Yamaha is on a tear with innovative new product this year—and in nearly every available category too. Of course the YZF-R1 superbike sits atop our MOTY list this year, and don’t forget the truly fun and all-new FJ-09 sport-touring hybrid along with its always charismatic (and newly improved) FZ-09 streetfighter sibling, all enough to make any Yamaha dealer smile. But the machine that might impress us the most is the FZ-07, an amazingly good motorcycle for just under seven grand. At this price point you might tolerate a power-challenged engine with a ho-hum personality. Marginal fit and finish? Well, you get what you pay for. So-so chassis? Yeah, probably.
Not here, not now. Instead, the FZ-07 ( see our FZ-07 First Ride review here ) exceeds expectations in every way. For starters, it packs a parallel twin with plenty of low-end and midrange power—making life easier even for new riders—and with a relaxed personality, to boot. It lopes instead of buzzes, thrums instead of sizzles. Not only does the 689cc engine do exactly what you ask of it, but the FZ’s steel-tube chassis gives it a platform of strength. As expected, the suspension calibration is a little soft, but it’s totally controlled and perfectly balanced. This is a bike perfectly sized for smaller riders, with more performance and liveliness than you expect. Proof that new riders don’t need to accept sub-par motorcycles to join the sport.
ALTERNATIVE TAKE // KTM RC390
Bang for the Buck was a hard-fought category, with the Yamaha just edging out the small KTM sportbike, but let’s not let cutthroat competition diminish the Katoom’s goodness. Indian built, sure, with one or two places that reflect cost cutting, the RC nevertheless is a true KTM, with class-leading power, precise handling, and edgy styling. All for $5,499 with standard ABS.