2017 Yamaha FZ-10 - ROAD TEST

Music to our ears

2017 Yamaha FZ-10 wheelie action
2017 Yamaha FZ-10Jeff Allen

Starting with the harmonious psychedelic pop stars Mamas and the Papas isn't normally what I'd do here, but the 2017 Yamaha FZ-10 isn't a normal motorcycle.

So.

I saw an interview with the band long ago, and basically they said when they were in the studio they knew they were on to something when the “fifth voice” came in the room. There were four of them, singing amazing harmonies (“all the leaves are brown,” etc.), and that when the harmonies were particularly harmonious, a new, greater voice appeared. The fifth voice. A suggestion of another dimension unseen but heard and felt right here on earth under magic circumstances.

I hear the fifth voice on this most harmonious of motorcycles. The FZ-10 doesn’t have one particular characteristic that makes it exceptional, but much like the bike it shares its essential platform with—the YZF-R1—the overall balance of all its qualities makes it excel. That and the sublime 998cc crossplane inline-four sings the same almost-syncopated staccato rhythm that is just so interesting and moving.

2017 Yamaha FZ-10 static side view
2017 Yamaha FZ-10Jeff Allen

The song is the same, but the power character and response are quite a bit different from this half-naked sit-up streetbike. The changes are really about lung operation. Starting with the 12-liter airbox (versus 10 liters on the R1): Yamaha says the extra capacity helps performance on the FZ-10 because it doesn’t have the same available ram-air effect since speeds on the FZ-10 as a “streetbike” are generally lower (haha) and that there isn’t a full fairing with an enclosed intake channel stuffing it in the airbox (true). It also could have an ergonomic inspiration: A larger airbox simply fits better on a bike where there is little need for the rider to tuck in.

The FZ-10’s 45mm throttle bodies are essentially the same as those used on the R1 but allow for cruise control (yes!) and carry single fuel injectors that pump 25 percent more fuel at 100-percent duty cycle; the showerheads on the R1 are deleted here, and the emphasis on making more power in lower rpm calls for the increased injector capacity.

2017 Yamaha FZ-10 KYB shock details
2017 Yamaha FZ-10Jeff Allen

More conservative cams reduce dura­tion, lift, and overlap, all things that help the bike run more smoothly and provide greater power at lower rpm. Add to this smaller ports and smaller 31mm steel (not 33mm titanium) intake valves, which give the air and fuel cause to rush more quickly into oblivion at lower rpm, making bottom-end output more robust and overall response feel a lot more imme­diate than on the R1.

All the changes (and fracture-split steel connecting rods like those used on the R1S) mean maximum rpm is 12,200 on the FZ, not the 14,500 of the R1 or even the 12,650 of the R1S.

The stock R1 is pretty soft below about 7,000 rpm, but the FZ-10 starts to deliver a significant bump in torque and horsepower at about 6,000 with a first peak of about 70 pound-feet at 7,500, followed by a slight lull, and then a swing up to the max of 73 pound-feet at 9,200 revs.

2017 Yamaha FZ-10 on-road action
2017 Yamaha FZ-10Jeff Allen

Top-gear roll-on performance is super strong, and the six-speed gearbox’s shifting performance is impeccable.

What the FZ-10 isn’t? Mega powerful or a torque monster. The 130 horses and 73 pound-feet are no joke but a long way off the KTM 1290 Super Duke R’s 151 and 95(!). We’ve also dyno’d a 2014 BMW S1000R at more than 150 hp, and the 2016 Best Open Class Streetbike-winning Tuono V4 1100 delivers more than 150. It’s a tough class and the FZ-10 is simply less powerful.

On the road, though, you’d be hard-pressed to miss the 20 horses. The 43-tooth rear sprocket gains two teeth versus the R1 (and accounts for the slight change in wheelbase) but the transmission keeps the same internal gears, so the tall first is followed by some very close ratios. Top-gear roll-on performance is super strong, and the six-speed gearbox’s shifting performance is impeccable.

