Nothing has gone wrong.
FZS1000 (FZ-1 in North America)
I bought this bike new in 2002, and I have ridden it 80,000 km (50,000 miles) in continental Europe in 2 and ½ seasons. It has been used for long trips, camping trips, commuting to work, German autobahn blasts, Norwegian and Austrian twisties, and on track days. I have been riding for 40 years, and have ridden just about everything – off-road including racing, cruisers, tourers, and sport bikes on and off the track. In short, I am a very experienced rider well-qualified to judge a bike.
The FZS1000 is the best all-rounder I can imagine. It has many strong points, and a few weak points, but nothing to make it an undesirable bike. If one needs a do-it-all bike (except off-road, of course) this is the best bike available.
The bike has the bottom end from the R-1 motor with a different top end to move the engine power curves towards more mid-range torque and less top end horsepower. The top end changes include a different cylinder head with different valves and ports, and smaller carburetors than the R-1 originally came with. The increased mid-range is enough to make the bike a bit more “streetable”, but not as much as one would expect given all of the hype in the media. On two-lane roads I still downshift when passing other vehicles, sometimes two gears if I am in a hurry. On the motorway, throttle roll-on is usually enough. The engine mods did not turn the inline four into a V-twin-like torque monster, and are also at the expense of some of the sportbike lover’s top end rush. Drag racing friends on R-1’s, this bike slowly loses the race, although not as quickly as one might expect. A dyno shows my stock FZS1000 as having 123 HP at the rear wheel. This is about the same as a Suzuki GSXR-750, i.e., halfway between the 600 super-sports and the liter class. It is enough for most people, and certainly enough to get into serious trouble in a hurry, although experienced liter-class riders will miss the top end. If you are a wheelie fanatic, this bike will do them well, but simple throttle roll-on will usually not bring the front end up. The bike is just short of roll-on wheelies. The rolling pull-in-the-clutch-rev-the-motor-release-the-clutch technique a la 600 super sport will work just fine, but go easy on the engine revs. The bike does not need as much as a 600 unless you like going inverted.
One minor engine annoyance factor: On some FZS1000’s, the EXUP valve rattles. I do not mind because it tells me that the valve is free and working. The only problem is that your friends think your bike is making funny noises. It is, but they are good noises. Harmless noises.
Weight, Suspension, and Braking:
Yamaha very wisely elected to put fully-adjustable suspension on the bike. This one feature alone contributes a great deal to the impressive all-around capability of the FZS1000. The bike is heavy compared to a sport bike, but with the fully-adjustable suspension it is possible to dial the bike in and make it handle as well as a sport bike. I have had the bike out on track days and have been dead even with R-1’s, GSXR’s, CBR-whatevers, and Ducati 996’s in the corners, although the FZS1000 loses to the other Japanese liter bikes in the straights. Surprisingly, a stock Ducati 996 will not pull away from the FZS1000 on the straight. I spent an entire day on the track in a dead heat with a stock 996. It was frustrating for both of us, but people came away from that track day with a new respect for the FZS1000. As long as I was precise and exited the corner in the right gear, the Duc had absolutely no advantage despite the low-end torque of that big V-twin. The pure sports bike guys started off turning their noses up at “that street bike” until it passed them mid-corner.
I have an extra set of wheels for the bike, so one set has touring tires, Michelin Pilot Road, and the other set has sport tires. I have used Michelin Pilot Power, Pilot Sport, and Dunlop 208RR. If you get a new bike with Metzeler MeZ-4’s, do not ride them in the rain, and wear them out as quickly as possible. Horrible tires. If you can afford it, throw them away. If you live in Germany and by law are stuck with the MeZ-4’s forever, you have my sincere sympathy. You will never experience the true FZS1000. Move to another country and buy decent tires. This bike will push tires to the limit without any bad manners. There is no frame flex and no front end weirdness, even at very steep lean angles, with one exception that I will mention in a moment. The bike is entirely predictable and allows the rider to explore the limits of the tires without dealing with frame and suspension oddities along the way.
The brakes are straight off the R-1, and do an excellent job. If you are one of those who brakes deep into corners, I have never felt any tendency for the bike to stand up in the corners under braking. Now to the one minor negative trait: with sport tires installed, the front brake is capable of flexing the front forks and creating front-end chatter. Many sport bikes do this, but the FZS1000 seems to be just a tiny bit worse.
