I managed to spend a day and a bit on the thoroughly revised (actually all new) 2006 and also got to run the bike on almost every type of road, from bumpy canyons, freeways and country roads, wet and dry. I\'ll let the cat out of the bag early and tell you a couple of things, this bike is a larger rear sprocket and 11 pounds short of being one of the funnest bikes I\'ve ever ridden. The sprocket issue is easily solvable, the 11 pounds needs a little help from a Euro friend and I\'ll try and show you the how and why.
So here\'s a modernized version of a bike deemed acceptable to the Y2.1K focus groups, so why that revision? Well, kudos to Yamaha, I suppose, because when they entered the class back in 2001 it gave the masses a bike that was a little more angrier that what they had been used to. Consequently it became the class leader in sales and pretty much stayed that way with the mark I version. Sure the bike was good, but only up to a certain level though, if you pushed the bike hard it tended to become a bit of a flexi flyer. Like a true sportbike should, Yamaha applied the usual upgrades to this version relative to a sportbike class and moved the bike toward superbike land with almost no penalty for those existing owners looking for a that modernized replacement.
So what did they do exactly? Well I\'m glad you asked... Obviously with a class leading bike they\'d be foolish to mess with a good thing. Yamaha thought the original bike was good, but they wanted it better. To appease present and future owners they hit three key areas right on the head - first, they wanted to maintain the every day real-world functionality, add some hi-po sportbike performance, and finally add some style points to further seal the deal. So, it\'s got improved performance, that beefier motor then needed a sportier frame, that new frame then needed a longer swingarm... Oh man, I\'m liking this direction already.
The bike looks far more aggressive than its older brother, and lines have been drawn and sharpened to bring this bike bang up to date. The front bikini fairing has a meany-mean look with that familiar looking dual cat-eye headlamp. The aerodynamics of that tiny fairing are apparently better than of yore, it\'s 17mm higher for better wind protection. I\'m not convinced, as I had a very turbulent area right in front of my noggin offering almost no protection and a ton of wind noise. If I stood up and got a clear shot of the wind blast, my Arai was almost silent. However, the line of that fairing follows the lines of the R1 style gas tank perfectly but I\'m European and most gals over there dump their bikini tops as soon as they can. Like I said earlier, naked bikes and ladies rule.
The rear of the newer bike is a very tidy unit, narrower, with generous handholds for the passenger. Shade-tree mechanics always think they can improve on rear-end looks and this one will give them no reason to think differently, giving latent fiddlers a chance to easily remove the license plate holder and such like. Should you venture onto the race track the whole lot unbolts just like the R6 does.
The exhaust system is one of the new "midship" designs that are low and mid-shippy. It\'s EU3 compliant with two three-way catalytic converters converting. It also has a closed loop O2 sensor, communicating your fuel injection needs with the ECU relative to your right wrist actions. The exhaust has a great sound to it and is stylish enough not to warrant an immediate replacement. I\'ll be interesting to see what the aftermarket comes up with, especially with the newer performance orientation the bike enjoys.
Motor-wise the new FZ1 is based on the 2006 R1 unit and is tagged as the most powerful engine in its class. As usual, it\'s neutered for enhanced midrange, I say neutered because they\'ve robbed Peter to pay Paul and lopped off some RPM and corresponding horsepower. It\'s still healthy though at 148BHP at the crank and at 10,00RPM (seven up from last year) and with 78.2 foot pounds of torque, matching last year\'s model. The cams are reprofiled (from the R1) and the crankshaft is some 33% heavier too, to soften the delivery somewhat and promote a strong bottom end. The gear ratios match the R1 in the first four gears with a longer 5th and 6th gear to lower RPM at cruising/highway speeds. Stretching out first gear on the R1 sees 104MPH showing on the clock, at the limiter - the FZ1? 87mph.
Fuel injection for the new FZ is the same as the R1 too, with a quartet of 45mm throttle bodies, up from last year\'s FZ\'s, 37mm. The system features the same twin flutterby valves, one cable controlled (by your wrist) and the second set mechanically by the ECU and its perceived translation of what you\'re trying to make the thing do. It all worked well for me and the only downside was when you shut the throttle off, the engine compression braking upset the bike a little, probably due to the heavier crank. I actually slowed the rebound down to stop the front end returning to full travel too quickly and making me run wide on some corners. Two clicks were all it took.
