Last year, it was the Yamaha Star Bolt sportster for $7,990 making a lot of noise in the industry and ending up on multiple “best of 2013″ lists. It was successful introduction for the company with a solidly built, fun and reliable motorcycle within reach of both beginner riders and enthusiasts with limited disposable income. In the Bolt’s case, it did all that for less than $400 more than this year’s Harley-Davidson’s Street 750 – that company’s entry into the affordable bike market.
This year, Yamaha is introducing the $6,990 FZ-07 – a new sport bike marked for general street use. In fact, Yamaha officials describe it as a “naked sport motorcycle with an engine under 700 CCs.”
To introduce the FZ-07, Yamaha brought motorcycle journalists out to Seattle for a day-long ride event from the city and across Puget Sound for some two-wheeled island hopping.
The FZ-07 is the FZ-09’s little sister. Less powerful and cheaper, the FZ-07 immediately reminded me of a smaller, more affordable version of the Ducati Diavel Strada. The rider sits more upright than he or she would on a forward-riding sport bike over a broad center tank between the legs. That tank provides a strong center of gravity under the rider for reassuring confidence in turns at speed.
Understanding the FZ-07 should prove to be more of an entry-level bike, Yamaha took steps to make it a friendly and easy riding experience. They kept weight down to make it easier to handle at slower speeds and during hill starts. The engine also packs increased low end torque to prove very forgiving at lower gears — allowing the less experienced rider an extra moment or two to recover from a missed or forgotten shift.
For a bike that’s designed to be less expensive, the FZ-07 comes equipped with fully adjustable digital readouts and alerts. The end result is a motorcycle perfectly at ease in street conditions and highway rides. I was impressed that my arse wasn’t killing me after five or six hours outbound on a Japanese-made sport bike.
The riding experience is entertainment and carefree. When you need a little speed, it’s there. When you’re making an aggressive turn, there’s no slip or give. When you’re shifting on the fly or looking to rest your left hand with a little neutral gear moment, the transmission slips in when and where you need to it to every time. Adjusting riding modes and understanding the readouts are instinctive.
It’s safe to assume the FZ-07 is intended as an intro ride for a potential Yamaha rider. After riding it for a couple years, he or she could graduate to the FZ-09 or the FZ6R. But, after spending a couple days with the motorcycle, I think there will be plenty of riders who snag the FZ-07 and decide to stick with it for a while.