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words - Martin Child
The latest middleweight street fighter to hit the streets is the 2011 Yamaha FZ8N, but can its 800cc engine set it apart from its rivals?


WHAT WE LIKE

  • Torquey engine
  • Intuitive front end
  • Value for money

NOT SO MUCH

  • Rear suspension over bumps
  • Exhaust note

They say that racing improves the breed – but if that's the case, why aren't we flooded by a million MotoGP replicas, each spitting flames through tiny exhausts from their 800cc's of pure adrenaline rush?

Much of the technology found on the track filters into our road bikes but the actual capacity breaks we're used to seem set in stone. There's 1000, 750, 600 – take it or leave it.

If you delve further and look at the history of the 800cc engine, it's about as sexy as your mum in a see-through. Sure, Honda have been packaging the VFR in that very size for quite a few years and BMW have recently introduced us to the F800 family, but it's a bit lonely being 200 cubes short of a litre.

That was until now. Yamaha have gone all Lorenzo-land on us and stuck a big FZ8-sized flag on the real estate known as 800ville.

As you can see, it's no racebike, nor the same level of tourer as the VFR. So does it make sense?

SPECIAL SPECIFACTIONS
In a period of time where roads are crowded and top speeds largely irrelevant, the specs on Yamaha's newest member of the FZ family look impressive. Nestling in between big brother FZ1 and the smaller XJ6, the 8 takes strong points from each and merges them into one package. But it's not quite perfect.

Years ago if you bought a naked bike, you bought into a long-list of givens, namely second-rate brakes and suspension so soft you could hardly nip to the shops without feeling seasick. The new Yamaha is chalk and cheese to those days but that's thrown up its own problems.

The suspension is now too harsh, and being unadjustable, means that fast riding can confuse it. The back end suffers the same fate. It's all peachy on the smoother tarmac but add in some bumps (if you need any we have truckloads here in Sydney) and not only can you get the back hopping on the entry to a corner, but slipping, gripping and sliding on the way out – enough to make you think that maybe you are a GP rider after all.

It really is only at the higher range of hard riding that the suspension's budget nature confuses the mix and if that's where you're aiming your riding arrow, then there's better (but also dearer) bikes to consider.

And it's also worth noting that at 90kg, I'm hardly a jockey, and if you're much lighter than that you'll have an even harder time to make the suspension work for you. This shortfall in the bouncy department is made more noticeable by a very sweet-steering front end. There really is little more to do than just think where you want the FZ to go and it heads there on a perfectly smooth trajectory until your next impulse.

This lightness, combined with the upright bars makes this a much better commuter than racer and the city more of a natural habitat than the track. It also makes you want to ride it like you stole it.

The brakes might not be the latest all-singing radial jobbies found on the current R1, but are more than suited to the bike's performance and offer fade-free reliability and confidence in equal doses.

THE PERFECT ENGINE?
But it's the engine of this new bike that will make or break it. At 779cc, it's a healthy mix of what you need and want over what you sometimes desire. It's got more legs off the bottom than a 600 middleweight. The torque away from the lights means you'll ride the clutch rather than ping it out as if on a smaller bike, and also the mid-range feels like it's been fed T-bones from an early age. Up top, the power tails off before litre-high stratospheric levels, but realistically you don't miss that on the road.

With a large airbox and differing-length inlets, the FZ has an induction roar similar to '90s ZXR Kawasakis and gives the bike an 'alive' feel. Lucky that, because the 4-2-1 exhaust is quieter than a one-armed man clapping in a deserted forest.

There's the usual advancement in engine fuel management, mixture sensing, and latest technology buzzwords like 'fracture split con rods.' That doesn't even sound healthy, let alone a selling point.

Styling-wise, the Yamaha FZ8 is ultra modern. The lines are angular, the dimensions slightly comic book and the overall stance is short and squat. From the front, the bulk of the tank dominates the small head of the bike, the headlight unit looking like a gladiator's head poking out of a powerful body. Just a shame then that the exhaust note's more 'Ooooh chase me,' than 'Whatcha looking at!'

There's also a faired version, the FZ8S, for those looking to hide from the elements more. However, don't think VFR-covered, but with a useful screen and upper-body protection, it offers an alternative to the wind-ripping-your-head-off look of the naked model. As usual, the fairing on the S model adds practicality at the cost of coolness.

So how much is it to buy into this neighbourhood? The FZ8N retails for $12,990 but it'll cost you another $1000 to get behind the bars of the S. Both prices are plus on-roads.

With the FZ6 and FZ1 being great all-rounders and enjoying success both over here and in Europe, the FZ8 looks set to continue the trend that has seen over 250,000 FZ6s find happy riders.

And with the saving on running costs and original purchase price over the FZ1, it's hard to believe that there's not a section of the riding community that'll welcome the new capacity with open arms and slightly less open wallets.

SPECS: YAMAHA FZ8

ENGINE
Type: Liquid cooled 4-stroke, DOHC Forward-inclined parallel 4-cylinder
Displacement: 779 cc
Bore x stroke: 68.0 x 53.6mm
Compression ratio: 12.0: 1
Lubrication: Wet sump
Fuel System: Electronic Fuel Injection
Clutch type: Wet, multiple-disc coil spring
Ignition system: Transistorized coil ignition
Starter system: Electric
Transmission: Constant mesh, 6-speed
Final drive: Chain
Fuel tank capacity: 17 L
Oil tank capacity: 3.8 L

PERFORMANCE
Max. power: Not given
Max. torque: Not given

CHASSIS
Frame: Diamond
Front suspension: Telescopic fork, 43mm inner tube, Front travel 130 mm
Rear suspension: Swingarm, linked monoshock with spring preload adjustment, Rear travel 130 mm
Caster angle: 25º
Trail: 109 mm
Front brake; Hydraulic dual disc brake, Ø 310 mm
Rear brake: Hydraulic single disc brake, Ø 267 mm
Front tyre: 120/70 ZR17 M/C(58W)
Rear tyre: 180/55 ZR17 M/C(73W)

DIMENSIONS
Length: 2140 mm
Width: 770 mm
Height: 1065 mm (1225 mm FZ8S)
Seat height: 815 mm
Wheel base: 1460 mm
Min ground clr: 140 mm
Wet weight: 211 kg with 17 litres of fuel (FZ8N); 215 kg with 17 litres (FZ8S)

OTHER
Price: $12,990 (FZ8N); $13,990 (FZ8S)
Colours: Competition White; Midnight Black (FZ8N) Yamaha Blue; Midnight Black (FZ8S)
Bike supplied by: Yamaha Motor Australia (Yamaha-motor.com.au)
Warranty: 24 months, unlimited kms, parts and service

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Published : Tuesday, 8 March 2011
Disclaimer:
In most cases, the Carsales Network attends new vehicle launches at the invitation and expense of vehicle manufacturers and/or distributors.

Editorial prices shown are a "price guide" only, based on information provided to us by the manufacturer. Pricing current at the time of writing editorial. Pricing prior to editorial dated 25 May 2009 may refer to RRP. Due to Clarity on Pricing legislation, RRP for those editorials now means "price guide". When purchasing a bike, always confirm the single figure price with the seller of an actual motorbike or accessory. Click here for further information about our Terms & Conditions.