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We test Yamaha's latest R6

2006-07-05 08:25

Yamaha YZF-R6 - Sportbike of the year?

Brett Hamilton

Take a few seconds to recall everything that you've heard about Yamaha's latest R6 so far. Well, it is true. Every last word. Yes, the new R6 IS that good.

As far as race reps go, the R6 is probably the closest that any production bike has come to a real racing machine.

Half of the reason is that 599cc lump pumping under the sharply-styled fairing.

It kicks out 98kW and 68Nm, this alone isn't too spectacular, but the fact that the R6 makes maximum power at 14  500r/min and has a giddy redline of 17 500r/min is another story.

This means that where with other bikes you are forced to shift up, with the R6 you'll end up short-shifting, which is really addictive. That over-rev comes in very handy on the track, where you can leave the bike in a higher gear through a wide range of corners.

This not only gives you faster times, but also sounds bloody marvelous.

On the road, things aren't quite as sorted. You need to wring its neck to get any sort of reaction out of the motor, anything under 10 000r/min sees the bike bogged down.

What that means is that last year's bike will probably win a power-on race in town. What does come in handy is that fact that you will still have 7 500r/min to play with once the motor decides to join the party.

This wider power band is what makes the new bike quite literally a winner as Yamaha has one aim with their new baby, to win the World Supersport championship.

For the average road rider, though, what helps on a racetrack in Spain has nothing to do with his weekly breakfast run.

Still, there is just nothing like rolling on the throttle, building the revs and listening to the bike wail as it utterly devours the road.

Swing you leg over and park your behind on the biscuit seat and one thing is clear: The R6 was not made for a slightly overweight, six-foot male. The bike is a race-winning machine and, to get the best out of the R6 requires the rider to be equally 'fit'.

There is no hiding behind the tiny screen, and there is absolutely no time to rest when on the move. Once you let that clutch go, things get intense very quickly.

But, that is where the sorted chassis comes in: Even with that ham-fisted engine, the bike is utterly composed, it has lost its predecessor's twitchiness in the corners, despite not having a steering damper as standard.

Here's a bit of irony, Honda?s latest Fireblade has a steering damper as standard and the historically hooligan Yamaha has lost his. How things have changed.

The new chassis has been given the ability to flex in certain areas, in order to give an increase in feel and feedback to the rider. Combined with the 1 380mm wheelbase, the responsiveness of the machine is superb.

The 41mm USD forks up front are stiff and offer good communication, and a surprising amount of stability on bumpy roads. The bikes has lost none of its predecessors nimble handling, thanks to the massive amount of mass centralization found in the bike's design.

Hard on the front brakes and things are better, too. Where the older R6 models where light in the front and filled you with a fear of loosing the front, 2006 is a year of endless grip and buckets of confidence.

Shifting down the gears is taken care of by a slipper clutch, meaning you'll never lock the rear wheel. Needless to say, the brakes work just fine.

Forget about the fact that the R6 leads the middleweight class this year, I'd say that it is the sportsbike of 2006.

Fact sheet:

Engine: 599cc, liquid-cooled four-stroke transverse four

Transmission: 6-speed manual.

Power: 98kW at 14 500 r/min

Torque: 68Nm at 12 000r/min

Top speed: 265 km/h.

Front brakes: Twin 310mm discs with radial-mount four-pot opposed piston Sumitomo calipers.

Rear brakes: 220mm disc with single-piston Nissin floating caliper.

Front suspension: 41mm Soqi inverted cartridge forks adjustable for preload, compression and rebound damping.

Rear suspension: Soqi monoshock adjustable for preload, high and low-speed compression and rebound damping.

Price: R82 946


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