2010 Yamaha Fazer Ownership Review by Koshy Philip

Motorcycling has always been a passion and I’m writing to share my experience of the 2010 Yamaha Fazer. As a review of ownership experience this article might seem a little long, but I did want to go over reasons why I chose this motorcycle before detailing my actual experience. Please do be patient reading through it.

Before writing this ownership review I must say this was an experience that almost didn’t happen if only for the reason that I’d had a closed mind on most motorcycles and focused on the ones I liked. I’d been fascinated with Enfield Bullets for long and I was back to the Bullet after several motorcycles through the years but when my 1985 Enfield Bullet 350 STD started acting up again and when I’d been spending as many hours with my mechanic as I’d been riding it, it was time for a change.

The Enfield has often been described as the Indian Harley Davidson, a classic motorcycle, a capable tourer and a lot else and with a 350cc single cylinder was one of the bigger engine capacity motorcycles on the market and I can only say the last two descriptions are possibly true but an Indian “ Harley Davidson” ? Whoever said that had way too much imagination! This isn’t about the Enfield’s though and it’s about the Fazer so I’ll come back to our topic.

Having then decided to look outside of Enfield’s, there was the lingering question of what I wanted from my motorcycle. I asked myself what I wanted and the answers came. I’d want a motorcycle that was locally available at a fairly reasonable cost, with spares I could pick up whenever I needed it and a professional service centre to maintain my bike. I’d want to tour a bit whenever possible , give in to my occasional adrenaline rushes, have a motorcycle that was reliable and not end up dwarfing the bike, my being 5’11 and a little over 105 Kilos.

I put it in this sequence primarily because the first concern would be that the motorcycle could be bought and would be well taken care of before considering what I’d do with it. The first look over told me this wasn’t going to be easy. the choices were plenty. There had to be some criteria for all this and I decided it’d be a bike that would be 150c.c or more and while the smaller engines are not bad at all for the normal commute and exceptional on fuel returns I was looking for that little bit extra.

The Bajaj Avenger 220 was an obvious tourer choice but then, all of the bikes 150 c.c and more would sit on a comfortable 80 kph and have that little extra grunt when needed on the highways. The Avenger wouldn’t quite pacify my adrenaline rushes though, not because it wasn’t fast, but because of the easy cruiser style riding position. One would possibly like to imagine being on a sports bike when the adrenaline rushes came on and the Avenger’s easy riding position just doesn’t inspire that feeling.

The choices then were the Hero Honda Karizma ZMR, the Karizma R, the Hunk , the Achiever, the Bajaj Pulsar 220, the Honda Unicorn and the more recent Unicorn Dazzler, The Yamaha YZF R15, the Apache RTR and the Suzuki GS150R. Was I missing something? Yes indeed! the FZ16 and the Fazer, reason why I’d earlier said this was an experience that almost didn’t happen because at one stage I’d almost missed including these motorcycles in my shortlist. So there it was, about 10 plus choices… and all good.

The Karizma ZMR was my first choice stylish, good specifications and a fairly big bike. It would be a performer they said – Yeah, right!!! When we do get it! Don’t quite understand why company’s offer bikes they can’t give you in two weeks or less and I was rather annoyed at being told of waiting periods of around four months or so. That got me looking for a used Karizma R but after unrealistic expectations of sellers , a few bikes viewed and quotes of between Rs.55000 -65000 for two and three year old bikes I decided a new bike at between 65,000 – 1,00,000 was an obvious choice.

I’ll detail briefly on what led me to my ultimate choice before actually speaking about it. Waiting periods narrowed down choices drastically and so did manufacturers besides other factors. The Avenger was ruled out because it was cruiser styling and I did want a bike a little sportier looking. The Pulsar had the speed but didn’t offer a very comfortable riding position if I did want to cover a few hundred kilometres.

