IT’S long been known around the racetracks that Yamaha’s R6 was the go-to middleweight bike if you wanted to go quicker on the track.
Sure, other middleweight sports machines have spent some time at the top during the R6’s life but there’s no doubt in my mind the R6 has spent more time at the top of the racetrack, than any other brand.
Does this make it a better bike than its competition or is it a case of riders buying the bike, which is doing all the winning?
Even at last year’s Manx GP TT legend Milky Quayle told me that my son Alex would have gone quicker if he’d been on an R6 rather than a Ducati. He didn’t mention any other bike.
Whether that is true or not there seems to be a belief that the R6 is the bike to have if you are Supersport of Superstock 600 racing. And there are plenty of instances I know of where the rider has jumped from another brand onto an R6 and gone quicker straight away, indicating they are not only fast, but they are easier to ride fast.
In the shop
For 2014 there are only minimal changes from ’13. Yamaha says the R6 didn’t need any major changes, and as a package it’s still at the top of the Totem Pole. And it does this with no electronic rider aids, but then again so does just about every other middleweight sports machine.
Out of the box the R6 engine is a racer, with a 16,500rpm redline and a 13.1:1 compression ratio. It has all the usual suspects in the engine, and racers will delight in the fact it has a slipper clutch standard.
One of the cool gadgets the engine has is a variable intake tract set-up, which is controlled by the ECU. On older racing machines tuners can spend many hours tuning inlet lengths to get the best power but the R6 has the best length all the time, giving the engine a broad power delivery for this type of machine.
Twin injectors help here too, giving the engine all the fuel it needs when it’s revving hard. Another interesting thing is the engine has titanium valves, often seen in motocross engines, but the usual titanium valve issues don’t seem to be a reliability problem on the R6, as they can be with the dirt squirters of all brands.
Yes, even though they are usually seen being revved to within a thou of their lives on the racetrack, R6s are usually very reliable.
Suspension is what you would expect from a race-focused bike, with the 41mm forks adjustable in just about every plane, including high and low speed compression.
At the rear the shock has the same adjustment benefits. It also has a spacer, which can be tailored to alter the rear ride height, especially for track work. Track only?
There’s no doubt the riding position is track focused, and there’s little thought for luggage or pillion accommodation. It would be interesting to know how many new R6s sold actually go straight to the racetrack, compared to the road.
The rider does have their backside perched high and hands low but despite this it’s not too bad because the ratio of these two to the footpegs are reasonable for road riding. Around town it’s a chore of course but on the open road you can live with it, and when you get to the corners, well…
The engine sure likes to rev and it starts building real power around 9,000 rpm, with things going a bit mental from 10 upwards. Tootling around in top at 4-5,000 rpm is fine too, but for quick overtakes you’ll need to stomp the gear lever down a spot or two.
This is all second nature to experienced 600cc aficionados. As an educated guess I’d say there’s about 120 horsepower at the rear wheel. So, we’ve established it goes quite well but it’s probably the handling which is its strong point.
Our test bike was set firmly but not too firm that it compressed your spine at every opportunity. In fact it coped with the bumps well, never bouncing off them, despite the firmness.
Rear end squat under power was also fabulously absent and this is down to the mounting position of the swingarm which is up nice and high in the Deltabox frame.
Racers will also rejoice in the fact there are TZ style chain adjusters which are always handy for quick tyre changes at the track.
One area I felt the bike was slightly lacking was the brakes. The 4-piston radially mounted calipers (with Brembo master cylinder) felt a bit wooden for my liking, and required a decent pull on the lever for quick stops.
This might just be the pad material because I’ve ridden other R6s, which nearly throw you on your nose.
Not so handy for road riders but if you are keen on racing or track days the instruments have a built-in lap timer and a programmable shift light.
The rest of the combination digital/analogue instruments have all you need for any sort of riding you will do.
The 2014 R6 looks sharp and it feels sharp on the road. It’s very much track focused but amazingly it’s also great on the road, in the right conditions.
It steers incredibly quickly but still feels stable, even at speed on average surfaces. You can change line mid corner almost at will, and when you have the engine past 10,000 rpm it is screaming like a banshee and going like one too, especially with the GYTR accessory slip on muffler.
On the pipe it sounded amazing without being too loud around town. It might have a reputation for on track prowess but the latest R6 is also a fine sports road bike.
At $15,999 the 2014 YZF-R6 is amazing value, considering many riders would be quicker on this bike than they would on bigger capacity sports machines.
Fifteen years ago we put the very first Yamaha R6 on the cover of the very first issue of Cycle Torque. It was a leader of the pack then and still is. The more things change the more they stay the same.