1998 Yamaha FZS600 Fazer, Superb Fazer !

Some bikes – just a few – manage to be just that bit more than just the sum of their parts. Yamaha’s Superb FZS600 Fazer is just that. The Fazer’s motor is courtesy of the YZF Thundercat, derived from the mid-1990s FZR600R but with fins and things plonked onto it to make you think it’s air-cooled – it isn’t. What it is, is one of the best carbureted bikes I’ve ever ridden, just as it was almost 20 years ago. Power was class-leading for the time (80-90bhp), but the mid-range was what made this a winner compared to its peers.

1998 Yamaha FZS600 Fazer, Superb Fazer

Moving from the Thundercat’s 36mm Keihins to 38mm Mikunis gave the Yamaha FZS600 Fazer a good beefy strip of torque, but for some reason if you’re used to more powerful motors, the FZS600 Fazer’s delivery just seemed a tad hesitant: there’s that almost elastic-band feeling on the throttle that you have to get used to. Nowt hesitant about the brakes, mind: if you want to reverse back into yesterday, simply brush the lever with a finger or two and you have instant stopping power – that’s courtesy of the YZF-R1’s blue-spot calipers. If you could level any criticism on the Fazer it’s here – is it a tad over-braked for newcomers?

Handling-wise the Yamaha FZS600 Fazer is just so assuredly spot-on – even by today’s standards. Okay, so some people at the time moaned about the 110/70-17 front hoop, but, like a 16in Blade or Hornet frontend, it is fine. You just may have issues getting tyres. Handling is helped by those lovely wide bars. It steers so nicely, not sportsbike quick, or cruiser slow – like Baby Bear’s porridge, it’s ‘just right’. Now, me and the Yamaha Fazer 600 go way back. Way back to its very birth when I was lucky enough to nab a go on one and over a period of a few years test it against its peers.

The thing Yamaha got so right about the first FZS600 Fazer was the wonderful balance between the parts they used and the styling they gave it. The looks, well, many loved it while others thought it just a bit too quirky and preferred the naked simplicity of the Hornet. That half fairing on the Yamaha gives you decent protection even at three-figure speeds – it’s that effective, meaning that for many of us who would use a Fazer day-to-day it’s a better bet than the Hornet or the un-faired Bandit. Little wonder Honda had to bring out a half-faired Hornet within a year.

1998 Yamaha FZS600 Fazer, Superb Fazer

Changes to the Yamaha FZS600 Fazer were few (it was that good) but important. This one here from Andy is the first generation 5DM1 model with simple clocks (one trip meter and odometer showing just 9300 miles) but with all the impressive spec of the bike, which means comfy, broad seat (for both rider and pillion), fantastic mirrors that sit like flat-screen tellies, showing you everything behind in glorious HD, a fuel gauge and centrestand. With a price on the road of around £4950 – it was little wonder it was one of the top five best-selling bikes in the UK on the run-up to the new millennium.

The Yamaha FZS600 Fazer of that year had all those improvements along with two striking two-tone colour schemes, red with pin-stripes or gold with pin-stripes: the simple colours (black, red, blue, silver) saved you £150... For 2002 in came the more effeminate top-fairing from the Fazer 1000 and an extra two-litres in the tank, as well as an updated cockpit. I for one didn’t like the looks as much, but it’s still a belter of a machine and better than the bike Yamaha replaced it with – the FZ6. That had the revvier R6 motor, poor brakes but better handling.

1998 Yamaha FZS600 Fazer, Superb Fazer

As I regretfully hand the keys back to Andy - who owned this great bike, I pause to reflect on this portal back to my past life. For me the Yamaha FZS600 Fazer was a bike not just for the good times, but for all times. It was one of the best middleweight do-it-all bikes to come out of Japan ever and it’s time its brilliance was recognised.

Yamaha FZS600 Fazer Specs

Engine : Four stroke, Transverse Four Cylinder, DOHC 16-Valve, Liquid-Cooled
Capacity : 599 cc
Bore x Stroke : 62 x 49.6 mm
Compression Ratio : 12.0 : 1
Induction : 4x 38 mm Mikuni BDSR
Max Power : 95 HP @ 11.500 RPM
Max Torque : 61.2 N.m @ 9.500 RPM
Transmission / Drive : 6-Speed / Chain

Frame : Steel Double Cradle
Front Suspension : 41mm Telescopic Forks, Adjustable Preload
Rear Suspension : Rising-Rate Monoshock, Adjustable Preload
Front Brakes : 2 x 298 mm Disc, 4-Pot Calipers
Rear Brakes : Single 245 mm Disc, 2-Pot Caliper
Front Tyre : 110/70 - 17
Rear Tyre : 160/60 - 17

Wheelbase : 1.415 mm
Seat Height : 790 mm
Wet Weight : 189 Kg
Fuel Capacity : 18 Litres