Review of the Yamaha Fazer FZS 600 - By Ren Withnell
The NTV was getting tired…and regrettably I was getting tired of it. It’s never a conscious decision, you just find yourself looking at bikes, prices, your bank balance and then you finally admit to yourself you want a new bike. There were a few options. The SV650 seemed very popular and a good machine, although it looked a little too sports focused for me. The Deauville looked like a wise choice but it did seem as just more of the same after 50,000 miles on the NTV. I don’t want an all out sports bike. Hmmm.
I’d never considered the Fazer. I’d ridden one briefly a few years back whilst I was riding a SLR650. The Fazer felt bland next to the SLR. Yet it was I found myself in a shop near Preston looking at a 2001 51 Registered Fazer 600 in…urgh…Gold and Black. Why? The price was right, £2100 after haggling a bit, the bike was right, 7800 miles, service history, clean and a thorough look over did not show anything curious and…well…I was ready to buy.
What have I done! 5 days later I got a lift to the shop to collect my new machine. First impressions on riding were…well…average. It started fine, ran smoothly, stopped and went OK and just did what it said on the tin. It took a couple of hours to get used to the clocks and lights staying still when I turned the bars, its half-faired you see. Other than that it was a bike…just a bike…
I’ve had it for over a year and a half now, and clocked over 12,000 miles on it. What do I think now?
It’s good. Very good. In places it’s excellent. In others it’s still bland. So where should I start…
I’m probably the wrong person to ask…I’m not super fast and I’ve never done a track day. Yet I can still have an opinion. The handling’s very good. My bike is shod with Avon Storm 2’s now and the whole setup feels really good. It drops into a bend well but not too quickly, grips well under power through the bend then straightens up fine. When the tyres are getting warn the bike gets harder to push into the bend, probably due to squaring off as I do a lot of motorway miles.
The suspension is basic, in a good way. There’s preload adjustment both front and rear, neither of which I’ve even touched. If I had compression and rebound adjustment I’d just get it wrong and the bike would handle like a pig in mud. I like simple and it works just fine. Soft enough for the girlfriend not to complain about bumps, hard enough not to wallow.
When I got the bike it felt like there wasn’t much power there. Below 7000 revs it pulls fine but it’s not an arm-ripper. After the 650 single and 600 twin it felt a tad slow low down. After a couple of months ownership I felt confident enough to give it some on the motorway. What a revelation! I’d forgotten that four cylinder bikes need a good head of steam before they pull up their skirts and get a move on. This is actually the most powerful bike I’ve owned but up until then it felt like any other. Now with 9000 revs dialed in I could finally see what all the fuss was about.
After riding singles and twins it does take a while to accept the screaming noise emanating from between my legs. Instead of dum-dum-dum its whaaaaaaa….!!! It feels mechanically insensitive, I feel cruel and I feel as though there’ll be bits of engine popping out through the crankcases at any moment. It has taken a while but now I’ve accepted the motor can do countless revolutions quite happily I’ve come to love hearing the motor howl beneath me.
When it howls it does move. I’ve ridden against much larger bikes and they all comment about how well it goes for what looks like a commuter 600. I know I can’t keep up with Mille 1000’s and Bandit 12’s in a drag race, but I’m not let down by the bike, that’s for sure. I’m told that the mark 1 Fazer, such as mine with carburetors, has a lot of mid-range. More than the similar Hornet 600 and Bandit 600. I thought that mid-range was just average, but that’s probably due to riding singles and twins before. I’m also told that the later fuel injected Fazers are very poor low-down and in the mid-range. I can’t comment as I’ve never ridden any of them.
The NTV Revere I owned before was considered a commuter and travelling bike. Compared to the Fazer this is a terrible LIE! The Fazer is much more comfortable on a long run, uses less fuel and generally provides a much more pleasant experience. It does take a while to get adjusted to what seems like a pained scream from the engine, but the engine at motorway speeds is under no stress and has plenty left. Fuel consumption can reach over 65mpg on a steady run at sensible, legal speeds. Typically on both urban cycle and everyday trips out I return 55mpg which is acceptable.
