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2011 Yamaha FZ1 Comparison

Monday, September 26, 2011

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2011 Yamaha FZ1 Comparison Video
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The oldest of our testing quintet, how does the FZ1 fare against these Road Sports than its previous streetfigher comparison tests? Find out in the 2011 Yamaha FZ1 Comparison Video.
The 2011 Yamaha FZ1 heads into this Road Sport comparison the most seasoned model. Aside from ECU tweaks, it’s unchanged from the last time we compared it way back in in 2007. Yet, the familiar Yamaha more than holds its own in our Road Sport test.

The FZ1 ran against naked standards in past MotoUSA streetfighter comparison tests, where it felt bulky and overdressed. The opposite is true amongst its new Road Sport competitors, where the half-faired Fazer flaunts its semi-naked styling – foremost being the eye-catching exhaust headers up front.

While the Yamaha stands out with its skimpy looks, it’s the R1-derived Inline Four that delivers unique performance on the road. The FZ1 sources its engine from the pre-crossplane R1, with a dual overhead cam 20-valve design manipulating the older five-valve head. At 998cc the Yamaha is the smallest displacement in the test. It’s also the most oversquare powerplant, with a 77mm bore and 53mm stroke.

Despite its cc disadvantage, the FZ1’s superbike lineage exerts itself on the dyno where it turns the drum up to 129.8 rear wheel horsepower. This edges the Ninja 1000 by more than six ponies, but trails the Honda and BMW, which enjoy a more than 250cc advantage. Its 67.22 lb-ft of torque ranks at the bottom (the beefy BMW twisting its crank with more
2011 Yamaha FZ1 Comparison Review
2011 Yamaha FZ1 Comparison Review
2011 Yamaha FZ1 Comparison Review
The Yamaha FZ1's 998cc Inline Four is sourced from a pre-crossplane R1 and sports a top-end biased powerband.
than 20 extra lb-ft of force), but the FZ1 makes up for its torque deficit by revving higher. It screams well beyond the competition, revving more than 1000 rpm past the Honda and BMW, and 2500 more than the Suzuki and Kawasaki.

On the street, the FZ1’s top-end biased powerband chases some of the larger competition despite some pretty effective street-biased gearing. It’s slightly more difficult to tap into the good stuff on the Yamaha than the deep torque-rich wells powering its rivals. We also note that where the power delivery was defined as electric back in ’07, it feels much crisper now – perhaps owing to its ECU updates. While it does need to get milked for the good power up top, once wound-out the Fazer’s Four wails. Rev up the tach and there’s a terrific zing from eight grand onward.

“Even though the FZ1 isn’t the fastest bike here,” says Scot, “it’s still a blast to ride. Get that engine spun up and it’s right there with the Ninja and BMW, but the problem is they are a wee bit faster.”

“Every time we did impromptu roll-on tests, no matter what gear we were in, the Ninja and K1300 were the fastest… but not by much,” agrees Ken. “There’s something about that Yamaha mill that makes it fun to ride. It sounds cool, feels cool and hauls butt. That’s a recipe for success.”

The Yamaha’s top-end powerband is the polar opposite, in this test, of the low-end biased Suzuki. And where the Suzuki feels easiest to ride, some of our riders felt the FZ1 requires a little more work. “The Yamaha feels like it has a high peak horsepower,” says Robin, our devil’s advocate of the FZ engine, “but it is all on the top of the rev range, so it isn’t ideal for street riding.”

One thing that is ideal for the street is Yamaha’s six-speed transmission. Test riders laud its smooth gearbox and surefooted engagement of the cable-actuated clutch.

“The Yamaha works so well. The clutch is really good, the tranny is spot on and it feels like it is damn near perfect for the street,” declares Gibson, who abused the drivetrain with more than a few chain stretching wheelies. He also found the gearing ideal for hanging with the big kids. “It rolls on strong and is always right there with the Kawi and Beemer, no matter what gear we were in.”

Riders tout the Yamaha’s brakes for outright power and sporty feel – reckoning only the potent Honda stoppers better. The brakes are free of any the electronic aids, like linking or ABS, found on its competition. Instead it’s direct, precise modulation at the lever from the dual 320mm disc and four-piston monobloc binders up front.

