They released it in Europe in the spring, but it is coming to Canada and in two formats to boot! Costa takes a spin on Yamaha’s new pair of 8s.
If you’ve been reading CMG News (as you should be, CMG being your primary source for all two-wheeled info of course), you should remember several bits we did on Yamaha’s new FZ8, released in Europe earlier this year.
Well, the bike has been confirmed for Canada, and in both its variations: the naked FZ8 and the half-faired Fazer 8. To celebrate this fact, Yamaha Canada invited us to Huntsville, Ontario — before the area got locked down with G8 security — to test ride the duo.
This pair of middleweight sport bikes (yes, apparently 800 is the new middleweight) are slotted right between the FZ6R and the FZ1, yet they offer substantial performance as their engines and chassis are based on the 1,000 cc FZ1.
The 779 cc engine is a real parts bin of FZ1 and R1 components, with FZ1 cases and a lighter, previous-generation R1 crankshaft (sadly the non-crossplane layout), which keeps with the FZ1’s 53.6 mm stroke but combines with a 9 mm smaller bore to lower the capacity.
Add to that a four-valve head as seen on the latest R1 (instead of the FZ1’s five-valver) for more low to midrange torque and a compression ratio bumped to 12:1 (from the FZ1’s 11.5:1) and you have a respectable 105 hp and 60 lb-ft of torque at 8,000 rpm (claimed). This is right on par with Honda’s new CBF1000 for power but a chunky 10 lb-ft lower in torque.
To keep costs down, Yamaha chose not to include ride-by-wire throttle control, though the FZ8’s fuel injection uses electronically controlled secondary butterfly valves, which provided flawless throttle control.
Both 8s use an aluminum twin-spar frame and die cast aluminum swingarm lifted directly off the FZ1, giving identical chassis geometry (25-degree rake; 109 mm trail; 1,460 mm wheelbase). The 8s get their own subframe though, made of tubular steel rather than the FZ1’s aluminum seat support.
The upright seating position is slightly different than on the FZ1, with a more spacious pose thanks to the handlebar being located 5 mm further forward, but more importantly, the footpegs are placed 15 mm rearward and 10 mm lower for the all important legroom.
The gas tank, at 17 litres, holds one less litre of fuel than the FZ1 and is shorter front to back, thus bringing the rider slightly more forward, but the bike also feels a bit narrower in the midsection than the FZ1, mostly due to a reshaped seat-to-tank junction, which is claimed to give an easier reach to the ground.
Despite the mods, seat height remains at 815 mm (32 in.), which was just fine for me at six feet tall.
Oddly, sitting on the FZ8 and on the Fazer 8 felt slightly different, even though both machines share identical geometry. Maybe it was the sweltering heat playing games with my head, but the naked FZ8 felt taller in the rear end. This was only an illusion though, as both bikes had the same preload adjustment.
Maybe I just needed a cold beer. Maybe later.
Looking down from the seat you’ll find a neat instrument cluster, with a large analogue tachometer and a smaller digital screen displaying speed, coolant temperature, time, fuel and dual trip meters.
You’ll need to keep a gear-shift count, as there’s no gear indicator, but there is a low-fuel trip meter so you’ll know how far you’ve gone since the fuel light came on and you ran out of gas.
Fazer 8, FZ8 and the G8
You’ll probably want to avoid the roads surrounding Huntsville when the G8 circus comes to town, but during the traffic-free, mid-week launch, under a scorching sun, the riding could not have been better.
Handling differed between the machines, with the FZ8 feeling ultra-light and uber-nimble, and the Fazer 8 a bit slower on turning transitions and more planted.
This can be mostly attributed to the added weight of the Fazer 8’s frame-mounted fairing, which adds four kilos up high and forward.
Even with the extra kilograms, I’d happily put up with the additional weight of the fairing, as its effect on handling wasn’t detrimental, yet it offered much more wind protection by greatly reducing the windblast to the chest – a bit of an issue on the FZ8.
Despite the claimed emphasis on low-to-midrange torque, I still found the engine a bit soft below 6,000 rpm though it was much stronger throughout the rev range than the FZ6R, which Yamaha Canada also had on hand for the launch.