Coupled with this was general scepticism of Bajaj build quality and the durability of their engines. The TVS Apache was nimble and fast and easy to handle but a bit too small and light for my liking. A chance meeting with a couple of TVS mechanics who said their Apache’s were problematic excluded this option altogether. If the guys building and maintaining the bikes didn’t have the confidence in their motorcycles how would I? Ultimately I asked myself if any of these bikes would have been worth the wait should I choose to do that. The Karizma was an option again, the ZMR or just the R.

I‘d want to do 80kph at least and I’d want enough power to overtake another vehicle if required when I ride the highways and be able to cruise along for several hundred kilometers when necessary and last but not least have a feel good factor. All of these bikes could do above 80kph comfortably. Having ridden ever so often at speeds at or well above 120 kph on other bikes on our roads I knew I was always stressed when I got back from a ride and didn’t quite enjoy it fully. I think it’s because at high speeds I just didn’t have the confidence I’d be able to bring my motorcycle to a stop within a reasonable distance in emergency situations.

I’d be constantly worrying about that careless pedestrian who would choose to cross the road without looking, about cattle and dogs which could stray on to the roads and crazy motorists who’d sometimes drive or ride as if they were the only vehicle on the road and quite often forget to even signal a turn and of vehicles and buses that drive on the right side into your lane, intent to overtake traffic in their own lane and oblivious if oncoming traffic had space to maneuver.

A sensible 80 Kph seemed good enough. Top speed suddenly didn’t matter and neither did higher horsepower or engine capacity. The bike just had to have decent enough specifications and performance parameters.

I’d almost made a decision and selected the Hero Honda Hunk for its size, styling and engine with Honda technology backing. I was going to pay for it the next day and the dealer had silver coloured Hunk he could give me straight away. Luckily, I spoke to my friends just in time, to Carl and Romesh who are knowledgeable on bikes and whose opinion I trust and my friend Roby who insisted I look at all my shortlisted options before making a decision. This actually got me down to an important issue…. my motorcycle engine, the heart of it and the most critical.

The Hunk was put on hold because I was inclined to go with companies that had been making quality world class performance motorcycles for years and that narrowed down my choices to three, Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki. The Honda Unicorn and the Dazzler didn’t quite impress me and though they had wonderful specifications and would be great for a lighter rider it just didn’t feel right for me. The Suzuki GS 150R didn’t look spectacular and though it had great specifications and a six speed gearbox it didn’t have that grunt and little bit extra I wanted from my bike. So there I was looking at the Yamaha’s as my choice.

The R15 was a little too sporty for me and the FZ appealed with its street fighter looks. It was just that the Fazer seemed to be an ideal combination of the two. Yamaha was promoting the Fazer as a tourer and I’d read, seen and heard a lot about the Fazer by then.

Most of you would be well aware of the specifications and special features of the Fazer so I won’t go through it again in much detail but looking at the motorcycle, the Fazer looked good with great build quality, excellent finish and sporty looks. Watching a video of the Yamaha India factory assembly line on You Tube inspired further confidence.

An engine capacity of 153 c.c and power of 14 bhp seemed sufficient and considering the kerb weight of the bike is just about 141 Kilos, the bike wasn’t too light either. So having my basic parameters met I went on to assess the motorcycle in more detail. More attention to technical specifications would almost read like a road test and not an experience so I’ve been focusing more on feelings and impressions than on the actual features and technical specifications of this motorcycle. I was considering all that had been said about the motorcycle and how it’d affect me. Here’s a link to one of the review’s.

I’ll go over the negatives first. I’d read reviews that said it just didn’t have the power for the highways but I reckoned even a top speed of around 100 kph and being able to stay comfortably on 80 kph was good enough for reasons I’d detailed earlier. They said the fuel tank capacity was disappointing with a 12 litre tank and they’d have liked a bigger tank. The way I saw it, 12 litres meant about 360 Kms even at 30 kms per litre and to me that was ample considering I’d want to be averaging no more than 300 or 350 Kms in a day even on a tour and the fuel tank capacity would necessitate only one tankful of fuel a day.

