Is there anything better than big inline four powered Japanese muscle bikes? I don’t think so. They deliver an unbeatable combo of an easy, comfortable, upright riding position and lots of power. What’s not to love? Whether you call it a (super/hyper) naked, a standard, a street-fighter, or a muscle bike, the first-gen Yamaha FZ1 is downright incredible.
While there’s a certain degree of regret with almost any motorcycle you part ways with, I truly think of the FZ1 I owned as the one that got away. It certainly sparked my love for big bore inline four naked muscle bikes. This motorcycle is on the cusp of being too good.
It honestly doesn’t have very many shortcomings. It’s powerful, delivering open-class superbike performance, combined with comfort for long distance touring. It’s unfailingly reliable, and generally easy to work on when you do have some maintenance to do (valve services are a pain/expensive to have done, but luckily the valvetrain is rock solid and service intervals are at a whopping 26,000 miles).
Its UJM bonafides are further augmented by the inclusion of a center stand. It’s really your uncle’s sport-tourer, isn’t it? Better bust out your dad jeans and white New Balance shoes for this one.
With the engine delivering north of 150 ponies at the crank, most of which make it to the rear wheel, it has off the line torque that will pull your arms from their sockets, and enough top end to achieve speeds that will make you question your mortality and sanity.
With a wet weight under 500 lbs, it’s not as heavy as you’d expect, either, and that low weight results in a tremendous power to weight ratio. Now, when you go fast, you need to stop fast, so luckily, the brakes are great; with the front sporting large dual discs with four-pistons each, and a single disc in the rear.
Handling is also pretty top notch. The tubular steel perimeter frame, fully-adjustable front and rear suspension, manageable weight, and fairly taught 57″ wheelbase make for a tight package that is confidence-inspiring and easy to control at any speed.
It does have a few minor downsides. First, it’s not the best looking bike on the block. It (maybe?) looked cool back in the early 2000’s, but is pretty dated now. The FZ1 doesn’t look bad, but it’s neither sleek enough to pass as a modern hyper naked nor classic and retro enough to take a seat among the retro-chic.
It also doesn’t bring any modern amenities to the table. This is a motorcycle that is still carbureted, and doesn’t have any fancy touches like ABS, traction control, or even a gear indicator. You do get a fuel gauge and a clock on the dash, so there’s that, I guess.
It also gets very hot at the junction of the seat and the gas tank in stop and go traffic, and will cook your inner thighs and naughty bits on hot days.
Speed, reliability, and comfort come together in a raucous, wild package. Get past its dated aesthetics and it’s one of the best motorcycles around.