Tuesday, 27 May 2014

A love for modifications

It's something that not all of us will be interested to do. Some people hate the idea of spending money on things that won't increase the value of a bike. A £900 set of Akrapovic exhausts will never be made back - is it really worth it? Why would you want to make changes to your bike that aren't really necessary? Do you actually need that seat cowl? In all fairness, I actually agree with them... well, maybe just a little bit.

However, customising my bike is something I love to do. There's something a bit special when you see a big super naked, loaded with trick bits, making a scene at your local bike meet. You can go and see a stock bike in a showroom - these are bikes are one of a kind.

But why do some of us have this love for modifying our bikes? Is it to show our creativity? Imagine showing off your homemade bobber, complete with a custom made tank with the paintjob to match and that beautiful, powder-coated frame. Talk about a conversation starter!

Of course, many people customise their bike to produce better performance. They may replace their wheels with super light magnesium Marchesini rims to produce better cornering. Changes to suspension or brakes could be made, producing better stability and stopping power. And of course, engine tweaking. Bigger bore kits, heavy duty clutches or maybe even engine swaps, are just a few of the many things that owners change to make their bike perform exactly how they want it to.
Are aftermarket cans a must?
Some of us may only wish to change the appearance of our bikes. Adding or removing bodywork, to suit the look we want to make. Fitting exhausts to give that oily, noisy engine the appreciation it deserves. We see our bike as a blank canvas, ready to be turned into that mean machine that we dream of.

Although not all modifications have to be cosmetic or based around performance. Commuters and tourers might want to add practical modifications to their bikes. Scottoilers, hard luggage and heated grips can make your bike so much better suited to what you use it for. Not all modifications have to be produce bragging rights.
Not all modifications have to be performance based.
A simple windscreen on a naked bike makes a huge difference.
I've always changed features on my bikes. Admittedly, I tend to buy bikes that already have a few extras on them which I find necessary, such as an aftermarket exhaust or that bellypan that I would've wanted to buy, because quite obviously, this saves me a lot of cash.

Some might not care much for standing out from the sea of standard bandits and 1200gs' but to others, such as myself, I think it really represents what biking is all about. It gives you an option to be different, a reason for people to have a look at your bike and perhaps, with an ego like mine, a chance to damn well show off.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Thoughts on the Fz6...

I've owned the Yam for almost two months now. I've done a bit of commuting, a bit of Sunday scratching and a 300 mile day around Wales. So I'm starting to recognise the good bits of the bike and also the more niggly bits.

First impression:
A bloke in his mid twenties reversed his van onto the drive. He greeted me with a firm handshake and introduced himself. Then the back doors of the van swung open. I remember telling myself not to get too excited about it because it may cause me to buy something I may regret. But as I got my first glimpse of those two underseat scorpion cans and that fat 180 tyre, the excitement got the better of me.

We wheeled the bike out onto the driveway and began to inspect it. There were a few stone chips on the tank, to be expected of a naked bike really, and a few wear marks on the grab rails. This really didn't bother me at all. It had full service history, receipts, the red master key - everything. With only 16,700 miles on the clock and a modest asking price, I knew I was onto a bit of a bargain.

It's dripping with extras, which is not bad thing in my book! It arrived with carbon fibre side panels, a carbon hugger and front mudguard, this compliments the metallic black colour scheme and (in my opinion) looks really trick - far from tacky. A Dynojet power commander is mapped to the twin scorpion exhausts, improving fuel economy and power delivery. Some of the more sensible extras include a smart looking bellypan, to keep the downpipes in good condition, and a decent sized, genuine Yamaha flyscreen - which makes so much difference.

It seemed a shame not to buy it eh?

First ride:

12 hours after buying it, I was finally able to ride it. After taking the fly screen off and the er... decibel killer out I started it up. It was so much louder than the Sv. It was a constant, noisy, buzzy engine and it sounded awesome.

I pulled off the drive and that's when I began to panic. I knew that riding an inline four would be different to a V twin but I don't think I realised just how much different it is. Used to keeping my revs low whilst trundling down my road, at 2,500rpm the Fz6 was spluttering and jerking all over the shop - it just couldn't do it like the Sv could.

I spent a good few hours embarrassing myself around my hometown before deciding to actually take it for a proper ride. So I headed down some familar roads to see how it performed... and performed it did. It is literally the polar opposite of the Sv650; gutless and jerky at lower revs, the Fazer struggles around town, overtakes have to be taken in lower gears and the bike just doesn't suit calmer riding.

