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Will 800 become the new 750?
By Jeff Cobb, Courtesy of Motorcycle.com, Photography by Yamaha

Yamaha announced today that it will be importing its sporty FZ8 naked sportster to the U.S. for 2011.

The fuel-injected, 779cc, alloy perimeter-framed four-cylinder has been on sale in Europe since last year, and it’s being touted as a compromise between the less-powerful 600cc middleweights and the bigger literbikes like Yamaha’s R1-based FZ1 and Kawasaki’s Z1000.

The FZ8 actually has much in common with the FZ1. Its engine – six-point mounted as a stressed, chassis-reinforcing member – shares the same 53.6mm stroke, but its bore size is 9mm smaller, at 68mm, instead of 77mm as found on the FZ1.

The FZ8’s 464-lb curb weight comes in at mere 23 lbs under its 487-lb liter-sized big brother. Part of the weight savings is nothing more than a slight loss of fuel capacity, as its 4.5 gallon fuel capacity is about one quart less than the FZ1’s.

Yamaha’s FZ8 will come to the U.S. in December. What do we call it, a mid-heavyweight? Unlike in Europe, there will be no ABS available for U.S. consumers. This helps it achieve its reasonable price of $8,490.

Yamaha’s FZ8 will come to the U.S. in December. What do we call it, a mid-heavyweight? Unlike in Europe, there will be no ABS available for U.S. consumers. This helps it achieve its reasonable price of $8,490.

Likewise, the FZ8’s twin front disc brake specs are nearly identical, at 310mm front compared to the 320mm discs for the FZ1. A single 267mm disc in back contrasts with a 245mm rear disc on the FZ1. Both are pinched by similar four-piston front, and single-piston rear calipers.

Both ride on a similar 43mm inverted fork and a link-type Monocross rear shock, sharing a 57.5-inch wheelbase. The FZ8’s suspension is adjustable only for rear preload.

The FZ8 is not merely a gelded and cheaper FZ1. It utilizes a new crankshaft and new four-valve-per cylinder head instead of the five-valve-per-cylinder head of the FZ1 – which is itself an adaptation from the first-generation R1.

Gotta love that Euro style. Check out those curvaceous header pipes.

Gotta love that Euro style. Check out those curvaceous header pipes.

The new head breathes through 26mm intake valves and 22mm exhaust valves, a 12:1 compression ratio instead of the FZ1’s 11.5:1, and cam profiles tuned toward a fatter midrange. Yamaha boasts also that the intake funnels for cylinders two and three are 25mm longer than those of the two outside cylinders to help achieve a broad torque curve. In all, the package promises to be at least quasi-unique, and certainly street worthy.

Unfortunately, ABS will not be available in the U.S., as it is on this model in Europe, nor will its twin model – the Fazer 8 – which is being imported to Canada.

The FZ8’s moderately upright riding position and minimalistic bikini fairing ought to coordinate well with a sportbike-inspired 51% front and 49% rear weight bias. Its wheel sizes mimics what’s normally found on a 600cc supersport, with a 120/70-ZR17 radial up front and 180/55-ZR17 rear.

With a purported 105 hp and 61 ft-lb, the FZ8 is poised to fill the shoes of what used to be industry standard in the 750cc class.

With the power, running gear and chassis of a true sportbike combined with a comfortable riding position, the FZ8 ought to make a very sensible but powerful bike for riders who realize a 140-155 hp ballistic literbike may not always be necessary.

Further, the FZ8 at this juncture may have little apples-to-apples competition.

On the smaller side of things, there is the aforementioned ER-6n, Yamaha’s faired FZ-6R and Suzuki’s GSF650, but these are only marginally in the same category. Also, in a way, the Triumph Street Triple could be considered similar.

The FZ8 ought to have significantly more grunt than these lighter bikes, without being insanely fast to the point of testing fate.

As for bikes to compare it to on the larger side are machines like the Triumph’s Speed Triple, Kawasaki’s Z1000 and Ducati’s Twin-cylinder Monster 796. But all of these are quite a bit more pricey.

So, the FZ8 is actually in a fairly unique position in the marketplace, and is a new option for American riders.

At a list price of $8,490, the 2011 FZ8 undercuts the FZ1 by a fair margin. The 2010 FZ1 carried an MSRP of $10,290, and we expect that to increase for 2011. In simplistic terms, the FZ8 provides an unfaired and 200cc smaller FZ1 at a savings of around $2,000 or so.

Expect FZ8s to show up in dealerships as soon as December.

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1 Comments on this post

  1. Excellent website. Very helpful. Thank you for writing this.

    Toney Burdi / Reply

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