After years of getting beaten up on the showroom floor Yamaha is enticing new and experienced riders alike with its FZ-09 ($7990). Sporting an all-new crossplane-equipped engine along with an easy handling chassis, the new Yamaha offers a favorable value proposition for those who want to ride.
In contrast of the clean lines of the Italian-designed Brutale the Yamaha looks more industrial. Still we favor its appearance over the quirky bug eyes of the Triumph. Seated at the controls it feels a larger physically than both machines. It carries a two-plus inch longer wheelbase (56.7 in.) compared to the stubby MV (54.3 in.) and stretches over an inch more than the English bike (55.5 in.). It’s also a few pounds heavier (418 pounds) and feels wider through the mid-section. The height of the rider seat height is fractionally taller than the rider-friendly MV (32.1 vs. 31.9 in.) yet not enough to impede Paris who stands at 5’5”.
Like the other two bikes, the FZ offers an upright seating position but with added leg room due to the more relaxed position of the footpegs. Factor in the Yamaha’s thicker seat along with more supple suspension and the Japanese machine was the one we felt most comfy aboard during commutes.
Still, Paris felt the ergonomics were a little too bland for her tastes, saying: “It felt a little too proper. It didn’t have that bad-ass bike feel like the MV or Triumph. It was like, ‘I’m going to obey all the traffic laws with my Kevlar suit and reflective clothing’,” she jokes. “It felt a little to blah for me.”
FZ-09 Suspension Settings
Preload: Full-in (Max)
Rebound: 0.5 (Turns out)
Preload: Position 7 (Max)
Compared to the feature-rich, but hard-to-read dash of the Brutale, the Yamaha goes the opposite path offering a simple and very minimalistic instrument display. Although compact, it is still easier to check on performance vitals versus the MV’s large but cluttered-looking set-up. Yet, it couldn’t beat the classic look but functional mixed digital/analog gauge package of the Street Triple. Electronics-wise the Yamaha allows the rider to adjust throttle sensitivity in one of three settings: ‘A’ mode offers the sharpest most direct input, ‘STD’ mode is the default map and the ‘B’ setting which mutes throttle response slightly.
On the road the Yamaha impresses with the charisma and power pulses of its Triple. Not only does it offer more immediate torque than the other two, it sounds great, offering a distinctly different tune against the conventional high-pitched roar of the MV and Triumph. We love the motor’s low-pitched resonance which echoes the YZF-R1 superbike and YZR-M1 MotoGP prototype.
) Although not as light handling as the MV Agusta or Triumph the FZ-09 is a surprisingly nimble bike for its size. (Below
) The biggest complaint on the FZ-09 is its limited range of suspension damping which will hamper its handling performance in a fast rider’s hands.
“For its first-go at producing a modern Triple engine Yamaha did a great job,” thinks Dunstan. “It’s got plenty of useable power yet remains playful wheeling easily in the first two gears. The FZ-09’s motor is awesome."
Dyno testing results demonstrate the Japanese engine offers superior torque—both off idle and in terms of peak performance with just over 60 lb-ft available at 8400 rpm. That’s almost two more than the brutal Brutale and over 13 lb-ft extra than the Triumph’s 172cc smaller engine. This along with its solid cable-actuated clutch allowed the FZ to sprint through the quarter-mile the fastest in a time of 11.33 seconds at 121.2 mph. Although the Yamaha doesn’t offer the speedy upshifts of the quickshifter-equipped MV, we preferred its transmission due to its precise feel even against the refined Triumph. Still not all of our testers were sold on the dynamics of the Yamaha.
“It just feels more like a beginner bike,” says Paris. “I had a good time riding it but it didn’t excite me like the other two. Since it’s a wheelie machine, it’s still fun to thrash around on, but it just didn’t make my heart go pitter-patter like the MV or even the Triumph.”
No doubt the FZ is the torque king, but in terms of top-end horsepower it comes up short against the racy-feeling Italian. With nearly 105 hp arriving at 10,300 revs, the FZ is 12 ponies down on the MV but more than seven up on the Triumph.
It’s also worth noting that horsepower is reduced by another five ponies when ‘B’ mode throttle/engine map is selected. In terms of fuel mileage the FZ’s engine was the thirstiest—sucking down its 3.7 gallon reservoir the quickest and offering the shortest range of just 136.5 miles based on an around town 36.9 mpg average.
Our testers rated the FZ-09 as the most comfortable bike due in part to its supple suspension, thick seat and relaxed riding position.
Although the Yamaha is the most accommodating to ride at a relaxed pace in the city its entry-level suspension components struggle when the pace hastens on twisty pavement. While the MV’s suspension feels undersprung, the Yamaha’s is under-damped. We tightened up the ride by maxing out spring preload fore and aft and slowing the rebound circuits however it would be nice if it allowed a greater range of damping adjustment for more experienced riders.
Still the response of the fork wasn’t as sketchy as the Bruatle’s, enabling us to harness the power of the Yamaha’s brakes more easily. Although it doesn’t employ the same spec braking components as its competitors the heavier FZ was able to stop in a distance of 123 feet—12 shorter than the 800 and only two more than the class-leading Street Triple. However, braking feel wasn’t quite as good as either and they had a tendency to fade after one hard stop.
- Wide and torque-rich powerband
- Playful and fun engine character
- Very comfortable during commutes
- Underdamped suspension hinders sporting performance
- Small fuel tank capacity
- Brakes fade after a couple hard stops
“It's unfortunate that its suspension doesn't allow you to really push the pace,” agrees Dunstan. “But keep it below that all-out bonsai threshold and the Yamaha will put a big smile on your face."
Without question the FZ-09 is a downright bargain. Not only does it have a very high-quality look and feel, its engine is an absolute gem. It’s fun, playful and offers a very wide powerband that’s appreciated by all riders regardless of experience. Unfortunately, it’s functional but frail suspension and braking components are easily overwhelmed at a sporting pace. That along with its thirsty engine and small fuel capacity relegates it to second place. However, if you’re able to overlook those squawks you’re going to love this Yamaha.