Push on and the Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat goes all Bagpuss on you. The motorcycle weighs a beefy 187kgs dry and its suspension - especially at the front end - is too soft to cope should you decide to play tag with someone who knows how to ride a pure sportbike. That said, the Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat is a superb touring motorcycle.
Basically a detuned R6 motor, the Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat has a claimed 100bhp in its cylinders, it provides all the power you need, so long as you have to rev it above 6000rpm. The Thundercat's gearbox makes playing racers occasionally a whole lot of fun, although the clutch is the weak link in the transmission.
Apart from the cheaply painted exhaust system, which tends to rot quickly in winter, the Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat is a well built motorcycle and the engine will easily rack up 60,000 miles without major problems. The beautiful brake calipers need careful attention in winter to keep them from seizing up too - a common Yamaha problem.
Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat used buyers' guide
If you are prepared to look past the age-related chips and scratches, then the Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat is a financially viable all-round package capable of long-distance, weekend thrills and commuting. Why wouldn’t you?
Ask the mechanic...
Matt Woodland – Yamaha, KTM and Ducati Technician at SMC Bikes, Sheffield, says:
"We don’t have many of these bikes anymore. Many years ago, they were quite popular because they were a very cheap 600 to run and buy at the time. Now, a lot of them are being phased out and replaced with more modern and fuel-efficient bikes and we only see them occasionally for MOTs.
"They are now mostly used as a day-to-day commuter bike and they are run and run until they go wrong and then we see them for the repair. They are not the best looked after, but as long as they are running, people keep running them!
"Previously, they came in for their main services, tyres and general wear, tear and repair. As far as I can remember there were no recalls, however they were in production before I was a technician.
"They came in for the normal stuff like chain and sprockets, tyres and brake pads general servicing. I believe back then, the intervals were 600 miles for the first service, then 4000, 8000, 12,000 and 24,000 miles. The 12,000-miler is the major service and then after that it has a bit of a long stint before the next major one.
"Back in the day, it was a good 600 and was one of the first bikes that Yamaha could call a modern-day sportsbike. Any new rider that passed their test at the time could have one and they were a good beginner’s bike – if you could afford the insurance!
"It’s now popular with riders in their mid-30s onwards, using it as a cheap semi-sports-tourer and they are used all-year-round. Of the ones I've seen in recent years, a lot of them have quite high mileages; ranging from 24,000 to 50,000. You might find the odd one or two with around 12,000 on the clock, however that’s easier said than done.
"A lot of owners do put a bigger, darker screen and a different exhaust on it. This helps it to breathe a little more and unlock a little more performance. People also changed the standard pipe because the headers were made of mild steel, which were prone to rot over time. People put a full titanium or steel replacement on there to help combat the problem."
Motorcycles like the Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat go cheap secondhand, mainly because they've never really been in fashion. But the Yamaha Thundercat offers sharper handling, better braking and slightly more durability than also-ran 90s motorcycles like the Suzuki GSX600/750F, BMW R850R or Triumph Trident 750. Worth a look.
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The YZF600R Thundercat has decent brakes but the suspension is a bit soggy and the dashboard doesn't offer much touring related info. The Thundercat's fairing is a bit wider than the average 600cc motorcycle, so it offers good wind protection, with a slightly higher screen than usual too.