‘The Fazer was probably the best bike I've ever had’
‘ We rode it to countless race meetings as well as wedding receptions and all sorts…’ MCN READER ANDY KENNEDY
If Suzuki’s Bandit 600 was the bike that began the boom in budget middleweights, it was Yamaha’s Fazer 600 that took the class to a whole new level.
In fact, though only arriving in 1998, the more powerful (95bhp), betterhandling and more versatile Yamaha, was so good it instantly became a best seller which survived through four incarnations over 10 years and spawned a whole family of Fazers.
Reader Dave Macdonald is typical of a whole generation who had Fazers as their first big bikes. “I bought an original Fazer 600 back in 1999 as my first big bike,” he told MCN. “To this day it was probably the best bike I've ever had. Great for a day out, commuting and generally all-round brilliant.”
That first 600 Fazer had its public debut at the Paris Show in 1997 and made an instant impression due to its more modern (compared to the Bandit) 95bhp inline four (derived from Yamaha’s YZF600R Thundercat), more sophisticated and rigid steel chassis and higher-spec cycle parts which famously included R1-alike ‘blue-spot’ one-piece brake calipers.
Craig Bray, a reader who bought a Fazer in 2001 after ten years off bikes, was impressed. “I had to sell my X7 in 1987 to buy a Reliant Robin due to the birth of my first son,” he told MCN. The Fazer was the first ‘big’ bike I’d owned so I was very impressed how easy it was to ride. It ticked all the right boxes in performance, comfort and more.”
Better still was the way Yamaha managed to keep its Fazer ahead of the competition. First, in 2000, it was joined by a bigger brother, the equally impressive FZS1000 Fazer. Second, in 2002, just as the Yamaha middleweight’s star was beginning to wane, it was given a facelift with a new fairing reminiscent of the 1000 and new, more angular double headlights.
Then, in 2004, it was replaced by an all-new model – the FZ6 Fazer, complete with aluminium frame, R6-based motor and underseat pipes. And, if all that wasn’t enough, a naked version, the FZ6, was offered as well. The pair continued where their predecessor had left off and, if the newcomer’s success wasn’t quite as brazen as before, customers still lapped them up. Around 30,000 were sold globally that first year.
Nor was that the end. In 2007 the Fz6/fazer was upgraded further into the S2 version complete with aluminium swingarm, new brakes and detail improvements. And although subsequently replaced by the XJ6 with the Fazer name only living on in 800 and 1000cc form (with both of those finally killed off in 2015), this later 600 still made a huge impression.
Reader Lukasz Rejman told us: “I got mine as my first bike after Direct Access and couldn't be happier. It’s proven itself as a daily commuter year round and has never let me down.”
The best, however, we’re saving for last. Reader Andy Kennedy still owns the original Fazer that his dad bought new in August 1998. “When it first came out I was 10 with a growing bike obsession,” Andy told MCN. “Dad was after a new bike and ended up buying one. We went to countless race meetings on it and when my dad was made redundant it became our only form of transport and we ended up taking it to wedding receptions and all sorts.
“When my dad passed her down to me, she was my first big motorcycle and now, after 75,000 miles, has never missed a beat.”
Sportier than it had any right to be and a breeze to ride too