Despite its quirks, the R6 is a gem when it’s on the move.
Yamaha has completely revamped the styling of their R6 from the ground up for 2017, but it’s also been treated to a fork, axle, and electronics suite. Power modes, ABS, adjustable traction control, titanium exhaust canister, the works. There was some humdrum about putting traction control onto a 600cc bike, but these are the kind of things that are found on just about every modern sport bike these days; so while they’re not lamented to me, they shouldn’t be a surprise either. It has become less and less about whether or not these technologies are equipped on a bike, and more about how they are executed. When it comes to the execution, the 2017 Yamaha R6 is about perfect.
Switching between the A, B, and Standard riding modes produces three completely different bikes, with only a close of the throttle, and the flick of a somewhat awkward-to-reach switch. “B” mode nerfs the engine and throttle response of R6 down, supplying you with power delivery akin to what you’d expect from an R3, which makes riding in rain far less nerve-wracking. “Standard” mode delivers you with ample amounts of power, without taking any ponies out of the pasture, but tames throttle response and help you keep the front wheel firmly planted.
Toss the R6 into “A” mode and you have almost no choice to ride like a complete and utter asshole. It may not add any ponies into your pasture, but it damn well brews each and every one of them a double-shot of espresso before letting them loose. Throttle response is tack-sharp, and no holds are barred.
There were a few oddities which showed up during my time riding the R6 though. On more than one occasion the starter took more than one press to start up the bike. I’m chalking this up to possibly a low idle on this particular bike, which can be easily fixed, but it is worth at least mentioning. I won’t lie, it caused me one or two embarrassing moments when people were admiring the bike, we struck up some conversation about it, and then it sputtered as I attempted to leave.
Easily one of my favourite parts of the R6 is it’s transmission. Shifts are affirmative, and satisfying enough to make you drop a gear just for the hell of it. There’s none of the rubbery sponginess which has appeared with the application of more and more quick shifters, just an firm click with each gear selection. The clutch has some numbness to it from a standstill, which admittedly caused me to stall it more than once, but after I was given time to adjust to the bite point I was just fine. Once you’re moving it becomes much more forgiving, never leaving me wondering how much more I had to let the lever out before it chomped onto the next gear. Yamaha does offer an optional quick shifter if you’re looking for lap times, or passenger comfort, but I just don’t want one for this bike.
Admittedly there’s a good deal of irony when it comes to judging any sport bike on it’s comfort, but it’s at least worth noting the R6 isn’t too rough on you. Sure, the seating position has you perched high, leaning forwards onto your wrists, but you’ve got enough knee support for you to somewhat support yourself with them. The seat is firm, but it won’t bruise your tailbone.
In turns, the R6 truly comes alive. At speed the thing is just so damn flickable. Weighing in at only 419lbs certainly helps to make the R6 a cinch to turn in. The Battleax tires that are equipped as standard do a great job, and will perform far past the limits of many riders. Adjustable traction control adds even more confidence, and with 6 levels on it you’ve got lots of customization to cater exactly to your level of skill and/or daring.
It’s also easy enough for you to adjust that I imagine a new track rider could quickly crank it up between turns if approaching a particularly nerve-wracking corner. I’m a fan of this approach, rather than the “all or nothing” strategy many other bikes employ. It’s a great way to help build your confidence up along with your skillset. Despite its quirks, the 2017 Yamaha R6 is a gem when it’s on the move. With 117 horses, 45 ft.lbs of torque, razor edge styling, and scalpel-like handling the R6 is well worth it’s $13,999 price tag.