Yamaha have taken a step ‘backwards’ from the 600 supersport push into the extreme with their new FZR6. Does their new budget (but practical) bike do the job? Steve Bond finds out.
There are a reasonable number of new motorcycles that list for under 10 grand these days. Narrow the choice to “something sporty-ish” and the number dwindles. Further refine it to “fully faired and sporty” and you can count them on the fingers of one hand.
One of the newest motorcycles fitting these criteria is Yamaha’s FZ6R. And, unlike most designations in this case, the R doesn’t stand for “race replica”.
For motorcyclists, the sport and fun factor is a huge part of why we ride and Yamaha knows this, as evidenced by the Tuning Fork Company’s cutting-edge R1 and R6 sport bikes. Many riders like their bikes to look sporty but aren’t interested in the extreme riding position, focused nature and higher insurance and operating costs associated with a pure supersport machine.
Yamaha’s 2009 FZ6R has the appearance of a hypersport motorcycle, yet boasts comfortable ergonomics in an easy-to-ride package that retails for a bargain basement $8,799.
While the standard FZ6 has an aluminum frame and swingarm, the FZ6R saves a few bucks by utilizing a steel frame. A further re-tuned version of the previous generation R6 motor makes the FZ6R an ideal mount for entry-level sport-bike riders, newer riders and commuters.
Further cost-saving strategies mean that the conventional 41 mm fork is non adjustable, while the rear shock is adjustable only for preload. And there’s twin-pot sliding-pin calipers (squeezing twin 298 mm discs up front) rather than calipers with four opposed pistons as used on most sport bikes.
SWINGING A LEG
When first swinging a leg over the FZ6R, you notice the very comfortable riding position. The tubular steel handlebar rises above the triple clamps, and the footpegs are a reasonable distance from the seat.
The standard, non-intimidating seat height of 785 mm (30.9 inches) can be fine tuned as the seat adjusts over a 20 mm range (albeit a few bolts have to be removed and reinstalled) and the handlebar clamps are reversible, providing a 20 mm range fore and aft.
Instrumentation is simple, yet functional with an analogue tachometer, a digital speedo, fuel gauge, clock, and twin trip meters, which automatically start counting the distance travelled once the fuel light comes on.
The dash layout looked vaguely familiar and I realized that it’s a dead ringer for the FZ1’s, the motorcycle I rode during my January tour of Australia. Man, I spent a lot of hours in the saddle with those gauges staring me in the face.
Tires are Bridgestone BT021 radials. The regular FZ6 has a 180-section rear tire, but the R comes with a narrower, 160-section bun that really aids turn-in and lightens the steering response, and it will cost less to replace when worn out. Handling is quite good until you really start pushing, after which the FZ6R starts feeling a bit bouncy.
Generally though, in daily riding the spring and damping rates seem well matched to the chassis. Steering is light and predictable, and the bike is very stable, whether you’re keeping up with traffic or tooling around town.
THE FINER POINTS
Putting some miles on the 6R, I grew quite fond of the comfortable riding position, no matter whether I was in the city, on the highway or even doing a bit of sport riding.
The handlebar is wide enough for good leverage around town but narrow enough so you’re not uncomfortable on the open road. The seat could use a bit more padding, as I found it a bit hard and on the narrow side.
I had an inkling that the large digital speedometer was inaccurate (does traffic really travel at a buck thirty on the 401?) so I bolted my portable GPS to the handlebar for some impromptu calibration.
An indicated 50 km/h was an actual 44, while an indicated 60 was an actual 53. On the highway, the speedo displayed 113 km/h when cruising at an actual 100.
I talked to someone I know in Yamaha Canada’s service department and he said that North American FZ6Rs are using different tires than what were originally specified. A slight change in tire profile could account for a speedometer error normally only found on Italian motorcycles.
The fuel gauge accuracy is also suspect. With only one bar showing (after travelling 210 km), I filled up and could only get 9.55 litres into the 17-litre tank. But I guess that erring on the side of caution is better than wheezing to a halt while still showing half a tank on the gauge.
Under all conditions (and I was riding it fairly spiritedly), I averaged 4.6L/100 km so owners should expect a realistic cruising range of 300 km per tank.
The brakes have a soft initial bite and overall stopping power isn’t quite up to sport bike snuff — which is probably a good thing because the typical FZ6R customer wouldn’t want, nor appreciate hair-trigger brakes. The five-position adjustable lever is a nice touch on a motorcycle in this category.
The 6R’s fairing offers pretty good wind and weather protection, but as with almost all bikes on the market these days, I’d prefer a higher screen as the windblast was hitting me square in the upper chest.
The R6-derived engine is an absolute gem. It’s entirely new and uses new crankcases, a revised cylinder head with narrower intake ports, lighter cams with revised profiles, and new intake and exhaust systems. These changes are meant to reduce top-end punch and increase the midrange.
Power delivery is turbine smooth with reasonable grunt right off the bottom, which is an aid to new riders and a boon to riding in the city.
Zing it towards the 11,500 rpm redline and there’s more than enough power to put a smile on your face and leave four-wheeled traffic safely behind.
Throttle response is well sorted, and there was very little driveline snatch during on/off transitions.
I’m not sure about the funky 4-into-2-into-1 exhaust system that culminates into a Weird Harold collector directly underneath the engine. I realize this is an efficient use of mass centralization but I’ve always appreciated a graceful, styled exhaust system.
The sound emitting from the 6R’s pipe is certainly mellow enough without sounding strangled — I just think a nice, MotoGP-styled shorty muffler would really upgrade the looks of the bike.
The FZ6R is another excellent middleweight that blends sport-bike styling with real-world rideability and performance. The fact that it’s a bargain to boot is just an added bonus.
|Engine type||Liquid-cooled, DOHC inline four|
|Power (crank – claimed)||77 horsepower at 10,000 rpm|
|Torque (claimed)||44.1 lb-ft at 8,500 rpm|
|Tank Capacity||17.3 litres|
|Carburetion||EFI with 32 mm throttle bodies|
|Final drive||Six speed, chain drive|
|Brakes, front||Twin 298 mm discs with dual-piston calipers|
|Brakes, rear||245 mm disc with single-piston caliper|
|Seat height||785 mm (30.9 “)|
|Wheelbase||1,440 mm (56.7 “)|
|Wet weight (claimed)||212 kg (466 lb)|
|Colours||Blue, metallic black, reddish yellow|
|Warranty||12 month/unlimited mileage|
A thoroughly modern Seca II (XJ6S)!
In Europe it is called the XJ6 Diversion in homage to the earlier Diversion 600.
A nice write up by Steve Bond on this version of the FZ6 offered by Yamaha. I am somewhat disturbed by the lousy speedometer performance and at the lack of reasonable explaination by the Yamaha representative. A 13% deviation from perceived speed to actual speed brushed off as a tire issue? That doesn’t sound credible.