The seat is wider than the NTV and much more comfortable. The footrests are, perhaps, just a little too far back to make for perfect distance comfort, but if they were further forward this would spoil the backroad bashing ability. The bike is a compromise between town use, sport riding, distance riding and hooliganism. My girlfriend seems happy enough with the rear seat and so does my 13-stone son. The bike also manages 2 up with camping gear and the girlfriends make-up bag…so it can pull a load.
This being my first bike with even a half fairing I find the wind protection very good. The wind seems to be placed low enough on my head and shoulders to take some of the weight off my wrist at speed, but it never feels uncomfortable and more importantly it’s not turbulent. I personally do NOT like to hide behind a big screen as it makes me feel remote from the speed and the road. The fairing provides an good compromise between protection and isolation.
Here the bike does let itself down somewhat. The riding position though not sporty does place quite a bit of weight onto my wrists. That’s fine for a short trip but riding through Manchester for 2 hours it can be very tiresome. Then there’s the gearchange. Neutral to first…CLUNK!...First to Second…CLUNK! Now I’m no novice making newby mistakes. 20 years, 400,000 miles and over 10 different bikes, I know how to change gear. I’ve tightened the chain, slackened the chain, tightened the clutch, slackened the clutch, checked and packed the cush drive and tried tried tried to be careful or harsh. Nope, it slams into first and slams into second. After that it’s fine…but after that you’re above town speeds.
If you get used to the clunk and don’t worry too much about your wrists then it’s acceptable. The bike doesn’t overheat, the clutch doesn’t get sloppy, the handling works about town and it’s low enough to feel safe when you put your feet down. Acceptable, not good, just acceptable.
Some of you out there reading this will think I’m talking out my arse. I’ve NEVER ridden a really fast bike, like an R1 or a Blade or a Ducati. I’ve only ridden commuters and small bikes. So of course when it comes to play time with the Fazer, it’s just brilliant!!! There’s allegedly 95bhp available but you wouldn’t think so, not until you’ve dialed in over 7ooo revs. There’s not a massive power-band like a 2 stroke, but the power and acceleration noticeably increases. This is where it does feel like a 95bhp machine.
It’s definitely heavier than my 125 and as such require more man-handling into the bends. It’s never hard work or tiresome though and I don’t feel myself fighting over or understeer, just a predictable neutrality. I have on occasion overshot a bend as the bike will not steer on the brakes, not like a 125 will. This is NOT the Fazer’s fault though, it’s my bad riding style. Remember…brake BEFORE the bend, steer, power…
The major issue with the Fazer 600 carburetor models is a vibration spot at 6000 revs. It’s very well documented and seems nothing to worry about. It’s just 6000 revs is about 70mph in to…motorway speed. It can be smoothed with good carb balance but it never goes completely. Mine has it. Other than that mine has been just as you would hope.
The Fazer is a good machine. I know it’s loved by many but if I’m being honest, I respect mine a lot but somehow I don’t love it. I love to hear it howl beneath me, I love the smooth motorway power and the fairing, but I just don’t love the bike. There’s no soul, no passion.
Andy Lingard said :-
I have one just like the one pictured. I have had it from new and even though I have a new Street Triple I cant see me ever parting with my Fazer.
It is nigh on perfect and I do love mine. Even the fabled build quality problems havnt reared its ugly head; though the engine paint has suffered from the grit blasting from the front tyre after 29000mi.
Fit a fender extender, Belly pan, Rad Guard, Braded Hoses, scotoiler, heated grips and a new shock and enjoy for another 9yrs.
Rich K said :-
Totally agree with your comments, especially the "gunfiring" sound of 1st and 2nd gear. It is my first big bike (2001 model) and had it for 2 years now. Hit 7k plus on the revs and it comes to life.
Like other comment I have been looking around, as we all do, for something else and now feel that with a few extra on, Scott oiler, braided hoses, maybe new shock, there is no need at all to change for the forseeable!
Arthur Cook said :-
A totally honest and totally true assessment of this superb all round bike. This is exactly how I have found my bike is. In the 600 class there are few bikes which will match this bike the superb all rounder it is.
