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The Good, The Bad & The Ugly: used Fazer test

With the new Yamaha Fazer 800 arriving we dip into the secondhand market to sample the best and worst of the Fazer family…

The Fazer has been a mainstay of Yamaha’s range since the launch of the original 600 in 1998. This unassuming model, which was initially labelled a ‘parts bin special’ due to it borrowing most of its major components from existing machines, soon won a huge army of fans and went on to provide the backbone for Yamaha’s sales in Europe. Bikes such as the R1 grabbed the headlines while the Fazer created the volume of turnover that kept dealers in business.

Then in 2001 Yamaha did what everyone hoped, they unveiled a 1000cc version of the Fazer, a bigger bike that 600 riders could progress to. The next step in their riding career had arrived and it retained all the features that made the Fazer so popular, but with an R1 motor. However the Fazer 1000’s introduction wasn’t without controversy. Yamaha initially over-priced the bike and after just half a year was forced to knock £1,000 off its list price, pissing off current owners if not potential buyers. No birth is entirely hassle free and worse was to some.

When you have such a popular machine any change is going to upset an established fan base, but what Yamaha did in 2004 almost put a nail in the Fazer’s coffin. The FZ6 was all new and came with a re-tuned version of the company’s R6 sportsbike engine as well as a flashy chassis. All should have been well. It wasn’t, but more of that later.

Such is the popularity of the Fazer that the second hand market is virtually awash with them and as a result there's a Fazer to suit any wallet. We searched out a 2000 original style Fazer 600 with a price tag of £2,599. Considering its age this high price reflects its popularity in the used bike market, a good one seldom stays on a dealer’s floor but cheaper tatty bikes are easy to locate in private ads.

Next up is its replacement, the FZ6 Fazer. At £4,199 this 2008 model bike is an S2, the second generation of the R6-engined Fazer 600, but in truth little changed between the FZ6 models. And finally we have the daddy of the Fazer range, a 2002 Fazer 1000. At £3,999 you are getting R1 power and Fazer practicality at a bargain price. There must be a catch, or is there?

So, with our assembled clan of Fazers (this seems the best collective term to use) we headed out to discover what lies behind their popularity and to see exactly what the new Fazer 800 has to live up to.

Yamaha FZ6 Fazer

Yamaha FZ6 Fazer

Click to read: Yamaha FZ6 fazer owners reviews

There’s a tongue in cheek engineering expression: ‘if it ain’t broke, it ain’t got enough features!’ This sums up the FZ6 Fazer perfectly. There was nothing wrong with the old model Fazer, but Yamaha decided to change it anyway and in doing so wandered right into a minefield...

Emissions laws killed off the original model. A replacement was needed and the R6 motor was chosen as the platform to build it around. Big mistake.

On paper the FZ6 is an excellent bike. Yamaha looked at the original Fazer, gave it more sports potential with a new frame, stiffened the suspension to match and gave it a more powerful motor. But lost the very essence of the Fazer  – its friendly and forgiving nature.

From the moment you let the clutch lever out the FZ6 feels aggressive. The action is grabby and first gear drops it in with an almighty clunk. Although the clutch lever has a relatively soft action, the biting point is far too snatchy. It’s all too easy to stall the FZ6, which isn’t very reassuring for newer riders, quite an error from Yamaha – they were meant to be its target market.

Once you've successfully navigated this horrible clutch and got the bike moving, the gearbox fails to improve. Changes are rewarded by a solid clunk as each cog engages but it’s the  engine's character that's the biggest letdown.

On the older model opening the throttle results in smooth power delivery. The FZ6 feels restricted at low revs. It’s not until the rev counter is showing 7,000rpm that the motor comes alive. The Fazer is predominantly a town bike where low-down grunt is paramount, and this motor completely misses the mark. Above 7,000rpm the FZ6 takes off. But what’s the point in that? Who buys a Fazer to rev? This bike does, however, have one trump card up its sleeve, its chassis.

Through a set of smooth bends the FZ6’s chassis is light years ahead of the old Fazer’s. There's no weave, no wobble. As long as the roads are smooth. Throw in a few bumps and the ride turns hash as the budget suspension fails. Where the softly sprung old model absorbs the jolts the new model delivers them straight to the rider, giving an unpleasant ride.

