First Ride: 2006 Yamaha YZF-R6 review

The R6 is reborn with a competition-bred 'no compromise' attitude. But is all this race-ready technology a step too far for the road?

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By Jon Urry on Mon, 20 Sep 2010 - 10:09

Visordown Motorcycle News


It's only about four or five laps into the first session at the Qatar GP circuit and I'm starting to learn my way around. Which is fairly hard since, being stuck in the middle of a desert, it has fewer features than Razzle magazine. But I'm getting there.

Despite having so few laps under my belt I've already formed some impressions of the R6. It's surprisingly comfortable.

Even my six-foot plus frame seems to fit into the bike, rather than be perched on top of it with my nuts resting on the top yoke like the CBR600RR, and it looks stunning. But the engine seems weak.

Thinking back to the technical briefing the night before, I remember Yamaha's engineers talking about the motor making 127bhp, 133bhp including the effect of the forced air box. But it certainly doesn't feel this much. It's making a load of noise, but the rush of power I'd expect to accompany the din isn't there. Then I glance at the rev counter. It's only showing 10,000rpm... and there's 7500 more to go. Time to abandon any concept of mechanical sympathy.

And this is the key to the new R6. Don't trouble yourself with any thought of what the pistons are actually doing inside the new oversquare engine. Simply give it the berries. Don't feel guilty. If the engine is making a noise like a banshee having its nipples tweaked particularly roughly then it's somewhere near the power.

Yamaha keeps using the expression 'no compromise' with the R6 (and it's still called the R6, not the R6R, as was rumoured). Yamaha wants it to win races, loads of them, so it has allowed its engineers to design the bike with race wins in mind as well as full access to MotoGP technology. Once this was done, the stylists were allowed to add the finishing touches.

A quick glance over the stripped bike in the pitlane shows up many of the clever competition-bred engineering details. The frame is a combination of cast and pressed aluminium sections and runs in a straight line from the headstock to the swingarm pivot point for maximum stiffness. Just like Rossi's. The inverted forks and shock are adjustable for everything including high and low speed compression damping, a first for a mass-produced 600 (and again, just like Rossi's). The engine has Yamaha's new Yamaha Chip Controlled Throttle (YCC-T). Just like Rossi's. It comes with radial brakes and a radial master cylinder, slipper clutch, stacked gearbox, shift light, lap timer, just like... well, you get the idea.

As a piece of technological ingenuity, the R6 is far more advanced than any of the current 1000cc sports bikes. And it costs £1500 less than they do.

It also works very well. Like I said, forget anything about giving the engine an easy ride, rev the hell out of the R6 and that motor is strong. I'm not convinced about the 127bhp claim - at the spark plug, maybe, but I reckon that when we get it on the dyno it's likely to show up around the 108bhp mark. That's more than the current crop of 600s, and possibly on equal terms with the 636cc ZX-6R at the very top end (which is where the R6 will undoubtedly spend most of its life).

Once the engine in the 11-15,500rpm area, the new close ratio gearbox gives the impression that it's making more power because it seems like a very short space of time between ratios up to fifth gear. On the long start/finish straight, the R6 rips through to fifth and it's showing around 150mph before I stick it in sixth, and then the acceleration seems to stop. It feels like Yamaha has treated the sixth gear as a road-focused motorway overdrive gear because it doesn't really want to pull in it. On track this isn't really a problem, because once the power trails off at about 16,500rpm there's still 1000rpm of over-run to dive into. On the road it should help economy, I suppose.

One of the key points of the new chassis, according to its designers, is balance under braking, something that the first turn at Qatar tests well. Braking down from around 155mph into the second gear corner, the R6 is stunning. The brakes are as good as any other out there but it's the slipper clutch and poise under braking, assisted by the YCC-T (see opposite), which really stands out. According to the engineers, when the throttle is shut and the revs are high (such as when you're braking hard and shifting down gears), the fly-by-wire throttle increases the tick-over slightly to help stabilise the bike. Very thorough.

Now, I'm not a huge fan of some box of transistors taking over from rider's feel (BMW's ABS and servo brakes for example) but the R6's YCC-T is very impressive. I try braking, shifting down to second as fast as I can, and then just letting the clutch out. The slipper and YCC-T don't flinch and the bike stays balanced. It's very impressive, and on track the throttle response is excellent.

It may seem like a backwards compliment, but the YCC-T does its stuff so unobtrusively that you'd be hard pushed to feel what it's doing and when. It's going to be very interesting to see if it works as well on the road; it could be the next step for fuel injection on bikes. Once again the bike world following the car world's lead.With the straight out of the way, the back section of the Qatar track is a series of second and third gear corners that really test a chassis and require a lot of trust in the front end. The R6 meets that challenge, although the circuit is so new that it hasn't had time to develop the sort of bumps that are a stringent test of stability, but turning in and mid-corner the R6 is excellent. When you're on an unfamiliar circuit (especially one without scenery to orient yourself to), the odd confusion often happens when it comes to corners, but even shutting the throttle mid-bend and leaning it over further didn't upset the R6.

