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Test Ride Review of the Yamaha XJ6 Diversion - By Ren Withnell

I was stood in my local dealers the other day, panicking about throttle position sensors, when I took a moment to look at the new Yamaha XJ6 Diversion. I'm old enough to remember the original Diversions coming out. I always liked the clean and simple look of them. They were never rockets but then they were never meant to be. They looked like they were built for commuting and everyday all day use and they looked sturdy yet smart. Over the years as I watched them age I learnt they were reliable and sensible though the exhaust could rust and I saw some really tatty ones, but that was down to the owners not the bike.

side view of the yamaha xj6 diversion in blue
The XJ6 Diversion 600 I am to ride.  This is the fully faired version with ABS, I would but the half faired version without the ABS.  Less to go wrong.

I currently own a mark one Fazer 600 so the new XJ6 Diversion is a close relative to my current bike. The latest "FZ" range has now moved up to 800cc and 1000cc leaving the XJ6 and Diversion to cover the midrange. These use the old R6 motor that the later Fazer 600's had been using. Yamaha do like to squeeze the most out of their engines, which suits me as this motor has been in production for ages and they should have ironed out any problems by now. Unlike the R6 and the Fazer, the motor has been downtuned, quite a lot if the figures are to be believed. In Fazer 600 trim the motor was around the 102ps mark, in the XJ6 it produces 78ps, that's a fair drop. Again, that suits me as it means the motor is understressed.

According to the Yamaha blurb the motor is tuned for "useability". That means instead of fitting all the expensive performance gear the motor gets the basics and is tuned for midrange and grunt, as much as a four cylinder bike can have grunt. Again this appeals to me, I've tried going fast and I've learnt I'm no good at it and I much prefer slow relaxed riding rather than screaming exhausts. There's a few other things I like about the bike too. Being a cheapie there's no rising rate suspension at the rear, just a shock bolted as basic as can be onto the swingarm. That means there's no linkage bearings to replace in a few years. Yamaha have made the effort to put a few simple bits of plastic in to protect the shock from the road muck so you won't need to buy a hugger.

rear shock absorber, linkage and wheel of a yamaha xj6 diversion
Note the lack of rising rate linkage - good - and the overlappting bits of plastic to protect the shock - good!

The swingarm looks really long. The old R6 motor's gearbox is stacked vertically behind the pistons making the motor really short. With the short motor the swingarm can be longer, especially when that swingarm is bolted not to the frame but to the engine itself. On closer inspection some quite smart design features have been used. It's obvious this bike does not get all the trick gear that costs money, but Yamaha have not skimped when it comes to putting their brains into the design. The motor is the chassis, the frame is just somewhere to hang the steering and the seat. I like it, I like the basic features and the fact it looks like someone designed this bike to actually be ridden, not to be some mid life crisis Sunday plaything.

The exhaust is very neat, very neat indeed. Due to the short engine, long swingarm and no stupid rising rate linkages there's a lot of space underneath the swingarm. This is where the large boxy silencer is hidden, in a fashion similar yet neater than Kawasaki's silencer on the ER6. I'm still trying to find out if the whole silencer is stainless, I'm not so sure. The front part, the downtubes, look stainless but the silencer at the end is painted matt black which implies it may be mild steel. I do hope not, to have put all that effort into producing a bike that may survive a handful of salt covered wintery roads only to fail by fitting a mild steel exhaust would be awful. If anyone knows if the original system is full stainless or not, please let me know!

the long swingarm and the neat exhaust on the yamaha diversion
The long swingarm and a very neat exhaust.  Centre stand too, it's basic but it's not just been thrown together, there's some real thought here.

The seats do not look comfy. My NTV had a narrow engine hence a narrow seat, that was uncomfortable. The Fazer has a big fat 4 cylinder engine and so has a wide broad seat, this is comfy. The New XJ6 Diversion has 4 cylinders but due to clever positioning of the alternator, starter and engine sensors the motor is relatively narrow. The does not mean Yamaha had to skimp on the seat padding both front and rear though. Yet both seats look thinly padded, stylishly sculpted and somewhat unlike that armchair I'd hope to see fitted to any bike I own. It seems common to create thin seats these days. The ER6 and the Versys, both bikes designed to be ridden not raced, use these thin sculptured seat pads. I can only hope the sculpting is to create a comfortable seat and not to look slick and stylish. I want to ride the damn thing and be comfy, not look it when I have to get off every 10 miles in agony due to a numb bum.

the thin sculptured seat on the yamaha diversion XJ6
The seat looks very thin.  I hope it's ergonomically designed for comfort and not to just look nice.

