Prince of zeal

A crown (the bike’s new visor) not withstanding, Bunny Punia thinks the new FZS is the last word in fun biking in India
Photography: Bunny Punia, Martin Alva, Munish Shekhawat


In India, two-wheeler manufacturers have different ways of promoting their products. While some rely solely on their product virtues or advertisements, others make sure the bonding between the owners and their bikes play an important role. For Yamaha, things are a little different. It is not every day that you see senior management personnel of a two-wheeler manufacturer ride with the media guys during a launch or a ride function – be it aboard the YZF-R15 at the Sriperumbudur racetrack or astride the FZ-16 during its launch in Goa.

The road to success for Yamaha in India has been hard but in the last year or so, a strong upward movement in sales charts has shown that the company’s efforts have begun to yield results. In March 2009, Yamaha sold 14,558 units (with the FZ series making up for more than 50 percent of the sales) which was a whopping 45 percent increase over the same month last year. With volumes on the rise each month, Yamaha has become the fastest growing two-wheeler manufacturer in India. Continuing with the success of the R15 and FZ-16, the Japanese firm decided to pimp up the latter with a few cosmetic touches and hence was born the FZS that you see across these four pages.

A first proper look at the FZS combined with experiencing the fun element that this bike comes attached with was the agenda behind Yamaha taking a few select journos for a trip to North India at a small hill station based around a lake, Nainital, some 300 odd km from Delhi. After an awfully slow and grueling twelve hour bus journey (at the end of it, all of us thought biking up would have been a better option), the setting for the open air, overlooking the lake cocktail-cum-presentation dinner helped combat the fatigue (and frustration). Plus we had the new incarnations of the FZ-16 for company with a couple of FZs with aftermarket add-ons. Nainital was chilly and while we sipped liquor and warmed our hands around the burning coal, the presentation by Sanjay Tripathi gave us a fair idea of what lay in store for us the next day.

The morning session saw us riding around the hill station on sticky tarmac, enjoying the amazing flickable nature of the bike. Though we were on roads between 5000-6500 feet above mean sea level, which meant the slightly thinner air robbed the engine of some power, the bike’s fantastic midrange torque made up for it and the 35km odd loop was covered in just half an hour. Most of us wanted a break from our hectic daily routine and loved riding on such roads. How could we restrain ourselves from making the bike dance on one wheel as well?

The afternoon riding session, however, was longer (and faster) with some of us staying right at the tail of the leading bike ridden by a Yamaha rider. The destination was Corbett National Park around 110km away. Yes we were scarily fast, but the adrenaline rush made sure the right wrist was wrung open, making full use of the bike’s capabilities (and the tyres too). Traffic was sparse and the occasional speed breakers were of course negotiated with ease. The day’s ride saw one media guy taking a spill and well, the incident did bring us back to reality and we backed off a little from the throttle. The evening saw us riding onto the dry riverbed for some fantastic photo opportunities with some of us riding on the pegs, jumping over typical, huge white riverbed stones. This was where I kept the FZ-16 and FZS side by side to compare the differences. The cosmetic changes are few – a sharper headlamp, a new visor, new colour schemes and alloy wheel strips, et al – but they help in giving the bike a completely new character which in my opinion easily makes the FZS the best looking bike in India. The changes do make the bike dearer by a couple of grand but the boffins at Yamaha are confident about the positive sales of their product.

Media rides like these are vital. An opportunity for a close interaction with the top guys as well as the factory riders helps to shed light on various aspects of the bike and its development. I have ridden the FZ-16 extensively in Pune but the route chosen by Yamaha riders had a lot of variations including superb sticky twisties, dry riverbeds, small stream crossings etc. Riding the FZ-S over all these terrains enlightened us about a lot more aspects as well. For instance, the next day, while riding deep into the Park, we came across numerous 15-20 feet long shallow humps which were entered at close to triple digit speeds and exiting them saw both wheels at least a foot off the road. Landing back didn’t weave the bike at all. Stability, flickability and a torquey engine – I have always loved the FZ and this small interaction with the new FZS impressed me further. Small capacity bikes can be fun too.

The new visor not only looks cool, but also helps deflect some amount of air from the riders chest. Seen in the background is the Ramganga river

A big thanks to the Yamaha factory riders (with Morita San in the center) for all the hard work they put in to plan this ride

Sanjay Tripathi has been the face of Yamaha India for most of us journos, and we have always found him riding enthusia-stically along with us on all the media rides

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