After listening to SR Associate Editor Michael Gilbert’s opinion of Yamaha’s new FZ-10 upon his return from the bike’s press launch, we couldn’t wait to get our hands on a test unit to wring out on our own roads here in Southern California. And after spending several months with one on a daily basis, we discovered just how much fun the new Yamaha is to ride. Whether scything through a mountain canyon road on the weekend or slogging through urban traffic on the weekday commute, the FZ-10 provides a more street-friendly version of the R1’s performance along with decent comfort and practicality.
As we spent more and more time with the Yamaha though, there were some areas that we found could use a little improvement. There’s the obvious one that became apparent in our previous comparison test with the Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 RR (“Naked Joy,” Dec./Jan. 2017): engine power. Even though it’s got plenty of midrange punch, the FZ-10 is definitely down a bit on top-end steam compared to its competition, with the 998cc four-cylinder beginning to run out of breath once past the 9,000-rpm mark.
The FZ is comfortable enough on El Jefe’s 60-mile commute each way to work and back that we began to embark on longer and longer rides with it. And while the Yamaha has a decent range (on the highway with careful throttle usage in standard mode, we often saw 150 to 160 miles before the low-fuel warning light came on, meaning we could get about 180 miles to a tankful), the seat begins to wear thin after 100 miles or so. On longer rides we also tired of the constant windblast to our chest and helmet with the lack of fairing. And a search for cargo-carrying options came up with very limited choices.
When it came to engine mods, we knew the Yamaha aftermarket specialists at Graves Motorsports (gravesport.com) would provide the needed help in the horsepower department. The company sent one of its Cat Eliminator Titanium exhaust systems with carbon-fiber silencer, which, as the name suggests, jettisons the heavy stock catalyzer and muffler system ($1,365 using the stock headers for a $933 cost savings over a full exhaust system), cutting a total of 11 pounds. In order to realize the Graves exhaust’s full power potential, we also got the Flash Tune ECU Type 8 Bike Side Tune Kit ($380), Flash Tune ECU Yamaha Active Tune AFR Self-Tuning Kit ($385), as well as the Auto-Blipper Shift System ($800) that allows both clutchless downshifts and upshifts.
The Graves pieces really woke up the FZ-10. While we were definitely happy with the top-end increase of 16 hp (from 131 to 147 hp), there was a major boost in low-end and midrange power as well, making the Yamaha even more fun to ride. And the beauty of the Flash Tune ECU FZ-10 setup is that there’s no need to send in your ECU; the Bike Side Tune Kit allows you to tap into the ECU without removing any bodywork, download various maps with an internet connection, and make any tuning changes easily with a laptop. With your base map set, the Active Tune AFR setup then continually fine-tunes the fueling for changing ambient conditions. The Auto-Blipper Shift System was sort of a superfluous add-on, but we will say it was fun to use with its flawless upshifts and downshifts without the clutch.
The only downsides to the engine mods are that the Graves exhaust is fairly loud even with the decibel limiter ring installed (we left it out as it limits top-end power significantly) and that fuel mileage takes a hit. Our modded FZ-10’s average mileage before the fuel light came on plummeted from 150 miles to around 115 miles. Graves is already working on a solution to the noise issue by developing an exhaust that uses a butterfly valve like the stock unit; we’re slated to get a preproduction unit for test, so stay tuned.
Being a brand-new model unfortunately meant the aftermarket industry didn’t have much in the way of other upgrades yet. But an often-overlooked avenue when it comes to modifications proved to be the answer: the OEM accessories catalog. A trip to the Genuine Yamaha Accessories catalog (shopyamaha.com) netted us some just-released products for the FZ-10, including a Comfort Saddle ($333.99), Rear Rack and Top Case Mount ($244.95), a 39-liter Top Case ($235.99), and a Mid-Height Windscreen ($229.99). All of the components were easy to install, with the Comfort Saddle basically a drop-in replacement for the stock one-piece seat and the Rear Rack/Top Case Mount only requiring four small holes to be drilled in the underside of the tailsection bodywork for the mounting bolts.
The Comfort Saddle proved to be the best mod of the bunch. The rider section is slightly wider and thicker overall, with its polyurethane inner foam providing much better support for longer rides. We used the Comfort Saddle on a 400-mile ride into the Sierra Nevada mountain range and had no problem riding the entire distance without squirming or standing to get the blood flowing back into our rear ends. And the suede-like seat cover material has a higher-quality look to it than the stock seat, with the FZ-10 logo embossed into the cover.
The Rear Rack/Top Case setup transformed the Yamaha’s practicality quotient, with the rear top case providing ample storage capacity (there is an even bigger 50-liter top case if you want). And it’s quickly and easily detachable, leaving you with the rack to tie down any cargo you need to transport.
The accessory windscreen was a breeze to install, and we like the overall styling. But while it deflects the majority of windblast off your chest, a good amount of airflow hits you squarely in the helmet area. The resulting buffeting at 65 mph and above causes a resonant thrumming noise in the helmet, which actually is louder than if the helmet were directly in the airstream.
We are happy overall with the majority of the mods to our FZ-10. The multipurpose Yamaha has become even more versatile now, and the bike has already surpassed 7,000 miles on the odometer as El Jefe continues to use it for everything from weekend canyon carver to urban commuter to grocery getter. Our FZ-10 is another example of why naked/standard bikes have become so popular these days.