The Yamaha YX600S Radian
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Using existing parts to create something new was hardly a fresh concept; manufacturers have been doing it forever, and still do. For one, it’s economical, enabling a manufacturer to use proven and — more importantly — paid for pieces. For another, it cuts development time enormously, since most of the bike already exists, its parts just waiting to get reassigned to a new whole.
In the Radian’s case, the engine was the tried and true 8-valve inline four used in the FJ600, but modified with 2mm smaller carburetors (30mm instead of 32mm) and other tweaks for better mid-range and low-end torque. The carburetor airbox was lifted from the 550 Maxim, as was the frame, which made sense as the FJ600 engine case was the same as the 550 Maxim, making the FJ600 mill a bolt-in proposition. Further, the aluminum grab rail on the seat tail was from the Fazer, as were the Radian’s tach and speedometer, headlight, taillight, mirrors and turn signals. The front disc brake rotors were from the RZ350 and the calipers from the FJ600, while the shifter was from the 550 Maxim. Outside of its bodywork, the only parts unique to the Radian were the front forks and rear shocks.
Bang for the buckTesters couldn’t say enough good things about the Radian, and certainly its low $2,399 price tag went a long way toward explaining why. “This is a machine that would be a solid buy at around three grand,” Cycle World enthused. “But at $2,399 it’s a screaming deal. It has to be the best buy of the year.”
Further impressing testers was the feeling that the Radian was a machine whose whole seemed more than the sum of its parts. Road Rider called it “the Most-Fun-For-The-Dollar” motorcycle bargain of the year, lauding it as a more “superior all-around motorcycle than any of the narrowly specialized craft from which it borrowed its various components.” Underscoring that point was the Radian’s excellent performance, the new bike coming in two-tenths of a second and 3.5mph faster in the quarter mile than Yamaha’s own sporty and non-derivative FJ600.
No machine is ever perfect, of course, and the Radian was singled out for a few faults. Chief among them, ironically enough, was its poor suspension performance. Seems those few parts unique to the Radian weren’t fully developed, as testers universally complained of springy front forks and weak rear shocks with insufficient damping. The Radian’s riding position was also a source of irritation, not because it was too sporty or too upright, but because the bike’s short wheelbase and tight packaging squeezed riders much taller than 5 foot 10 inches.