What we said then
“Yamaha’s R6 is the most insane sports 600 ever to hit the road – and you have to be committed to get the most from it. The new bike takes the performance of a 600 screaming to places most riders wouldn’t believe possible.” MCN launch report, October 28, 1998
But what is it like now?
The R6 has always had a reputation as a rev-happy screamer, but the last time I rode an old-style injected R6 I was pleasantly surprised by its midrange. Would it be a similar story with this carbed model? Err, no…
Paddling my way out of the dealer’s car park I nearly stalled as there is almost nothing below 5000rpm. As with a two-stroke, you need to be heavy on the revs and clutch at low rpm to get going on carbed R6 models. But once you are moving it comes alive. Hit 6000rpm and the R6 wakes up, driving strongly as long as you are hard on the gas before the next kick in power at 10,000rpm where it really takes off towards its 15,500rpm redline.
This R6 may be 17 years old, but it still has quite a turn of pace provided you keep it singing. Drop the revs, however, and it is a different story. Be lazy with the R6’s throttle and you are fighting a losing battle as it doesn’t have the midrange to carry taller gears. Try to roll-on in top and it wheezes and puffs and you are forced to drop about three gears. The clunky gearbox may be noisy, but it is precise in its action, so other than a tired left foot this isn’t too much of a hardship and is to be expected from an early 2000s supersport bike.
These bikes were built to battle on the track, which is where the R6 built its reputation. Even by modern standards the R6 feels light and agile in the bends. The suspension isn’t nearly as refined as the units on a modern machine, leading to a slightly skittish ride, but the potential for B-road hooliganism is certainly all there.
A bit of suspension work, a set of sticky tyres and some new brake pads and you will be armed with quite a weapon. Back on the road and comfort isn’t at the forefront of the R6’s design brief. The seating position is a little cramped, the bars low and the screen only really comes into play when you are riding with your chin on the tank, but this stance suits the R6’s full-on character.
Any obvious faults?
The R6’s lack of low-down drive is accentuated on this bike by the fact the throttle has loads of free play. A few hours with a set of spanners will sort this (hopefully it’s not the emulsion tubes) and I’d also look at the front mudguard. This bike has a 120/70 front Michelin Pilot Road tyre fitted (it came with 120/60 as standard) and after stopping at the side of the road I picked up a bit of gravel in the tread, which rubbed on the mudguard due to the lack of clearance caused by the taller profile tyre.
The brakes are pretty poor, but nothing a set of new pads and swapping the OE rubber lines for braided replacements wouldn’t fix. Other than these small niggles, this R6 rode really nicely considering its age and I love its originality.
Or worthwhile extras?
The alarm will help to reduce an insurance premium, so it may be worth keeping, but I’d swap the aftermarket black screen for a clear item. A used stock Yamaha item costs about £45 on eBay while a new double bubble is closer to £60.
There is something very satisfying about riding a bike as analogue as the R6. If you want a cheap track hack, a cosmetically tatty carbed R6 would fit the bill perfectly, while those wanting a budget supersport bike with a bit of spirit should also give one a go.
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