If you are after a cheap, and reliable, do-it-all machine then there are few better than the original Yamaha FZS600 Fazer. This is a bike that simply refuses to die and will run and run all day long, no matter how much abuse is targeted its way. New riders, commuters or even those just wanting a bike to hack around on should put the FZS on the very top of their list. And with decent examples costing less than £1,500, it is very hard to argue against ownership.
The FZS Fazer was built at a time when middleweight manufacturers put ease of use at the forefront of their design briefs rather than outright performance. So, where the Fazer's suspension is a bit wobbly, it is comfortable for mile after mile of bumps and potholes. The inline four engine may be old (it started its life in the Thundercat) and therefore not the fastest out there, but it has loads of torque, good fuel economy, a genuine 200-mile tank range and a smooth and relaxed nature. Even the Fazer’s slightly blocky look is a plus factor as it means its faring actually works at deflecting a bit of the wind blast rather than just looking like it might. And there is even a bit of bling for those wanting the extra pose value. See those brakes? They are the same units (which are technically monoblocks) as used on the R1 of the time…
The FZS600 Fazer is a very solid bike, but it does have a few irritations. The most important issue is the front sprocket nut, which likes to work loose. If this happens it can damage the output shaft and possibly even cause the sprocket to come adrift. There is an updated nut with a deeper thread that helps prevent this happening so always check this has either been fitted or the nut is threadlocked in place. On pre-2002 bikes the steel header pipes like to rust through, so check for any signs of holes, and also give the suspension a thorough inspection. The FZS’s shock is quite weak and the suspension linkage can seize up if it isn’t stripped and regreased while the forks are set very soft, which can lead to blown seals. If there is any evidence of oil leaks, check the fork sliders for signs of pitting caused by stone chips or corrosion as that means the slider is scrap. The Fazer is quite an old bike, so a bit of corrosion is expected, but be wary of overly hammered bikes as they will never fully recover back to their former glory. There are plenty of FZS models out there, so take your time and buy a good one.
The FZS600 was launched in 1998 and received its first minor update in 2000. As well as adding spring preload adjustment to the forks, Yamaha increased the tank’s capacity by two litres to 20-litres as well as moving the pillion’s footpegs to make the seating position more relaxed. There was also a host of small updates that included a new hazard warning switch on the switchgear. The Fazer’s final update happened in 2002 when its tank grew in capacity again to 22-litres and its styling became more aggressive thanks to the sharper FZS1000-style headlights (see left pic) and a redesigned half-fairing. Interestingly, this model also featured stainless steel exhaust headers, although they were painted black like the old generation’s steel items. The Fazer was discontinued at the end of 2003 and replaced by the FZ6 models.
There are loads and loads of used FZS600 Fazer models out there and you can even find a well used model for as little as £700, although £1,000 is a more realistic target. If you are willing to part with £1,500 there are plenty to choose from and you should even be able to afford one of the updated 2000 bikes with its larger tank and adjustable forks. Prices for the final, and best looking, Fazer start at £1,700 for a high mileage one and top out at £2,300, which is still a hell of a lot of bike for your money. Watch out for Fazer 400s, a few were imported into the UK from Japan and they are pants!
www.foc-u.co.uk- The Fazer Owners Club – Unofficial (foc-u) is a very active forum for Fazer owners of both the FZ6 and FZS models. Well worth joining for tips and advice.
Engine: 599cc, inline four, 16v, DOHC
Power: 95bhp @ 11,500rpm
Torque: 45ftlb @ 9,500rpm