Actually the first minute or so of this vid is a great graphic presentation of the Yamaha “Crossplane” crankshaft it introduced in its 2009 R1. Crossplane is a cool marketing word for a four-cylinder crank that scatters its four pistons equidistantly around its 360 degrees – each one 90 degrees apart – instead of everybody else’s flat, or 180-degree crank, where two pistons are at top dead center while the other two are at bottom dead center.
Honda was the first to change up the regular-interval firing order in the modern era, when it changed its even-firing NSR500 V-Four two-stroke from a “screamer” to a “Big Bang” motor by throwing in a crankshaft that saw all four pistons firing within 70 degrees of crank rotation. At the time, that seemed to be a good thing because it let the rear tire regain traction before the next onslaught of power. It was a hard theory to argue with, since Mick Doohan used that Honda to win five straight 500cc championships, from ’94 to ’99 (would’ve been more except for that nasty accident halfway through ’92), making it the winningest GP bike in history. (Doohan did switch back to the Screamer version sometime in ’97, when his confidence was peaking.)
The other factories followed, and when Yamaha needed a hook for the new R1, here came the Crossplane crank. Do we need it for the street or even for Superbike racing? Hard to say. Do we like it? Yes, very much, mostly because of the delicious noise it makes. Though it’s an inline Four, the fact that its pairs of pistons fire 90-degrees apart effectively makes it a pair of Ducatis joined at the hip, a Japanese Desmosedici.
Does it make more peak horsepower? No, the last R1 we threw into our Six Superbike comparo did not, nor did it make more midrange or more torque than the other liter bikes. A little less, in fact. Also, I was working for Yamaha’s ad agency in 2008, and remember recoiling in horror when I read the official PIG (Product Information Guide) and learned the then-new R1 had gained 28 pounds over the 2008 model. The crossplane crank is heavier, needs beefier journals and requires a counterbalancer that 180-crank Fours don’t (though many have one anyway). Though the new R1 gets an aluminum gas tank, magnesium wheels and ti connecting rods, it’s still 9 pounds heavier than a Kawasaki ZX-10R.
There’s just that much more of you to love, dear. The FZ is a relative lightweight. On the official MotoGP Werks scales, the FZ slots in at 466 pounds with a full tank. That’s one pound more than the Suzuki GSX-S1000, 2 less than a Monster 1200 S, 3 pounds less than the Aprilia Tuono Factory. The FZ is 12 pounds lighter than the Triumph Speed Triple S, 18 less than a Z1000 Kawasaki – and 19 less than a CB1000 Honda.
In the dyno analysis, the FZ makes 25 fewer horses than the R1, but at 9900 rpm instead of 12,300. And the FZ makes 5 more lb-ft of torque at 9300 rpm instead of the R1’s 8900 torque peak. As far as the other naked bikes, 138 hp puts the FZ right in the thick of things, almost on par with the GSX-S1000 (143 hp) but quite a bit off the pace of the insane, 161-hp Tuono Factory. It’s the Tuono the FZ feels most like, though, albeit a domesticated version more suited for home use.
“I’ve repeatedly professed my love for Aprilia’s intoxicating V-4, but Yamaha’s crossplane I-4 motor sounds 95% as nice and feels seductive and exotic when twisting its throttle,” says E-i-C Duke. “It falls short in peak power, but it’s still wickedly fast anywhere on the street. It’s a really sweet and desirable sporting machine.”
The FZ-10 sounds so delicious and cranks its front wheel up so torquily, we can’t wait to put it up against the others ASAP. For now, enjoy the sound, know that 138 horsepower is plenty, and stand by for more.