So to look at this bike it seems close to ideal. Of course my curious interest in the detail of the bike tweeked the interest of the sales bod. He offered me a test ride on the ABS equipped fully faired model. I do not want ABS but I did welcome the opportunity to ride what seems to be an interesting bike. I arranged the ride for a day when I knew I'd have the gf with me as I use the bike 2-up quite a lot. I was talking to a friend about the forthcoming test ride on the Divvy, he suggested I go home, wash up then sample the used dishwater, because the XJ6 would be duller than that. I dismissed his comments, he rides for speed and sport, I ride for travel and transport. Dull isn't always a bad thing...

The day of the test ride is a fine day. I take myself and the gf to the shop on the Fazer first thing on a Sunday morning and collected the XJ6 Diversion. I was all excited at the prospect of taking someone else's bike for a ride, how immature is that! I climb on board the machine and the first thing I notice is that it's taller than the Fazer. Not scarily tall, I'm 5 foot 9 and I can reach the floor with both feet flat but there's not much "leeway" if I were over a pothole. Typically I like to get both my feet firmly on the floor and a little more beside, it instills confidence in me and makes things easier when I'm negotiating a bike into and out of sheds, tight spaces or uneven surfaces. So the first thing I notice is on the minus side.

The gf climbs aboard. The seat is a one piece unit but with quite a step between the rider's seat and the pillion's. She sits a tad higher than on the Fazer, but she's only 5 feet tall so she's not looking over the top of my head. "Comfy?" I ask, "So far yes" comes the reply although the seat padding is a little harder than the Fazer. "Brrrumm brrrumm" I play with the throttle. Yep, it sounds like a bike, a modern and very smooth quiet bike. The tickover on this machine with only 290 miles on the clock is perfect and silky, that feels nice. I set off, and almost stall! Is it the clutch? Nope. There just doesn't seem to be any torque at the very bottom of the revs, the Fazer will move off with 1500 rpm, this needs a little more just to move off.

The initial feeling over the first few hundred yards is that I'm sat much further forward than on the Fazer. I feel as though I'm sat on top of the bike, over the front wheel, quite similar to the SLR 650 trailie I owned a few years back. Personally I actually like that feeling, I feel much more connected to the front end which I like to keep under firm control. Being taller there's less knee bend to the footrests which is comfier and makes getting my feet on and off the pegs that little bit easier. I said before I like to be able to reach the floor with room to spare, the downside of this is that lower seats mean more knee bend. Damn, I want the best of both worlds and I can't have it. At the traffic lights I feel fine and secure and the gf on the back is causing no problems at all.

The next thing I notice is the acceleration. It FEELS slower than the Fazer, less snap on the throttle. The Fazer is 95 ps compared to the 78 of the Divvy, so it will be slower. But from the next lights I think there's something wrong with my initial impression. It FEELS slower, but the digital speedo shows we're up to speed very quickly indeed, there's a disparity between what I'm feeling and what is being shown to me on the readout. Why? What's going on? The bike is not giving me the usual indications of acceleration, there's no sag at the back and lift at the front, no wrench on the wrists and no holding on. It takes a while but I suspect the suspension is stiffer and the over the front riding position eliminates the sensation of acceleration. I get onto a stretch of dual carriageway and confirm this by shooting over the posted limit without thinking I've even reached half the limit. It is a lot quicker than it feels.

digital speedo and display with analog rev counter on the yamaha XJ6 Diversion
The digital speedo is easy to see, but the numbers rise far faster than you think.

I reign in the bike to the legal limit, and feel like I'm travelling far too slowly. This is an interesting issue. On the one hand travelling any real distance at 70 when you feel like you're doing one hundred and plenty is tiresome, but then doing 70 and feeling like you're doing 40 can be boring. It could be the fine weather and the lack of wind, but on the motorway keeping this thing to 70 is proving difficult, on the Fazer I have no problem. I think this bike may be a very smooth and calm motorway mile muncher. Definitely a positive. The fairing to look at seems small but provides excellent wind protection without hiding me from the breeze. I also notice that there's a modicum of protection to my knees. It is so smooooooooooth too.

I come off the motorway onto a roundabout. Wow. The front end is completely planted, no vagueness, no fighting just there beneath me and under my direct control. As I straighten up I wonder why this should feel so good. Is it due to the front tyre being new? I can't be certain but I think it's because I'm sat further forward and the bike handles really well. There's nothing fancy about the suspension and there's no adjustment either, apart from preload at the rear. Now most magazines would bemoan this and say things would be so much better if only they could increase the rebound and soften the front end. On the rare occasions I've ever adjusted suspension I've only made things worse. I like the unadjustableness of this bike, it means I can't mess with it and get it all wrong. What is even more impressive is the front end feels so planted with the gf on the back. She's only small and weighs less than 8 stone but still this weight is over the rear and typically makes the front end more vague. I really must ride this bike one up to see how good it can be!

