Hooligans rejoice, the R6 offers up the best package for endless wheelies thanks to low end torque and a short first gear.
The little Yamaha has been one of our favorites since it burst onto the scene in 1999, and it’s won our supersport shootout for the past two years. So, what’s there left to say about the fun-tacular R6?
Although the overall package looks quite similar to last year, Yamaha has done some significant tweaking to its popular little screamer for ’05. Although the radial-mount brakes and inverted fork are the obvious upgrades, a more significant alteration has been a reduction of the most radical steering geometry in the class to something closer to the most conservative rake and trail numbers, now at 24.5 degrees and 95mm, respectively. This, along with a 70-series front tire instead of the lower-profile 60-series rubber on the old bike, has given the R6 more stability than it’s ever had.
“The R6 was less twitchy on turn-in, making the whole process a little more smooth and stable, but it still turns in quick and holds the corner well,” says Chamberlain, a TZ250 owner who should know a thing about quick steering. “It does lack some of the front end feel that the Kawasaki and Honda gave me, but was still very confidence inspiring in the corners while being probably the most flickable of the bunch.”
Indeed, the R6 feels the most eager to bend into a turn, and it’s this chuckable nature that endears it to all who sample it. It seems as if Yamaha have worked out the fine details needed to make the R6 into what is one of the most rider-friendly mount. A large portion of credit for this feeling comes down to the riding position and how the narrow bike feels between the knees.
“The Yamaha puts the pilot down in the cockpit and was my personal favorite,” says our Harley-sized tester, Korfie. “I eventually got comfortable after a little bit of time on all the machines, but the R6 fit like a glove the moment I slipped down in. It’s tough to find a middleweight that accommodates my six-foot-two frame, as it seems like most supersports are built for little guys, but the R6 offers up a reasonable reach to the bars while feet rest comfortably down and back behind the hips. It fit perfectly and begged me for as much punishment as I could dish out.”
As for the benefits from the new inverted fork, none could really be discerned in street conditions. The radial-mount brakes, on the other hand, impressed us with the amount of tactile feeling they delivered. Combined with the Brembo radial-pump master cylinder, the R6’s braking performance is stellar, offering up a huge amount of linear power with even less touchiness than last year’s binders.
The R6 and CBR offered two totally different riding positions. The pilot sits on top of the CBR while the R6 puts the rider down and in the cockpit.
Yamaha also made some subtle modifications to the R6’s engine, giving it larger throttle bodies with asymmetrical intake horns and corresponding revisions to the fuel and ignition mapping. The goal was to shore up a weak midrange while gaining a few extra ponies up top, but our dyno test showed nearly identical power curves. This was especially strange to those among our test group who raved about the Yamaha’s midrange snap.
“I think what I was feeling was the 25-hp gain between 8,700 and 10,000 rpm that’s a pretty big jump in a short period of time,” says Chamberlain. “The fact that it slightly falls on its face right before this gain emphasizes the hit even more. The R6 motor offered up a huge dose of power around 9000 rpm that easily brought up the front end in the lower gears.”
As BC mentioned, this powerband valley isn’t much of a distraction as it’s followed by a leap in power soon after. More objectionable is the boggy response below 4000 rpm. An astute pilot rides around it, but the other manufacturers demonstrate that it’s not endemic to a highly tuned 599cc sportbike.
The R6 was rated at or near the top of most street categories, but the one area it stood out in a negative sense was its gearbox. While the Suzuki received universal praise in this category, the Yamaha was at the other end of the spectrum, receiving demerits for its clunky and notchy behavior and its harshness during clutchless upshifts.
We also should note the R6’s throttle response can be a bit harsh when getting back on the gas. “The throttle is a little abrupt, both on and off, making it hard to be really smooth when getting on the gas exiting corners or when decelerating while getting on the brakes,” BC summarizes.
Chamberlain also noted the Yamaha’s clean-looking and easy to read instruments that use a white-faced tach for clear visibility at a glance and a large white shift light that is easily spotted. He also says the R6’s mirrors gave a decent rearward view and might be the best of the bunch. We all appreciated the smooth engine and the fact the R6 still has a decent-sized storage bin under the passenger seat (made possible by forgoing an underseat exhaust). Finally, BC concurred with the rest of us in saying the Yamaha’s fit and finish were top-notch but that its appearance seems to be getting a little dated
- Fun-loving personality
- Exciting powerband
- Better than ever
- Powerband valleys
- Harsh gearbox
- Long-in-tooth appearance
“The chassis continues to be one of the best looking,” says Hutch about the Yamaha’s gorgeous black aluminum frame and swingarm, “but that damn bodywork and traditional exhaust is so bland now.” Ill Korfagio seems to agree: “As good as the R6 is functionally, it could use a set of updated graphics. While some of the other machines offer updated looks and paint schemes, the red version of the R6 looks like it could be straight outta 1999.
However, it should be noted that we think the Yamaha Blue color looks far superior to the red version like our tester, and the special “Raven” model (a blacked-out version with red accent striping around its wheel rims) looks especially hot. The R6’s MSRP jumps $400 for ’05 to $8399, but it’s still on the low side of this group. The Raven will cost a $100 premium.