2011 Yamaha FZ8 Review – Pictures and Riding Impressions of the Yamaha…

24 Apr 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on 2011 Yamaha FZ8 Review – Pictures and Riding Impressions of the Yamaha…
Yamaha FZ8

Potent Middleweight Seeks Open-Minded Enthusiasts

It’s easy to overlook the middle.

Most new riders are encouraged to buy small, 250cc bikes. Once their skills grow, 600cc or 1,000cc motorcycles are often considered. But between that space, there’s a growing number of options for motorcyclists who think 600 is too small and 1,000 is too big.

Yamaha’s fresh take on that niche is their new-for-2011 FZ8. First introduced in Europe, this naked middleweight fills the gap between the $7,490 FZ6R and the $10,490 FZ1 .

The Goods: A Naked, FZ1-Based Middleweight

The 2011 Yamaha FZ8 is priced at $8,490 and shares numerous basic components with its big brother FZ1. Its upright posture splits the aggressive ergonomics of fully-faired sportbikes like the R6 and R1. and comfier long range sport tourers like the FJR1300A .

The FZ8 shares the same cast aluminum frame and swingarm found in the FZ1, which helps achieve a wet weight of 467 lbs. The FZ8’s liquid-cooled 779cc engine has the same crankcase as the FZ1 mill, with all other components newly developed specifically for the bike. The mill’s stroke remains the same, but the FZ8 has a smaller bore than the FZ1’s 998cc powerplant.

Midrange power has been optimized through longer intake funnels, and a new cam profile, cylinder head, and 4-2-1 exhaust system enhances the engine’s flexibility. A lighter crankshaft offers 30% less inertial mass than the FZ1, and the six-speed transmission has a lower final drive ratio and a shorter first gear, to match the engine’s downsized power. Estimated fuel economy is 39.8 mpg, which yield a theoretical range of 179 miles (though Yamaha employees say they’ve squeezed over 200 miles of riding on a single tank.)

Overall length, fork rake, and trail figures are identical between the FZ8 and FZ1, but the FZ8’s inverted 43mm KYB forks aren’t adjustable like the FZ1’s, while the FZ8’s rear shock is only preload adjustable, unlike the FZ1’s preload and rebound-adjustable suspension. Stopping power comes from dual disc 310mm four-piston brakes up front, and a single-disc rear.


The FZ8’s seat height measures 32.1 inches, and the bike is only available in black.

On the Road: Comfortable, Competent, and Fun to Flog

You can have the 2011 Yamaha FZ8 in any color. as long as it’s black.

Photo ©Yamaha

If you’ve ever ridden a supersports literbike on twisty canyon roads, you’re probably familiar with the tightrope of managing horsepower that’s really intended for the track; it takes a watchful eye, a cautious wrist, and steady inputs to keep the shiny side up.

Throw a leg over the Yamaha FZ8, and you’re wrapped around a reasonably sized bike that incorporates a slightly tapered front seat and a narrow knee area around the tank for a more reassuring grasp. and for the record, I mean reasonable in a good way. The riding position is slightly more aggressive than the FZ1; the handlebar is moved 5mm forward, and the footpegs are 15mm back and 10mm down.

Instrumentation is easy to read and consists of an analog tachometer and digital speedo, coolant temperature, odometer, and fuel gauge. But the FZ8 lacks bonuses like a gear position indicator or ambient temperature readout.

Yamaha FZ8
Yamaha FZ8

The clutch lever moves with relatively light effort, and there’s a bit of grabbiness off the line as power transfers from the engine to the rear wheel. First gear acceleration is zippy (aided by the shorter ratio 1st), and the transmission shifts with a nice, slightly clicky feedback at the pedal.

My 120 or so mile roundtrip ride through Venice Beach, Santa Monica, and Malibu varied from urban stretches to technical, medium speed winding roads. Nimble enough for the city, the FZ8 comes alive in the canyons, with a responsive chassis, plenty of smooth-spinning engine power, and strong brakes. In fact, it took some effort to use up the engine’s 11,500 rpm powerband; though there’s decent low-end torque on tap, the mill is happiest in the mid-to-upper ranges, charging aggressively towards redline.

The Bottom Line: A Nicely Balanced Ride That’s More Bike Than Most Need

There’s a natural instinct to gravitate towards the ultimate performance offered by 1,000cc motorcycles, but the 2011 Yamaha FZ8 offers a strong reminder that most roads (and riders, for that matter) are better suited to middleweight bikes. The FZ8 even fuels the argument that on low-to-medium speed roads, middleweights are even more fun (and less stressful) to ride than comparable literbikes.

What does the FZ8 sacrifice in contrast to the $10,490 FZ1? Apart from engine displacement and $2,000 in price, the FZ8 shaves 20 pounds (which is good) and ditches some of the suspension adjustability (not so good, but not surprising.) While competent during most of my canyon carving ride, only once or twice– under rather aggressive braking– would I have preferred more stiffness from the FZ8’s forks.

And while the rear suspension felt a bit busy over rough surfaces, one positive click of preload smoothed out the ride, somewhat. The inline-4 engine produced plenty of power (especially above 4,000 rpm), and the bike’s lightweight body was a joy to flick over serpentine Malibu roads like Mulholland, Topanga, and Latigo Canyon. And though the FZ8’s brakes offered strong stops and good feel, their initial bite wasn’t quite as sporty as you might expect from such an aggressively styled bike.

While not quite as razor sharp as its 1,000cc counterparts, the FZ8’s overall package is a compelling one that offers plenty of power, strong stops, and crisp handling. It’s also attractively styled and reasonably priced, two features that just might convert more riders to the cult of the middleweight.

Specifications, and Who Should Buy

The 2011 Yamaha FZ8 in action.

Yamaha FZ8
Yamaha FZ8
Yamaha FZ8

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