Michael Bay’s lawyers are surely sharpening their pens. Yamaha’s latest foray into rampant, naked aggression carries with it a visage that is indistinguishable from the metal aliens depicted in his movie adaptation of Transformers.
It’s a wild, over-wrought styling treatment that makes BMW’s once-controversial motorcycle designs look benign. Some people call this “ugly”. I disagree. Strongly.
The 2017 Yamaha FZ-10 is polarizing, I’ll grant you – but every strenuously designed detail evokes power and aggression. This is a street fighter, factory-built and with the engine straight from Yamaha’s superbike flagship, the R1.
This engine is the same one used in the R1S, with a heavier crank and less sexy go-fast bits inside than the full-blown R1 and R1M engine. Perhaps as a concession to the R1 family the rev limiter here is set to 11,800 rpm, 200 less than the R1S and 2,200 less than the R1 – the lower RPM might also be a symptom of the intake system changes.
This engine packs a 160 hp wallop with 82 lb-ft of torque which is down from the 200 hp R1S courtesy of a more conservative cam shaft and smaller intake ports. Yamaha says this is designed to help the FZ-10 use its power earlier on, and it does – with peak power at 11,500 rpm.
The gear ratios are all the same internally, but the rear sprocket is a 43-tooth which effectively shortens all the ratios.
It’s a bizarre thing, but the FZ-10, which I’ve been so excited to ride, almost felt too tame around town when compared to the XSR900: at least for the first day or two. I’ve praised the Yamaha triple a lot, naming it my favourite engine of 2016, and it’s true that the high-strung, peaky inline four isn’t as well suited to around-town fun as the triple.
You know what it is though?
Much, much faster. Leave the gear lever mostly alone and let the revs build and the FZ-10 will give you plenty of “character” as the R1-based motor squeals through the rev range. Tip into a corner and the FZ-10 is a scalpel, carving out a line as cleanly and quickly as the R1 but with even more control from the high, wide bars.
Shifts from the slipper-clutch-equipped six-speed transmission are hefty and slick, falling into place convincingly with each nudge of my left toe. Even neutral is easy to find.
Apart from a bolstered rear sub-frame designed to cope with extra luggage weight and a steel tank/airbox cover, the chassis of the FZ is virtually unchanged from the R1. The fully adjustable front and rear suspension is identical, as is the electronic steering damper and alumimum Deltabox frame.
At 825 mm, seat height is 30 mm lower on the FZ.
There’s no YRC six-axis sensor unit here though, just the three-mode traction control to keep you from high-siding yourself into hospital.
You do get cruise control – which the R1 doesn’t – and a very clear, comprehensive instrument cluster that is excellent in all lights.
You also get powerful, progressive brakes that give excellent feedback right up to the point the very subtle ABS kicks in to stop you face-planting in the asphalt. Unlike the R1, these are not linked.
The exuberant styling continues out the rear, where the frankly pointless plastic eyelids over the taillight caused one pillion passenger some drama – it seems her backside landed a little further back as she climbed aboard and it dislodged one of those pieces. I’d like to see them mounted more robustly than they are.
With two on board the FZ-10 loses none of its effervescence. The adjustable rear spring picks up the extra weight comfortably, though the front wheel does become more eager to leave the ground. Make sure you get your weight forward.
In terms of other naked litre bikes the FZ-10 is certainly packing the most extreme styling, out-doing even the BMW S1000R. It packs more common chassis components to the litre bike it’s based on than the Suzuki GSX-S1000.
Power-wise the FZ-10 gives most other Japanese nakeds a spanking, with 15 more peak hp than the GSX-S and the Z1000. Yamaha’s 160 hp matches up exactly with the BMW S1000R and the Ducati Monster 1200 R, so it’s certainly no slouch. For some reason I remember the GSX-S1000 feeling gruntier than the FZ-10 did though. I’m not sure if it was tuning or gearing but the Suzuki gave a lot more from low revs. The FZ-10 requires you to keep it on boil.
I spoke in my 2016 Yamaha YZF-R1S review about the value proposition that bike makes – at $16,699 it gives you access to the full R1 experience $2,300 cheaper than the regular R1 with very little penalty in terms of features and performance.
At $15,499 the 2017 Yamaha FZ-10 is an even more compelling option. You get a boost in practicality and usability and a drop in price with a reasonably modest drop in real-world performance. If you’re more street fighter than track hound there’s a lot to like in this package. Especially if you like the appeal of riding one of the most unique looking rides on the market.
Key Specs: 2017 Yamaha FZ-10
Engine: 998cc, inline four
Horsepower: 160 hp @ 11,500 rpm (official)
Torque: 82 lb-ft @ 11,300 rpm (official)
Curb weight (wet): 210 kg
Seat height: 825 mm
Length: 2,095 mm
Wheelbase: 1,400 mm
Width: 800 mm
Tires front/rear: 120/70ZR17, 190/55 ZR17
Fuel capacity: 17L
Suspension: 43 mm conventional fork 120 mm travel
Rear – adjustable link monocross with 120 mm travel.
Frame Type: gravity cast, twin spar, Deltabox, aluminum frame – engine is a stressed member.