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words - Rod Chapman
For supreme ease of use, practicality and value for money, Yamaha's new XJ6N is hard to beat

WHAT WE LIKE

  • Value for money
  • Excellent economy
  • User-friendly engine

NOT SO MUCH

  • For its intended market, what's not to like?

OVERVIEW
Yamaha is no newcomer to the naked or semi-faired all-rounder market. In fact, as far as the 'XJ' family goes, the XJ600 first hit the streets way back in 1984. Today the naked FZ6N and semi-faired FZ6S have been around since 2004, but those two models are now joined by the XJ6N and XJ6S - those model names again denoting naked and semi-faired versions of what is basically the same machine. In essence, Yamaha believes there are relative newcomers to motorcycling out there who want a slightly tamer alternative to the current crop of middleweight all-rounders.

Honda in fact went down this path a few years ago, launching the detuned CBF600 to run alongside its full biscuit CB600F Hornet - not that the CBF600 ever made it Down Under. Now Yamaha is taking the same tack, with its new XJ6 models packing a detuned version of the engine found in the FZ6 models, along with some other engine mods. The XJ6 sports a different chassis too, while its steering geometry is a touch more conservative.

Although experienced riders of large capacity machines may baulk at the notion of Yamaha's FZ6s being too powerful, it's worth bearing in mind here these bikes are powered by a detuned version of an engine that traces its lineage to the marque's razor-sharp YZF-R6 supersport family, and in FZ6 form is still something of a top-end screamer. So, in a sense, the XJ6 engine is a detuned version of a detuned version of the original R6 powerplant.

In short, the XJ6s are an even easier-to-ride alternative to the FZ6s. They're aimed at those biking newcomers looking for a stepping stone between a small capacity machine and the broader spectrum of full-power bikes, although they'll serve as perfectly good commuters too, for those who aren't obsessed with power and torque.

PRICE AND EQUIPMENT
Let's get down to the nitty gritty of the differences between the XJ6N we're looking at here, and its FZ6N stablemate. Firstly, the engine - the XJ6's fuel-injected unit is derived from the FZ6 engine, but it's been tuned to offer more useable torque down low and through its midrange, with less go tucked away up the top of its power curve. That is, it's more useable and less intimidating for inexperienced riders.

On top of that, the XJ6 sports a redesigned cylinder head, crankcase, exhaust system and clutch. All these mods add up to a powerplant capable of 57kW (at 10,000rpm) and 6.1kg-m (at 8500rpm) - that's considerably less oomph than the 72kW (at 12,000rpm) and 6.4kg-m (at 10,000rpm) of the FZ6, and perhaps more importantly, peak poke is delivered lower down in the rev range. All this is pumped out of a package weighing in at a claimed 205kg (wet).

The XJ6 also sports a tubular steel diamond frame, as opposed to the FZ6's aluminium chassis, and while the pair share the same 1440mm wheelbase, the XJ6 has a slightly more rangy 26-degree steering head angle, as opposed to 25-degree for the FZ6.

The ride position is upright, with wide 'bars placing you in complete control. The seat height is a super manageable 785mm and it's slim too. The amount of legroom is entirely acceptable despite the low seat, so this model really ought to be able to accommodate riders of a broad range of shapes and sizes.

The XJ6N comes with a relatively basic suspension package, comprising a non-adjustable conventional front fork and a rear monoshock, the latter adjustable for preload. The brakes are of a similar spec - two 298mm discs up front with twin-piston calipers, and a single 245mm disc down the back with a single-piston caliper. Rubber lines are used at each end. ABS is available in some world markets, but sadly isn't an option here.

A major point of difference between the XJ6N and the FZ6N is, of course, immediately noticeable - the styling. Both the new XJ models have a distinctive look all their own, helped along in no small measure by underslung muffler, ala Buell. Much of the bodywork is simply coloured plastic, but it looks the part and adds up to one smart machine.

The instrumentation is suitably futuristic, and delivers all you need to know without fuss. An analogue tacho is complemented by a digital LCD display, the latter showing speed, time, odometer, one of two trip meters, and engine temperature.

