Road Test: Yamaha FZ1 v. Ducati Monster

Psst... Don't tell anyone, but there's a revolution underway: proper sports bike motors wrapped in stripped-down, sharp-steering chassis. Run for the hills! The naked generation is upon us!

Posted: 20 May 2008
by Jon Urry

Psst... Don't tell anyone, but there's a revolution underway: proper sports bike motors wrapped
in stripped-down, sharp-steering chassis. Run for the hills! The naked generation is upon us!

Traditionally, here in the UK sports bikes rule the roost. As a biking nation we're obsessed by the
fastest, lightest piece of Japanese exotica that will make us 0.1 of a second faster than last year's must-have model.

But the tide is changing. Not all that quickly, but there's a definite swing away from the plastic fantastic. Riders are now looking at other types of two-wheeled transport to get their kicks. Sales of adventure, retro and muscle bikes are on the increase, pitching manufacturers into a new battle with different rules as they try to tempt riders towards their brand.

Which raises a question: when it comes to full-on nakeds, what particular temptation works best? Does power sell, even on something without a fairing? Or is it styling that shifts bikes from dealers' floors?
It's a question that splits the two camps. The Italians reckon on a no-holds-barred approach. Aprilia has simply ripped the fairing off the RSV-R to make the Tuono and now, new on the scene, is Ducati's Monster S4Rs. A Monster with a virtual full-power 999 motor? A double espresso, if you please.

But the Japanese, as is traditional, have a far more conservative view on things. While they have let the sake go to their collective head when it comes to styling (think Z1000 and GSR600), down in the engine department the head always seems to rule the heart. Every time a new and funky naked bike is launched, the phrase, 'retuned engine for more midrange' will be heard - over and over again. Which is basically a code for, 'rip the heart out of a good motor and make it as flat as a witch's tit.' One café latte, extra cream.

But who's got it right? Should naked bikes offer sports bike performance rather than capped power? Or in an age of speeding paranoia - which is one of the main reasons for riders turning their backs on sports bikes - is muted performance mated to good looks the way to go?

In an effort to find some answers, James Whitham and I descended on south Wales with Yamaha's new FZ1 and Ducati's S4Rs. Two idiots, open roads, powerful naked bikes and about as much combined self control as George Best at a Miss World pageant.

These two bikes really do highlight the difference between the Japanese and Italian approach to nakedness, not only in engine character but also styling. Take the Monster. Like every other Monster since it was first introduced way back in 1992, Miguel Galluzzi's original design is virtually unchanged. While the S4Rs gets Öhlins forks, radial brakes and twin stacked pipes, look beyond these cosmetic tweaks and the basic Monster shape is still apparent, albeit with a few extra pipes, tubes and radiators to accommodate the liquid-cooled 999 motor rather than the traditional - for a Monster - air-cooled unit. Iconic? A modern classic? Quite possibly, but next to the Yamaha the Monster shows its age.

You can't help but notice the analogue clocks, slightly cheap looking nose fairing and lack of any effort to make the liquid-cooled lump blend in. Rather than try and hide the pipework Ducati has simply stuck the engine in a frame, popped on some carbon bits and bobs to spice things up and... that's it. But dig further and you spot the real quality components. The wheels are beautiful, suspension and brakes top notch and the red frame complements the red-striped pearl white paint perfectly.

No such frills with the FZ1. No fancy suspension, no big name brake calipers and no carbon. Instead, you get a bike styled in the 21st century. The FZ1 is bang up to date with current styling trends of sharp angles and aggressive looks, and its engine, although also liquid- cooled, has none of the Ducati's half finished look; instead exposed pipes are black to match the lump's dark finish. It may have started life under the fairing of an R1, but Yamaha has put it on show and made it look good.

Continue reading Road Test: Yamaha FZ1 v. Ducati Monster 2/3


PRICE NEW - £9495
POWER - 119.6bhp@9900rpm
TORQUE - 67.9lb.ft@7600rpm    
WEIGHT - 177kg
SEAT HEIGHT - 800mm    
TOP SPEED - 153.1mph
0-60     - n/a

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Discuss this story

I dont know if you guys were testing the 06 FZ1 but I've got the 07-08, which Yamaha changed the fuelling on and I've got no problem with it at all.I paid £6800 for mine pre- reg and it's a hell of alot of bike for the money. 

Posted: 06/08/2008 at 18:19

can't be bothered reading all that.

Like the ducati, do they do it in Pink?

Posted: 06/08/2008 at 18:42

 So Neill what year FZ1 were you testing?

Yamaha should upgrade the engine to the 2008 R1 engine & put radial brakes on it for the 2009 model FZ1.

Do A Rossi replica paint job as well.

I would buy one then.

Posted: 09/08/2008 at 16:38

I have an 09 fz1, to put thumbs down on that motor is silly. It is fast and smooth at any speed. The stock settings on suspension are harsh but with adjustments and seat upgrade I can ride for hours. The bike does jerk you a bit going from closed to open throttle if you don't work the clutch which for me is the only negative with the bike.

I also love the monster, I recently drove the diavel and love the torque. Going to test ride the 2012 monster soon but would only get it if it was a 2nd bike because unlike the FZ1 you can't install hard bags for long trips.

Posted: 02/10/2011 at 03:53

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