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"Fast Bikes", January 1, 2013

Yamaha YZF-R6

JOHNNY ‘THE GAWLER’ GAWLER

Charlie did a decent job with his FZ8 of last year, diligently polishing a turd until he ended up seeing his little brown face in it, so I was looking forward to the Ad man’s efforts this year.

An R6 is what it is – a revvy little track hack with the thoroughbred temperament of Kauto Star stuffed in the stalls. I jumped on it round a cold and damp Llandow expecting it to be like a knife fight with an octopus. But rather than an edgy battle of wills – mine to survive and its to have me off – this R6 has somehow found some manners and flexibility.

So maybe bikes, like dogs, end up like their owners. As Charlie has found love and seen himself trekking up to the frozen North every weekend, so the Yamaha has come along for the ride.

For those of a sensitive disposition, the Mamba is about to use the C-word here. Yes, this R6 is comfortable. There, it’s been said, and I do only because these bikes were always bastards to do miles on – even if it was only for an eight-lap race. With stock pegs and no rearset upgrade, the R6 still displays a happy medium of ground clearance and room, but the Mamba’s even starting to bore himself now…

Luggage and travel capabilities aside, the R6 has grown into a really refined ride. Much of this is due to the Power Commander and pipe, delivering impeccable drive and adding balance to what was once a top-end biased bike. The official Aka’ pipe ain’t cheap, but at least it’s a bargaining tool at the dealers…

While the R6’s top end deserves a medal, it now has a chest to pin it on, in the form of a midrange it can be proud of. Gone are the days of stamping down to fire the Yamaha back into its operating zone. The slow stuff is often the undoing of many a tricked up bike in the pursuit of dyno destroying power, but through Llandow’s tight stuff, the natural poise of the bike is garnered through the application of perfectly delivered power.

Post apex, the Yamaha had no surprises, and the use of the HM quickshifter made the race to the next braking marker that bit quicker. The R6’s taming loses its once renowned edge, but hey, if that’s what Charlie wants…

With the Bridgestone S20s loving the sketchy conditions, the R6 was a breeze to circulate round at a decent pace. On stock settings, the balance between front and rear works well, making everything easy – although you have to make a conscious effort to break out of cruising mode.

Given the riding position, it would be easy to whack a load of preload on the rear or play with ride heights to exploit the feel at the front. The stock power never really bothers grip levels, but balance suits the bike in a way I never thought possible with an R6. A new set of stock pads gave the Mamba all the braking he needed, making this a well-rounded package.

But nothing wowed me and I got off the R6 a little discombobulated as this isn’t what an R6 should be about. That unrelenting track focus has gone, replaced by a nice bike. But hey, biscuits are nice, not R6’s…

PRICE NEW: £9,499

MOD’S: £2,512

MODS/PRICE RATIO: 26.4%

ENGINE

The 2006 lump got over 50 tweaks for ’08/09, primarily the Yamaha Chip Controlled Intake (YCC-I), but hardly anything in the 2010 minor revision. Compression was up from 12.8:1 to 13.1:1 thanks to a new piston design. Pistons feature a crown with a convex shape to create a pent-roof combustion chamber. There are new ultra-fine atomising injectors, a revised exhaust valve angle, and polished intake ports.

CHASSIS

The Deltabox frame was tweaked in 2008, not redesigned, for higher rigidity. The swingarm gets similar treatment. The new magnesium subframe saves 450g. Reworked internals in the forks give a wider range of damping, and the fork tube length has been increased by 10mm for geometry adjustment. The rear shock gets increased spring rate and internal fondling, and a removable 3mm ride height spacer.

Highlights

Akrapovic can and map

HM quickshifter

Official extras

Sports tourer!

111bhp

166kg (dry)

TRACK 8

Sharp, but not razor-like

FAST ROAD 8

Likes to play here, too

HOOLIGAN 6

Still too peaky for this

NEW RIDER 5

Look at other options

DESIRABILITY 7

Not even in new blu colours

DON’T BE FOOLED BY

Reputations. You’ve got to judge for yourself whether a bike has earned it or not – or lost one or not...

Verdict 7/10

It’s a lovely bike, but an R6 should evoke more passion and enable track skills to be honed even further…

+ HM QUICKSHIFTER, S20 TY RES, FLEXIBLE MOTOR

- UNNECESSARY EXTRAS, LOST EDGE, NEEDS SET-UP

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