Yamaha FZ-07

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How cool is it that the next-to-least expensive bike here, the $6990 Yamaha FZ-07, squarely trounces all the other Twins right out of the Yamawomb, winning the Engine, Transmission/Clutch, Ergonomics/Comfort and Instruments competitions, coming up second in Handling, Brakes, Quality, and both Cool and Grin Factors.

Our FZ-07 was equipped with an array of accessories from Yamaha’s Accessories catalog. They provided extra bling but added a hefty $949.41 to the FZ’s bargain-level MSRP, which penalized its Value rating on our scorecard.

The Gilles Tooling adjustable brake and clutch levers really are a nice upgrade; great feel and adjustability.

The Gilles Tooling adjustable brake and clutch levers really are a nice upgrade; great feel and adjustability.

Light weight is the most expensive part of any sport vehicle. A Ducati Superleggera weighs 390 pounds and costs $65,000. The FZ-07, granted, doesn’t make quite the horsepower of the Ducati, but it only weighs 403 lbs (and 3 of those are the Yamaha accessories our bike is wearing), and costs about a tenth as much as a Superleggera.

Lightness also means that even if its engine were only on par with the other Twins here, it would still win with a superior power-to-weight ratio, but the FZ’s engine is superior also. Its peak horsepower number is right there with the SV at 67.1 horses at 8900 rpm, but the FZ uses its extra cc’s to out-torque the other Twins, cranking out a healthy 46.7 lb-ft at a lowish 6500 rpm; that 2400-rpm spread from torque peak to hp peak is a remarkable achievement, and it squirts the FZ out of corners quicker than any other bike here but the Duke. Like the “crossplane” crank in Yamaha’s R1, the FZ’s crankpins are 90 degrees apart, giving it a very similar sound and feel to a 90-degree Twin while allowing the tighter packaging of a parallel.

Speaking of packaging, this bike is a perfect example of how racing improves the breed. Though it makes no claim to being a real supersport bike, it pulled a 9.2 (out of 10) average rating in the Handling Dept. when we remove Sean’s 7, because he’s simply a little too heavy for its rear shock spring. If you pay attention to MotoGP, you know that a big key to handling is tuned chassis flex, a big part of which depends on how the engine is mounted.

“The FZ feels tight, narrow and like you're almost over the front wheel,” says Troy S.

“The FZ feels tight, narrow and like you’re almost over the front wheel,” says Troy S.

On the FZ-07, the engine is a stressed member, but the two big front mounting bolts ride in plastic bushings that probably quell a little vibration, but mainly serve to allow a little lateral engine movement. The secondary front mounts are thin steel ears that descend from the main frame and bolt to the rear of the head on either side of the bike, also allowing a little lateral movement. It’s all very YZR-M1, on a cheaper scale, the end result of which seems to be a bike that turns now and lets the engine, with its heavy gyroscope of a crankshaft, catch up later.

Under those aluminum bronze plugs from the GYT-R accessory catalog, the FZ’s front engine mounts ride in plastic bushings that allow a little lateral movement; so do the steel “ears” that bolt to the back of the cylinder head. Cheap but MotoGP-effective ...

Under those aluminum bronze plugs from the GYT-R accessory catalog, the FZ’s front engine mounts ride in plastic bushings that allow a little lateral movement; so do the steel “ears” that bolt to the back of the cylinder head. Cheap but MotoGP-effective …

The handlebar risers ride in the same stiff plastic (or so it appears) as the front engine mounting bolts instead of rubber ones, like some other bikes.

Whatever’s going on, the FZ’s a hoot to ride on tight backroads, always nipping at the Duke’s heels and diving into corners and squirting back out with the same confident hyperactive puppy energy and excellent road feel, some part of which is down to its excellent stock Michelin Pilot Road 3 radials in big-boy sizes front and rear. It does everything quicker and with less effort than the other Twins here, including stop: Careful when you hop from any of the other bikes onto it; its brakes will easily lift the back tire. (Say, those four-piston calipers look exactly like the ones on my old 2000 R1.)

“I like just about everything about this bike. I feel like I’m riding over the front wheel on a unicycle or directly connected to it with my brain – like Clint Eastwood in that cold war era movie Firefox. No matter the road, bumpy or smooth, I could put the FZ-07 where I wanted it in a corner just by thinking.” – Evans Brasfield

When you’re done playing Valentino Rossi for the day, well, these are all really good streetbikes, but the FZ again just has a little something extra. That extra bit of low-rev grunt and a clutch with a wide engagement band make stop-and-go traffic almost enjoyable, because its ergonomics and seat are top of the heap. You sit so forward on the bike, the turn signals glow out ahead of you at night. (When the weather cools off a little, we’ll ask Yamaha where’s the GYT-R flyscreen?) The thinnish seat is narrow toward the tank for easy flat-footing, but broader toward the rear to spread the load on long drones.

