Pictured on the left is the Yamaha FZ1S. In the past, I always liked the big Fazer. It looked good! Very purposeful, with the engine being put on display and the rest of the bike kind of wrapped around it. Then there’s a small fairing to add to the looks (and practicalities). And the concept of “the practical sports-bike” is something that makes a lot of sense too. It’s a lot more sensible to use on a day-to-day basis than a true sportster! But I’d never ridden one.
Then in 2006 things changed. They up-dated the model, and moved it more towards the sporting end of things. The seat was basically the same as the one on the R1; and felt hard to sit on. And whenever I did sit on one in the showroom, the rest of the bike felt uncomfortable too – smaller, and cramped almost. Still, the concept remained, and I thought it would be an interesting bike to ride; and one that the sportier people reading this might be interested in.
David Fraser Motorcycles in Oak Flats is one of the leading Yamaha dealers in the Illawarra (and has the cleanest workshop I’ve ever seen in a bike shop!), and I knew they had a demo available. So I gave them a call and arranged to take the FZ1S for a test-ride. And that's the bike pictured above.
I still think the bike looks good (although I think I prefer the previous model’s silver engine with chromed exhaust). But let’s get beyond the looks; let’s get down to what it’s made up of!
Basically, it’s got the mechanicals of an R1, re-tuned to make it more practical as a street-bike, and placed in a frame and bodywork that, again, make it more of a street-bike; with a semi-naked-sports-bike look. (There is a naked version too, if you prefer that). The engine is a 998cc unit, of course, pumping out 110kw (compared to 134kw in it’s R1 form) and 106Nm of torque. Down a bit on an R1 it might be, but that’s still a pretty powerful donk! Weight is a very manageable 199kg. (The R1 weighs in at 177kg). Chain drive, of course, and a 6-speed close-ratio gearbox.
But enough of the facts and figures, time to get on and go for a ride!
First up I’ve got to say that I didn’t come anywhere near approaching the capabilities of the bike! A younger faster rider would’ve unleashed those rampant R1 horses and blasted along at warp speed, hurled it through the twisties, and really appreciated what the bike could do. I rode it like an old bloke! It didn’t help either, that the day I did the test was a double-demerit period! Anyway, here’s how it went.
I swung my leg over and banged my knee on the pillion grab-rail. I don’t why, but I did that every time I got on. (I’m sure you’d get used to it – and it’s better than having your pillion fall off the back!).
The instrument-panel is neat and concise, with an analogue tacho (red-lined at a fairly lofty 12,000rpm), and a digital speedo. On the speedo panel there's a digital clock, odometer, engine-temperature, and fuel gauge.
There are the usual buttons for “Select” and “Reset”; which of course allow you to select something and reset it! (No, I don’t know what, as I never tried them!).
It's all very easy to read anyway.
Next surprise was the engine. What an incredible engine this is! You know it comes from an R1, and with that 12,000rpm red-line you’d expect it to be peaky, right? Wrong! I suppose I should’ve known what to expect; because with the FZ6 Yamaha took the engine out of the R6 and turned it into something that could be as docile as a pussy-cat around town. And they’ve done the same with this. The engine is so tractable it is simply astounding! It will pull happily from under 2,000rpm without a hint of complaint. Yes, there are other engines that will pull away from those revs, but usually there’s a little bit of vibration, or sluggishness, to let you know that this isn’t where they’re happiest. With the FZ1 you could keep it always under 4,000rpm and think that was where it wanted to be. Pull away from 2,000rpm, change up at 3,000rpm, and so on. It’s totally happy at those revs, just like a docile commuter!
But then you can also wind it out, riding it like a sports-bike. Keep the tacho swinging up high, and you can feel it really fly! And, forgetting for the moment how happy it felt at low revs, you’d feel that now you really had it in it’s element. Talk about dual-personality; I can’t think of any other engine I’ve experienced that is so tractable and useable over such a wide rev-range!
