Got to spend four days riding a low km Yamaha FZ8 in Spain so I want to talk a little about this motorbike.
As usual with my motorcycle reviews I am not going to be talking about the specifications or history and the other press release type stocking filler that is the content you will find on commercial motorcycling web site reviews. What I am going to do is chat about how the bike actually rides and feels and other real world things lacking on the commercial sites.
First thing I noticed is it looks and feels really small. In these days where many naked bikes have transformed into ADV styled naked bikes the FZ8 seemed tiny. ADV bikes are tall and seem to bulk themselves up in all sorts of ways but the FZ8 was slim and I did not need to climb onto it as I have to to do with ADV bikes. Actually by habit (with the FZ8 on the side stand) I put my left foot on the peg and stepped up then threw my right leg over to mount it much as I would do with a ADV bike and as I need to do with my FJR being also a large motorcycle. This behavior of course immediately became obvious to me as being totally unnecessary but it took me awhile to unlearn mounting a bike this way and I found myself still doing it over the four days I had the machine.
Ergonomics had my feet a little higher than bikes the MT-09 Tracer I rode in New Zealand and the Versys 650 I had in Ireland. The bars were a little lower than these machines and put me into a slight forward lean but again not too much so. Sporty but comfortable, that’s a difficult thing to achieve but how I would describe the FZ8’s ride position. I ride long tours so lean towards wanting maximum comfort but if doing day rides with a sporty style then the position would be perfect, better than an ADV style bike for that sort of riding. I did one 700km long day on the FZ8 and while that ride would have been more comfortable on the MT-09 the FZ8 was less fatiguing than I thought it would be.
The bike I was riding had a Givi mini screen but it is hardly a screen at all extending just an inch up much like my Buell XB9 Lightning screen did and this directed a lot of wind to the upper body same as the XB9 used to do. Wind blast on the highway reminded me of the Buell also. Mild up to about 90kph then it gets really noticeable. The highway speed limit in Spain is 120kph and at that speed I initially was uncomfortable with the wind blast on my upper body and neck. However I got used to it, I had to as the actual speed the traffic flows at on the highways is about 140kph and I needed to be flowing with that on a motorcycle or put myself at risk. Any naked bike will have wind blast and the FZ8 is no different. (I actually booked the Fazer with half fairing but got the FZ8 naked model supplied instead)
Throttle action seemed lighter than other Yamahas I have ridden, the brake lever was adjustable, the clutch lever not adjustable and miles away from the bars (why do manufacturers still do that?) but fortunately had a light action. Instrumentation was ok but not as nice as the MT-09 which is large and comprehensive like my FJR. A small LCD screen with red back light I was happy enough with the information, easy to read my speed and fuel remaining which is about all I needed. I would never want to return to an analogue speedometer with small figures on a clock face dial that require I put on my reading glasses to make out. Similar I would not want to return to a motorcycle with just a fuel light showing I have reached reserve. Even though motorcycle fuels gauges are not always as accurate as I would like it still is something I have grown used to. Actually I love the trip computer on my FJR with distance remaining even though this is a motorcycle that can travel 450km on one tank so kind of the last bike that actually needs this sort of information. It would have been handy on the FZ8 as it had a average range. I was refueling before 200km since gas stations were not as common as most any other country I have been to, actually I had to get the GPS to find me fuel twice. I did hit reserve once at not much over 200km but this was following extended 150kph highway riding which I think would produce the poorest fuel economy.
There was an aftermarket muffler fitted and a few dress up items, strange for a rental bike but small company and perhaps the bikes double for the employees rides when not being rented so have been personalized. I feel the muffler had softened the lower and mid rpm power delivery a little. This is usually the case with some freeing up in the higher rpm and should be rebalanced with a dynotune. I am the last person looking for more power in motorcycles but I have to say the roll on acceleration could be better. I thought perhaps the bike is tuned for fuel economy and had a small tank but 17 litre and the usual 200/220km before reserve. It has 104hp which is certainly enough for me and for road riding but it did not feel like a 100hp bike.