Even if I did want to cover several hundred more kilometers in a day an additional fuel stop didn’t really seem to be that much of a bother and I was sure I’d find a fuel station with quality petrol within 300 odd kilometres along my route. They said the bike didn’t have a kick starter and if the battery or the electric start failed for one reason or the other one would be well and truly stranded if it happened on any of the back country roads.

Having been used to a single cylinder 650 without a kick start as well and not having had problems at all, the lack of a kick start did not trouble me that much. They said the plastic covered fuel tank didn’t allow the use of tank bags with magnetic fasteners and there weren’t any points to tie in luggage. Tank bags ideally would hold a map, vehicle documents, a few snacks if necessary, water, maybe a camera.

I personally don’t care much for tank bags because I seldom use maps and find the other little knick-knacks can be conveniently put away just as handy elsewhere. Saddlebags and tankbags can be cumbersome too sometimes

The major roads and highways have well marked directions and if it were back country roads I’d still find a local to guide me. It isn’t like we travel through uncharted off road territory and most often we’re on tarmac rather than on dirt or back country roads. There are little tea shops that have drinking water, tea and snacks on almost every road, so no reason really to be packing snacks and water unless I’m riding out really early or late at night.

As for vehicle documents I keep copies in the bike itself and have no reason to be carrying additional copies. I don’t reckon it’s too much bother popping the seat to get the document copies if asked to produce them. A back pack or hip pouch is what I’d prefer for the day rides and for longer tours I still prefer the simple duffel which is way easier to pack and keep organized than saddle bags. With a whole range of luggage options and ways to secure them inability to use magnetic tank bags or saddlebags just wasn’t going to be a major factor I’d consider.

My one grouch was that I’d have preferred water cooling to air or oil cooling but considering riders had done the Saddlesore ride, 1600 Kms in 24 hours, successfully on Fazers and a FZ16 as well. I reckoned the air cooling on this motorcycle couldn’t be all that bad. The absence of a crash guard did worry me a bit initially and riding motorcycles, we’re bound to have a fall one time or the other, but with most superbikes equipped with frame rollers and few instances of riders legs being actually caught below the motorcycles in crashes this ceased to be a real worry.

If I did fall off I’d most likely be away from the motorcycle. All the other positives appealed though and made me more inclined towards the Fazer. The positive things said were of good styling, quality finish, aerodynamics and a comfortable riding posture. Added to this was positive opinions about the midship design muffler that concentrated the exhaust system weight closer to the centre and therefore made for a more balanced ride, the wide tyres and monocross suspension that made for much better stability and control and the all digital meter console that was well positioned and readable . I apparently had everything I wanted and my decision was made.

They did take a few days to get the bike registered and there were a few glitches. Walking in to pick up my bike at the showroom I was a little disappointed to see one of the mechanics or a staff member at the showroom being sent out to clean the bike up with a cloth and a bucket of water. It had rained that morning when the bikes were taken out for registration but I’d expect that they’d water wash the motorcycle and keep it clean and checked for the customer to pick up.

Their paperwork and handover was however fairly efficient otherwise and made up a bit for the motorcycle being cleaned up at the last minute. Generally, most of our motorcycle dealers are still a little laid back when it comes to customer service and they often deliver bikes with just enough fuel to get to the nearest petrol bunk. I was actually glad, the few glitches apart, that the Yamaha dealer I got my bike from was fairly efficient. Specifications might sound good enough, opinions can be one thing, reviews another and there was no way of knowing if all or any of it was real.

This then, was my moment of truth. Standing next to the Fazer I realized it did look big enough for me and looked pretty cool. At that moment I did feel a certain elation in going with Yamaha. I had one of the best motorcycle manufacturers in the world behind my motorcycle and that gave me plenty of additional confidence on the quality of this motorcycle. I just knew then that I was going to enjoy this motorcycle and take everything that came with it, good or bad, with a smile. Just a day prior to picking up the bike I’d decided I would go with the controversial and much debated Motoman’s break in routine for this bike.

