The R6 benefits from having the second-best power numbers and short gearing. Ultimately, it's a blast to ride on the track, but abrupt throttle response does hinder its performance on the track.
As the winner of our two previous supersport shootouts, it's more than obvious we like the R6. Its dominant characteristic is its playfulness, feeling ever enthusiastic to get down to work. And that hasn't changed for '05, despite more relaxed steering geometry and the addition of an inverted fork and larger throttle bodies.
We were really impressed with the R6's steering characteristics on its stock tires, but the race-compound Dunlops we fitted for the track called for an adjustment to its ride height to get it to sit at its proper attitude. Since there's no provision for changing the rear ride height, Yamaha's technician Mike Ulrich lowered the fork tubes in the triple clamps to compensate for the taller rear tire, leaving an odd-looking gap in the top triple-tree.
First session out, the R6 felt strange. It was initially reluctant to turn but then rolled over too quickly once the turn was initiated. We pulled into the pits and had Ulrich put the fork back to stock, but the steeper rake and less trail brought on by the tall rear tire caused the front end to act nervous. Next time out, splitting the difference in fork height, was just right.
Once sorted, the Yamaha
again became its friendly self, feeling lithe and athletic at the hands of our testers.
"The R6 fit me best," says the five-foot-eleven Becklin, a guy who not only signs our paychecks but who is also the nicest, most charismatic and attractive man you'll ever meet. "It feels like a small repli-racer but I can still get behind the windscreen and ride it comfortably while staying in an aggressive riding position."
We were all impressed by the R6's newfound stability on the track. Its revised steering geometry, frame revisions, inverted fork and stiffer springs have paid off with a more confidence-inspiring riding impression in demanding track conditions. But that's not to say the bike has lost its frisky appetite for slicing through corners, as this thing absolutely slashed though the gaggles of literbikes in the esses and chicanes at Infineon.
"The R6 is the quickest steering of the bunch and doesn't require much input to get the bike turned in," says Chamberlain, nearly creating a Yamaha PR pull-quote before adding, "Mid-corner is stable on the R6, but you don't quite have the same front-end feel as you do on the CBR."
Revised steering geometry, frame revisions, an inverted fork, and stiffer springs on the 2005 Yamaha R6 improves its overall handling.
"It feels similar to the Honda," chimes in Hutchison, "but the CBR is just more stable when you really get to pushing it."
The R6 joins the rest of the group in that each could benefit from the addition of a steering damper when using race-compound tires on the track. We also had handlebar-wagging moments on the CBR and ZX, and the R6 once gave me a vicious headshake after a high-rpm shift to 3rd gear on the front straight at Thunderhill that nearly spit me off.
The motor in the R6, once the biggest bore and shortest stroke in the class, now has the smallest bore, 65.5mm to the 67.0mm slugs in the R6 and CBR (and ZX-6RR). This more undersquare design theoretically promotes torque production, but Yamaha has added larger throttle bodies for '05 to achieve the best top-end numbers among the 599cc bikes. On the track, the Yamamotor stands above all but the cheater Kawasaki. The dip of its powerband at 8500 rpm is a distant memory in the high-rev world of racetracks, and the explosive hit soon after never fails to thrill.
The R6's only real hitch is how the bike delivers its power to the track. We didn't appreciate its abrupt throttle response when re-applying power for all the same reasons we noted in the CBR's section. Also, it must be said that the R6's transmission received complaints for its harshness and its reluctance to upshift at a race pace.
"Its shifting was very notchy and refused to engage shifting up without the clutch a few times," whines Becklin.
Opinions of the R6's brakes varied among our testers. While Roberti scored them as average, others preferred their ease of modulation thanks to less initial grabbiness. There's plenty of power available with an assertive pull, aided by its Brembo radial-pump master cylinder (the Gixxer and ZX use a Nissen component) that offers excellent feel.
- Metal pegs can be slippery.
- Firmest brake lever
- Handlebars feel highest in relation to the seat.