The New 2009 Yamaha FZ6R - Starter Supersport

By Jamie Elvidge, Photography by Brian J. Nelson, Tom Riles

Dear Tim,
Sorry to hear you broke your ankle the week before Yamaha's FZ6R press intro in Northern California, but I was thrilled to be the one to take your place. I mean, you're a notoriously good mender, and now that you have a wife to help with the nursing, I know you'll heal in no time. While you were recuperating at home, I rode this new middleweight supersport on the twisty mountain roads between wine country and the rocky shoreline. Hate to rub it in, buddy, but here's what you missed...
Get well soon,
Jamie

An offshoot of Yamaha's entry-level FZ6, the new-for-'09 FZ6R is intended to be even more appealing to newcomers. It uses modern styling and enticements such as a lower, narrower seat and a more compact riding position to attract newbies and smaller buyers. The handlebars are lower and closer to the seat, and the seat itself is slightly lower and farther forward. In addition, the new bike's ergonomics can be adjusted using the stock tool kit: 20mm forward for the handlebar and 20mm higher at the seat. That's great for beginners, but even set to the most spacious dimensions the bike felt a little cramped for taller riders.

The FZ6R wears a full fairing to present an aggressive profile more in keeping with the company's YZF-R6 supersport-a look Yamaha researchers claim is more desirable even for young, first-time buyers. The engine is derived from the previous-generation FZ6, which was once used in the R6, but tuned for optimum low and midrange power.

Related improvements include a new cylinder head with single valve springs for reduced friction and narrower intake ports for increased charge velocity. A larger airbox with a new filter feeds the four Mikuni throttle bodies, providing excellent response-a characteristic the previous FZ6 notoriously lacked.

It's an easy-to-use mill, with its most effective power juiced from the middle revs. Compared to the previous model's power delivery, the new engine is considerably more linear and predictable, although emissions plumbing may have robbed a few peak ponies. This new-gen inline-four is no mind-blower for the jaded, but it's undeniably mild-mannered and smooth-exactly what the engineers were going for. The engineers also managed to quell the debilitating vibration that cursed the older FZ6, with just enough buzz coming through the bars at 10K to remind you how bad it used to be. The shift feel of the close-ratio six-speed transmission is sophisticated and smooth, with very light clutch actuation to match.

In the technical briefing, Yamaha's testing guru Mike Ulrich told us, "It's really about how manageable the total motorcycle is." And the FZ6R does handle deftly, with only subtle input required for nimble and consistently predictable steering responses. Ulrich says this improved rideablity is in part due to the bike's new steel frame and swingarm, which uses the engine as a stressed member. New, more conservative rake and trail figures of 26 degrees and 4.1 inches also play a part, as the previous FZ6 was slightly more jaunty at 25 degrees and 3.8 inches. The non-adjustable 41mm conventional fork is manufactured in-house by Yamaha's pet supplier Soqi, while spring and damping rates for the single Soqi shock can be dialed up in seven steps.

Except for the bone-chilling temperatures-and missing the sight of Tim extending his outsized limbs through the tight corners-the FZ6R was an ideal tool for our spirited 150-plus mile romp across California's coastal range. Those steep, winding, sometimes single-lane roads beneath the dripping redwoods are so prone to landslides, root ruptures and seismic cracks that the surface changes weekly. Thus it was the perfect environment to test an entry-level machine, and measure how forgiving it is. In those environs, the 6R's new chassis, neutral ergos, and amenable steering geometry offer assuring stability and accuracy. One will be more than ready to graduate to an R6 after ripping around on this bad boy.

The 6R's aluminum wheels will come shod with either Bridgestone Battlax BT021s or Dunlop Sportmax Roadsmarts-either a good choice for balanced handling and longevity. The Brembo brakes work flawlessly, offering balanced, linear feel. In keeping with the bike's come-one-fit-all nature, both the brake and clutch levers are adjustable.

Of course, the FZ6R's most appealing selling point goes beyond its universal appeal and newbie-inviting nature. With a $7000 asking price, it's a helluva good deal. And Yamaha even brought the pearly white, femmy tribal-tatt version so we could watch Tim light it up! Next time, big fella...

By Jamie Elvidge
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