Stuff happens. Your pristine sportbike met a terrible fate—dirty road, blind corner, a horrible screeching noise and the final thud into the iceplant. A glass-half-empty person sees broken plastic, bent aluminum and a ruined dream. You, a glass-half-full type, see a streetfighter in the rough.
So did we. In fact, this project began with a search for a decent (though not necessarily pristine) Yamaha YZF-R6 with, perhaps, rashed body panels and the need for TLC. We looked. And looked. And found either quite rough examples or bikes too nice (and too expensive) to fit into our program. With a bit of lateral thinking, the Yamaha FZ6 came into view. It’s somewhat like an R6—has an early-generation R6 engine, actually—and is halfway to being a streetfighter already, with a tubular handlebar and all that.
We found several nice FZ6s for not a huge pile of money (less than $3000) and selected a 2005 model with 16,000 miles, a tiny bit of road rash (from a parking-lot drop) and all the squeaks and rattles expected of a well-used beginner bike. (Note to previous owner: You don’t have to lube the chain that much and can grease the centerstand bushings when they squeak. Spread it around, okay?) Yamaha made the FZ6 between 2004 and 2009, and examples can be found from $2500 to more than $4000, depending on condition, mileage and age.
Our stated goal for the modifications seemed easy: Make this unassuming, half-faired standard into a hard-core, nasty-attitude urban tool. What would it take? Ditch the half fairing, upgrade some of the bits Yamaha economized on, and have fun. As on the previous Re-Cycle project, we worked from the BikeBandit.com inventory; in fact, we picked almost exclusively from the BikeBandit.com catalog.
ENGINE AND DRIVETRAIN
Urban bikes need good torque more than a screaming high end, so we worked to improve the FZ6 in useful ways. Nothing internal this time, but we installed a Dynojet Power Commander III (no question the easiest, fastest part of our project; 10 minutes, max, once the tank was up) and loaded it with a baseline map for slip-on mufflers, specifically the M410-004 map. (Several maps are available on Dynojet’s website.)
We replaced the quite dirty stock air-filter element with a K&N original-equipment replacement, and at the other end of the system, swapped the 14.5-pound stock silencer with an Akrapovic "street-legal" slip-on that weighs less than half as much. The Akrapovic bolts onto the upright pipe downstream of the catalyst and comes with brackets that let you reuse the stock rear fender.
Our FZ6 streetfighter project benefits from an Akrapovic Street Legal slip-on exhaust with removable muffler inserts. With the main purpose of reducing noise levels, the restrictors must also exact a power penalty. The question was: How much? (See Sound vs. Power)
Unfortunately, our bike already had a fender eliminator, so improvisation was the watchword. A pair of Adel clamps joined the horizontal crossbar of the Akrapovic-supplied support with a license-plate bracket from a Suzuki. (Somewhere in California is a GSX-R without a plate hanger.) Turnsignals connect from the plate bolts with 90-degree, aluminum-sheet bracket.
What the Power Commander does, mainly, is benefit rideability. Our first efforts are an improvement, but check out the latest tune we’re running in Power Commander Setup.
We made the revvy R6 engine feel torquier by dropping the final-drive gearing. With an EK #520 chain wrapping around a JT Sprockets 15-tooth countershaft (16 is stock) and a 47-tooth Vortex aluminum rear sprocket (46 is stock), the FZ6 scoots off the line with real vigor now. See that slot in traffic? There’s little need to downshift to make the gap. Our FZ6 feels more frantic on the highway, but not obnoxiously so.
SUSPENSION AND BRAKES
Once again, we pushed the speed dial marked Race Tech, which sent over a Cartridge Emulator kit for the damping-rod fork. The emulator provides many of the benefits of a deflecting-disk damper—as you’d find in a more-modern cartridge fork—that include better separation of compression and rebound damping rates and an improved ride over rough roads. For some reason, Yamaha fits the FZ6 with very light, 0.77 kg/mm fork springs, so we bumped up to 0.9 kg/mm straight-rate springs, appropriate for a 170-pound rider. On the shock side, we elected to have the folks at Race Tech rebuild the stocker, which they said had the correct spring for the mid-weight rider. They also installed a Gold Valve for $100 plus parts.
