Wrist: Spenser Robert
MSRP (2017): $12,999
Miles: 3,400
MPG: 34
Mods: Cortech Super 2.0 Saddlebags and Tail Bag

The FZ-10 is an easy bike to ride, and once you ride it for a few weeks it’s an easy bike to love. But it’s one thing to love a motorcycle during your commute around town and another thing entirely to love it when you’re banked over on a racetrack or slogging through a 1,200-mile road trip. So, in the spirit of really getting to know our long-term FZ-10, I stripped it down, took it to the track, and then loaded it up and took it on an adventure.

FZ-10
There’s no denying that the FZ-10 looks good when stripped down for a trackday.Spenser Robert

The Track Experience

For those of you late to the party, the FZ-10 shares a fair amount of DNA with Yamaha’s sportbike wunderkind, the YZF-R1. It has the same basic chassis and 998cc, inline-four engine, though both have been re-tuned, along with the ergonomics, to make the FZ-10 a more productive (see: comfortable) member of society. What this translates to in a track environment is footpeg dragging. Lots and lots of footpeg dragging. It was never once an issue on the street, but it only took a few laps around Fontana, California's Auto Club Speedway until I was consistently playing matchmaker between my pegs and the asphalt. For me, that meant adjusting my riding style, so I leaned farther off the bike in an effort to keep the bike itself more upright. It’s probably how a better rider would have been doing things in the first place, but my strong survival instincts mean I’m a slow learner and not typically inclined to dangle myself off a motorcycle more than necessary.

As far as electronic rider aids go, the sweet spot for me was keeping the bike in the STD riding mode and using traction control levels 1 or 2. This felt like the smoothest power delivery while still maintaining a good balance of freedom/safety with the TC. The other ride modes ("A" being sportier and "B" being sportiest) suffer from the same abrupt throttle response that plagues a few of Yamaha’s models and didn’t feel like they yielded enough of a performance increase to justify the fueling concessions.

Bridgestone Battlax S20
These Bridgestone Battlax S20s come standard on the FZ-10. They work great on the track, so there is no need to upgrade unless you’re a hard-core track rider or the tires are worn out.Spenser Robert

Beyond the peg positioning and fueling issues, the brakes on the FZ-10 are probably the weakest link when it comes to track riding. They weren't dangerously bad, but they definitely lacked the initial bite and overall feedback that I was looking for. We've known since the first ride review that the brakes are an issue, and it's high on our list of improvements to make on an otherwise fantastic machine.

The takeaway is that unless you're a trackday ninja who isn't satisfied with anything less than dragging an elbow over the banking, you can take a totally stock FZ-10 to the track and have an absolute blast riding it. Serious enthusiasts will likely want to invest in some rearsets and brake improvements, but otherwise you're looking at a comfortable machine that doesn't sacrifice much performance around the racetrack.

touring luggage
Not as good looking as the track setup but far more practical if you enjoy things like clothing, food, and tools.Spenser Robert

The Touring Experience

Just a few days after spinning laps around the speedway, I geared up with Testing Manager Ari Henning for a road trip to Lake Tahoe. Our planned route included a veritable who’s who of riding environments: desolate highways, epic mountain passes, twisty back roads, and all the weather in between. And, as an added bonus, Ari wrangled the keys to a 2016 Aprilia Tuono 1100—the perfect benchmark machine for the FZ-10.

2017 yamaha fz-10
Hyper-naked touring done right.Spenser Robert

I wanted to keep the FZ-10 stock for both the track and touring segments of my testing week, but the reality is that saddlebags are a bare-minimum accessory if you're planning to crunch some miles and you have a bad habit of bringing too much camera gear. So, not particularly enthralled with the FZ-10-specific offerings that were out there, I opted for a set of Cortech Super 2.0 Saddlebags for $160 and Tail Bag for $110. The fit on the bike wasn't perfect, and I was concerned about how low the bags were hanging when fully loaded (more on that later), but they're reasonably priced and not absurdly large or small, which are somewhat rare features in motorcycle luggage these days.

Once we took off, it didn’t take long for the touring demons of both bikes to come out of hiding. Seats? Miserable. Wind protection? Barely. Fuel range? Don’t even get me started. Neither of these bikes were purpose built for sport-touring, and that becomes pretty obvious after a few hours of riding. What the FZ-10 has going for it, compared to the ’16 model Tuono, is cruise control and much roomier ergonomics. Yeah, remember those footpegs that were too low during our trackday? Turns out they’re well worth the trouble if you plan to do any sort of distance riding. Every time I hopped on the Tuono I was struck by just how cramped it felt in comparison to the FZ-10. On the flip side, this makes the Tuono a more capable machine around the racetrack, but for someone who rides on the street 99 percent of the time, like I do, the FZ-10 is far more practical.

It also didn’t take long for me to realize that the Cortech bags were dragging on the rear tire of the FZ-10 when the suspension compressed over large dips or bumps. Luckily the bags held together, but it’s worth noting that you really have to cinch the bags high and tight to avoid the chance of rubbing them on the tire.

2017 yamaha fz-10
For a one-size-fits-all kit, the Cortech luggage works pretty well. Just mind the gap between the saddlebags and the tire.Spenser Robert

But, of all the shortcomings of sport-touring an FZ-10, it’s the fuel range that frustrates me the most. Not only is the tank small and the fuel economy bad, but the fuel gauge itself seems to operate on its own spectrum. On more than one occasion the digital bars on the gauge went from being “full” after 80 to 90 miles of riding to “empty” with the fuel light flashing at 115 to 120 miles. And if you’re wondering what the actual range is to empty, I ended up testing that too. At 152.9 miles the FZ-10 sputtered to a stop on the side of the road, tank dry. Luckily another rider with fuel stopped to help—but not after a few moments of me cursing the fuel gauge and my own lack of planning.

2017 yamaha fz-10
Gas-giver and MC Garage fan Connor Jackson saved the day. We're lucky he was on an epic road trip of his own and had some fuel to spare.Spenser Robert

If this all sounds overwhelmingly negative, I don’t mean it to be. In the course of a few days, Ari and I logged more than 1,000 miles, and most of it was spent discussing how remarkable the Yamaha and the Tuono are. They both have effortless handling, wildly entertaining motors, and with a few accessories they could easily be comfortable enough for long days in the saddle. While they’ll never be as road-trip capable as a traditional touring machine, you’d be hard-pressed to find a traditional touring machine that’s as much fun as either of these bikes.

2017 yamaha fz-10
The faces of happy motorcyclists.Spenser Robert

And with that our week of living dangerously on the FZ-10 comes to an end! We have fresh tires, a brake upgrade, and a seat upgrade all ready to go, so stay tuned. If you guys have any questions about the FZ-10 or want to see any specific mods or accessories tested out, sound off in the comments below.