The AP Moto Arts Yamaha FZ-07R is a really good-looking motorcycle. Spartan and hollow under the sleek bodywork, dripping with safety wire and fish clips holding neatly manufactured parts in place. Custom pieces everywhere, gleaming paint, the works. And I crashed it. Not a spectacular, crash-king highside or anything—just a second-gear lowside that sent a long list of beautiful parts sliding toward the air fence at Sonoma Raceway, grinding themselves away on the asphalt. Sadly, this is what trick racing parts often do. A carbon Yoshimura muffler, rashed; custom bodywork, worn through; machined levers, scuffed and bent. It's natural, and just as natural to feel crappy about it.

Custom FZ-07 action
Here’s a photo of everything going well, the FZ-07R carving harder and harder through each corner, for an overall best lap at Sonoma Raceway of 1:46.2.Photos: 4theriders

Here’s the thing: it wasn’t my fault! This bike is just so damned fun to ride, I kind of lost myself in the day, the circuit, and the moment. There’s nothing like a sunny day on a beautiful racetrack with sticky tires (and a bad start) to make me want to push that little bit harder. Fine, maybe it was at least partly my fault. The part where I was swelling with confidence, though, most of that we can blame on the bike because it’s amazingly good. And it’s no accident, but rather the result of a whole lot of hard work.

Custom Yamaha FZ-07
I mean, come on, that’s a handsome racing machine.Photos: 4theriders

If you’ve ever ridden a Yamaha FZ-07 you probably had a good experience. It’s a great bike. A plucky little engine and a light, agile chassis—as a conduit for fun, it basically encapsulates all of the things I like about motorcycles. It is not, however, a race bike. I’ve whipped down many a twisty lane, sure, but for $7,000 you’re just not going to get amazing brakes or tunable suspension. Andy Palmer of AP Moto Arts had this same impression. The difference between most of us and Andy Palmer is that he saw club-racing light at the end of the FZ-07’s beginner-bike tunnel.

Custom FZ-07 rear
Lean and mean—the FZ-07R can make you forget there’s a $7,000 street bike under there.Photos: 4theriders

And so Palmer set to work. The concept of turning a streetbike into a racebike is not a new one. The theory and practice has been around almost as long as the motorcycle has existed. But as motorcycles have advanced, it's become harder to quickly modify bikes to do this. Palmer did it, and at the end of an arduous development period (chronicled by our friends at Sport Rider here. he and his team of collaborators had fabricated custom fairings and stays, shock linkage, and come up with a way to mount an R6 fork to the front end.

Custom FZ-07 front brake
A Brembo master cylinder and R6 front end means the FZ-07R slows down in a hurry.Photos: 4theriders

With the R6 front end came an R6 wheel and brake system, and soon after that an adapter to fit an R6 rear wheel to the FZ-07R (a $250 upgrade). What started as cool bodywork and little brackets to relocate the dash display and ECU has grown into a full-fledged race bike. I was reminded of late-90’s GP bikes as I popped the lower fairing off with a handful of Dzus fasteners and headed for tech inspection. Pushing the FZ-07R across the paddock at Sonoma Raceway it felt even lighter than its 350 pounds, and a race saddle boosted up from the subframe towers over where the stock unit would sit.

“Big deal!” say all of the SV650 riders and racers, “that’s what SV’s have been doing for decades.” Yes, that’s true, and let’s not forget that this FZ-07 race project has been put together by AP Moto Arts for the same reason racers flocked to the SV650 all those years ago. It’s a cheaper, easier way to go racing. Racers on SVs and FZ-07s will spend less money on tires and spare parts, not to mention the platform of 80 hp and 350 pounds is absolutely perfect for amateurs and experts alike to learn and have fun.

Yamaha FZ-07R action
Knee on the pavement, and still on the brakes: A sure sign of a race bike that is working properly.Photos: 4theriders

No surprise, the first impression of riding the FZ-07R is surprisingly SV-like (just like riding a stock FZ-07 reminded us of the original SV). First there’s the sound (see walk-around video below), which is very un-parallel twin, thankfully. The 270-degree crank means it thumps a lot like a 90-degree V-twin, and straight up barks middleweight venom with the Yosh muffler installed. On track, railing over Sonoma’s roller-coaster raceway as fast as I could, the FZ-07R also feels like an SV—a really well-set-up SV.

Listen to the FZ-07R growl in our video walk-around below:

In addition to the R6 front wheel and rotors, there’s a Brembo radial-pull master cylinder and braided-steel lines. Nothing ultra fancy, but way more than I needed to stop 350 pounds of racebike. Powering out of corners there’s a little extra spice in the 689cc twin—a race pipe, ECU flash, and the removal of the stock airbox, for a total of 79 horsepower and 51 lb.-ft. of torque. “We’ve made around 88 [horsepower],” Palmer says, “but we need more time to make sure they’re durable, so those parts aren’t for sale yet.” Still, 80 ponies by tinkering with software and adding a pipe isn’t bad. The throttle response is also excellent, and you can plug in a quickshifter if that tickles your fancy. But it’s in the turns that the FZ-07R can really steal your heart.

