I was on a quest to find my choice of affordable sports-tourers. I had a short-list of machines I respected, such as the Triumph Sprint ST, Ducati ST3, Suzuki Bandit, etc. The Yamaha FZ6S wasn’t one that I had considered, but it snuck in on the list. It did so by being suggested by two Yamaha dealers. I had described to the dealers the sort of machine I was interested in, adding that I (and, I dare say, quite a few people reading this) was at an age where comfort was just as important as lap-times around a racing-circuit. So I was open to suggestions from the dealers also.
Now, one bike that I wanted to ride was the Yamaha TDM900. The first dealer didn’t have a demo available but suggested the FZ6S, which he did have. He said he was sure I would find it comfortable. The second dealer did have a TDM, which I took for a test-ride. After the ride, when we were discussing this, the dealer suggested the FZ6S. I had said that I’d found the FZ1 (which you might think would be a more logical competitor to the bikes I mentioned) a bit uncomfortable. The dealer confirmed my opinion that the FZ6 was more comfortable to sit on, and he also reckoned it was more relaxing to ride; the reason being that it didn’t beg you to ride it harder the way the FZ1 did. He had one available, so I took it for a test.
Now, you know that this was really going to be out-gunned by the sort of bikes I was looking at, but the dealers did suggest it! I was interested too though, because it was a sort of latter-day version of the XJ600 Seca I owned (you can read about that in the “Yamaha” section of “More”).
The FZ6 comes in two versions, naked and half-faired; the S being the half-faired version. The engine, and much of the running-gear, has been taken from the R6; the engine having been de-tuned to improve low and mid-range performance. Yamaha don’t quote output figures in their brochure, but specs I’ve read list power as 72kw at 10,000rpm, (although another source quoted it as a much more believable 57kw). The engine is red-lined at an incredible 14,000rpm!
Sitting on the bike again re-affirmed my previous impression that it is quite a comfortable thing. The seat is quite okay; and the riding position is fairly up-right, but with enough lean-forward to make it fit the sports-touring category. It also feels quite roomy; I’m tall but I didn’t feel cramped on the bike. (It was very similar in general ergonomics to my old Seca in fact). The screen is quite wide too, which adds to the comfort factor in helping to keep some of the wind off.
I have to say that it doesn’t feel especially solidly-built; not as solid as, say, the TDM. For example, the fairing feels pretty plasticky, and isn’t attached to anything at the rear end near the tank.
The instrument lay-out is a bit unusual. There’s just one round dial in front of you. It houses the usual digital speedo, and LCD displays for time and fuel-level and whatever else; then around the speedo is an LCD band-type display for the tacho. (It’s a bit like the speedo on the old EK Holdens, for those who can remember back that far; only not as easy to read!). The LCD band is very narrow and it’s hard to see where it is, especially at a quick glance. This is made worse by the fact that at “normal” revs, especially around town, the band is way down in the bottom/left of the display. (In the photo the tacho is reading 6,000!).
Start the bike up and it’s quiet; as all new bikes are today. But it sounds small and buzzy; more like a sewing-machine than a lusty motorcycle engine! Ride away and the “small-engine” impression continues. In fact it sounds and feels more like a 250 than a 600!
The first surprise though, especially considering it’s heritage, is that it’s very flexible and surprisingly tractable at low revs. It’ll pull away from 2,000rpm quite smoothly. Acceleration is good, but it doesn’t feel especially fast or powerful; again surprising considering where it came from! And while they may have tuned this for greater low and mid-range, most of the power is apparently still way up in the rev range somewhere. I say “apparently” because I never really found it. I had it up around 9,000 – 10,000rpm a few times but, while it was fairly quick, there was no great rush of power there. The engine got very buzzy at those sort of revs too, sending tingling vibes through the bars. So, while the low down smoothness and flexibility was impressive, it does feel a bit lacking in power.
The bike is quite easy to ride, and very forgiving in terms of being caught in the wrong gear at a roundabout etc. It will also trickle along easily in slow traffic.
The forgiving nature continues in it’s handling too. It’s easy to ride, and you can adjust your line mid-corner without drama. It handles very well; helped, no doubt, by decent tyres, (120/17 front and 180/17 rear - standard fair for bikes much bigger than this).
I took it over the same test-route I used for the Honda VFR800, which included a narrow winding mountain road, a very narrow back-road through the bush, and some expressway. It felt good to blast up the short straights and swing through the tight bends; although, of course, the performance and handling wasn’t up to that of the Honda. On the narrow back-road it also handled quite securely, although being about 30kg lighter (at 186kg) it didn’t feel as firmly planted on the road; so I didn’t feel quite as confident on it as I did on the Honda.
Brakes, which also came from the R6, were excellent.
It also rides well. The suspension is quite compliant and soaks up smaller bumps pretty well, although it gets caught out a bit on larger bumps. Still pretty good though, especially for this size bike.
Right from when you first take off and ride down the street it feels very low-geared. But out on the open road is where you really notice it. Top gear (of 6) runs at just under 20kph / 1,000rpm. So at a cruising speed of around 110 it’s doing 6,000rpm. That feels pretty buzzy and makes touring a little unpleasant. I suppose Yamaha figure that with 14,000 revs to play with the gearing is high enough; after all, at the redline it’d be doing over 270kph! But as I’ve said, it feels pretty buzzy at higher revs, and the high-rev cruising isn’t all that pleasant. It’s strange really. The old XJ Seca was geared at around 21kph / 1,000rpm in top and settled into a very relaxed cruise at 110 – 120, with the tacho hanging a bit over 5,000rpm. But cruising never felt relaxed on the FZ, which kind of limits – to me anyway – it’s potential as a tourer.
So, to sum up, it’s a mid-size bike that’s comfortable to ride and good fun through the twisties; but it’s not a long-distance tourer. The pity is that if it had a bit more power (which wouldn’t be hard to achieve, considering where the engine came from!) and higher gearing, I think it could be! Although obviously it could never be a serious competitor to the likes of the Honda, the Triumph, and the Ducati etc.
P.S. The FZ6 was up-dated about mid-way through 2007. Changes include modifications to the fuel-injection, exhaust emissions, brakes, and frame dimensions (although wheelbase is unchanged). Probably the best news though, is that the instruments have been replaced with standard analogue type tacho and digital speedo. Much better! Click the button below to go to the test of the new model.
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