The late 80s saw the race between the big four Japanese manufactures hot up to fever pitch with all manner of takes on the perfect high performance machine.
The answer to the problem appeared to be outright power, with scant regard for chassis refinements, but with a voluntary 125bhp ceiling in-place throughout the decade, exactly who was going to be the first to break the deal? Suzuki jumped first with their 137bhp GSXR1100 in 1986, but the rest of the package didn’t match the engines output, making it more than a handful when ridden with gusto. Honda stole the march with its refined, 130bhp CBR1000F the following year but it was a close run thing as the FZR1000 appeared in this year too, albeit with over 140bhp on tap but restricted to 125 so as not to upset the powers that be. The FZR combined many elements from its competitors and fine-tuned them; not having the most powerful engine didn’t stop the big Yam as the sum of the whole was greater than its components. The Honda was fast, but cumbersome and overdressed, with all enclosing bodywork, while the Yamaha had the looks and with it, the sporty feel, arguably making it the most complete machine of its generation.
In more modern times, the FZR still looks every bit the bike it was in its day, its classic lines that matured with every new model, and a nod towards the way we now do things, have stood it in good stead, while its bullet proof engine still makes for a reliable and speedy ride. Finding an example in good condition isn’t hard either, Yamaha were entering a phase of very high quality machinery, so the FZR was built to last with solid plastics and thickly applied paintwork. As a budget machine there can be few that offer such good value, with few common faults and a good supply of parts, keeping one on the road and riding well will be no trouble. The fork seals do give up the ghost more often than similar machines, while the EXUP valve has to be kept well serviced. It sits in the hot exhaust gases and can be prone to sticking without regular maintenance; still it’s a small price to pay for cheap performance.
The FZR is big and, by modern standards, heavy too but this works in its favour on the road, stability is the key word and its more than fast enough to get the adrenalin pumping. The FZR excels at smooth, arm wrenching acceleration, punching out of bends with accuracy and
Surprisingly for such a top of the range machine the suspension set up is quite basic, there is no adjustment for rebound or compression damping at either end of the bike, just a simple spring pre load allowing for pillion or solo use. This is difficult to understand especially when looking at the other machines on offer during and after the period that the EXUP reigned supreme but one has to look a little further into the Yamaha way of thinking. The suspension giant Ohlins had been taken under the Yamaha wing many years before, mainly to get the factory GP racers handling something like and it is this knowledge that gives the FZR a head start in the handling stakes, and effectively removes the need for further tweaking by the end user. Despite its lack of adjustability the suspension works well, keeping the Yam tight on its intended line as well as enabling it to switch lanes at the slightest wish to do so. Maybe this is part of the reason that the GSX-R1100 from the same period is often badly rated in this department, it had 7 different pre load settings, along with 17 compression settings, on the forks alone allied to a staggering 19 clicks on the rear shock, making it nigh on impossible to get to, and keep, a good set up unless a suspension god.
Out of the block and the FZR is certainly no slow coach, keep the throttle pinned and throw in a gear or two when needed and the EXUP will return an impressive 10.87 standing quarter. This aspect comes into its own in a series of sweeping bends when the superb chassis will get you into and around, while the engine is always there, ready and willing to drag you out by the scruff of your neck and throw you forward to the next corner. Surprisingly, with so many aspects of the Yamaha so right, the brakes certainly are lacking. They stop with stunning precision and yet offer little in the way of feel and feedback, you squeeze the lever, the fluid passes on your wishes down below and the brakes work, but that is it. Once factored in to the equation, this minor niggle isn’t such a problem, and the rest of the riding experience soon eclipses it.
Yamaha FZR1000 Model history
The FZR power plant has a long, and illustrious past, with origins dating as far back as 1984 and continues to this day, with many of its innovations still hanging around in the Yamaha line up. When first aired the five-valve per cylinder engine, with its canted forward cylinders and three inlet and two exhaust valves, was ridiculed as yet another gimmick to gain sales. In reality the design was way ahead of current thinking and this has been borne out by both the sheer longevity of it and the many variants using the idea that followed. The cylinder arrangement allowed for a straight path for the down draught carburetion while the large port area created by the circular arrangement of the valves enabled the fuel to get in and out as fast as possible.
It was also the basis for the V8 engine used for the Yamaha F1 engine during the 1989 season, and also the V6 F2 engine, proving beyond doubt that there was more to the five valve technology than many first thought.