It was so useable over such a wide rev-range that I reckoned it’d happily operate at the same speed in both 1st gear and top. So I tried. I pulled onto a deserted back-road, sat it on 40kph in 1st and hit the throttle. Of course it jumped away with great urgency. I let it go to about 75kph (still only about half way to the red-line) and then went back to 40kph. I clicked it up into top gear, and twisted the throttle. And it surged away without a hint of snatch or shake, and just the mildest of low-rev vibe. It rushed on to higher speed, but the point was proven. I tried the same exercise from 50kph, and of course it was the same, except that the acceleration in top was just a touch smoother and quicker. Amazing!
I also tried the same sort of thing on the expressway. Cruising along at the speed-limit, I clicked it back into 3rd gear. At 100kph it was running easily at around 5,000rpm. Click, click, click back into top, and the revs dropped and it carried on it’s way just as happily; only a little quieter. Yep, flexibility is the name of it’s game!
Talking of gears, it is, as I mentioned, a close-ratio box, and starts off quite high. 1st gear pulls almost 12kph / 1,000rpm. You hardly notice that though, because of the tractability of the engine. But think of that red-line and do the maths – at the red-line in 1st you’d be doing about 140kph! So you could pull onto a major expressway and seriously break the speed-limit without getting out of 1st gear! (“But officer, I couldn’t have been speeding, I was still in 1st!” I don’t think they’d believe you!). Top gear runs at just under 26kph / 1,000rpm; so high-speed cruising isn’t going to be a problem. Well, I mean, half way to the red-line would have you traveling at about 150kph, so you’ll run out of license long before you’ll run out of cruising ability! It does feel relaxed at highway speeds anyway. The only criticism of it’s cruising ability is that you do get a fair bit of wind; that fairing and screen is a bit small to really be effective at keeping the wind off.
Speaking of wind, the semi-faired design allows plenty of it to circulate around the engine and blow the heat away. It was quite a hot day when I rode the bike, but I didn’t feel hot on the bike at all.
Performance is, of course, excellent! With 110kw on tap you’d expect it to be! As indicated before, I mostly rode it at fairly moderate speeds, but when the opportunity arose I gave the throttle a decent twist. At pretty much any speed in any gear it rose up on it’s beautiful up-side-down gold-coloured forks and took off! Get it up higher in the rev-range and you could see how well the whole power package and close-ratio box worked; propelling the bike forward in typical sports-bike fashion. Hang on and enjoy! I never really approached the red-line though; a bit over 8,000rpm was as far as I went. At that it was still keen to go on, although a 4-cylinder motor at those sort of revs is sounding pretty busy; especially if, as I am, you’re used to riding at more sedate rpm.
With double-demerit points applying, I was cautious about doing any high-speed stuff. A quick blast up to about 130kph was all I did. And at that speed it wasn’t even trying to go fast.
Highlighting the “civilised R1” nature, the performance always felt totally under control. The acceleration was quick, of course, but it never felt brutal like it was going to get away from you.
You’d expect it to handle well too, wouldn’t you? Not like an R1, but it should be good. Well, no disappointments here either! Again, I didn’t get it anywhere near it’s capabilities, of course; but even early in the test, when going through a series of familiar corners, I noticed I was traveling about 10kph faster than I normally do on my own bike. Yep, it handles well! Although I backed off a little at that point. That 190-section rear tyre gives a different feel; and while the bike was capable of much higher cornering speeds, I figured I needed a little more time to really get to know it; especially on a road with off-camber corners lined with concrete walls! Later, on some winding back-roads, it was very enjoyable to squirt it through the corners. It responds well to gentle counter-steering, and is easy to change line through corners if you need to. Get to know it well, and be confident and precise, and it’d be capable of some serious sports-style handling!
Brakes are superb! Coming from the R1 you’d expect them to be good, and they are. When I ride a test bike I always start off operating everything very gently. Twist the throttle gently, apply the brakes gently, and so on. It’s called “getting used to the bike before you tip yourself on your backside”! So, typically, I began using the brakes very gently, and very gently was all I ever needed. I did give it a harder squeeze at one point, and it stopped like it’d hit something!
