Living with a 2001 Yamaha YZF-R6

Harriet's track day R6

July 2003

My long-termer is my 2001 Yamaha R6. Yep, you heard it - my R6. Not some motorcycle with no personality that some manufacturer loaned me free of charge to feature in the mag, but my bike for which I spent the past few years struggling to pay off the finance. Not that I didn't have the 'free-bike- (until they take it back)-to-ride-at-all- times-and-feature' option - I turned it down because I knew that when faced with a weekend blast, a trip to the continent or a track day there's NO WAY I'm taking any bike other than MY R6!

Actually, it's My R6 Number Two. My R6 Number One was a 1999 model that got nicked in July 2001 from the Maidstone Services in Kent on my return trip from a track day at France's Circuit Carole. I was GUTTED (are you reading this you big meany horrible bike thief?!). Forced to take a cab home in full leathers, I spent a week in bed crying... then I re-mortgaged to buy my current, 2001 R6.

So far, mods have been scarce. I realised that what slowed me down on a trackday was fear of damaging my bike so I attempted to make it more crash proof (no amount of performance mods can match the confidence-of-not writing-off-your-pride-and-joy-inspired extra speed). I fitted a front race fairing from PRF (£135, 0151 5200110), crash mushrooms from Harris Performance (£52.87, 01992 532501) and NRC heavy duty engine casings from Bike Torque Racing (£203.96, 01373 464252). I never take pillions but I kept the rear seat and rear footpegs (great bungee hooks) to carry luggage during my frequent bike hols.

More recently I fitted a Devil race can from Automotif (£367, 01706 212102), which brings me nicely onto the topic of fuelling - I haven't tweaked fuel and air intake yet, but it's next on my 'to do' list because as standard, the power delivery is full of flatspots and snatches like the nasty scum who stole my bike.

I have, however, sorted a lack of grip by fitting Metzeler's Sportec M1 (£230, 0845 6094949). I tried them at Germany's Nürburgring AND Spain's former F1 track Jarama (both trips with Byrne-Up, 0871 7174141), riding in dry and wet conditions - and they are awesome: they inspire a phenomenal amount of confidence in terms of all-weather grip and they're so stable you'd be hard-pressed to unsettle them with a road bike.

But back to the bike in question - and do you know what the best thing is about the R6? (No Bertie, it's not that it looks good in your mirrors). It's that the Yam has potential and stacks of it - in both engine and chassis departments. And I intend to explore that potential so watch this space.

September 2003

I mentioned my R6's fuelling troubles. You see, by sheer coincidence (ahem) a 2001 R6 Pipercross airfilter had landed on my desk, so in it went as the OE foam jobby needed urgent cleaning (and I don't do cleaning when it can be avoided). I knew straight away that I'd messed up. Power delivery was all over the shop.

So off we sped (my R6 and me) to Brad O'Connor at Dynospeed Developments (0208 500 5770), in the hope that he'd resolve the matter with a Dynojet kit. Brad was surprised to hear about my woes as he reckons: "Unlike some production bikes, R6s run close to their optimum and you don't get your money's worth with a jet kit." So he stuck the bike on his dyno and yikes! It was running ridiculously lean, putting out a feeble 90bhp. Oops. Surely the free-flowing airfilter and race can combination was delivering too much air into the cylinder?

Nope. While the OE filter had flowed more than enough air to keep the standard cylinders happy, the aftermarket filter slowed down the airflow to the extent that not enough fuel was being carried into the cylinder (see Fuels Gold p76). Brad explained that unless you overhaul the top end, in many cases you're better off leaving the stock airfilter. Sure enough, after fitting a new OE filter the fuelling sorted itself out and my R6 made 106.2 bhp on the first runs, and 107.6bhp once the engine had warmed up - not bad for a (almost) standard R6!

Well, I did cheat a little. I asked Brad for the DIN reading. You see, there are two dyno measurements - DIN (Deutsche Industrie Norm) and SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers). If you want to look good down the pub it's the DIN you want as it produces better power, while SAE is around 3bhp down. If you are having a jet kit or Power Commander fitted, Brad warns to make sure only one measurement is used for before and after dyno runs. He also explained that the engine must be warm to run at its optimum, which is why my R6 got a better reading throughout the entire powerband on the later dyno run - so check the numbers at the top of the dyno chart (ie dyno run 001 to dyno run 030) to make sure you're not being taken for a ride when it comes to gains from expensive intake tweaks.

But back to my R6. Sound advice from Brad made me realise that the gains (if any) from a jet kit would not be worth the £225 price tag. So Brad fitted an ignition advancer instead (£48.17 from Straightline Racing, (01553) 811855) - a mod that works a treat on the R6.

Ignition timing is a huge issue. If the sparkplug ignites the fuel/air mixture before the piston reaches top dead centre (TDC) the explosion will try to push the piston back the wrong way, causing damage. This is known as detonation (or 'knocking' because of the noise). But if it ignites after TDC as the piston has started its descent, the piston won't benefit from the full blast, reducing power. So in a perfect world the spark should go off just before the piston reaches TDC, leaving just enough time for the mixture to explode at peak cylinder pressure. But for reasons ranging from playing it safe to power restrictions and taking into account crap fuels that pre-ignite, manufacturers often retard the ignition - and on these bikes (ie my R6) advancing slightly the ignition produces harder acceleration and a crisper throttle. Cheers Brad!