RINGLEADER: Mitch Boehm
MSRP: $9099 (2006)
AVERAGE FUEL MILEAGE: 33 mpg
ACCESSORIES & MODIFICATIONS: Race Tech fork and shock springs
It's almost funny to watch my fingers type this, but I'm finally enjoying riding my 2006 Yamaha FZ1.
It took some time.
I dug the look of the second-generation Fizzer when it bowed in late '05. Aggressively styled and packing a thoroughly athletic build, the new FZ looked like it would easily out-perform the original.
But no: Overly stiff suspension and horrible fueling manners made the bike an unpleasant handful. Just riding the thing smoothly was a challenge. Yet for some strange reason-Pity? Stupidity? Early onset Alzheimer's?-I adopted it as my long-term testbike. I eventually fixed 70 percent of the EFI system's abruptness with a Cobra USA digital fuel processor, and a set of Avon's new Storm radials with their softer sidewalls helped smooth out the ride somewhat. But to truly transform the bike's ride quality required a trip to Race Tech (www.race-tech.com).
Because the stock fork cartridges are sealed and can't be modified, our only avenue of improvement-aside from a pair of expensive ($1300) replacement cartridges-was fresh oil and slightly firmer springs (1.0 kg-mm, up from .92). The stock shock is similarly nonrebuildable, so we settled for a softer spring (12.5 kg-mm, down from 13.4).Despite the minimal changes and reasonable cost ($272 installed), the FZ1's ride quality and wheel control improved dramatically, and it now works nearly as well as the updated '07 model. And given the newer bike's excellence, that's a helluva turnaround.Problem is, now that the bike's finally fun to ride, Yamaha wants it back. Bye-bye, FZ1-it was fun while it lasted.