When Yamaha’s engineers went to the drawing board with the all—new FZ8, they had a handful of objectives in mind. In prior research, the manufacturer found that—in regards to sport—oriented bikes—consumers are most concerned with a bike’s comfortable riding position, easy—to—manage physical dimensions and lightweight feel in terms of handling. So it’s no surprise that when you throw a leg over the motorcycle, you are quickly taken back by how small but comfortable the bike feels, despite the fact that it runs the same geometry as its literbike sibling.
Like the FZ1, the overall seat height is 32 inches, but the footrests have been dropped some 10mm and pushed back an additional 15mm. As well, the handlebars have been rotated some 5mm forward (away from the rider) to put more weight over the front of the motorcycle, and the tank/seat junction is narrow so that riders of a shorter stature can easily touch the ground. The result is an upright seating position that is slightly more aggressive but still comfortable with little pressure on the rider’s wrists and arms.
For the most part, the FZ8 is geared toward city riding so it’s no surprise that when you leave from a stop, the clutch is easy to disengage and the transition from closed throttle to open is smooth as butter. It’s also no surprise that the transmission ratios are spaced just perfectly and few shifts are required as you accelerate to the next light.
As I carried on down the intro’s predetermined route through Venice Beach, CA, I also noticed the bike’s willingness to steer almost without effort, a sensation that is most likely accredited to not only the new bar position, which as previously mentioned, puts more weight over the front of the machine, but also to the bike’s slim 467—pound curb weight (the FZ8 is roughly 15 pounds lighter than the FZ1).
In terms of engine performance, the FZ8 feels like the perfect compromise between literbike grunt and middleweight power. Like the smaller machines, it has an extremely linear power delivery with no abrupt peaks, but like a literbike, it has a strong hit and loads of power. As the road clears and you open the throttle past 5500 rpm, the FZ8’s quick—revving nature really makes itself known. It’s from this point on that the FZ8 engine really impressed me, as it pulls extremely hard all the way up to its 12,000—rpm soft rev limiter. It’s also in this range that you hear the unique buzz from the intake cowl of the FZ8’s fuel tank (something that is more for form than function).
Around town, the KYB front...
Around town, the KYB front fork absorbs all the bumps beautifully. However, the nonadjustable unit feels rather soft when riding more aggressively. Not soft are the FZ8 brakes, which feature 310mm discs as well Sumitomo monobloc calipers that provide an extremely crisp bite and get the bike slowed down in a hurry.
Around town, the suspension provides an extremely comfortable ride and bumps are absorbed without any negative effects on the chassis. But as you get out of the urban environment and into the twistier sections of road, the FZ8’s limits aren’t exactly high. Before long, the front fork begins to move around quite a bit, and since the FZ8 comes with a non—adjustable front fork and a rear shock that is only adjustable for spring preload, there is little that can be done to rid the bike of this unsettling characteristic in the canyons.
Then, as you start to lean the bike further and further into the corner, smack! Ah yes, the good old clatter of the footrests touching down. Count on becoming familiar with that sound if you plan on riding the FZ8 in canyons regularly. But the FZ8 wasn’t necessarily designed to be the ultimate canyon carver. In fact, Yamaha claims that in terms of the suspension package, it was designed with comfort rather than performance in mind — which is partly why the FZ8 is so comfortable to ride around town.