Between 1908 and 1927, the Ford Motor Company produced and sold one of the most well-known automobiles of all time — the Model T, a car that Henry Ford himself claimed to be “for the great multitude.” The Model T was propelled by a capable 22-horsepower engine that could be pushed to around 45 mph, adequately handled the primitive roads of the time and thanks to low production costs, was sold for a price that most middle-class citizens could afford (towards the end of its 19-year production run, the Model T sold for as little as $290). In a way, Yamaha intends the 2011 FZ8 to be the current-day equivalent of the Model T: Simple, tough and cheap.
Not quite an all-new design
It’s fair to say that the FZ8 is not a true all-new design. After all, the bike’s geometry has been pulled directly from that of its literbike sibling, the FZ1. But in a sense, the FZ1 was nothing more than a platform for the FZ8, since the new bike features revised ergos, a reconfigured engine and an aggressive street-fighter look that makes it feel right at home in an urban environment.
Perhaps the only thing more aggressive than the FZ8’s less-is-more streetfighter look is its newly designed 779cc engine, which Yamaha engineers developed to provide strong midrange power and a crisp, controllable engine response.Even still, some of the FZ8’s engine design has been lifted from other Yamaha models. For instance, the FZ8 engine is built around the same crankcases as the previous generation R1 (as is the FZ1) and runs an R-series-derived crankshaft. From there up however, the engine is practically an all-new design.
One of the biggest differences between the FZ1 engine and the FZ8 engine is the newly designed cylinder head of the latter, which runs only four valves per cylinder, as opposed to five. To give the bike a smoother torque output and broader range of power, Yamaha matched long 125mm outer intake funnels with even longer 150mm inner intake funnels and installed a large-capacity 7.8-liter air box. And to further adapt the engine’s power characteristics, valve timing has been changed, as have the cam profiles.
Compared with the FZ1, compression has been bumped from 11.5:1 to 12.0:1, bore has been decreased from 77mm to 68mm and stroke remains at 56.3mm. Also compared to the FZ1, the FZ8 features a lighter crank that contributes 30 percent less inertial mass and provides for quicker revs. In an effort to further reduce rotational mass and to make the bike more user friendly, the engine features a compact clutch layout that has two fewer plates and a more practical gearbox with a lower final gear ratio. The fuel injection system went under the knife as well and now instead of featuring a 45mm throttle bore, the FZ8 system runs a narrow 35mm bore for a crisp, smooth throttle response.
A strong engine is nothing without a capable chassis though, and so when Yamaha built the FZ8, the company matched the cast aluminum frame with a control-filled die-cast aluminum swingarm rather than a steel one like you would see on the FZ6R. They also gave it an inverted 43mm KYB fork and YHSJ rear shock. Opposed to the FZ1, the bike runs a narrower 5.5-inch rear wheel, but the same 57.5-inch wheelbase and 51/49 percent weight bias.