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Yamaha FZ6

Sport Touring comes in a small package

Yamaha's latest addition to the FZ line is a practical 600 model with all the power and performance of the R6, it's called the FZ6.

Versatility is the name of the game. If you like riding sportbikes, but feel the need for a chiropractor after a hundred miles, the FZ6 offers the ergonomics of a well-built street standard along with the agility of a sportbike when you want it. If you like doing overnight rides, camping and multi day trips, but don't like the weight of a hefty sport touring bike, the FZ6 provides the power and a fluid framework to hit the road for many miles.

I enjoy an overnight ride about once a month during the riding season. For those who aren't interested in the larger sport touring bikes the FZ6 makes a perfect choice offering the rider good around-town/day trip ability - but throw a few bags on the back and you can hit the road for literally weeks at a time. The FZ6's competitors in the 600cc class such as the Suzuki SV650 and Honda 599 didn't afford the ability to throw a set of soft luggage over the back seat like the FZ6. Did Yamaha ever expect the bike to be put into Sport Touring duty? It's hard to say, but based on the construction it seems like engineering had an inkling.

Yamaha hit the nail on the head when they placed it's already-proven R6 sportbike motor into the framework of the FZ6. During initial testing the motor was docile and showed no signs of a performance monster, but once the odometer struck 1,000 miles, the motor sprung into action and began to deliver the results expected. The fuel injected R6 motor seems to have found a fine domestic home in the FZ6.

The transmission and power plant are ever so forgiving providing good torque in the low RPMs as well as the mids and highs. With this machine if you miss a downshift and suddenly find yourself in 5 th gear at 2,000 rpm, you can still hit the throttle and get the power you need to execute your next maneuver. Its sweet spot seems to lie about 5,000 � 7,000 rpm.

Wind buffeting is an issue with this bike. The solution is simple, Yamaha makes an optional larger windshield for $100 offering about 3 more inches of vertical height to lift the buffeting wind overhead, however a good set of 30 decibel earplugs inserted snuggly into one's ears provides the still-needed hearing protection.

Styling? You bet. The FZ6 gets the looks. With the four into 2 exhaust system snugged up under the seat and it's metallic blue or silver color choices, the FZ6 captures the eyes of many an enthusiast.

How about those tires? We dumped the stock Dunlops from the test model immediately and went for a set of Avon Azaros. After all, if you're serious about sport touring, get rid of the sport bike tires and get something with some meat on it that performs at highway speeds.

The multi-faceted interface for the speedometer/odometer/trip meter/tachometer housing takes a few hundred miles to get used to. You can read the tach info either by way of a digital bar graph, or click the odometer over to a digital numeric read out. Once the tank reaches reserve the trip meter starts counting from zero alerting the rider to how many miles they've traveled on reserve. You can get about 50 miles out of the bike on the highway before it goes bone dry.

Other pluses include a 5.1 gallon gas tank with an average of 50 miles to the gallon (highway) during testing, making the FZ6 a rare site at the gas pump. The price is right too at just $6,599.

But here's the clincher. If you went looking for an FZ6 in the late summer of 2004, its first model year, chances are you couldn't find one. By September there wasn't a state within 1,000 miles of the Northwest that had one in stock. Yamaha has built a practical machine that's a winner in more ways than one. The market has responded and one can only hope 2005 production will come closer to meeting demand � but don't bank on it. It it's the bike for you, snap it up now!

PT/Fall 04


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