Everybody that rides gets a first bike, yet not every rider can find something in the entry-level market that suits their needs. Some folks have no interest in progressing through the higher displacements, and are looking for more of an all-in-one package that can serve as a trainer with room to grow into a commuter or funtime weekend bike.Yamaha fills this particular niche with its FZ6 R in an effort to grab a slice of that pie while engendering some brand loyalty just in case the customer does decide to upgrade one day. It’s a tricky thing to balance user friendliness and enough performance to prevent boredom, but that’s exactly what the Tuning Fork Company tries to do here. Let’s dive in and see what the factory has in store for us.
Less naked than the similarly priced FZ-07 with less performance than the similarly sized YZF -R6, the FZ6R finds its place in the balance. The front end is sporty enough with a look not unlike the YZF-R6 supersport with a sharp entry and cyclops headlight leading the way. A vented engine cowling re-integrates cooling air with the slipstream for reduced turbulence and drag, and it comes slightly cut away to give a glimpse of the engine. Not really naked, just showing a bit of ankle below the hem is all.
The cowling comes complete with a chin spoiler that forces air across the radiator and exhaust headers— plus it just looks really boss and makes the bike look finished. (As opposed to the half-done naked style.) All very sleek until one notices the great-big honkin’ turn signals that look like the monsters Harley used back in the ’90s. Seriously guys? Would it have killed you to recess at least the front blinkers?
A short windshield finishes the protective zone, and although the screen is non-adjustable, the rider’s triangle can be tweaked to suit all but the truly big-and-tall or the shortest of inseams. Stock seat height rides at 30.9-inches high, but if you need the room for your stems, the seat can be cranked up just over 3/4-inch higher. Like the seat, the handlebars can be adjusted to accommodate a taller rider by rotating 3/4-inch forward, but the stock bar position allows for a relaxed, upright posture that is easy to maintain for extended periods.
The seat is rather narrow at its nadir, leaving the rider with a straight shot from hip to ground, and the seat itself is fairly comfortable and sure to endear itself to the commuter segment. Along the top, the flylines tumble down the steep fuel tank to the saddle before rising ever-so-slightly to the P-pad that comes complete with a set of “oh, shit” handles for a modicum of passenger peace of mind. A typical mudguard completes the rear end with a tag holder and standoff turn signals.
A tubular-steel frame and dual-side, yoke-style swingarm keep things stiff and strong, if not necessarily light, though the bike does have a bit of a top heavy feel to it at low speeds and in foot-powered maneuvers, to be fair. Not to worry though, this feeling quickly goes away as speeds rise.
The steering head comes set for 26 degrees of rake and 4.1 inches of trail, and this makes the bike fun, yet predictable and user friendly in the corners. A pair of 41 mm forks and rear monoshock deliver a plush 5.1 inches of travel that feels good on rough roads but tends to wallow a bit if you start attacking the corners a little too hard. Not a big deal, ’cause if you ride hard enough to make it a problem, you need to upsize your ride.
Cast rims mount the 17-inch hoops with a 120/70 up front and 160/60 in back; almost part of the uniform for the sport sector. Soaking wet, the FZ6R weighs in at 470 pounds with the California emissions package, and 467 pounds without, so there can be significant amounts of energy to control and bleed off. Yamaha installed a pair of 298 mm brake discs and twin-pot calipers to slow the front wheel with a single-pot caliper and 245 mm disc to control the rear. No ABS or linked brakes to clutter up the works, just honest feedback and control. While I approve of non-ABS beginner bikes, I feel like it would be nice for the commuter crowd to have that option here. Maybe next year?
Power delivery is smooth and linear with predictable throttle response through the range. At no point will a rider find his/her/itself overwhelmed by a sudden surge in the powerband, and as much fun as overwhelming power may sound on paper, it doesn’t make for a necessarily safe or relaxing ride. This laid-back power comes from the inline, four-cylinder mill that runs a 65.5 mm bore and 44.5 mm stroke for right at 600 cc. A 32-bit, ECU-controlled fuel injection delivers the fuel, and the 12.2-to-1 compression ratio is warm enough to put you at the premium pump. Remember that while you are trying to figure out how long it will take you to amortize the cost of the bike through fuel savings.
