The knock against supersport bikes is that despite their cutting edge technology, outstanding performance and razor sharp profile, they are not motorcycles intended for the street. The ergonomics are designed for the track where they make sense: low set clip-ons, thin seat and high footpegs all attached to a firm suspension. This package works well on the track for 25 laps while dragging knees and, in some cases, elbows and more than occasionally footpegs.
However, unless you are young, limber or permanently bent to that profile, more than a couple of hours on the street in the saddle of a repli-racer can be trying. There are many riders who appreciate the performance but without the riding position, which is why the naked bike segment has grown over the years.
The tradeoffs are almost nonexistent while the benefits are many. Joining a string of bikes that includes the Suzuki GSX-S1000, Kawasaki Z1000 and BMW S1000R among several others, Yamaha has now introduced the 2017 FZ-10 as the current pinnacle of its FZ family. The Yamaha roadster follows a similar strategy of borrowing an engine from the litre-class sportbike, in this case the excellent YZF-R1, and retuning it for less but more accessible horsepower—if 160 horsepower can be truly quantified as “less”—and dropping it into a light yet modified chassis.
Torque and horsepower have been reconfigured for street riding rather than track duty; useable power is now situated closer to the middle of the tach than at the very top. The 998cc engine retains Yamaha’s crossplane architecture but it’s more than a simple software patch that makes its performance characteristics different from the R1. The camshafts have reduced lift and the intake valves less diameter, the pistons have been reengineered for less compression and the famous crossplane crankshaft is heavier.
All this works to make the throttle response smoother and less twitchy, in addition to changes available through Yamaha’s D-Mode throttle settings. So much of the thinking about sportbike development in the past 20 years centered on shaving weight from every available component. While every gram saved is an advantage on the track, excess weight loss can be detrimental on the street where the riding environment is far less predictable, the pavement less smooth and the expectations far different. In short the FZ-10 may weigh 210 kilograms, but that is good.
The FZ-10 doesn’t get the entire range of Yamaha Ride Control aids found on the R1, but is does get the most significant for the street—traction control. As expected there are three settings: sport, normal and wet. If an extended swingarm and burnouts are to be part of your FZ-10, traction control can be turned off entirely. The bike is also fitted with the now requisite ABS, which it should be considering that traction control would not exist without it. Front braking consists of two 320mm discs while the rear is a single 220mm. The system is not linked.
What you may not have expected is cruise control. Yamaha has bet that the FZ-10 is so comfortable owners will want to strap a tank bag on the 17-litre steel tank and hit the road. If the road includes some boring, straight drudgery, punch the cruise button, which sets at minimum 50 kmh and maximum 180 kmh. Also fitted for touring is a separate steel subframe that will support the use of bags found on the Yamaha accessory list, along with a topcase. For even more ease of use, there’s a revised final gear ratio and clutch assist reduces pull effort.
Sitting on the FZ-10 feels natural and neutral in the way that a standard bike with wide bars, a narrow waist and sculpted tank can. The seat itself is firm for those long days in the saddle but Yamaha sells a Comfort Seat as an accessory. More padding and broader would be the hope. The Kayaba suspension has 119mm of travel front and rear, but with a load the ride will be even firmer.
This new model is substantial and smooth, with readily accessible power at all throttle positions, and the willingness to do what it’s asked. If it’s called upon for hooligan duty, it will accommodate. If the order of the day is a long ride it has more than enough power to be enjoyable one- or two-up. Considering its pedigree, the FZ-10 has the credentials for sport but what’s surprising is how the right changes have improved its suitability for the street. The most interesting challenge for the FZ-10 may well come from its own Yamaha stablemates. At MSRP $15,499 the FZ-10 is substantially more expensive than the FZ-09 ($8,999). Undeniably, the FZ-10 has more potential and is technically a more sophisticated machine with a power-to-weight ratio outstripping the smaller bike. But will it inspire the kind of passion that exceeds the price difference?
You can’t leave the FZ-10 without considering its looks. Definitively, it falls into the love it or hate it category. As with others in the category there is an overly designed aggressiveness about its appearance—verging on being cyborg cartoonish. Gone are the clean, smooth lines of other FZ family members. Add the effect of the matte grey paint scheme and you might at any moment expect to hear the FZ-10 intone that, “resistance is futile; assimilation is inevitable.” If that happens take it to your Yamaha dealer and have the protocols rebooted. It’s your bike after all. And you really should be the master.