Yamaha made waves in the Supersport class with its revamped-for-2008 YZF-R6. By incorporating a variable length intake along with ride-by-wire electronics, Yamaha was able to jump ahead of the technology curve. This enhanced the R6’s pedigree, giving it a wider spread of power that’s easier to control. Although other players have since caught up, the 2013 R6 ($10,990) is a proven track weapon as evident by its inclusion on 600cc race grids worldwide.
Compared to the other Japanese 600s, the Tuning Fork machine has a much racier seating position. Its weight-forward stance is due in part to a taller seat and low-mounted clip-ons which make the rider feel like they’re sitting atop the front tire. It’s hard-edged and in stark contrast to the more friendly set-ups of many of the others. While the R6’s ergos are designed for fast laps it was clear the cockpit isn’t for everyone—especially shorter riders like Dunstan.
(Top) The R6’s strong top-end and close ratio gearing helped yank it off corners with the muscle of the bigger bikes. (Center) The R6’s non-brand name Soqi suspension components work well despite being five years old now. (Bottom) The R6 posted the highest average corner speeds at Chuckwalla demonstrating how effective its chassis is.
“I couldn’t get a good feel for it,” she says. “Especially the big tank, too. That big tank is hard for me to move around on. For a smaller person, ergonomics play a huge role on how enjoyable a track bike is.”
However if you’re of average and above size, or a more experienced track rider, you’ll be right at home aboard the R6 says Pridmore:
“I immediately got up to speed on it quickly. All the power in it is so useable. I loved every part of the R6. When I had to do my Superpole lap on it, the lap was very easy and it was a lap where I just let the bike do a lot of the work.”
There’s no doubt the R6 is compact and carries its weight nice and low, but it doesn’t feel as svelte as the CBR. On the scale the R6 weighs 428 pounds. That’s 13 more than the Honda and only five less than the 848 EVO. Out on track the Yamaha handles sharp but it didn’t feel quite as nimble as the Honda and Kawasaki, or even the Triumph during turn-in. However the data proves otherwise with it presenting the fastest flick rate through Turns 8/9, demonstrating the R6’s high-level of agility, especially when hustling it from side-to-side.
“It’s definitely a race-inspired bike,” thinks Zemke. “You can feel that from the chassis because it is so stiff. The advantage of having a chassis that’s this stiff is it makes the turning of the motorcycle very good. You can pretty much turn that bike anywhere you want. You can make corrections mid-corner—bring the thing back if you run a little wide. It’s no problem to have the bike get right back on line.”
Through turns the R6 consistently posted corner speeds that were at or near the top. It carried the most amount of mph through Turn 4 and was right there with the competition through the Turn 13 Bowl. It was here that the R6 recorded the second-highest degree of lean angle. In the second-to-last corner it was quick again, second only to the Daytona 675R. The R6’s suspension has a sharp, track-oriented feel that functions so impeccably that it lures the rider to go faster. Although it doesn’t feature the latest big-piston technology as used inside the forks of the other Japanese bikes, you’d be hard pressed to feel a difference.
Preload: 2 (Turns in)
Low-Speed Compression: 15 (Turns out)
High-Speed Compression: 3
Low-Speed Compression: 16
High-Speed Compression: 3
Braking-wise the R6’s non brand-name Sumitomo brake calipers were rated highly. Initial bite is moderate but as you pull on the lever, feel and power ramp up quickly. They’re also consistent, with no hint of fade. Into Chuckwalla’s two heavy braking zones the R6 posted above average braking force numbers that help demonstrate how effective the sum of its braking components are.
“It’s been awhile since I’ve ridden a stock one and I was very surprised by the competency the R6 has on track,” said Wooldridge, who competes on a fully race-prepped R6 with Northern California’s AFM club. “The harder I pushed the bike, the better it got. I almost felt like I was on my own race bike at times… it’s that good stock.”
(Top) It’s no wonder why Yamaha’s R6 fills amateur and professional race grids worldwide. It’s got sharp, track-focused features that work well even against newer sportbikes. (Center) The R6’s ergonomics are compact for the most part but its large fuel tank was a hindrance for our smallest test rider. (Below) The R6 offers strong mid-range though it comes a little bit higher in the revs compared to the Honda.
At Chuckwalla the R6 continued to impress in the motor department. Although its dyno power figures were nothing spectacular, its close ratio gearing paired with a rev-happy engine allowed the R6 to pull off corners with the kind of voracity we expect out of the larger displacement bikes. Despite not offering the seamless, lightning fast upshifts of the quickshifter-equipped bikes, the gearbox shifts well under load and it has the best slipper action clutch in this test. It was for those reasons that it received the second-highest Drivetrain score.
Dyno testing shows that the R6 is the most powerful Japanese 600. It pumps out nearly 107 horsepower at 13,700 rpm. That’s two extra ponies on the GSX-R600 and over six up on the Honda. However, compared to the 636 Kawasaki it is at a 7.32 hp disadvantage. Over-rev is excellent with the engine still generating decent power for another 2200 rpm before the rev-limiter shuts down the fun.
“The R6 is amazing. It’s going to be hard to beat I think,” says Neuer. “From the brakes, to the handling, to the power; the thing is so good out of the corners. It just had horsepower, it just felt good. It’s such a great package.”
Despite the R6’s maximum torque output at the bottom of the chart it’s still within 0.5 lb-ft of the other 600s. Behind the windscreen the Yamaha felt peppier, especially once the tach needle points north of 10,000 revs. Still, the R6 had the lowest maximum acceleration force off Turns 10 and 13 which helps demonstrate that it could benefit from more engine torque at a lower rpm. It’s straightaway top speeds prove how effective it accelerates as long as you keep the engine spinning high in the revs.
“There’s a reason this bike dominates the podium in AMA racing – it works!” Carruthers said. “And I love the way it revs, the way it screams when you do everything just right.”
“For a little 600 the R6 gets moving,” comments Colton. “It’s a little soft off the bottom but get the engine spinning and it goes pretty good. It actually works really well here at Chuckwalla.”
- Strong top-end for a 600, excellent over-rev
- Sharp handling
- Strong, consistent-feeling brakes
- Racy ergos not as versatile as others
- Mid-range power could come on earlier
- Requires a more assertive rider for best performance
The R6 rewards with a rawer, more visceral experience than its Japanese-built counterparts, yet it’s more refined than the competition from Europe. With effective mid-range and a screaming top-end the R6 pulls hard off corners. Although not quite as nimble as some of the more recently updated platforms, it is still capable of laying down fast times with both of our testers logging their third-fastest Superpole time… Not bad for a five-year-old bike but not quite enough to run at the front in this class.
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