YAMAHA YZF600 THUNDERCAT (1996-2003) Used Review
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£120|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
If you're after a versatile sports-touring motorcycle, with a reliable engine, decent suspension and braking, plus the ability to carry two people plus kit for a two week holiday, the Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat is damn-near perfect.
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
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.
EngineNext up: Reliability
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.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
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."
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
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.
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.
|Engine type||16v, in line four, 6 gears|
|Frame type||Aluminium Deltabox type|
|Fuel capacity||599 litres|
|Front suspension||Preload, rebound, compression|
|Rear suspension||Preload, rebound, compression|
|Front brake||Twin 298mm discs|
|Rear brake||245mm disc|
|Front tyre size||120/60 x 17in|
|Rear tyre size||160/60 x 17in|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||40 mpg|
|Annual road tax||£67|
|Annual service cost||£120|
|Used price||£2,000 - £2,200|
14 of 17
How much to insure?
|Warranty term||Two year unlimited mileage|
Top speed & performance
|Max power||100 bhp|
|Max torque||48 ft-lb|
|Top speed||145 mph|
|1/4 mile acceleration||11.3 secs|
|Tank range||140 miles|
Model history & versions
1996: Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat launched.
1997: Dark blue metallic paint scheme dropped.
2000: New silver/yellow and red colour schemes.
2002: New Yamaha blue/white colours.
2003: Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat discontinued.
Owners' reviews for the YAMAHA YZF600 THUNDERCAT (1996 - 2003)
22 owners have reviewed their YAMAHA YZF600 THUNDERCAT (1996 - 2003) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.
Summary of owners' reviews
|Ride quality & brakes:|
|Reliability & build quality:|
|Value vs rivals:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£120|
Annual servicing cost: £70
Easy and cheap to maintain without the complications of more modern motorcycles. Best features are range, comfort and an engaging ride not masked by modern gadgets.
Once Yamaha’s sports 600 is now a super comfy sports tourer with a 200+ mile range, comfy seat and easy luggage carrying. Adjustable suspension and brakes which still perform brilliantly made even better by modern tyres
Nice and smooth inline four with bulletproof Yamaha reliability and plenty of real world torque.
Only age related issues to bodywork which is now unavailable new from Yamaha.
Super easy home servicing with everything accessible once a K&N air filter is fitted.
Not many frills by modern standards but that’s what makes it appealing to me. Add Yamaha genuine heated grips, my Garmin satnav and Givi panniers means instant tourer.
Buying experience: This is my third Thundercat over the years having bought one new in 1996 before moving (back then) to sportier bikes so buying one was nice and easy.
Version: YX radian 600 cc 1989
Annual servicing cost: £100
Typical that my model isn't worthy of a mention. Own a Harley Sportster and a 750 GSXR Had the best fun of my life on my Yamaha I just Love im 💖
Till the fuel runs out. Holds only 15pounds.
Needed an extra gear.
Mainly work on my bike with a trusted companion.
Changed the shocks to lower it re modeled the seat. Love my twin exhaust and peanut tank.
Buying experience: Privately. As an old riding school bike. Battered but he was mine. And I was gna take care1 of him from there on .I have and I will, he's going in my front room wen I can't ride him anymore. .
Annual servicing cost: £200
Bloody brilliant bike. Biggest problem is what will I ever replace it with?! I bought my Thundercat with 28k miles on it and only intended to keep it for up to 1 year. That was 5 years ago and it's now got 50k miles on it! I've had other more expensive, newer, faster bikes since and they have all come and gone and still the Thundercat remains. It's just such a useful and lovely bike. I commute on it, tour on it, do track days and just fun days out. It does all of this brilliantly and totally reliably, while still returning up to 60mpg (UK). It's very comfortable - have crossed the entire width of Southern Ireland on it in one hit and it was still comfortable at the end of that! The brakes are great (although they do require cleaning and servicing to keep them from binding). I use it all year round in sun, rain, and even snow, and it still looks great after a clean (I treat it with ACF50 for the winter). In summary it's so good I don't know if I'll ever find anything to replace it!
