Test Ride: 155 Miles on the 2017 Yamaha FZ-09

 


The original Yamaha FZ-09 was different than most naked bikes when it was released in 2013. It featured an upright seating position borrowed from dirt bikes that made it a comfortable commuter, and it had a 847cc triple-cylinder engine that delivered on-demand wheelies. The bike even made it onto our Gear of the Year list. And now the FZ-09 has received a massive overhaul for 2017.

We recently ran the new bike through the paces during a 155-mile day in Los Angeles, taking it on some of the best motorcycle roads in the country that included Pacific Ocean views — Topanga, Malibu, and Calabasas — and miles of standstill traffic on Sunset Boulevard.

It’s no surprise Yamaha updated the FZ-09. According to the brand, sport and supersport sales are up 33 percent. Improvements for 2017 include adjustable suspension, and there’s an updated drive train and new electronics package with better fuel mapping, as well as ABS, which now comes standard, and traction control. Yamaha also updated the look of the bike with an FZ-10–inspired headlight and a spoiler underneath, plus a more aggressive-looking muffler cover and tail cowl. 

The 847cc engine stayed the same and offers plenty of torque. Controlled by a ride-by-wire throttle, peak torque is a fun 64.5 lb-ft, and the engine redlines at an impressive 11,250 rpm. The FZ-09 is also pre-wired for the accessory $160 quick shifter for riders who want to enjoy clutchless upshifts. With Yamaha’s D-Mode, you can choose from Standard Mode, “A” Mode, and “B” Mode — for different throttle-response characteristics at the push of a button. D-Mode was a welcome improvement because it smoothed out the jerky throttle response found in the original model.

Yamaha designed the clutch with a mechanical slipper action that eliminates the back wheel rowdiness of downshifting too early — something we appreciated right off the bat. Borrowed from the XSR, the clutch also provides a 20 percent reduction in lever effort.

For 2017, the 41mm inverted fork now features compression damping that’s increased by 83 percent. Tuning is initially soft for more aggressive riding, it’s spot on for mellow rides. The new fork design sourced from KYB is fully adjustable and something you can do without the help of a mechanic. In less than a few minutes, you can change the fork from comfort to performance-oriented.

The triple is mated to a narrow, lightweight aluminum die-cast frame, which is light, sporty, and nimble. Attached to the frame is an upgraded seat that includes a tapered lip at the front to keep the rider planted firmly in the saddle. The seat, at 32.3”, measures slightly higher than the previous version, and there’s more room for a passenger thanks to a longer saddle.

With tech from the bigger, more powerful FZ-10, the FZ-09 also looks more aggressive with its new headlight, radiator fins, and larger tank accent. Available in matte silver with neon yellow, white, and candy red, it’s part of Yamaha’s demo fleet, so there’s a good chance you can ride before you buy.

The FZ-09 is ideal for the rider who’s looking for a great commuter that won’t hold him or her back during more spirited weekend trips. Starting at about $9,000, it’s accessible, versatile, reliable, and packs plenty of performance. Dollar for dollar the FZ-09 delivers as much as any other bike available right now. [$8,999; yamahamotorsports.com]