Making our way back from the motorway I take in some town work. Here I keep on almost stalling. It's not really the bike's fault, I'm just not used to the clutch or the engine characteristics. According to the Yamaha brochure the gearbox, clutch and linkage have been reworked to improve gear changes. Dropping the Fazer into first gear sometimes feels like the motor's dropped onto the floor, CLUNK. And from first to second if I give it some it feels like the motor's hit a wall, BANG. I was hoping for so much more from the shiny new Divvy. CLUNK...BANG. Nope. The gearbox feels almost identical to the Fazer. What a huge disappointment that is. I know most bikes, not just Yamaha, are the same, it's a characteristic of wet clutches, constant mesh gearboxes and chain drives, but this is pretty bad. I've read another review on the Diversion and their tester suggests this might improve as the bike runs in and gains mileage, I would hope so. Other than that, the gearbox is lovely...

gear linkage and left side of the motor on a yamaha XJ6 diversion
Newly designed for better gear changes.  I hope first to second improves with time.

In the town the higher riding position and the easy to access footpegs make riding a pleasure. There's a fair weight on my wrists, but this is due to the gf leaning heavily on me, the riding position is just fine. The brakes, the mirrors, the switches and the display all do their jobs without fuss and I'm starting to feel quite at home. The back brake is a tad sharp but that's only due to the one on the Fazer being old and blunt now. The unnoticeable acceleration keeps on catching me out. I never push the bike at all, yet each time I'm up to the limit before I think I ought to be. It just goes without feeling like it's gone. I guess I'd get used to it.

After what seems like an age we finally hit some countryside. I want to give it the beans, see what it can do and all that, but correspondingly I don't want to bend either the bike, myself or the gf on a machine I'm unfamiliar with. Still I wind it up and sure enough I'm going a lot faster than I think I am. The front end just instills confidence and security, I dare not push the rear yet but it all feels under control back there. The suspension does lack subtlety and it's basic nature can be felt at the rear but it's fine and under control. Over 2 particular bumps I do get some wallow, perhaps a bit more damping? Don't be stupid, I'd get it all wrong, it has not wallowed over any other bumps and it's fine.

The countryside is over all to quickly and I take the bike back to it's rightful owners. So, what do I think? Will I be buying? First off, what do I think. I think it's a great bike. I think it's a bike that would suit my riding style and my requirements. I'm not a fast rider or a sport rider, I ride for travel and transport. I think the bike is a bit too basic for the sport rider but it's that very basicness that appeals to me. Yamaha sell a top-box rack, but not side mounts unlike the Suzuki DL650 V-Strom's touring kit. I don't think that's a major issue, there's no exhaust to burn my saddle bags which is great. Yamaha also sell their own engine bars which is something I'd insist on. I'd love to know the fuel consumption figures but I guess they'd be pretty average in this class, probably 55 to 60 mpg. I think it will be comfortable and as it's downtuned, reliable too.

Will I be buying? I'm close, so close, but not quite close enough. I really need to test ride the ER6 and/or the Versys. I know the Versys has the touring kit, the seat height and certainly looks the part. I have ridden the DL650 too and this is a contender. The advantage with the V-Strom is that it is an established machine with a proven reputation, has been very popular so therefore there are many aftermarket parts and the motor's a good one too. The downside of the V-Strom is the crap screen, but there are better ones on the aftermarket. The only other problem in this decision process is the Fazer I currently own. To this day I don't think there's another 600 that's as versatile. It can be a sports 600, a tourer, a work hack and a transporter. Damn. It's just that riding the Fazer back home after riding the XJS, suddenly the Fazer seems very dated, it suddenly reminds me of riding a 1981 CB900 I once fixed.