Brakes are spot on - just keep them serviced. Ride quality is lovely. Can tour all day long in comfort, but still keep the litre bikes honest on track. Ideal. I keep thinking I'll need to replace the shock but that still hasn't happened.
What a jewel. Loads of mid range, great top end rush - lots of power for a 600, 60mpg and total reliability. What's not to love?
The build quality is much better than you'd imagine. The paint is good and overall it puts lots of new bikes to shame. Reliability is faultless. I never worry about reliability with this bike at all.
Cheap to buy, service, insure and fuel. Total bargain for a bike that can do so much.
Not much equipment but I like it that way. It has good bungee hooks and a big comfortable seat. That's all the equipment I need really.
Great all-rounder that is a big step up from my previous SV650S
The standard front shocks are a bit like a pogo stick. I intend to change the oil in them and maybe get some progressive springs to sort the front end.
The engine will do whatever you want it to. Give it some revs and progress is rapid. You can also get away with being a little bit lazy on your gear changes if you're just pootling along!
The naff standard exhaust lets it down a bit but other than that if it's looked after it will last!
These are stunning used bargains at the minute. I got mine with 15k miles for £1400!
As you'd expect. Nothing less, nothing more.
As a rider who has recently gained a full A license I cannot recommend this bike highly enough! Useable, fun and cheap to insure! The power works across the range and the bike is very forgiving of those mistakes we all make at times. The only problem with this bike would be the weight, it is however only a matter of getting used to it and being careful when moving the bike under your own steam.
The t'cat is a Jack-of-all-trades, it enjoys a spirited ride (although not quite as taught as its r6 sister) but can easily take care of the rider if you need to be in the saddle for over six hours (i've done this three times in the past 2 months and haven't been notably uncomfortable once). The brakes have an amazing amount of feel and are one of the keys to this bikes ability to build confidence for a new rider in my opinion.
The power delivery is usable for any occasion whether commuting or having some fun. Predictable inline four with a touch more flexibility than the comparable pure sports machines. In all honesty the t'cat leaves me grinning every time I ride it and this is in no small part due to the usability and performance of the engine. Exciting and surprising.
They are not altogether modern motorcycles however I've yet to have any kind of problem which wasn't wholly due to the dealership I bought it from.
Cheap parts available and good mpg.
Not a lot of modern equipment on the t'cat. No fuel gauge and an analogue dashboard. Luckily the previous owner installed a touring scottoiler as well as braided lines. Can't recommend these highly enough. Currently running avon 3d x-m tires front and rear and have to say they feel great in the twisties and in the wet.
Buying experience: I bought my t'cat from a dealer in Bradford, but would not buy from them again! There was a rubber seal missing from engine filler cap, oil sump loose, wrong size back tyre fitted with a leaking valve and a dead battery. Absolutely shocking from a dealer claiming to do all work in-house.
I've owned my 1996 Yamaha Thundercat since March 2012, If your looking for a reliable, economical with excellent performance and good handling look no further. I get about 180 miles to a full tank (£20).. Its happy cruising down the motorway at 70mph or flying round a track at 130mph. I'm struggling on what bike I'll get next as I'm so happy with the Thundercat, my next bike is going to have alot to live up too. Really is under estimated!
Well what can i say,ive had my bike for nearly a year, and am still getting to grip with the bike really. The bike does everything i can ask of it, and is great for gaining confidence on. (Hence why i got it!.) The brakes are strong, especially the front end, mine are due a overhaul and clean now. (winter job). Riding position, i wouldnt really say extreme, cam get a bit of ache on the wrists, and for me leg cramp (only long journeys), but otherwise spot on. The engine so far has been pretty good, no major mecahnical dramas at present, so all good there. Gearbox so far has been pretty solid, albeit a few false neutrals. But thats it,otherwise faultless. Check shock for damping, mine's going for a rebuild soon,as im sure its not ben touched since 96!. def worth doing, its only gotta make it better right!. about £150.00 ive been quoted for all new internals and set up to rider weight,new oil etc. Equipment is basic, but does the job no problems. Paid £1000 for mine,with 18,000 miles on the clock 96 bike, and have seen cheaper around. So bargains to be had. As a bike to gain confidence on,and get to grips of a bigger bike, its brilliant. I can see me holding on to the Cat for some time yet. O' and yes it's fast!. Predeccesor to the track hungry R6.. Capable of 130mph no problems, more id say if u get a later bike such as a 2000 plated bike. So all in all a good solid,fun reliable bike, definately in sports tourer category.