The Yamaha shines in the handling department too, where it bests all but the sublime VFR. Where the FZ1 felt heavy and sluggish in past showdowns against nimble streetfigher foes, the opposite is true in this test. In fact, the Yamaha was the lightest of the Road Sports with a 486-pound curb weight.

The FZ1 delivers sporty engine performance, which it complemented by a potent brakes and supple suspension.
Also light is the steering, the Fazer is easy to tip in and transition. It feels steadier in the corners than the Kawasaki, and while the BMW is a more stable mount, the Yamaha proves far more responsive to rider inputs. Aiding performance in the twisties is a sporty suspension package, with a three-way adjustable inverted fork and preload/rebound-adjustable rear shock. Both are sprung well for an aggressive pace, and the FZ1’s neutral handling and upright riding position make it both easy and comfortable to attack curvy asphalt.

“The latest generation FZ1 is very sporty and the suspension is an excellent compromise between supple comfort and sporting agility,” touts Ken. “When it came time to carve up our back-country byways – I want to be on the Yamaha.”

The FZ1’s half fairing and flat windscreen deliver respectable wind protection. Riding position is comfortably upright, with a slight sporty lean. All riders enjoyed the handlebar contours and placement. Yet the Yamaha lags somewhat in ergonomics thanks to its seat. Most test riders couldn’t agree why they disliked it, only that it rated last with almsot all our riders pegging it as the least comfortable.

“If I owned the FZ1 I would have to change the seat out for an aftermarket first thing,” explains Robin. “While the riding position is reasonably easy on the shoulders, wrist and back, I simply couldn’t get past how uncomfortable the seat is.”

Couching these complaints is contrarian Kenneth, who champions the FZ perch. “The seat was best, by far, and there is quite a bit of wind protection,” promises Hutch. “I could ride all day on the FZ1. It had the best riding position for me at 5’8” tall. The bars have a nice bend, plus I like the way they look compared to the clip-on style of the VFR and Ninja and way better than the cheesy chrome bar on the Suzuki.”

2011 Yamaha FZ1 Comparison Review
The FZ1 knows what to do when the road kinks up. The suspension holds up well to high-speed cornering attacks.
Ken’s pillion tester raves about the FZ1’s comfort as well. “Almost perfect with a comfortable seat that seemed to be the best in the corners,” says Laura. “The riding position was also very good, as my legs weren’t too cramped up, but the tank was a long reach when I had to brace for braking. The grab rails were good too.”

Despite sporting the highest-revving mill, the Yamaha registers the best fuel efficiency (39.8 mpg) and longest range (191 miles) during our test. This ups the versatility factor, and while it wouldn’t be the most comfortable touring bike, it could be pressed into service with some soft bags and bungees.

While some in our testing troop favor the naked lines of the Yamaha, there’s no getting around that it’s the longest in the tooth. Appearance-wise its lacks some of the flair of the more expensive bikes or the modern, aggressive lines of the Ninja (the Suzuki looks old, even though it’s new for 2011). The instrumentation and switchgear doesn’t stand out either, but they exude practicality. We particularly dig the large, easy-to-read digital speedo.

The biggest argument for the Yamaha is its $10,490 MSRP. Riders get a lot of bang for the buck with the versatile FZ1, more than five grand less than either the BMW or the Honda!

As it is, the Yamaha FZ1 surprises in this comparison. A potent, high-revving engine and sporty chassis deliver exciting road performance, while a lowest-in-class MSRP gives it even more appeal as a practical mount. One thing’s for sure, the familiar Fazer now has us looking at it in an all-new light.