Contrary to the normal break in, this method recommends breaking in an engine hard. Considering most motorcycles are run hard through the gears on the dyno before final inspection and delivery there seemed no real reason not to give this method a try. So I had the bike started and idling for a bit – I needed to have my engine a little warm and I really know the importance of getting the motorcycle to the right operating temperatures before riding. The first km or so would have gotten the engine warmer and warm enough to open up that throttle!

The initial fueling done, I was good to go! The start inspired confidence and the initial run even more so but I was well and truly hooked when I opened the throttle hard. Contrary to everything I’d expected the acceleration was smooth and fast. I should have figured this one out primarily because this motorcycle was more designed for low and mid range power delivery. I came up to my first curve and took it tentatively being unsure of how the Fazer would take it.

The nice and controlled way it took to the curve got me way more comfortable with the next few that came up and I must say the Fazer really does handle the curves and corners pretty well. I did my 32 Kilometres down the ECR, the road along which I live and which goes up from Chennai to Pondicherry, and rode home. After my oil and oil filter change the next morning I was up for a ride again and rode the motorcycle up to Mahabalipuram and back home 80 Kms in all. Looking at my oil filter just after the change, I was glad I’d done an oil and oil filter change so quickly. I read somewhere that not all the oil in the engine passes through the oil filter and there were so many tiny metal particles in the oil filter itself that possibly would have been circulating through my engine for all of 1000 Kms and the first scheduled service.

On the ride , the wind buffeting was truly minimal and I knew the windshield was indeed doing what it was designed for and doing it well. The only times that I did feel the wind strongly enough was when there were strong crosswinds.

The Fazer accelerates well enough through the gears though I do stay very briefly on fifth before downshifting again. 300 Kms later, the engine hadn’t fried on me, it still felt wonderful and every ride has been a wonderful experience.

The spark plug is often a good indication of the condition of the engine and my spark plug told me the engine condition was good.

All along it’s been little step up here and there , a few more revs, a little more speed , riding it in hard but easing it slowly up to top performance without redlining .

Something tells me the Fazer will do well over 100Kph and I most definitely don’t want to be lugging the motorcycle in top gear. I’m happy to break in my motorcycle hard but am still wary of crossing 100 kph for the first few hundred kilometers.

I’ve avoided riding in city traffic and chosen to ride on roads out of the city I can really run my motorcycle through all the gears on. Idling gets my engine going up to fairly moderate operating temperatures and the easy ride up to when I get to the open roads warms up the engine sufficiently enough to be able to open up that throttle. The next ride was to Pondicherry and back, about a 280 kilometere round trip from where I live. I made a few stops on the way up to Pondicherry, worrying that I’d get the engine too hot riding it hard as I was, but the response encouraged me to do the return trip all in one go, not riding very hard but going up to fairly good speeds. Considering I was also riding back late evening, I was assured the engine wouldn’t overheat.

Everything so far has been suggestive of the quality of this motorcycle and I somehow expect more to come. Just 625 Kms on the odometer might seem an unlikely time to actually write a review but I reckon one could size up a motorcycle fairly quickly. Yes, I have been asked the usual questions … how much mileage (fuel returns) and how fast does it go. I’ve had fairly mixed responses to my replies of 30+ km per litre and about 100 kph. For my fairly modest demands though, the Fazer matches up and often does better and I truly enjoy riding the Fazer.

All of us ride for one reason or another and apart from basic commuting, some of us like to open up that throttle and give in to that adrenaline rush, some like to travel and cover miles and go easy on it and we most often end up choosing motorcycles that possibly reflect our personalities and attitudes. The Fazer was my choice and I’d gladly recommend this motorcycle to anybody if asked for an opinion. All of us however will and have our own choices and preferences and I feel it’s always best to go with what you personally feel is best for you. Do feel free to comment on any of the details in the review or on anything missed. Before I conclude, here’s wishing you all great rides, fair weather and happy motorcycling always.

– Koshy Philip