I haven't had done much track riding this year, so I felt a bit rusty before I got on the bike, but the R6 gives so much confidence that within a few sessions I feel like I've never been away. After a while the long hero blobs start to grind away in the high-angle corners, but it is nothing to worry about. I'd happily sacrifice some blob for a comfortable ride.

So is this a new generation of 600, the one that all the others will have to copy? There's no doubt that the R6 is very, very impressive, and not just for the amount of kit you get for your money. Remember the only real thing that's different between this and a 1000cc sportsbike is the capacity, but it's cheaper and (for now) better specified.

Against the competition? The R6 is definitely more comfortable than the CBR and ZX-6R, and I think the motor has a bit more mid-range than the CBR. Get it spinning and it'll be close to the ZX-6R on power. For pose factor and equipment the R6 walks it. Handling, I'd say, will be very close between the R6, CBR and ZX-6R on track - but I'd put my money on the Yamaha because of the suspension adjustment available, although it'll take time to set up.

It's going to be another close year, and we've yet to test the new GSX-R600, but Yamaha has come out fighting hard.

ENGINE
The R6 uses an oversquare motor. The bore is bigger than last-year's model but the stroke shorter, meaning the motor can rev higher with less mechanical stress

SUSPENSION
The R6 comes with fully adjustable suspension including high and low speed compression damping on both the forks and shock

SLIPPER CLUTCH
The slipper clutch allows smoother entry to corners by absorbing the back torque forces transmitted from the rear tyre to the clutch during downshifts

YCC-T
Yamaha's electronic throttle took seven years to develop and is the same design as used on the MotoGP bike. A mechanical fail-safe is included

VERDICT

Back to the old R6 values. A screaming engine, excellent handling and a great looking bike. The title contender?

Click to read: Yamaha YZF-R6 owners reviews, Yamaha YZF-R6 specs and to see the Yamaha YZF-R6 image gallery.

IT'S ONLY ABOUT four or five laps into the first session at the Qatar GP circuit and I'm starting to learn my way around. Which is fairly hard since, being stuck in the middle of a desert, it has fewer features than Razzle magazine. But I'm getting there.

Despite having so few laps under my belt  I've already formed some impressions of the R6. It's surprisingly comfortable.

Even my six-foot plus frame seems to fit into the bike, rather than be perched on top of it with my nuts resting on the top yoke like the CBR600RR, and it looks stunning. But the engine seems weak.

Thinking back to the technical briefing the night before, I remember Yamaha's engineers talking about the motor making 127bhp, 133bhp including the effect of the forced air box. But it certainly doesn't feel this much. It's making a load of noise, but the rush of power I'd expect to accompany the din isn't there. Then I glance at the rev counter. It's only showing 10,000rpm... and there's 7500 more to go. Time to abandon any concept of mechanical sympathy.

And this is the key to the new R6. Don't trouble yourself with any thought of what the pistons are actually doing inside the new oversquare engine. Simply give it the berries. Don't feel guilty. If the engine is making a noise like a banshee having its nipples tweaked particularly roughly then it's somewhere near the power.

Yamaha keeps using the expression 'no compromise' with the R6 (and it's still called the R6, not the R6R, as was rumoured). Yamaha wants it to win races, loads of them, so it has allowed its engineers to design the bike with race wins in mind as well as full access to MotoGP technology. Once this was done, the stylists were allowed to add the finishing touches.

A quick glance over the stripped bike in the pitlane shows up many of the clever competition-bred engineering details. The frame is a combination of cast and pressed aluminium sections and runs in a straight line from the headstock to the swingarm pivot point for maximum stiffness. Just like Rossi's. The inverted forks and shock are adjustable for everything including high and low speed compression damping, a first for a mass-produced 600 (and again, just like Rossi's). The engine has Yamaha's new Yamaha Chip Controlled Throttle (YCC-T). Just like Rossi's. It comes with radial brakes and a radial master cylinder, slipper clutch, stacked gearbox, shift light, lap timer, just like... well, you get the idea.

As a piece of technological ingenuity, the R6 is far more advanced than any of the current 1000cc sports bikes. And it costs £1500 less than they do.

It also works very well. Like I said, forget anything about giving the engine an easy ride, rev the hell out of the R6 and that motor is strong. I'm not convinced about the 127bhp claim - at the spark plug, maybe, but I reckon that when we get it on the dyno it's likely to show up around the 108bhp mark. That's more than the current crop of 600s, and possibly on equal terms with the 636cc ZX-6R at the very top end (which is where the R6 will undoubtedly spend most of its life).

Once the engine in the 11-15,500rpm area, the new close ratio gearbox gives the impression that it's making more power because it seems like a very short space of time between ratios up to fifth gear. On the long start/finish straight, the R6 rips through to fifth and it's showing around 150mph before I stick it in sixth, and then the acceleration seems to stop. It feels like Yamaha has treated the sixth gear as a road-focused motorway overdrive gear because it doesn't really want to pull in it. On track this isn't really a problem, because once the power trails off at about 16,500rpm there's still 1000rpm of over-run to dive into. On the road it should help economy, I suppose.

Click here to read the Yamaha R6 review verdict

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