2017 Yamaha FZ-10 fairing details
2017 Yamaha FZ-10Jeff Allen

So is the chassis. Rake and trail are classic 24 degrees/4.0 inches, just like the R1, and the main frame and swingarm are identical. Full praise for the handling on this naked superbike. It’s got total unflappability like the R1 but is easier to turn thanks to that wide handlebar. Exit a second-gear corner and roll the throttle wide open and you are greeted with a beautiful crossed-up power wheelie that will carry through to the next shift. And when you set it down, even if the wheel isn’t straight, it just glides right in line with no hint of instability. Said Canet, “That wheelie-inducing surge around 6,500 rpm adds much excitement, but running it up to 7K in fourth gear, you can roll out and snap the throttle open with a tug on the bars for a full clutchless wheelie. Pretty impressive power for such an overall refined feeling.”

Feedback from the contact patches is amazing, and although the ride is on the firm side, grip, ease of changing line, all of it, is wonderful, with that core element of stability that is hugely reassuring when you're dissecting a back road. The fancy word to use about the FZ-10 here is homeostasis.

2017 Yamaha FZ-10 wheelie action
2017 Yamaha FZ-10Jeff Allen

The fancy word to use about the FZ-10 here is homeo­stasis.

Slightly dumber electronics than the R1’s have no IMUs since we are presumably not trying to win the Super Naked World Championship. We were fine with the functionality of TC in least-intervention 1 (no wheelie control!), 2 (some), 3 (death to wheelies) but were confused by the power modes being rearranged from previous product like the FZ-09. On that bike, A mode was super sizzle, STD was, um, standard, and B was something less than standard. The FZ-10 offers B as most aggressive throttle response, A as less so, and STD as least aggressive, though all do offer full power once the throttle is on its stop. “The change was made on FZ-10 to best match the aggressive, exciting character of the bike,” Yamaha said of the mode reordering. We say it’s a bit confusing at first. I enjoyed B the most but reverted to A on tight roads for its gentler response from closed throttle. But leaving lights in A or STD results in an almost boggy feeling that’s gone in B. There is but one real complaint about engine performance: The FZ-10 gulps fuel. Our 32-mpg average is slightly better than Yamaha’s claimed 30. It makes us wonder where all the gas is going. And we also realize this is not a competitor with a Prius, but you will often get the reserve light at around 100 miles and have a gallon, or less than 30 miles, to find gas. I mean, you’ll enjoy it.

2017 Yamaha FZ-10 cornering action
2017 Yamaha FZ-10Jeff Allen

Would The Mamas and the Papas have the same sound if they’d dressed like Alice Cooper? I’m not sure. I am certain the FZ-10’s styling is in the Stealth-Gone-Mad genre, and Yamaha has managed to out-angle even KTM, simply by adding more folds and having fewer large almost-flat planes. Whether you like it or not is up to you. I do enjoy a motorcycle when my eyes glide along organic contours, but I must admit the assault-weapon purposefulness of the FZ-10’s overall look has its appeal. My final comment on this topic, however, is that this bike is a pain in the ass to wash with all its sharp nooks and crannies.

The rest? Smooth as can be without an abrupt seam anywhere. This bike is honed and polished, something the Japanese-company-engineering culture does the best. But, like with the YZF-R1, that buffed-out mechanical sweetness is underlined by a vat of bubbling soul with a musical overtone that can’t be ignored.

2017 Yamaha FZ-10 static 3/4 view
2017 Yamaha FZ-10Jeff Allen

The more you ride the FZ-10, the more you like and appreciate what it does. Great ergonomics, a comfortable seat, controls that feel elegantly smooth, and fine brakes (even if the ABS is a bit conservative) all give it a wonderful, natural feeling that clicks right into the open space in your brain that is waiting for “great all-purpose motorcycle.” But it joins the champions of the high-performance utility streetbike class. The KTM 1290 Super Duke R is nearly as sublime to ride as the BMW S1000R but adds an edge of brutality with its bigger V-twin booms and more massive power. The Tuono V4 1100 sort of splits the difference between those bikes and adds the heat of Calabrian chili paste, though the northerners at Aprilia might argue with my use of a southern Italian spice. And all three of these bikes enter 2017 with updates. It will be a shootout to remember.