There's a lot to love on the FZ6 Fazer. It has gigantic steering lock, chunky switchgear and a decent mini-screen. But there's lots to hate. The engine is horrible, the clutch annoying and the sporty handling irrelevant. The FZ6 feels like a sportsbike pretending to be an all-rounder, rather than a bike specifically designed as such.

Owners of this model will write in and complain, saying their bike does everything they want but it could, and should, have been so much better. The new XJ6 Diversion proves this point. It uses the same engine but this time Yamaha have got it right and sorted the clutch, gearbox and the lack of low down grunt. Unfortunately this has come too late for the FZ6 Fazer as it has now been discontinued.

Yamaha FZ6 Fazer Essential Info

Prices

From £2,100 (2004, 52,000 miles) to £5,000 (2008, 2,000 miles)

The updated Fazer 600 never caught the imagination of the biking public like the original, so many riders kept their older models instead of upgrading. There are still a fair few available secondhand, and next to the previous model the newer bike looks so much more up to date, with its sharper fairing, chunky beam frame and under seat cans. With prices as low as £2000, there are bargains to be had. While later bikes may be more expensive they are around 5 years younger, and the higher price justifies the lack of TLC needed to get the bikes in box fresh condition.

Instant upgrades

  • End can: The FZ6 is blessed/cursed with the manic R6 engine, so sticking on an end can really gives this bike an edge among middleweight sports tourers. Revving the FZ6 hard with a free flowing exhaust can give the impression it’s much sportier than it is, and combined with some time spent sorting the fuelling can make the engine a little more useable. A pair of Devil Magnum cans in carbon cost £550 (www.devil.fr).
  • Power Commander: Combine aftermarket pipes with a power commander and spend some time on a dyno to fatten the midrange a little, making the bike easier to ride on the road. This item is a little pricey, but can make a massive  difference to how the bike rides. Essential for serious riders at £328 (www.dynojet.co.uk).
  • Tyres: For a bike like the FZ6, mega-grippy trackday tyres are somewhat unnecessary as they’ll spend most of their time on the road, but it’s still a bike with sporting pretentions, so some modern sport touring rubber would fit nicely. Avon’s Storm 2 Ultra work well in the wet or dry, and also give excellent tyre life. Around £200 (www.avon-tyres.co.uk).

Parts costs

Screen: £134.83
Foot peg: £44.71
Mirror: £57.18

Servicing

Minor: £170
Major: £450

Common faults

Problems are few and far between. The throttle position sensor can play up causing the bike to stall, or act erratically under acceleration. The headlights are considered poor, so many owners rewire the lights for both to light on dip. Finish is a problem on the FZ6 as it is on the older model, so be sure to check for corrosion in areas prone to it. A solid all round machine, they're popular with new riders so could have suffered numerous low speed drops, as well as missing the odd service. Should run and run if looked after.

Yamaha FZS 600 Fazer

Yamaha FZS 600 Fazer

Click to read: Yamaha FZS 600 Fazer owners reviews

The Fazer 600 looks like a Lego bike. The chunky seat unit, square tank and rectangular headlights make it look  like its designer was a fan of the little plastic bricks.

Styling aside there is very little to dislike on the Fazer 600. This is a bike that has been designed with a target audience firmly in mind and has hit the bullseye with its first shot. Unlike so many modern machines the Fazer 600 doesn’t pretend to be something it isn’t, it’s a budget commuter with no frills that does the job and does it very well.

The key to the Fazer’s charm lies in its motor. Accelerate on the Fazer and right from the bottom of the rev range the engine picks up with a smooth wave of torque and none of the fluffiness of the FZ6. From 4,000rpm to 8,000rpm the old Fazer simply murders the new model and this is exactly where you want your power when it comes to ‘real world’ riding. It’s a relaxing motor to use with a feeling of refinement about it and none of the vibrations, or the clunky gearbox, of the FZ6.