Perhaps best of all, all this can be yours for just $9999 plus ORC - $1000 less than an FZ6N. For an all-new bike, packed with modern technology, that's not a whole lot of moolah.

ON THE ROAD
If there were prizes dished out in the motorcycle world for sheer ease of use, the XJ6N would have to be close to if not top of the heap. Its striking styling may scream attitude and anti-social acts, but once you've hopped aboard and scooted off down the street, you'll quickly find this is in fact a sheep in wolf's clothing.

A big part of this is the ride position. It's pretty much upright, with just a slight lean forward to the broad, leverage affording 'bars. The seat height is low, and although it's a little on the firmer side, it's reasonably compliant. I wouldn't necessarily want to ride it across the country and back, but then that's not what this machine is all about.

What is it all about? Just about everything else. It's a great little commuter and a fun machine for a Sunday ride, and although its modest power and torque output won't see it laying blackies out of too many corners, for its intended market it would still be a hoot at a track day.

The engine delivers its go in a very linear manner, without a hint of a power band to be seen. There's enough torque to launch you from a standing start and keep you ahead of the traffic, but you'll need to rev the little in-line four, and attack its positive, slick-shifting six-speed gearbox with gusto, to make the most of what's on offer. At 100km/h in top you'll be pulling 5250rpm, and fast overtakes will require a downshift or two to pitch those revs closer to its peak power.

Should that red mist descend on a weekend gallop, you'll find that on a winding road the XJ6N is a thoroughly enjoyable little steed. The chassis, suspension and brakes collectively do a top job - sure-footed yet nimble, the XJ can be pitched on its ear with a minimum of effort, allowing you to enjoy its decent ground clearance to the full.

The clutch is light and progressive, the throttle light too, while the electronic fuel injection is responsive while smooth in city traffic - perfect.

Those twin-piston Nissin front stoppers have good power and feel, and allow you to wipe off speed with confidence. There's not really any initial bite here, just smooth, progressive power, which is just what's needed for those getting to grips with motorcycling on a grander scale.

Over the course of my time aboard the XJ6N, which saw me take cover city streets, freeways and a spirited run through the hills, it returned an excellent average fuel economy of nearly 20km/lt. With its 17.3lt tank, that spells a working range of over 300km between fuel stops, and you can't complain about that.

Of course given the focus of this bike, the question begs to be asked - will Yamaha introduce a LAMS (Learner Approved Motorcycle Scheme) version of the XJ6N? To my mind it would serve as a perfect learner machine under the new licensing framework now in place across much of the country. Yamaha says it's currently looking into the matter, so learners - watch this space…

A week with the XJ6N left me impressed. It simply doesn't have enough poke to keep more experienced riders happy, but that's not this bike's target market. However, for the riders for whom this bike has been produced, it's right on the money - and at a great price too.

SPECIFICATIONS - YAMAHA XJ6N
 
ENGINE
Type: Liquid-cooled, DOHC, 16-valve, four-stroke, in-line four-cylinder
Capacity: 600cc
Bore/stroke: 65.5mm x 44.5mm
Compression ratio: 12.2:1
Fuel delivery: Electronic fuel injection
Emission control: Not given
Maximum power: 76hp at 10,000rpm
Maximum torque: 60Nm at 8500rpm
 
TRANSMISSION
Type: Six speed
Drive: Chain
 
CHASSIS
Type: Tubular steel diamond
 
SUSPENSION
Front: Telescopic fork, non-adjustable
Rear: Monoshock, adjustable for preload
Front brake: Twin 298mm discs with twin-piston Nissin calipers
Rear brake: 245mm disc with twin-piston Nissin caliper
Front tyre: 120/70-17
Rear tyre: 160/60-17
 
OTHER STUFF
Wheelbase: 1440mm
Wet weight: 205kg
Seat height: 785mm
Fuel capacity: 17.3 litres
RRP: $9999 plus ORC
Warranty: 24 months, unlimited km
Colours: Yellow or black
Testbike supplied by: Yamaha Motor Australia (www.yamaha-motor.com.au)
To comment on this article click here Published : Thursday, 21 May 2009
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