IT’S ALL HAPPENING on the Indian two-wheeler front. The trickle of superbikes, which were once a distant dream for Indian aficionados, seems to have turned into a flood and today one can pick and choose from a wide range of world-class 800cc-plus models. Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Ducati, KTM and even Harley-Davidson have set up shop in India, offering dream machines ranging from track bred supersports machines to heavy cruisers.
Yamaha set the ball rolling towards the end of 2007, and still has a formidable line-up of superbikes on sale. However, what it lacked was a practical big bike but that’s a shortcoming that’s soon to be addressed for big brother to the FZ-16 — the 1000cc FZ1 — is on the verge of being launched across India.
We got astride the latest Yamaha for a quick spin and there’s plenty to be excited about.
The FZ1 packs loads of understated s treet presence and screams out muscle. The styling is macho and powerful, the 1 openly flaunting its brawny engine and alloy frame. This Yamaha displays ample aggression as well as a healthy dose of pose value but without ever looking overdone. Much of the bike is coated in black, including its five-spoke alloys, front suspension, engine, stubby silencer and side panels. The FZ1 has a minimalist front mudguard and an arrow-shaped headlight with brilliant illumination. The handlebar sits flat alongside compact instruments. The analogue rpm gauge, redlines between 12000 and 13000rpm, and the digital display shows speed, fuel level, engine temperature, odometer, time as well as twin trip.
The 1 comes with excellent quality switches, grips and particularly nice mirrors. Its buffed alloy levers look smart and the brake side adjusts for reach; the clutch lacks this but makes up by offering cable play regulation at the yoke. The naked 1’s sleek and broad 18-litre fuel tank provides ample thigh support and blends perfectly into the stepped riding saddle. Smart side panels meet a dual-tone tail-fairing and a truly nifty tail light.
A high level of attention to detail is evident on the 1 as is top-notch quality for all parts, as well as rubbers and plastic that impart a sturdy, built-to-last feel.
The FZ1 shares its brilliant liquid-cooled engine with the previous-generation Yamaha YZF-R1 in a relatively street friendly state-of-tune with revised gearing to match its multipurpose role. Four vertically stacked, short-stroke (each measuring 77 x 56.3mm) cylinders sit packed in-line, displacing 998cc and outputting a prodigious 150bhp at 11000rpm. The maximum torque generated is 10.8kgm at 8000rpm, with four valves punching inside each fuel-injected cylinder.
While experienced superbike riders used to brutal torque-enriched power delivery from bigger bikes like the Suzuki Hayabusa may find the FZ1 lacking low- and mid-range grunt, it is still easy to find yourself addicted to the FZ1’s incredible top-end performance. The 1 feels best wound up past 6000rpm, at which point it pulls with arm-wrenching gusto all the way to its 11500rpm limiter. Fueling is slightly abrupt, the injection feeding in a touch unpredictably below 4000rpm. Yet, things smoothen out thereafter with bullish, vibe-free power melting even the fastest cars on Indian highways into your mirrors. The FZ1 is capable of nudging 133kph in first gear and we got it to bash through the 100kph mark 3.86sec after blast-off. Its single silencer belts out a fantastic exhaust note on throttle overrun like the older R1, and the big Yam feels right at home whizzing down highways in the vicinity of 140kph, while still capable of maintaining lower speeds in city traffic. Top speed is impressive in the region of 255kph.
A drawback to the 1 is that heat tends to rise from its engine bay and bothers the rider at low speeds. However, to be fair to the bike, this could be due to our torrid weather and slow-moving urban riding conditions, and is not as troublesome as its gearbox.
The FZ1 comes with a six-speed, one-down and five-up shifting gearbox that is heavy to operate. Clutch feedback and the gearshifts are precise with no false neutrals, but long rides will have you yearning for lighter effort to change up or down this ’box.
Yamaha has given the FZ1 an alloy twin-spark frame and swingarm, plus top-drawer fully adjustable suspension at both ends. There are upside-down forks in front, a monoshock at the rear
and sticky tyres at both ends, with a generous 190/50 x 17-incher at the rear.
Wide, flat handbars and an upright seating position help the FZ1 stay comfortable over short distances but the inadequate seat and the lack of a fairing means high-speed cruising over 150kph is an arduous affair. While the ride quality is good and can be tailored to suit your needs, the bike’s handling is really tidy. No, the 1 isn’t quite as light and nimble as its arch rival, Honda’s CB1000R, or supersports models like the YZF-R1 that can outdo the FZ1, but this motorcycle still handles corners eagerly and with solid stability, always steering with a neutral, predictable feel. The 1 comes with fantastic brakes — twin 320mm discs in front and a 245mm single rotor at the rear.
You will have to wait for our complete road test to get accurate fuel consumption numbers, but expect the FZ1 to deliver close to 20kpl.
Now for the big number; We hear the pricing for the truly versatile, city friendly, and still sporty FZ1 is going to be competitive, close to Rs 9,50,000 (ex-showroom), even close to which point Yamaha is certain to have another winner on its Indian shelves.