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  • Sarah Merrell

Having Some Kicks on Yamaha's R6

When I first worked out plans with Yamaha to make the trip to California and document Women's Sportbike Rally, they gave me the option between an MT-09 and R6. Since I have an R6 at home, I opted for the MT-09. I wanted to try something different. But, since my husband was able to come along, and he chose the R6, it gave me the opportunity to trade bikes with him and try out both. Although I do have an R6, it's an older 2007. The one Yamaha provided was their most recent one--the 4th generation. So I was pretty ecstatic about the chance to try it out and see how it differs.

First of all, in my opinion, the new R6 is dang sexy. I love the body style and the understated graphics--it really lets the style of the bike speak of itself. And I just love the deep blue color, it's really stunning.

When I first sat on the bike, my first impression was that it felt taller and more narrow. Sure enough, I checked the specs, and it is a bit taller, but only 5mm, and it does have a thinner seat and more aerodynamic tank and front fairings (according to the Yamaha, this is should reduce drag by 8%). The change to the seat shape is nice as I felt it provided better ergonomics for leaning off the bike.

There is also a big difference in electronics. The new R6 has six levels of traction control, three riding modes and ABS. And although this is merely aesthetics, the electronics on the dash look so much fancier than on my 2007 R6!

Once I was moving and had the chance to accelerate and go through some corners, these were some other key differences I found:

  • Weight: It wasn't so much that the bike itself felt lighter, but that the tank (which is aluminum) was lighter. So the felt like lighter up top which was very noticeable when flicking it back and forth between corners.

  • Throttle Response: I thought my 2nd generation R6 had decent throttle response, but after riding the 4th generation, I realize the different. With the 4th generation, it's immediate. And it wasn't twitchy. The power was very smooth.

  • Braking: I didn't get a chance to truly test the braking power on the road like I could if I had been on a track, but the bike is touted to have front disc brakes that are 10mm larger providing improved braking.

  • Engine: The engine hasn't changed, but they did add the Yamaha Chip Controlled Intake. This is probably why I felt the throttle response and power to be so smooth.

  • Front Forks: The 4th generation R6 went from a 41mm front fork to 43mm KYB front forks and 25mm axel. Like the brakes though, I didn't have a chance to put this to the test on the road and truly feel a difference between my older R6 and the new R6. I imagine that at speed, in corners, there should be quite noticeable.

To me, overall, it felt like the same R6 I know and love but with some great improvements that would be even more profound on the track. One of the things I've liked about the Kawasaki ZX-6R compared to Yamaha's R6 is the slimmer body style and tank which to me made it easier to transition from left to right in corners and lean off the bike. With the new R6's updates to the tank and seat and the slimmer body, it feels more like the ZX-6R in that regard--which is a big positive in my book. The smooth, immediate power it provides would certainly help me out with acceleration on the track, too.

I hope I get the chance to ride this bike on the track at some point. The track is where I can push the limits of the bike more and really feel the small changes that make a huge difference in braking, acceleration and cornering. Just from the improvements I could feel on the road, I think this bike would be one heck of a good time on the track.

Check out this video for a better view of the bike and some of my thoughts after spending the day on it:

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