2009 Yamaha FZ6R Review

A Kinder, Gentler Sportbike From Yamaha

Photo © Yamaha

The 2009 Yamaha FZ6R might resemble the aggressive R6 at first glance, but it's actually a new fully-faired variant of the naked FZ6. Tweaked to appeal to newer riders who don't want to give up sporty looks or street cred, the FZ6R attempts to combine everyday rideability with decent performance. Does it deliver?

The Goods: FZ6-Derived

At the heart of the 2009 Yamaha FZ6R is an 600cc water-cooled inline-4 based on the FZ6 mill, with a number of mods including camshaft timing tuned for more low and mid-range torque and a larger air box. Mikuni fuel injection features four 32 mm throttle bodies, and the new engine promises 43 miles per gallon, an 8 percent improvement over the FZ6.

The powerplant mates to a 6-speed transmission, and a small mid-mounted 4-2-1 exhaust looks similar to the unit found on the R6. The engine acts as a stressed member, and is rigid mounted in a new steel frame. The front fork is a non-adjustable 41 mm SOQI unit, and the rear is a preload-adjustable SOQI. Brembo master cylinders grace the dual disc front and single disc rear brakes.

Compared to the FZ6, the FZ6R’s handlebar position is 12 mm rearward and 12 mm lower, while the seat is 4 mm forward and 2 mm lower; these changes shrink the rider triangle, making the bike feel smaller. The 30.9 inch tall seat can be moved up as much as 20 mm. Instrumentation features both analog and digital readouts.

Throw a Leg Over: Comfort is King

Unlike all-out sportbikes, the Yamaha FZ6R is designed more for comfort than it is for super high performance. The reach to the handlebars isn’t very far, the saddle is well-padded, and though your knees bend a bit for foot peg placement, there’s nothing extreme about this bike’s ergonomics. In fact, after a day's worth of riding there were no aches or pains to speak of-- save a few shivers from the cold ambient temperature.

The FZ6R's instrumentation resembles the (like the Suzuki GSX650’s dash), but unfortunately the Yamaha lacks a digital gear indicator.

The Ride - Smooth Sailin'

Twist the FZ6R’s throttle while the bike’s in neutral, and the engine’s relatively inoffensive exhaust note reveals a subtle top note of raspiness— nothing nearly as extreme as the R6’s titanium muffler, but that’s perfectly appropriate to this bike’s primary target audience: beginner and intermediate riders.

The clutch engages and releases with light lever effort, and the six-speed gearbox’s shift action feels precise. Acceleration is smooth and linear, with a powerband that feels flat and predictable. There’s a touch of vibration at around 6,000 rpm, but that doesn’t get in the way of leisurely riding all the way up to the nearly 12,000 rpm redline. Rolling on the throttle at around 1/3 of maximum revs reveals a bit of jerky acceleration, but again that quality is not significant enough to deter potential buyers. While cruising at 60 mph the engine rpms measured about 5,000 rpm-- a bit high for long distance rides.

Since it’s aimed at newer riders, the FZ6R’s front brakes aren’t too grabby (which can make it easier to lock the front wheel), but a little more initial bite would have been welcome.

Acceleration gets strong when you rev high enough, and though the engine is tuned for improved low and midrange torque, its 600 cc displacement prevents it from pulling too strongly. Handling is relatively nimble and stability is excellent, though more aggressive riders will want to dial in preload in the rear for crisper response. Unfortunately, the front shocks are not adjustable.

The Bottom Line

The bike handles very technical mountain roads well; it's flickable and powerful enough for spirited riding, but its somewhat upright seating position and smooth suspension added a level of comfort you just can't find in most sportbikes.

It may not have the edge of Yamaha's ubiquitous R6, but that's exactly the point of the FZ6R: it's a kinder, gentler take on the sportbike for those who want sporty looks without the wrist strain or the extreme performance. Given those parameters, the FZ6R is a satisfying ride for beginners and more experienced riders alike.