Motorcycle.com  650 comparison photo shoot

Its LCD instrument panel is cleanest, clearest and most comprehensive too, with numerals big enough to read and a bar-graph tach you don’t really need to consult much. Its average fuel consumption meter seems to be unusually pessimistic, hovering at around 45 mpg while we usually got more like 50 mpg in urban and freeway use, where its supple suspension and wide seat serve up a smooth ride, nicely augmented by its smooth-running Twin, (whose valves only need inspecting every 24,000 miles). Are you hearing us? This is a great motorcycle for the money. Heck, this is a great motorcycle for quite a bit more money.

Legible, logical, simple.

Legible, logical, simple.

“The FZ is the best all-around motorcycle of this group. For Yamaha to sell it for a lower price than all but the CB500F makes it an incredible bargain, justifying it as our choice for Value Motorcycle of the Year.”Maximum Leader EIC Duke
+ Highs

  • Fat midrange plus light weight equals most fun
  • Sweet, compliant suspension and spot-on ergonomics
  • Excellent controls and 6-speed gearbox
– Sighs

  • A little too soft for big guys
  • ABS option would be nice
  • It’s too hard to criticize
Motorcycle.com  650 comparison photo shoot

Troys’ First Ride of the FZ

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  • IslandTosh

    I know the title says “Naked Twins”, but seeing that there’s an outlier for each word in the title, I’d have liked to see how the Honda CBR650F would do against these bikes.

    • I agree Tosh, but we went the democratic route and I was out-voted. (I also thought the Versys 650 shoulda been in there.

      • dustysquito .

        The Versys definitely would have fit the group here. Same engine but with more comfort makes it damn near a no brainer – especially with the new versions not being butt ugly.

        • IslandTosh

          Right on about the Versys too guys. Those new models shown at Intermot are definitely way better to my eyes than the current model too.

  • ChainsawCharlie

    This ad will close in 26 seconds
    I guess I am not watching that then.

    • Andrew

      god forbid you give advertising dollars to the company that gives you a motorcycle magazine with videos for free.

      • ChainsawCharlie

        Ads are fine, but not 30 sec videos that you can’t skip.

        • Because you can’t spare 30 seconds out of your unbelievably busy and obviously ultra-important life to see the free content? What do you do when an ad comes on TV? Blow up the television?

        • Chris_in_Kalifornia

          Simple enough, do something else for 30 seconds. I fixed myself a hamburger (already cooked but hey).

      • Crickets

        Actually the ad revenue for video triggers on starts, so MO gets the cut either way. The lame part is that the advertiser is allowed a 30 second play for the money and people are either forced to watch it, or pause it.

        The user experience in most new forms (see: video) advertising is quite poor and will eventually adapt to user feedback as time goes on, but much like commercials on TV, we’re going to have to watch them if we want the programming for awhile longer.

        BTW, the FZ was an easy pick without even reading the article. Surprised the buzziness of the highstrung KTM wasn’t talked about more. It’s a fantastic bike, but is obnoxious droning on a freeway.

    • jerry mander

      Perfect time to go grab some Doritos!

  • Auphliam

    Pet Peave Alert: Why does the Ninja dash have to say “Clock” right above the time display? There’s not some other kind of moto-related data displayed in hours/minutes, amirite?

    • dustysquito .

      While the Ninja’s dash doesn’t have anything else that would look like a clock but not be one, my bike has Ride Time, Accumulated Ride Time, and Lap Timer functions built into the dash as well as a clock, so having it remind you which one you’re on is handy.

      • Auphliam

        Ah, good point.

  • ‘Mike Smith

    Great comparison guys. The only thing I wish y’all would do is some drag racing on these things. Quarter mile times, 0-60, 0-100 times would be as appreciated as any other stats already listed.

  • sundogmtn

    I like your format on the videos of open discussion which help cover almost every possible aspect. It will help sell bikes. What I find missing to help the individual buyer is what consumer groups have provided for decades, reliability ratings. If you are a new rider you likely won’t be doing your own mechanical work and that would be very expensive these days.

  • George Herbert

    Its to bad the US gets screwed on the NC700/750 platform. even here in Canada we get the X and S versions, ABS standard without the auto trans.

    • denchung

      Honda Canada also introduced the 750 engine with the 2014 model year while the US is still using the 700.

      • Goose

        And you can get the NC750 with ABS without the DCT and without the stupid linked ABS found on the 700. The NC750 would still have finished last in this test but Honda has lost a sure NC750 sale (me) with this idiotic embargo on the improved NC.

        • denchung

          If new documents from the California Air Resources Board are any indication, it looks like American Honda will stay with the 700 engine for 2015:
          http://blog.motorcycle.com/2014/10/07/manufacturers/honda/carb-certifies-2015-honda-nc700x-still-750-engine-sight/

          • Goose

            Honda marketing slogan “Preventing sales since 1963”.

            One other thing, the 750 isn’t just a bigger engine, the new bike is better in nearly every way. Besides the bigger motor and ABS without the DCT you also get an improved transmission, better instruments, improved seat, second balance shaft, etc. for a few hundred dollars more. I’ve read Honda’s logic is the 750 will cost more. That didn’t seem to bother them when they raised the price of the 700 by $800 without making any improvements. They’ve about driven this customer away.

          • American Honda is a little bit stupid sometimes. And then sometimes they do the right thing, like bringing the VFR800/Interceptor to the US. How well did that sell?

