Hello, my fellow bike-lovers. My name is Vishal and I am a proud owner of a Yamaha FZ-S. I have been crazy about bikes since forever. I used to memorize the numbers of my most favorite bikes because that made feel like I owned them. I am a huge fan of the Rx series of Yamaha.
One of my most favorite memories is riding with my uncle on his Yezdi 350 twin, that twin cylinder beast. My parents decided on getting me a bike because I had been hounding them for years. They told me I could have one after my board exams, so that I could use it for college and I agreed.
The exams came and went and luckily, I happened to do well (97.5% overall) and so my parents decided to buy me one as a token of appreciation. My old Kawasaki RTZ was getting long in the tooth and spent more time in the garage than on the road so time was ripe for change.
I started reading reviews after reviews for almost 2 months (before the results were out) and made a list of bikes I could go for,
- Bajaj Pulsar 150
- Tvs Apache RTR 160
- Yamaha R15
- Honda Unicorn and Dazzler
- Suzuki gs150r
- HH CBZ Xtreme and Hunk
- Yamaha FZS
Firstly, the Pulsar 150
It was a very Value For Money deal. Decent features, low price, and huge fan base. But then, the people I knew who owned pulsars seemed a very sad lot after 2-3 years. They said the bike had lost most of its initial sprightly-ness and required constant servicing and also, Pulsars were so common that I had become bored of them. So the Pulsar was out. If budget was a big part of the equation then the Pulsar is an obvious pick.
Next, the Apache RTR 160/180
Nice looker. Here in Chennai, Apaches are synonymous with reckless road racers destined for bad accidents. Now, I am not a very reckless chap, yet my parents were sceptical about it. During a football tournament for boys which I attended, I noticed that boys my age were mostly Pulsar/Apache maniacs.
Thinking I was sold on the Apache, I asked my friend to lend me his RTR 160 for a test ride on an unused length of road. I started it and gave it a little throttle just to get my adrenalin up. Then I dumped the clutch and twisted it fully. My-oh-my. This thing really goes. For a novice, wheely-ing (albeit a tiny wheelie) in your very first launch was a sign of good things to come.
The tachometer climbed briskly to 5k rpm and then came a nasty vibration which increased with increasing revs. Nevertheless, I pushed on. 2nd gear, 58kmph, 10k rpm; 3rd gear, 11k rpm, 85kmph. Mother of god! I can’t take it anymore. My feet were getting numb, my hands were beginning to hurt and my butt was vibrating still.
The front panels and stuff at the rear were shaking violently. So I let-off and decelerated as soon as possible. It dropped below 4.5k rpm and then came this zen-like calmness. The bike acted like nothing had ever happened. This is not ordinary, I thought to myself. It was like the jekyll and hyde story. I returned to my friend more scared than impressed.
This is one hell of a bike which is definitely going to get me into trouble and I simply loved it. No wonder so many teens rode it. I wouldn’t change a thing about it (maybe only the tyres). The vibrations were a shock probably because the R15 of another friend which I had ridden earlier that day (to 120kmph) was almost completely devoid of any vibrations.
I asked my friend how he rides it and then came the shocker. Despite repeated servicing and monthly maintenance (being a passionate biker himself), his bike had lots of teething problems and spares issues (once, his throttle cable failed at 11pm and had to push it all the way home for 3 hours).
Plus, if you ride it regularly the way you just did, don’t expect an engine life of over 2 years, he said. But then how can anyone possibly resist the temptation and there is not really any other way to ride an Apache, is there? I kept my decision on hold. I had to consider reliability (I frequently push my bikes to their limits and can’t afford risks) and maintenance issues (can’t afford to spend a lot in repairs).
The next bike I buy will be with my money and that’s quite a while away. I had to preserve mine for at least 5-6 years. No matter how much I loved the apache, I had to count it out. Plus, my parents heard how our plumber’s son died in a road accident on his apache and completely refused me that bike.
