We put two of the larger capacity LAMS options to the test - the Ducati Monster 659 and Yamaha FZ6R... Test: Kris Hodgson
When choosing a learner bike the first thing you realise is that everything is a trade-off, although in some cases this is less true than others, for example Ducati’s Monster 659 is virtually identical to the 696 except for the smaller engine that is restricted to LAMS requirements.
On the other hand the FZ6R is a more drastic modification of its original form -coming from an older Yamaha YZF-R6, but down-spec’d in a variety of ways, as well as being tuned for road use and a less aggressive powerband.
In this comparison the Ducati has a distinct advantage, it has retained the original models styling, remains part of the iconic Monster family and is still brimming with premium components, but is offered at a premium price.
The FZ6R is considerably cheaper, doesn’t have the R6’s styling but remains sporty looking, is a detuned engine which is then further restricted at the throttle and has some more basic components -most noticeably the suspension.
The FZ6R has an underbelly exhaust following the latest fashion, minimising and centralising weight, in a move sure to have its supporters and detractors. The 659 on the other hand has dual undertail exhausts creating that typical Ducati burble -an undeniably sexy feature.
Where the parallel-four is noticeably sluggish off the mark at first (which for any new rider will be a boon) the engine proves more interesting once on the boil, creating steady useable power as you roll on the throttle. LAMS restrictions do limit throttle movement though, meaning it is easy to find oneself opening the throttle as wide as possible when fanging around.
The 659 is extremely deceptive from a performance standpoint, with the V-Twin producing a rumbling take off on throttle open that turns into strong power through the rest of the rev range. It is extremely easy to take off and flick up through the gears assuming the bike will need a bit of boot to keep up. Nothing could be further from the truth however and it’s easy to find yourself having to brake and shift down to return to a more legal speed.
Throttle response on acceleration is noticeably more nippy on the Ducati, while engine braking on the FZ6R is smoother and more usable as a comfortable means to decelerate, despite the 659 featuring Ducati’s APTC clutch.
The FZ6R boasts dual 298mm rotors on the front in conjunction with two-piston calipers, in an amazingly uninspiring package, which may well be aimed at keeping new riders from locking up their wheels at the first sign of trouble but requiring a very firm squeeze for maximum stopping potential.
In comparison the 659 boasts dual 320mm rotors on the front with four-piston radial calipers, with very good bite and feel through the levers – although in all fairness the Brembo package is probably the best offered on a learner bike.
The FZ6R’s suspension comprises 41mm Soqi forks and a matching shock with adjustable spring preload, that give a very forgiving and soft ride, ideal for everyday commuting and highway use and proving a suitable everyday ride across a variety of roads. The bike’s extra weight is noticeable in that the bike is happier being pointed into a corner, rather than chucked around and was much more rewarding to ride in this fashion, with good lean angles to be had through the sweepers.
The 659 needs very little direct input to follow your chosen path, while the front suspension swallows up anything but the most excessive potholes, thanks to Showa 43mm upside-down forks. An adjustable progressive linkage Sachs rear monoshock takes care of the rear suspension and was a little firm in comparison to the FZ6R’s offering. The 659’s suspension is a standout within the LAMS options for maintaining a good balance between sport and comfort.
The main point of difference between the two motorcycles became noticeable through particularly tight, poor surfaced areas of road, where the FZ6Rs weight and softer suspension washed out feel from the tyres and confidence.The 659 however with the stiffer rear fared better and maintained its sporty character with good feel and confidence and the ability to really move around on the bike and quickly and easily change your line.
On the 659 the seating position is upright, with good view of the dash and through the mirrors. Reach to the bars is wide, comfortable and not overly aggressive, although the mirrors tend to vibrate violently, hampering vision.
The FZ6R has a similar setup, with a good upright position, comfortable reach to the bars and good ergonomics for longer rides. Thankfully the mirrors remain useful regardless of speed or revs, with none of the vibrations travelling to them when pushing the limits.
On both bikes the attention to detail is good with the mock air intakes providing some flair on the FZ6R and the 659 sharing its larger siblings high quality finish.It is somewhat a case of apples and oranges when comparing the looks themselves though, with the 659 falling squarely into the nakedbike category while the FZ6R is definitely a sportsbike, despite being more like a nakedbike from an ergonomic perspective. It will likely come down to which kind of bike you prefer in this area as both are stylish, with a slight edge going to the Ducati in my biased opinion as someone whose last three bikes have been nakeds.
Ducati’s Monster 659 combines instantly recognisable styling, the larger bike feel and inspiring performance to usher any rider safely onto the road and can last past a rider’s learner or provisional license stages. The only other disadvantage of the 659 as a LAMS option is the price, although price dropped $1000 for the ABS equipped variant in early 2013.
Yamaha’s FZ6R is a great all round option and provides plenty of go, not to mention fun. It’s a very easy bike to ride and is a great option in the larger learner category. If you were to spend the extra money from the 659 on the FZ6R you could no doubt improve it drastically but in all honesty that is money better spent once you reach a full license.
2013 Ducati Monster 659
PRICE: $12,990 RRP + ORC
WARRANTY: Two year/unlimited kilometre, 24h Roadside and Emergency Assist
COLOURS: Red, Stone White, Dark Stealth
CLAIMED POWER: 38kW[51hp]@8250rpm
WET WEIGHT: 161kg
ENGINE: Air-cooled, two-valve per cylinder Desmodromic, 90 L-twin-cylinder, 659cc, 88 x 54.2mm bore x stroke, 10.7:1 compression, Siemens EFI, 45mm throttle body, six-speed, APTC wet multiplate with hydraulic control
CHASSIS: Tubular steel Trellis frame, SEAT HEIGHT: 770mm, WHEELBASE: 1450mm
SUSPENSION: 43mm Showa upside-down forks,Progressive linkage with preload and rebound Sachs adjustable monoshock
BRAKES: Dual 320mm front rotors, four-piston radial calipers, 245mm rear rotor, two-piston caliper
WHEELS & TYRES: Three-spoke light alloy, 120/60 ZR17, 160/60 ZR17
INSTRUMENTS: Digital display
2013 Yamaha FZ6R
PRICE: $9,999 + ORC
WARRANTY: 12 month
COLOURS: Competition White, Team Yamaha Blue/White
CLAIMED POWER: 35kW[47.6hp] CLAIMED TORQUE: N/A
WET WEIGHT: 212kg
FUEL CAPACITY: 17L
ENGINE: Liquid-cooled, DOHC, four-stroke, four-valve, forward-inclined parallel four-cylinder, 600cc, 65.5 x 44.5 mm bore x stroke, EFI, six-speed gearbox, 12.2:1 compression
CHASSIS: Steel diamond-shaped frame,
SEAT HEIGHT: 785mm, WHEELBASE: 1440mm
SUSPENSION: Soqi telescopic forks, 130mm travel, Soqi shock, spring pre-load adjustable
BRAKES: Dual 298mm front rotors, Akebono two-piston calipers, single 245mm rear rotor, Nissin single-piston caliper
WHEELS & TYRES: 120/70-ZR17 (58W), 160/60-ZR17 (69W), Dunlop Sportmax Roadsmart
INSTRUMENTS: Digital dash, analogue speedo