In 2003 I was invited to the first ride of Yamaha’s brand new FZ6 Fazer. This was the bike destined to carry on the Fazer family name that the previous model, the FZS600 Fazer, had forged such a strong reputation around. But there was a problem: the new bike wasn’t a patch on the old one.
Where the original enjoyed the easy charms of a Thundercat engine, the new one had an R6-derived four. And that wasn’t the only problem, the new chassis was too sporty and firm. As a huge fan of the FZS model, I wasn’t alone in feeling gutted that tightening emissions laws had forced the premature demise of the old model.
There is a reason the FZS Fazer has such a strong following – as soon as its wheels start to turn you are right at home. It is ease personified and most of this warm feeling comes from the wonderful motor.
The inline-four is beautifully smooth and has that lovely mid-range pull you get with an old ‘long-stroke’ unit. It’s not revvy or buzzy like the FZ6’s engine, it’s just silky smooth and full of drive. The gearbox may be showing its age (the linkage is notoriously sloppy when worn) but it clunks into gear with a reassuringly solid feel and the bike is more than happy to break the national speed limit when asked. But I have to admit, it is a bit soft in the bends.
With limited suspension adjustment (post-2000 models have variable damping in their forks) the Fazer is a bit wobbly in the corners and the Sumitomo calipers shared with the R1 quickly overwhelm the forks when you brake hard. But where on some bikes this is an annoyance, on the Fazer it makes you giggle and adds to the amusement factor.
With the Fazer, Yamaha got the basics right and that’s what makes it such a great bike. The tank range is long, the seat comfortable, the fairing effective, the brakes sharp and the motor strong in the mid-range and extremely reliable. The suspension may be a bit baggy, but if that’s the Fazer’s only real fault 19 years after it was launched then that’s not bad going.
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