          • Goose

            Honda marketing slogan “Preventing sales since 1963”.

            One other thing, the 750 isn’t just a bigger engine, the new bike is better in nearly every way. Besides the bigger motor and ABS without the DCT you also get an improved transmission, better instruments, improved seat, second balance shaft, etc. for a few hundred dollars more. I’ve read Honda’s logic is the 750 will cost more. That didn’t seem to bother them when they raised the price of the 700 by $800 without making any improvements. They’ve about driven this customer away.

  • DickRuble

    Who in the riding group weighs 270lbs? Needs to trade the motorcycle for a bicycle and the doritos for some soy beans.

    • Yea he does!

      • john burns

        250 of it is heart though. Other 19 lbs 12 oz of brains. Rest reproductive organs.

        • Still a good three ounces more than your own bitter little man.

    • Chris_in_Kalifornia

      So I don’t see your picture up there. I was 360 pounds for a long time but I rode anyway. Reasons aren’t important, Your bigotry is not acceptable. Tried everything to lose weight. Gastric Bypass finally allowed me to lose 130 pounds and keep it off but some can’t even do that. It’s not always the person’s fault. Depression era parents who force you to eat everything on your plate gives you a pretty permanent eating habit. I’m GLAD they have someone on there who can give a perspective from a heavier person.

  • Kenneth

    Thanks for the thoughtful and comprehensive review, MO, of widely-appealing bikes for the cost-conscious (I will be new bike shopping next spring). The only missing ingredient for me is — not here yet: The new Versys 650. ‘Anxiously awaiting that coming review. By the way, I appreciate a straight-on, side-view photo of each tested bike with a normally-sized rider mounted, to see its ergonomics.

    • DickRuble

      Normally-sized? Where? I didn’t see any of those..

  • Old MOron

    After all the excitement of Intermot, I was kind of having withdrawals.
    MO comes through in MO style! – fluttering mutton chops, tender buttocks, and all.
    Highly informative and very entertaining at the same time. Well done, MO.
    I can’t wait to see these bikes at the Long Beach show.

  • Reid

    The FZ-07 is unquestionably the best bike in the test, given the price. The Duke is just too expensive. If its pricing were in-line with the FZ (even FZ-09, for that matter), I strongly believe it would win this test.

    • DickRuble

      though the Duke is what I’d rather ride in town…

      • Reid

        The Duke is an exceptionally good bike. I bought one. It wasn’t cheap though lol

        • DickRuble

          Post a picture..

  • BTRDAYZ

    Congrats to the Duke 690 for it’s runner up finish. It’s my favorite bike of the group because KTM extracted maximum power from a single cylinder. Also, it’s the most expensive, but it has the most attractive frame. So much so that KTM doesn’t resort to the cheesy trick of trying to hide the frame beneath plastic molded to look like an alloy frame (God, I hate that!!!).

    Hope you bring back the Duke and FZ to test alongside the Ducati Scrambler when it arrives!

  • Andrew Capone

    I really want a lusty thumper in the fleet, and the Duke is the obvious choice. I’d have to repaint the thing, KTM psychedelia doesn’t do it for me. But I really dig that thing.

  • Luke

    Even thought I’m not as heavy, I appreciate the comments from the bigger guy in the field. It might be a good idea to list the height weight of all the reviewers. I’m 200lbs, and 6’1″ and I sometimes feel like most motorcycle reviewers are a good 5 inches shorter and 50lbs. lighter.

    • Ditto. I’m 6′, 240lbs WITHOUT gear. Seems like many reviewers are light/thin and height-challenged? Is that the right way to say that? I dunno.

      • Chris_in_Kalifornia

        I wish I was 6′ and 240. I’m 5’6″ 240 also without gear. And I lost a bunch too. Loved my 04 Vstrom. I’d rather have a brand new 04 Vstrom than any of these.

  • Old MOron

    Okay, I finally watched the video. Well done, gents.

  • Backroad Bob

    “even the losers are winners”. Sounds like the New America. JB, you’re a classic. More, please.

  • Paul Cypert

    As an aside dealerships were practically giving last year’s Dukes away. Around 6K OTD was not unheard of….

  • Chris_in_Kalifornia

    What the NC700 needs is a supercharger. Hmm. I wonder if a big smog pump off a late 70’s luxury barge would work…

    I saw a supercharged GL1200 Honda a long time ago, built by a machinist. Looked stock, wickedly fast.

  • DCGULL01

    This just validates my theory that the FZ-07 is the everything bike for everyman (and woman!). I love the comparison though- it really shows how choppy this market segment is- proving that every manufacturer is aiming for a slice-rather than the whole pie! Like Suzuki’s SV- Yamaha’s FZ-07 will still be in the hunt in over 10 years, when the current crop is tested again. Middle-aged buyers (silent majority that have/spend money) have been ignored until the “lil’ Yamaha that could”, but, now we can do what we do: do our own services, and- tinker with accessories, like we love too. This will change, highlight- elevate this segment- and, all manufacturers will want some- so, our world is going to get better and better for the next few years!