Through town this engine delivers instant acceleration to help you nip into gaps and does it all with a progressive throttle response brought on by well set-up carbs that is a world away from the rather direct fuel-injected FZ6. The clutch has a light and smooth action that makes stalling the Fazer far from easy while the riding position is relaxed with a seat height that suits even the most deprived in the leg department. Initially the narrow bars feel a little alien, but get into a congested city centre and they make perfect sense as you squeeze through the smallest of gaps without the fear of clouting a car’s mirror with your bar-end. Even the mirrors allow you to see what is behind, rather than the mass of blurs you get on the FZ6.

Out of town the Fazer is just as much fun, although it starts to show its age. The suspension is for comfort rather than sports handling and although it's adjustable for spring preload on the front – it has little effect. The Fazer merrily wobbles and bounces its way through corners. You can’t hustle it with anything like the ferocity of the FZ6 due to the softly sprung ride, but I can’t see many owners wanting to go ballistic on the Fazer, it’s a workhorse not a thoroughbred racehorse. Although Yamaha chose to give it the same brakes as the R6, giving itsome serious stopping power.

It has huge and easy to read clocks and a neat fuel gauge, the seat is well padded and comfortable, the riding position relaxing and it even comes with a pillion grab rail and centre stand as standard. This is a bike designed by someone who actually commutes and understands what is needed in a middleweight. It’s not perfect, the screen is a little stingy and when pushed the handling isn’t up to much, but for a no frills day to day hack that will see you through the daily grind there is little to moan about. Many Fazer 600s are used by London couriers, riders who demand a reliable, tough, town bike that won’t let them down. Says it all really.

Yamaha FZS 600 Fazer Essential Info

Prices

From £1,300 (2000, 30,000 miles) to £3,200 (2003, 9,000 miles)

For new riders, or anyone on a budget, the older Fazer 600 ticks all the right boxes, and should be the first port of call when looking for their next bike. The original Fazer gained a huge following thanks to its mix of sportiness and practicality, and that’s excellent news for buyers today as there’s a flood of them on the used market. With prices from a little over £1000 for tired examples, through to around £3000 for a well looked after machine with some sensible mods and low mileage.

Instant upgrades

  • Luggage: A favourite for all round riding, it has great potential for long distance touring. Adding some luggage will make a good bike excellent for covering large distances. Baglux have a wide range of various tank bag/tail pack options, but for a bike with sporting intentions such as the Fazer, the Sports Saddlebags would suit it perfectly. £88 (www.baglux.co.uk).
  • Belly pan: Most Fazers get used all year round, so to keep the corrosion prone parts of the bike free from road debris  – a belly pan would be an excellent idea. Not only does it keep exposed parts of the machine clean, it also does a good job of tidying up the looks. Powerbronze offer them in black, white or carbon look to suit all tastes. From £79 (www.powerbronze.co.uk).
  • Progressive fork springs: Many riders comment on the suspension being too soft to really push the bike hard through the corners, which can be cured by some aftermarket fork springs. Hagon can supply progressive springs, which makes the forks feel firmer. £69.70 (www.hagon-shocks.co.uk).

Parts costs

Screen: £132.09
Foot peg: £52.25
Mirror: £65.65

Servicing

Minor: £155
Major: £440

Common faults

The '98 – '04 Fazer 600 continued the trend of solidly built Japanese motorcycles from the '90’s. Mechanically, the little Fazer  has no serious issues. Unfortunately the finish can badly let the bike down, although considering it was always thought of as a budget ‘parts bin special’, corrosion is something owners will generally expect. The corrosion problem is accentuated by the fact that many Fazers are used all through winter by cost conscious owners who wouldn’t pamper them as much as some Italian exotica. The worst hit areas seem to be forks losing their lacquer, exhaust downpipes rotting and brake callipers seizing, but with a few quid spent and a little time invested, issues like this can be put right without much trouble.

Yamaha FZS 1000 Fazer

Yamaha FZS 1000 Fazer

Click to read: Yamaha FZS 1000 Fazer owners reviews

A lot of bikes for one reason or another failed to set the world on fire when they were  launched but have since established themselves as firm favourites in the second hand market. The FZS Fazer 1000 is one such.

