By on May 11, 2016

fz1motor

Almost 25 years ago, I walked into a small-town gun shop looking for a surplus Chinese SKS rifle. At the time, the gun market was flooded with SKSes and the steel-cased 7.62×39 ammunition that they used. $99 for a gun, $0.02 a round for the ammo; it was pretty much the official rifle of Ohio rednecks for a solid year. If I had a nickel for every afternoon I spent with a bunch of worker’s-comp-addicted ex-bikers shooting at abandoned cars, ovens, and “empty” propane tanks, I’d have my very own Viper ACR already.

Most of the shops I’d visited in pursuit of my own SKS had tried to foist off recent-production stuff made for the U.S. market as authentic ’60s ChiCom army stuff. I was sick of it. You can imagine my relief when the fellow behind the counter at this particular shop had the right gun at the right price and was willing to go over every component of said rifle to make sure it was correct. He even helped me get the Cosmoline off the thing. I was impressed by that dude. So impressed that I ended up shooting competitively with him and traveling all over the Midwest to ride mountain bikes with him. He was the best man at my first wedding, and we stayed close even when he left the shooting world to start a mortgage brokerage firm.

Over the past couple of decades we’ve pursued all sorts of stupid ideas together, from riding bicycles off loading docks to running a Neon in NASA’s Performance Touring class. Our latest idea, hatched during a dinner in which we celebrated his divorce was this: How fast can we go for virtually no money at all?

Our initial plan was to buy a 1992 Yamaha FZR1000 “EXUP” from a Columbus police officer. I’ve always wanted a classic Yamaha liter bike and, to be honest, I could use some goodwill with my city’s finest. The problem was that it didn’t start on either one of our trips to pick it up. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice … I won’t get fooled again.

In the week afterwards, we looked at everything from a Honda CBR1100XX “Super Blackbird” in Texas to a thoroughly ratted-out salvage title GSX-R750. But then we came across a 2001 Yamaha FZ-1 … with some “stories”, as they say in the biz.

2001 yamaha FZ1

The FZ-1 was a mostly successful attempt to combine the 145-horsepower engine of the all-conquering 1999 Yamaha R1 sportbike with ergonomics that would attract the over-25 crowd. Stock, it runs a 10.5-second quarter mile at approximately 130 mph. That’s McLaren pace. Of course, it doesn’t turn or stop like a supercar, but that’s beside the point.

The FZ-1 that I found was an early 2001 production frame with a newer engine hanging in the steel cradle. When my friend and I went to pick up the bike, the kid who had it didn’t seem to know much about its history other than what he’d been told by the previous owner: 54,000 miles on the frame, 24,000 on the engine. He’d been unable to sell it at $2,200; all of his potential buyers had been scared away by the replacement-engine story.

For $1,800, however, my friend and I couldn’t have cared less. What we did care about was the fact that it started and ran from cold like a new bike, that it had brand-new Dunlops and a shiny chain, and that there was no evidence of abuse anywhere on it. Wear, yes. But not abuse.

I rode it about 20 miles in monsoon conditions yesterday. Sweet and stout. The 998cc Yamaha engine is hugely powerful all the way to 11,500 rpm. The transmission was a little notchy and the brakes desperately needed service, but at least it didn’t wobble on the freeway. Later that evening, I caught a ride downtown and brought it from my office back home. A brief twist of the throttle on a patch of dry road saw it soar from 70 mph to 115 in just a few eyeblinks.

The problem with having something like this in your fleet is that it doesn’t just make my Porsches feel slow; it makes my VFR800 feel like it’s dragging some sort of trailer behind it. The FZ-1 is now in my friend’s garage getting a complete nose-to-tail going-over and full service. We might even try to find out the story of that mystery engine. I’d like to think of it as Excalibur, stuck in the stone, waiting for the right person to pull it out. Based on the parking stickers adorning the forks, this big black Yamaha has done solid commuting service for a variety of people over the years. But now we’re going to use it to have fun. If you see the twin-light fairing behind you, my advice is to move over.

Yamaha Engine from 998cc.org For Sale Listings

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104 Comments on “Trackday Diaries: How Fast Can We Go For $1800?...”


  • avatar

    DONORcycles. Do the sensible thing. Get a scooter.

    • 0 avatar
      number9ine

      In the haze of the dimly lit basement, a hulking shadow presides over multiple screens. A twitching finger hovers over a grimy mouse button, the plastic grain worn smooth from years of troll-clicks. Somewhere beneath the anonymous desk (“ROLLBACK!! GREAT VALUE,” proclaimed the sign under which the desk’s owner found his prize, so many years ago) drones a CPU fan, choked with the untidy dust of years spent serving its unsavory purpose in this underground pit of mendacity. A few inches from the fan, green plexiglas rattles on its rivets, adorned by self-adhesive totems: Pep BoysTM Buick-style portholes, a Hellcat fender emblem, and a small holographic sticker loudly proclaiming “Celeron Inside.”

