Sit Up or Lay Down?

2005 Yamaha FZ-1 v. YZF-R1

The FZ-1's UJM proclivities mean it is a competent handler on a twisty road. The broad handlebar lets you lever the big bike into high speed sweepers and muscle it into slower, tighter turns as well, and the soft suspension absorbs bumps nicely where the R1 would beat you up a bit. It's easy to get into a fast rhythm on a two-lane road at extremely illegal speeds on the FZ-1 and have a great time doing it. Not that we encourage such behavior. Think of it as a Yamaha TDM 850, but with motor.

It's true that the FZ-1 is a superb handler for a machine of its size and weight, but the reality is that a tube-steel chassis, 57" long wheelbase and upright riding position will result in less precise feel and steering than a bike with race-tuned chassis, suspension and weight bias. Switching back-and-forth between the FZ-1 and R1 highlights how much sharper and fine-tuned the R1 is. By comparison, the FZ-1 feels floppy and way too soft, where the R1 is all taut muscle ready to do your bidding.

With the R1 you get a big thrust cruise missile so precise it's beyond intuitive in an amazingly cooperative package. The R1 makes going fast incredibly easy with quick but stable transitions: you can really throw the R1 onto its side in corners and it just rails through them with no drama. There is absolutely zero drive train lash in the R1 and the throttle response is impeccable throughout the powerband.

"I say Der Weinershnitzel!" "And I say Arby's!"Comparing the handling of the FZ-1 to the handling of the R1 is like comparing Pat Buchanan's tap-dancing to Gregory Hines' speech-writing skills. These are two very different bikes, built for different purposes, but it is as surprising to find out how good a commuter the R1 is as it is to discover the FZ-1's prowess on a bumpy two-lane road.

As far as living with the machines every day, the difference between maintenance is minimal, with a slight savings in shop time due to the fewer body panels on the FZ-1. Of course, the extra 25 horses are going to be more expensive to feed over the long run, as they will gobble more fuel, chains and rubber, especially if you like to use the sticky stuff. Fuel economy is about the same for both bikes, at about 40 MPG in average use.

"Insurance Notations"

We figured there would be no difference in insuring the two motorcycles, as they are both non-cruisers with 1000 cc engines. A call to an insurance agent revealed a significant difference:

Rider Bike Insurance Premium*
One* FZ-1
Two* FZ-1
$ 981

*Rider #1 is 22 years old, has been licensed for one year, has one point on his driving record for speeding, lives in a crowded part of an older inner city in California, is a single college student who goes to work and school on his bike and rides about 8,000 miles a year.

*Rider #2 is 45 years old, has been licensed for 27 years, has no points on his driving record, is a married salesman, uses his bike for pleasure riding only for about 3,000 miles a year and lives in a California suburb.

*Premium is for the legally required minimum liability insurance, plus comprehensive, collision, and roadside assistance for a 12 month period with a $500 deductible. Thanks very much to Dawn Arredondo of Robert E. Kennedy Insurance Agency for getting these quotes for us!

The FZ-1 does surprisingly well in the twisty stuff...Our impression of the R1 and FZ-1, having put a few hundred miles on each, is that while they are quite essentially different in terms of character their common lineage is very apparent in the form of some major whomp from the R1 sourced mill cradled between the frame tubes. The R1 is everything we like in an open-classer: it's light, agile, has tons of tractable power, enough torque to spin up a hurricane, great suspension and lots of well-mannered get down the road for what it is.

The R1 was very nearly our pick as the winner in last year's open bike shootout and missed, by just a hair, of besting the CBR1000RR among the inline fours. It is, for a Japanese OEM, perhaps the most well styled motorcycle we've ever seen. It is difficult for me to see how any reasonable person could find much at fault with the latest incarnation of the venerable big unit Yamaha.

...And the R1 well, it works in the city, but we'd hardly call it "practical."The R1 acquits itself superbly on backroads, racetracks and even on the bumpy, uneven alley of death that is the 405 freeway. It's a very civilized commuter that segues effortlessly into a track weapon to be reckoned with. It is probably the most fun and livable package that fire-breathing horsepower and performance can be packaged in. The R1 just works.

The FZ-1 shares some DNA with the R1, but after the massive stomp from the motor the similarities begin to run out. This does not mean that the FZ-1 isn't a swell bike in its own right. Every accolade you hear about the FZ-1 is pretty much true. It works as well as the R1, but in a completely different way. The FZ-1 is truly a naked muscle bike. Think of it, attitudinally, as a modern descent of the perennial bad boy V-Max that rails through corners.

