It seems like just yesterday that our man Kento won the Willow Springs ARRA championship on an FZR600, while geek-boy Trevitt was trying his hand at endurance racing on an FZR, too. Really though, both editors are showing their gray hairs, and it was way back in 1989 that the little Yamaha was first introduced. We borrowed this 1996 sample from Erica Polites, who brightened up the Primedia dungeon for a short time before moving on to work at Vance & Hines. Erica's bike was in desperate need of a little TLC, and well, who can resist a little tweaking here and there?
This bike was yearnin' for...
This bike was yearnin' for some luvin'. With almost 16,000 miles on the clock, the FZR was looking pretty tired. We were amazed at how good it cleaned up though-that layer of grime must have acted as a protectant.
First up was a trip to the dyno, where the poor FZR was running so rich it wouldn't even pull the SuperFlow drum. A phone call to Factory Pro's Marc Salvisberg (800/869-0497, www.factorypro.com) and we had a Ti Pro jet kit and some new emulsion tubes (Yamaha OEM parts), which evidently are prone to wearing and cause the rich condition. Salvisberg also sent along a shift kit and an offset ignition key to advance the timing.
The FZR had a K&N filter already...
The FZR had a K&N filter already installed, but ran quite rich when first run at the dyno.
We installed a Factory Pro...
We installed a Factory Pro jet kit ($120) along with a set of new emulsion tubes. Float height was set at 24mm, 3mm lower than stock.
The K&N oil filter has a handy...
The K&N oil filter has a handy stub welded on which accepts a socket-easy on, easy off.
We ditched the Vance & Hines slip-on that came installed on the bike, and replaced it with a Vance & Hines (562/921-7461, www.vanceandhines.com) SS2R full system. Substantially quieter than the worn-out canister, the pipe does away with the California-model's EXUP system and really updates the look of the bike. Otherwise, we didn't mess with the emissions stuff (cams, black box, charcoal canister and air injection system).
Those stock mirrors sure are...
Those stock mirrors sure are ugly. We tossed them and bolted on a set of Targa (800/521-7945, www.targa-acc.com
) Monza mirrors. Not only do they improve looks, you don't see as much of your elbows compared to the stock pieces. The flat mirror (as opposed to conventional convex mirrors) takes a little getting used to.
What appear to be the original...
What appear to be the original plugs were replaced with Denso (888/96-DENSO, www.densoiridium.com
) iridium plugs. The tiny iridium tip is extremely hard, which means the new plugs should last a long time. These plugs are used as OEM equipment in many new bikes.
Wow, radial tires for the...
Wow, radial tires for the FZR ($133 front, $165 rear)! Bridgestone's BT-010 lineup includes something for the 18 X 4.0 inch rear rim, although the clearance to the brake arm was pretty tight with the 150-size bun. Note the smaller inside diameter of the exhaust-it's quiet.
Maintenance-wise, the oil and air filters were replaced with K&N (909/826-4000, www.knfilters) products, and the crankcase filled with Yamalube 20W40 four-stroke oil ($3.69/quart). Denso supplied us with a set of iridium-tipped spark plugs ($13 each).
This offset key for the ignition...
This offset key for the ignition rotor advances the timing by a few degrees. The kit from Factory Pro ($59) includes a puller for the flywheel.
The front calipers were treated...
The front calipers were treated to a good cleaning and new DP sintered pads ($38 per caliper). DP's standard pads ($34) went in the rear.
Turning to the chassis, the FZR's rim sizes are a holdover from pre-radial days, with 17" front and 18" rear wheels. All models of the 600 have a 3.0" wide front hoop, and while the original 1989 model had a 3.5" rear hoop, later bikes had a 4.0" wide rim. Bridgestone's (800/465-1904, www.motorcycle-karttires.com) excellent BT-010 tires are offered in a wide range of sizes, including 110/70-17 front (identical to stock) and 150/60-18 rear (slightly wider than stock) tires that fit on the FZR's wheels. Clearance to the brake stay arm is minimal; if you fit a 150-series rear tire, pay close attention to this detail.
A mixture of 15- and 20-weight...
A mixture of 15- and 20-weight Yamalube fork oil ($4.95/pint) stiffened up the pogo-stick front fork and made the bike less pitch-happy on the brakes.
One often overlooked maintenance...
One often overlooked maintenance item is lubricating the brake lever's pivot. The FZR's bushing was totally dry, and a dab of grease made a surprising improvement to brake feel and control.
DP Brakes (800/369-1000, www.dp-brakes.com) provided a set of SDP HH+ sintered pads (the company's supersport offering which features quick break-in and high friction) to replace the two-thirds-worn front pads, along with a set of standard pads for the rear (for long life and excellent wet/dry performance). The FZR already had a set of braided stainless steel brake lines up front, but some fresh Yamalube brake fluid was pumped through to improve feel at the lever.
While we didn't update the suspension on the FZR, there are many options available in that department, as the FZR has a long racing history. Up front, the fork tubes were flushed and filled with thicker oil to stiffen the front end a bit, but otherwise we left well enough alone. The next step would be a replacement shock and stiffer fork springs along with Race-Tech's cartridge emulators. Going further, many FZR owners have replaced the stock swingarm with an FZR400 unit (lighter and stronger) and added a fork brace up front.
Once the little FZR's makeover was complete, the engine ran noticeably smoother and crisper than previously. It feels much more responsive, and pulls harder in the midrange. The Vance & Hines exhaust is nice and quiet when puttering about town, only getting progressively louder the more revs are used. Our SuperFlow dyno is offline temporarily, but we'll have a chart showing pre- and post-modification traces in the next installment of This Old Bike.
The DP brake pads are a huge improvement, and up front the new pads offer the usual sintered-pad characteristics of good progressivity and feel, along with excellent stopping power. The front brakes felt quite grabby at first, but surprisingly it turned out to be caused by the lever's pivot, which was dry and binding. A quick clean and a spot of grease made a big difference there. Out back, the DP standard rear pads were initially grabby, but now broken in provide good feel and feedback.
Even with the thicker front fork oil, the front end still dives under braking more than we'd like. Rider's weighing more than about 150 pounds will most likely need stiffer springs along with 20-weight fluid instead of the 15/20-weight mix we used. Still, for almost 16,000 miles of use, the FZR's fork and stock shock work surprisingly well. It didn't take much to have the Yamaha looking and performing better than new, and even though the FZR600 is three generations old now, it's still a fun, sporting package. According to the Blue Book (www.kbb.com), used FZR600's range from $2300 (1989 model) to $4620 (1999 model).
When we finished Erica Polites' Yamaha FZR600 for last issue's This Old Bike, our dyno was temporarily unavailable and we couldn't include a chart with the story. Plus, we had some jetting woes to sort out, as the bike was running rich with even stock jetting. The final dyno run shows a peak of 75 horsepower, good for a California-spec FZR, and way better than what we saw before the modifications. Needless to say, Erica is happy with her transformed FZR.
We're looking for older sportbikes in the Los Angeles area to feature in This Old Bike. If you have a mechanically sound bike you feel would be a good candidate, send a picture and details to Sport Rider, Attn: This Old Bike, 6420 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90048-5515 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared in the August 2002 issue of Sport Rider.