We pit these brothers against each other to see which one wins in the all-around fun bike department
Story by Marcus Martellacci
Pitted against one another in a battle for supremacy, two brothers struggle to gain the upper hand. The advantage repeatedly changes hands until imminent exhaustion appears to hand down its own verdict, crushing the hopes of one unlucky soul. To the victor go the spoils and bragging rights for all eternity.
With no clear winner, and dire consequences swiftly approaching, the tiebreaker is expedited by a game of rock-paper-scissors.
I don’t think our parents had intended for us to be so competitive; then again, what else is to be expected from a couple of brothers only a year apart? Standing next to the 2014 FZ-09 and its little brother, the 2015 FZ-07, I wondered what Yamaha had intended for this fraternal pair, in regard to whom they are best suited for and how they stack up. Having them together for a couple of weeks would provide the opportunity for a few Mojo contributors to weigh in on the matter.
The 2014 Yamaha FZ-09 has been grabbing headlines worldwide thanks to its price point and an absolutely stomping 847 cc engine, making 115 hp and 63 ft-lb of torque. Its three-cylinder power plant delivers great low-down thrust that turns into an impressive top-end rush. The engine’s versatile nature could be the reason we’re seeing more triples on the market, as they make torque in a similar fashion to a twin and pull hard on top like an inline-four. However, Yamaha is not responsible for reviving the popularity of triples: that honour goes to Triumph, and given Triumph’s recent history of making fabulous three-cylinder engines, the boys from Hinckley should consider a new logo that includes the phrase “Told you so.”
Weighing in at a scant 188 kg, there’s little effort needed to pick the FZ-09 up off the side stand. The wide motocross-style handlebar provides lots of leverage, but similar to grabbing a bull by the horns, you know you’re holding onto something that could get out of hand in a hurry. The bench-shaped seat is a fairly low 815 mm, with lots of room to move around on.
While scrolling through the three engine modes it became apparent that the sporty “A” mode is very abrupt in its initial throttle response. Feathering the clutch when transitioning from a closed to open throttle eliminated the jerkiness, though it’s not an ideal solution. Software updates from Yamaha are said to solve the issue, but we haven’t had a chance to test those claims. The default “Standard” mode at start-up alleviated some of the throttle’s on-off touchiness; again, feathering the clutch helped smooth the switch.
The “B” setting is the tamest and was noticeably smoother, offering less power and urging me to put it back into A mode and open the throttle, as if to apologize to the FZ-09 for the insult. This is one of the most flexible power plants on the market, and oh what a lovely noise it emits. Making the engine howl on this bike was pure audio-erotica, and somewhere between my ear and my brain, the sound scratched an itch I didn’t know I had.
Hang on Tight
Worth mentioning is the bike’s willingness to wheelie on the throttle in any of the first three gears, and it’s this trait more than any other that takes the FZ-09 out of the “beginner-friendly” zone and puts it in the “hooligan” category. An inexperienced or overzealous rider could be caught out by the instantaneous throttle response, light weight and short wheelbase of the FZ-09. On the other hand, an experienced rider will find those same traits make it one of the most entertaining bikes on the road.
The suspension on the FZ-09 was underwhelming at times, given the rest of the package. Despite both the front fork and rear shock being adjustable for preload and rebound damping, I struggled to find a confidence-inspiring set-up.
Yamaha’s announcement of the FZ-07 was overshadowed slightly by the hype surrounding the FZ-09. However, after we had a chance to sample it ourselves, some superior qualities immediately emerged. First, the throttle has a crisp, almost telekinetic response. The 689 cc parallel twin practically puts its pistons in your hands and asks, “What would you like the back wheel to do now?” A new rider couldn’t ask for a better line of communication to those 75 hp and 50 ft-lb of torque, while experienced riders will find a willing participant that wants to sing from the bottom of the tach to the top. Power comes in right off idle with an aggressive baritone note from the 270-degree crank that crescendos at a 10,000 rpm redline, where the FZ-07 feels surprisingly lively for a twin. It too will hoist the front wheel with ease in the first three gears, but doing so predictably, without fear of the handlebar smacking you in the face, as on the FZ-09.
At 180 kg, the FZ-07 is a confidence builder, and the low seat height of 805 mm combined with a narrow waistline makes flat-footed stops possible for even a 30-inch inseam. Get the bike rolling and this featherweight’s agile nature will have you tossing it into corners and getting on the gas early. Forget about touching a knee down – power slides are way more fun, and this bike practically begs for it.
Perhaps I’m getting a bit carried away. After all, this is supposed to be the more beginner-friendly of the two new nakeds from Yamaha, but the little FZ has traits that advanced riders will be able to exploit, and they’re the same ones that new riders may never outgrow.
Suspension components are basic at best for a bike of this calibre. The rear shock is adjustable for preload, but that’s it: what you see is what you get. The front fork is a 41 mm, non-adjustable unit that felt more like a pogo stick at first, blowing through most of its travel with just a whisper from the front brake. Harsh criticism yes, but…