Yamaha Demo, June, 2017 (With Bonus KTM Photos!)
It was cold for a late June morning, not even 60F degrees. I had a 65-mile freeway journey ahead of me. I chose not to put my windshield on because I didn’t want to deal with head buffeting the whole time. I kind of regret that. It was not fun riding up to Cambridge at all. My fingers hurt. My arms and neck and shoulders were sore, all because I had to hang on while I was wind blasted for over an hour. In contrast, how annoyed would I have been with the windshield but also head buffeting? I’ve gotten headaches from that before. Ugh. I need a different bike!

So, let’s talk about something fun now. This beastly FZ10 right here is the reason I made the hike up to this demo event at Larson’s Cycle. Look at it. That is a muscular street fighter. Maybe it won’t look cool in 15 years because the style is so strong, but it looks pretty gnarly now!

I stupidly overlooked this bike at the International Motorcycle Show last Winter. Today was my time to make up for my negligence. When I learned about the FZ10, I was keenly interested. Great power? Brembo brakes? Decent riding position? Optional windshield and bags? Cruise control?! Yeah, it has that stuff, and at a Yamaha price. The only thing it’s missing is heated grips. See why I’m interested?

Going from my Stratoliner to the FZ10 was an initial shock to my leg position. I was concerned at first, but it felt fine very quickly and I didn’t think about it again. I didn’t notice anything good or bad about the seat, so I guess that’s probably a good sign for a sport bike. The lean angle was very mild, only a very small lean for me. I felt like it probably wouldn’t be a problem and I could deal with it (trying to imagine the all-day rides). However, since my arms were sore from the Stratoliner ride up, leaning on them just a little became unpleasant after about 10 minutes. That wouldn’t be a problem in normal use. You may get a similar problem if you’re riding two-up, though.

While riding solo, I had a blast. I thought, “Wow, is this good enough that I should get it instead of a Multistrada?” It was kind of close. The power was excellent, but I found that I disliked how twitchy it was. I’m seriously spoiled from the ZX-14’s endless, smooth power. The FZ10 has great power. (That abrupt wheelie was unexpected but not unwelcome.) I’m not saying I want more, I’m saying it would be nice if it was friendlier. I rode all three ride modes and they do make a difference, but the difference feels pretty simple. What I mean is it feels like they cut the power but didn’t smooth out fuel mapping per mode, so it was still twitchy but with less oomph to the jerkiness. I’m sure I’m wrong. I’m just saying how it felt. This is probably something you can get used to.

I decided that I would definitely want a small windshield. Short rides are fine without them, but it’s much more pleasant to avoid the parachute effect with a chest-sized windshield that lets enough air around the sides and top to keep you cool without buffeting your head!

OK, what’s my verdict? Well, I’ll make two: one specifically for me and one a bit more generalized.

For me, the FZ10 is almost there. I’ve decided that zero lean is what I want and I don’t think I can compromise. That’s the killer of this beast. I also wish the bike had heated grips as an option. I also wish the throttle wasn’t as touchy as it was. Seems to be a Yamaha trend. I didn’t like the feel of the foot pegs, either. For those reasons, the FZ10 is not quite there. I’d highly consider a used one after it’s 5-10 years old if I was looking for a short-term bike, but I wouldn’t spend the money on a new one. No, when I buy my next brand new motorcycle, it’s going to be as close to exactly what I want as I can get, even if I have to pay premium dollars. I’m looking for my long-term dream bike.

For the general rider out there interested in the FZ10, you should try it! I don’t mean wait for the next demo to come around. I mean, if you think you really like the FZ10, you should go to a dealer and plan on buying it. Just take it on a little ride to make sure. Depending on what motorcycle you’re coming from, the FZ10 could be amazing. Like I said before, I think you could get used to the throttle twitchiness. If you’re OK with a tiny bit of lean, then you want this bike. I do recommend it. I think it’s very, very good for the money. It’s a super fun ride and it looks really sweet.

It’s very cool. You might say it looks like it should be a Transformer. Well, nothing’s wrong with that.

You can’t say this motorcycle doesn’t have a face. Look at those eyes.

Nice tail light.

The pegs are set back a little farther than a standard bike but not as far as an R1. I will say that I could feel the lack of rubber on the skinny, little, metal pegs. And I was wearing sport style motorcycle boots.

For comparison’s sake, above is the foot peg of the Tenere. Much preferred by yours truly.

My plan was to only ride the FZ10, call it a short day, and go home. The reason was I had already ridden nearly all motorcycles Yamaha had to offer. But man, I was not excited to head back down the hour-long freeway ride on my Stratoliner already. So, I figured I’d try the Tenere again because I knew it was comfortable. It’s not exciting, but it’s comfortable. I don’t ever picture one of these ugly machines in my garage due to lack of power, however I was wishing I could ride it home instead of my own bike this particular day. *sad face* Not for keeps… just so I could have a more comfortable and relaxing ride home.