Next up, the Yamaha R15 (The original V1.0 )
To be honest, I didn’t like how it looked. It was a miniature, confused-looking sports bike which didn’t make any sense to me. Being a fan of hard, street-focused, naked bikes, to me, the R15 seemed to be a showpiece because of the people usually riding it.
(Rich, fat guys who didn’t know a thing about motor-racing. No offence to those genuine R15 riders, but lots of r15 owners in Chennai tend to be just posers). It also felt unusually wide and uncomfortable in traffic. Overall, just wasn’t convinced the R15 fitted my need for a strong street-focused bike. If I went to the track regularly, it would have been my bike (although, heavily modified).
Next is the Honda Unicorn
An excellent ’uncle’s bike’ in my opinion. Despite its many admirable qualities, I wrote it off immediately. This is my youth, I will have lots of time to mature and make rational decisions. Now is my time to be a hooligan and I am going to take it.
If I were 30 years old, it would have been my first-choice pick. Who would say no to that butter smooth, vibration-free engine and Honda’s legendary reliability. Since I was only seventeen then, it was a big no-no.
The Next Choice was – the Dazzler
Yes, just the Dazzler and not the pathetic full name “Honda CB Unicorn Dazzler”. I was seriously interested in this bike because it had the Unicorn’s beautiful motor in a more rev-friendly setup and was at least partially better looking than the Unicorn.
With my fingers crossed, I stepped into a showroom for a test ride. I casually asked the guy there if I could get my own in say a week and was shocked when he smirked and said that it would be at least 6 months before I even see my bike. That’s it, I was pissed and left the showroom before even taking a test ride.
No wonder there are so few Dazzlers around. about two years ago, when my dad thought of getting my mom a Honda Activa, the showroom guy said it would take a few months (Luckily, that made him purchase a Suzuki Access, a much better scooter in my opinion).
Honda seriously needs to rethink its sales setup. Apart from that, the bike performed as expected. No sudden rushes, perfectly thought out motor, but feedback was at best- vague. It felt more like a bike for the straights.
Then came the Suzuki GS150R
Nicely-engineered bike, but it was nothing special. I hated its wheels and plastic covers for the front forks. The bike also had a peculiar image. I took it for a test ride and noticed that it lacked serious punch. It was more for long office commutes rather than some spirited, sports-riding with friends and to top it off, it had a toe-and-heel shifter, which I despised.
HH duo- The Hunk and the CBZ Xtreme
Both are considered together because they are essentially the same bike with different panels screwed on. My dad wanted me to get the hunk (being a HH fan himself). After riding one, I too was partially convinced with it. It looked great in the black and red color scheme. Also being a HH, one could probably do some insane stuff and it would still work without problems.
The CBZ was dropped because I liked the way the hunk looked better. The performance was again, as expected. Progressive, linear, not explosive like the Apache’s, and mostly just sustained brilliance. And so, with two days to go before the results, I had decided what my ride would be, but I didn’t feel 100% happy yet. There was something missing.
I realized I hadn’t tested the FZ yet. So I begged my mom to take me to the showroom. Once there, I was in complete awe as the entire room was filled with R15s and FZS in different colors. No other bike from the Yamaha stable was even seen. I wondered then why Yamaha even bothered to make other models.
So, while my mum was speaking with the agent there, I was busy stroking these splendid machines. I hadn’t seen an FZ16 up close like this before. But here, in showroom condition, it was the sparkle in my eye. What a flawless experiment in design, it was. No other Indian bike looked like it.
So fuss-free, uncluttered, without any unnecessary curves or extra panels (like the stupid HH ZMR). I sat on it and looked at my reflection on the windows and there was this chill which went up my spine. It looked like a carbon-copy of the FZ1 from a distance. I felt one with it.
