This article was written in like 199 for a now defunct Motorycle magainze based in Manila called motorycling Today.
Even sitting on this bike in the parking lot, you realize immediately that it's not just a bike, it's an adventure. The position is full sporting crouch, with clip-ons just barely higher than your seat. The tanks rises vertically from the front of the seat, barring any fatties from riding. The seat is thin and firm, but in actuality is a lot more comfortable than the old FZR600s since it is molded correctly. But just like all FZRs, the tank will crush the family jewels if you don't keep your knees tight when you're hard on the brakes. This particular example, lent to MT by Access Plus has over 15K kilometers on the clock, but starts immediately without any choke. At idle, the engine is almost silent and the little pistons and jewel valvetrain rip up to redline with a jet-like whoosh that sounds like tearing silk.
Whack it into first, feather the smooth clutch, and we're off. Even with the signature Yamaha EXUP exhaust aiding peak torque at lower revs with it's backpressure regulating valve, it doesn't have a whole bunch of power until you hit 7500 rpm. Sure, in first and second gear you can get through traffic in the low rpms, but the party starts at 7500. At 12,000, power tails off but it obediently revs to redline at 14,000 if you make it. Then the rev limiter cuts in, and it's time to shift. In all honestly, at first the bike would bog a little at 11,500 and I thought the bike was restricted, but after a bit of riding, that stopped happening. Perhaps the bike was sleepy after not being ridden for a few months, and some hard riding reactivated full open position in the EXUP. At any rate, the thing power shifts well, lifting the front tire through the first three gears.
The FZR400RR is a true production racer. It's a weekend warrior bike for wild passengerless rides. On the street, it is firmly suspended and handles far better than 90% of the other sportbikes out there simply because it is light and built with the narrow focus of all out riding in mind. I'm used to bigger sportbikes, and hopping on this relatively light beast was a true joy. With it's dramatically oversquare little cylinders it has a powerband that is more like a two stroke than a four. But it is still a four stroke, which means it's not as maintenance intensive or as sensitive to jetting. To ride it right, you have to keep up the revs, and it took me little while to get used to caning the beast mercilessly, but it liked it, as long as I shifted often. It's as agile as four stroke streetbikes come, and the only scary thing about it is that the FZR somehow makes it seem easy to go fast. You just keep the engine screaming, squeeze the powerful brakes, feel the steering sharpen, flick it mercilessly, and shoot onto the straight for more. It's about as much fun as you're gonna have with your clothes on, and yes, this is a naughty, naughty bike.
The 6 speed transmission is precise, but not as slick as an CBR600 F2. I never blew a shift during the duration of the road test, and didn't find any false neutrals under some aggressive riding conditions. But it wants authoritative, firm toe action. First isn't too tall, and I found the ratio difference between gears to be nicely spaced, with the rev drop between gears decreasing as you get into higher gears. If I were to change anything, I'd decrease the amount of jump between third and fourth. The clutch is precise on takeoff, and takes power shifts well. Neutral is easy to find once you get into and engage first.
On the open road, the fairing provides adequate wind protection, and the screen is low enough to allow a turbulence free airstream to the rider's helmet. The paint scheme is relatively simple and clean, orange fading into purple and blue over pearl white. My mom thinks it looks nice. However, everyone agreed that riding on the back, up over the front seat stop (which is nice for the driver) looks like an intimidating proposition. You'd never catch me riding pillion on this bike, but it might be just the thing for sporting masochistic company of the opposite sex with an appreciation for fun and no regard for the future.
The tank is contoured nicely at the rear for squeezing it with your knees, mandatory for keeping the jewels from getting squished while on the 4 pot Sumitomo brake calipers squeezing large twin semi-floating 298 mm steel rotors. The braking is firm and feel is good, although not as nice as, say Brembos on iron rotors. They are a lot of brakes for a little bike, and slow it down fiercely. Unlike the 95 FZR 600, which has rather grabby brakes that wear fast, the FZR400's brakes look like they'll last a long time, and with the bike's light weight, they stop the bike with surgical precision, and never faded, even though during the track portion of the road test they got so hot that when they cooled down, it took two full squeezes to restore line pressure. The brake lever is adjustable, and I adjusted it down to the lowest point, with no fear of having the lever hit the bar.
But that sporting position may be a bit much for the weak of triceps and lower back when the winds of high speed won't hold you up. The riding position is significantly more aggressive than most sportbikes, and some might find it tortuous, even. But I liked it. On rough commutes through packed Manila traffic, I found myself constantly wanting to lock my elbows, which as we all know puts your hands to sleep. The test unit didn't have mirrors, leaving it nice and thin for sneaking between the logjammed cars on the road. The clip-ons are lower than most car mirrors, which is nice for tight work. However, the limited steering at full lock makes it tough to do full Z turns between cars, and like all sportbikes, it isn't the best thing for taking the potholes and rocks you'll find when gutter sniping and taking shortcuts up sidewalks and driveways. One thing that I don't like is the tiny squeaky horn. It sounds like somebody sat on a calculator. I've heard louder phones, and if I were going to keep this bike, I'd need to upgrade the horn. In all honesty, it probably isn't the best commuter bike, although with a full tank bag, I'd be willing to take it on any long trip.