      A series of clicks and clacks are coaxed from the keyboard by practiced hands, then a hollow click from the grimy mouse. “BOOYAH!” First post. A soft echo of “BOO” patters off the water heater, and the screen refreshes to show bigtruckseriesreview @ Youtube highlighted in a blood red, followed by comments best not repeated among polite company. The poster grins, and takes a sip from the sweating 48-oz. Big Gulp close to hand.

      Upstairs, a thudding on the lineoleum from an impatient foot. “Keep it down!” comes the exasperated cry of a mother beyond hope for her son, the Internet Troll. “Sorry, mom.”

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Nicely done.

      • 0 avatar
        bullitt6242

        What a beautifully put description! I have been a long time TTAC reader but have never registered. I have been tempted so many times to register and answer bigtruck in a snarky manner about his “lets kill them first, big power, thats trash cause I don’t like it” comments.

        Thank you, you are a genius number9ine :)

        Also nice to see Jack wearing a helmet.

    • 0 avatar
      360joules

      If rice rockets-were built for the greater than 6 foot set you wouldn’t be hating. A tall colleague has her V-Strom set up for “people of height” and it’s a blast.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        “If rice rockets-were built for the greater than 6 foot set you wouldn’t be hating”

        If someone was interested in a `rice rocket` and was more than six foot six, what would be a good place to start looking?

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          Most sport bikes are very similar to race bikes. There isn’t much to chose from if a hardcore bike is what you want.
          One can get raised clip-ons, relocate your pegs, and buy custom seats.
          If one is more flexible something like the Hayabusa might be more roomy. Sport touring bikes that are more at the sporting end might be an option.

    • 0 avatar
      rocketrodeo

      Truck: don’t project your limitations on people more capable than yourself.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      You’re just sore this $1800 piece of marvel, renders your Hellcat largely indistinguishable from a billycart, as it rapidly disappears in the Yammy’s rear view mirrors :)

  • avatar
    number9ine

    The cars I’ve always remembered most fondly are those with stories and scars. Enjoy it; don’t shoot your eye out, kid.

  • avatar
    Piston Slap Yo Mama

    When the S2000 debuted at the 1999 Tokyo Motor Show I watched it rotate under the klieg lights on Honda dais, so intrigued I hardly noticed the gaggle of camel-toed Japanese booth girls in their borderline nonexistent outfits around it. It was a big deal that this readily available production car passed the magical 100hp/liter test without a snail, yet superbikes did it getting out of bed in the morning.
    Why is this so noteworthy in a car but an everyday occurrence with motorcycles?

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      There are a few reasons.

      It becomes more difficult to hit specific output targets with larger engines. Only Ferrari, with the 458 Speciale, ever really hit AP1-S2K specific output levels with a “big” engine.

      Motorcycles have significantly different expectations for lifespan and servicing. They have solid lifters, they had quad carbs for a long time. Plus, a motorcycle engine that lasts 100k without a rebuild is considered to be legendary. A passenger car engine that requires a rebuild at 100k is a piece of shit.

      Until recently, motorcycles were largely exempt from passenger-car-style emissions controls, as well.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        When you can do a rebuild on your kitchen table with at most help from one person or a small dolly to move the thing around, rebuilds aren’t nearly as scary…

      • 0 avatar
        jimbob457

        Simple rule of trade shows. If your engineering has sex appeal, go for it. If not, feature scantily clad young women.

      • 0 avatar
        Syke

        Which is why I cried when that deer took out my Triumph Trident that November night: It had 117k on it in 19 years (I always have had two daily riders at a time) and the engine was still solid. I had been warned by my mechanic that I was probably going to need a new head by 140k due to long term valve wear, but otherwise the motor was completely within factory spec.

        Then again, the first generation Hinckley Triumphs were massively overbuilt. They had to be, they were running up against the reputation of 40+ years of quality control at Meriden, and Lucas electrics.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        Also, bike cylinders are small. 150cc a jug, for a 600. And, on top of that, very oversquare. Rendering very short strokes. The S2K engine had peak piston speeds as fast as Honda’s sport bikes of the era.

        You can’t do car engines like that and come even close to passing emissions. A sportbike, even a new one, idling in the garage on a cold morning, will burn your eyes. Which is, of course, immediately forgotten, when you bang off high Cs with the grace of Pavarotti, on your morning commute. While your inferiors, still stuck crawling on all four, are rotting away, longing for the moment when they are finally squeezed out of the tube that is Cali freeways, and into their beige cubicles farms.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      because the engines in sportbikes have such (relative) tiny pistons and low reciprocating mass that they can rev several thousand RPM higher than most car engines. then, when hp=(torque*rpm)/5252, if you move your torque peak to a higher RPM, your peak hp goes up too.

      plus, a sportbike + rider is likely to weigh less than 800 lbs, so having little low RPM torque is not a killer like it would be in a 2,000 lb + car.

  • avatar
    yamahog

    There’s something ludicrous and wholly sensible about fast Yamahas. My namesake is my 1982 Yamaha Maxim 750 – I believe it’s the first 5 valve bike Yamaha ever sold in the USA.

