2015 Yamaha FZ-07 | FIRST RIDE

The Over Achiever of the Year

By Ari Henning, Photography by Tom Riles, Brian J. Nelson
They say: “Serious bang for your buck.”
We say: “It’s the modern-day RD350.”

When I first rode Yamaha's three-cylinder FZ-09 (2014 Yamaha FZ-09 FIRST RIDE), I was impressed. The bike is small and light, and the motor is fantastically powerful and serves up a broad spread of thrust. And it's affordable: just $7,990. I had to remind myself of that low MSRP every time my long-term FZ-09's suspension jostled my skeleton or the twitchy throttle caught me off guard. For the price, some stuff is bound to suffer.

Not so with the new FZ-07. This latest budget bike from Yamaha is a serious over achiever. In fact, it might be a better bike than its big brother. The FZ-07 is more comfortable, has smoother throttle response, more functional suspension, yet it still hauls the mail. The FZ-07's 689cc parallel-twin dishes out the same kind of excitement as the FZ-09—albeit not quite as much—and the bike's suspension is excellent for such a basic setup. (The laydown shock is adjustable for spring preload, but the right-side-up fork offers no adjustments.) It's tuned for "comfort and commuting," says Yamaha, so things are on the soft side, but the springs aren't flimsy and there's adequate damping at both ends and in both directions of movement. The fork and shock strike a great balance between comfort and control, which are two targets the FZ-09's suspension missed.

The FZ-07 doesn't have ride-by-wire throttle like the FZ-09 so there are no ride modes, but there's also no sign of the abruptness that plagues the triple. The FZ-07 is tractable and smooth but still offers serious acceleration—I was genuinely surprised when a handful of throttle in first gear sent the front tire skyward.

Yamaha claims 74 hp and 50 pound-feet of torque for the FZ-07, and a good portion of that power is available right off idle. There's tons of midrange thrust, but the engine fizzes out en route to the 10,500 rpm rev limiter. Things get buzzy above 6,000 rpm, but you can avoid the vibes entirely by short-shifting. Yamaha's twin has lots of low-end torque; I let the revs drop as low as 2,000 rpm in fourth gear while we were cruising around Seattle, Washington, and the bike leapt forward easily, with a pleasant, V-twin-like shudder from the engine. Like Yamaha's Super Ténéré adventure bike, the FZ-09's mill has a 270-degree crank that yields uneven firing intervals for more dynamic power and sound. It works. While most parallel-twins are as exciting as a blender, the FZ-07's engine has good feel and character, and a pleasantly syncopated (and thoroughly muffled) exhaust note.

Compared to the FZ-09 (click HERE for the On Two Wheels video of the FZ-09), the FZ-07 has a more upright riding position thanks to a taller bar (up 40mm) that's closer to the rider (by 24mm). The seat is 10mm lower, but there's more legroom on the FZ-07 since the footpegs are 28mm lower and 70mm farther forward. It's a comfortable and approachable bike that feels compact, narrow, and incredibly light. Yamaha says the FZ-07 weighs just 397 pounds with a full tank (it carries the same 3.7-gallon payload as the triple, but should offer more range—Yamaha is claiming 58 mpg), making it 17 pounds defter than the already impressively lithe FZ-09.

Like its big brother, the FZ-07 has wave rotors and monoblock front calipers, but the discs are smaller (282mm versus 298mm) and the calipers aren't radial mounted, though they do have the same piston size and are fed by the same master cylinder. Perhaps it's because the FZ-07 is lighter and doesn't pile on the speed as quickly as the FZ-09, but the brakes feel better on the twin than on the triple. There's slightly more bite (though it's still soft), good power, and decent feel. The rear brake is plenty strong and easy to modulate, so I used it quite a bit once we'd left the city and headed into the forest to ride some twisty but damp back roads.

On a meandering two-lane leading through the dripping evergreens of the Pacific Northwest, the FZ-07 was a thrill. Arcing neatly through corners with none of the wallowing and dancing of its under-damped big brother, the 07 gave me the chance to maintain better rhythm and simply enjoy the ride. Handling is light and responsive, ground clearance is ample, and there always seems to be power and revs available when you want it. The FZ-07's chassis does start to feel loose when you pick up the pace, but at sane speeds it is perfectly composed. The bike tends to stand up while trail braking, but a little more pressure on bar will keep it on line.

Based on my day-long experience on the bike in the city and the country, there are really no major complaints. Sure, it has a steel-tube frame, right-side-up fork, basic brakes, and no ABS, but there are no glaringly cheap parts on the bike and nothing about its function suggests a price point.

So, would I rather have this new twin instead of the FZ-09 triple I'm currently riding? Yes. The FZ-07 is more comfortable, better balanced, and easier to ride, with all of the FZ-09's rowdiness but none of its unruliness. It's not the most powerful or most sophisticated bike out there, but the FZ-07 is highly functional and incredibly fun, well worth the price of admission and likely to make other bikes in the category look overpriced and overweight.

2014 YAMAHA FZ-07

Price $6,990
Engine type l-c parallel-twin
Valve train DOHC, 8v
Displacement 689cc
Bore x stroke 80.0 x 68.6mm
Compression ratio 11.5:1
Fuel system EFI
Clutch Wet, multi-plate
Transmission 6-speed, chain
Claimed horsepower 74.0 hp @ 9,000 rpm
Claimed torque 50.2 lb.-ft. @ 6,500 rpm
Frame Steel-tube double-backbone
Front suspension KYB 41mm fork
Rear suspension KYB shock adjustable for spring preload
Front brake Dual Advics four-piston calipers, 282mm discs
Rear brake Nissin one-piston caliper, 245mm disc
Front tire 120/70ZR-17 Michelin Pilot Road 3
Rear tire 180/55ZR-17 Michelin Pilot Road 3
Rake/trail 24.5°/3.5 in.
Wheelbase 55.2 in.
Seat height 31.7 in.
Fuel capacity 3.7 gal.
Claimed curb weight 397 lb.
Colors Candy Red, Liquid Graphite, Pearl White
Available Now
Warranty 12 mo., unlimited mi.
Contact Yamaha-motor.com

VERDICT 4/5

It punches way above its weight and performs far better than its price tag suggests.

Inside Yamaha's New Parallel Twin


The FZ-07’s engine is a clean-sheet creation. The 689cc, fuel-injected, DOHC parallel-twin is quite compact, contributing to the FZ's narrowness and light weight. As with Yamaha's YZF-R1 and Super Tenere, the FZ-07 employs a "Crossplane Concept" crank. The 270-degree crank staggers power pulses—Cylinder One fires at 0 degrees and Cylinder Two at 270 degrees, then the crank spins a full 500 degrees before the next power pulse—for a more dynamic feel and sound than what is experienced with the more common 180-degree layout (think Kawasaki Ninja 650). Honda uses a 270-degree crank on its NC700s, but that bike is in a much milder state of tune than the FZ-07.

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Zimraph
Excellent review! Can't wait to finally drive it myself!!! Keep up your good writing.
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