2015 Yamaha FZ-07: When the Twin Trumps the Triple

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2015 Yamaha FZ-07 Review: When the Twin Trumps the Triple

2015 Yamaha FZ-07
The 2015 Yamaha FZ-07, in Rapid Red. Photo © Tom Riles

Since the press launch of the 2015 Yamaha FZ-07 was my first official media event, I was on pins and needles about what to expect from the ride. Grilling every journalist and photographer within arm’s reach didn’t exactly calm my frayed nerves; the mere thought of being under the watchful eyes of Yamaha brass, let alone riding with the very same people who have penned articles I’ve been reading for years, can give a girl the jitters.

All fears and preconceived notions were cast aside during the presentation the evening before the ride, as I was made to feel completely at ease by everyone in the room. At that moment, fear was replaced by humility as I was regaled by stories from industry veterans to more personal anecdotes that made present company seemingly more human. Though lacking in industry experience, I relished on the one thing we did have in common: none of the journalists had ridden this motorcycle.  

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2015 Yamaha FZ-07: The 'Spec 'tacular Low Down

2015 Yamaha FZ-07
The 2015 Yamaha FZ-07's exposed 689cc parallel-twin engine, which saves weight by acting as a stressed member. Photo © Tom Riles

The 2015 Yamaha FZ-07 is priced at $6,990, and is powered by a 689cc parallel-twin engine that's built on a brand new platform, with an all new steel frame and swingarm. The engine uses the same 270-degree crossplane crankshaft design found in Yamaha’s four-cylinder R1 and M1 models, and the three-cylinder FZ-09 (which replaced the FZ8). The concept is that by rotating the position of the adjacent crank by 90 degrees, inertial torque is virtually eliminated allowing for combustion torque to closely mimic composite torque (which is the sum of the combustion and inertial torques) and allow for linear power delivery. 

In order to reduce overall weight to keep the FZ-07 a spritely 397 pounds (wet), Yamaha utilized the engine as a stressed member to reduce chassis frame weight, an engine-mounted shock, parallel twin cylinders, and 10-spoke cast aluminum wheels. Seating position is not aggressive, but upright and neutral. The seat height is a respectably low 31.7 inches, with the seat itself being flat with a taper at the tank junction allowing for greater access to full inseam range.

Couple the bike’s mid-range torque (50.2 ft/lbs) with its gear ratios, and you could call “fourth gear” the FZ-07’s happy place, transmission-wise. Fourth gear is wide enough to accommodate a range of speeds. Seasoned riders however are unlikely to notice the mild emphasis toward newer riders in the wide gear ratios, but rather the agility, the ergonomics, and instantaneous response to throttle inputs, the combination of which lends itself easily to hooliganism.

After riding the FZ-09 during last year’s World Superbike round at Laguna Seca, I left largely unimpressed, mostly due in part to the throttle response. This condition happily was not duplicated in the new model since the FZ-07 lacks the ride-by-wire throttle. For this reason you lose the pre-selected riding modes, but I guarantee you won’t miss them. The throttle on the FZ-07 lacks the twitchiness of its counterpart and won’t require the irksome throttle remapping that, despite the low price of the FZ-09, is a glitch that, in my opinion, would have been well-worth the added cost of being fixed at the manufacturer level.

Brakes have wave-type rotors with a monobloc four piston caliper in the front and a single caliper in the rear. That said, the only foreseeable downside in my opinion is the lack of ABS. While the topic of anti-lock brakes generally makes for lively dinner table conversation amongst motorcycle enthusiasts both new and old, offering it as an available option would be a fair compromise.

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The Ride: Tackling Beautiful Bainbridge Island

2015 Yamaha FZ-07
The author astride the FZ-07 on Bainbridge Island's twisty roads. Photo © Brian J. Nelson

Seattle, more specifically Bainbridge Island west of the city across Puget Sound, was selected as the press launch location. A fleet of Rapid Red, Liquid Graphite, and Pearl White FZ-07’s lined the hotel parking garage as we all stood by our respective color choices, engines humming. Heading out to catch the ferry, the bike felt very light and balanced with good weight distribution, which immediately translated into feeling confident and agile while dodging stop-and-go morning traffic through downtown Seattle’s maze of one-way streets. 

Once off the ferry, the meandering coastline and the town of Bainbridge Island quickly gave way to a dense forest of trees cut only by a network of winding two-lane roads with sweeping curves and the occasional straight away. To put it lightly, it was a perfect environment for testing the sportier side of this naked twin street bike. Acceleration was smooth and crisp out of each sweeping tree-lined arc and into the straightaway. Despite the damp pavement, the Michelin Pilots were sufficiently grippy. The brakes felt like they delivered adequate stopping power. 

The neutral, upright riding position is ideal for both urban commuting and short road trips. For beginners, the upright riding position feels natural, lending a sense of confidence to the rider. For seasoned riders, it translates to longer rides in the saddle with less discomfort than a more aggressive riding position. The compact and manageable size of the bike coupled with its ergonomics left my 5’9” frame and 33-inch inseam comfortable, not cramped.

As far as the seat comfort, my threshold for bench-style seats typically runs about six hours with few interruptions. The seat design on the FZ-07 is quite different from the FZ-09’s contoured bench seat in that it’s heart-shaped (tapered in the front, wider at the back). Strange as that layout may seem translated into words, after spending almost a full day on the FZ-07, I had no complaints and would have continued exploring the city if I had the time. 

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2015 Yamaha FZ-07: The Bottom Line

2015 Yamaha FZ-07
The smaller, lighter FZ-07 is an affordable alternative to the FZ-09. Photo © Tom Riles

If your interest in the FZ-07 has not already been piqued over its mechanical talents, perhaps economical considerations such as a sticker price of $6,990, an estimated 58 mpg fuel economy, and regular 87-octane fuel consumption requirements may persuade you. 

While drawing a direct comparison to the FZ-09 may not have been the desired outcome Yamaha expected, they have truly outdone themselves on developing a motorcycle that targets both the beginner and seasoned rider markets while unintentionally improving upon last year’s triple. For what you lose in engine size (158 cc), a third cylinder, seat height (0.4 inch), and weight (17 pounds), you gain in fuel economy (14 mpg), cost savings ($1,000), and a finished product overall which needs no additional fine tuning before it can be thoroughly enjoyed.