Yamaha’s latest YZF-R6 has lost power and torque and gained some weight – all in the name of meeting Euro4 regulations. Yamaha have tried to offset this performance reversal with a completely new front end, R1-styled bodywork and rider aids introduced for the first time. So, is it a step forward or a small step back? And can the new Yamaha rekindle our love for the 600 class? We pitched it against Suzuki’s GSX-R600 and hit the road and track.
My arse has gone numb, and I’m in agony. The Yamaha’s suspension has minimal travel, especially the rear, and it’s punishing my spine. The screen is much wider and taller than before, but the fairing is tiny. I’m stuck behind a long trail of holiday traffic and wishing I was on anything but a new R6 because a broken rocking horse would be more comfortable.
But then the road opens out. I tap back to second gear, the tacho darts up to 10,000rpm and the R6 is transformed. The noise from the inline-four is intoxicating as it approaches the 16,500rpm redline. Sacrificing all mechanical sympathy, I don’t even want to imagine how fast the titanium valves are moving as I ask the quickshifter for another gear. I’m in heaven as the needle heads towards the redline once more; I’m 25 years old again with all those aches and pains miraculously cured.
The GSX-R on the other hand offers the thrill of the R6 but with more comfort. The lower seat is softer, the suspension is plush, there’s more travel, and it’s much more suited to the road. The riding position isn’t as radical and I’m no longer perched over the front. Over distance the GSX-R is more accommodating and makes for an easier companion.
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