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Reader's Comments

CG Simeon said :-
My mates got one of these. He loves it and says its plenty fast. I reckon its a good looker and when I pass my test next year Im going to buy a second hand one as that should be cheap to insure.
UTC
P Flan said :-
I bought one of these, exactly the same as the one in the picture, 12 months ago as a first big bike. I had a number of regrets when I compared with other bikes in the same price bracket. but after ten days touring in Northern Spain and Protugal in May and can honestly say there are NO regrets. Thst bike performed impeccably and was well at home chasing my mate on his fireblade. Came close to completely ridding the rear tyre of the chicken strips.
This bike, even with top box, tank bag and tail bag on the pillion still flicked around the bends with no dramas and I would recommend that if you do not want a sports bike and prefer practical fun, GET ONE!
UTC
doboy said :-
ive had the naked xj6 & now own the half faired model. dont pay recomended price and you,ll have an excellent bike for your money. it handles brakes and tours. i did northern france last year the bike was just perfect. the press give it a hard time saying its dull, but they dont ride the bike everyday do they. mpg is good to, 60mpg at 70mph. the engine is a peach, just so smooth. down side, the seat is not good needs a lot more padding in it for touring.
UTC
sean said :-
This bike is plenty fast for the road, and loves the twisties.. most riders will get years of fun from it. I've done 25000 klms in 14 mths and love riding it. The exhaust is very quiet so I opened a little hole inside the silencer and it improved a lot (lower tone, not louder). Thanks for the great review, I enjoyed reading it.
UTC
said :-
I own a 2010 half fairing ABS model and i agree on all your comments but i can tell you the ABS really works well i alaso drive our two cars with ABS and am a vehicle techy so understand how it works it stops wheel lock up by relieving braking pressure a must on wet or gravelly roads.A very good write up.
UTC
Dave dodds said :-
Great review! After 5 years without a bike I'm going to buy one of these. Thanks.
UTC
Alexander said :-
Nice review!
Please note that the speedo is wildly optimistic on these bikes. I guess that is what caused the impression of quick acceleraton even if the acceleration felt "soft". On my 2010 one it was about 14% too fast with standard gearing. I went +1 in front to gear it a bit taller. Works fine and speedo is now "only" 8% off.
UTC
Richard said :-
I have a fully faired Diversion with ABS 2011.It really does tick every box for me! If you want power don't be afraid to dig into the box for them revs., the performance IS tthere (no: there ain't much torque low down). You do NOT have to take any covers off to check the coolant level like manual says. - just look from front near side axle thro' to reservoir and wobble bike slightly to see the level. I've found Silkolene oil very smooth - what an immediate difference. I'll add an extra front sprocket tooth in time which will increase an already good tank range. Big bikes (air cooled especially) can't compete here. Manoeuvring around obstacles is not a groin strainer either. Bike looks good too.
UTC
Windblade said :-
I really enjoyed your informative and interesting review of the Xj6 Diversion - thank you!

I currently own a Honda Cbr500r which I bought new after getting my full licence a year ago as I wanted something bigger and more reliable than my old Aprilia Rs 125 (2012 model) I was riding at the time. The Honda has been a good steed this past year and although I have gotten used to the straight line performance by now (which is more than adequate for commuting) I'm holding onto the bike for now so that I can continue to improve my riding techniques in the twisties. However, when I do decide to move up the food chain I still want a comfortable bike that is easy to ride but one that does have a little more straight line performance while also being fun for a weekend ride. I'm not a mega fast rider and prefer the experience of simply riding and being in the fresh air so I don't need a rocket ship but I do want a bit more performance as I like to make progress and although I love the look of supersports after having that Rs 125 (and the pulled neck muscles and aching back/wrists that went with it) I have decided the supersport riding position is not for me. I have been looking at the Diversion F and the Cbr650f as both these bikes are good looking, have decent performance and have fairly comfy ergos from what I've read. I did watch a video of the Divvy yesterday and must say the bike sounds very nice and appears to be built very well. Its a tough call but I have some time to make up my mind so no rush.

UTC
Duncan said :-
My son just got one. As the official bike expert of the house I got to test ride it first.
Not that I've ridden much for 20 years.
But MAN I remember now how much I used to love this! What a hoot! It pulls like a train.
It's very easy to ride reasonably quickly, even though I am now middle-aged and sensible and no way am I going to ride any bike ever again balls-out the way I once did. I am just past all that, and frankly a bit tentative now. But this was really easy, the power just rolls on soo smoothly.
Maybe dad will be back on two wheels soon - I know I'm still grinning from hear to ear!
14/05/2018 05:20:15 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Aaahh Duncan, middle age and a sensibility comes to those of us lucky enough to reach it. Enjoy it sir. Enjoy the lack of drive to show off in the vain and pointless hope that some young lady might be impressed (she won't be). Enjoy the realisation that you don't bounce like you used to leads to cheaper insurance. Enjoy the way you can relax and enjoy the ride rather than be scared senseless because you're trying to keep up with your mates because they might think less of you if you can't. Enjoy knowing that not pulling wheelies doesn't mean your a crap rider.

If you enjoyed the ride then consider getting a bike of your own? You don't need to be a high speed hero or a menace to society.
14/05/2018 06:37:14 UTC
 

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