The west coast of Canada probably offers the country’s best motorcycling. The scenery is magnificent, with cascading mountains along the coastline of British Columbia plunging sharply to meet the Pacific, all the way from Alaska to Washington State.
If you prefer a more condensed version of the beauty that is BC, look no further than Vancouver Island, which measures 290 miles long by 50 miles wide. Yamaha chose the city of Courtenay, located halfway down the east coast of the island, as the location for the launch of the 2015 FZ-07, available for now only in Canada, where native Canucks pronounce it F-Zed.
(Although yet to be announced as part of Yamaha Motor USA’s lineup, we can’t imagine it not being added to the American catalog. -Ed.)
There’s always room for more lightweight, nimble and affordable motorcycles, even in a field populated by the Suzuki SFV650, the Kawasaki ER-6n and the Honda NC750S, the latter two available to riders north of the border. (In the U.S., there’s also Kawasaki’s Ninja 650 and Hyosung GT650 to contend with.), The FZ-07 promises to be least expensive and the lightest in class, tipping the scales at just 397 lb wet. That’s 48 lbs lighter than the Suzuki, and even 23 lbs lighter than the smaller Honda CB500F.
Yamaha chose to bring the FZ-07 into Canada at a price advantage over the competition, as well as offering an affordable step up for riders trading up from bikes like the Honda CBR250R and Kawasaki Ninja 300. At $7,299 CDN (approx. $6,695 USD), it undercuts its middleweight Canadian rivals by at least a grand.
The trade-off for this low price is that there’s no ABS available, not even as an option. Other cost-cutting measures include resorting to the use of tubular steel frame rather than one cast in aluminum. It’s a very rigid item nonetheless, weighing 11 pounds less than the FZ6R frame. Chassis geometry is on the sporty side, with rake at 24.5 degrees, trail at 3.5 in. and wheelbase at 55.1 in. The swingarm looks like it’s made of aluminum, but it’s in fact made of stamped, welded steel. Wheels are 17-inches front and rear, and on the rear is mounted a supersport-spec 180/55ZR17 tire, wider than most of its classmates, except for BMW’s much pricier F800R.
Power comes via an all-new, liquid-cooled, 689cc parallel-Twin. Cylinders are over-square with bore and stroke measurements of 80 x 68.6mm. Compression ratio is 11.5:1 (it runs on regular fuel), and Mikuni provides the EFI which breathes through 38mm throttle bodies. The engine produces a claimed 75 crankshaft hp at 9000 rpm, while torque peaks at 50 ft-lb at 6500 rpm. Horsepower is comparable to the Gladius, and about on par with Yamaha’s own FZ6R, though the Twin produces about 6 ft-lb more torque than the 6R’s inline Four. There’s good news for maintenance-minded riders; Yamaha claims 25,000-mile valve-adjustment intervals.
The FZ-07 feels quite muscular when turning the throttle because inside its crankcases is a 270-degree crankshaft, providing more bottom-end torque than a conventional 360-degree crank. The crank, which Yamaha calls a “crossplane concept”, also gives the FZ-07 the exhaust cadence of a 90-degree V-Twin, so it even sounds a bit like the Gladius.
There’s a distinct family resemblance to its larger brother, the FZ-09, with which it shares some styling cues like the low, angular headlight, humpback fuel tank, wedged tailpiece and low-mounted, shorty exhaust. There are plastic panels covering the metal fuel tank, which would make damage repair easy and inexpensive in case of a tip over.
We departed in the morning, heading north on Highway 19 out of Courtenay before turning west onto the tighter Highway 28 towards Gold River. Along the 20-minute stretch of northbound divided highway, the FZ purred along in counterbalanced smoothness, with only a light throbbing coming through the seat and handlebar, not even enough to blur the mirrors.
From the saddle, the FZ-07’s engine feels very much like a Suzuki SV V-Twin, and that’s a very good thing. It has a linear powerband that starts pulling smoothly yet forcefully from as low as 2000 rpm. Power is easily controllable, which will inspire confidence in newer riders with an inexperienced throttle hand. Let the revs build up to its indicated 10,000 rpm, however, and even an expert will find the FZ-07 a gratifying machine to ride. Revs build in a linear manner, seemingly forever, while pushing you into the passenger seat hump with every gear change. Light clutch and gearshift effort make rowing through the six-speed gearbox a completely effortless affair, even if you don’t need to shift often due to the engine’s wide, flat powerband.
The riding position is typical naked-bike upright, with a relaxed, slightly forward reach to the handlebar, though as a six-foot-tall rider, the footpegs are as high as I’d like them. Although the seat is narrow at the front to allow for an easy reach to the ground (seat height is a modest 31.7 in.), it widens considerably at the rear and doesn’t slope forward, which is conducive to rider comfort. It is, however, firm, and my backside began getting numb after about an hour.
Because the FZ-07’s headlight is mounted so low, you get the impression something is missing from the front end when looking down from behind the handlebar, but what you will find there is a very comprehensive LCD display. It includes a bar-type tachometer, speedo, dual tripmeters with fuel reserve countdown, clock, gear-position indicator, ambient temperature gauge, and a fuel economy computer. Altogether it’s a rather complete display for a bike on a budget. There’s even an ECO indicator that lights up at light throttle settings to let you know you’re not going fast enough. Actually, it comes on to let you know you’re saving fuel. Claimed fuel economy is 56 mpg, which would give the FZ-07 a theoretical range of almost 210 miles from its 3.7-gallon gas tank.
Turning west onto Hwy 28 towards Gold River, the road tightens up, and the FZ powers through turns predictably, with an easily modulated throttle. Steering effort is light with no hint of twitchiness, and the bike exhibits sure-footed stability through the high-speed sweepers winding through the desolate but beautiful Strathcona Provincial Park.
Another area where Yamaha saved a few bucks is with the suspension components. There’s a conventional, 41mm fork and single, linkage-type shock, but adjustment is limited to rear spring preload. Suspension compliance should be adequate if you are of average weight, say about 170 pounds, but for a heavyweight like me, who weighs in at about 220 pounds in full riding gear, the rear is simply under-damped. The rear would rebound quickly and make an extra bounce after hitting a dip in the road. Fortunately the taut chassis keeps the bike in line and it doesn’t weave through sweepers despite the soft damping. Speaking with one of my lighter colleagues about this revealed he had no issues with the rear suspension. Adjustable rear rebound damping would have been a welcome feature, nonetheless.
After lunch in Gold River, the pace quickened on the return trip to Courtenay, and the FZ-07 again exemplified its modest yet versatile nature. It kept an elevated sporting pace effortlessly with a balanced mix of confidence-inspiring stability and quick, sporty steering. Although it wouldn’t bet an ideal track-day bike because of its soft-ish rear end, following your sport-bike riding buddies shouldn’t be a problem.
Twin four-piston calipers squeeze 282mm discs up front, and there’s a single-piston caliper and 245mm disc in the rear. Braking power is more than adequate, with moderate yet easily modulated pressure needed at the lever for quick stops.
The FZ-07 is a welcome addition to the middleweight motorcycle market, and its affordability, nimble handling and contemporary styling almost assure it will be a hit. It will make a great city scrambler, as well as an effective back road carver in the right hands. It’s likely Americans will see the FZ-07 in dealers by the end of the year, where I suspect it will be well received.