I brought mine having past my Direct Access August 2007. I’m 6’2”, 125 kg (20st) which doesn’t fit in with my love for sports bikes! Despite this, the Cat is as big a 600 as you will find and I was happy to do long motorway runs on the large, comfy seat. The riding position is friendly on the larger framed rider, with low pegs and bars at a nice height putting very little weight on the wrists. The rear is pretty soggy in its default setting so you may want to consider firming it up. Despite having no previous biking experience, it was a doddle to jump on and ride. The engine is a joy and demands to be revved. Although the Yam would be eaten alive on the track, in the real world, it would hold its own against anything. It is the ultimate first big bike, confidence builder, great all-rounder with no major faults.
One of the greatest real world sport bikes ever made. Comfortable as a commuter and has an engine with a usable power band. I have had my bike for three years and over 50,000 miles in that time and have not had any problems. Highly suggest getting a used Thundercat over the new budget minded diversion that does not even have an adjustable suspension....really yamaha?!?CRAP
Came back to biking after a gap of 5 years having owned a ZZR600 previously, and bought a 10 year old bike. I absolutely love it! The balance of the bike is something to behold; although heavy to push around whilst moving you can easily manoeuvre it at near walking pace which makes it ideal for commuting through congested London. The ergonomics are simply superb as well thanks to the short tank, perfect for my 5'5 frame (who needs to flatfoot anyhow). Fantastic value for money too, and economical if ridden smoothly. The only downside is the gearchange from 1st to 2nd - feels like the gearbox is about to fall out! The ZZR which most people compare this bike was better equipped, but top-heavy with a long reach to the bars.
Lovely smooth bike, very smooth engine, dos have a manual chooke, but didnt have any problem starting the bike. Quite light to throw around, more economical than most reviews give it, did an average of 60 mpg , averaging at 5-6k revs, would get 240 miles on a tank including the reserve. My only fault of the bike is the riding position, im 6'1 and found to much weight on my hands and got cronic back ache after a few miles.
BOUGHT MY THUNDERCAT IN 2008 AND HAVE NOT BEEN DISAPPOINTED.HAD TO REPLACE THE SILENCER WDUE TO ROT, PUT A DELKEVIC ON AND IT SOUNDS NICE!! IT IS VERY QUICK TOO, ITS AN IMPORT AND IVE HAD 150+ MPH OUT OF IT AND MY MATES WITH BIGGER BIKES CAN'T BELIEVE HOW WELL IT GOES... MAYBE IT WAS PREVIOUSLY TUNED BUT IT REALLY DOES SHIFT. REALLY RELIABLE BIKE WITH LOW RUNNING COSTS AND INSURANCE. NO PLANS TO REPLACE IT AS IT GOES SO WELL!!! AN EXCELLENT BIKE ALL ROUND.
I picked up a red white and black '98 model about 3 months ago for daily use and I love it. Mostly. Doesn't do a lot below 6000 revs as you'd expect which is actually quite helpful when the weathers poor, you never feel like your going to spin the wheel out. Gets going nicely at 6000 and takes off at 8000. Brakes are lovely, lights are good if you upgrade to a halogen bulb and handles well if set up correctly but isn't as sharp as some. Seat and position are comfier than a pair of old boots and you can easily get 50 mpg out of it. Buy. Ride. Enjoy. NOW
I've had a 2001 model for 3 years nows and can't fault it. Still have the same chain, sprockets and brake pads. In July 2008 I took it to Europe via France, Swizerland, Italy and Germany. The cat was faultless and never missed a beat. It was packed up for two weeks with gear and soft luggage. I also use it daily for getting into work as well as back lane scratching and general touring. The handling is perfect for the road is very stable. The tank range is good with 19litres and with the reserve light coming on around 150 miles.