    And you’re completely right about how 140+ horsepower bikes recalibrate the butt dyno. I had an SV650 and FRJ1300 for awhile and the SV650 felt fast, but the FJR1300’s motor is more like a small nuclear reactor. After taking a road trip on my FJR1300, I commuted to work on my SV and thought that its brakes were dragging or something broke. Nope. It was fine. I just was expecting another 70 horsepower.

    Bikes have completely changed the way I buy cars. I used to care about zippy cars, but now I just don’t get the thrill or more accurately I don’t want to pay the extra money for speed in a car. I just purchase reliability, practicality, and a low cost of ownership.

    What’s amazing is that the speed feels entirely appropriate after awhile. It’s not just being able to merge when and where you want, it’s being able to pick up 40 mph in the blink of an eye. After I got used to an FJR, I noticed that I was making semi-aggressive turns into traffic but I wouldn’t even come close to cutting people off – it would only take me about two seconds to get up to 50 mph.

    Looking forward to your exploits on the bike! Are you going to bolt on R1 suspension or go racetech or what?

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I think we’re going to try to bring it back to the way it performed in 2001, as affordably as possible. Might do the Ivan’s mods as well and look for that magic 150rwhp figure.

    • 0 avatar
      Shane Rimmer

      My two bikes are a Concours and a KLR. I like riding both of them, but when I ride the KLR with its 30 or so horsepower after spending significant time with the Concours, it feels ridiculously under-powered. Of course, the honest simplicity of that thumper is still there once I’ve re-calibrated my expectations.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        I’ve kept ahead of friends on street bikes on my knobby-shod KLR650 on twisty blacktop, the beauty of a dual sport is you have fantastic leverage on the steering and the position in general instills confidence to take the bike to the limit of tire grip and some pretty wild angles. With the knobby tires, you can feel when they start to “walk out” on you in a corner, and you can dial it back just a bit. No chicken strips on my KLR! It was hands down the most fun bike I’ve owned, and also the most dorky looking/sounding. Mine was a forest green with yellow and purple 90s graphics.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          gtemnykh – most sport bike riders I’ve encountered are squids. I used to hate going riding with my neighbour and his buddies all in colour matched leathers. They would putt around, do stupid stuff like wheelie in traffic or park somewhere and pose.

          I like the easily controlled torque of a big single 4 stroke. I had a KTM 620. It was old school European with the left side kick starter. It as a lot heavier than my KX500 but was much easier ride fast. Ice racing was much less scary on it than the KX500.

          • 0 avatar
            rocketrodeo

            Best of both worlds: my Yamaha SRX600, a sportbike with a 600cc single. Kickstart only. Super lightweight, nice and torquey. Great for the mountain roads around here. It weighs about half of what my ST1100 and V65s do.

          • 0 avatar
            Flipper35

            Yamaha XT rider here.

    • 0 avatar
      PhilMills

      I have that exact same feeling with my FJR. For a big, fat bike it will MOVE if you ask it to. The days I can’t commute on the motorcycle are kind of sad because my little Saturn just doesn’t have the same vigor.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      “1982 Yamaha Maxim 750 – I believe it’s the first 5 valve bike Yamaha ever sold in the USA.”

      Wrong. The Maxim used an air-cooled 2-valve-per-cylinder engine.

      The first 5-valve Yamaha was the 1985 FZ750.

      • 0 avatar
        yamahog

        Are you sure you’re not thinking of the XS11?

        The Maxim 650 and 750 definitely had multi-valve heads. And the Maxim 750 had a 5 valve head.

      • 0 avatar
        yamahog

        I looked it up, you’re right the air cooled maxims have two valve heads.

        Though I’m really sure the midnight maxims had 5 valve heads but I don’t know if they came out before the FZ750

        • 0 avatar
          pbr

          Right, the 750/5-valve one was water-cooled.

          I had a 650 in the early 90s, it was a screamer. It also had basically no front brakes, which added greatly to the excitement. I still have half an eye open for a 750 just because a metric-inline cruiser with a barely detuned sportbike engine is about as weird as it gets. I’ll work out the brakes this time.

          • 0 avatar
            yamahog

            If you live near Minnesota, I’d sell you my 750. It’s in good condition and low miles – 16k. I just shimmed the valves. The gas tank is a bit rusty so I added an inline fuel filter and it’s still idling so the fuel filter must be doing it’s job.

            The brakes are fine on the 750 – it has twin disks and I put on stainless steel lines. The brake pads could be upgraded and I could do it. But they haven’t bothered me enough to actually do something about it. And the relaxed ergonomics and my speeding ticket probation conspire to keep me obeying the speed limits which helps disguise any problem in the front brakes.

            They’re sweet bikes though. Most bikes are sweet but they’re extra sweet. It’s a shame they didn’t put a kick starter on them though.

        • 0 avatar
          macmcmacmac

          No. The Midnight Maxims just had the Funkadelic gold trim and blacked out engines and frames. Same with the Midnight Viragos and XS Elevens.

          https://img0.etsystatic.com/059/1/7641694/il_570xN.684914268_an6l.jpg

          The Maxim X was the water cooled 5 valve screamer:

          http://billeder.bazoom.dk/motorcykler/galleri/38/m/188452/yamaha-xj-700-maxim-x.jpg

          I saw a picture of a 650 Seca with one of those motors transplanted into it, along with the cast wheels. Possibly the best of all worlds, XJ speaking.