It was almost an avatar horse connected to hair like feeling. I had this silly smile on my face while I sat on it. The agent and my mom noticed it. The agent smiled back and said “you really like it huh? “. I nodded my head slowly with that smile still plastered on it. I immediately asked for a test ride.
The agent was initially hesitant since I wasn’t even legal yet, but being just 22, he understood how I felt and showed me the test bike. I sat and switched the thing on. The test drive route took me by some congested areas and then to an almost abandoned road. It was there that I ripped the thing.
Whoa! This bike pulled really hard for a supposedly-slow bike. It was quite unexpected how torquey the bike felt. Every bike I had ridden previously only came alive past 5-6000 rpm, but it was within this that the FZ really surprised me. After reading internet reviews, I wrote off the FZ because it didn’t have proper top end performance.
Lots of people wrote it off in performance tests. I was originally surprised with that because it too like all the150cc bikes developed about 14hp. It certainly didn’t fit my need for rev-friendly engines. What Yamaha had done was dump all those 14 horses inside 7000rpm.
This made the bike feel a lot more potent, grunty, eager and quick accelerating than others, but the downside was that it didn’t have decent top-end performance. While riding through those narrow streets and traffic filled arterial roads, The Yamaha was the most fun to ride and made the most sense.
You can feel a real surge when opening the throttle full in the low revs and this continues vigorously till about 7500 rpm after which its fades away. It didn’t have to be revved to generate speed though. It was then that I realized the genius in Yamaha’s design and sales strategy. Naming it the “lord of the streets” was very apt.
All I wanted was a reasonably powerful commuter bike which looked the part and the FZ ticked all those boxes nicely. If I really wanted to experience serious triple-digit speeds, I would have to buy a super-bike because anyway one sees it, all our sub 250cc bikes are essentially commuter/learner bikes elsewhere in the world and by simply buying the fastest commuter You don’t become a super-biker.
The FZ gave me a completely different angle to look at my dilemma. Why not have the best of both worlds? You can look like a super/super-street biker and go like a commuter. It is essentially what we all do.
Don’t we all love the R15 for its sports-bike looks? Don’t we all want super bike like features on our bikes such as clip-ons, rear-set foot pegs, split seats, wide tyres and disc brakes. Don’t we all? In essence, irrespective of what bike you buy, (in the sub 250cc segment).
We all want super-bike like looks with commuter bike-like characteristics like decent mileage, comfort, maintenance free ownership etc. Yamaha realized this only now and that’s why their two most recent models -the R15 and the FZ have become such hits.
For me, the FZ delivers in most departments – looks, reasonable power, mileage, reliability and comfort. The other bonuses that I got with its purchase are the superb handling, spot-on riding position for the city (you ride with your chest out, arms wide apart, your feet back, and spine upright).
Perfect fit for me (6 2′) and my body type (tall, slightly muscular and heavy, 76kgs), wonderful weight distribution (you feel the entire weight of the bike is only between your thighs), excellent build-quality, fabulous paint-job (mine is the FZ-S black cyber-green version), wonderful cornering capabilites (you can corner at serious speeds and angles with this bike).
Rock-solid stability (you can ride with your hands off of the bar, though I don’t recommend it, and still the bike will stay true to its path and not wander for even a second. Try that on the competition’s bikes and you would be nervous while doing it), my dad was shocked with the angle of lean.
I could achieve on this bike- at least 45-50 degrees off vertical (thanks to those wonderfully wide and grippy tyres), its safe to say that he won’t be riding with me any time soon. Wonderful gearbox you really have to experience it to believe it.
It has probably the best gears on any indian bike and is equivalent to the R15 (well, the r15 gears feel lighter to slot into whereas the fz’s gears feel heavier, again on purpose by Yamaha to increase that macho feeling), they slot in with a nice click. Finding neutral was never this easy. I have never had any false neutrals.
It is very important to stress about the gearbox because I have had a few bad experiences on Apaches, bullets and even my old rtz. False neutrals in the middle of a fast overtake almost resulted in a bad accident once for me.
