2004 Yamaha FZ6

Upright, comfortable riding position with great weather protection. Light, effortless handling for urban use, comfortable long-distance cruising, and serious sport riding too.It was Thursday. I was hot in LA when the call came in from MO: "Agent Jason, Yamaha has a new bike available for a few hours and we want you to go ride it tomorrow. It's the new FZ6, like the FZ1 standard but with the R6 engine." Hmmm, sounds like a price-point special to me. Visions of the old Seca II standard danced in my melon. Would I be bored to tears by some cheesy, underpowered scoot designed for frugal college kids? I resigned to play along diligently and keep the sarcasm to a minimum.

At the palatial Yamaha HQ, PR man "B-rad" Banister escorted yours truly and photo-guy Alphonse into a secured area full of yet-to-be-introduced '04 goodies. B-rad gave us the rundown on the new FZ before pulling the covers off. Voila! All sarcasm vanished...instead of a cheapo econo-bike, the FZ6 resembles a shrunken version of the much-acclaimed FZ1, albeit with some very tasty new features.

The FZ6 is built around a completely new frame which is formed using Yamaha's new, controlled fill die-cast forming process, the same as used on the R1 frame. The exhaust snakes up under the seat and exits under the tail light through a pair of slash-cut silencers, a Streetfighter styling touch that we can safely say will be rather ppular on Yamaha's 04 sportbikes. "Our customer focus groups told us the underseat exhaust is what they want, so there it is," B-ad confirmed. 

Remember folks, these are euro spec bikes so yes, the turn signals will be larger and so on for the US market.

The fairing is basically similar to the FZ1 unit, and its windscreen sits more upright than on the R-bikes for better wind deflection. Instrumentation is the currently hip modular/integrated digital speedo and tach, very similar to the unit found on Kawasaki's Z1000.

"Okay," says B-rad, tossing me the keys, "let 'er rip, but be back before dark."

Ain't she just beautiful?
  Heading out from the complex, I decided to skip our usual top-secret twisty road destination due to hellishly hot weather, instead opting to do a coast run where I could concentrate on the bike rather than feeling like a tamale being steamed. As such I was mostly confined to the traffic-clogged streets of LA and only able to ride a few curves. But, I figure, that's probably where most of the FZ6's demographic will do most of their riding, anyway.

I was immediately impressed with the stability and 'centered' feeling of the FZ6. It's supremely confident, and confidence-inspiring. Even on bumpy freeways in a headwind, the bike doesn't get upset. The same held true when I reached the curvery; this bike is light, tight, and alright, stable yet totally flickable like its sporting brother. Although the high, flat handlebar bar is perfectly positioned and the fairing does a great job of deflecting the blast sans turbulence, the seat gets painful after maybe an hour, which is unfortunate for a commuter bike.

Time to ride!
The re-tweaked R6 lump is revvy (redline is 1000rpm down from the R6, at 13,500) and needs to be spun up past 7k to really rip, but good power is available in the midrange as well. In any case, it's super smooth...although there is vibration, it's never intrusive or annoying.

I'm not a big fan of the new-tech integrated instrument pod though...like the Kawie Z1000, the speedo is clear enough but the tach bar is nearly invisible. To me, a good instrument panel tells everything in a very brief glance; one shouldn't have to squint and pause when trying to determine the engine revs as the next corner approaches. Hip and cool and high-tech doesn't count for jack when you can't see the numbers. It's a good concept, but one that needs a bit more refinement.

New-concept middleweight sportbike: High-performance but with an anything, anytime, anywhere attitude.
So there you have it. The new FZ6 is a damn good machine, at least on first impressions - sexy, good handling, light, and reasonably comfortable for short-term work. And for the price of "around $6k" as B-rad says, it's also a damn good deal. The line forms at your nearest Yamaha dealer, sometime around the beginning of next year.

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