One of the most outstanding features of this bike was the narrower, lighter and stiffer chassis. The vertical, torsional and horizontal rigidities of the cast aluminum twin spar frame, have been upped in varying degrees from 140% through to 410%. The die-cast control filled rear swing arm is 45mmm longer all kept in check by Kayaba suspension front and rear. The effect was superb - the forks were stiffer as well, a little too much for some of the lighter squirts in my group, but perfect for my 195lb chiseled and chippendale-like frame. The older FZ always got a little nervous at speed, this one will take all you can throw at it, and some. Feedback was good and confidence inspiring, I was chased, I mean I was riding pretty quick in appalling weather and I never got caught.... out, at all. Some credit must come down to the extraordinary wet weather qualities of the equipped Michelin pilot road tires. Even in the dry though, the bike always stayed composed regardless of how silly I got.
That stiffer chassis is nearly 20lbs lighter than the older bike and the motor is wedged in a little tighter and 35mm more forward, all helping to maintain the R1\'s own weight bias of 51% to 49% front to rear. The rake is also one degree sharper on this bike to quicken up the steering and the trail lengthened a little to offer rock solid stability when you\'re leant over on your ear. The seat is a tad lower and the handlebars are five tads lower too (OK, 1 tad = 5mm). Your hips are now 49mm more forward with those handlebars 10mm closer. The foot pegs are adjusted up and back 16mm and 27mm respectively, they are still a little too easy to drag but the overall effect is a slightly forward lean with no weight on your wrists - Nicely done, Yamaha.
Brakes are 4-piston non-radial Sumitomo fronts that are true two-finger perfection. There was exemplary feel, and whilst racing around on the wet roads of northern California they bailed me out of more trouble than I could get myself into. The clutch lever span was a little big for me and did give me a slight ache after a days worth of hooning. Overall though, the bike just oozed style and quality and with a 10% increase in its power to weight ratios, and it backed up those points when the speeds got busy. Yamaha looked for a higher grade performance with maximum versatility and they got both.
By the way, further design points contribute to its 24lb overall weight reduction namely the very nice looking analog tach with an adjacent digital multi display. The display is both small and lightweight with the usual idiot lights, a dual trip meter and a digital fuel display. The wheels also went from 3-spoke to 5-spoke, but remarkably, weigh less than last years. Maybe next year we\'ll see a seven spoke, and lighter still? The front suspension features compression damping one side and rebound damping on the other, adjusting one side of the fork obviously effects the other side and was seamless in action. I\'m assuming this was done for weight and cost reduction.
So would I buy one? Well here\'s the conundrum - yes I wouldn\'t, and no I would. This is a bike that is fifty pounds heavier than the current 2006 R1. Personally I\'d take that 2006 R1 and drop its fairing, add the risers and some shortened final drive and live happily ever after on a quality suspended streetfighter (some 20LB lighter still). No wind protection? I\'ll happily trade you 180MPH for the shit eating grin that bike will give me up to 140mph - but that\'s a lot of work though. The lucky Euro\'s are going to be enjoying a freebie naked version (seen here) of this 2006 FZ1 bike, some 11lbs lighter too, are they more manly than we are? Ich\' don\'t think so - how many of you have speedo\'s in your bottom drawer? Enough said.
Yamaha has done a brilliant job with this current FZ1, and it just plain gets it done. You could commute, sport ride and trackday this bike with minor mods ( mostly tire related.) What a wicked deal for just a little more than $9K Yamaha will probably add a set of fairing lowers and a higher windscreen to fine tune the bike to your ride style. The Euro\'s get a set of hard luggage (for their speedo collection?) As mentioned, it\'s one of the funnest motorcycles that Yamaha has ever given me the keys to - I just wish it had a little less clothing. Either way, if you have a current FZ1 in your garage that\'s anything less than a 2006, it\'s time for a well-earned upgrade.