Living with a 2009 Yamaha YZF-R6

Niall Mackenzie spends some quality time with the Yamaha R6, here's his review

August 2009

Top of my long termer wishlist for this year was the new R1 but this wasn’t to be, as the sales success of this bike meant (and rightly so) valuable customers had to come before me. Bizarrely, I haven’t seen many on the roads around the UK – maybe they’re all going straight onto trackdays around the country.

This sad news (for me, anyway) coincided with our 600 group test to Assen in which the R6 came out on top, so I’m far from disappointed with a bike that appears to have the edge both on the road and the track. And it’s quite a weapon.

Quite often second-year facelift graphics don’t look as good as the originals, but Yamaha have given the R6 an improved look for 2009 with the red version being my favourite. It’s a tiny little thing but remarkably comfortable to ride, and the graphics make it look even smaller and neater.

So far I’ve covered 1400 miles, 800 of which included a dreary trip up the M6 to Knockhill in glorious weather. No, you’re not seeing things; I definitely said “glorious weather” and “Knockhill” in the same sentence. What’s more, I’ve got pictures of the sheep with Ray Bans on to prove it. It

have been one of those freak weather weeks due to a hole in the ozone layer, or something. I’ve also taken in trackdays at Silverstone and Donington where I scared myself with the standard-fit Dunlop Qualifiers. The rear was fine but the front wasn’t and, having landed on my knee on quite a few occasions, they now have to go. The superb feedback from the excellent front suspension meant I was able to save the bike before the slides got any worse.

I’ve heard from other journos since then that the R6’s OE tyres are not the best, however I can assure you any of the UK Qualifier range I’ve tried have been excellent. Maybe Japanese Dunlops aren’t quite the same tyres as we get over here.

Some say thrash new bikes from day one but I have a problem doing this when the odo says 1 mile. I was gentle on the motor for 500 miles before cutting loose, and she now runs and sounds sweet. Running a bike in properly isn’t about sticking to some rpm limit, it’s about using the gearbox, letting the motor buzz up and down its rev-range and not labouring the engine or loading the pistons.

On the R1 it’s impossible to tell when the variable intake trumpets are doing their stuff but the R6 is a different story. At around 13,500 rpm the pitch of the engine changes, a two-stroke–esque powerband kicks in and off she goes to the redline. I have since seen a Dyno chart that actually shows a dip in power at this point, giving the impression of an even greater rush, and I love it. On the road it’s an addictive hit, while on the track you’re always aiming to keep it singing right on or above this point.

In this current economic climate £14.00 on fuel for around 150 miles seems like a good deal for this Scot, so I intend to ride this one whenever possible. And if it rains, well, I’ve got a good rain suit. Improvements to the suspension set-up will follow shortly.

DATE RECEIVED: 6th April 2009
TOTAL MILEAGE: 1423 miles

September 2009

Visiting the Donington Park and Castle Combe over the last month gave me a great opportunity to fine tune my R6’s suspension on two completely different circuits. My final settings are a compromise but now work well for me on any circuit and also on the road. Donington is billiard table smooth with only the odd ripple so requires a relatively stiff set-up especially from the

rear. A few bumps have appeared where the new tunnel went in just after McLeans so running slightly softer high speed compression damping helped even things out. James Whitham would describe Castle Combe as a ‘hideous fairground ride just waiting to go wrong’ but although bumpy it is a very satisfying circuit to ride providing your bike is set-up.

There is some fairly hard braking at four sections so good support from the front forks is required however the bumps require the suspension to be supple so the rebound damping (front and rear) can’t be wound up too much. There is plenty of hard acceleration too, so decent support from the rear is required all the way round. My main objective when setting a bike up is for me to be able to ride it hard without any nasty surprises. It took a bit of twiddling but I’m confident I’m there now.

I didn’t touch a thing until I removed my standard Dunlop Qualifiers as safe as they might be, I couldn’t really feel what was going on beneath me. It is always worth remembering OE (original equipment) tyres are not always as sticky as the aftermarket product available in the UK so it’s worth checking with a tyre specialist. I’ve fitted some Pirelli Diablo ‘BSB’ Supercorsas that came highly recommended by Jason Griffiths from, erm, Pirelli. What a salesman! Joking apart I had heard good things about these and while it may not make a great deal of difference the yellow ‘BSB’ logo on the tyre wall looks well factory. Unlike the Dunlops they look like they are working with a nice grain appearing on the surface telling me they are getting up to temperature. I haven’t tried them in the wet yet but who the hell wants it to rain. More next month on this modern day LC.

Niall’s R6 settings

Rear: Preload, standard • Low-speed comp, 7 clicks out • High-speed comp, 1 turn out • Rebound, 6 clicks out
Front: Preload, 3 lines showing • Low speed comp, 7 clicks • High speed, 1.5 turns • Rebound 1.5 turns out

DATE RECEIVED: 6th April 2009
TOTAL MILEAGE: 1900 miles

December 2009

Niall’s R6 recovers from a spate of Scotsman-inflicted illness and celebrates its new found health with an emotional final track session at Donington Park

In last month’s issue you may have read that my beloved R6 had to be vanned back from the South of France after developing an oil leak and a strange transmission noise. I suspected the seepage was partly due to an earlier lack of side stand incident where I bashed the casing, however the clattering was a mystery. We considered liquid-metalling the casing but with my journey home being nearly a thousand miles I didn’t fancy being spat up the fast lane of an

Autoroute with a seized gearbox. That meant easyJet (can the thieving East Midlands plane cleaners please return my iPod now?) took me home. But as I write this I sit here seriously embarrassed. Why? Well, after the technicians at Yamaha UK inspected the bike the rattling noise turned out to be a stone stuck between the chain and gearbox sprocket. Thinking back we were messing around on a gravelly beach getting some ‘arty’ pics so maybe that’s what caused the problem...

Anyway, I’m happy to say my R6 returned from Yamaha UK fully valeted and serviced just in time to do the last ever track day at Donington Park before it closed for the big winter revamp. After three thousand miles and some extreme temperatures in France my Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa BSBs have very little meat on them now so it’s time for some new rubber. I’d recommend the Pirellis for anyone that jumps between the road and track days with my only advice being always give them plenty of time to warm up. That’ll be six miles to be safe. I’ve had some good feedback on Dunlop Qualifier RRs so I feel a blag coming on the next time I see my Brummie friends at a BSB round.

While at Donington I discovered another neat function on the R1. All it takes is a 10mm spanner to swap from road shift (1 down and 5 up) to race shift (1 up and 5 down) on the R6. This isn’t for everyone but I love it, especially when on track as it makes shifting up that bit faster. I’ve always found it easy to swap between road and race but unless you are absolutely confident I wouldn’t bother. Back shifting when you think you are up shifting can have disastrous consequences! There again, so can pushing a bike around a gravelly beach in the South of France...

DATE RECEIVED: 6th April 2009


TOTAL MILEAGE: 3,232 miles


COSTS THIS MONTH: A slice of humble pie