Though power delivery was relatively broad and easier to manage than an FZ1’s, the FZ8 only really lit up when allowed to spin past 8,000 rpm, and passing at highway speeds required two downshifts from top gear. A slick-shifting six-speed gearbox made easy work of this, though.
Both the FZ8 and Fazer 8 were mostly smooth throughout the rev range, with some buzzing coming through the handlebar. The buzzing was enough to blur the mirrors a bit, though they offered a nearly elbow-free rear view.
Footpeg support brackets are rubber-mounted to the frame, which does wonders to quell vibration, but it also diminishes chassis feedback for track-day goers.
Despite temperatures in the mid-30s, it was a refreshing revelation to discover that neither of these new Yamahas threatened to roast my nuts.
Heat coming off the engine was well managed, and even though roasted nuts go well with cold beer, they’re not something I’d want to experience personally.
Braking comes via twin four-piston monobloc calipers that come off an earlier generation R6, squeezing 310 mm discs.
At the rear is a single-piston caliper with a 267 mm disc. Braking was strong and linear, with light lever effort and easy modulation, though the pedal lacked feel.
Sadly, Canada does not get an ABS option, something that’s only currently available to the European market.
A 43 mm inverted fork is non adjustable, and the shock is only adjustable for preload. Despite minimal adjustability, suspension compliance was entirely adequate — if a bit on the firm side.
It worked very well for everything up to a spirited back-road pace, though I suspect it would get overwhelmed if attacking the twisties with the fervour of a track-day enthusiast.
I actually give the undemanding suspension a thumbs-up, as it works well enough for most street situations without overwhelming potential owners with overly complex adjustments. And it helps keep the price reasonable too.
Available only in black, the naked FZ8 retails for $10,499, though $500 more will get you either a black or blue Fazer 8 with the added wind protection.
The new middleweight?
Eight hundred cc is an unusual displacement category for an inline four (by today’s standards anyway), but I think Yamaha made a decent compromise by choosing this displacement, and has provided a pair of well-rounded machines.
It has allowed Yamaha to build a bike with power comparable to machines like the Street Triple or the CBF1000, and it’s 30 kg lighter than the Suzuki GSX650F.
Addition of a crossplane crankshaft would have boosted midrange further, and added the bottom-end grunt I crave in a naked — or semi-naked — roadster.
But that would have also boosted the price considerably, as that setup requires beefier crankcases, as well as other fortified components, and it would have made the machine heavier, too.
Neither of these machines is an entry-level bike — Yamaha has the FZ6R for that — nor are they supersports; you can pick either YZF-R model if you want a fully adjustable, chin-to-the-tank go-fast rocket.
These are middle-of-the-road sport bikes, nestled right between a couple of the firm’s popular models, as well as similar bikes from the competition, both in pricing and in power, which is right where Yamaha wants them.
|Bike||2011 Yamaha FZ8||2011 Yamaha Fazer 8|
|Displacement||779 cc||779 cc|
|Engine type||Four-stroke dohc inline four, liquid-cooled||Four-stroke dohc inline four, liquid-cooled|
(crank – claimed)
|105 hp @ 10,000 rpm||105 hp @ 10,000 rpm|
|60.5 lb-ft @ 8,000 rpm||60.5 lb-ft @ 8,000 rpm|
|Tank Capacity||17 litres||17 litres|
|Carburetion||EFI with 35 mm throttle bodies||EFI with 35 mm throttle bodies|
|Final drive||Five speed, Chain drive||Five speed, Chain drive|
|Brakes, front||Dual 310 mm discs with four-piston monobloc calipers||Dual 310 mm discs with four-piston monobloc calipers|
|Brakes, rear||267 mm disc with single-piston caliper||267 mm disc with single-piston caliper|
|Seat height||815 mm (32.1")||815 mm (32.1")|
|Wheelbase||1,460 mm (57.5")||1,460 mm (57.5")|
|211 kg (465 lb)||215 kg (474 lb)|
|Colours||Black||Black or blue|
|Warranty||12 months, unlimited mileage||12 months, unlimited mileage|