The FZ6 gleams at sundown with its stainless steel headers set off against the silver of the petite engine, alloy frame, and silver bodywork.
The FZ6 presents itself as a bit of an irony. Not only does its screaming motor clash with its upright and “proper” riding position, its handling qualities are also a bit mismatched. And while it steers into a corner smartly, the FZ then doesn’t offer much feedback from the front end. And although wheel control is slightly better than the two other Japanese bikes (it, as does the 599, has a linkless rear suspension), the FZ rider has to deal with an abrupt transition when coming back into the throttle. “It’s like pulling the cork out of a full bathtub,” according to Gabe. And in a final bit of irony, although its top-end lunge surpasses the others, the Yamaha has built a somewhat reluctant gearbox that makes stirring for revs notchier than desirable.
After living with a bike through all kinds of conditions, it’s the small details of a bike that often leave the largest impressions. The execution of these features can determine whether a bike shines or is scorned.
Gabe passed along kudos for the SV’s instrumentation that he says is classy and well laid out, and he liked how he was able to view the clock, temp and odometer functions simultaneously. We were impressed at how fresh our test unit still felt after 4000 motorjournalist miles, which works out to be, carry the 3, multiply… about 20,000 civilian miles.
Yamaha must also be commended for packing such a raft of features into a bike that sells for $500 less than the Honda. We’re not fans of the FZ’s LCD analog tach, but we love Yamaha’s countdown tripmeter feature that displays how many miles since reaching the reserve part of the tank. A centerstand such as on the FZ can be a godsend during a roadside tire repair, and its nicely finished underseat exhaust is undoubtedly worth some style points down at the café. We can’t forget to mention how much the 599 and others might cost if they came with a stylish and protective mini fairing like the FZ’s? A grabby clutch with a narrow engagement point knocks it down a few points.
The Triumph Speed Four has a sporting pedigree to go along with a mug only a mother or a hooligan could love.
The rambunctious ones in our group enjoyed the Speed Four’s growling intake and exhaust sounds, but it loses marks for a notchy tranny. We’d like to point out a feature that is on most of Triumph’s cast aluminum wheels: angled valve stems. They make fiddling with awkward gas station air hoses much less fiddlesome, and we can’t believe they aren’t universal in the industry by now, especially on bikes with large disc brakes. The Triumph’s worst-in-group fuel mileage (35.8 mpg) and shortest fuel range (170 miles) is a hooligan’s middle finger to the rest of society.
The Honda has a very nice, beginner-friendly clutch, and it’s the quietest bike of the lot if that sort of thing concerns you. The 599 gets docked a few marks for its carburetors that are more cold-blooded than the EFI systems on the others, and although its shift action is very light it can be a bit clunky like the F2/F3.
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