Yamaha thinks big by going small with FZ-07

They key to the 2015 Yamaha FZ-07's engine was designed to be slim, allowing the frame to be more compact and improve handling.

It's only May, but I can already say with certainty that the 2015 Yamaha FZ-07 will be among my favorite motorcycles of the year.

There's a certain yee-haw factor to the new midsize naked bike that rides in the sweet spot of fun (without tempting recklessness), easy handling (that isn't too beginnerish) and price (that is unlikely to warrant a visit to a credit counselor).

The baby brother to the larger, more expensive triple-cylinder FZ-09 introduced last year, the $6,990 FZ-07 shrinks the FZ's overall dimensions and reduces the number of cylinders to a twin while retaining the best-of-both-worlds performance philosophy of its older sibling. Yamaha's engineering team may have gotten the memo that twins are at their most potent with the initial twist of the grip, but with the FZ-07 they crumpled the message and jettisoned it to the round file.

Powered with a new 698cc inline twin that takes off with gusto, the FZ-07 doesn't beg to be shifted well before its 10,000ish rpm redline. No. It urges riders to delay squeezing the clutch and upshifting and instead wring it out – at least until they're cruising at highway speeds and the wind becomes too much of a bully to do anything but back off.

Being a naked bike, the FZ-07 lacks a windscreen, just as it eschews body panels that enhance aerodynamics but have a correlating discomfort. The FZ-07 retains the character of a sport bike. It just does it without the Joe Racer clothing or canted forward riding position that often leads to carpal tunnel. The rider is more upright, which is generally more comfortable when doing the sort of urban riding the FZ-07 inspires.


To convey its assertive acceleration, Yamaha employs angular shapes instead of decaled body work. Specifically, it favors triangles. The stubby underslung exhaust that ports behind the right foot peg is shaped like a Toblerone. And each part of the two-piece saddle that makes it easier for riders to reach the ground, and for passengers to actually see, narrows to a point without sacrificing comfort.

They key to the FZ-07's success is the same force that's driving consumer technology: miniaturization. The engine was designed to be slim, the better to nestle into its steel, diamond-type frame, where it operates as a stressed member, allowing the frame to likewise be more compact and improve handling.

Topped with a 31.7-inch saddle, the bike didn't feel tall or at all wide. The ergonomics of the FZ-07 were a perfect fit for my 5-foot-8 build, making it seem less like a vehicle and more like an extension of my own physique.

Like so many of the all-new bikes coming on the market this year, the FZ-07 caters to a less-experienced crowd, which wasn't apparent in the way it performs so much as in the little details built in to keep it pretty if it falls. Look up close, and there are well-disguised crash guards in the engine's underbelly, transmission case and radiator edges.

Likewise, the liquid crystal dashboard display is loaded with information useful to riders who are getting their bearings on two wheels. Well-organized with easy-to-read gauges and numbers in black on a gray screen, the tachometer runs along the bottom edge of the dash topped with a large speedometer, gear indicator and intelligent fuel gauge that calculates consumption in real time and estimates how far it can travel when the tank is running low.

And run low it did. In my week with the FZ-07, I just wanted to keep riding since it did exactly what I want from a bike, operating with compliant agility that didn't bust the bank.

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