2014 Yamaha FZ-09 | First Look

So Long FZ8, Hello Wicked Cool, High-Value Triple

By Marc Cook, Photography by Yamaha

Rumors of a three-cylinder replacement for Yamaha’s crossplane YZF-R1 started at Intermot last year with an inscrutable exhibit promising new motorcycles with a “crossplane” inline-triple. It was a tease, of course, making us wonder just what the Tuning Fork guys had in mind, and what, exactly, they meant by a “crossplane” triple. Except for a few Laverdas, aren’t they all?

We have it on good authority that when a new R1 comes—probably for ’14, as Yamaha hinted that more new models will be introduced in September—it almost certainly won’t have three-abreast seating. Whether it’s closer to Lorenzo’s daily driver or the current R1 remains to be seen.

And what of the triple? Here it is in the 2014 Yamaha FZ-09, a naked standard to replace the FZ1-derived FZ8. But not to replace the FZ1, which has been largely unchanged since moving into its second generation way back in 2006. Supposedly, the FZ1 will continue into the ’14 model year.

At the heart of the FZ-09 is an all-new, 847cc triple featuring, you guessed it, a crossplane crank. Actually, it’s just your usual 120-degree arrangement familiar to anyone who’s opened up a modern Triumph or fiddled with any of Kawasaki’s two-stroke triples. With a bore and stroke of 78mm and 59.1mm, respectively, the liquid-cooled mill is less oversquare than the R1 or current FZ1 powerplants. Comparing Yamaha’s new triple to the Triumph Speed Triple’s 1050cc engine shows just how long-stroke the Hinckley machine is, with a 1.11:1 bore/stroke ratio against the Yamaha’s 1.32:1. Triumph’s newer triples, in the Tiger 800 and Explorer/Trophy, both run 1.19:1 bore/stroke ratios. The only engines in the Triumph catalog with a more oversquare configuration are the Street Triple (1:42) and Daytona 675 (1:53:1). Redline is 11,000 rpm, which is conservative for a 59.1mm stroke. So, the new Yammie mill is right in the thick of things, design-wise.

A modest 11.5:1 compression ratio suggests “tuning for torque,” as does the omission of a horsepower spec for the U.S. models. (Yamaha Italy released information on the MT-09 before the American embargo expired, including a power rating of 115 CV, which converts to 113.4 bhp.) For us, Yamaha says only that the engine makes 65 lb.-ft. of torque at an unspecified speed. A cutaway on display at the press event reveals few groundbreaking technologies, just a compact, modern motorcycle engine with ride-by-wire electronics and three ride modes (but no TC). Yamaha has a new set of switch clusters for the FZ-09, and a pushbutton labeled Mode presumably switches among the three drive modes. In order to bolster midrange torque, Yamaha’s engineers fitted staggered-length intake trumpets inside the airbox. (They’re listed as “variable length” in the press materials, but they are of fixed dimension.) A single gear-driven counterbalancer resides just ahead of the crankshaft line, an important component to reduce vibration in a 120-degree triple.

It is, of course, liquid cooled, and makes use of a stacked transmission to reduce length. Cam drive via chain runs along the right side of the engine. Primary drive is on the opposite end of the crank via straight-cut gear to a conventional wet clutch sans slipper mechanism. It’s interesting to see a permanent-magnet alternator hung off the left side of the engine rather than tucked behind. That it stands out so much is probably more an indication of how compact the rest of the engine is.

The FZ-09’s aluminum chassis is similarly compact, providing a wheelbase 0.8 inches shorter than the FZ8’s and less trail, too. At 414 pounds claimed curb weight (the 3.7-gallon tank full), the 09 undercuts the FZ8 by a whopping 53 lbs. Yamaha’s market research suggested a comfortable riding position was a high priority for potential customers, so the handgrips are 53mm higher and 40mm closer to the rider than on the already comfortable FZ8, and the footpegs are 26mm lower and 2mm more rearward. The swingarm mounts to the lower-aft frame section from the outside—the frame does not go around the swingarm pivot—making the bike very narrow. The pre-production machine we straddled felt remarkably light and lithe.

Part of that light feeling no doubt comes from the low, “mass centralized” exhaust system, which features connecting pipes between cylinders 1-2 and 2-3, an oxygen sensor, and stubby outlet behind the rider’s right heel. There are no EXUP-style valves in the system.

The rest of the FZ-09’s running gear is modern if not exactly leading-edge spec. Brakes are new differential-piston, four-pot radial-mount items up front and a single-piston caliper out back. Discs are 298mm and 245mm, respectively. ABS is not currently offered, though with ABS expected to be mandatory in the EU by 2016, it’s likely we’ll see an ABS version of the FZ-09 before too long. Adding ABS means wheel-speed sensors, so traction control becomes possible as well. Who knows, maybe cruise control on a naked while they’re at it?

Suspension is by a single, semi-laydown style shock with linkage and a 41mm inverted fork. Yamaha confirms that adjustments are limited to spring preload and rebound damping at both ends, and it appears the fork has damping components in the right leg only. (That’s how the FZ8 is currently configured.)

Best for last, though: Yamaha, continuing a trend started with the Star Bolt, has priced the FZ-09 aggressively. At just $7990, it’s $900 less than the FZ8 and $2800 under the FZ1, which will remain in the ’14 lineup. Let’s hope this is just the first of many new triples on the Yamaha tree.

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