The Yamaha R6 is an enigma. I absolutely love it and yet there are times when I detest it. Here is the thing. I first rode it around Kyalami. It was early in the day and the track was still relatively deserted. On a racetrack one is automatically in “attack mode”. Accelerate hard, sitting in a racer crouch, banging through the gearbox using the quick-shifter with the throttle pinned. The rev counter lives in the top 40% of the rev range. The airbox intake honk and the 16,500rpm shriek from the exhaust is utterly intoxicating.
This is the R6’s reason for being. The motor is super smooth and revvy in its upper reaches. Everything on the bike comes together in perfect harmony. Singing its high rev falsetto song the R6 is an absolute sportbike symphony. As you conduct the orchestra of throttle, chassis and brakes, the bike is sheer riding music. The little Yamaha steers with a lightness and precision that belies belief. The relative lack of crankshaft inertia and overall light weight allows it to turn and change direction in a way that a litre bike can only dream of.
To really get a hurry up you have to take it to the R6. Focus on staying in the right gear and ride decent lines that allow you to carry good corner speed. This allows you to get good drive onto the straights where the motor really sings. Get it right and the R6 rewards like few others. You need real skill to keep it cooking, but when you even get it half right the reward is immense. Sports 600s are real riders bikes.
The R6 is comprehensively specced to assist in “conducting the orchestra”. 3 full power, but different throttle response engine modes, easily adjusted on the fly via a right thumb switch and 6 traction control levels adjusted on the left bar. ABS seems so unobtrusive that you don’t even think about it. You climb on the brakes and the twin 330mm R1 derived rotors and calipers stop the bike effortlessly. In fact the KYB 43mm forks come straight off the R1 and are 3 way adjustable (preload, compression and rebound damping). The back shock is also a KYB remote reservoir unit.
The wheels are both 17inch magnesium alloy with 120/70 up front and a 180/55 rear. Providing the drive to the rear wheel is the familiar 599cc inline 4 motor with 4 titanium valves per cylinder. The gearbox is a six speed stacked unit. A slipper clutch keeps the rear wheel honest on aggressive downshifts.
A factory data logger is available as an accessory. The R6 is wired up to suit, so it is plug and play. Engine rpm, gear position, wheel speed, throttle position, traction control intervention, lap times, the whole shooting match can all be downloaded by WiFi to your Android or Apple device. Wild!
All this, and just so you know, the R6 is achingly beautiful to look at. Even non-bikers came up to me and commented on how stunning the R6 is to the eye. The test unit was painted the familiar Yamaha blue. The lights in the fairing are so sculpted and subtle, it could, at a glance, pass as a race bike. The tailpiece is finned and vented for aerodynamics. Speaking of aerodynamics, this is the most slippery roadbike that Yamaha has ever built.
“All good then Dave”, I hear you say. So what’s the enigma? Well, you see, almost everything that makes the R6 such a track weapon makes it hard work on the road. The lack of low down torque feels like bad turbo lag on the road. Keeping the motor in the power is a thrill on the track, but a pain on the road. Talking pain, the track perfect ergos are hell on the wrists and neck around town.
Once on the open road the R6 becomes tolerable. With the motor in the happy zone, and the windblast taking the weight off your wrists and neck, you start enjoying the ride once more. When the road starts twisting, turning and undulating, all, once again, is forgiven. Stop for a coffee and park where you can just let your eyes caress those perfect looks. She may be hard to live with day to day, but indulge her talents and it could be a match made in heaven.
We teamed up with Superbike Magazines resident racer Gareth Davidson to get a racers perspective of the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 – Watch our highlights video to see what he thought of the bike.
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