Once upon a time, and not too many decades far, far away, the vast majority of motorcycles were 'do the lot' affairs. Your weekend racer often doubled as your weekday commuter, and with panniers slung on the back you were set for an interstate blast too. Kids now on the scene? Easy - throw on a chair and watch 'em squeal with delight.
However, look at virtually any consumer market you can think of these days, and you'll see product lines have slowly fractured into ever more product lines, leaving us with more choice than you can poke a chequebook at.
So in this day and age of tourers, sportstourers, sportsbikes, commuters, enduros, motocrossers, cruisers, motards, nakeds, retros, streetfighters, entry level machines and more, it's somehow reassuring to know the humble all-rounder still has its place. Yamaha's FZ6S Fazer is a great example of that ilk, and a brilliant option for those of us (ie most of us) who can't afford to have half-a-dozen bikes in the shed for different applications.
Sure, you can save yourself $500 and buy the unfaired FZ6N (which even has its own racing class in this year's Australian champs), but I'd spend the extra just for the additional ease of touring the faired FZ6S offers. Then again, according to Yamaha Motor Australia, some 177 'N' models were sold last year, compared to 172 'S' models, so what do I know?
A large degree of the model's flexibility comes down to its engine. Sourced from the R6 but detuned for its all-rounder role, it's a pearler of a powerplant and it offers a perfect blend of performance and usability. Yamaha Motor Australia doesn't quote performance stats, but Yamaha Motor UK quotes 98hp at 12,000rpm and 6.44kg-m at 10,000rpm for the FZ6.
On the road that's more than enough to see the bike's 186kg claimed dry weight keep well ahead of the traffic, while in sportier moments the oomph just keeps on coming virtually all the way to its indicated 14,000rpm redline.
It's not 'rip-your-arms-off' acceleration, but there's ample here to keep you smiling, and it's delivered in a linear, manageable manner. There are no nasty surprises lying in wait for the inexperienced, and this user-friendly theme flows strongly through all aspects of the model.
On board you'll find a slight forward cant coupled with relatively wide bars and a 795mm seat height. The seat isn't overly wide but it's supportive, and pillions are well catered for with excellent grab handles and a sensible perch.
The steering range is excellent, making it a real winner in tight traffic, although a little care is needed with its mirrors. They offer an excellent and distortion-free view to the rear, but they're a little on the wider side - spending as much time as I do riding in the city each year, personally I'd opt for a marginally narrower set-up.
The fuel-injection is on the money; I couldn't fault it. Power delivery is seamless no matter where you are in the rev range, while the injection is crisp and responsive in general, whether you're barreling along at speed or threading your way through a first-gear, peak-hour nightmare.
When the weekend rolls around and you're looking to escape the city, the FZ6S is only too happy to show a clean pair of heels up a winding road. A two-piece 'Controlled Fill' die-cast alloy frame provides a rigid platform for sporting thrills, while its suspension does a top job, belying its relatively low spec.
The conventional front 43mm forks are non-adjustable, while its rear monoshock is adjustable for preload only (adjustment is relatively easily too, even if, at first glance, it looks like you'll need the hands of a five-year-old to do the job).
On the road it feels relatively sporty - it's on the firmer side and there's plenty of feedback, while the springs do a good job of soaking up the bumps. Its steering geometry is a good all-rounder compromise - it's super stable, but nimble enough on a tight road to keep you grinning from ear to ear, and there's decent ground clearance too.
Four-piston monobloc front calipers do a superb job of arresting forward progress. They're super powerful and they have ample feel - if you reckon they're lacking in any way then you ought to be looking at the R6, not the FZ6.
I didn't once think about the gearbox during my time on the bike, which is indication enough it does a good job. Being a middleweight six-speeder you'll be using that 'box quite a bit should the red mist ever descend, but this only adds to the enjoyment of an engaging ride, which, incidentally, is backed up by a screaming in-line four exhaust note. It's perfectly quiet around town, but get it up near that redline and it howls!