Nice instrument console (personally, its a little too colorful for my liking, and I prefer analog tachos), nice swithgear, great seat (really good for short commutes across the city, don’t really know how it does on the high way).
But then all bikes have their fair share of problems. Here are mine.
The Bad And The Ugly
The mileage is pathetic for this category of motorcycles. With sane riding and even a proper run-in you can only expect 42 kmpl max. Once you start ripping the thing, it drops to 35kmpl. But then for my usage (maximum 600 kms a month), I can live with that mileage.
The pillion seat is a little small. It’s not meant for ‘large’ aunties. It’s best suited for normal to slightly obese guys/girls. My friends fit in fine and so do I. Even my mom is comfortable. The next thing is the front number-plate. It’s a complete eye-sore, but there is no alternate (legal) method of displaying your numbers.
The side-stand is awkwardly positioned, right between the foot-peg and the gear shift lever. You can’t engage it immediately. Once, I thought I had engaged it and leant the bike. It almost fell. But luckily, I got it back in control.
There is a noise that comes when I use the front brakes. The svc guy says it’s normal and is seen in all bikes with disc brakes. I don’t believe him. Maybe there isn’t enough brake fluid (? Stupid guess) or the disc is not perfectly flat or there is something wrong with the caliper/pads or, the svc guy is correct.
The grab handle for the pillion is completely useless. It sits right under your bottom and you have to dig under it for a while to find it and it isn’t even comfortable to hold.
Some Interesting Stuff About It
- Yamaha has taken a huge deal of effort to make it look international. It’s evident in the side-panel which looks like a twin-spar frame (like the one on the R15). Also, the engine shrouds actually look like a radiator and also cover up the diamond frame. The swing-arm has plastic bits on it which make it look like the sporty upside-down swing-arm on the YZF R1 and nicely hides the fact that it’s just an ordinary rectangular swingarm.
- A kick-starter? What’s that? It’s been so long since I have kick-started a bike that it almost seems alien now. The self starter is flawless. It has never failed me. I swear by that.
- It isn’t devoid of vibrations and certainly has them. Ride it harshly and it protests but beyond 5500 rpm there is only a change in engine sound and much reduced vibrations completely unlike an Apache.
- The exhaust is actually made of some plastic (the outer-part ). One hard step on it and it will break into pieces. If you have a pillion, make sure he/she doesn’t step on it.
- The tachometer starts from zero and jumps straight to 2000 rpm. Which is stupid. You don’t notice it at first. The zero must actually have been a 1.
- The choke lever is really stiff and hard to use. Not that I ever use it.
- The pilot lamp is pretty much useless, but it looks cool to have it on while riding.
- There is an extension for the rear mudguard which I immediately removed once it came from the showroom.
- The seat is a little fiddly to put back on and also shakes a little.
- The only place to keep your insurance and rc book copy is inside the plastic rear panels. There is no box or random place allocated for it.
- The majority of the tank is plastic. The real tank is in the centre to which plastic panels are bolted-on on either sides.
- The fuel indicator is un-believable. It starts blinking even after filling 300/- rs. worth of petrol. I personally only fill the tank every time it falls in reserve.
- The rear brakes were useless. It was like it didn’t even exist. The first svc solved that. It works at least partially now. Works better when used in combination with the front brake and in urgent cases, with engine-braking too.
- Not many bikes can turn heads like this one. (well maybe the R15 does) but there is no hiding from the fact that this is one of the hottest motors in India. Almost everyone gives a second look. I even made lots of friends at the gym after I bought my bike. They would ask me questions and request for rides.
- Nothing commutes better than this. I removed the mirrors (I never use them anyway) and the saree guard (sorry aunties, uncle will come to pick you) and it becomes a traffic carver. you can zig-zag between gaps (within limits of course) lean quickly and confidently (because you always know and feel what your tyres are doing), stop in a split second (thanks to that large front disc).