However if you take the digital rev counter above 8,000rpm, it sure shows you what it's made of. If you really give it some wellie, the front end feels light and those ridiculously loud pipes are screaming at you, spurring you on. It is such a massive thrill. But what makes this acceleration feel faster than what it probably is, is the fact that you have no wind protection. So when you're pinning the throttle back, the wind is pinning you back. The first time I took it to high revs it took me by surprise and shifted me to the back of my seat, I was clinging on with all my might. It is physically draining. High speed riding is when my fly screen comes in handy, it eases so much strain on your shoulders and neck, you really will be thanking it after a day's riding, even if it looks a bit bulbous.

The first time I used the brakes I was caught out. Taken straight from the R6, these have great stopping ability, superior to the Sv650's poor Toxicos. It handles around corners well and I don't find it worse than the Sv, and that handled brilliantly. The previous owner had dropped the forks of the Fz by 10mm or so, to make it turn sharper. I haven't tried it standard yet so I'm not sure how big of a difference this makes. I've also recently added some flat renthal bars on it which has changed the riding position and handling significantly - I prefer it as it feels much more 'whippy' around corners even though it does lean you a little further forward. Besides - they look cooler and surely that's a good thing?

So how does it compare to the Sv?

On paper, the Fz6n is better in every way. It has over twenty extra horsepower, it's much comfier, better on fuel (but only with the power commander fitted), the brakes are better and it gives you so much more of an adrenaline rush. I personally feel and know that it is a much better bike. But I still feel like there's something missing.

It doesn't have the bubbly, lumpy quirks of that glorious V twin engine. The Sv's engine feels like a playful pet, purring along to that beautiful V twin beat. Whereas the Fz6 engine feels like an energetic insect - brutal and buzzy, must be raced otherwise sat in the garage. Anything in the middle doesn't work quite right.

It just doesn't quite have the character or personality that the Sv had. Maybe it's psychological. I might just be a bit strange, personifying bikes by using words like 'character' but I personally believe that is one of the most important things in motorbikes, it gives a bond between rider and machine. It's a good thing.

That's not to say that the Fz6 is a bad bike of course. As I've said, with decent brakes and a well performing engine, this is one cracking bike, much better than the Sv. With a few issues with snatchy fuel injection on the earlier models and a clunky gearbox being the only real problems, this really is a fantastic bike. The earlier Fazer's from 1998 onwards are brilliant too. There's a lot about and they've been tried and tested over time, meaning only one thing - they're ace.

The Sv still has a place in my heart though. You won't be forgotten.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Why I picked the Fz6

If you have read my previous blog post: 'Thoughts on my next bike' then you may be wondering why I bought my Yamaha Fz6n. A Fazer wasn't mentioned at all - I was originally looking at bikes such as the 650 Vstrom or the Xt660r. I didn't consider the naked 600 an option at all.

However, in my specification I stated that I would like a bike with better fuel economy, superior comfort and practical, hard luggage. For some reason I totally bypassed bikes like Fazers, Bandits and Hornets. How many middleweight nakeds do you see with hard luggage doing road trips? Loads.

The Fz6 ticks all of my boxes... kind of.

The new beast - Yamaha Fz6n
First of all, there is an obvious change in comfort. Compared to my old Sv which had fairly low bars but (more importantly) very high foot pegs, this Fazer feels like I'm sat in an armchair. My 6"1 frame fits comfortably into the roomy saddle. My wrists are no longer aching as the raised bars give me hours of riding with minimal complaints. But the foot pegs make the biggest difference, my flamingo legs are no longer touching my elbows, they are much more relaxed without compromising much ground clearance - although my foot peg has hit the floor once or twice.

Although my bike isn't currently fitted with any hard luggage it quite easily can be. Top boxes are the easiest and cheapest form of luggage for my 2005 model Fz6n. Being a pre-07 model, the pillion foot pegs are welded to the subframe as opposed to being bolted on like later models - this restricts the ability to add on panniers. This is a fairly big deal as the underseat exhausts prevent most soft throw-overs from being used - they'd just melt. Luckily, I have obtained a pair of semi-rigid panniers that fit fine, without coming into contact with the silencers. My trip later in the year is to tour Scotland, nine days wild camping. So by using an upcoming Wales weekend trip in July as a trial run, I will test out my throw overs and see whether buying a top box would be necessary.

Finally, fuel economy. Standard Fz6s average at around 45mpg but with the aid of the power commander fitted to my bike, it's hitting over 50mpg - and that's not bad considering I don't take it that steady. This is about the same, if not better than the Sv's fuel consumption. So there's nothing to complain about, but it's nothing to rave about either.

How well will it cope for a long haul? Only one way to find out...
Compared to the Sv, it is better in every way; it is more economical, comfier and has over twenty extra horsepower. So it fits the bill alright but is still yet to be tested on a road trip, this weekend to Wales will be the test to see how it performs.

Yet the biggest reason I picked this particular Fz6 is because... it was a bloody good bargain! And we all love a good deal, don't we?

Let's just hope I've made the right decision.