Sometimes, things can come back to haunt you years down the road. Case in point: In our road test of the original Yamaha FZ1, Kento wrote in his SRO “Cool. When I get old (ha!), jus’ gimme an FZ1, some soft luggage and I’m set.” Now, 10 years later, Kent often moans about how old he feels (ha!) and here is an FZ1 for him. And not just any FZ1, but the exact same bike from that test 10 years ago. You see, after our original evaluation and a year of abuse, longtime tester Steve Mikolas purchased the FZ1 and it’s been his ride for 23,000 miles. We figured it was time to see how it had held up over the years, freshen ‘er up a little, and perform some upgrades.
Steve’s bike would barely run when he dropped it off at the shop, thanks to leaky intake manifolds and/or plugged pilot jets. Still, we ran it on the dyno to see how 10 hard years had taken the edge off its power, but were bowled over when it spun the SuperFlow’s drum to 121 horsepower — almost exactly what it made when it was brand new. This FZ1 press bike was stout when we had it years ago, but it’s even more amazing that it’s still that strong; the R1-based motor has never had its valves adjusted nor any major service, although Steve did change the clutch shortly after the bike was purchased (er…we’ll have to take some of the blame for that abuse).
First up for the FZ1 was some basic TLC to ensure everything was in proper working order and the consumables up to date. We replaced the engine oil with Lucas’ semi-synthetic 10W-40 motorcycle-specific oil and replaced the filter with a K&N unit. While we were filling our K&N shopping cart, we added one of the company’s air filters, which replaced what looked to be the stock filter in the FZ1’s airbox. The cracked intake manifolds were swapped out for a set of new Yamaha parts sourced from Simi Valley Cycles, and we also replaced the fuel filter and spark plugs.
The Yamaha’s suspension was long past some love, but rather than try to mend things ourselves we simply removed the forks and shock and shipped them to Race Tech for a full spa treatment. Indeed, the oil inside was disgusting in color and texture, as expected for a bike with this many miles, but the remainder of the internals looked to have survived fairly well — as we’ve noticed in the past with stock Yamaha suspension bits. A set of Race Tech’s Gold Valves were slipped inside the forks along with new seals, bushings, fluid and stiffer springs (.95kg/mm vs. the .80kg/mm stockers). The fork tubes had some nicks from stones, and they were polished out. Likewise, the shock received a Gold Valve, a new bushing and seal, fresh fluid and a stiffer spring (8.9kg/mm vs. 7.6kg/mm). The tech that performed the work on our parts pointed out that the stock shock piston has a steel band, which can eat away at the shock’s body; the Gold Valve has a Teflon band. The shock shaft was also polished with a cross-hatch finish to reduce friction. Cost for the fork and shock rebuild was $950 for parts and $240 for labor.
While the suspension bits were at the spa, we turned to other aspects of the FZ1’s chassis. DP brakes sent racing pads for the FZ1’s front calipers and standard pads for the rear. To complement the pads we installed Spiegler brake lines front and rear, with a two-line setup for the front. Spiegler offers all kinds of optional colors for lines and fittings, and the fittings are capable of being rotated on the lines, easing installation. Total cost for the front and rear lines with four replacement banjo bolts was $208 while the front pads cost $49 per caliper.
The FZ1 has seen numerous take-off tires over the years from various sources, and we replaced the quite-worn set that was on the bike with Avon Storm 2 Ultra tires. The Storm 2 is Avon’s high-mileage sport-touring tire, with a Multi compound Super Rich Silica (SRS) tread that has a medium compound in the center of the tire and a softer compound on the edge. A third compound lies underneath those and improves the bond between the tread and the tire carcass. The company offers a free road hazard warranty against puncture or accidental damage, a nice bonus with sport-touring tires especially. MSRP for the 120/70 front and 180/55 rear combination is $436.
Engine modifications were limited to an Arrow slip-on exhaust combined with a jet kit from Ivan’s Performance Products. The diamond-shaped Arrow Race-Tech canister allows the exhaust to meet strict European sound requirements (using a “dB-killer” insert) without being excessively large. The low-mount mid-pipe is made from stainless steel, while the canister is available in carbon fiber, titanium or aluminum finishes. Installation was simple enough, although the mid-pipe has no clamp or spring attaching it to the stock header, making for a slightly loose fit. The jet kit from Ivan’s Performance Products ($120) includes new needles and main jets, and requires drilling two of the small air passages in the carburetor throats slightly larger. We also modified the airbox lid as per the kit’s instructions, which called for removing part of the inlet snorkel. The kit reportedly cures several of the FZ1’s issues, including vibration at light, steady throttle, lazy throttle response and flooding when parking overnight. While there are not many parts included in the kit, the installation is quite detailed and took most of a day including removing and reinstalling the carburetors. Interestingly, when we had everything buttoned up the needle-and-seat assemblies began leaking; we replaced them with OEM parts sourced from Simi Valley Cycles.
_The FZ1 suspension got the full Race Tech treatment, including Gold Valves and stiffer springs for the fork and shock. Aside from fluid well past its use-by date, the suspension’s internals looked to be in good shape._
A ride on the refurbished and upgraded FZ1 confirmed why we have always liked the original carbureted version so much: It’s a comfortable, powerful standard that is every bit as versatile as the new super-standards tested elsewhere in this issue. Our modified unit does everything the stocker did, but better. The Race Tech-modified suspension is firmer, with spring rates better matched to canyon duty, yet still plenty plush for everyday use. The DP Brakes pads and Spiegler lines offer crisp braking feel with nice progressive bite. The Avon tires offer plenty of grip for the FZ1’s intended use, along with light, neutral steering characteristics. The dyno shows a healthy increase in power, especially considering the few modifications we performed, and part-throttle response is quite improved.
The first generation carbureted FZ1s were offered from 2001 to 2005, and have held their value well — expect to pay between $3200 and $4500 for one in excellent condition, depending on mileage, age and modifications. Now that we’ve got the FZ1 back in the garage, and Kento is um…older, all we need is some soft luggage and he’s all set to go.
** **Arrow Special Parts
Avon Motorcycle Tyres
Ivan’s Performance Products
Lucas Oil Products
Race Tech Suspension
Simi Valley Cycles
Spiegler Performance Parts