2014 Yamaha FZ-09 Review: Triple the Fun

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2014 Yamaha FZ-09 Review: Introduction

2014 Yamaha FZ-09
2014 Yamaha FZ-09. Photo © Yamaha

The late, great (and rather underappreciated) Yamaha FZ8 ticked a lot of boxes for rough and tumble naked bike lovers.

But what if I told you that Yamaha optimized their formula by ditching one cylinder, shaving 53 pounds, adding more power, and incorporating friendlier ergonomics? And wait, there's more: how about if I said the new 2014 Yamaha FZ-09 is priced at $7,990, a full $500 less than the now-defunct FZ8?

Let's dive into this brave new world where motorcycles are quicker, cheaper-- and, quite possibly, better than ever.

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2014 Yamaha FZ-09 Review: The Goods

The Yamaha FZ-09 powerplant
The Yamaha FZ-09 powerplant. Photo © Yamaha

Let's cut to the chase: the 2014 Yamaha FZ-09's main attraction is its powerplant, a new 847cc three-cylinder that departs from the sacred Japanese formula of using four-cylinders. In fact, that last time Yamaha sold a triple in the US was 1983, which begs the question: why a triple this time around?

For starters, three-cylinders are inherently compact and torquey, two characteristics that lend themselves well to naked bike design. For evidence of that fact, look no further than Triumph's charismatic three-cylinders like the Speed Triple, Explorer, and Tiger. As such, the FZ-09's 847cc triple incorporates features like staggered length intake funnels for broader power delivery, a built-in resonator for stirring intake sounds, three-setting throttle mapping (more on that later), and an offset cylinder design (like we've seen from Honda), offering Yamaha's first multi-cylinder production application of this feature. The 120º crankshaft has a balancer shaft which runs the water pump, and a new 6-speed transmission packs two more clutch plates than the FZ8 (for a total of 8) to handle the added torque. Spent gases travels through a three-into-one stainless exhaust system, and the arrangements yields an estimated EPA figure of 44 mpg.

The die-cast aluminum frame and swingarm help contribute to the FZ-09's spritely wet weight of 414 pounds, using the engine as a stressed member. Key features like narrow construction, a slim seat (which sits 32.1 inches high and enables easy reach to the ground), and inset rearsets make the FZ-09 feel rather small and manageable. Ergonomics have been revised since the FZ8 with lower pegs, a taller, more rearward handlebar, and a motard-like seating position that pushes you against the tank more snugly. Because of its lighter weight, the FZ-09 gets away with a smaller, 298mm front disc. For those interested in skid-free stops, ABS is not available.

The front suspension consists of a 41mm inverted fork with adjustable preload and rebound, while the rear single-shock setup also has adjustable preload and rebound settings.

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2014 Yamaha FZ-09: On the Road

2014 Yamaha FZ-09
The FZ-09 tackles a corner. Photo © Yamaha

Straddling the FZ-09 reveals a surprisingly easy reach to pavement thanks to the narrow saddle and slim frame, with a small, asymmetrical digital instrument panel and a few rough edges (like sloppy cables extending from the handgrips). However, with its motard-style handlebar and forward-focused stance, the FZ-09 takes on an eager, jaunty appearance, even before it starts moving.

The throttle mapping mode defaults to "Standard," while a right handgrip-mounted button switches it to "A" (most aggressive) or "B" (mildest.) The triple fires up with a pleasing snarl, with a surprisingly sharp (and often jerky) throttle response in "A" and "Standard." Roll-on throttle in all but the mildest settings triggers abrupt power delivery, but at least the sensation is consistent with the bike's sharp dynamics and eager personality; thanks to its torquey engine and short gearing, the FZ-09's front end lightens during hard acceleration, and the bike responds to input with nearly instantaneous, hair-trigger responsiveness. The engine's focus on low-to-mid range torque makes it better suited to city riding, where you won't get the usual windblown effect of a naked bike that lacks a proper fairing.

While the suspension feels nimble during relatively low-speed cornering, it starts to feel more taxed when the going gets twisty. Suffice to say, the FZ-09 doesn't quite offer as much suspension refinement as the venerable Triumph Speed Triple, but then again, this Yammie is also a staggering $4,800 cheaper than its British counterpart. The Yamaha's radially-mounted front brakes offer good feel and strong stopping power, though they're surprisingly not available with ABS.

Somewhat predictably, the FZ-09 is a hoot to ride around town but its motard-inspired ergonomics and firm saddle can make it taxing on longer rides... nonetheless, this Yamaha's dynamics do manage to stay true to its functional layout and fun-to-ride intentions.

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2014 Yamaha FZ-09: Bottom Line, Specs, Who Should Buy?

2014 Yamaha FZ-09
2014 Yamaha FZ-09. Photo © Basem Wasef

Bottom Line

Yamaha has succeeded at building a naked middleweight that, at $7,990, is priced surprisingly well while delivering sharp, entertaining, stunt-inspiring performance. Its shortcomings are small-- among them a stiff saddle, suspension that can get squishy at the extremes, and a throttle that's sensitive in all but the softest settings. The lack of available anti-lock brakes may also annoy those seeking an extra layer of security. On the other hand, the FZ-09's magnetic personality and fun, visceral feedback make it hard bike not to fall in love with. Because of those qualities, the FZ-09 seems destined to become one of the great performance motorcycle bargains of the year, and one of the most rewarding and fun sportbikes to ride in a long time.

Specifications

Price: $7,990

Engine: 847cc liquid-cooled, three-cylinder with DOHC

Fuel Capacity: 3.7 gallons

Fuel Economy: 44 mpg (EPA estimated)

Transmission: 6-speed

Final Drive: Chain

Front Suspension: 41mm fork with adjustable preload and rebound, 5.4 inches of travel

Rear Suspension: Single shock with adjustable preload and rebound, 5.1 inches of travel

Brakes: Dual 298mm disc, four-piston (front); single 245mm disc (rear)  

Rake: 25º

Wet Weight: 414 pounds

Seat Height: 32.1 inches

Who Should Buy the 2014 Yamaha FZ-09?

Naked bike fans on a budget willing to trade long term comfort for short term thrills.