- Its an absolute gem within 100kmph. I haven’t/couldn’t take it much farther. It struggles for breath past 110kmph.
- It takes a lot of abuse and still rides on. You would have to be a terrible rider to disturb it. It’s wonderful for novices because they can learn about grip and feel and cornering quickly.
- After riding this bike, every other bike seems like a step-down. No, seriously speaking, it really does feel a step down in terms of feedback. I would go as far as saying it offers better tyre feel and feedback under hard braking than the duke 200!
- Fit an aftermarket filter and the engine’s sound becomes much better. You can ride around normally without making a sound, a little like the unicorn. But once you decide to rip it, the intake roar that comes is awesome.
- Its not possible to fit a crash guard. The only one available for fitting looks awful. In fact, any crash guard on it destroys the whole look.
- The gear ratios are almost perfect. First gear seems a bit short but second makes up for it. You can easily start off in second gear without working the clutch a lot. Fifth gear and 4.5k rpm equals exactly 60kmph which is when the bike feels calmest. I frequently ride at this speed back from football practice when my muscles are sore and I dont feel like riding enthusiastically.
- The throttle is hard to twist. Obvious attempt at making it feel macho and an absolute pain in the butt if you just hurt your wrist from football practice.
- I can’t live without tubeless tyres anymore. They are so convenient. I have a couple of nails sticking up the rear tyre and still don’t lose much air. I only re-inflate every week or so and it feels fine.
- The best way to ride an FZ is to up-shift early and ride on the torque wave. Almost like a long bore tourer. Notice gaps in traffic earlier and maintain your momentum. It’s surprising how easily one can keep up with much faster bikes by riding this way.
- It’s the perfect bike to master the advanced skills of riding (viz. engine braking, throttle blipping, clutchless shifting, cornering, powersliding and stunting) because it has a very controllable power delivery, tremendous feedback (both from the tyres and from the brakes), you could be sliding your front or rear wheel and yet bring it back under control quickly. The ABS is in your fingers.
- For the average rider who doesn’t pay much attention to feedback, the FZ will seem very boring. But if you look beyond acceleration figures, this is the bike you would want to be on.
- When I was younger and inexperienced, riding bikes like I stole them, I have had lots of near misses and close-calls which would have been safe experiences on the FZ. It’s made my life a lot safer, calmed me down and made me an intelligent rider rather than an instinctive rider.
As an owner, I am definitely biased towards my bike. It’s like a wife. Once you have one, you don’t really look at other girls (I mean women).
The fz16/fzs is perfect for you if,
- You love to cruise around town at moderate speed, soaking all the attention.
- You are tired with the numerous Indian bikes available and want something that looks international but isn’t internationally priced.
- You live on or near a hill because you would never get tired of riding this bike. It becomes addictive after a while.
- You have a fat purse. If you’re dependant on your parents for petrol money (like I am) then be ready for some begging.
- If power cuts occur frequently near your home. That way you can sit outside under a tree, sipping some juice, and admire your bike standing in the light. I especially love how it looks from the rear three quarters angle.
- You have a girlfriend interested in bikes because she will love it as much as you and can be the source of conversation every time you two go out. (maybe an exaggeration. At least she can learn to ride geared bikes easily on the FZ).
- You like to have fun while commuting.
- You love bikes. Otherwise it would look too over-the-top, expensive and thirsty.
And here comes the end of my review. If you had the patience to read it fully, then you must really be a motorcycle enthusiast. If you expected technical specs, then sorry, visit the Yamaha website. This is an ownership review. It’s where owners tell things about their bikes which the company’s website doesn’t.
My sincere thanks to Deepak and the whole BikeAdvice team. You guys are awesome. Thank you all for reading. Remember, “Four wheels move the body but only two wheels can move the soul”. Ride on, ride safe and ride hard!