Yamaha’s FZ6 all rounder is one of the top value ’first timer’ machines on the UK market, but up against stiff competition from the Suzuki Bandit 600, Honda Hornet 600 and the Z750 Kawasaki.
Insidebikes.com Editor Alastair Walker spent a week on the FZ6 Fazer, to see how it handled all kinds of riding conditions.
Of all the bikes in the 600cc all-rounder class, the old Fazer 600 was my favourite machine back in the late 1990s. It had a gutsy motor, taken from the Thundercat 600 sports machine of the era, plus a handy nose fairing, flat handlebars, good seating accommodation and outstanding brakes.
In those days, compared to the Fazer 600, the Bandit 600 seemed slightly twitchy handling and under-braked, the Hornet was a rev-hungry workhorse and rivals like the Ducati 600 Monster were slow by comparison.
But times change and today machines like the Monster 620 are smooth, refined and quicker, whilst the SV650 Suzuki has become a benchmark, top value beginner’s bike, which many manufacturers find difficult to beat.
Those with around £4000 to spend on their first `big’ bike, having passed CBT, or decided to come back to biking after doing the mortgage/kids thing for a decade or so, are spoilt for choice. So I was keen to see what the new FZ6 could offer a relative novice.
Rev ’n’ go
The first thing that strikes you is how pretty the FZ6 is, with its lean, `hunched up’ kind of styling, odd shaped headlight and underseat exhausts. It isn’t quite as sexy as the Ducati Monster 620, but it’s funkier than the Hornet, Bandit or SV650 to my eyes.
Then you turn the key and fire up the 16 valve motor. Hmmm, it’s a bit too refined, too quiet. In fact, it’s perilously close to being the Dido of 600cc biking, which is not good, unless you live in a street where net curtains twitch should anyone dare to slam the boot door on their Meriva too harshly…
But warm up the motor by riding along for a mile or so, then open the bike’s throttle and you’ll soon find a grin spreading across your face. The FZ6 can howl all the way to 13,500rpm and once above 9000 revs, it really can get a move on through its 6 speed gearbox, which is slicker than a Premiership player in a hair gel factory.
Top speed may be limited by the lack of fairing, but this is still a de-tuned R6 motor, so it has some serious acceleration, once its 98bhp is fully applied.
But the best thing about the FZ6 is the way the engine’s power is perfectly matched by the chassis. The twin spar frame is more than enough to contain the motor, whilst the suspension offers a compliant ride, with a decent amount of feedback at the front end. You soon build up confidence in the FZ6, especially the way it steers quickly in tight corners, or on roundabouts.
Around town, it has no problem seeing off cars and vans from red light to red light, or squeezing through the narrow gaps in jams – if the mirrors can make it, then so can the rider on the FZ6.
But those same mirrors are set pretty narrow, so if you are a large person, or simply have big arms, you might find the view slightly restricted. The other area where the bike falls down slightly as a commuter is the saddle, which is too hard and has a steep step up to the pillion perch. Pillions will simply feel too high on the bike and the seat is hard and thin at the very back – this isn’t a tourer by any stretch of the imagination.
Instead, it is top fun solo, with a revvy engine, rapid steering and outstanding brakes – again taken from the R6. The FZ6 is a sporty machine, a bike which challenges learners to push their limits now and then, which I think is a good thing, as you need to feel ready to progress to bigger, faster machines.
Huggers, trays, cowls ’n’ covers
Yamaha, like many manufacturers, has learned that it needs to sell a few `bolt-on’ type accessories to bikers with naked roadster type bikes, or they can rapidly lose interest in the whole experience.
So you can buy a rear wheel hugger, a seat cowl, crash bungs, crash bars for your engine, nose fairing etc for the FZ6 from the dealer. Alternatively, there are companies like Skidmarx, Ermax, BSR etc who all do a range of bits and pieces for the FZ6 owner who wants to stand out from the crowd.
That’s good, because the FZ6 is the type of bike you can keep for a couple of years, getting some handy no claims built-up, plus miles of riding experience. It is that riding skill which will ultimately keep you out of trouble when you buy a bigger bike, not speed cameras, listening to your mates, or a noisy end can.
Motorcycling needs great all-rounders like the FZ6, to hook people on the dream, the freedom, of two wheeled travel. The FZ6 is sharper than the Hornet, Z750 Kawasaki or Bandit, although it isn’t quite as comfortable on longer trips, but it has got some style, some street cred, even in its dull grey or silver colour schemes.
In terms of handling, it is in another league to the soft and wallowy Kawasaki Z750, or the more touring orientated Bandit 650. The SV650 looks and sounds (with end cans) as sweet, but there’s a question mark over the durability of the SV650 – or at least some of its parts, which don’t like Britain’s wet climate too much.
I like the Honda Hornet as much as the FZ6, but I think the Honda looks dated now, it really needed a dramatic makeover this year, to set it apart from the `Plain Jane’ CBF600 models. The Ducati Monster 620 is a bike I haven’t ridden, but it looks beautiful and Ducati’s build quality keeps on improving.
The bottom line is that the FZ6 can be had – usually pre-registered, but brand new – for around £4000 from many dealers and that kind of value alone, puts it right at the top of the list for many bikers. I can see why, as the Yamaha offers a proven engine and chassis, good warranty back-up and precise handling in one easy-to-ride package.
A definite winner.
Get Yamaha motorcycle insurance for the yamaha fz6.
Engine 16 valve, DOHC, four stroke, four cylinder, 600cc.
Bore and stroke 65.5mm X 44.5mm
Peak power 98bhp @12,000rpm
Compression ratio n/a
Carbs Digital fuel injection
Gears 6 speed
Frame Twin spar aluminium alloy frame
Front suspension Non adjustable 43mm forks
Rear suspension Monoshock, adjustable for preload
Wheels/Tyres Front 120/70 17 inch rim
Rear 180/70 17 inch rim.
Dry weight 180kgs
Top speed 135mph
Fuel capacity 19 litres
Current price approx £4000
Warranty 2 years.