The R6 has always been a sharp tool in its class, this rendition sees a sharpness not yet seen on a street legal bike especially with its higher than average RPM range some 1500 RPM short of its initial advertised maximum of 17,500. Yamaha apologized profusely for its mathematical mistake (I believe they now have that engineer tuning piano\'s in a very cold place) and are offering a full buy back for any disgruntled buyers - I\'ve got to think that there\'ll be no takers there, the bike\'s just too good outside of that 1500RPM discrepancy.
So what\'s new? Pretty much everything. From the axles up its focus is positioned as an Xtreme Supersport, did I say Xtreme? Of course I meant extreme. This Supersport class has seen a radical 275% increase in sales since 1998, and to keep pace with the trend, this is the most radical Supersport yet from Yamaha and stressed to us that this is not a beginner steed. The bar that Yamaha has raised this genre to means the other OEM\'s will have to revisit the performance drawing board and come up with their plan of retaliation...whoops, with that thought in mind, I just drooled on my keyboard.
Don\'t worry, Yamaha has a contingency plan for those of you thinking this might be too radical, and the next best offering from the tuning fork folks is the R6S - pretty amusing really, especially when you consider that this alternative model is the same bike that won the 2003 AMA Supersport Championship with hungry Hacker behind the clip-ons. Laugh? I nearly paid my bar tab.
We sat down and listened to the usual lighter, smaller, faster blah, blah and then listened to the fact that this is being marketed as a GP racer for the street. GP racer? Factor in the MotoGP geometry of the relationship between the rear axle, swingarm pivot and steering head, and it\'s a Rossi replica. This newer peakier version is actually up from 109 to 112 rear wheel BHP. The identity is truly R6 though and a good design stroke away from the look of its bigger brother the R1. A good thing too, this way you get maximum kudos when you rail past the superbikes ala Jason Disalvo at the last Fontucky test. Yes, a couple of Superbike\'s got left behind in that test so it would seem that if you have the minerals (JD seems to) you won\'t be eating too much crow.
Tire choice for this event was a true good and bad experience. Bad because the cheeky monkey\'s didn\'t supply us race rubber, and good, nay, very good, because the street bias tires that come OEM equipped on the R6, were the new Dunlop Qualifiers. I\'m well sold on the DQ, and like the Kawasaki ZX10R tire, Yamaha too has requested a slightly harder compound than the series we tested at their debut in Las Vegas. The only downside to the harder compound is the obvious slightly longer warm up time, the upside, obviously the good mileage. Each session with that harder compound saw me wobble around for three laps minimum, it was cold and windy and I\'ve cold tire high-sided at Willow before and I wasn\'t about to bend a bike (or myself) for the sake of some early speed - but then I\'m old and smell like cabbage.
The R6 has often been compared with Yams\' own TZ250 for sizing and manoeuverability, in reality it\'s never been true - the R6 is obviously bigger and heavier and an easier ride than the more race competent TZ, and whereas the R6\'s a sword, the TZ\'s a laser. For 2006 though the R6 seems to be heading toward the TZ because it\'s a very peaky and demanding ride now. Few people (don\'t be pointing your finger at me?) will be capable of maxing out the R6 on the race track but when you start working toward it you\'ll get real rider satisfaction and not to mention a serious adrenaline rush because this thing sings.
Torque has never been a strong point (relatively speaking) of the Supersport class. The old bike liked to be 8000 and higher before it started making up some steam. The new bike is worse (better?) And likes to be over 11k or closer to 12,000RPM before it starts to get busy. It was difficult for me, especially as I own a big V-Twin to rev this thing out to the indicated 17,500 (really 16,000) my mechanical sympathy seemed to hold me back. However, when I took advantage of the RPM and rode the thing like a two-stroke, it all came together. Screaming this bike is where it\'s at. If you bust a corner and lose that RPM you have to dig deep to get it back again. If you don\'t maintain all your corner speed you start to lose the R\'s and it can sometimes be saved (like a two-smoke) with some clutch slipping or you have to row that gearbox again. On saying that though, the over-rev on this bike does make it easier to hold the RPM should you feel brave.
Just like a ring-dinger, get it right and you\'ll look good, can stare Jason D\' in the eye, and life is grand. Get it wrong and you\'re going hopelessly backwards, hating life and the new bike. This bike does reward you if you\'re up to bettering your race track prowess. The more I think about this bike the more I think its going to be a pretty capable all-rounder. Without sounding too hypocritical I feel that for day to day stuff you can ride it off the cam and be reasonably happy, especially with you knowing what you have stowed down below (should you need to bust it out.) Sure, off the cam won\'t see you braking any speed records (or laws) but then again you won\'t be making a bunch of noise either, or attracting Johnny Law - win, win. (Was that three wins?).