Where the sporting position becomes nice, however, is the twisties, and the best tight twisties in Manila are at the Carmona race circuit. There, the ergonomics were perfect. The high footpegs lend themselves to knee out cornering, and the firm seat becomes luxurious, whether tight up front for corners or brakes, or flat back tucking in for the straights. The tank isn't quite big enough to rest your forearm on until you're hanging way, way off, and it has ample cornering clearance.
The massive frame and large section swingarm were rock solid, imparting real confidence while opening the throttle on the corners. The bike is sprung firmly enough to cross right off the street onto the track. I never bottomed out the forks. But the hint of insufficient rebound damping in the forks that I noticed a bit on a Sunday ride around Laguna became a real handicap on the track. Granted, the bike isn't new and perhaps new fork oil would have addressed this a bit, but that's how I got the bike. After releasing the front brakes, the front end would pop up so hard I could hear the forks whack into full extension. This meant that I had to brake earlier and ease onto the throttle sooner. Staying on the rear during the transition helped a little on the slower corners, but after the two fast straights, I couldn't do this because the rear tire was barely on the ground.
The FZR's forks are not externally adjustable, which means that getting them dialed will mean experimenting with different weights of fork oil. Changing the oil to a higher weight oil will certainly increase rebounding damping, but it also increases the compression damping, which may not necessarily be desirable beyond a certain point. Race Tech makes a Cartridge Valve Emulator which allows one to dial in different rates of compression damping for a given rebound rate, but again, it involves taking the forks apart for changes, and you still need to experiment with different weights of oil to adjust the rebound. Changing fork oil isn't especially hard, but it has to be done with under very clean conditions, which isn't always the case at the side of a track. The bike is sprung firmly enough to cross right off the street onto the track. I never bottomed out the forks. The rear preload is adjustable, but it was fine as-is, and as long as the rear suspension is in the ball park, I generally don't mess with it until I have the front end dialed.
I raced it basically bone stock after removing the bodywork, and once I learned to compensate for the rebound off the brakes, the bike performed like a true star. The Carmona track suffers from being slippery in places more than being bumpy, a direct consequence of being used for go karts, and not big cars, which really cause ripples in the pavement. The frame and swingarm didn't squirm a bit under these conditions, which was truly confidence inspiring. Confidence means fast, and the bike did better than any other four strokes at the PJ1 meet. And at a tight track like that, I would feel comfortable campaigning it as is with any other stock four stroke of any size. (In fact, if I can borrow it again next time, I'd be willing to make a small gentleman's bet that I could whip anyone on any four stroke. But I'd fix the forks and the change the gearing, so watch out.)
The bike came to me shod with a Bridgestone Gyrox 160/60-17 rear tire, which I assume is stock, and a Dunlop Rideen 120/60-17 front. These are Japanese model names for what must be a Battleax and a Sportmax. The rear hardly wears at all on such a small bike, but the edges of the front wear slightly faster than the middle, if you ride hard. The previous owner was a cornering madman (or woman, I don't know) and I likewise took the front tire right to the edge, leaving maybe a half centimeter of extra tread on the rear. They stuck very well, especially after I found optimum pressures at 28 rear and 26 front cold. The running gear would be adequate for a much larger bike, and therefore is understressed, meaning it performs well and should be quite durable.
In terms of maintenance, the FZR should be about the same as any other 4 cylinder sportbike, meaning scraped knuckles here and there while doing engine chores. The small cylinder size precludes the need for Yamaha Genesis five valve technology, which translates into direct valve actuation of the four valves off the cams and no rocker arms. It sports relatively high 12.2:1 compression, but runs well with local premium. Small cylinders can get away with compression ratios that might cause detonation in bigger cylinders. I didn't get under the valve cover, but I know that tiny valves are easy on the valve seats and don't need massive valve springs, which translates into a durable valvetrain which won't need adjustment as much as bigger bike. The radiator needs to be dropped in order to change the sparkplugs, but access to the valves looks comparatively easy, since the frame could hold a 600, but only houses a 400. It's a commonly known secret that an FZR600 motor will bolt right into an FZR400 frame, and I think it's still true. The bodywork takes a long time to take off, but when you get it off, the oil filter is easily accessible, and the drain is easy to access as well. Sadly, there is no center stand or even mounts for an optional one. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I like to have a centerstand, if nothing else so I can lube the chain without any help.
So it's no YZF750. So what? It has enough power to keep up with the big boys, and you can maintain higher cornering speeds, after hitting the brakes a lot later and harder than you would (or should) want to on a bigger bike. And maybe it's not the most practical thing in the world, but it sure beats the pants off it's big brother, the FZR 600. The YZF 600 is a lot nastier, but it's also a lot more expensive, even though this bike is a rather pricey P190,000. The FZR400RR delivers a lot more performance than a lot of riders are able to use, and I myself feel that I should be allowed to ride it for a couple more months to get it dialed. But by the time you read this, it will very likely have been taken from me, and one of you out there might already own it.
MT would like to thank Access Plus for bravely lending our road test editor this fine machine after being warned that we can't be held responsible for any damage that may occur. Access Plus is easily accessible on the southwest corner of EDSA and Tuazon in Manila. You should visit or call them at 725-0897 or 724-7871. If you're interested in this bike or any of the many other fine grey market sportbikes they have in stock.
And hey, voltage / battery problems with your FZR? check this
Click here for FZR400RR specsback to the main page
|Write to me!||