Another thing that surprised me with this bike was how comfortable - or perhaps more accurately, how “not uncomfortable” - it was. Given it’s design brief, my showroom-impressions, and especially with that hard sports seat, I’d expected the bike to be, literally, a pain-in-the-bum; but I was feeling okay. The ride feels firm, as you’d expect from a sports-bike, but on reasonable roads it was quite okay. Yes, if it was mine, the Air Hawk would be going on real quick, but it wasn’t as bad as I expected. By the end of the ride though, it was starting to bite, and I don’t think long hours in the saddle is what the maker intended! The suspension is fully adjustable front and back, so you should be able to soften things up a bit if comfort is more your thing rather than race-track handling, (which, for most of us, it would be!). 
On the way back I went along a bumpy back-road; and it was here that the limitations of it’s sports-bike nature became achingly apparent! The firm suspension showed it’s lack of compliance (at the standard settings anyway), and it jolted harshly over bumps. The hard seat pounded into my backside. This was getting pretty ugly, and I even resorted to standing up, trail-bike style, when I saw larger bumps approaching. That smooth highway couldn’t come soon enough!
Once on the highway again, we were back in it’s natural habitat; and I could start enjoying it again before finally taking it back to the dealer. But the rough back-road had put it in perspective. Read the brochures and when Yamaha describes the FZ1 it talks of “sports” and “handling” and blasting away from the “4-wheel slugs”. Read about “off-highway roads” and roads that are “narrow and bumpy”, and you’re reading the TDM brochure!
And on the subject of different models, it’s interesting to compare what Yamaha have done with the FZ1 and the FZ6. You’d think they’d be just different capacity versions of the same sort of thing – the FZ6 being born of the R6, and the FZ1 of the R1. As I’ve mentioned, the tractable nature of the engines is the same, but in most other ways they’re very different. The FZ6 is a lot softer. It’s seat is much more comfortable, and the ride is much more comfortable too. In every-day, all-roads, type conditions it’s actually much more practical than the FZ1. It doesn’t have anywhere near the same power and performance, of course, but what it does have doesn’t come across as a serious sports-bike; whereas the FZ1 definitely does!
Surprises were in store for me with this bike! The first surprise was that it was more comfortable than I’d remembered from sitting on it in the showroom. The seat is wide, flat, and pretty hard, but actually not as uncomfortable as I’d expected. And the riding-position is a lot more up-right than I remembered, or expected it to be. Of course you lean forward a bit, but it really is quite up-right.
And it didn’t feel as cramped as I remembered either. The bike has a very good riding-position! The only problem I found was the mirrors, which are mounted a long way forward on the fairing; you need arms like an orangutan to adjust them! Fortunately, I’m built that kind of way, so with a stretch I could do it. (Shorter people would probably need an assistant!). Once adjusted they work well and stay where you put them.
So, would I buy one? Well, no, it’s not exactly my cup-of-tea. Fiddling with the multi-adjustable suspension might bring it closer, but really it's a bit hard for these ageing old bones. But if Yamaha took a softer approach, as with the FZ6, if they gave it a plush seat and soft suspension, I reckon I'd be first in the queue at the sales desk!
Anyway, for what it is, it’s a very impressive bike! And that engine is simply incredible for what it does and how it does it!
So if you’re after a practical sports-bike, this would be a good choice. It’s the sort of bike that a lot more people should be riding; people who buy things like the R1 and only use three-quarters of it’s capabilities, while suffering the disadvantages inherent in the super-sports design. At $16,699 it’s even reasonable value for what you get.
So, an R1 for old blokes? No, it’s much better than that!
Ridden 2008.

UP-DATE 2010
No changes are listed for the big Fazer. Even the paint is the same! This was so good that it doesn't really need changing anyway!

UP-DATE 2012
Still no real changes. Just paint. Colour is now any colour you like as long as it's white. And the muffler is now black, and still ugly.
A road-test in Cycle Torque also commented on the firm ride - which the tester cured by adjustments to the suspension. I'm not sure there'd be enough for my liking, but it was interesting to read that it did make a significant difference. He also commented on the seat being hard after "a few hours in the saddle." Good to know we're on the same page with these sort of things!
The tester was also impressed by the same things that I was; the performance and handling and practical nature of the bike. He wanted to see the cross-plane version of the R1 motor in the bike, rather than this older design, but as he said, there's more than enough power there and it probably wouldn't make it a better bike. As I said in the report above, I thought the engine was brilliant!

Only the colour has changed – now only available in black.

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