2007 Yamaha YZF-R6

  • MSRP: $9,299-9,399
  • Weight: 393 lbs (empty tank)
  • Weight Distribution: 52.3% (w/full tank)
  • Peak HP: 104.8 @ 14,200 rpm
  • Peak Torque: 41.3 lb-ft @ 11,500 rpm
  • 1/4-mile: 10.60 @ 133.5 mph
  • Observed Fuel Economy: 32.9 mpg

Unless you were marching with the penguins in Antarctica last year, you’re probably well aware of the hubbub surrounding the introduction of the landmark R6. This is a bike that set everyone back on their heels when the latest edition debuted last year, whether it was because of the mysterious 17,500-rpm redline or its drop-dead gorgeous looks.

Well, its redline proved to be about 1500 revs optimistic, which caused a bit of a PR kafuffle for Yamaha. But that didn’t stop hordes from laying down their cash for the bad-ass little screamer, one of the most striking sportbike designs to ever come out of Japan. It’s modular yet flowing, racy but artful, sharp yet sleek.

“The Yamaha is one sick looking ride,” raves Kenny about our favorite design of the pack. “The angular styling is growing on me – every angle of the R6 is tasty-tasty.”

While the whole of the R6’s shape is undoubtedly cool, it’s backed up by meticulous attention to detail. This machine is put together with parts that beg to be pored over, and there are several trick bits that help justify the $9,399 MSRP of our sweet Candy Red R6 (the Team Yamaha Blue version lists for $100 less).

Take a look at the its clip-on brackets that are machined from billet aluminum, as are the trick chain adjuster plates that BC notes are similar to those found on Yamaha’s TZ racers. While the others in the group wear steel kickstands, the R6 gets a lavish forged aluminum one. And, although the floating rear turnsignals and license plate bracket is stylistically controversial, at least it is supported by a handsome aluminum bracket – and it can be taken off in minutes, good for racers or trackday junkies, as well as street riders who can quickly fit a fender eliminator kit. Sculpted engine covers and smooth aluminum frame castings complete the high-end look.

“Visually the Yamaha is my favorite of the group,” says the artistic-minded Chamberlain. “You would think that with so much race focus it would lack the fit and finish of the others. Not so. It is easily one of the most elegant and well-refined machines in the group.”

The R6 rider is greeted by a wide front fairing that seems incongruent with the acutely narrow tank section that allows a rider’s legs to fit in tightly. Opinions about the bike’s ergonomics depend on who you ask and where they’re riding. For our ringer Roberti, who rode with us only at the track, he says “I love the riding position of this bike.” For the six-foot Chamberlain, he says the ergos are his favorite for track use but less so on the street.

Shorter people, or perhaps those snarled in stop-and-go traffic, will grow to dislike the tall 33.4-inch seat height and a saddle that is broad but not plush. That commuter rider will also likely not enjoy a clutch that engages at the end of its travel, the pegs that are fairly rear-set or the low windscreen that offers minimal wind protection. Haldane notes that its instruments are probably the prettiest of the bunch “but still lacking the fuel gauge I really appreciate when riding on the street.”

But the R6 isn’t really about catering to commuters or newbies. It’s about being a supreme sporting machine – rationality be damned! If you’re lucky enough to be Shawn Roberti, you’re not only one fast mo-fo, you also have an R6 in the garage solely as your track bike.

“Its chassis is definitely the most neutral and raciest of the bunch,” says the 40-something bullet. “It gives you a great feel for both the front and rear of the bike.”

With the widest bars offering strong leverage, the R6 takes the least energy when making steering transitions despite having chassis geometry similar to the Gixxer. The biggest difference is the Yamaha has a wheelbase shorter by nearly a half inch.

“It’s extremely flickable yet stable in the corners,” offers Chamberlain. “Both the front and rear provide excellent feedback and inspire confidence.”

“The Yamaha is a track weapon,” adjoins Hutch, “so it shouldn’t be a surprise it was the easiest to carve up the Streets of Willow aboard it. It's light and thin design makes it really easy to maneuver on tight layouts like this.”

The Yamaha YZF-R6 reliably scampers around a racetrack, feeling at home in a place where you can let this bird scream. Just like last year, low-end power isn’t the Yammie’s forte. Neither is the midrange. But top-end steam, now we’re talkin’. The R6 may wait the longest to make its power, but when it does it hits hard. It feels like the biggest top-end punch, which is a sensation probably encouraged by the dearth of power below 10,000 rpm.

“The R6 lacks bottom-end but is awesome up top,” says Hutch. “On the track it was great as long as you didn’t let the revs dip below 10 grand. Otherwise it wouldn’t get out of its own way. Plus, the motor howling out the stubby exhaust is still the best sound emanating from this bunch.”

Off the racetrack, that top-heavy powerband is less appealing. There are times when riding around town that a request to the engine room is met with a soggy response, and the only cure is to ride around a gear lower to keep the revs up. Although a bit buzzy around 7000 rpm, it dramatically smooths out up top.

“It feels so smooth at 10K that I often didn’t even realize I was dipping into double digits on the tach on the street,” says Kenny.

A cooperative tranny helps coax the most out of the revvy motor. Shift throws are short and action is positive. A clutch that engages only at the end of its lever bothered the short-handed, especially because the span of that lever, unlike the front brake, isn’t adjustable. The R6’s slipper clutch comes in handy on a bike with a tachometer that needs to be in its upper third, although it comes in a bit harsher than the exceptional Kawasaki unit. Its twistgrip spring is fairly stiff, which doesn’t help the slight abruptness felt when reapplying throttle, but it’s still more seamless than the Honda.

The R6 gets a user-friendly bonus point for the shock’s ramped preload adjuster that makes it easy to adjust for different riders or the addition of a passenger. However, that passenger will be perched somewhat precariously on small and unforgiving pad. The suspension uses fairly taut springs that work fine on the track but were a bit unyielding on the street for our lighter riders. My coworkers found amusement when I termed the suspension “stiff but not harsh.”

Overall, the R6 remains the raciest ride of the group, and if riding one of these bikes can make a spine tingle, this is the one. A trackday addict who is willing to wring the Yammie’s neck (hello, Roberti!) will be thrilled with the top-end wallop and scalpel-like handling.

“This bike is the easiest to ride and gives the best feedback, allowing you to reach your full riding potential more quickly,” says our fastest tester. And he’d know.

But if you’re a casual street rider or someone who lives hundreds of miles from any twisty roads, you might want to think twice.

“Like last year, the top-end-only motor seems to be holding this bike back from what it is really capable of,” says BC. “Sure, good riders will be able to ride around its anemic midrange, but as the Honda has just shown, they shouldn’t have to.”