2014 Yamaha FZ-09: three cylinders, eight thousand bucks

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How about a three-cylinder naked bike that makes more power and torque than a Street Triple, but costs $1,400 less? Sounds good to us. Enter the 2014 Yamaha FZ-09. It's hot.

Last week, we had the opportunity to see, touch, feel and sit-on (but not ride, that's happening in October) this new Yamaha. And, we're extremely excited to announce that this is one bike that should absolutely live up to the hype. There's not a single part on it that feels in the slightest bit cheap. Sitting on it, it feels almost impossibly light and slim. Every surface and every texture and every component has received the kind of attention-to-detail Yamaha typically reserves for its R6 and R1 range. So, when we heard the price — just $7,990 — we were literally gobsmacked.

A lot of that feeling of slimness come not just from the narrow, three-cylinder motor, but from the die-cast aluminum frame which wraps from the steering head around the engine (so far, so normal), then inside the swingarm. While the seat height is a fairly normal 32.1 inches (.7 inches taller than the Triumph), it feels like a smaller bike because it's immediately and perceptibly slimmer between your legs.

That swingarm isn't just some old piece of box aluminum, as on most affordable naked bikes. Instead, it's a swoopy, sexy, banana-shaped, braced piece of aluminum through which the chain passes and which is, again, as nice as R1's.

Connected to that swingarm is a monoshock adjustable for rebound damping and preload that lays nearly flat, in order to maximize mass centralization. You really have to get down on your knees and peer ahead of the rear tire to see it, it's that tucked away in an overall package that's simply dense.

The Competition:

At the front, suspension is by an inverted 41mm fork adjustable for preload and rebound damping only. Front brakes are 298mm in diameter and gripped by radial calipers similar to those of the R6.

And then there's the all-new motor. Developing 113bhp and 63lb-ft of torque, the 847cc triple has been developed to deliver linear, punchy performance. That's 12lb-ft and 7bhp more than the Triumph. Controlled by a ride-by-wire throttle, there's three engine maps available. A standard mode unfortunately titled "STD," then A and B modes which sharpen up throttle response and reduce it, respectively.

Inside the motor, there's a "primary coupled-force balancer" shaft that revolves in the opposite direction of the crank, at the same speed, to minimize vibration and a crossplane crankshaft which should maximize rear tire feel while on the power. Unequal length intakes for each cylinder should give it a unique sound, but we haven't heard it rev in person yet.

Yamaha uses adjectives like "torquey" and "quick revving" to describe the motor's character.

One of the most exciting parts of the new engine, at least to us, is the exhaust, which features three swoopy down pipes connected to a single, R6-style canister. Against the black cases, the polished pipes really stand out.

Compared to the outgoing Yamaha FZ8, the FZ-09 makes four more lb-ft of torque and weighs a stunning 53lbs less. The new bike's chassis is slightly sharper thanks to reduced trail. It accomplishes that even while achieving roomier ergonomics.

Character, performance and strong styling from an affordable, modern Japanese motorcycle? More like this please.

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