It’s been three years since the Yamaha FZ-07 hit the stands, and it’s still just as good now as it was back then.
I lead a complicated life. I’m a new dad, money is tight, relationships are tested, and often I find myself longing for the simple things in life. Riding, for example.
But riding has become complicated. At least when it comes to most modern bikes. Anything with an ounce of performance needs electronic mitigation—ABS, traction control, variable maps, electronic suspension—so it’s nice to have a bike in the garage for a few weeks which has none of that. No buttons, no switches, no bloody sensors. All the 2017 Yamaha FZ-07 has is a 270° cross-plane crank parallel-twin, a throttle and some new Michelins. Oh, and the handlebar is so rubber mounted you can bend it about an inch fore and aft—an odd sensation indeed.
I first rode this bike back in the fall of 2014. At the time, the world was going mad for Yamaha’s new Dark Side of Japan image, a marketing campaign that tried to make the company out to be some kind of Japanese manga cartoon uber-god, dishing out new bikes for like the FZ-09 and FZ-07 on which the world’s warriors could battle the streets with.
And it was through this Dark Side of Japan campaign and the new FZ range that Yamaha loudly and proudly announced to the world they were indeed back in business after the horrors of the GFC that decimated the Japanese bike industry. The FZ-09 and 07 knocked everyone the hell out with a perfect blend of edgy, new styling, ripping performance and a price point that made them impossible to ignore.
At $6,990 MSRP, what you had was a complete bargain in terms of bang for your buck. And it’s still there in the 2017 edition. Absolutely nothing has changed since 2014 and now (price included), except you get some new colors.
The best thing about an FZ-07 is it’s the kind of bike anyone, of any riding ability, can have fun on. It’s got something for everyone—lots of bottom-end twin-cylinder grunt, a small, light chassis and enough comfort that long mile days in the saddle are not much of an issue.
But the undoubted star of the show is the 689cc twin wedged under your bits. With around 60hp on tap, the FZ will pull third gear wheelies (with a little clutch help), which is more than can be said for something like the Suzuki SV650, its direct competitor.
Those that remember the Gatling Gun-like throttle response of the FZ-09 will be happy to know it’s all but absent on the little brother 07: the throttle response is smooth (ish), torque plentiful and gearbox action is pretty good—I say that because it’s not perfect, there’s better shifting gearboxes out there but you have to remember, this bike is brand new for under $7K, so you can’t be too picky.
Despite the model designation the 07 is surprisingly roomy for a sub-1000cc machine. It’s 55.1-inch wheelbase coupled to a 31.7-inch seat height feels svelte and lithe on the move in the same way 400cc bikes were back in the 90s, although the overall package is far more developed and finished than those bikes ever were.
The brakes and front suspension are pretty average, to be fair. The twin-piston calipers and 282mm discs don’t have a massive amount of bite but they are not hauling up a very heavy machine at 397lb curb, so you could forgive Yamaha for skimping a little to save the end user some bucks.
The front suspension, likewise, is on the cheap side but for the most part it offers decent absorption of most bumps this side of a crappy dirt road. Really start getting into it and the front will begin to show its spec as it struggles to keep everything under control under brakes, but the rear suspension action is actually pretty good, even if it only has preload adjustment available.
The bottom line is the Yamaha FZ-07 still represents one of the best value bargains in motorcycling. Those brake and suspension gripes aside, the little Yamaha is an absolute barrel of laughs, especially if you like to get the front up from time to time…
This model FZ-07 has no TC, no ABS, no variable engine modes. It’s like every bike before 2008. It’s motorcycling distilled into pure enjoyment. And that’s becoming more important to me than ever.
2017 Yamaha FZ-07
Engine: Liquid-cooled DOHC four-stroke parallel-twin, 8 valves
Bore x stroke: 80 x 68.6mm
Compression ratio: 11.5:1
Clutch: Wet multi-plate
Chassis: Tubular steel cradle
Front suspension: 41mm conventional, non-adjustable
Rear suspension: Single shock absorber, preload adjustable
Front brake: Twin 282mm discs, twin-piston calipers (ABS available)
Rear brake: Single 245mm disc, single-piston caliper (ABS available)
Front tire: 120/70 ZR17
Rear tire: 180/55 ZR17
Wheelbase: 55.1 in.
Seat height: 31.7 in.
Overall width: 29.3 in.
Overall length: 82.1 in.
Fuel capacity: 3.7 gal
Weight: 397 lbs (curb, claimed).
Color: Liquid Graphite (tested), Rapid Red, Pearl White