We at CB-Net don’t just big-up the legendary classics of the last 30 or so years, we also look at the humble and the hum-drum.
Looking at the spec sheet of the 1998 Yamaha FZS600 Fazer, you’d think ‘dull’. It had an old motor (from the Thundercat) had old brakes (single-piece Sumitomo ‘blue spots’) and bloody weird looks!
We should have known better, because as much as the Fazer was what’s known as a ‘parts bin’ special, it was – in fact – a brilliant bike it its own right and most definitely more than the sum of its parts.
While the bits and pieces mainly came from older, existing Yamahas these bits were extensively tweaked. That motor, which could trace its history back to the 1994 FZR600R was re-tuned for torque, was externally ‘finned’ so it looked like an air-cooled motor and was just so perfectly carburated it made the-then new injected bikes feel rougher than Billy Badger’s behind…
Chassis parts were similarly modest. The frame was a steel perimeter with cool rubber stops for the tank, so it looked the retro part and also a bit ‘racy’, while the bike had right-way-up forks and a box-section swinger which didn’t really set the pulse racing. Then there was the half-faring. Quirky is an oft-used word these days, but back then (is it really 20 years) the word suited the Fazer perfectly. Remember, at the time it was up against the very beautiful, simple lines of the Honda Hornet and the naked middleweight favourite Suzuki GSF600 Bandit…
Thankfully, many owners found that ‘handsome is, as handsome does’ and out on the road back-to-back tests showed the Fazer had a handy margin of performance and practicality over both of its contemporaries. It was quicker, the motor had more low-down guts, it was more practical (big tank, which got bigger, good clocks, clock and two trips) and it was comfortable two-up, as well.
Eventually you’d see many Fazers out on the road – in fact the model became one of the top 5 best-selling bikes of the late 1990s, it was that popular. Model changes were small: for 2000 an ‘S’ model was launched, with little more than two-colour paint with pinstriping, while both models saw the introduction of a bigger fuel tank, that second trip meter, modified seat, slightly more comfy ergonomics and grab-rail.
The thing kept selling into the Noughties, but for some moaners though, the looks still weren’t to their liking, so for 2002 in came a Fazer 1000 ‘look-a-like’ top fairing, which wasn’t quite as butch as big brother’s, a 10% increase to that tank range again, full stainless exhaust (at last) and new instruments.
Emissions laws sadly killed off the Fazer two years later where it was replaced by a much inferior model – the FZ6 Fazer. In came a revvier R6-based motor, questionable styling, less practicality/fuel and worse brakes than the old faithful ‘blue spots.’
Today you can get an original Fazer for as little as £500… but buyer beware: many Fazers were favoured by newbie riders, couriers or London bikers, none of whom can be trusted on the old mechanical sympathy front – and here’s the rub. If we’re honest build quality wasn’t the best with the Fazer, with paint flaking off the engine and downpipes and fasteners often suffering, so TLC is required.
Thankfully, the blend of brilliance from this bike still shines through today and we’ve seen minters go from around £1500, rising to around £2200 for bikes with less than 5000 miles on.
What a brilliant, practical and fun bike for almost feck all. Try one, buy one.
For – great fun, value for money.
Against – hard to find a good one, looks.
|Major changes||Colour changes, S model released in 2000 alongside standard model with two tone paint, twin trip meters, more padding to the seat, slightly lower rear pegs and new grab rail. New look in 2002.|
Verdict – it’s a brilliant ‘do it all’ bike – only let down by some iffy build quality.