Until then, beauty of the FZ-10 is that it brings a higher harmony to the (nearly) naked streetbike class that satisfies every time you ride it.

2017 Yamaha FZ-10 studio side view
2017 Yamaha FZ-10Courtesy of Yamaha
SPECIFICATIONS
GENERAL
LIST PRICE $12,999
IMPORTER Yamaha Motor Corp., USA, 6555 Katella Ave., Cypress, CA 90630
CUSTOMER SERVICE PHONE (800) 962-7926
WARRANTY 12 mo./unlimited mi.
ENGINE & DRIVETRAIN
ENGINE liquid-cooled, four-stroke inline-four
BORE & STROKE 79.0 x 50.9mm
DISPLACEMENT 998cc
COMPRESSION RATIO 12.0:1
VALVE TRAIN DOHC, four-valves per cyl., shim adjusters
VALVE ADJUST INTERVALS 24,000 mi.
INDUCTION (4) 45mm throttle bodies
OIL CAPACITY 5.2 qt.
ELECTRIC POWER 368w
BATTERY 12v, 9.1ah
CHASSIS
WEIGHT (TANK EMPTY) 441 lb.
WEIGHT (TANK FULL) 468 lb.
FUEL CAPACITY 4.5 gal.
WHEELBASE 55.1 in.
RAKE/TRAIL 24.0º/4.0 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 32.5 in.
GROUND CLEARANCE 5.1 in.
GVWR 838 lb.
LOAD CAPACITY (TANK FULL) 370 lb.
FRONT SUSPENSION
MANUFACTURER KYB
TUBE DIAMETER 43mm
CLAIMED WHEEL TRAVEL 4.7 in.
ADJUSTMENTS compression and rebound damping, spring preload
REAR SUSPENSION
MANUFACTURER KYB
TYPE single shock
CLAIMED WHEEL TRAVEL 4.7 in.
ADJUSTMENTS compression and rebound damping, spring preload
TIRES
FRONT 120/70ZR-17 Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport S20F
REAR 190/55ZR-17 Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport S20R
PERFORMANCE
1/4 MILE 10.77 sec. @ 130.30 mph
0-30 MPH 1.3 sec.
0-60 MPH 2.9 sec.
0-90 MPH 5.3 sec.
0-100 MPH 6.2 sec.
TOP GEAR TIME TO SPEED (40-60 MPH) 2.6 sec.
TOP GEAR TIME TO SPEED (60-80 MPH) 2.8 sec.
ENGINE SPEED @ 60 MPH 4420 rpm
FUEL MILEAGE
HIGH/LOW/AVERAGE 37/27/32 mpg
AVG. RANGE INC. RESERVE 144 mi.
BRAKING DISTANCE
FROM 30 MPH 34 ft.
FROM 60 MPH 127 ft.
SPEEDOMETER ERROR
30 MPH INDICATED 29 mph
60 MPH INDICATED 59 mph

EDITORS' NOTES

SEAN MACDONALD, Associate Editor
As a guy who normally prefers to reserve four-cylindered things for track duty, I was blown away by how tractable and low-down the power was on the FZ-10, as well as how at home it felt on the street. As with so much of what Yamaha has done lately, the more time I spent on it and the more I pushed it, the more I began to really love it. Gone are the days of Japanese nakeds falling into a second tier.

DON CANET, Road Test Editor
While the FZ-10's styling doesn't particularly resonate with my taste, its engine and chassis strike a chord tied directly to the funny bone. Bottom-end delivery and the thrilling midrange hit are exactly as I had hoped from this R1-derived sport naked. Frequent-flyer miles have added up floating the front exiting lower gear corners. Yamaha tailored its Ten Best Superbike for the average citizen without neutering its character. What we have here is the emperor without clothes in the best sense.

MARK HOYER, Editor-in-Chief
The 2001 FZ1 was a steel-tube-framed road burner with a rack of carbs and a big punch. Plush and great steering, it made for a wonderful sporting motorcycle. It was also a huge departure from the YZF-R1, though it shared the same basic engine. What's to love about this new FZ-10? It's a close copy of a latest-gen R1 with just-right mods to make it a fine daily missile and so a great carrier of the original bike's flame.