2017 FZ-10 – Stoltec’s Thoughts

Oh, that sound! How else can you make your driveway sound like Moto GP’s pit lane? You could buy an R1, but then you’d have to figure out how to ride it for more than 20 minutes at a time. The FZ-10’s battle cry is fierce, even if subdued. If a V4 played a musical instrument, it’d be the djideriedoo and it’d sound like the crossplane crank CP4. What a treat!

It’s been a few days since I picked up the bike and I’ve gotten a lot of questions on what I thought. Not necessarily being lazy about it, but I wanted to hold my tongue until I’ve had enough time to write fitting review. Often times, riders get a little euphoric with that new bike smell. I’m no different. At the same time, I’ve been blessed with owning, riding, and working on some really neat bikes over the years. Some have been better than others, but in general, they’ve all gotten better over time. Progress is good – usually.

As it stands, I’ve put about 300 miles on the machine since Sunday morning. I’ll cut right to the chase: I wasn’t blown away at first. Before you label me jaded, spoiled, or disillusioned, allow me: I am jaded, spoiled, and disillusioned. This may not surprise many of you reading this, but I share the same affliction as you. I cannot leave anything alone. I’ve been in a fortunate position that the business allows me access to some really knowledgeable industry-insiders. Experience has also guided my interests, personal taste, and mechanical aptitude. Learning new stuff every day, but I’m at a point where I can generally spot what will work for me and what won’t. I’ve spent a lot of time and money obtaining this experience.

All this is to say that the FZ-10 is a very natural progression from the last FZ project bike: the 2014 FZ-09. Within ‘reason’, no expense was spared on that project – both in time and money. Simply put, it was awesome in nearly every way. Although it was a little buzzy and lacked wind protection, the suspension and chassis were dialed in for my riding needs. The brakes were track-capable with excellent feel. The slipper clutch transformed the bike. I can go on, but I won’t. This is about the FZ-10.

It’s taken me three days to figure out why I wasn’t enamored during the first ride. As it turns out, it’s because it feels so much like a very well prepped bike that it was a seamless transition. Yes, there are wrinkles that can be ironed out and personalized, but in general, Yamaha nailed it. While the FZ-09 always went rowdy, eager to lift a wheel, and generally, act a fool, the FZ-10 is different. Somehow, a 160 hp super naked doesn’t feel excessive. In fact, it feels [i]just right [\i]. Listen, we all know designing motorcycles isn’t easy business. The sheer number of bikes on the market and iterations within each model is testament that we’re always in search of something better. Performance, comfort, balance, fun, or some combination thereof.

I can’t help but imagine that the FZ-09 was designed by a younger group of engineers and test riders on a more limited budget. These folks wanted something brash, and damnit, they got it. In spades. The FZ-09 punches far above its weight, and its runaway sales success further solidify that claim. The FZ-10 by comparison seems to have been designed by a more <ahem> mature group of engineers. I’m not talking about Goldwingers and FJR-lovers. No, I’m talking about people who value things other than an ability to wheelie for an entire tank of gas. The best analogy I can use is that the FZ-09 makes power like a two-stroke dirt bike: immediate with near instant throttle response. The FZ-10 feels like a four stroke. Though undoubtedly faster, it is easier to ride and lets you focus on things other than keeping the front wheel on the ground and in line with the rear.

Engine

What can I say that hasn’t already been said? It. Just. Plain. Works. But more importantly, the rest of the bike agrees with the engine’s intents. The result is a powerplant that works well from 2000 RPM to redline. Like other crossplane engines before it, there is a gentle thrum to remind you that you’re not on some run of the mill inline four. It’s different than a V4, but the effect is similar. Smooth torque delivery, great traction, and minimal vibration. I’m at a loss for new words, so I’ll fall back on the ubiquitous ‘Freight Train’. As the miles are adding up and the engine is breaking in, the performance is surely improving. Acceleration in the first four gears is breathtaking.

Transmission

Gearing, and spacing within, is well suited for the street. Great tractability in town or on the backroads. Relaxation at highway speeds. Lever feel is light and direct, but I’ll admit that there is a hint of notchiness that I hope disappears with age. It’s not crunchy per se, but it isn’t Honda-smooth. It’ll be nice if the Yamaha quickshifter from Europe is plug n’ play. We’ll see.

The slipper assist clutch takes a light pull. Less than the FZ-09 and more in line with the XSR900. If I’m picking nits, I’d say the back torque tuning could be a bit less for my personal taste. It’s not as seamless as the $1,000 Suter I had on the FZ-09, and it feels a bit behind the XSR900 in terms of engagement smoothness. Of course, the bike is new. We’ll see how things loosen up.

Brakes

Now that they’re bedded in, I can confirm that these need help. The R1 gets a radial master cylinder, stainless steel brake lines, and different calipers. Although the brakes are effective, initial bite is soft and the lever isn’t as firm as a proper sportbike. Needless to say, this will be one of the first areas we address.

Haven’t had to test the ABS, yet. Hopefully never.

Chassis

Without question, the chassis geometry and design is the best in the FZ lineup. If that surprises you, you’re probably in over your head. It provides good feedback while cranked over without getting upset with mid-corner surface imperfections. Steering is light at low speeds, and stable at high speeds (in fairness, that is partially due to the electronic steering stabilizer). The whole package works so well that it doesn’t take long to forget about the bike. Or, I should clarify: it doesn’t take long to forget what the bike is doing underneath you. We’ll play around with some things on the chassis, but it’ll be more out of curiosity than necessity.

