First Ride: 2005 Yamaha YZF-R6

A number of performance-enhancing tweaks make this year's R6 a faster and more exciting proposition. Riding tips from Valentino Rossi not included...

Posted: 31 March 2008
by Visordown

"Brake at the point where the kerb ends, keep the bike a little bit away from the edge of the track because it's slippery there, and turn into the corner when you get to about... here."

Valentino Rossi's words of advice are echoing through my mind as I squeeze the YZF-R6's front brake lever, brace myself against the fierce power of its new radial calipers, and just about manage to follow the curly-haired maestro's instructions as I aim the revamped middleweight through the right-hand hairpin of the Valencia circuit's infield.

Less than an hour ago I was walking round this turn while Rossi pointed out his line and reference points in his familiar sing-song English. Now I'm trying to put what he said into practice aboard the 2005 YZF-R6 which, while far from being a factory MotoGP missile like Valentino's M1, incorporates a number of modifications designed to make it faster and more exciting to ride.

The Yamaha flicks into the tight and tricky right turn with notable ease, and when I wind open the throttle, the bike tonks off up the next straight with what feels like a touch more of the high-rev acceleration for which the R6 has been known ever since its launch in 1999.

That more aggressive feeling is not just in my imagination, because it's what project leader Makoto Shimamoto has tried to engineer into the R6. Unsurprisingly, Yamaha's research shows that R6 buyers - of whom there have been more than 100,000 over the last six years - are seriously into racing and track days. So under the headline 'Pure Racing Performance' this update is aimed to increase both performance and the bike's feeling of speed.

The 599cc, 16-valve engine is mechanically unchanged. Outside it, larger diameter throttle bodies, redesigned intake trumpets, revised fuel-injection settings and new ignition timing increase peak power by 3bhp to a claimed 120bhp max at 13,000rpm, or 126bhp with ram-air effect included. Peak torque remains 49 lb.ft (51 lb.ft with ram-air) at 12,000rpm.

Chassis mods are centred on the front end, which gets 41mm upside-down forks based on the R1's 43mm units, plus radial four-pot calipers and master cylinder that are identical to big brother's. The brake discs are larger at 310mm (from 298mm) in diameter and are lighter because they're 0.5mm thinner. Rake and trail are increased slightly, and the R6 gets a 120/70 front tyre instead of the previous 120/60. The rear end is also tweaked with a stiffer shock spring, revised linkage ratio, and slightly thicker and more rigid frame section around the swing-arm pivot.

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