The front screen and fairing do an excellent job of deflecting the wind, and the extra $500 they represent will pale away into insignificance if you're going to be tackling distance work on a regular basis. Combined with the bike's relaxed and upright ride position, multi-day trans-continental tours are entirely possible, and in relative comfort too.
Throughout my time on the FZ6S it returned a fairly thirsty fuel economy of 14km/lt. Combined with 19.4lt fuel tank, you can expect an effective range of around 240km - although a more reserved right hand will undoubtedly pay dividends!
The instrumentation (which was introduced last year, see the separate panel 'Historically Speaking…') is classy, informative and easy to read. An analogue tacho is backed up with a digital speed display, along with two trip meters, temperature readout and a clock.
The bike's practicality is further boosted by ockie hook points and a centrestand, although I found the sidestand gets in the way when trying to hook the latter.
The finish is first rate, and as a total package I can't help but think the FZ6S represents excellent value for money. It's priced at a super-competitive $10,999 plus ORC, which, incidentally, is only $9 more than when the original FZS600 Fazer debuted over 10 years ago.
So, is Yamaha's FZ6S a jack of all trades and master of none? Yes and no. A jack of all trades it most certainly is, but in this case let's change 'master of none' to 'pretty bloody good at most'.
Before the FZ6S, Yamaha hadn't had a road-focused middleweight all-rounder since the FZS600 Fazer, which sold here from May 1998 to January 2000. That first Fazer was powered by a retuned version of the old YFZ600R Thundercat in-line four, and while the concept was reborn in 2004 with the FZ6S, the new technology that came with it represented a distinct leap forward.
The FZ6S came with an alloy beam frame, electronic fuel-injection and another retuned engine, this time sourced from the 2003-spec YZF-R6 supersport machine. In 2006 it received revised fuel mapping and its engine, frame and wheels were painted black, while in 2007 it copped its first thorough makeover.
The updates included another revised fuel map, new instruments, swingarm, seat and pillion pegs, plus a three-way catalytic converter. The forks had revised damping and came with an 'alumite' finish and a new guard. The front fairing and screen were redesigned, and new four-piston monobloc brake calipers were employed.
For 2008 the FZ6S has black trim surrounding its headlights and is available in three colours - Ocean Depth and Metallic Silver now join last year's Midnight Black - while its RRP has dropped by $1000 to $10,999 plus ORC. That's roughly the same as Suzuki's naked GSR600 and $1000 less than Honda's new CB600F Hornet. A naked version of the FZ6 is also available, the FZ6N retailing for $10,499 plus ORC.
- Flexibility and practicality
- Value for money
NOT SO GOOD:
- Hard to hook centrestand
- Mirrors could be a little narrower
- A bit too thirsty
|SPECIFICATIONS - YAMAHA FZ6S|
|Type: Liquid-cooled, four-stroke, 16-valve, DOHC, in-line four-cylinder|
|Bore x stroke: 65.5 x 44.5mm|
|Compression ratio: 12.2:1|
|Fuel system: Electronic fuel-injection|
|Type: Six-speed, constant mesh|
|Final drive: Chain|
|CHASSIS AND RUNNING GEAR|
|Frame type: Two-piece 'Controlled Fill' die-cast aluminium|
|Front suspension: 43mm telescopic fork, non-adjustable|
|Rear suspension: Monoshock, adjustable for preload|
|Front brake: Twin 298mm discs with four-piston monobloc calipers|
|Rear brake: Single 245mm disc with single-piston caliper|
|DIMENSIONS AND CAPACITIES|
|Dry weight: 186kg|
|Seat height: 795mm|
|Fuel capacity: 19.4 litres|
|Max power: n/a|
|Max torque: n/a|
|Price: $10,999 plus ORC|
|Test bike supplied by: Yamaha Motor Australia|
|Warranty: 24 months, unlimited kilometres|