The laser-etched plaque mounted to the engine’s powder coated-red valve cover read “Serial No. 09 of 25.” Reading it aloud, I couldn’t help but do so mimicking John Lennon’s cacophonous track on the eponymous White Album. “We’ve sold 15 of the 25 thus far,” RIVA Racing’s Marcos Smith revealed, his voice echoing off of the high ceilings of RIVA’s Research & Development Center only a couple of blocks north of the Pompano Beach, Florida headquarters. “We build a handful at a time once enough orders come in. In saves time in both assembly and testing.”
Although the Limited Edition Yamaha FZRs only officially went on sale at the beginning of the year, the public reaction has been impactful. The performance package was first revealed back in late August of last year. Differing slightly from the orange-and-black prototype displayed at the Yamaha dealer show, the true 2016 FZR proof-of-concept vehicle was only released to the public the first week of the new year. “We changed all the orange to red to match the FZR’s new red hull,” RIVA President Dave Bamdas explained.
In addition to a bevy of performance and handling additions to the Limited Edition units, RIVA sends out nearly two dozen components to be anodized and powder coated to match the custom livery. Equally, RIVA took great effort to carefully recreate a graphics kit that would match both styling and font of the factory FZR graphics, making the package look all the more authentic. Even the red stitching in the custom-sown seat cover follows the graphics’ pattern.
Inside of the otherwise nondescript R&D facility building, the floor is rife with white-and-red 2016 Yamaha WaveRunners in varying degrees of modification. As seats are removed and replaced with a RIVA-edition Jettrim custom seat cover, a special “RIVA Racing” edition Hydro-Turf traction mat kit is installed. A pair of red-anodized RIVA FZ mirror block-offs replace the side mirrors, as the factory steering system is removed. In its place is a RIVA FZ Pro-Series steering system, holding a Pro-Bar 32-inch runabout bar, and billet throttle lever, all in the same anodized red hue.
Although the FZ series Yamahas have already earned their stripes on the closed course, RIVA Racing ups the ante with a RIVA FZR/FZS Performance Ride Plate, FZ SVHO Stainless Intake Grate (and RIVA FZ SVHO Pump Seal Kit), and a pair of Pro Series sponsons, which the 5-position sponsons’ billet inserts have also been anodized red as well. Lastly, a new Solas Yamaha 160mm Concord 13/20 Impeller churns the water into usable thrust. “We had five or six guys from Solas here not too long ago, taking notes and spending a day at the test lake,” Smith added. “Those guys are seriously hardcore about this stuff.”
Beneath the seat, the Limited Edition FZR produces its dyno-proven 350 horsepower deceptively easily. The factory ECU undergoes a RIVA ECU Reprogramming Service, and is backed by a SVHO Intake Manifold Upgrade Kit, Valve Retainer Upgrade Kit, and Engine Breather Upgrade Kit, a Yamaha 1.8L SVHO/SHO Supercharger Shaft Upgrade Kit, a RIVA/HKS Yamaha Power Cooler SSQV Blow-Off Valve, Power Filter Kit, and a High Flow billet fuel rail. A RIVA Yamaha FZ & FX SVHO Power Cooler Kit, SVHO Pro Series Engine Cooling Upgrade Kit, and RIVA FZR/FZS through-hull rear exhaust kit complete the package.
This not only increases the FZR’s 1.8-liter SVHO 4-cylinder output to an aforementioned dyno-tested 350 horsepower (90 horsepower above the stock 260 horsepower at 7,500rpm), but runs a GPS and radar-proven sustained-not-peak 80mph at 8,300rpm (that is, with 1/3 tank of fuel, trim in neutral, sea-level elevation, air temp 80-degrees F, according to RIVA Racing). Interestingly enough, when it came time for us to test the #9 FZR 350, we did so with far more impressive results:
At RIVA’s private lakeside testing grounds, with air temps hovering at 82-degrees F, and nearly a full tank of 93 octane, we surpassed the conservative 80-mile-per-hour mark, to an impressive 83mph at slightly above the same RPM. Humidity was low for early March, so our barometric pressure had us at near sea-level conditions. Likewise, RIVA’s R&D team measured nearly 4gs of g-force at full throttle acceleration, hitting its top speed in just over 3-seconds.
Trimmed down, the Limited Edition FZR 350 is brutally precise, almost punishing anyone daring enough to mount it. The cornering force produced by this FZR on the human body will peel anyone less than a professional athlete from the grip of the Velcro-like seat. I found that trimming the nose down was really the only way to ride it with any modicum of success, as even in the neutral position, it created so much boost that it would dislodge itself from the water’s surface when its throttle was pulled back to its stop.
Unlike the factory 310-horsepower Kawasaki, the FZR 350 doesn’t split the air with a banshee-like shriek, but rather whooshes in an airy whistle. That is, until the big RIVA/HKS blow-off valve pulls open. Even from across the lake, the ear-splitting hiss of the BOV rippled over the water, telegraphing when the rider had backed out of the throttle. The combination of so much power and incision-like handling is overwhelming and makes riding the RIVA Racing FZR 350 Limited Edition less cooperative (man and machine working together) and more adversarial (man vs. machine).
Exhausted after my third bout with the 350 that day, laying prostrate on the cool, wet cement, I tried to come to terms with the first dealership-available jet ski to have beaten me so badly. Priced at $25,000, the sum of the Limited Edition FZR 350 is worth every dime when you consider its many parts: IJSBA Open class performance (in both speed and handling) on a surprisingly stock ski, a gorgeous, one-of-a-kind aesthetics package, an already-assembled race-ready craft that is cleaner and better built than most race craft, and the assistance of RIVA’s technical department.
While there are several World Championship-winning racers more than happy to build you a runabout that might weigh slightly less, go a hair faster or handle just a little sharper, the cleanliness of the build, the reliability (ie. longevity) of such a machine, and the surmounting cost (upwards of $50,000), the RIVA Racing 350 Limited Edition is by far the single-most impressive offering on the market today.