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Reader test: Yamaha Fazer FZ-6S

2010-10-22 08:12

TESTED: Sandra van der Walt, Dries' wife, takes the Fazer through its paces at Zwartkops Raceway.

Dries van der Walt

South Africa is – for whatever reason – big bike country, and as a result mid-sized bikes seem to be relegated to the also-ran category.

This is has led to a number of smaller-capacity gems slipping under the radar instead of getting the accolades they deserve. One such a bike is the subject of this review: Yamaha’s capable, but relatively unappreciated, FZ-6S Fazer.

I bought my Fazer new in 2008 and have used it daily for my 130 km commute between Pretoria and Johannesburg. On weekends, it doubles as my marshalling mount – as a Think Bike marshal, I expect it to handle anything from sedate 50-km/h jaunts accompanying competitors in cycle races to high-speed dashes for the next intersection during motorcycle events like the annual Motorcycle Toy Run.

Spending almost three hours per day in peak-hour traffic on the N1, ergonomics take on a very important role for me. In this department the Fazer fares well: the seat-to-footpeg distance seems tailor-made for my 1.78 m frame, and the upright seating position makes for a very comfortable commuter bike.

Yamaha’s decision to endow the Fazer with a mildly detuned previous-generation R6S motor was nothing less than a stroke of genius. In doing so, they have created a bike that retains a lot of the performance of its sportier sibling while giving it some added mid-range punch (albeit in a rather small dose).

Not big on braking...

The characteristics of the engine gives the Fazer the feeling of being two bikes in one. At commuting speeds, it is an extremely docile bike that even the meekest of riders will probably not find intimidating.

However, once the engine spins past the 9 000rpm mark the other side of its character emerges - the sound changes from a restrained purr to a throaty growl, while the numbers on the digital speedometer swap places with ever-increasing urgency.

Handling is on par with its performance, thanks to its weld-free die cast aluminium frame that is torsionally much stiffer than a welded steel frame. The Fazer may not be an outright challenge for the sport bike set in the twisties, but it is never left too far behind.

Braking, on the other hand, is not the bike’s strongest point, despite the brakes being upgraded for the 2007 model year. However, this is not really an issue during normal riding, and it is only on the track that I find myself wishing for more authority in the stopping department.

The FZ-6S model is probably reaching the end of its lifespan; with Yamaha including the down-spec FZ-6R in their local line-up, I wouldn’t be surprised to find the FZ-6S replaced by the bigger-engined Fazer 8 within the next year or so. If so, it could bring a slew of used examples into the marketplace at very reasonable prices.

Should this happen, do yourself a favour and grab one. You could do a lot worse than buying one of these highly underrated 600 cm3 all-rounders.

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