          • 0 avatar
            yamahog

            Gosh! I have a lot to learn about my bike. Thanks! I conflated the Maxim X and Midnight Maxim.

            If it makes you feel any better (it makes me feel better) the youngest Maxims are older than I am.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            My brother has the “european” looking Seca 750, can confirm it is an air cooled 2 valve 4 cylinder, with a fancy sounding “YICS” head design.

    • 0 avatar
      macmcmacmac

      The only Maxim with a 5 valve head is the water cooled Maxim X of 1985-86.

      All aircooled XJ’s have two valve heads. I had a turbo and a 900. Good motors, until the starter clutch needs work, then it’s complete teardown time.

      • 0 avatar
        rocketrodeo

        There is no mistaking the sound of a worn Yamaha starter clutch, is there? Owners of other makes can afford to fix the starters; with Yamaha you rebuild the engine and transmission when you fix the starter.

        Fortunately, my Yamaha doesn’t have a starter. It’s a sportbike with a dirtbike engine.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      I had a 1996 Yamaha YZF1000. The thing was a rocket ship. Top speed 260 kph. It came out the same time Suzuki released the ultralight weight GSXR750. That bike was expected to have the best power to weight ratio. The Canadian spec YZF1000 was dyno’ed at 134 rear wheel horsepower which stole that title from Suzuki. It was a transition bike from the FZR1000 and the R1. It had great suspension and was very stable at speed.
      I knew a large number of guys on Honda CBR900’s. They all bought them because the magazines liked them better. Tight and smooth tracks were the only place they were any good. On a rougher back country road I’d leave them behind. Headshake knee down in a fast sweeper with a mid apex bump was a nightmare for those dudes. Even straight line on a bumpier road had them slowing down.
      There isn’t much out there that will accelerate like a litre bike.
      A 707 hp hellcat is easy prey.

      • 0 avatar
        yamahog

        Nice!!! The YZF1000 is a unicorn it’s amazing you had one when it was current. You must have felt so vindicated not going with the Honda.

        And you’re 100% right about the hell cat. The only car that’s ever got the jump on me was a Dodge Viper while I was on my SV650. I had shifted to second gear before I noticed I was involved in a stoplight gran prix. But it was eye opening that a $2200 bike in the wrong gear could hang with a Viper.

        A while back, I had to pass a Chevy Cobalt on a two lane road. I was riding my FJR which is about as fast as your YZF1000. The guy tried to speed up to block me.
        >So we started – doing 40 mph in a 55.

        >I signal my pass, he begins speeding up

        > I drop it into 2nd and rocket forward

        > by the time I’m next to him, I click it into 3rd at about 95 mph

        > I’m already pulling back into the lane, about 50 yards ahead of him when he swerves over the double yellow in a dumb attempt to block the pass that just happened

        > Don’t want any part of that

        > Ride it at about 100 mph until that cobalt is a blue dot in the distance

        People don’t understand just how fast motorcycles are. You hear people talking about launching their subarus in a warranty voiding way to achieve a 5 second 0-60 mph. But a Zx-14 will do a 5 second 0-100 mph if you’re brave enough to crack the throttle open and strong enough to hang on.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          yamahog – I bought it brand new in 1996. I had to put a deposit on it and order it in. It was available 2 years IIRC.
          Funny you mention Viper. Back in the day a car mag ran a Viper against the YZF1000. The Viper has the advantage on a road course because they wouldn’t let the FZR warm up the tires. The bike was almost as fast. The Viper blew up its engine. One of the bike mags did pick it as the Bike of the Year.
          Too bad they didn’t keep it in the USA and Canadian lineup because it was quite comfortable for a sport bike.

          • 0 avatar
            rocketrodeo

            Wouldn’t really call the YZF1000R a sportbike. More of a GT. I rode a Thunderace the year after they came out, in Arizona, back to back with a ZX11. Two days later I rode a CBR1100XX. It wasn’t particularly comfortable for a big GT bike as I remember; very low bars. The Blackbird was Gold Wing comfortable in comparison, and just effortlessly fast. Yamaha had trouble selling their big bikes for some reason–the GTS1000 and Thunderace in particular–so they always seem to require a deposit and a long wait before the bikes come stateside. They continued to do that for the FJR1300 and the Super Tenere when they were introduced to the US market.

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        The ThunderAce is about my favorite bike of all time.

        Impossible to find in good shape used.

        • 0 avatar
          rocketrodeo

          You got what, three bikes in the past year or so? Your multiple bike syndrome is flaring.

          The only Thundercats I’ve seen come up for sale recently are the red/white ones. Much prefer the gray/black ones visually. But for some reason the bike didn’t fit me right, at least compared to its peers at the time (ZX11, CBR-XX good, Hayabusa, K1100RS bad). I’m 6’1″ with long arms and short legs, which ought to be the right body type for this bike.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          I wish I kept it. Carpal tunnel syndrome from years on dirt bikes was getting bad. Surgery fixed the syndrome and now 20 yrs later I pine for that bike.
          Mine was red and white which was the only colour available in ’96.

