10 years since the last truly great supersport bike
10 years ago, before the BMW S1000RR pulled the superbike class kicking and screaming into the 21st century, the 2006 Yamaha R6 was the pinnacle of sportsbike technology. Fitting, since the original R6 caught everybody by surprise in 1998 when it was launched and put all the other 600cc sportsbikes to shame.
At the time the supersport category was beginning to decline, a pattern which has continued to such an extent Honda have killed of the much-loved CBR600RR, and then came the completely-track-focussed 2006 R6, complete with ’98 R1-alike red and white paint.
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Yamaha had us all salivating when they teased an incredibly high rev limit of 17,500rpm. Surely not? As it turned out the tachos were a bit optimistic, and 17,500rpm equated to 16,200rpm, but the R6 was, and still is, an incredible supersport weapon.
The R6 came with a ride-by-wire-throttle, titanium valves with chrome-nitrided valve springs and produced 131bhp, if you were committed enough to rev it hard. It was great, no doubt about that, but the complete lack of low and mid range power made it frustrating on the road unless you were riding at anything less than 100%.
The R6 is from a different time. A time before the economic collapse, when we were still clinging on to the superbike-mad days of the ’90s. It’s flawed, bonkers, and bloody brilliant.
Today, with the supersport category a shadow of its former self, Yamaha could well be about to announce a new R6. Whether they do or not, we don’t have long to wait.