Election Cycle: Yamaha FZ-09 (The Democrat)

The Yamaha FZ-09. It’s the spunky upbeat Democrat on the scene, brash, full of fresh new ideas (actually, old ideas packaged as new), preaching reform but with no real world experience. Has a law degree from Harvard but lacks the common sense to make toast.

Okay, don’t take my strained political analogies seriously, you mouth-foaming extremists. But out of the four candidates, the FZ-09 is certainly the newcomer, ripe with great new/old ideas, and the bike most likely to be endorsed by the AFL-CIO.

The scary thing is, if America had a candidate with all the upsides and instant street cred of the FZ-09, I’d be doing cartwheels to the polling booth. The bike has been universally praised for its amazing overall package, stunning engine, and even more stunningly low sticker price. It’s the clear bang-for-the-buck winner in this election.

But it’s the following four criteria that will either earn a candidate a coveted slot in the garage of Backpacker Moto, or leave it mumbling a concession speech from the stealership’s showroom floor.


Unattractive men and women are elected to office every year, and because BPM is a highly sensitive individual, I’m not going to mention them by name. Thankfully, good looks are not a prerequisite for good leadership (see: Lincoln, Jefferson), but is the same thing true about my next motorcycle?

If so, then the FZ-09 has a steep uphill battle. Of the four candidates, the Yamaha is the red-headed stepchild. Sure, there are many who prefer its modern streetfighter looks; I’m just not one of them. In my mind, it’s like the overly loud (insecure) guy at the party who draws attention to himself. The 09 is trying too hard to look like a badass, like Loud Party Guy with his white wife-beater and two full sleeves of tats. I just prefer a bit more under-the-radar subtlety.


Whereas the FZ-09 shouldn’t really pump up its chest in the Appearance Department, its engine is deservedly every bit the badass and speaks directly to the hooligan in me or anyone with a pulse. Its ridiculously wonderful triple had me triple-dipping on a recent test ride day; this motor has “suspended license” written all over it. It dares you, nay, demands that you embarrass every high-end sports car on the road. It’s a smooth, easy-revving gem, and should serve as an extraordinary platform for a wide array of Yamaha bikes in future years.


If I was blindfolded and forced to sit on each bike to objectively judge its ergonomics, and most critically, how each bike fit my long-legged frame, then the FZ-09 would win in a landslide. It’s like Yamaha used my body template when designing this bike, and better still, Yamaha physicists invented some sort of anti-gravity system to make the bike feel lighter than it is. Automotively, I have always leaned towards lighter weight cars with plenty of beans under the hood. The 09 is the perfect two-wheeled iteration of that philosophy.

With the right seat, I could ride this bike all day, with my long creaky abused knees/legs (30 years of competitive soccer) comfortable the entire time.  If my world were ruled by sheer practicality (hah!), then the FZ would have already won this election.


How much will I have to spend to get the bike where I want it? The seat needs a “day of purchase” upgrade, and bar-end mirrors won’t be far behind. Yamaha’s latest ECU flash seems to have addressed some of the ridiculous throttle issues. Overall, the 09 is less than a few hundred bucks away from personalization. I would likely upgrade the suspension at some point down the line, but I don’t abhor it as much as some riders seem to.


Other than its appearance, the biggest strike against the FZ-09 is that it goes against my general rule of “Never buy a platform in its first year of manufacture.” I often extend that rule to the first two years. But given the rest of its attributes, I’d be willing to give a pass to the Yamaha. Probably. Maybe. Crap, I dunno.

Up next… The Republican: BMW G650GS.

3 thoughts on “Election Cycle: Yamaha FZ-09 (The Democrat)”

  1. Funny, i’ve been debating two of these bikes myself, the Yamaha and the Bonneville. Very different bikes, both very appealing. i’ll be interested to see which of the four ends up in your garage!

    1. Hello Div, thanks for coming by the site!

      Funny you bring this up, I just rode an FZ-09 again yesterday, I love that bike! For certain, the 09 (and the FZ-07) are superb entries for Yamaha. The upcoming FJ-09 will in all likelihood also be a winner. I am a big fan of all three bikes and love the value for dollar that Yamaha is bringing to the table. But almost no matter the manufacturer, the first production year often has a few bugs, sometimes major sometimes minor. There’s really no way to know until a year or so has gone by, and certainly the motorcycle and automotive highways are littered with examples of first year problems. I do agree that Yamaha has a solid track record, but in the case of the 09, I for one am glad to see that they addressed the ECU issue that (rightly or wrongly) turned quite a few people away from the bike.

      If the 09’s styling was to my liking, there’d have been one in my garage several months ago!

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