Unveiled in 2001 it promised much. A re-tuned R1 engine with a whopping 140bhp and 78ft lb of torque in a bike with a comfortable riding position and generous tank range. Which was its problem. All the headlines screamed ‘R1 engine’ and ‘140bhp’, completely missing the point of the Fazer 1000. Yes it had big power, but it wasn’t a naked R1, it was a large capacity Fazer and was always going to be compromised.

The Fazer 1000 feels big. This is no compact, stripped down sportsbike, it’s a large, comfortable naked bike with a relaxed riding position. The clocks are big and clear dials rather than intricate LCDs and the whole machine has a slight feeling of the traditional about it, something echoed in its basic-looking right way up forks and tubular chassis. Then you get going.

Riding the Fazer 1000 is brilliant fun. It’s a bike that you instantly click with and after a few short miles you wonder why you have never ridden, or owned, one before. Forget sportsbikes, when it comes to smiles per mile the Fazer 1000 wipes the floor with them.

The 1000cc engine is one of the few occasions when a Japanese ‘re-tune’ hasn’t sucked all the life out of the motor. Everywhere is instant drive from an engine always willing to please. Like the 600 the carbs give a beautifully progressive throttle response that makes even a bike as powerful as this feel tame. The Fazer 1000 has a ‘usability’ about it that instils confidence in the ride. But don’t think this is a mundane machine, this Fazer is one of the best wheelie bikes around.

On the few occasions the front wheel is in contact with the road the Fazer’s shine starts to dull slightly. The bike feels over-sprung and under-damped, giving a soggy ride through the bends. Combined with a lack of ground clearance fast cornering is a no go area. On the straights it’s wonderful and absorbs the bumps with minimal hassle, but corners are a different story. The best way to think of a Fazer 1000 is as a sports tourer with very high bars, but this doesn’t do it justice. It’s not a hairy-chested naked bike, it’s a relaxed machine with a superb engine. The handling isn’t brilliant, but it’s more than adequate to enjoy on a Sunday blast and won’t send you hobbling to the osteopath come Monday morning.

But build quality is decidedly lacking. The paint flakes off the engine with minimal exposure to the elements and the shock gets past its best within a few years. Careful ownership can limit these physical ailments, and a full suspension over-haul is a good idea anyway as it reduces much of the soggy ride, and once these complaints are under control you are left to enjoy a simply fantastic bike that deserves to carry the Fazer name on its fairing.

Yamaha FZS 1000 Fazer Essential Info

Prices

From £2,300 (2001, 16,000 miles) to £4,600 (2005, 8,000 miles)

Fast, comfortable and able to cover big distances with ease, the Fazer thou was the weapon of choice for many a thinking man, and is still a bike massively in demand due to its almost perfect completeness. A vast number of used bikes are available, and all in varying conditions, some used as track day tools others just to tool up and down the motorway. £4.5K will get an absolutely top notch example, while the lower end of the price scale will see bikes with a fair amount of corrosion, as the Fazer isn’t a bike that shrugs off hard winter use easily.

Instant upgrades

  • Screen: A common complaint about the FZS 1000 is the low screen, so a useful modification to make the big Fazer more comfortable over distance is to fit a higher one. MRA’s Vario Touring screen is popular with many owners, allowing the screen height to be adjusted in height and angle to suit the rider. £98.78 (www.bikehps.com).
  • Seat: For those into long distance jaunts through Europe on their Fazers (even the 600s can manage it), an extra thick padded seat can keep the discomfort of a long day in the saddle at bay for much longer than the standard one. Baglux make a range of comfort seats from £230 (www.baglux.co.uk).
  • Heated grips: Many Fazers are used all year round as commuting tools as well as for some weekend fun, so riders need all the help they can get to keep the worst of the winter weather at bay. Combined with the higher screen to keep the rain off, fitting a set of heated grips can keep hands warm even through the coldest months. And guess what? R&G have some available for £29.99 (www.rg-racing.com).

Parts costs

Screen: £71.52
Foot peg: £40.40
Mirror: £61.63

Servicing

Minor: £165
Major: £520

Common faults

Similar to both the 600 model Fazers, the 1000cc variant also suffers from corrosion if not well cared for. Any bike with an R1 engine powering it should have a healthy appetite for wheelies, so headstock bearings should have an eye kept on them. Wheel bearings too have been known to lead rather short lives. Interestingly for the Fazer family, the 1000 has had the odd case of  a leaking water pump, but again, this is another Fazer that should lead a trouble free life if basic maintenance is kept up and service schedules stuck to.