Kev B said :-
Mainly agree. It is my first bike after passing test one year ago and I had a choice. Bandit, Hornet and Fazer. I am so glad I test rode the Fazer first. Bought it there and then. What a bike. Mine is a 2002, 14K on the clock peach.Already had fenda extenda, and hugger. Have put on belly pan and braided hoses ( what a difference!! trust me, if you are gonna improve the bike, then these are what you put on ) and just bought some after market indicators just to pep it up a bit. Its a commuter, its a tourer, one or two up with luggage and its a sports bike if you do want to play tag. I have BT023's on and I scare myself in corners sometimes. I cannot think of a better 600cc bike. I love it.
Richard B said :-
Hi, I've been riding for about 3 years and like you and most other (sensible) guys I know who have come to biking aren't a speed freak.
I'm finding it tough to decide on a new bike, as my first real bike was a CB500 and haven't really found another bike I like as much, - Tried a VFR800 and sold it soon after realising I wasn't going to keep my license very long at the speeds it was fit for, then a Triumph Thunderbird which was a powerhouse but not as fun and nimble as the CB500, then a Transalp which was a bit too slow, then a hornet with the small front wheel which just didn't feel well balanced. I keep wondering whether I should just go back to the CB500 but they're are going for silly money now so am looking at alternatives like the Fazer. Thanks for the article, it was very informative and it's nice to hear about your experiences. All the best. Richard B.
Derek Dodson said :-
What can i say. Bought a second hand 2002 Fazer about a year ago and at first did not like the styling much.
Now, and after riding it for the last year I glance out of my window and look at it with a wistful loving smile.
My one and only complaint is the rear brake caliper which collected road crap due to being hung upside down and gumming up but I fixed that by getting a 2005 Fazer 1000 rear caliper and fitted that. The Yamaha learnt a lesson and as such there is a hole under this caliper to let water / crap fall through.
Tell a lie. One more gripe and this is a big one. Front fork stancheons rusting. Mine are badly pitted above the travel area and I am just waiting for it to get so bad that my oils seals will start leaking.
Other than that...great bike. love it!
john a said :-
Enjoyed the review and currently have a fazer fzs 600 but the 02 facelift model.. Previously had a Thundercat and a Bandit.. Out of the 3 the Bandit motor I liked most due to something they call grunt and not feeling flat like the Thundercat and the Fazer feel below 6k.. I do like the bike but as you have said too I dont love it and maybe you dont need to and thats fine.. The quality is good and yes the comfort long distance is great.. I may jus hang on to this one longer than i thought..
seb said :-
good review - hope mine won't feel bland (when I get it!)
Martco78 said :-
I enjoyed a 3-year, 20k mile ownership of a Fazer and enjoyed very much its all-round capability. It was very good value, utterly reliable and due to it's popularity has a good supply of spares and after-market accessories.
Lack-lustre handling can be cheaply transformed by progressive fork springs/heavier oil and shorter rear suspension linkage arms which raise the rear and sharpen the steering. With a new Hagon rear shock it turned into one of the best handling bikes I have owned.
Dropping the gearing by the use of non standard sprockets also improved the drive characteristics immeasurably and my personal view is that it is over-geared (to it's detriment) in standard form.
A happy three years then from a good, capable all-rounder, but it's hard to remember any Nirvana moments from the Fazer due to it's really rather surprising complete lack of character.
jeff jekabson said :-
Thanks for your review i have been looking for a general all rounder to travel to germany this year something a bit lighter than my bmw 1100 gs and not a lot of beer tokens
Simon said :-
Passed my test on a 125, then upgraded to a 2002 fazer 600 (foxeye model) restricted to 33bhp. Loved it from the very beginning, and 3yrs later still do. Was a nice surprise after my 2yr restricton period was up, and I was able to de restrict it. The bike revs no end and so comfortably does so. Keeps up with my buddies on their big bikes no problem. Other bikes in my group are (fireblade thou, ninja thou and ninja twelve) and I'm right behind them all the way. (wouldnt be the case if we were riding on an aircraft runway I know, but how often do you get those sort of straights) Very comfortable all rounder. I keep saying Im going to change it one day soon, but deep down I just dont want to part with it. A friend of mine upgraded from his fazer to a fireblade 1000cc, and all he talks about to this day was his beloved fazer. I ask him how his new fireblade is treating him, and he says "yea, great bike!.. But enough about that, lets talk about your fazer." .. Enough said.