To improve braking action, we fitted Galfer semi-metallic carbon brake pads front and rear. The stock pads on this FZ6 were still in fine shape, but we like the Galfers’ feel; the lever, in particular, is less wooden than it was stock. A combination of Goodridge and Galfer lines connects masters to slaves; during our build, Galfer was backordered on front lines for the FZ6.
In the end, our Project Re-Cycle FZ6 emerged from major surgery with an entirely new attitude. Removal of the fairing trims many pounds from the bike’s perceived heft, and the Fizzix now steers nicely on the Pirelli Diablo Rosso tires.
Here’s the tough part. We removed the FZ6′s large half-fairing entirely. Our initial thought was to trim the screen, maybe black it out or do something else to make the bike cosmetically more enticing. No dice. The broad hunk of ABS was killing our streetfighter mojo, so into the recycle bin it went. In its place went a lot of one-off fabrication following several hours of head scratching and website browsing. As the centerpiece, we chose the Acerbis Cyclops headlight. It’s intended for off-road vehicles but includes DOT-approved headlights—a projector-beam low and a conventional H3 high beam with an embedded marker light.
Removing the FZ6′s fairing and holding the Cyclops to the triple-clamps proved a couple of assumptions. One, the stock instrument cluster wouldn’t fit; we’d need something more compact. Two, bringing the Cyclops forward on some sort of mount would be necessary to conceal the wires for the instruments, headlight and turnsignals, in addition to making room for the clutch and throttle cables plus the brake lines. (If you’re old enough to have had a Universal Japanese Motorcycle, an old-school standard, you remember that the headlight shell was a busy place.)
Our solution was a pair of simple brackets made of .080-inch-thick, aircraft-grade 6061 aluminum. Stainless-steel clamps wrap around the upper fork tubes and pick up the aluminum plates, which extend forward to the headlight mounting tangs just behind the Cyclops’ "face." A bit of time with cardboard and a ruler got us the prototype, whose shape was transferred to metal. Another aluminum piece was fitted between the vertical plates to pick up the instrument cluster bracket. We painted the upper portion of the Cyclops fairing (if you want to call it that) with ColorRite products to match the Yamaha’s dark blue main color.
Replacing the stock instrument cluster is a Koso RX-1N motorcycle gauge pack. This small, lightweight module includes all the indicator lights, an analog tach, a digital speedometer, two tripmeters, a shift light and a fuel gauge. It’s customizable for many bikes through an on-screen menu system.
It is not, however, anything approaching a plug-and-play option; it must be spliced into the system. Most of the wires going to the stock cluster can be rerouted directly to the Koso, but a few, like the speedometer, tach and temperature displays, need their own sensors. Which means running wires to a wheel-speed sensor (for speed) and one side of an ignition coil (for rpm), and installing special temperature sensors (for oil and/or coolant temp). Unwilling to cut into the stock main harness, we cannibalized the sub-harness that runs inside the FZ6′s fairing, where there are all the wires for the cluster as well as headlight and turnsignal wires. Plan to spend a couple of days to join the wires, add the sensors and get everything working. More information.
A proper streetfighter puts the rider in an aggressive stance, so we trash-canned the FZ6′s high-rise tube and fitted a Flanders "low cafe" handlebar. No problems with clearance to the tank, and all the stock wires and cables fit, even though the bar is about 4 inches wider overall. We upgraded the hand controls with CRG Roll-A-Click adjustable levers, shorties for both brake and clutch. They’re beautifully made and feel great under glove. Tossing the FZ6′s stock fairing also put the mirrors in the round file, so we fitted a set of Bikemaster DC folding bar-end mirrors. They’re wide-angle jobs, so objects in the mirrors are definitely closer than they appear. Hello, officer.
Our next addition was adjustable rearsets from Gilles Tooling. These are beautifully built and include all the necessities such as a shift link-rod and bracket for the rear brakelight switch. They offer as many as 13 adjustment possibilities and transmit little engine vibration to the rider’s feet. (Stock FZ6 footpegs are rubber-mounted.) Did we mention that the Gilles rearsets are gorgeous?
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