      • 0 avatar
        JuniperBug

        My best friend in high school got a gently-used, pristine ’97 Thunderace in the black, red, and white colour scheme. It was glorious, and of course got ragged out over a few years, given that my friend was an 18 year-old psychopath. I don’t know how he survived his time with that bike; it must’ve been a magical blend of youth and talent. He finally traded it to another kid for a clapped-out ’86 IROC, figuring that his luck would eventually run out. It’s hard to tell which end got the crappier deal.

  • avatar
    360joules

    That Yahama 4 is an amazing engine. What a cool bike.

  • avatar
    ejwu

    Performance bikes are much lighter than cars, so the engine doesn’t need to be torquey at all. This makes it a lot easier to tune for maximum horsepower.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I’m scared to ride a fast bike for this exact reason. I’m content with my Ninja 650, especially for the 100% commuting I do on it. It’s faster than pretty much every car I’ve ever come across on the road and that’s all that matters. But extra power would be nice.

    Flip side though is more power = more weight and a sizeable piece of my commute is through country back roads. I think I would get more from a suspension upgrade than more power. Wish I could just split the difference and get a Street Triple

    • 0 avatar
      yamahog

      More power = more weight but the power to weight usually moves in the favorable direction.

      My FJR makes twice the power of my Maxim/SV650 but the FJR only weighs about 20% more.

      You could move up to a Ninja 1000 and not gain much weight but you’d get a much faster bike.

      Middle weight bikes are nice and enjoyable. But the penalty for a hideously overmotored bike is very small. People get 40 mpg on their ZX-14s rather than 50 mpg from a Ninja 650 but they drop 4 seconds in the 1/4 mile.

      At the end of the day, if you like your bike then it’s a good bike and congratulations.

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        I love my ’09 Ninja 650. It’s about the smallest bike I’d be comfortable on. It does a lot of things very well. I came off a series of liter-class bikes (’86 FJ1200, ’98 Superhawk, ’96 Triumph Trophy). I do like the nimble nature of the Ninja. The Trophy felt elephantine, the FJ never let me forget that it was a big bike and the Superhawk was the most agile in between (being the lightest of the three big bikes).

        You’re right about fuel mileage. I get between 45-50 mpg on the Ninja whereas the FJ got about 40. The Superhawk, however, returned mid-30s.

        Riding motorcycles isn’t for everyone. The skills you get, however, are damned useful no matter what kind of motor vehicle you operate.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        Not sure what FJ you have, but the ones I’m seeing are nearly 50% heavier than an SV650. That’s significant. There’s no need to take on that much extra weight for more power. Ninja 1000 is a better fit.

        I’m stuck with my bike until we see how bad kids are gonna hurt our wallets so I’m just gonna make the most of it for now. Like I said it gets the job done and fits my commute pretty well. All it needs is a new back shock. I would love to swap the tail and get some ZX6R forks too but that effort would be better put into another bike.

        • 0 avatar
          yamahog

          Goodness I’m ill-informed :( you’re right the FJR1300 has a wet weight of 630-ish lbs.

          It’s 50% more weight with 70% more power. Not as fast as I thought. But the SV650 is a sportsbike and the FJR is a sport tourer.

          And you’re absolutely right that I should have got a super sport bike or something else if I was chasing power to weight. I was mostly looking for a fast enough, cheap enough bike with ABS. And I love Yamahas so I chose this. If I had to do it over again, I’d give the FZ1 a serious look, or a new GSXS-1000 (the half faired one with the K6 GSXR1000 motor?) and ABS.

          Or a bandit. Or a Vmax. Or a Diavel Diablo. Or a Zx-14.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        One also has consider rotating mass. A litre bike will always be harder to flick around than a 600 even if the both weigh the same.

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    I’ve never been a two-wheel guy. Never understood it, never had the desire to try it – though I’ve always loved the sound of sport bike engines. A few years ago, though, I had to investigate bikes as part of a work project, and sat on one – stationary! – in a showroom. Just for a minute.

    I got off and sword never to get on one again. If I ever actually rode one I would be lost, and I have little doubt that shortly thereafter I’d be dead.

    • 0 avatar
      runs_on_h8raide

      I hear you…I came to a similar conclusion in my mid-20s in a Ducati showroom. I knew if I bought it I wouldn’t make it past 30…not because of me, but because of how other people drive their cars. You stand no chance here where I live.

      Now with people even more distracted and with more narcissistic drivers on the road that think the world revolves around them, I don’t know how motorcyclists do it…I really don’t.

      Baruth…make sure your friend adds you as a beneficiary on his insurance policy.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        do you people think we aren’t aware that riding a motorcycle is more dangerous?

        • 0 avatar
          rocketrodeo

          Riding a motorcycle is completely safe. It’s the crashing that’s dangerous.

        • 0 avatar
          Syke

          Riding motorcycles are not dangerous (he says, looking forward to the 40th anniversary of his first endorsement next month). If anything, riding motorcycles teaches you to be a better driver, because you don’t have the chance to get careless and stupid. You learn to watch the road surface, the weather, anything crossing the road (starting with a mouse thirty meters ahead of you). You learn that anyone driving four wheels is a complete incompetent idiot by virtue of their being in a car or truck, until proven otherwise.