Who do I think this bike caters to? I’d say someone who wants a natural feeling touring bike. What gives this bike that feeling is the riding position that is not far from simply standing on your feet, its relatively light weight (compared to sport tourers and cruisers), and its higher mounted weight, which makes it feel even lighter to mount. It is a welcoming, friendly bike.

It doesn’t look that bad from its silhouette.

From this angle, in my opinion, it almost looks good. Maybe it can grow on you, but that nose area looks weird to me.

It could probably be remedied, but the demo bike I rode had a problematic mirror on the right side. After hammering the throttle and riding over rough pavement, the mirror gave up and drooped to reflect the pavement back to me. That was pretty annoying. But again, I’m sure it would stiffen up after dancing with a lovely wrench.

Again, the headlights look fine but it needs a beak. Maybe I wouldn’t feel that way if the lights weren’t set back like eye balls.

I appreciated that the gauges on the Yamaha bikes were easy to read and pretty consistent from bike to bike. I thought the blinker switch was a far reach on all the bikes and it was too squishy with no tactile feedback when canceling the blinker. Something you’d learn to accept.

The heated grips in the ES model are activated from the electronic menus instead of dedicated controls. Hopefully it’s easy and safe enough to navigate in traffic.

The Yamaha demo guys allowed me to sign up for two motorcycles immediately but made me wait until after the second ride to schedule a third and final ride. Fair enough. After getting off the Tenere, I debated which bike to ride. The upcoming ride had both bikes booked that I had any care to ride, so I was going to have to wait at least a half hour or go home. I decided I’d like to ride the FJR. I wanted to feel smooth power delivery again. Too bad the FJR was booked 30 minutes out also. The next slot available for the FJR was after the demo guys’ lunch break, so an hour and a half away. I wasn’t going to wait that long to ride a bike I’d already ridden! So, I decided to try the FJ-09 again. I didn’t like it all that much last year with a passenger, but figured I’d give it another chance riding solo. I had to. It looked and felt like it should please me.

While I waited for my FJ-09 ride to begin, I strolled through the dealership to lay my eyes (and cheeks) on some really sweet KTM’s. Those pictures and comments will be at the end of this blog post.

OK, you know what? I really like the FJ-09. I’ve been thinking about it since the demo. Quite the reversal of opinion since the two-up ride. The riding position is great — exactly what I’m looking for. The wind screen is just what I want. I don’t know how well the seat would hold up on a longer ride, but I had no complaints on the short one. The power handled nicely (this time). The power was fun! I could control low wheelies out of corners with ease (read: enjoyable!) and straighten the bike before landing the front. Super fun. Inspiring. At 850cc, it obviously can’t match the super high speeds of bigger bikes, but it has power to react to the majority of your riding impulses.

Wow! Is it perfect? Nah. There are a few things that, combined, should reclassify this motorcycle out of sport touring. There is no cruise control. There are no heated grips. Riding with a passenger kind of stinks. Lastly, here comes the problem with a medium size engine instead of a large one, there is a buzz in the handle bars and foot pegs at highway speeds. Don’t run away! The buzz is reduced a little bit by using the subdued power mode. Also, it’s not really terrible to begin with. If you’re coming from a little 250cc or 500cc, “buzz” might be an awful word to you. The buzz in the FJ-09 is pretty mild, but it’s there and it’s worth mentioning. The other bikes I tried today had no buzz of any kind. Those four reasons are why I don’t think the FJ-09 is a proper touring motorcycle. In my opinion, it’s a comfortable sport bike that’s good enough for an occasional long haul, but it’s not a go-to touring bike for the person that frequently enjoys long trips. I wholeheartedly recommend the FJ-09 to the rider that’s not bothered by the lack of luxury touring features!

So, I stated what I liked and didn’t like, but I forgot one thing: MSRP is $10,700. Since I’ve been looking at premium motorcycles in the $15K-$20K range, the ~$10K price of the FJ-09 is a really good argument. I keep thinking of that price and how much fun I had on the bike. Could I make myself willing to forfeit cruise control and heated grips and ridiculous power to save the cash? If I got an FJ-09, could I then pick up a dirt bike as well? I really want cruise control and stock heated grips. But that price! Hmm….

Preying Mantis face? Somehow, the lack of beak doesn’t bother me as much here. I wouldn’t say this bike looks really cool, but, you know, fairly cool.