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YamahaStreet Bike Dealer Locator
2011 Yamaha FZ1 Specs
2011 Yamaha FZ1 Comparison Review
Engine: Inline Four
Displacement: 998cc
Bore x Stroke: 77 x 53.6
Compression: 11.5:1
Valvetrain: DOHC, 20 valves
Horsepower: 129.84 hp 
Torque: 67.22 lb-ft
Final Drive: Chain
Transmission: Six-speed
Clutch: Cable-actuated
Frame: Aluminum
Curb Weight: 486 pound 
Front Brakes: 320mm discs, 4-piston monobloc calipers
Rear Brakes: 245mm disc, single-piston caliper
Front Tire: 120/70 ZR17
Rear Tire: 190/50 ZR17
Tires: Dunlop Sportmax
Front Suspension: 43mm fork, preload / compression / rebound adjustment
Rear Suspension: aluminum swingarm, single shock, preload / rebound adjustment 
Rake: 25 degrees
Trail: 4.3 in
Wheelbase: 57.5 in
Seat Height: 32.1 in
Length: 84.3 in
Width: 30.3 in
Height: 47.4 in
Fuel Capacity: 4.8 gallon 
MPG: 39.8
Range: 191 miles 
MSRP: $10,490
Warranty: 12 months
Highs & Lows
  • Most Affordable MSRP 
  • Sporty Handling 
  • Comfortable Riding Position 
  • Top-End Biased Engine 
  • Questionable Seat Comfort 
  • Getting Long-in Tooth 
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LARdrFz1   August 30, 2014 11:03 PM
One other thing about the FZ1 that can't be mentioned enough: 26,000 miles between valve adjustments! Yes, I am an old coot -- old enough to have suffered maintenance-hog bikes. Easy maintenance and low-cost ownership add up if the bike is used for more than occasional fun. Buy the FZ1 like that. No between the lights wheelies, but you could actually tour on this mount.
pacman52   January 14, 2013 03:17 PM
I had a 2007 FZ1 and now have a 2012 FZ1. I don't mind its lazyness & smoothness at low RPM knowing that you just get the RPM up and it transforms itself into a fast and furious machine. I believe the FZ1 is a pretty good value for the money. Did I say I like mine?
arless   November 19, 2011 07:38 PM
What is wrong with a bike that does not squirt out of a corner like a frog?, or let a house fly lite on the go fast handle and throw you off the bike. "And cry" I only touched the throttle?? want a touchy hyper bike? go a head. Personally I love a big liter bike that is lazy at low rpm and crazy at high rpms."A Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide" Yamaha FZ1...A motorcycle that will cut a 10.6 1/4Th mile time at 130+ mph straight off the show room. And yes it is sea level corrected before some one boils over at the time and mph of the big FZ1. Yes it's been around a long, long, time... and all the bugs are worked out of the bike. You can run around in a couple gears to high for the speed your running, and it will pull smooth and easy right on up there. If you mishap with the throttle it will not through you off the bike. A wolf in sheep's clothing. Make no mistake it's a R1 in a upright aluminum frame Nu-ff said
arless   October 27, 2011 10:54 PM
I have always loved the look of the FZ1 Yamaha, I think it looks gangster and mean,and a nasty fast look to the motor and header pipes. And being 5'9" tall, with a 29" stride, I will bet the bike will fit me like a glove. The last bike that I have ridden that was remotely fast was a cb750 Honda the old sohc verizon. Ran as good as a 389Ci Pontiac with three deuces and a four speed. A mid to high 12 second quarter mile time. With today's touchy throttle bikes, even with pryer experience, a man need take extra precaution with a FZ1 on his first mount since the early 80's. However I grew up on mini bikes and 350 Honda's 450 Honda's cb750, Yamaha 650 twin 360 Honda. So... I think I know how to take it real easy--- got to get that Yamaha FZ1 though. probably the last bike at my age I will ever need. God bless you all and safe riding (ride like everybody is out to get you, and never make left hand turns in town during traffic and you might live to be an old man some day. Ride to live, live to ride be "SAFE"
neo1piv014   October 18, 2011 07:54 AM
I actually test rode an FZ1 a few months back, and the lack of bottom end definitely made itself known since the test loop was mostly side streets and residential areas. Up until that point, the only bikes I had ridden were a Ninja 250, BMW K1200S, and BMW F800s, and the FZ1 felt somewhere between the F800s and the Ninja 250. Maybe I just didn't ever spool it up to that meaty powerband, but for street bikes, you can't say enough about a good bottom/midrange oriented engine.