2003 Yamaha YZF-R6 Comparison

Kevin Duke | July 24, 2003
Yamaha R6
The R6 is the decathalete of the group, able to do everything from the track to the street without a whimper. Flame job paint will cost an extra $100.

“Compared to the others, the CBR is truly gutless on the bottom end,” says Hutchison, adding riding two-up requires much feathering of the clutch. Chamberlain agreed that as a streetbike engine, the CBR left something to be desired. “For the street, I’d like something with a bit more midrange. On the track, though, the motor is great because you rarely drop below 10,000 and it feels like it will rev forever.”

Which leaves us with the R6, clandestinely lurking in the shadows, not making itself obvious. It’s almost invisible on the dyno charts, only standing out by its dip in power around 8500 rpm. But for some reason, most of our testers gave the heavily revised mill strong marks and it only just lost out in voting to the big-cube ZX in the engine rankings.

“When I got off the Ninja I was thinking that the Yamaha would be in trouble in the motor department,” says Hutchison. “But I was wrong. The R6 is so smooth and provides decent power in the lower rev range where a mortal will spend a great portion of their life when riding on the street.”

The Honda overwhelmed our judges for the best gearbox voting, but second place was a close three-way fight. Several testers beefed about the Kawasaki transmission, saying that neutral was difficult to find, though it was otherwise uncriticized.

2003 Yamaha YZF-R6 Highs & Lows
  • Bank-vault-solid chassis
  • Flawless fuel injection
  • Jewel-like frame and swingarm 
  • Lack of midrange steam
  • Gearbox still not as smooth as rivals
  • Tough new competition from Honda and Kawasaki 


Brakes on modern high-performance bikes are so good that discerning the difference between really good and great is difficult, especially on the street. Taking the bikes on the track further confused the issue. While each of the bikes got a full-mark rating from at least one of our testers, like most categories in this comparison, it’s the Suzuki that came up a bit short. Its Tokico 4-piston calipers and 320mm discs are not able to match the whoa power of the rest. However, fast guy Roberti had them tied for his favorite with the CBR’s, praising their ease of modulation.

The Honda’s Nissin, 4-piston, 2-pad calipers and 310mm discs got the highest cumulative rating from our group. The radial-mount 4-piston, 4-pad, 280mm Tokico units on the ZX perhaps would’ve taken the top award if Roberti hadn’t noticed them fading when abused on the track, something none of our other testers experienced. We suspect the fading Roberti experienced was unique to our test bike, as no other publication has mentioned it. In fact, four of our six riders gave the ZX’s brakes full marks.


Kevin Duke

Contributing Editor|Articles | Bashing A legend in the motorcycle industry, Duke Danger is known for his wheelie riding antics, excellent writing skills, appetite for press intro dinners and a propensity to wake up late. Once a fearless member of the MotoUSA team, the Canadian kid is often missed but never forgotten.

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