Yamaha YZF-R6

  • MSRP: $10,090
  • Horsepower: 100.00 hp @ 14,100 rpm
  • Torque: 40.77 lbs.-ft @ 10,850rpm
  • Weight: 409.1 lbs w/fuel, 383.8 lbs w/o fuel
  • Superpole Time: 1:20.34 (Atlas)
  • ¼ Mile: 11.25 @ 134.11 mph
  • Top Speed: 164.49 mph
  • Overall Ranking: 4th-place

Razor-sharp. Knife-edged. Precise. All words commonly associated with the 2009 Yamaha YZF-R6. While Yamaha only did a few minor changes for this year – customary BNG plus a re-tuning of the engine for slightly more mid-range – it’s hard to argue that they really needed to change it much. At least on the racetrack.

Because of its radical chassis, the Yamaha has always been one of the tougher bikes to get set-up in stock trim. This was again the case both at Big Willow and Streets of Willow. By far taking the most time to set-up, it wasn’t an easy task, but the Yamaha team worked their tails off and got it right. Once we were able to get it dialed, it worked extremely well. So well that in outright Superpole Supremacy it only missed the top spot by a mere tenth of a second to the Kawasaki, posting a 1:20.34 to the Kawasaki’s 1:20.23. But, when both Sorenson’s (1:22.70) and my times (1:20.23) were averaged it leaped to the front of the pack, taking top honors with a blistering 1:21.52 average. Goes to show, once it’s set up, you can ride the Yamaha really, really fast and it yearns to be pushed to its limits.

“Without a doubt the R6 is a scalpel on the track,” says VP Hutchy. “It feels like a bicycle out there; it’s simply awesome. The problem comes in the fact that the ease of which it turns-in and can be flicked side-to-side gives it a less stable feeling than the CBR or ZX. But that sacrifice mid-corner pays dividends in the transitions.”

“Turn-in on the Yamaha is effortless. Almost to a fault,” Sorensen explains. “I like how aggressive the chassis is for the racetrack, it is the most hyperactive of all the bikes. You just think about flicking the bike into the corner and it is there. But mid-corner stability is a tradeoff for the Yamaha. Because the chassis is so aggressive, this bike moves around a little more mid corner.”

After you finish reading about how much we dig this bike, make sure to watch the Yamaha R6 video review so you can experience the sound of that screaming engine for yourself. We can’t put you behind the bars in reality so this is as close as you can get.

Despite being at the back of the pack in terms of horsepower and torque on the dyno, it was praised by many for having ample real-world racetrack power. Yamaha claims to have tuned the bike for more mid-range and unfortunately somewhere in the process it lost some peak power, going from the highest horsepower Japanese bike of the bunch last year to the second-lowest this time around, producing only 100.00 hp @ 14,100rpm for 2009. But you would never guess that was the case after top-speed test data was revealed.

Strangely enough, when it came time to putting it to the test at HPCC, it walked away with the second-highest top speed, 164.49 mph, only slightly behind the much more powerful Ducati (165.41mph), yet edging out the higher horsepower Kawasaki, which recorded a 164.25 mph pass. This just goes to show outright horsepower on the dyno isn’t everything, and at 409.1 pounds its low weight and effective aerodynamics made it a missile. It was also one of the most stable at that speed, feeling as if you could relax and watch a movie while going 165 mph. On the other hand, their claimed “added mid-range” just wasn’t quite enough to produce improved performance in the quarter-mile. It had to be revved to 12,000 rpm and has a numb-feeling clutch which really hurt its launches. The best it could put down was an 11.24 @ 134.11 mph. That’s still right there with the other bikes but it takes a lot more work to get it to produce those times.

While on the track, about as low as anyone ever goes at speed is roughly 11,000 rpm for the most part, so when our faster testers refer to “mid-range,” it’s more akin to top-end on the streets. Either way, once you get the R6 revving she screams to life nearly effortlessly. The throttle twists with complete ease, response is excellent and power builds extremely fast.

“When this bike was released last year it blew us away with how much power it had on the low end and yet still pulls all the way through the top,” adds AMA champion Chuckie. “This technology has set a new standard for power delivery in the 600 class.”

“The Yamaha felt almost as fast as the Kawasaki,” confirms fast-photog JC Dhien. “It has plenty of go and revved up the same way: very quickly.”

Not everyone came to grips with the R6 power though; it ended up ranking right in the middle of the pack for engine scoring on the track.

“Yamaha went backwards this year with their motor package in my opinion,” points out Garcia. “I have no idea what they did with their top end? The R6 was great coming out of hot-pit and good in the tight stuff, but never really got moving. I was really surprised with the difference between the ‘08 and ’09.”

Brakes, brakes, brakes. They are always an area of mystery. Everyone has their own idea of how they should work, how many pistons they need, how big of rotors are required. What this boils down to though is personal preference. It was yet another area the Yamaha got mixed reviews – some loving the binders and some putting them further down the list, much of this due to their unique braking feel. They are not your typical Nissin or Brembo units as found on most machines either. They are Sumitomo four-piston monobloc calipers. Monobloc? Doesn’t that mean the brakes have to be awesome? Usually they are – think Brembo 1198 brakes – but without aggressive enough compound pads the outcome can be less than amazing.

“The Yamaha brakes were good, just in this group they need to be great to stand out,” Waheed says. “It still doesn’t have as aggressive of pads as I think it needs. That initial bite isn’t there and on several occasions I had to use all four fingers to get it stopped which is very rare these days.”

Dhien didn’t quite see eye-to-eye with Waheed: “Yamaha had good brakes,” he said. “It was a bit harsher than the Honda and unsettled the bike under heavy stopping power.”

“The Yamaha’s brakes worked well, medium initial bite, smooth progressive power, but for the track I would want a harder bite,” sums up Sorensen.

But what really put the nail in the coffin and moved the Yamaha back in the pack were once again quite unfavorable street scores across the board. Its aggressive ergonomics and racetrack-built engine made for a tough machine to get along with in the real-world.

“Least favorite by far,” says Kennedy of his Yamaha street experience. “Maybe it’s because I’m tall but the seat ramps up towards the back so it’s constantly pushing your family jewels into the tank, which is not my style. The bike is pretty dead in the low rpm’s but shows a totally different face in the higher rpms, which means at that point you’re probably going way too fast on the street. A good thing about it not being jumpy at lower rpms, though, is that it’s really friendly getting around town. No threat of sneezing then accidently twisting the throttle and the bike jumping into oncoming traffic.”

Simon agrees, saying, “The Yamaha was definitely my least favorite bike of the day. Talk about not being comfortable on a bike. The whole time I was riding I felt as if I was going to fly over the front. Especially braking coming into corners before I would lean over. The rear end of the motorcycle sat so much higher than the rest, causing me to transfer the majority of my body weight too far forward. And at over six feet tall that’s a lot!”

When all roads lead to the racetrack, the Yamaha R6 is a clear-cut amazing machine. But when those roads are on the street, it scored at or near the back of the pack in nearly every category. The only saving grace of the R6 on the roads? Everyone was a fan of the new colors and sharp styling. But its appearance wasn’t enough to make up for the Yamaha’s street scores, holding it back greatly and coming home fourth overall in this Shootout.

2009 YZF-R6 Suspension Settings (measured from stock)
(+clockwise, -counterclockwise)


  • Compression (high-speed): -1 turn
  • Compression (low-speed): stock
  • Rebound: -10 clicks
  • Preload: Stock
  • Fork Height: -2.5mm


  • Compression (high-speed): Stock
  • Compression (low-speed): Stock
  • Rebound: -1/2 turn
  • Preload: -1 line