Yamaha FZ-09 | DOIN’ TIME

FINAL UPDATE: Was our long-term test with the Fuzz-9 a success?

WRIST: Ari Henning
MSRP (2014): $7,990
MILES: 8,550
MPG: 40
MODS: Back to stock

Yamaha's FZ-09 is a home run on paper—417 pounds wet, with more than 100 hp and nearly 60 pound-feet of torque, all for less than eight grand. But the reality is that the bike has some serious shortcomings. When I took the "Fuzz-9" on as a long-termer more than a year ago, the goal was to tame its wicked throttle response, stiffen its wet-noodle suspension, and to generally elevate its canyon-carving game. And to do it all in a price-conscious manner.

I tended to the suspension in stages, trying the simplest and cheapest stuff first. Stiffer fork springs and heavier oil along with a ZX-6R shock yielded small improvements but also introduced more issues. Stage two included having the FZ's right fork leg revalved by Stoltec Moto (stoltecmoto.com) and getting a custom Penske shock made. With proper springs and more refined damping, the FZ-09's handling and cornering composure were much improved, but I never got the front end to feel fully planted so I never truly felt confident while banked over.

I didn't get the suspension working the way I wanted, and I struggled to perfect the throttle response too. An ECU reflash from Flash-Tune (ftecu.com) was a massive improvement over stock, but compared to Triumph's triples and a lot of other bikes out there, the throttle response was still frustratingly abrupt at small throttle openings and lower rpm and tended to surge while cruising on the freeway.

Yamaha acknowledged owners’ complaints about the 2014 FZ-09’s throttle response and revised the maps for the 2015 bike. I had the opportunity to ride a 2015 FZ-09 recently and was both pleased and relieved to find that the fueling was excellent. And with the throttle delivering more or less what you ask for when you ask for it, I found the suspension to be far less offensive. It’s still softly sprung and underdamped, but with the throttle under control at least it’s manageable. For a time I was pointing people toward the FZ-07 when they expressed interest in the FZ-09. Now I feel comfortable recommending the Fuzz-9 again. For anyone with a 2014 FZ-09, call your dealer right away for the ECU update. You’ll be happy you did.

One thing I truly love about the Fuzz-9 is its engine. I don’t think anybody who has ridden an FZ-09 hasn’t loved the engine. It’s simply a fantastic powerplant with absolutely no drawbacks in terms of performance. Horsepower and torque are served up in abundance at all rpm, with a side of aural excitement. The motor was trouble free, though the clutch did give me a few slipping fits after heated wheelie sessions, and in the last 1,000 miles or so I’ve noticed a rattling noise from the right side of the engine between 4,000 and 5,000 rpm. Web research reveals similar complaints from owners of 2014 Fuzz-9s, with the problem reportedly stemming from the cam-chain tensioner. Yamaha is aware of the issue and encourages owners to visit their dealer to have the tensioner adjusted. It’s a good thing to have checked while you’re getting that ECU reflash.

So over the past 12 months my affection for the FZ-09 has warmed, cooled, and once again warmed. In the end, I’m disappointed I wasn’t able to net bigger improvements from the bike, but I’m glad Yamaha has. Fingers crossed, then, for an FZ-09R with upgraded suspension.