2001 Yamaha Fazer 1000
A New Breed of Muscle Sport?
After a tasty little mountain road and some preliminary photos, we stood at the intersection of a rural road at the top of a little town in Spain, looking down at the Rock of Gibraltar and, just beyond that, the Mediterranean and then, Africa. The roads up to this point were a bumpy and gnarly sort of sportbike heaven, but heaven nonetheless. This is what the FZ-1 is about. It's not a racebike, but a sport bike that just happens to keep your body on the pleasant side of the comfort/control equation, and the motor on the spritely side of the power pantheon. If a good bike is labeled as such by not finding too much favor at either extreme, then this is a good bike, indeed.
So what's our initial riding impression of this much anticipated machine? We expected more, quite frankly. It was billed by Yamaha as an R1 for the real world -- a bike that was basically a comfortable R1 that had not been neutered at the factory. As it turns out, however, the FZ-1 seems that it may be more of an R1 for people who are scared of an R1. Well, not so much scared as intimidated, anyway, by either that bike's aggressive power, ergos, or both. Okay, so maybe it really is an R1 for the "real world," then.The FZ-1 provides some things that sportbike enthusiasts have come to expect from a race-replica machine, and omitted some of the things that dissuade people from them even at a glance. There's a range of adjustability in just about everything, from the fully adjustable suspension to the adjustable clutch and brake levers. This all helps to get things just right before attacking your favorite roads. There's also a nice set of grab-rails for a passenger and big 'ol mirrors so you can see that truck sneaking up behind you, ye who thinks they own the fast lane even at a snail's pace.
The roads we traversed were not much better than what we have locally, to be honest, but the scenery made it acceptable. Still, sometimes there's nothing better than a foreign road that's littered with bumps and blind corners to really feel some things out.
The R1's suspension was never bad on the road. It was constantly missing from our garage on weekends as staffers often picked it as their main toy even when a few hundred miles in one day were part of he plan. But after leaving the haunches of Harleys and Ducatis, most anything seems plush. To better suit a broader range of riders, Yamaha's suspension, increased compliance and all, worked pretty damn well most of the time. Initially it feels to be sprung more firmly than Suzuki's Bandit 1200, though no more jittery, if at all.Similarly, as we got up to speed and the pace started to elevate, the weight of the FZ-1 came into focus. Sure, it feels a bit heavier than the R1, but not by much, thanks to the more upright riding position and handlebars that offer tons of leverage for throwing the bike into bends. Ground clearance was never an issue at "normal" backroad pace, and only became a thought when we got into a corner a bit faster than we should have in the first place. Then again, we couldn't resist. When another journalist goes by you as you're putting along on a straight, taking in the local scenery, you can't let him think he's got the upper hand going into the twisties!
When the pace was stepped up, a few of us noticed the bike moving around quite a bit, especially coming out of corners on the throttle. Sure this bike has power, but it just felt too sketchy. Then, at a photo stop, another journalist (who happens to be a pretty good racer, too) reached into his bag of tricks and pulled out an air-pressure gauge. The findings? 40 pounds of pressure in each Metzeler ME-Z4. Needless to say, we dropped six from each end and headed back out.
These lower pressures made the rest of the day's ride far more enjoyable. Gone were the lurid slides, but the trade-off was slightly mushier steering since the tire was now able to flex more. It's a trade we were willing to make, though, and some of us were more glad than others.Heading into a blind, downhill right-hander, the journalist in front of us came around the corner to find a family of sheep occupying the preferred line through the next bend. Actually, they occupied pretty much every line that would have sent us anywhere but off into the bushes. And so, the brakes were applied hard and fast. And we came to rest, staring the winter coat in its baby browns. And it was good, with the brakes hauling us down, the tire biting on the dirty road like a rabid sheep after an, um, what is it that rabid sheep bite down on, again? Oh, well - off we go, then.
Back underway onto a faster, windy stretch of coastline road where speeds were well into the triple-digits at times, we started to feel a bit of flex from the FZ-1's chassis. It felt like things were getting a bit wound up, not quite working in concert with each other. Chances are, thanks to the fully-adjustable suspension, we would be able to tune out most of what we felt. Still, this is understandable given the bike's stock settings that err on the side of all-around usability and not corner-carving prowess. It's that whole "R1 for the real world" thing again.
As for all the changes made to the R1's motor, "for the real-world," Yamaha did a really good job here as well. The motor feels strong everywhere, pulling from way down low up to redline without hesitation. Thanks to the FZ-1's additional weight, however, the acceleration is a bit tame comparatively. Then again, Richard Ramirez was tame compared to Charles Manson, though you'd have to agree that both were pretty brutal.Wait, did we just call the FZ-1 "brutal?" In a way it is, actually. The Bandit 1200S may have more pulling power off the bottom thanks to some added displacement, but the Yammie's got a snappier power delivery that will definitely roll people's eyes back into their heads. This bike will easily loft the front wheel coming out of slower corners and, with just a bit of coercion, replicate that feat in second gear with similar alacrity.
Somewhere between the 5,000 rpm grunt and the rev-limiter is a healthy mid-range that makes the gearbox a mostly set-it-and-leave-it affair. That's a bit of a shame, really, since this gearbox is so much more of a pleasure to row through than on either the R1 or R6. It's still not a very slick-shifting tranny, but the changes to the clutch and the linkage make a significant difference, as does the additional rotating mass in the crankcase. The vibes are noticeably less than what the R1 tends to dish out and make for a much more enjoyable and buzz-free ride.
The Rain in Spain...Well, when the smoke settled and our eyes could finally see through the glaze caused by 20-something hours of travel each way, it appears that Yamaha's new FZ-1 is not quite an "R1 for the real-world" like some of us had hoped for. For most people, though, that's the best news they can get. What this bike does give people is the sort of open-class performance that many race-replicas can't even match, packed tightly away in one easy-to-use container, available over-the-counter for $2,000 US Dollars less than an R1.
Striking a pose on a beautiful Spanish road. Actually it looks just like any other road, doesn't it? Who writes these captions, anyway?
The F-Zed has true liter-bike performance, minus the committed riding position. You want to chase state-lines? You want to go chase Ducatis up and down your favorite road? Add on some of the numerous accessories Yamaha is manufacturing and you can make this bike into pretty much anything you've ever wanted from something on two wheels.
This is definitely a bike that may have been over-sold at first, but it certainly delivers on most counts -- and those are the counts that, um, count.