Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Yamaha FZ-07 (MT-07): Ownership Review
The late George Carlin once said that life is just a series of dogs you own. If that's true, then life for me thus far has been a series of motorcycles. It's interesting that I can look back upon certain chapters of my life, be it through looking at old photos, reminiscing with friends or whatever, and tell you exactly which motorcycle or motorcycles I owned at that point in time. They invoke my own personal zeitgeists like old songs or familiar voices.
That said, it is probably true that I've owned too many over the years. Not because I don't hang onto the good ones; I owned my ZX-7R and ZX-6R for over a decade, and I still enjoy my 2004 ZRX1200R most every day. It's just that I've always liked having more than one at a time, as well as fixing up used ones to eventually resell. That has resulted in me owning and riding scores of bikes over the past few decades. For that, I do not apologize. It has been a wonderful spice of life.
And with the passing of those decades has come the occasional change in my focus, direction, and philosophies as a motorcyclist. Lately, I've been experiencing another of those moto paradigm shifts. Specifically, I've mostly lost interest in my years long obsession with race replica sportbikes and constant high-speed riding (which is probably for the best at this point in my life). I've instead become much more interested in things like torque numbers and usable power delivery. This led me to re-discover parallel twin engines a few years back and buy a Triumph Bonneville, which I have enjoyed tremendously ever since. So when Yamaha released its new parallel twin-powered FZ-07 which incorporates its popular crossplane crank technology, I knew I had to get one.
I took ownership of my 2015 FZ-07 in December, after nine months of watching it collect dust on the showroom floor at the local Yamaha dealership. When the 2016s started arriving I made my move, nabbing the bike as a holdover for $6399, almost $600 off the sticker price. Since then I've been acquainting myself with the FZ-07 pretty much daily, and we're getting along swimmingly so far. Here are my thoughts after three months of ownership.
WEIGHT, HANDLING, AND OVERALL FEEL
Just to clarify, I currently have three bikes in my stable; a 2013 Bonneville, a 2004 ZRX1200R, and the FZ-07. The FZ is by far the lightest among them at about 390 pounds wet in its current configuration. And even though the FZ-07's suspension is undoubtedly one of the areas where Yamaha chose to cut costs and "cheap-out", the bike's steering geometry combined with its feather light weight makes it the king of the stable in the handling category. Superbike snobs will scoff at the FZ-07's lack of adjustability and soft demeanor, and if you decide to take it to the track, you'll see what they are talking about. But in its proper element, the streets, the average rider has no reasonable grounds upon which to decry the FZ-07's suspension. The bike instantly connects with its pilot and makes for pure, uncomplicated fun all the way. It inspires confidence and makes you want to continue riding long after you should've been home for dinner.
ENGINE CHARACTERISTICS AND POWER
At about 75 crank horsepower, the FZ-07 isn't going to win any races against 600cc or bigger race replicas. But where it does come out on top is in how it delivers those ponies, along with its impressive 50-plus foot-pounds of torque, which is immediate and almost violent at times. Power wheelies are effortless in both first and second gear as the 700cc crossplane twin literally dumps its full force into your lap almost right off idle. It spins up quickly without hesitating or wheezing as its signature crossplane howl makes you wonder if there's a NASCAR engine beneath you. This, in my opinion, is precisely how a street-oriented sportbike should behave. Leave the 600cc neck wringing to the pimply faced Gixxer riders. I want my torque right now.
This matters. One of the many reasons I bought the Bonneville and have hung onto my ZRX is because a lot of modern motorcycle design is just plain awful. Lines and other aesthetics, even including proportion, are regularly sacrificed these days in an effort to improve aerodynamics and reduce weight. This has resulted in an entire generation of surgical but flat-out ugly sportbikes that, quite frankly, are too horrid to even look at, much less ride. Yamaha has somehow bucked that trend with the FZ-07. The lines are modernly angular but appropriate, and the divine proportion is obediently employed in every geometrical relationship. It is modern yet classic. Simply put, the FZ-07 is dead sexy.
It's interesting how views and attitudes about sportbikes have changed over the years with advances in technology and movements in cultural norms. When Kawasaki released the 80-horse Z1 in the early 1970s, it shook the motorcycling world. The moto rags of the time fawned over it as the ultimate superbike and about it being not for the faint of heart. In the year 2016, the FZ-07 -- which shares similar performance with the Z1 -- is considered by many to be an entry level motorcycle. I've never bought into this way of thinking. Whether you just started riding or have been a motorcyclist for over four decades like me, you should consider the FZ-07 if looking to buy. It's not the fastest or the fanciest among its peers, but I believe history will judge it as having been revolutionary it its own way, and that counts for a lot in modern motorcycling.