That's why the FZ-1 was the choice of two of three of our staffers, making it the winner of this little comparison. With the FZ-1 you get the raging son of V-Max with all of the attitude and for the majority of street riders, 95% of the peg scraping ability of its overachieving younger brother, making it a great real world bike that makes a useful commuter, tourer or backroads blaster. And if we were forced to just have ONE bike in the MO garage, we would probably want the bike like the FZ-1.

Thankfully, we don't to make that choice! But if you do, the FZ-1 might be a better decision for everyday riding.

And the Winner Is....
Tester Favorite Bike Winner
Gabe FZ-1 FZ-1
Martin FZ-1
Sean R1

** Specifications Courtesy of Yamaha **
Engine 2005 YZF-R1 2005 FZ1
Bore x Stroke 77 x 53.6mm 74 x 58mm
Carburetion Fuel injection, dual-valve throttle bodies with motor-driven secondary valves (4) 37mm Mikuni CV w/throttle position sensor (TPS)
Compression Ratio 12.3:1 11.4:1
Final Drive #530 O-ring chain O-ring chain
Ignition Digital TCI Digital TCI
Transmission 6-speed w/multi-plate clutch 6-speed w/multi-plate clutch
Type 998cc, liquid-cooled, 20-valve, DOHC, in-line four-cylinder 998cc, liquid-cooled, 20-valve, DOHC, in-line four-cylinder
Chassis 2005 YZF-R1 2005 FZ1
Brakes/Front Dual 320mm discs; radial-mount forged 4-piston calipers Dual 298mm floating discs w/4-piston calipers
Brakes/Rear 220mm disc w/single-piston pin-slide caliper 267mm disc w/single-piston caliper
Suspension/Front 43mm inverted telescopic fork w/adjustable preload, compression and rebound damping; 4.7" travel 43mm telescopic fork w/adjustable preload, compression and rebound damping; 5.6" travel
Suspension/Rear Single shock w/piggyback reservoir and adjustable preload, compression and rebound damping; 5.1" travel Single shock w/piggyback reservoir and adjustable preload, compression and rebound damping; 5.3" travel
Tires/Front 120/70-ZR17 120/70-ZR17
Tires/Rear 190-50-ZR17 180-55-ZR17
Dimensions 2005 YZF-R1 2005 FZ1
Dry Weight 379 lbs. 459 Lbs.
Fuel Capacity 4.85 gallons 5.6 Gallons
Height 43.5" 46.9"
Length 81.3" 83.7"
Oil Capacity (with oil filter change) Spec Not Available 3.17 Qt.
Rake (Caster Angle) 24.0° 26.0°
Seat Height 32.8" 32.3"
Trail 3.8" 4.1"
Wheelbase 54.9" 57.1"
Width 28.3" 30.1"
Other 2005 YZF-R1 2005 FZ1
Color Team Yamaha Blue/White; Shift Red; Raven Team Yamaha Blue, Liquid Silver
Gear Ratio - 1st Gear Spec Not Available 35/14 (2.500)
Gear Ratio - 2nd Gear Spec Not Available 35/19 (1.842)
Gear Ratio - 3rd Gear Spec Not Available 30/20 (1.500)
Gear Ratio - 4th Gear Spec Not Available 28/21 (1.333)
Gear Ratio - 5th Gear Spec Not Available 30/25 (1.200)
Gear Ratio - 6th Gear Spec Not Available 29/26 (1.115)
Jet Needle Not Applicable #1,4: 5D129-3/5 #2,3: 5D130-3/5
Main Air Jet Not Applicable #80
Main Jet Not Applicable #1,4: #132.5 #2,3: #130
Needle Jet Not Applicable P-OM
Pilot Air Jet 1 Not Applicable #85
Pilot Jet Not Applicable #15
Pilot Outlet Not Applicable 1.0
Primary Reduction Ratio 65/43 (1.512) 68/43 (1.581)
Secondary Reduction Ratio 45/17 (2.647) 44/16 (2.750)
Warranty 1 Year (Limited Factory Warranty) 1 Year (Limited Factory Warranty)
MSRP $10,999 (Blue; Red)
$11,099 (Raven) All available from November 2004
$8,599* Available from December 2004

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