          Motorcycle riding is exhilarating, mind-clearing, and is what makes life worth living. It can only be dangerous if you insist on being stupid.

          • 0 avatar
            IHateCars

            Riding a motorcycle on the street also makes you grow eyes in the back of your head and anticipate other driver’s next moves…you have to in order to survive. It can be exhausting but it’s worth it. That’s why I love riding track, you can explore the bike’s and your limits without worrying about being run over by a bus. Hay bales are softer…

        • 0 avatar
          PeriSoft

          My problem was not that I knew going in that riding is dangerous. It can be done reasonably safely.

          Sitting on the bike and feeling what it was like just sitting still confirmed that it would be impossible *for me* to ride safely. There’s no way I, personally, could do it and resist the urge to do extremely stupid things. I just don’t have the willpower to resist a drug that strong.

          • 0 avatar
            rocketrodeo

            The throttle twists both ways. The way distant things get bigger very fast has a way of putting a healthy dose of fear and respect into any sane rider.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    As I’m getting older I start thinking my old man is right about his motorcycle obsession. You can just never experience the same contact between man and machine and your environments in a car (maybe in a hot rod or Super 7) . He hasn’t owned a car since 1994,but uses a couple of sets of tires every year on his BMW bikes (GS’s and RT’s ), several of which have been just worn out through the years.
    His first bike in the mid 90’s was a well-kept 1980 Kwaka Z1000ST which is the only bike I have seen fit the 6’4″ tall old man properly. Me being only 6 foot tall could barely put both feet on the ground sitting astride it.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      He’s right. I learned that the hard way when I stupidly traded in my 924S for a Pontiac Solstice. I’d never owned a roadster before.

      Within a year and a half, the Solstice was gone, as I discovered that four wheeled motoring with the top down had absolutely nothing on two wheels. And I didn’t stop mourning the Porsche until six months ago when I picked up the Honda 996 Super Hawk. I’d finally gotten back into something better.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Congrats on the FZ1 Jack, I’ll always be a Yamaha man at heart, having ridden my $50 barn find ’77 XS500 across the continental USA and back in the summer of 2008, racking the mileage up to 55k miles. I still have it, but it’s been retired from any sort of regular use.

    My current steed is much in the same class as yours, I have a ’99 Suzuki Bandit 1200S that I picked up in excellent condition for $2200 with 18k miles two years ago. A very softly tuned motor with excellent low end wallop, and much friendlier seating position and suspension tuning for long day rides with my friends suffering on flat crank R1s, Panigales, and 600RRs. To get to fun roads from Indianapolis requires an hour or more of slab riding, this is where bikes like ours come into their own. There’s all sorts of tuning potential locked in the old air/oil cooled ‘Zuk mill, but I’m both cheap and more than happy with its performance and 40+ mpg (when ridden sanely, 26mpg ridden ‘vigorously’).

    Keep the rubber side down and enjoy!

    Makes me sad to hear of the ‘good old days’ of pre-ban surplus 7.62 ammo and cheap SKSs, atleast steel core surplus 7.62x54R is still around by the crate full, but even those days might be numbered once someone figures out how to make a pistol style ‘Draco’ AK chambered in that and the ATF comes down with the swiftness.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    So, Jack or anyone else, what are your suggestions for someone looking to maybe get started in the motorcycle world? I haven’t yet got a spouse who’ll forbid me from riding one, after all…

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Ninja 250.

      You’ll pay $2500 for a good one and sell it for the same amount a year later.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Kyree, budget for appropriate gear, take the MSF course, and make friends with an experienced rider who can take you under their wing. Don’t buy a new bike to drop. For a shorter rider, my favorite recommendation is a Buell Blast. Sort of rare I guess, but they’re hard to damage even when you drop them, maintenance is very basic and easy (500cc single cylinder). Otherwise a dual sport with drop links in the back to lower it (KLR250?). The beauty of used bikes is that they barely depreciate at all, flip it on craigslist and only be out the cost of registration/insurance.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        @Kyree S. Williams –
        Both Jack and gtemnykh offer good advice. Honda has a naked CB300 or more sporty looking CBR300 crotch rocket clone. Kawasaki has increased the size of the Ninja a bit to 300cc. Yamaha now has an R3.

        If you want to try your hand at trail riding or dirt roads all of the Japanese companies make small displacement dual-sports.

        Playing around in the dirt is a great place to get used to riding. You learn the feel of a bike sliding around you and you learn traction management.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Thanks, both of you. When Volkswagen offer to buy my TDI back, I’m going to let them because the fix is obviously bad if they haven’t yet implemented it. Then I was thinking about buying a cheaper ($13K – $18K used appliance car) and a motorcycle.

    • 0 avatar
      Geekcarlover

      Something midsize. When I started riding in the 80’s they were collectively known as commuter bikes. Every manufacturer made a 400cc-600cc slightly detuned twin. Enough power to enjoy yourself and get out of trouble. But not so much that you can get too stupid. These seem almost extinct today, but they can be found. But every manufacturer (Japanese at least) seems to be geared towards sport bikes.