Custom FZ-07 wheelie
It’s no rocketship, but it’s got enough stomp to wheelie out of 2nd-gear corners. Also, that’s a Ducati 848 and Honda RS250 GP bike behind the FZ-07R: not bad!Photos: 4theriders

Once the bike is cranked over, it feels like you can put it anywhere on the track. Insanely sticky Pirelli Supercorsa rubber deserves some credit, but the FZ-07R handles tremendously well. It’s stable and perfectly easy to manage in fast, sweeping corners, and it ate the quick transitions from side to side like a Flintstone vitamin. I eventually experimented with flicking it between corners dangerously fast to see if it would get out of shape, but all that happened was I got to the next corner faster. It’s pure, cornering bliss. As a whole, it’s awesome, and it’s diligence in the little things that get it there.

Custom FZ-07 dash
Yep, just a stock FZ-07 dash, but relocated many inches forward of the triple clamp so it’s easy to read when you’re tucked in.Photos: 4theriders

Palmer worked with Yoyodyne to make sure the available slipper clutch worked just right. “I didn’t want it to freewheel into corners,” he says, “I wanted it to be heavy enough that good riders can back it in and guys that are used to twins will be familiar.” To his credit, that’s exactly what it does. The FZ-07R is perfectly well behaved if that’s what you need, and when you really bury the front tire on the brakes and grab a bunch of downshifts the rear end will step out. Once I got a feel for it I was laughing in my helmet approaching Sonoma’s tight turns with the rear end wagging around and sliding toward the apex. I slid farther and farther into braking zones for the juvenile joy of planting my knee on the pavement while still on the brakes.

FZ-07 race
A handshake after a good battle with a Honda RS250 grand prix machine. That the FZ-07R is even in the same area code as an RS250 (both in the results and in aesthetics) says a lot about the bike, and AP Moto Arts.Photos: 4theriders

It was about that time that it all came tumbling down. Too much fun, not enough grip (or skill). Then again, even in crashing the FZ-07R was gracious. The tweaked clip-on swiveled back into place, the rear brake pedal bend back into shape, and off I went for my next race. Palmer shrugged when I delivered the bike back to Anaheim, nestled in the sprawl of southern California. “This is easy stuff,” he smiled. Yet another reason to love the idea of racing an inexpensive bike, and perhaps the clearest spiritual connection to the venerable SV650. Easy to ride, easy to race, easy to fix.

Custom FZ-07 engine
Zip ties and safety wire everywhere = racebike. Note the K-Tech shock, quickshifter arm, and the gaping hole where the airbox once was now filled with two little velocity stacks.Photos: 4theriders

That said, Palmer’s FZ-07R can be just about as complicated as you like. What amounts to a “starter kit” rings in at $1,888—that gets bodywork and mounts, relocation brackets for electrical components, a reflashed ECU and quickshifter, a dogbone link for the shock, and rearset brackets. From there, customers are bound to add stuff like the exhaust and crash protection. The bike I rode had a custom-valved K-Tech shock in addition to the R6 front end, slipper clutch and $300 airbox removal upgrade. If you want the hottest of the hot FZ-07R you’ll be well into 5-digit prices, including the bike’s $7,000 MSRP.

The FZ-07R is a cool concept, and put together by a smart team of people. My question was simple: is it the new SV? What I learned from racing, and crashing, the FZ-07R is yes, that’s exactly what it is. Of course, one of the reasons SV650 classes have grown (and even stayed alive after the bike’s Gladius phase) is that they are available used and cheap. With any luck Andy Palmer is ahead of the curve with the FZ-07R, and in creating kits for people to take FZ-07s to the racetrack a whole new generation of machines will be spawned, destined to do battle on racetracks all over the country. Wouldn’t that be nice.

Want more info on the FZ-07R? Check out apmotoarts.com & fz07r.com.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Pirelli SuperCorsa SC motorcycle tires
Pirelli’s latest SuperCorsa SC roadrace rubberPhoto: 4theriders

Pirelli SuperCorsa SC Tires I know I joked about sending the FZ-07R down the road earlier in this article, but the truth is I was pushing too hard and hit an infamous and unforgiving bump in Sonoma’s final hairpin. Aside from that, I was glued to the Wine-Country tarmac like an oenophile on a long weekend. Reason being, I was using Pirelli’s latest SuperCorsa SC roadrace rubber. It’s a staff favorite, and has been for years. Pirelli SuperCorsas come as stock rubber on lots of high-end Euro sport bikes (think Triumph Daytona 675R, Aprilia Tuono, Ducati Panigale, etc) but that’s the “SP” version made for street use. The SC1 sneakers I used on this FZ-07R are the same visually but have a stickier compound made for competition. These particular buns debuted in 2013 (with a few updates including tweaking the tread placement in order to add rubber to the contact patch areas), but Pirelli continues to do R&D. The Italian firm gets feedback from World SuperSport riders and teams, and updates the compounds based on the latest round of research and learning—that means usually every 6-9 months. Pricing fluctuates depending on sizes. The rubber I used for this race at Sonoma raceway was a standard 120/70 front tire for $185, and a 180-section rear that retails for $235. More info on the SC lineup and all of Pirelli’s products can be found at www.Pirelli.com.