Stability is exemplary - at speed and on your ear, mid-corner bumps don\'t make much of an impression on the Yamaha. The suspension is very compliant with high and load speed damping to really dial the bike into your weight and riding style. Under hard acceleration and over the bumpy stuff, you might get a little waggle of the bars - just enough to get your attention but not enough to head back to the pits with dramatic tank slapper stories. I must admit I even looked around to see if the thing was carrying a steering damper (it hasn\'t). A great example is the left turn seven before the bowl right turn 8 at the Streets - you\'re on your knee at a tad over 100mph, there\'s a mid corner bump there that instead of me adjusting my race line, I could ride right over it. That tighter, stiffer chassis allows a compliant (read softer) suspension setting and it took the hit with no ill effects.
The rear shock has a ramp style preload adjuster - sure it doesn\'t have a finite range of adjustability that the threaded style enjoys but the ease of use negates any downside, especially with it being a quick and easy visual clue to your bike\'s stance (relative to your weight). Both the front and rear suspenders also have high and low compression adjusters. With the adjustments available to you, your chances to muck up this bike\'s handling is just as easy as it is to improve it. So just like riding the thing, you have to pay attention (to your tweaking.)
Race wins are not always about brute power and forcing the issue, it\'s also about smoothness and finesse. The 2006 R6 comes with a feature that every "real" performance bike should have - a slipper clutch. The upside of this type of clutch is that it\'ll bail you out (rather than off) if you charge a corner and lose composure (hey, it happens). Red mist might sometimes see you banging gears a little later and sometimes a little untidier. The slipper helps with rear wheel hop and you\'ll be rewarded with some stylishly looking backing in maneuvers, especially if you\'re really lazy, really force the issue, are sloppy, have poor timing and/or are an idiot like me. The brakes on this bike are also the dogs danglies too, one or two fingers max - so this slipper\'s going to come in handy trying to match down shifts with braking inputs.
The acronym lovers among you will enjoy the Y-CR (Yamaha Curved Radiator) and the S-LF-SW (Super-light Five-Spoke Wheels). Another good one is the YCC-T (Yamaha Chip Controlled Throttle) or in laymen\'s term - Fly by Wire. There\'s a regular cable down to the throttle body and from there on there\'s a digital big brother to control all aspects of fuel injection using multiple sensors to monitor when and how you might want your power delivered. We did have a debate during our lunch/bench racing session as to whether this thing will "let" you spin up a wheel in anger. The programming possibilities for this set-up are endless especially with its sophisticated ignition. Should we expect aftermarket traction control to mate with this system soon? I hope so... Oh, before I forget, I made the first two acronym\'s up.
Other goodies? That exhaust, midship in design, is full titanium with an EXUP valve, a first in the Supersport class. It also tree huggingly clean and is good through 2007 with its EU3 EPA friendly rating. It looks MotoGP rad too, straight off the Rossi/Edwards M1. Up front, the revised intake looks very stylish offering an unobstructed passage to cool air for the revised (narrower) intakes leading to some tasty single spring Ti valves. Further thoughtfulness means that all of the nonessential parts are integrated into the bike. Come track day, you\'ll be able to remove the turn signals, rear licence plate holder and mirrors using just a phillips screw driver, a 10mm spanner, a beer and a deck chair - because you\'re going to want to be comfortable watching your wife or your wife\'s mum lovingly convert your bike into a track day hero.
I never really paid attention to the design points of this bike when I first saw it in my local Yamaha dealership. Having spent some time looking at it and seeing it in the race paddock, it\'s gorgeous looking. From front to rear it looks both proportionate and "right." There\'s various stylish and functional cooling intakes and ducts in and around the fairing. One of the few minors I could point out is the redesigned gas tank - it\'s slippery looking and doesn\'t have the hard edge like the last one did. This makes it difficult to hook a knee or thigh for high speed ear to ear body English - Stomp grips all round, please. As far as ergo\'s are concerned, I\'m 6\'1" and I didn\'t look or feel cramped on the thing, that\'s always nice.
So in a nutshell, this bike won\'t help you get a girlfriend (although Disalvo might disagree) it won\'t be easy to ride, it won\'t be the most comfortable bike ever (it\'s reasonably close to last years though) and it won\'t help get you a promotion at work (unless your working toward a Graves ride). It will however have you loving life at a race track pace - especially when you\'re railing your favorite turn and your knee pucks\' a-humming. The great thing about this bike is that it revs to the moon and the bad thing about this bike is that it revs to the moon.