    • 0 avatar
      rocketrodeo

      Jack’s suggestion is a good one. But your first concern is to make yourself a motorcyclist. Take the class–they’ll supply the bike–and get your license. Splurge on a high-quality full-face helmet, boots, gloves, jacket, and pants. Bikes come and go, but good gear can last a lifetime. Bad gear makes the process of turning yourself into a competent motorcyclist much more difficult.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        @rocketrodeo – very true and buy riding gear designed to protect you not to look great off the bike. My jacket and riding pants are uncomfortable to wear off a bike but are perfect on a bike.

    • 0 avatar
      macmcmacmac

      I’d pick up an EX500/500 Ninja. They were sold from 1987 to 2004. Plenty of power for a beginner and enough handling to keep you interested after you learn the ropes. Enough bike to go coast to coast if the mood strikes you.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Alternately, Honda Rebel 250.

      You’re probably not thinking cruiser (especially during this thread) but cruisers are more forgiving for a beginner. That Ninja will have about the same acceleration, but will handle faster. Which may not necessarily be a good thing for the first three or four months.

      Either way will do you fine. Nice thing about beginner bikes like that is there’s always a market for them. Take care of it, replace whatever gets broken when you drop it (you will) and you can sell it a few months later for what you paid for it, and get yourself something bigger and more permanent.

      In the meantime, staying with a small bike enables you to learn without struggling.

    • 0 avatar
      yamahog

      If you’re still on the fence, sign up for the MSF. you can do it right now but you might need to supply your own gear.

      No one ever had issues learning on a Ninja 250 but a fuel injected bike might be better. If you find a deal on a CBR250R, or R3, get it. The first owner is the only person who really pays for depreciation.

      Crusiers can be weird to ride because you put your feet forward but they usually have the lowest seat heights and are the most comfortable.

      Standards have medium seat heights and you sit upright on them and your feet are below you like a bicycle, this makes it easiest to watch traffic. The CBR250R and Ninja 250 are closest to standard bikes.

      Sport bikes have a more aggressive riding position – which gets you closer to the bike and more wrapped around it. Super sport bikes are the epitome of getting you connected with the bike but they’re uncomfortable for most people and it can be hard to see around SUVs and trucks on them.

      Dual sport bikes are like street legal dirt bikes, they’re among the easiest and more durable bikes. You can’t really hurt these bikes without hurting yourself. They’re usually taller though. The tallest ones (like Honda’s XR650) have seat heights around 40 inches tall. Most people who ride them are at least 6’4″ or so.

      A lot of people get mid-size bikes as their first bikes and do alright on them. A naked (no body work) SV650 can be a good bike – mine had some issues but it was cheap and fixing the issues was a huge confidence booster for me. The Honda F4i and FZ6 are pretty good bikes too. If you’re buying new, the FZ-7 is the current king of the class.

      But what’s important is how you like the bike. The MSF will give you exposure to multiple bikes

      It’s a really rewarding hobby and way cheaper than a second car. In the past 4 years, my motorcycles haven’t cost me a single cent in depreciation and my only expenses have been oil, tires, some SV650 parts, chain lube, gas, and insurance. It’s been much less than $1200. And every single one of my bikes has gotten ~40 mpg and does a sub-4 second 0-60. So that’s a pretty cheap way to feel that performance.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      The Ninja 250, as mentioned, is always good. I would personally not recommend a bike without ABS to anyone anymore, so I’d be more inclined to go for the CBR250 or Ninja300, even though they are going to be more expensive and harder to find.

      If it’s just going to be a “go for a ride on nice riding roads/canyons” bike, abs isn’t that important. But for an all-use, hacking though city traffic type bike, the extra confidence that comes from knowing you simply will not lock up the front, can prevent a hairy situation from turning into the typical beginner mistake of barrelling into something, on account of being too timid with the front brake.

      In addition, brake practice is much less intimidating, when you know the bike’s got your back, if you momentarily overdo it.

      • 0 avatar
        JuniperBug

        I agree on the ABS. Knowing that you don’t have to worry about momentarily locking up the front wheel and ending up on the pavement is a huge confidence booster when you’re learning how to brake properly. You can usually still tell when the ABS kicked in, too, so you get the benefit of knowing you made a braking error without a trip to the hospital.

  • avatar
    pbr

    That lead pic of a lump sitting on the floor had me thinking it was going in some kind of car or kart. Is there more to that?

    Out there in meatspace, that FZ1 will be 10x the fun of the FZR. Plus probably fewer charming questions like “what kinda ‘Busa is that?”

    Your friend needs a name. Danger Dude, or something.

  • avatar
    tbp0701

    I keep thinking I should get back on a motorcycle. I had a Yamaha 125 dirt bike when I was a kid, and later a Honda CB250, both of which I rushed through homework and chores so I could ride. I live in Northeast Ohio, though, where no one on a bike seems all that experienced (since it can snow for nearly half the year), and regularly see riders doing things that appear beyond their skills.