Phil said :-
Looks like most of us agree in the general pro's and con's of the Fazer. Its liked not loved. It can do most stuff ok but nothing exceptionally well, and its not got much character. A good all rounder. Feels gutless below 8k but if you ride sensibly there's actually some good usuable power there for commuting without warp factor 9 acceleration at 8k+. Mirrors aren't too good, 50% elbow. Standard screen too low. Calipers seize. Seat isn't comfy after 50miles. Averages 54-58mpg(uk). I have a '98 model in red. Starts every time. Real reliable workhorse but just has no character or excitement sadly. 100bhp or just under is the most you'll ever need for the road, but a 1200 bandit kicks that out and is a whole lot more engine, and heavier too. But I'd say a better alternative, although my 11k bandit 1200 had more reliability issues than I've ever had with the Fazer.
I think we take the Fazer for granted.
Bob said :-
I've just bought my 3rd MK1 Fazer 600, this one looks good in bright red.
I agree with everything said, the engine is a peach with plenty of mid range grunt and a heck of a kick when the revs get up.
You could ride round all day on one of these and never go over 7K revs and you'd still be flying.
The worst bit is definitely the suspension, the rear shock is utter pants and should be junked immediately - actually it'll probably just dump all it's oil out anyway and force you to change it! The forks benefit from fresh oil, I mix my own 12.5 weight from equal quantities of 10W and 15W.
The headlamp is not very good, fitting an HID kit on the dip side is a good plan and I'll be doing this come winter.
Reliability is exemplary, change the oil, balance the carbs and check the shims every now and then.
I've seen FZS600s for sale running sweet with over 70K miles on them.
Bob said :-
And another thing, I've started green lane riding on mine. It's fine, just be aware of the limited ground clearance.
Compared to my BMW X Country that I had for 2 years obviously the Fazer isn't as good off road, but I've been everywhere on the Fazer that the BMW went and when the trail finishes the BMW never used to catapult me up to the ton like the Fazer does!
What a superb machine.
Ren - The Ed said :-
The idea of off-roading on the Fazer is...well...peculiar. Any machine can go off road a little, I read a report once about the off roading merits of the Harley Davidson 883 sportster! As you say I wouldn't like the ground clearance and I'd find the geometry a little twitchy on anything slippy like mud. It's a heavy beast too so be slithering around on.
Can't imagine it does much for the bike's condition but they're meant to be ridden not kept pristine. Enjoy the ride on or off road!
Lee said :-
Great review and to mirror the other comments I agree with your points. I have the 99 fazer in black. It's my first bike having taken my DAS having never owned anything smaller.
When I bought the bike the rear shock was set at full preload (9) standard is 4! I've since dropped it down to 6 but im still struggling with flickability!! The bike feels heavy to me. It may just be my lack of expertise however learned to ride on it's little brother the xj6 diversion and found that bike very flickable indeed!
I struggle after an hour in the saddle however, numb feet from the vibration and a sore arse! Although that might be due to my 15 stone!
Thanks for the review.
7/7//2018 10:00:26 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Cheers Lee. Sounds a little obvious but check your tyre pressures? Underinflation can deaden the handling. Don't be tempted to alter the pressures from what's in the book though in search of better handling, unless you're a top flight tyre expert you could make things dangerous.
Different tyres might help, seek out the Fazer Owner's Club forum. Everyone will have a different opinion but someone on there might offer some insight. Check the shock for leaks and damping too. They're a damn strong shock not prone to demise but it is possible you've got a rare failure.
Enjoy the bike, it's a cracker.
8/7//2018 7:45:55 PM UTC
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