Yamaha YZF-R6 - Can the Champ Double Down?

Yammie’s skinny little R6 took the supersport crown in last year’s shootout by doing no wrong. No matter the environment, the Yamaha YZF-R6 was ranked at or near the top of every category. Just one year after introducing its all-new model, Yamaha has ordered its R6 a faster ECU with hotter ignition timing in order to broaden the R6’s somewhat scrawny powerband. Keen eyes will notice a larger exhaust outlet.

It’s difficult to tell exactly how those mods have paid off because the Yamamotor is perhaps the bike’s weakest aspect. Peak power on the new model was down a couple (to 100.7 hp at 12,700 rpm) as measured on Hansen's dyno compared to the ’03 model we ran on the White Brothers dyno last year. The large dip in the R6’s powerband around 8,000 rpm remains despite the new tuning, although it comes on strong at 9 grand to produce a frenetic run to redline that is competitive with the Honda and Suzuki.

Another fueling glitch makes itself apparent in city traffic. Almost nothing happens below 4,000 rpm until a sudden surge kicks in at 4,500. The R6 feels decidedly sluggish if it’s not launched with revs. Riders also judged the Yamaha throttle response when getting back onto the gas as the most abrupt, although it must be said we are picking some really small nits here.

Our test group all commended the R6’s lithe feel. It’s nearly the lightest in the group (391 pounds, tank empty), and its diminutive size between the legs helps make its rider feel capable of dominating the bike during extreme maneuvers. And lifting it off its sidestand will make you think its tires are filled with helium. (While you’re maneuvering the Yamaha at full lock, you’ll want to watch your fingers because its clip-ons will pinch them against the slim tank.)

Our testers judged the Yamaha as the most flickable of the bunch, as it should be with the least amount of trail (86mm) and stubbiest wheelbase (54.3 inches) of the group. Its 24-degree rake is slightly lazier than the Gixxer and steeper than the Kaw but it matches the CBR. What this means in practice is that the YZF is most eager to bend into a corner, giving its rider an easier time at carving up the canyons, and feedback from the front tire is abundant. The bars might flap a bit when accelerating hard over bumps in first gear, but it never gets truly unruly.

This amiable quality continues with the most upright riding position of the group, something we appreciate in this racier-replica sportbike world. Its wide seat is decent for the long haul, although it doesn’t approach the comfort of the Gixxer’s. There is negligible wind protection from the compact fairing, but an 80-mph breeze helps take weight off a rider’s wrists. At that speed, the R6 is turning 7,000 rpm, which sounds absurdly high until you realize that it’s not even halfway till redline. Helping matters is the silky engine that was universally judged to be the smoothest in class.

The R6’s 4-piston monoblock brake calipers are familiar to all by now, but combined with the 298mm dual discs up front, they’re still up to task. The front binders have a softish initial bite but with plenty of power when squeezed with authority, aided by an ultra-firm lever that makes a rider confident he could run it deeper into the corners. The R6’s shift action seems better than our previous test bike, but its action is almost too light which can result in an unplanned gear change. Its tranny is good but not the best.

Overall, the 2004 Yamaha R6 exudes a high level of refinement. The quality of its paint and plastics is exemplary, the cockpit is attractive and nicely finished, and it turns the most heads among the four-cylinders here.

2004 Yamaha YZF-R6 Highs & Lows


  • Nimbleness Jack could only dream about.
  • Makes its rider feel as dominating as Rossi.
  • A great package with agreeable ergonomics.


  • Hole-y powerband.
  • A bit short on grunt.
  • Doesn’t stand up well to 100-mph crashes!