    So I read articles like this and think, yeah, maybe I should get one–I’d even love to have that CB250 back–but then I recall the time I saw the guy in front of me lose it just before Cleveland’s Dead Man’s curve (although I think he got away with just road rash and a broken bike; fortunately for us both I give motorcyclists plenty of room).

    But in another window I just searched to see if there are nearby places to ride dirt bikes…

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      tbp0701 – you can ride dirt bikes all year round. My buddies and I used to do it. If it is colder than -10 Celcius it tends to be too cold. Sled trails tend to be packed hard enough to hold a bike. You just need studded tires. Trelleborg makes them but are expensive. You can stud your own with long studs or build up some tires with carbide steel ice racing screws.

      • 0 avatar
        tbp0701

        Thanks. It is tempting, and there are a lot of sled/snowmobile trails around here.

        Although now I’m thinking getting a motorcycle may make the few people who care about me revolt. It has now been 10 years since my last “is he going to make it” medical drama. (But only a couple months since I was ran through a Catscan to see if I had anything really bad. I don’t).

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    Me and a friend got a 97 Yamaha 600 sportbike in a storage locker. Damn thing was BEAT but we still got $600 for it and the guy who bought it got it running in an afternoon despite us not having the keys.

    I don’t remember what model it was, FZ600 or YZ600 or something similar.

  • avatar
    hybridkiller

    “If I had a nickel for every afternoon I spent with a bunch of worker’s-comp-addicted ex-bikers shooting at abandoned cars, ovens, and “empty” propane tanks, I’d have my very own Viper ACR already.”

    This tells me you’ve spent waaaaaaay too many afternoons with worker’s-comp-addicted ex-bikers.

  • avatar
    Boxerman

    The VFR 800 brings back memories. I think somehting about the gear driven cams attraceted me, yet mine always felt like it never really punched hard, even after pipe and rolling road rejet. Perhaps it was the cams honda used, or the gearing is too tall.

    i am sure it made sense to honda, a linear power delivery, and it probably makes sense in pre traction controll track situations. But the VFR was no track bike. I thought it would make a more comfortable way to get to the canyons, and then be good there. In reality its a bike that is neitehr fish nor fowl, when I got to the canyons I wished for a fireblade.

    My lowly yamaha 600 radian has somehtign like 55 or 60 hp, but he stock gearing is really short and the motor cams peaky, when it all comes togethr there is the feeling of an intense rush of speed a VFR neve seememd to deliver.

    I guess I am getting old, a friends new R1m seemed insane. But then even most nakeds these days can smoke a sportbike from 20 years ago. Perhaps thats why nakeds and sorta sportbikes sell so well, there is a limit to speeds attainable(off track) even by the crazy, so once that limit is reached, comfort and charisma become co-factors. Perhaps the FZR invented the genre of the useable near sprtsbike, or the practical sportsbike, and everythign since is really just a refining of the concept.

    I wish cars today had the variety of style and engineering bikes do.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      The VFR800 was never a rocket for its day, but the last-gen VTEC-equipped ones gave a nice rush near the top of the rev band after the second extra intake and exhaust valves kicked in, along with a great snarl and unique exhaust note. You did give up the cam gear whine on that one, though. I thoroughly enjoyed mine with the factory hard bags, although I agree it could have been a little more comfortable considering its mission. That didn’t stop me from putting 700 miles on it in the first 72 hours I owned it, though.

      I disagree about the Yamahas being the first usable sport bikes. My project GPZ900 – the first Kawasaki Ninja – had a center stand, useful gauges, and a much more functional seat and upright clip-ons than the later FZR. It wasn’t as fast, but it came out in ’84, and claimed the title of world’s fastest production bike that year, being the first one to nip 150 MPH. It’s a pity I never got mine going right, because on the short ride I had it running, and looking at performance stats, it looks like it would run neck-and-neck in a straight line with the 25-year-newer VFR, despite its prehistoric tech.

  • avatar
    JuniperBug

    My problem with motorcycles on the street has to do with how the human brain deals with speed.

    Like any drug, you eventually get used to the amount in your system, and then you need more. Unlike cars, with bikes it’s easy to get more – the world’s fastest production sport bike, good for 190+ MPH, can be bought new for under 20 grand. Combine that with the fact that bikes are much more susceptible to road conditions and driver error, it becomes apparent that in order to run a sport bike on the street, you need to either exercise extreme self-restraint 95% of the time, or run afoul of all laws of road safety and self-preservation. That was too much for me.

    To highlight my point, both Jack and I have described how the last-gen Honda VFR could feel lethargic, and at least I’m nothing at all special when it comes to riding skills or experience. And yet a bike that does 0-60 in 3.4 seconds, the quarter mile in the low 11s, and tops out at 150 MPH ends up feeling slow.

    It’s a drug, man.

  • avatar
    Compaq Deskpro

    I’m going to take the Beginner’s course in a few weeks, and I have already bought and paid for an 01 Suzuki DRZ400, which tops out at 90 so I can’t get in too much trouble. Hopefully the next time we talk about motorcycles I’ll have something to contribute.


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