Strangely the FZ750 that first used this technology, while stylish and very fast, didn’t sell well, the GPz900 had arrived a shade before it and certainly stole the limelight. Yamaha had the formula correct however and the 1000cc version soon followed, this was much better received and the FZR series was here to stay. The basis of the first FZR was clear, bolt a great engine into a superb and stylish chassis and keep the rest relatively simple. From the outset the FZR1000 Genesis was a hit and few could imagine a better motorcycle, thankfully Yamaha could and set about designing an all-new model for the 1989 season. Although similar looking, the new bike was a total redesign and little except the basic engine concept was carried over. The engine was tilted back 5 degrees in the all aluminium Deltabox chassis, to facilitate a shortened wheelbase, wheel size was altered too, enabling the latest wide rubber to be fitted.
With the 1989 FZR the EXUP valve was fully unveiled and with it came a long period of advantage for Yamaha. The device, while not particularly special, came under strict patents and left the opposition seeking other ways to achieve the same or similar result. Of course they couldn’t use any kind of electronically operated gate within the exhaust system to control the all-important flow of waste gasses, so were at a distinct disadvantage. When Honda started the development of the CBR900RR in the early part of the 90s, the machine used as the benchmark was the FZR.
The EXUP (EXhaust Ultimate Powervalve) is a processor-controlled, butterfly valve, located in the exhaust’s collector that can open and close according to the engine revs.
Basically it’s a way of tricking the engine it is pumping into a more restrictive exhaust at low speed than it really is. This attribute is essential for low and mid range running that require huge amounts of back pressure, but at high power levels larger diameter down pipes are needed. Once the revs have reached 8000rpm the valve is fully open and all that the engine sees is a large diameter pipe and a free flowing exhaust system.
First seen on the California specification FZR400 of 1988, the valve was used to help pass the stringent emission regulations in force in that county. It also became clear at that time that the valve, little more than a flap that closes when the revs drop, also increased midrange torque. This was incorporated in the all-new 1989 FZR1000 with dramatic effect and the EXUP name soon became synonymous with power and speed.
The first of the 20-valve four cylinder engines rolls off the Yamaha production line. The fine handling, and fast, FZ750 was an instant hit with the press, although overshadowed by the GPz900R on the street, and sales were relatively poor by comparison.
The first of the FZR1000 models appears with the 989cc Genesis. It’s a raw machine that truly earns its pure sports logo and wears it with pride.
There was little change from the previous year as Yamaha and their customers are still very happy with the original concept.
1989 FZR1000 3LG1 model
This was the first of the EXUP models, and it was a total redesign of the original Genesis concept. Shorter, more nimble and a good deal faster too, the engine was lifted and tilted slightly in the chassis allowing a shorter wheelbase, while power was up around the 140 bhp mark.
1990 FZR1000 3LG2 model
An alloy end can and minor cosmetic changes were all that Yamaha deemed necessary for this year.
1991 FZR1000 3LG3 model
A strict diet had seen 26kgs disappear from its waste line and the front end now sports upside down forks. A new nose and headlight gives this model its distinctive shape.
1992 FZR1000 3LG4 model
New graphics and a twin-beam, single headlight unit was used for the 92 model.
1993 FZR1000 3LG5 model
Once again just a new graphics and paint scheme
1994 FZR1000 3LG6 model
A total redesign in the fairing department sees the adoption of a twin “fox eye” headlight arrangement, a direct reaction to the launch of the Honda Fireblade.
1995 FZR1000 3LG7 model
This was the last of the EXUP models, and was replaced later this year by the difficult to pigeonhole Thunderace series. Although faster still, the new bike didn’t do well and was a styling disaster, the R1 soon followed.
1992 Yamaha FZR1000 EXUP Specifications
- Engine – liquid-cooled four-cylinder four-stroke DOHC 5-valves per cylinder
- Capacity – 1002cc
- Bore/stroke – 75.5 x 56xmm
- Power – 125 bhp @ 10,000rpm
- Torque – 72 ft-lb @ 8500 rpm
- Carburetion – 4 x Mikuni BDST38
- Transmission – 5-speed wet clutch chain final
- Frame – “Deltabox” twin beam aluminium
- Suspension – 41 mm USD telescopic forks. Rising rate monoshock rear
- Brakes – 2 x 320 mm floating discs four-piston calipers. 267 mm disc twin-piston caliper
- Wheels – 120/70 x 17, 180/55 x 17
- Weight – 209kgs
- Top speed – 170mph
- Wheelbase – 1460mm
- Fuel capacity – 19ltrs
Yamaha FZR1000 EXUP Gallery
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