On the plus side, there is absolutely no need for a steering dampener, on or off the track.
The rear suspension is excellent, and for those of you who throw out perfectly good rear shocks and buy aftermarket: don’t. Wait until the stock shock wears out. Most people do not know that Yamaha owns Ohlins. Yes, Ohlins is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Yamaha. You already have Ohlins technology in your suspension, even though it does not say so. Do not waste your money until the rear shock wears out. There are 11 preload settings on the rear shock, and 10 clicks each for both compression and damping. That is 1,100 possible combinations of settings. If you cannot make this shock work for you, you are either very overweight and should not be on a motorcycle, or you do not know what you are doing and should consult an expert. If you still insist on throwing out your new stock shock, please mail it to me and I will use it.
For those of you who are not sport-oriented and primarily commute and tour, it is possible to set the suspension for many different loads and ride preferences. This is one of the beauties of the FZS1000 – it will adapt to you, your riding style, and your loading.
In 50,000 miles (80,000 km) I have had only one problem with this bike. It is a design flaw in the engine oil system that Yamaha refuses to admit to and do something about. That’s the bad news. The good news is that it can be worked around very easily if you are aware of the nature of the problem. To understand the problem, you must first understand that the oil light on most Yamaha motorcycles is connected to an OIL LEVEL sensor, NOT to a pressure sensor. When riding in cold temperatures, i.e., below 5 deg C (40 deg F), the oil can accumulate at the top of the cylinder head and not drain back to the bottom of the engine as quickly as it should. This happens even when the engine has been running for a while and is warm. With oil accumulating at the top of the motor, the oil level drops down there in the sump, and the sensor thinks the motor is running out of oil. So you can be riding along at 130+ km/hr (80mph) and get a big bright red oil light. Surprise! Assuming that you survive the heart attack, there are three solutions – two temporary and one permanent. Temporary solution number one is to slow down, pull in the clutch, and allow the motor to idle while you are still rolling. The oil will eventually drain back down and the light will go out. This works for about 5 to 10 kilometers before the light comes on again. Temporary solution number two is to stop, and lean the bike over to the right so that the oil drains down through the cam chain housing to the bottom. The light will go out. This is also good for 5 to 10 kilometers. The good news is that although the oil light is coming on, you are in no danger of ruining the engine unless you completely ignore it and keep riding.
Do not bother taking your bike into Yamaha. At best, they will replace your perfectly good oil level sensor with another perfectly good sensor and not solve the problem. When you ride home from the dealer in the cold weather the light will come on again. At worst, Yamaha will deny the that problem exists. The permanent solution is to consistently overfill the motor oil. Ignore the upper limit mark on the clear oil level window and fill the oil to the top of the window. Problem solved. Permanently. Add oil when it reaches halfway between the upper and lower limits in the window. The other permanent solution is to not ride when it is cold outside. You wimp…
Other than that problem, the bike is pretty much bullet proof.
There is a broad range of accessories available for the FZS1000. Do an internet search and you will have several days’ worth of reading. It is even possible to get a full lower fairing for the FZS1000, although patience may be required because the French fairing manufacturer has a Gallic sense of time and urgency.
To turn my bike into a commuter and tourer, I added SW-Motech removable racks (German company) with 45 liter Givi side bags and a 48 liter tail trunk. I can nearly haul as much as a Gold Wing, minus the trailer of course. The only drawback to the bags is the effect on top speed. Without the bags, the bike is capable of 265 km/hr (165 mph). With the bags, 220 km/hr (137 mph) is as fast as I can go. The limiting factor is from two sources – rear-end weight and side bag aerodynamics. With loaded bags, the front end starts to wander above 220 km/hr, and the further you try to push, the more uncontrollable it gets. This is normally not a problem for sane people, but for those of you who travel the German autobahn on a regular basis, remember that you just went from being among the fastest vehicles on the autobahn to Mercedes and BMW bait. With the bags on, even Grandma’s diesel Golf will give you a run for your money.