Ergonomics

Seat height feels ‘right’ for me and my 31” inseam. Not quite flat footed, but not on my tippy toes, either. Right, wrong, or indifferent it feels like how I like my bikes to feel. Or, how I’ve been programmed to feel. Either way, this is a welcome improvement over the low seat height on the FZ-09.

Leg room is ample – no cramps during the first 100 mile break-in ride. It’s too soon to say if the pegs are too low for track usage, but time will tell. Reach to the bars is a touch on the long side for me if my butt is pushed back onto the flattest part of the seat (right up against the odd little bump). Scooching forward eliminates the stretch for me. Bars are a great bend at what feels to be a great width and pullback. I suppose we’ll work with Woodcraft to make another set of the clip-on adapters, but I’m not sure it’s out of necessity. The FZ-09 left me feeling like a parachute on the highway, but not on the FZ-10. Well, I suppose that’s only partially true: speeds over 90 mph exert a bit of pressure of my chest. But, it’s never too much to handle since that curious looking windscreen actually does a great job of deflecting a clean blast of air away from the torso.

The mirrors work well, but still show more of my elbows that I’d like, even when adjusted all the way out. An easy fix. My only ergonomic complaint so far is with the clutch lever. A $13,000 bike should have two adjustable levers. The reach is just far away enough for my size 8-8.5 fingers that it takes some effort to smoothly downshift. Getting back to the clutch and slipper, I expect a proper lever will alleviate some of the initial concerns. I’m just programmed for a closer clutch lever. The brake lever isn’t bad, but comfort puts me in between two settings. Such is life, but it’s easily rectified.

The seat doesn’t offend me – yet.

Electronics

Traction control works, and from what I can tell so far, pretty smoothly. Cycling from off to level 3 (most intrusive), you can feel the electric nannies intervene. However, the effect isn’t intrusive. Pretty pleased.
The D-modes are different than what Yamaha did on the FZ-09. Here, the softest is STD, followed by A, and then B. Naming convention aside, I find the throttle control best in STD. It’s a bit soft off the bottom if I’m being honest, but it works well after that. Engine braking feels pretty good all around. A and B get more aggressive, which is OK in the ‘up’ rev. Down, however is very abrupt. Without seeing the maps, it’s hard to say if the engine braking is too abrupt, the throttle maps are too aggressive, or if the decel fuel cut is the culprit. I’m picking nits here, though. Because really, I could ride all day in STD and never complain. Again, it just works. And it works well.

Cruise control. Get some! Love it. Nothing else needs to be said.

General

I appreciate the standard power port behind the headlight. In today’s smartphone world, this should be standard on all bikes.
Haven’t had a chance to use the headlights at night, but the days are getting shorter and this will happen sooner rather than later. To my eyes, it looks like the FZ-10 lifted the headlights from the R1 and lumped them closer together. The taillight is the same as the FZ-09, which I always liked. And the turn signals – good Lord! It’s about time they ditched those ancient pumpkins and moved to LED…
Strictly subjectively speaking, I think the bike looks better (and smaller) in person than it does in the photos we’ve all seen on line. That goes for the black, too. I was set on the Armor Gray until I saw this in person. It really looks very good – excellent fit and finish. Even if you don’t care for the styling, you have to give Yamaha credit – it’s a different approach.

Suspension

You didn’t think I’d forget about the suspension, did you? Fully adjustable at both ends (with high speed compression on the shock). Thankfully, Yamaha didn’t stray too far from the R1 here. I’ll be honest though: the first ~100 miles were embarrassingly unproductive from a suspension standpoint. The ride was overly harsh, traction was limited, and steering effort was sub-par. One gravel road was so harsh and chattery, I had to turn around. Turns out, in all my excitement, I forgot to check the dealer’s work. The result? How about 67 psi in the front tire and something so high that none of my tire pressure gauges would register on the rear? Trust but verify. Lesson learned, thankfully not the hard way.

With that behind us, tire pressure was corrected to something more streetable: 33 psi front and 36 psi rear (cold). Not looking to hit the track, so this was an attempt for a good street starting point. As expected, it took the chatter out and made things a lot better. Grip, feel, ride quality. Good.

Happy to report that the FZ-10 shares none of the FZ-09’s woes. We actually have damping (of both varieties), and the spring rates are reasonable for a general all-purpose machine. If you have any issues, it’s probably your fault – not the bike’s. However, all is not perfect. Much like the XSR900, Yamaha took the FZ-09’s inadequacies and took the solution a bit too far. For my 190 lb self (in gear), the suspension defaults to harsh, even with the damping optimized. If you only ride on the track or smooth roads, you’ll probably be ok with the damping (assuming the spring rates work for you). Fortunately, I know someone who can help…stay tuned!

All in all, what an amazing machine. It reminds me an awful lot of the Speed Triple, which is a good thing. This shouldn’t be terribly surprising given the similarities in wet weight, dimensions, torque, and ergonomics. Now that I’ve gotten through most of the ‘critical thinking’, I can set about enjoying the bike and fixing some of the small concerns. But rest assured, those concerns are relatively minor and easily fixable. Yamaha really hit this one out of the park. Like the old FZ1, but better.

Rather than take a bunch of photos, I figured it’d be best to use a video. Hope this helps paint a better picture of the bike.

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