This is my first all rounder 600 and I have to say I was really impressed with the brakes and handling. Never had any problems with the bike, always fills me with confidence and its quick enough to keep up with my friends on proper sports bikes. Ideal as a first bike and I won't be selling mine, it might become a second bike though.
I owned one of these in 1999 as my first bike. It was awesome as a first bike as was easy to get on with. I even went to MotoGP at Le mans on it and it was very comfortable and capable.
Although this lovely machine has the oddest name ever (80's cartoon) It has never disappointed me! It is on the large side but this helps stability in windy conditions. I don't know if there is something wrong with mine but MCN states 140miles per tank of fuel . . . well I get around 200 miles on mine. The best bike i've ever owned, very comfortable especially for passengers! Mine is the 1998 version in Black orange and silver. Some dislike this colour and some love it. For a good review on the yamaha thundercat and looking after it see. . . http://reviews.ebay.co.uk/Yamaha-Thundercat-YZF600R-Guide-to-buying-Servicing_W0QQugidZ10000000002245488 The next bike I will buy when I do will be another Yamaha Thundercat!
Love it... and sad to of seen it go. For anyone deciding on a first bike, this is it. I had the 2002 model, blue and white. I loved the looks, though i fitted a aftermarket carbon can, sounded fantastic. Good handling, good for long distance, and good for a blast. Oh and excellent brakes.
I bought a 1997 Cat (11k) in 2005 for £2k and it's been a terrific reintroduction to biking after a 6 year layoff. Great value, decent comfort (6' 3" & 17 st) and quick enough for the road (license threatening on ever blast). I'm beginning to find the limits of the 600cc engine, but would find it hard to get rid of such a good bike. I'm hoping to convince the misses I need to keep it as a winter hack when I can afford a newer bigger bike. It's a shame most new 600s are so small in comparison.
I bought mine last year a 1998 model, it was my first bike from getting my ''big bike licence'' all I can say about the bike is it's excellent , I have had no problems with it at all, the seating position for me is perfect as I found the sports bikes I rode I did'nt like, it is A very easy and forgiving bike to ride and in the future I'll probably move up to the thunderace, all in all if you get the chance to buy one........DO IT. Strengths: Brilliant all rounder, very comfortable for the long miles, looks sporty, very quick, ideal first bike. Weaknesses: None that I can think of.
I owned a red and white one with braided hoses. It was fantastic, very quick, great handling and the brakes were amazing. These bikes go for a song and if I find a clean example I`ll definately get another. Comfort is good, I once spent 8 hours solid riding with only minor discomfort. The engine is sweet and has loads of midrange. Seriously this bike will feel so strong compared to the current revvy 600 supersports bikes like the R6. The top end rush is great too. The engine sounds fantastic at anything over 4000rpm. Do yourself a favour BUY ONE. In fact don't, leave them for me. Strengths: Engine and brakes are flawless, handling is spot on, comfort, reliability, cost. Weaknesses: Honestly I can`t think of any weaknesses. Not many clean examples for sale I suppose. Most are fairly old by now.
This is my first bike and I've had it for 15 months. In that time I've done over 20k miles. It makes an excellent first bike for those whose "larger frame" doesn't suit a smaller machine. The bike's easy to control but you can let loose when you want to, I can't keep up with a mate in the corners on his CBR600RR but that's no drama. Speed in a striaght line and on A-roads is great for a bike of this age. Reliability is impeccable. I commute in all weathers, all year round. The only issue was when the front sprocket nut came off, a £4 fix!! I find Avon Azarao's are a good combination for the tyres and last really well, that last rear lasted 8k miles! Fitting braided hoses really helps the brakes. Strengths: Easy of use, comfort, usable power and reliability. Weaknesses: Front headlamp, I generally commute with the fullbeam on. Needs an aftermarket pipe as otherwise it's too quite.