The concept was fiendishly simple for Yamaha; take one R1 motor, churning our 143bhp and neatly slot it inside a retro chassis package, which would be perfectly comfy for aged bikers who want to look sensible, but misbehave occasionally at the weekends.
But with competition in the big retro class hotting up all the time – bargain basement machines like Yamaha´s own XJR1300, or the Suzuki Bandit 1200, offer plenty of power per pound – the Fazer 1000 has its work cut out to follow its R1 cousin to the top of the UK sales charts.
It was going to be stark raving mad, wasn’t it?
I mean, an R1 motor slotted into an upright bike with high handlebars – the ultimate street stunt bike, surely. I couldn’t wait to swing a leg over what was promising to be the most overtly exciting machine of 2001…
For the first hour or so aboard the bike I was mildly disappointed. But that’s how long it took for me to rethink those expectations – don’t do this, and the Fazer will disappoint you too. Despite its huge power output, which at 143bhp is only slightly shy of the R1 (the result of changes in the intake and exhaust systems to help repackage the motor in its new home), there’s more velvet glove than iron fist about the bike. As a consequence it’s less intimidating and far easier to ride than it might have been, which on reflection – and after a good ride – makes more sense for a mass market machine, both for the manufacturer and its customers.
The Fazer’s weight is mostly responsible for calming it down. At 208kg it’s the lightest bike in the class and just 19kg heavier than the Fazer 600, but alongside the R1’s 175kg it still looks a bit lardy. The dramatic punch of the R1 motor has been diluted by the additional mass, but the throttle response is softer too, due to ignition timing changes and a heavier crankshaft, with the result that twisting the grip has you being scooped along benignly, rather than being fired forward explosively. Popping wheelies takes more effort than you might expect considering the bike’s heritage, but that’s not to say it can’t be done…
Don’t mistake any of this for meaning the bike’s slow: The Fazer is an immensely fast machine with a top speed which is probably around 155mph (although Yamaha is making no claims for this). With the four-cylinder motor spinning above 5000rpm the thrust is outstanding, and even below this there’s little else on the roads which can keep you in sight.
The red line is drawn up at 11,500rpm, so there’s a very broad range of highly accessible power which is exhilarating and if not the real thing, is still enough to at least give a taste of what an R1 is like.
Cruise the bike along a motorway and there’s plenty of torque in reserve for overtaking even in top gear, although there are small patches of tingling vibration typical of many Yamaha fours which come through the bars and footrests. But really these are barely noticeable and certainly aren’t enough to put you off long journeys, and neither is the upright riding position, which without the small fairing would sit the rider in the teeth of the windblast.
As it is, the slipstream is deflected sufficiently to maintain speeds much higher than UK laws allow without you feeling like your arms are being stretched out of their sockets. The footrests are set higher than some riders might like, a consequence of the Fazer’s considerable ground clearance, but with its plush and comfortable seat plus the generous 21 litre (4.6 gallon) fuel tank, here is a bike with eyebrow-raising potential as a tourer.
The do-it-all concept
What makes this a side of the machine to relish is the high specification of the suspension, which delivers an outstanding ride quality, something tested severely on some dreadfully surfaced Andalucian roads on the bike’s presentation. It was the suspension which impressed again on sinuous backroads which snaked up and down hills and mountains, bringing out the sporting aspect of the Fazer – while its weight prevented the bike being flicked around with the abandon of a 600, it still proved a willing partner in these circumstances.
The steering is pleasantly neutral and obedient while front end stability is fine – drive the bike out of a bumpy turn and while the bars go light, they don’t flap, or threaten to take the bike somewhere you don’t want to go. Learn to blend corners with a fluid, easy input through the Fazer’s bars, as opposed to the staccato brake-flick-accelerate of a supersports bike, and it becomes hugely enjoyable without losing out much in terms of sheer pace.
Like the engine, the brakes are based on those of the R1, and even with more weight to haul up still they perform superbly. There’s immense power available which is so easily modulated it’s no more threatening than any other aspect of the bike – instead, it’s comforting knowing you can haul the Fazer up so fast and confidently.
The styling doesn’t break any new ground but it does seem to polarise opinion. Some dislike the angularity of the bodywork and find the tubular steel frame old-fashioned, while others, including myself, love the triangular splashes of colour which appear to be draped across the top of the in-yer-face metallic, mechanical mass beneath.
The frame might be lower tech than the de riguer twin spar aluminium items of sports bikes, but it does show off the engine a treat, a trait many riders miss in typical modern bikes.
But the Fazer’s surprise is how well it works as an all-rounder – top gear acceleration is outstanding, good for both relaxed touring and rapid sports riding, while comfort, control and handling all work together in a variety of roles. Bikes such as the Honda VFR800 or Triumph Sprint ST might have thought they were safe from the Fazer 1000, but it’s as much in competition with them as it is with more obvious rivals such as the Suzuki Bandit 1200.
As a choice, the Fazer isn’t mad after all. But don’t worry, buying one doesn’t mean you have to break out the pipe and slippers just yet…
Get Yamaha motorcycle insurance for the yamaha fazer 1000.
Engine Liquid-cooled four cylinder, 20 valve, four stroke
Claimed power (bhp) 143bhp @ 10,000rpm
Compression ratio 13.2:1
Transmission Six speed
Frame; Steel tubular, cradle type.
Front suspension; 43mm USD forks, multi adjustable
Steering head angle; 26 degrees
Rear suspension; Monoshock, multi adjustable
Front brakes; Twin 298mm discs, four piston calipers
Rear brake; Single 267mm disc, twin piston caliper
Top speed 160mph
Fuel capacity 21 litres
Current price £7,799 OTR