I’ve said this already, but I’ve decided that this is the size windshield I prefer. It’s skinny and not very tall. It saves you a lot of fatigue without making you too hot, buffeting your head around, or obstructing your vision.

Why didn’t they give it clear blinkers like the FZ10 and Tenere?

Ha. The windshield kind of looks like a fingernail that needs to be cut down.

Looks larger from this side. Don’t let it fool you. It’s more nimble and flick-able than the ZX-14. Not much of a challenge, you say? Well, you’re right. *shrug*

It doesn’t come with bags, but bags, a top case, and other windshields are available in the accessory catalog. I think that was a good choice. I imagine this bike would cater both to riders that typically stay close to town and want a sporty-but-comfortable ride as well as the folk that like to pack their different gear layers so they can ride all day.

Maybe it was the angle of my legs or maybe I was just used to it, but I didn’t feel need to complain about the foot pegs this time.

Pretty cool tail light. See, why would they wash the red out of the tail light but leave the blinkers outdated?

Here’s the FJR that I didn’t ride.

It looks refreshed.

See that nice blinker integration? Now, we’re talkin’.

The R6 looks really sharp. Not sure I love the silver parts, but the front gets your attention. The cigarette butt exhaust is kind of lame, too, I guess.

The real headlights are hidden. Cool.

Again, I’m not a fan of the gray on the engine of this R1. I’m being picky, but I’d rather it blend in more or be covered up. Actually, I just don’t like the color pattern at all.

Looks fine. Nothing to write home about. I think it would look more sinister if it was all a solid color.

And here begins the bonus KTM pictures! Remember, these were taken during a break from the Yamaha action. Here’s a bad one to start off with. I snapped the price because I’m very closely looking at the pricing of the 1290 Super Adventure T around the Twin Cities area and comparing it with the Multistrada S Touring. This one here is $3K-$4K cheaper than the Multi dressed the way I’d like. It also has more tech.

I did sit on it of course. You know what? It felt AMAZING. It felt better than the Multi and FAR better than all the Yamaha’s. Just superb. I’ve got to find a way to try one of these out!

You can no longer say that all KTM’s are expensive. Well, maybe you still can.

This guy… was tempting. I’ve read some reviews and seen a few video reviews of this bike, and it sounds like a wonderful companion to the thrill seeker that needs a little practicality thrown in. This is one of the most powerful sport “touring” (naked touring?) bikes on the street. What sadly kills it for me is the slight forward lean. Hey, that’s not a bother to some! And hey again, that means I don’t need to add a bike to my most-desired-but-can’t-decide-between list.

What the heck is this thing! When I told the dealer I wanted to see the 1290, he pointed at this and said, “The R?” I said, “No,” but immediately took a double-take. Whoa! That looks so cool! I noticed the slimmer body (compared to the T) and the engine guard. Could I be OK with dropping this? Could -this- be the dual sport I’ve been toying with in my head as a secondary bike (it would be the only bike in this case)? It was intriguing. So, I sat on it. Oh, my goodness, it felt nice! I was very much surprised. I couldn’t believe it. While not matching the T in comfort, it was still better than all the Yamaha’s. No question that I could ride it long distance. Cruise control? Yup! By golly, now I -do- have a third motorcycle to think about! This thing almost makes me salivate. I’ve been researching MN trails and the 1190 Adventure R (its predecessor) ever since.

Being 6’2″, I could stand flat footed as well. It’s a tall bike, but it was easier for me to sit on than a BMW 1200 GSA if I remember correctly.

Man, $9K for a 250cc. I couldn’t do that. But I wanted to feel what it was like. It was only a week or two ago that I got to ride a Honda CRF 250L on pavement. First thought, “Dang! That’s a hard, skinny seat!” Then, “Man, this suspension keeps the bike tall!” The 250 L was plush on both accounts in comparison. But hold on. I had time to kill, so I kept sitting on the 250 EXC to “set in.” That thin seat somehow became comfortable. It’s like an ultra dense memory foam — the worst seat in the world at first but actually OK after a minute. Hmm. Modern materials for the win. Being the noob that I am, when I wanted to get off, I couldn’t find the kickstand. Where did it go? I first looked for a dedicated lift that, perhaps, I slid out of sight. Nope. Couldn’t find one. What the heck? I knew it was leaning over before I got on the bike. I had to look over to the bike next to me and then look back down at my bike a couple times to find it. I’ll never forget this now. Ha. When you tip the bike up to mount it, the kickstand flings way upward and out of the way, also out of sight from the normal area you’d look. Welp, learned something new.

Don’t get me wrong when I say this, the Yamaha’s were pretty decent, but my favorite motorcycles at this Yamaha demo event were the KTM’s inside the dealership!