Seconds after its debut to the U.S. press corps at Laguna Seca Raceway, the 1987 FZR1000 topped every serious technoid's wish list. Contenders and pretenders came and went, but the big 20-valve four would live at or near the top of the literbike food chain for another eight years.
As good as the 158-mph original was, a major 1989 makeover made it much better. Every facet of the recast FZR was stiffer, stronger, sharper or all of the above. Priced a bit above its peers at $7600, the second-generation bike was as close to a proper racebike as you could buy. Its fortified 138-horsepower engine was a monster from 5000 to 9500 rpm, largely thanks to a thoroughly revised respiratory tract and what Yamaha's acronym engineers called the Exhaust Ultimate Power Valve-aka EXUP. A shorter, stiffer version of Yamaha's Deltabox aluminum skeleton and new 17-inch wheels delivered the sort of inspirational chassis feedback necessary to apply that midrange whack. But such grip comes at a price.
The big FZR would eat a standard-issue 130/60 VR17 Pirelli MP7 front radial almost as quickly as the 170/60 VR17 rear. Handling can be frightening on shagged skins, so beware. And though the standard package is essentially bulletproof, the FZR has its frailties. Clutches are flimsy, especially on early bikes, and fork seals can blow with madding regularity until you drop the oil level 5 or 10 millimeters. Worn bushings let the EXUP valve rattle after a few thousand miles, but they're easily rebuilt. It's a good thing valve adjustments are 26,000 miles apart; it's no job for amateurs. Avoid any bike that doesn't come with meticulous maintenance records.
Though ensuing changes were subtler, FZR evolution continued with the rakish fairing and a 41mm inverted fork that arrived in 1991-sadly without adjustable damping-along with new front-end geometry and a longer 58-inch wheelbase that relaxed steering a bit. Improvements to the cooling system and a more comfy seat make more recent examples more desirable. Especially when 12 corners on a good one can make it tough to justify spending another $7600 or so on a new R1.
The father of Yamaha's YZF-R1 is still nasty-fast more than a decade after its retirement from active duty.
Those 123 horses aren't as impressive as they were in 1995, and it's 80 pounds heavier than a new R1.
Incontinent fork seals, sagging suspension parts, used-up clutch, noisy EXUP valve and neglected/botched valve adjustments
Still plenty to love for thousands less than the younger, flashier talent
1987 $22651989 $25751991 $29101995 $3660
Doin' Time BMW K1200S
Ringleader: Carrithers MSRP: $16,995 Miles: 7710-8895 Average Fuel Mileage: 40 After leaving BMW's ber-four stone-stock for the better part of 8000 miles, curiosity got the better of me. Shortly thereafter, a 5-pound Leo Vince titanium muffler replaced the 17-pound stock bit. Quite nicely turned out and easy to bolt up, the Factory Evolution II ($504) exhaust comes with a slick, slip-in baffle that cuts exhaust volume to socially acceptable levels while delivering a modest bump in midrange muscle. Slipping said baffle out impresses the seat of my pants and the dyno with another 13 horsepower at 7000 rpm. The downside is enough noise to trigger car alarms, barking spasms in small yappy dogs and roadside conversations with the cops. So with a few long weekends coming up, I kept it corked.
The muted Leo Vince exhaust music is barely audible at 75 mph, but the stock instrument is virtually silent. And about 400 miles into a 500-mile day, I'm big on virtual silence. Still, the engine revs a bit quicker with its stubby titanium can. Poking around in the upper rpm register put a minor dent in this month's fuel mileage. It would be nice to get from Los Angeles to Los Altos with one fuel stop, but I can live with 180-200 freeway miles from a tankful of super-unleaded.
Continental's Attack radials are none the worse for wear after 1600 miles, including a therapeutic 1185-mile. pilgrimage to Northern California. They come up to temperature quickly in the morning, dry grip is exemplary, and the C-spec rear is maintaining its factory profile despite some over-exposure to our I-5 autobahn. Oil consumption is essentially nil, and most systems are flawless with 1105 miles to go on our 10,000-mile mission. The only discernable mechanical degradation involves a steady decline in rebound damping from the Duolever front end.
I'm still trying to decide if a little innocent wallowing in fast corners is bad enough to justify some sort of shock transplant. I opted out of BMW's electronically adjustable ESA suspension system to smooth the progress of just such a procedure, but the stock setup has been plenty good enough... until now. So? We shall see.