Yamaha's FZ750 had been one of
the m company's best-sellers in the mid-'eighties, but by the early
'nineties it was dated outhandled and outpowered by a new generation of
alloy-framed, fat-tyred race replicas. Rumours of a replacement had been
rife since Kawasaki launched the ZXR750 in 1989. But at that time Yamaha's
answer was to launch the OW01, (a limited edition - and extremely expensive
- World Superbike contender), and let the FZ soldier on as a road bike.
But by late 1992, the OW01 had
also reached the end of its potential in world-class competition now it was
time to build a bike for the racetrack as well as the road.
The YZF750 was launched at the
beginning of 1993 and quickly got a name for itself as a nimble,
quick-steering sportster that handled more like a 600 than a big 750. It was
based on the well-proven OW01 design, but developed to the point where no
parts are interchangeable between the two.
Importantly for road riders, the
YZF's road manners didn't need to be compromised by its track aspirations. A
limited-edition SP version was built for racing, with a close-ratio gearbox,
stiffer, multi-adjustable suspension, a single race seat and huge
That left the standard YZF with
more useable gear ratios, proper pillion accommodation and far better engine
behaviour than the SP. In fact, only the SP's adjustable suspension made YZF
owners jealous. Yamaha listened to them and the standard YZF soon sprouted
fully-adjustable Öhlins suspension front and rear.
The new suspension helped to make
an already quick-steering and sweet-handling bike into a real road weapon.
Surprisingly for a 750, it's easy to handle on twisty backroads, and
civilised enough to cover long distances in reasonable comfort. That's
partly down to the quality of the suspension, which allows relatively soft
springs without compromising control - bumpy bends don't throw the YZF off
line, or throw the rider out of his seat. But if you really want to
experience the YZF's mind-expanding limits safely you need smooth, open
roads or the freedom of a race track.
Because the YZF is fast. Not just
in terms of outright speed - Kawasaki's ZXR is a little faster in still
conditions. What makes the YZF's engine special is its smooth, linear
midrange power delivery. For this, we have to thank Yamaha's unique EXUP
system. The EXUP (it stands for Exhaust Ultimate Powervalve) is a valve in
the exhaust collector pipe that opens and closes at preset revs, and fools
the engine into thinking it has an exhaust pipe specifically tuned for those
revs. The result is apparent as soon as you ride the YZF -where its
competitors have little low-down pull, followed by peak power coming in with
a bang, the YZF just pulls, and pulls, and pulls, from 3,000rpm all the way
to the 13,000rpm redline.
Slowing the YZF down from its
160mph+ top speed are some of the most powerful front brakes fitted to any
road bike. Twin discs are gripped so hard by six-piston calipers it's not
unknown for the discs to warp under the strain. Other bikes now wear
six-piston brakes (including some Triumphs and Suzukis), but the YZF was the
first production bike to boast them as standard.
But its instant success as a road
bike wasn't to be mirrored on the track. It was to be late 1994 before the
YZF proved its worth and achieved its first serious international success -
victory at the Bol d'Or 24-hour race in the hands of brothers and ex-GP
racers Christian and Dominique Sarron. The race bike had finally caught up
with the road bike.