Motojournalists lined up to heap praises upon Yamaha’s FZ-09 when it appeared as a new model for 2014, and MO was right there on the bandwagon. There wasn’t anything not to like in the all-new 847cc Triple, with all the modern ride-by-wire trimmings in a designer chassis, for a price substantially less than its Euro-competitors.
Well, there was one thing not to like, and it caused the FZ to come out in second place when thrown in with three other, mostly way more expensive Triples in late 2013 in our Four Thirds Shootout. The problem was in its fuel-injection mapping, which just wasn’t quite ready for prime time. Here’s what we said:
The FZ-09 is fitted with the Yamaha Chip Controlled Throttle (YCC-T) ride-by-wire system, a technology incorporated on several of its previous models, making it even more remarkable how the company could fail when it comes to two out of the three ride modes available.
“A and Standard ride modes are practically useless in the canyons,” says Sportbike Editor Troy Siahaan. “B is definitely my favorite, too bad it chops off 10 hp. Standard is acceptable on the street, but I couldn’t find any situation where I wanted A mode.”
But that’s not to say the FZ’s motor wasn’t appreciated.
“If Yamaha could tune out the harshness of throttle application, this Triple would be one of my favorite engines of all time,” [EIC Kevin] Duke observes. “I love how its front wheel comes up accelerating in first gear then, after a short shift to second, it’ll wheelie again as it crosses its torque peak!”
For 2015, that’s just what Yamaha says it did, so we took a back-to-back spin on both 2014 and ’15 models to confirm the changes. Here’s what Duke says now:
“The FZ-09 was one of my favorite new motorcycles of 2014, but its abrupt throttle response – especially in its top A ride mode – spoiled what had the potential to be a stellar and desirable new Triple. It was plainly unrefined for something from a Japanese OEM. The new mapping dramatically attenuates the FZ’s rough edges when applying throttle. The Standard (middle) mode has been tamed to respond like an engine with just one mode, presenting intuitive reactions. The new A mode feels similar to the Standard mode of 2014, perhaps even less jumpy.
“Riding over a series of Botts‘ Dots in second gear, it was impossible to hold a steady speed with the 2014’s STD mode, the bike alternately speeding up and slowing down as the bumps affected the twistgrip. There are no such issues in the ’15’s STD mode over the same series of bumps.”
Yamaha remapped the bike’s ECU and removed nearly all of its jerky on/off throttle response, though what exactly it did Yamaha says is proprietary information. Where at times the ’14 model had a difficult time even maintaining a steady speed, on the ’15 that’s all been cured: The new bike responds to initial throttle much more smoothly in Standard mode, and now “A” mode is more useable, though most of us still prefer STD for even sporty backroad riding. That’s mostly because what Yamaha didn’t address for 2015 is the bike’s softish suspension, which encourages you to be as graceful as possible with throttle inputs. With more controlled suspension, A mode would be more useable, but then again, the FZ wouldn’t be such a comfortable ride around town would it? Other than new colors, Yamaha says the ’15 FZ is unchanged.
As to whether or not you should be able to get your ’14 upgraded with the new ECU programming free of charge, Yamaha’s playing it a little coy. The official line is, “Yamaha FZ-09 owners should visit their local authorized Yamaha dealership if they are experiencing any issues with the motorcycle.”
A dealer in New Jersey said he could do the upgrade for free if the bike falls into a certain range of VIN numbers, but to call back next week because he’s having computer problems. A Yamaha dealer in Houston told me there’s no way to do it unless the bike has a Power Commander on it (?), and that reflashing stock ECUs is not a thing dealers do. A local dealer here in California backed up the Jersey version: Once he sends the bike’s VIN off to Yamaha, he’ll know if the ECU has already been upgraded, and if not, the reflash is a freebie that shouldn’t take more than an hour to perform. Apparently, some ’14s got the good map and some didn’t – and Yamaha doesn’t want to waste an hour of dealer time if your bike already has the good one but you’re easily suggestible. Sounds reasonable.
Here’s to good dealers and to Yamaha doing the right thing. The FZ-09’s a great motorcycle, and so is the FJ-09 which shares the same engine, and which won our last Japanese Adventure Bike Shootout here. May the triple theme continue.