Verdict

Verdict

Two out of three isn’t a bad strike rate and it’s no coincidence that the older model Fazers perform far better than the newer model. Fazers are bikes designed to be easy going, fun and above all practical. Unfortunately for Yamaha this concept was lost in the FZ6 bikes and also to some extent in the much-maligned FZ1 series, which is still in production.

When it comes to buying  secondhand the Fazer 1000 is a wonderful choice that does everything you could possibly need in a bike. With a price tag of under £4,000 it’s a complete bargain and well worth considering. Although the finish isn’t great, and the suspension may well need work, get it sorted and this is one solid workhorse that will keep on giving. It may not be the sexiest bike out there, but it more than makes up for that in the fun it delivers.

For those on a budget the Fazer 600 provides solid, if not hugely inspiring, transport. It’s hard to fault and as long as you accept you aren’t getting a cutting edge machine, it will carry you about your daily business with minimal hassles. With such a generous quantity around getting a decent example isn’t hard and best of all when you've out-grown it selling a Fazer on is fairly easy too. Look hard, pick wisely and enjoy its simple charms.

Which leaves the FZ6. Although owners will sing its praises, the R6 engine just doesn’t suit the Fazer philosophy, and as such makes for an unpleasant bike. It’s not that bad, it’s just that there are far better middleweights on the second hand market such as the original Kawasaki Z750 or Honda Hornet. When you're looking at spending nearly £4,000 there are better bikes to invest in.

Having spent a day riding these three Fazers one thing is clear – power and handling aren’t necessarily the be all and end all of a good motorcycle. Character and user-friendliness are equally  important. Hopefully Yamaha has learned its lesson from the FZ6 and the new FZ8 Fazer will be more akin to the older generation Fazers in character and performance. If so it’s hard to see it failing.

Yamaha Fazer Specifications

2008 Yamaha FZ6 Fazer

Price (as tested) £4,199 Top speed 141mph
Engine
600cc,16-valve, liquid-cooled inline four
Bore & stroke
65.5mm x 44.5mm Compression ratio 12.2:1
Power
96bhp at 12,000rpm Torque 46 lb.ft at 10,000rpm 
Front suspension
RWU forks Adjustment None
Rear suspension
Monoshock Adjustment Preload, compression and rebound 
Front brakes
Four-piston calipers, 298mm discs
Rear brake
Single-piston caliper, 245mm disc 
Dry weight
180kg (396lbs) Seat height 795mm Fuel capacity 19.4 litres 
Colour options
Black, blue, dark blue, red

Yamaha 2002 FZS Fazer 1000

Price (as tested) £3,999 Top speed 152.2mph
Engine
998cc,20-valve, liquid-cooled inline four
Bore & stroke
74mm x 58mm Compression ratio 11.4:1
Power
141bhp at 12,000rpm Torque 78lb.ft at 10,000rpm 
Front suspension
43mm RWU forks Adjustment Preload, compression and rebound 
Rear suspension
Monoshock Adjustment Preload, compression and rebound 
Front brakes
Four-piston calipers, 298mm discs
Rear brake
Single-piston caliper, 267mm disc 
Dry weight
208kg (458lbs) Seat height 825mm Fuel capacity 21 litres 
Colour options:
Black, blue, red

Yamaha 2000 FZS Fazer 600

Price (as tested) £2,499 Top speed 133mph
Engine
599cc,16-valve, liquid-cooled inline four
Bore & stroke
62mm x 49.6mm Compression ratio 12.0:1
Power
95bhp at 11,500rpm Torque 45 lb.ft at 9,500rpm 
Front suspension
RWU forks Adjustment Spring preload
Rear suspension
Monoshock Adjustment Preload, compression and rebound 
Front brakes
Four-piston calipers, 298mm discs
Rear brake
Single-piston caliper, 245mm disc 
Dry weight
189kg (416lbs) Seat height 790mm Fuel capacity 18 litres 
Colour options:
Black, yellow, gold, blue, silver