Dual overhead cams time the 16-valve head, and the oversquare engine math delivers predictable power figures that emphasize horsepower over torque. At 8,400 rpm, the water-cooled mill cranks out around 39 pounds of grunt (depending on the dyno), but wind it up a little more to 9,800 rpm and you get the full 65 ponies. Nothing to write home about, but enough to be fun while non-threatening. Best of all, the six-speed gearbox comes with a very short first gear, so takeoffs come with less risk of stalling out for the novice, and greater holeshot potential for more experienced riders. The clutch is of the standard variety with no slipper function, but again, if that’s a problem for you then you’re probably looking at the wrong bike.
The 2017 FZ6R can be had for $7,799 MSRP, and you can get it in any color you want as long as you fancy Matte Silver over blue rims and frame. This bike comes with Yamaha’s one-year conditional warranty.
There is no shortage of competition in the mid-size sportbike bracket, but I wanted to focus in on the threat posed by Honda’s CBR 650F. What about the size difference you ask? These two bikes are just different sides of the same coin, and I can prove it.
Right. So we have a couple of mid-size sport bikes, but even Ray Charles could see that one is a tad “sportier” than the other. Not only does the Honda come with flashier graphics and post-modern, angular shapes in the front fairing, but the extra cubeage in the engine gives it a bit more spunk. Conversely, the Yamaha has a more subdued— I daresay even more mature look— and slightly less-spirited power delivery. So what we have are two bikes that reach for two different buyers within the same market, and while I hate to engage in ageism, I reckon it’s the younger crowd and maybe a handful of mid-life-crisis buyers that will go for the flash of the CBR while the more mature (read:senior) riders may lean toward the Yamaha. Not sayin’ it’s wrong, just sayin’ it is.
Both carry 41 mm front ends, but suspension travel falls off a bit on the CBR with only 4.3 inches of travel versus 5.1 inches on the FZ6R. The Red Riders get serious with the brakes; a pair of massive, 320 mm discs and dual-pot calipers slow the front wheel, a bit bigger than the 298 mm discs on the Yammie. From there, the rest of the chassis are close enough for government work, and even the wet weights match up within a few pounds.
Power output sees a little difference, as you’d expect. Honda’s four-banger generates a claimed 85.8 horsepower at 11,000 rpm and claimed torque of 46 pound-feet (results vary) whereas the Yamaha cranks out 65 ponies and 38 pounds. Not much of a difference, and on the public roads you’re only going to be able to get away with so much speed in the first place, so the only difference is in how quickly you get to that speed. Bear in mind, the FZ6R is far from docile, it’s just a little easier to manage, that’s all.
The CBR takes a light beating at the till with its $8,499 sticker versus the $7,799 tag on the FZ6R, but to riders looking for that extra little bit of performance and flash, the price difference will not be a deal breaker.
“A good bike for what it is, and it does seem to fill the on-size-fits-all niche quite nicely. Do I feel like there’s room for improvement? Certainly, but the price would skyrocket by the time we added ABS, slipper-clutch technology and maybe even rider modes. But then, if you want that kind if stuff, then you’re probably looking at the wrong bike…”
My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “I feel like this is a good bike for folks new on two wheels. Power delivery is non-threatening and it feels a bit…I don’t know….a bit tame, maybe. Like if you’re learning to ride a horse, you want that first experience to be on a calm, old mare not on a spirited stallion. This is the calm mare that will allow you to learn all the ins and outs of being on two wheels before you head into the performance sector.”
|Engine Type:||600cc liquid-cooled 4-stroke, DOHC; 16 valves|
|Bore x Stroke:||65.5mm x 44.5mm|
|Fuel Delivery:||Fuel injection|
|Ignition:||TCI: Transistor Controlled Ignition|
|Transmission:||6-speed; multi-plate wet clutch|
|Final Drive:||O-ring chain|
|Suspension / Front:||Telescopic fork, 5.1-in. travel|
|Suspension / Rear:||Single shock, 5.1-in travel|
|Brakes / Front:||Dual hydraulic disc, 298mm|
|Brakes / Rear:||Hydraulic disc, 245mm|
|Tires / Front:||120/70ZR17|
|Tires / Rear:||160/60ZR17|
|Seat Height:||30.9 in|
|Rake (Caster Angle):||26.0°|
|Maximum Ground Clearance:||5.5 in|
|Fuel Capacity:||4.5 gal|
|Fuel Economy:||43 mpg|
|Wet Weight:||467 lb / CA model 470 lb|
|Warranty:||1 Year (Limited Factory Warranty)|