Pay a visit to any motorcycle road race and there is a good chance many of the racebikes on the grid will be Yamaha R6s. Considering the surgical precision of its chassis and the howling top-end performance of its 599cc Inline-Four engine, the 2011 Yamaha YZF-R6 has become one of the most popular bikes to go racing with. So it’s no surprise that it continues to demonstrate how adept it is at putting together fast laps in our annual shootout.
One of the R6’s strongest attributes is its chassis, as it serves up a level of agility and cornering feel that the other machines can only dream of. Although it weighs a few more pounds than the other 600s, and the 750 for that matter (424 pounds fully fueled, second heaviest bike in the test), riders are hard pressed to notice its extra heft as the R6 is a quick steering machine during corner entry. It’s not night-and-day better than the competition but it definitely feels more maneuverable.
The 2011 Yamaha YZF-R6 is a razor sharp scalpel designed specifically to carve up racetracks. As long as you keep the Yamaha R6 on the boil it will dust the competition. Lose focus for even a moment though and they’ll be all over you. Lack of low end power hurts the R6 on the scorecard.
“I raced an R6 in ’09,” says Rapp. “And I know the bike hasn’t changed much since then but it handles pretty good. It’s a really small bike too, so it’s easy to throw it around and steer into the corner. Though, it felt a little heavy from side-to-side in the fast stuff.”
When navigating the tricky series of slow speed right-left-right off-camber corners (Turns 8/9/10), the R6 had a flick rate of 59.9 degrees/second which was third-quickest next to the Suzuki 600 and Kawasaki. It also posted a high number (65 degrees/second) as the rider maneuvered through the faster third-gear Turn 11/12 chicane. It’s also worth noting how fluidly the R6’s slipper clutch works, providing a near perfect blend of engine back torque/freewheeling effect during quick downshifts. This along with the smooth action of its transmission allowed the R6 to take the top score in the drivetrain category.
“Yamaha’s R6 makes it way up to the middle of this hotly contested class by virtue of its almost telepathic chassis,” notes Atlas. “One simply needs to contemplate the notion turning and you are on your knee and pointed at the apex on the Tuning Fork-built 600. Little-to-no effort is need to get the Yamaha to flick from side-to-side, which bodes well for some of the tighter switchback sections at Chuckwalla.”
Not everyone was sold on the R6’s handling though, as it requires a more assertive rider to get the most out of its sharper, slightly more rigid-feeling chassis: “I experienced some head shake on the R6 in higher gears going down the front straight and other fast parts of the track,” reveals Ross. “It adversely affected my confidence in its handling abilities. Compared to the other 600s I felt the R6 was okay in handling but I experienced a more satisfying ride with some of the other bikes.”
When leaned over into a turn the R6 chassis delivers a high-level of road and tire feel, however, riders must put total faith in it and physically push it into the turn to get that coveted level of feel. When we reviewed the corner speed data, we were surprised to find that the R6 ranked toward the back of the field through Turn 4, 13 and 16, even though most all of our testers said they generally liked the way the R6 felt while cornering.
“At Chuckwalla there are a number of corners that are double apex and require a few different line changes that have to be made while at full lean angle,” explains Neuer. “I really got a confidence inspiring feedback; I could go anywhere I wanted when I wanted.”
The 2011 Yamaha R6 rebounds from a poor showing in the
street portion of the test only to finish third in the coveted
Supersport Shootout IX Track. Nice job guys…
While the Yamaha’s brakes offer tremendous outright stopping power they still received the lowest score according to our testers. While outright power is on par with the rest of the bikes they didn’t have quite as much initial bite or feel as compared to say the Brembo set-ups which made them a tad bit more difficult to use assertively. Even still the R6 registered excellent braking g-force numbers with it tying the Ducati for second-best into Turn 1 (-1.05g) and Turn 8 (-1.12g), proving the braking system’s effectiveness.
The R6’s hard lined attitude continues in terms of its engine and ergonomics, which felt the tightest and most compact and were best appreciated by our smaller stature test riders. Wack the throttle at lower rpms and its crazy how much slower the R6 feels compared to the other 600s. Slam down the gear shift lever though, and the engine starts screaming like it’s about to explode and riders are propelled forward as if they accidently thumbed a nitrous button.
“Keep the revs up around 12 grand and the R6 makes pretty good power. Though it sure does feel like more work than some of the other bikes,” comments Atlas. “A quick left foot is a prerequisite to going fast on the R6.”
On the dyno the blue bike tied the ZX-6R in terms of peak torque production doling out 43.57 lb-ft at a relatively low (for the 600 class) rpm of 10,100 rpm which proves that it does in fact have an effective mid-range. Horsepower-wise its power curve at high rpm starts off okay until it dips for a moment around 12,500 rpm before surging again enroute to its peak of 103.28 ponies at 13,800 rpm. This put it in sixth out of seven places in terms of outright horsepower production. Over-rev is decent too with 1200 rpms of over-rev available before the motor calls it quits at 15,000 rpm.
In terms of measured maximum acceleration force the R6 tied the ZX-6R for the lowest reading of 0.50g off of Turn 10. This was a bit of a surprise because the rpms are already fairly high here on corner exit. Perhaps this could be attributed to the R6’s relatively lofty final drive gearing, which makes it all that much more important to work the six-speed gearbox. Fortunately it works great even though it’s not quite as fast as the quick-shift equipped Triumph. It did however post a better number on the exit of Turn 13 (0.55g—fifth best) with a very impressive top speed of 115.5 mph (best in class) at the end of that straight-away.
- Great top-end power and over-rev
- Quick steering and very nimble chassis
- Excellent road feel at maximum lean
- Weak bottom-end power
- Chassis can be twitchy at times
- Ergonomics favor smaller riders
In Superpole the Yamaha proved how competent it is with Rapp setting his fourth-fastest time of the test at its controls while I went third-fastest on it. This along with three perfect-10 point scores on the scorecard helped propel the R6 into the third spot tying Ducati’s 848 EVO. Although it isn’t the newest bike out there, the R6 is a definitely a capable performer around the track and if the Tuning Fork crew could inject a little more versatile performance it might have a winner.
2011 Supersport Shootout IX Track
2011 Suzuki GSX-R600 Track Comparison
2011 Kawasaki ZX-6R Track Comparison
2011 Suzuki GSX-R750 Track Comparison
2011 Ducati 848 EVO Track Comparison
2011 Yamaha YZF-R6 Track Comparison
2011 Honda CBR600RR Track Comparison
2011 Triumph Daytona 675R Track Comparison
2011 Supersport Shootout Track Conclusion