It’s been a while since I had the chance to ride a different machine – thinking back, I suspect the last different bike I rode was probably the 600 Monster! So when I got the offer for a short ride on an FZ6, a bike I’ve been thinking about as a replacement for the Hornet I ride for work, I jumped on board and took off to get some impressions.
Lifting it off the sidestand reveals a little more weight, though it’s hardly heavy at 186kg (just over 400lbs). Seat height is a bit higher than my Hornet, though not any kind of problem for me at 5′ 9″. The riding position is similar and comfortable enough, though the bars didn’t quite feel right, pulled back and down a bit too much for my liking – but then I have ridden the Hornet an awful lot over the last few years and the FZ bars weren’t in any way as odd as the little Monster’s “straights”.
Into gear and off down the road, and there’s plenty of steering lock and a smooth clutch to make the tight turn. No problems there! The engine revs freely but a glance down at at the rev counter reveals… errrr… where is the rev counter?
At a second glance I spot the LCD display on the outside of the speedo. One of my pet hates is fixing things that aren’t broken and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a conventional speedo/rev counter twin dial set up. It may not look sexy in the catalogue or showroom but they work at a glance. The rev counter on the FZ6 is near-invisible.
Then I check the speedo… 85? You’re kidding! I didn’t have chance to calibrate the speedo but it seemed way off to me – I’d have guessed I was doing 65/70 tops. I don’t know where the pick-up is but I did wonder if it was one of those bikes that is affected if you change the gearing, and whether the owner has done so.
However, with 30,000 miles on the clock, the engine pulled smoothly and cleanly, and the suspension was compliant over the bumps, if a little soft initially. The rising rate rear end definitely damped out the bigger bumps better than the straight push Hornet manages, and the brakes worked well, though I didn’t really try to stand the machine on its nose, so realistically downgrading from the old R1 style calipers doesn’t seem to have been a practical issue. I can’t remember a thing about the switchgear, so I guess it’s all where I expected it to be, and the mirrors worked.
Round the bends, the FZ6 felt perfectly planted at the moderate speeds I was riding another rider’s bike, though the steering felt just a little heavy, but as the guy said, the front tyre was on its last legs – it’s quite possible new tyres would fix this.
The big criticism I’ve read of this motor is that it’s flat at the bottom end and the power delivery isn’t particularly smooth.
It’s perfectly fine for riding round town, it’s nothing like as flat and difficult to shift off the line as my GSXR but compared with the Hornet, the motor doesn’t have the 5000 – 7000 drive that makes the Honda so easy to ride, it does seem to want the motor kept over 7k for a similar response, but it certainly isn’t the problem that I’ve heard about anecdotally.
The fairing is a lot broader than the Hornet’s and the screen is wider too. It keeps off more of the breeze, but at the expense of turbulence behind it at 70-ish, something that doesn’t happen on the Honda. The FZ6 reminded me of riding on my old GPz500 with the flip up screen! That would present problems with the radio.
Standing back and looking at it, it was a well-used machine. The owner obviously had no problems pushing it to the limit, judging by the well-chewed tyres, and for a round the year ride, it was still tidy-looking with no obvious corrosion to anything a cursory glance over revealed.
It wasn’t a long ride, but it was long enough to get a feel for the machine and to push it to the front of candidates for a replacement for my trusty Hornet when it gets just a bit too long in the tooth.