The bike has one personal frustration in the accessory department, although most people would consider me to be a bit of a nut in this respect. The alternator only puts out 385 watts. Because I ride in all weather, I have two extra sets of lights on my bike. I also wear an electric vest in the cold weather. As long as there is no ice or snow on the road, I ride. The lights consist of a set of fog lights, and a set of long-distance driving lights. I can use one set of lights and the electric vest, or both sets of lights and no vest, but I cannot use both lights and the vest unless I want to run the battery down. I had to learn to manage the electrical load. It is a minor point, but if you are planning a super-tourer complete with driving lights / headlight flasher / moving map GPS / radar detector / mobile phone / CB radio / MP3 player / heated grips / electric socks / neon running lights / brake light flasher, be aware of the limitation. You probably belong on a BMW RT anyway.
Given the engine power, the upright seating position, and the sport-bike handling, this bike is great fun for commuting to work, and you can see over most autos. The fairing on the bike is surprisingly effective. However, it contains another bad, but correctable feature of the bike. The stock windscreen is too tall for true street fighter styling and too short and narrow for serious riding. The stock windscreen creates side vortices and focuses those vortices as well as the windblast over the top right into the center of your chest. I am a short person, so you tall people will probably get it right in the navel. On this bike no windscreen is better than the stock windscreen. If you live in North America, you can get a genuine Yamaha touring windscreen that is about 15 cm (6 inches) taller. For most people it will push the windblast up to a level that goes over your shoulders. Many manufacturers including Rifle in the USA and Givi in Europe make various sizes of taller windscreen for the bike. Rifle makes one that you can look through, although I think the bike looks a little funny with such a tall windscreen. Rifle will also custom make one to your height specifications for a small extra fee. (Rifle does ship to Europe.)
Plan on purchasing a new windscreen.
In the past I normally tossed the stock seat on my bikes and purchased an aftermarket seat. When I lived in the USA, my favorite was the Corbin Gunfighter plus Lady, which gives side support to one’s buttocks. However, after 2 and ½ years and 80,000 km, I still have the stock seat on the FZS1000. It works for me. My wife has a congenital back problem, a curvy spine, and she is terribly uncomfortable unless she is sitting upright on a bike. She says that the back seat, seating position, and passenger footrests make the FZS1000 the most comfortable she has ever been on, including riding on Honda ST1100’s and BMW K or R bikes.
Again, with the right windscreen the fairing does a good job. Another surprise becomes evident when touring. Those tiny little side covers on the radiator are very effective in diverting the wind blast from your legs. They look like someone’s silly styling idea to hide the radiator, but they are actually like a mini fairing lower. In cold or rainy weather they are just enough to divert the weather away from your legs.
The 21 liter tank gives me about a 280 km range (175 miles) before I get nervous about the low fuel light and stop. I have met a few other FZS1000 owners who are a bit more sane with the throttle than I am, and they regularly get a little over 300 km per tank of gas. Most of the time your riding buddies will be stopping for gas long before you are worried about it, unless you ride wth Honda Super-Tanker (ST1100) owners.
If you prefer a leaned-over sitting position for touring and sport riding, you have three choices. It is possible to tilt the stock handlebars over so that you have a near-Honda-VFR lean position. The VFR is more upright than a pure sport bike, but it is not fully upright. For older guys who are beginning to have back problems, but who still want to lean over a bit, the VFR position is a very nice compromise. The FZS1000 will come close with tilted down bars, although you should leave enough room for your fingers between the grips and the tank at full lock.
The second handlebar option in the USA is a short straight handlebar from Yamaha, which also comes with bar mounts that lower the bars. Near sport bike position. One could probably find something like this in Europe, although I have not looked.
The third option is one that I have not expolored, but I have seen done. The fairing on the FZS1000 is cut out at just the right place to allow clearance for clip ons mounted under the triple clamp. One can buy and mount aftermarket clip-ons and ride in full GSXR-600 prison position (buttocks up, face down.)
Assuming that you are not interested in off-road excursions or gravel fire roads, the FZS1000 is about as close to a do-it-all-well bike as one can get. It is possible to set the bike up for many different roles, i.e., commuting, touring, weekend get-stupid sport riding, and track days. The engine has enough power to be in the thick of things, the handling is as good as a sport bike, and you can tour two-up for a long distance trip. It is a fantastic bike that ignores the word “compromise.” I did not think it was possible, but Yamaha proved me wrong. The only people I have ever met who did not like the FZS100 were the pure sport bike guys who got passed.
Would you buy another motorcycle from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 20th December, 2004