The Yamaha FZ8N is described by Yamaha Thailand as 'not a motorcycle for beginners – it's the naked sportbike with true attitude and the power to back it up.'
So, first things first then. Under the enforced low-rev conditions it's an easy motorcycle to ride with a welcoming combination of light-to-the-touch handling and soft engine power delivery making life very straightforward.
But having to bumble around a lower revs for a while did mean that I had to wait to get hold of any of the 'true attitude' Yamaha says the new 2012 Yamaha FZ8N has. What I did notice though, as I was caught in the running-in amble was that, at low revs, the Yamaha FZ8N feels typically too refined, Japanese, and mass-produced to have much of any sort of attitude at all.
The Yamaha FZ8 is powered by a 799cc, liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, DOHC, forward-inclined parallel 4-cylinder engine, with a 68mm bore and 53.6mm stroke and a compression ratio of 12.0:1. The engine produces a claimed maximum 105 horsepower at 10,000rpm and 82.0Nm torque at 8,000rpm.
Fast forward a few days and I get the chance to sample all of the engine's potential by trying a fully run-in Yamaha FZ8. The weight is lifted off the motor's shoulders and we're away. Relief gives way to eagerness and it's clear that when revved harder, the Yamaha FZ8 really can lift up its shirt tails and get on with it. There's a distinct pick up in power when the rev counter needle hits 7,000rpm, and when the acceleration does strengthen you need to start paying more attention to things a lot further down the road. Don't get the impression the inline four is especially powerful though, and even if it does deliver some notable zest and pace when it's used harder, the claimed 'attitude, with the power to back it up' still isn't that apparent. It's not a weak engine by any means and will satisfy the speed needs of plenty. However whether we should see it as a 'naked sportbike' is another matter.
Judged as a whole I'd say the Yamaha FZ8's engine is more like a spicy 600, and its configuration does dictate the gearbox is kept busier for best results. It will drive forward promptly and cleanly at lower revs, but only if you give it a helping hand via some regular gear changing. Given it's essentially a sleeved down FZ1 engine maybe the more rev-dependent performance shouldn't be too surprising. But I personally would have welcomed a bit more midrange and some easier-to-extract usability. Round town, or along less familiar routes, I occasionally became a little drained by the obligation to keep things revving high.
Not requiring quite as much commitment to get the most out of it is the Yamaha's handling. The specification sheet reveals the Yamaha FZ8 tips the scales at 211kg fully fueled and ready to ride. But whatever the figures, the Yamaha motorcycle has a light and easy feel to it. Steering is neutral and accurate and very few situations ever give the impression of becoming a handful.
I might add the suspension definitely leans to the softer side, and with virtually no adjustment to alter it, that's something you're going to have to live with. I personally didn't mind the way it's set and appreciated the ride quality and good feel of the Yamaha FZ8 exhibits. Okay, the FZ8 does tend to 'give in' quite a bit when it's asked to cope with higher speeds and all that's associated with them. Braking hard causes quite a bit of fork dive, and the attitude of the Yamaha FZ8 pitches towards the rear when you're accelerating hard over a series of more serious bumps. Ground clearance is soon used up too, and the footrest scraping shouldn't be judged as being too heroic. However, I'd still vote the handling as more than competent and the suspension never caused me any worries.
One constant limitation to speed, especially if you try to maintain it for longer periods is the lack of wind protection. Granted, you do learn to tuck in to avoid the worst of atmospheric tugging at your upper body. But there's no getting away from the fact that longer, uninterrupted sessions of a speedier nature will make breaks more welcome.