2006 Yamaha FZ1 - First Ride

Smaller, Lighter And Cooler Than Before. But Is That Enough To Make The Fz1 The Perfect Liter-Class Naked Bike?

By: Alan Cathcart, Brian Catterson, Roland Brown, Photography by Paul Barshon, Friedman Kirn, Alessio Barbanti

Chassis performance wasn't all peaches, either, though. The bike's suspension lacked sophistication, at least by modern superbike standards. The firmly sprung shock and inverted fork sometimes gave a choppy ride over bumps that seemed to overwhelm their damping ability. One fork leg contains rebound damping while the other handles compression, a setup Yamaha says it utilizes on its M1 MotoGP racebike. Sadly, the rear shock doesn't offer a remote spring-preload adjuster, which means a spanner is needed. A brief attempt at suspension adjustment didn't help things much, so we'll wait till we have more time for tuning before passing final judgment.

There was no doubting the power of the Yamaha's front brake, with its larger, 320mm discs and familiar four-pot calipers. Michelin Pilot rubber, the rear a fat, 190/50-spec bun, made the most of reasonably generous cornering clearance, although really quick or aggressive riders might find the centerstand touching down when carrying a passenger. Yes, you read that right-a centerstand. The FZ1 has one, along with a reasonably roomy seat and useful passenger grab handles.

Expect to pay extra for a top-box and hard bags, both featured on an accessory list that also includes heated grips, carbon-fiber parts and full fairing side-pieces. Standard-issue equipment includes wide mirrors and a comprehensive digital instrument panel whose flashing low-fuel light had earlier forced me into cruise mode.

At a less-than-frantic pace the FZ1 worked just fine, giving me plenty of chance to appreciate the spectacular views as well as its light and easy handling. Even so, I couldn't help feeling a little disappointed with the bike, partly because I'd been expecting so much from it. There is much to like about this comprehensively updated all-rounder, but its few weaknesses can't be ignored.

At $9099, the all-new FZ1 is nicely priced, and we suspect many owners will use the savings (versus pricier naked bikes) to fix its gearing and suspension problems. Thusly tweaked, we're pretty sure the new-gen FZ1 will fully live up to the high expectations enthusiasts everywhere have for it.

Stripped Fizz
Although the FZ1 we get here in the U.S. (called the Fazer in Europe) and the fairingless Euro-only FZ1 streetfighter are nearly identical beneath the skin, even project leader Takashi Tominaga was surprised at their dynamic differences.

"We did not expect these two models to be so different to ride," he said, "but [we found them to be very] enjoyable in different ways once we began to test them in prototype form."

The 11-extra-pound half-fairing, plus taller fifth and sixth (than the R1) transmission ratios-for "relaxed freeway cruising"-go a long way toward reinforcing the U.S.-spec FZ1's role as a practical, multi-purpose motorcycle with genuine sporting overtones.

But hop aboard its naked sibling and straightaway you'll feel you're on a very different kind of bike. The stripper version feels shorter and more purposeful than the standard FZ1, as well as easier to sling around and play hooligan on, especially when you're crouching forward and gunning it out of turns with the front wheel pawing the air.

I just wish both bikes had a little more grunt down low to make them the truly manageable musclebikes they aim to be.

2006 Yamaha FZ1

PRICE
MSRP $9099
Engine
Type l-c inline-four
Valve arrangement dohc, 20v
Displacement 998cc
Transmission 6-speed
Chassis
Weight 439 lb. dry (199kg)
Fuel capacity 4.7 gal. (17.8L)
Wheelbase 57.5 in. (1460mm)
Seat height 32.1 in. (815mm)

By Alan Cathcart, Brian Catterson, Roland Brown
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