just got tons of torque across the rev range with a killer midrange that makes lifting the front wheel easy. Claimed output is 115 horsepower and 65 foot-pounds of torque. This is a great engine with the kind of spiritually moving power and sound that you’ll look forward to every time you hit the starter button.
We didn’t get to measure fuel consumption, but the average mpg indicated by the trip computer on my second riding day was 33 mpg, which, given the 3.7-gallon fuel capacity, works out to a 120-mile range and the distinct possibility of the fuel light coming on before 100 miles. When we get an FZ-09 to test, we’ll find out for sure what the practical range is. Yamaha claims 44 mpg.
The FZ-09 is a seriously fun and soulful motorcycle. It’s got great all-around performance with a fantastic engine as its core. And the $7990 price is great. It’s significantly less than the Triumph Street Triple 675 and much, much cheaper than the MV Agusta Brutale 800. And its not much more expensive than the bargain-priced Honda NC700X, while being quite a bit more enthusiast-oriented.
If this is the future of the low-price utility bike, your commute just got a lot more fun.
|2014 Yamaha FZ-09|
|ENGINE||Liquid-cooled, four-stroke inline-triple|
|BORE x STROKE||78.0 x 59.1mm|
|VALVE TRAIN||dohc, four valves per cyl., shim adj.|
|VALVE ADJUST INTERVAL||26,600 mi.|
|FUEL INJECTION||Denso EFI with YCC-T, (3) 41mm throttle bodies|
|PEAK HORSEPOWER @ RPM||115 HP @ 10,000 rpm|
|PEAK TORQUE @ RPM||64.5 lbf @8,500 rpm|
|ENGINE REDLINE||11,250 rpm|
|EXHAUST SYSTEM TYPE||3-into-1 with 02 sensor and catalyst|
|IGNITION SYSTEM||TCI/32bit ECU|
|LUBRICATION SYSTEM||Wet Sump|
|FUEL CAPACITY (RESERVE)||3.7 gal. (0.74 gal.)|
|TRANSMISSION TYPE||6-speed constant mesh|
|CLUTCH TYPE||Wet multiplate-disc|
|FRAME||Twin-spar aluminum controlled-fill die-cast|
|SEAT HEIGHT||32.1 in.|
|FRONT SUSPENSION||41mm KYB inverted, spring-preload and rebound-damping adjustment|
|REAR SUSPENSION||KYB shock, spring-preload and rebound-damping adjustment|
|FRONT BRAKES||Dual 4-piston calipers with 298 x 4.5mm discs|
|REAR BRAKE||Single-piston caliper with 245 x 5.0mm disc|
|FRONT WHEEL||3.5 x 17/10-spoke cast aluminum|
|REAR WHEEL||5.5 X 17 / 10-spoke cast aluminum|
|FRONT TIRE||120/70 ZR17 (Bridgestone / Dunlop)|
|REAR TIRE||180/55 ZR17 (Bridgestone / Dunlop)|
|WET WEIGHT (FULL TANK)||414 lbs.|
|WEIGHT DISTRIBUTION, PERCENT F/R||51.0/49.0|
|CHARGING SYSTEM OUTPUT||14V, 29.6A, 415W @ 5000rpm|
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