Low rpm it was smooth and easy to ride, mid rpm and then into the upper rpms I was occasionally wanting a little more, highway on ramps, lower gears, mid rpms, wide open throttle, try get up to 120kph-140kph highway speed quickly - most any motorcycle can easy do this before having to merge but couple of times I found myself caught out as it was bit lacking. I think a dynotune would have made big difference but still I cannot help but compare to my MV Agusta Brutale that produced 127hp from it’s smaller 750cc inline four and was possibly the most enthusiastic engine I have ever experienced riding. Like a small happy dog about to go for a walk even the slightest whiff of throttle below its sweet rpm range and it would want to spin itself up in a hurry and once in the mid range the engine would respond to throttle input with this turbine forward drive that was incredibly addictive. A ‘licence killer’ a very experienced riding friend of mine called it which was an apt description I guess on the over governed Australian road network but mid range tuned inline four still seems sensible to me as you can access that sort of engine. Anyway 99% of the time I was not looking for more power from the FZ8 so if the bike worked for me in every other aspect then I would not give this any further thought, actually less is more for street riding because so much nicer to be able to use all of an engine most of the time then only a little of a more powerful engine occasionally.
The steering of the FZ8 was something that really impressed me. The bike felt so light and nimble again reminding me of my XB9 in the way it would turn a corner with just the slightest input. Low speed I was able to throw the bike around like it was a 125cc scooter. The suspension was compliant and the ride was smooth not a firm as the MT-09 but still this bike handles like it is on rails. I rode it up a mountain one handed the other holding my action cam around switchback corners that my FJR would barely be able to negotiate. It is such a nimble motorcycle which made the tight roads a joy to ride. Compared to the MT-09 Tracer which I loved in the corners the FZ8 to me was even quicker turn in and would really make a very quick back roads bike but some of that might be down to the difference from the tyres fitted or the lower to the ground more compact feel of the FZ8 Vs the high riding MT-09 as I do prefer normal ride height bikes to high up ADV bikes. The FZ8 engine would actually suit the tighter back roads where I used to live as you could have it spinning in its power zone and rev it out between corners and work the engine in places where 160+hp engines are overkill and cannot be accessed. The slight sporty ride position also would suit this use and lack of wind protection would be no issue in that mode of operation. As much as the MT-09 was a great all rounder the FZ8 was to me more fun in spirited riding but this could be as mentioned tyres or lower ride height to my preference. The MT-09 naturally glides over mixed surfaces better and is clearly the more versatile of the two.
This returns me to the same old thing argument I have with myself which is if I want the most comfortable long distance motorcycle then I already have that in the FJR1300. If I wanted the most fun motorcycle on tight roads then something like this FZ8 (or perhaps the Yamaha FZ-07) would be a safe bet. Somewhere in between that is the MT-09 Tracer, more practical but leaning towards the fun side more than the comfort side since it lacks faring or sizeable screen (let alone electric screen nor cruise control and the other FJR luxuries) but so far best compromise. As I have said a few times nobody is making the motorcycle I want and while looking like you are about to go around the world while parked at Starbucks remains number one in motorcycling then the chances of a tourer based on a lighter and smaller platform being built remains at zero.
Back to the FZ8 and brakes wise I have nothing really to say other than they did the job fine, good feel and power and I never once gave them any thought which is exactly how I want any bikes brake to be, something I never need think about. The seating was at first not the most comfortable for me but I adjusted and by day three was able to spend easy an hour before I was thinking to take a rest which is about as good as most any factory seat is for me except seats on tourers like my FJR or a RT1200 which are better as you would expect. The FZ8 is best a solo riding machine in my opinion too small to have a passenger and the rear seat is just a tiny spec of a thing. Headlight was just a single lamp which I did not have to test being back before dark every evening. MT-09 had that great LED front light array which was very visible to cars even if reports prove headlights on bikes do almost nothing for visibility. No noticeable buzz in the bars, mirrors were fine.
In summary I really enjoyed riding the FZ8. Much more than I imagined I would. I have been a fan of the Kawasaki ER-6 naked bikes for awhile having ridden a few of them but I like this more. The engine requires very little work on my behalf to maintain forward momentum and can be held in a gear longer or use one gear up a mountain where I would be using two with the smaller twin and the four is so much smoother over the course of the day that all adds up to make a much easier ride. I am curious about the half fairing FZ8 Fazer but I cannot see it listed even as a used bike here in Japan so maybe Europe only model. Well a low k example of this would be a great buy I think in warmer climates.