I headed to Thunderhill Raceway Park in Willows, Calif., to ride Yamaha’s latest iteration of its 600cc supersport motorcycle—the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6. The day was a mix of sunshine and rain—perfect conditions to test the new R6’s capabilities, highlighted by its new electronic suite that includes two new features for the fourth generation of the YZF-R6: switchable traction control and ABS.Ahead of our full review, here are the essential Fast Facts from our first ride at Thunderhill.
The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 retains the engine from the previous model, which is a great thing. This engine hauls and, typical of a supersport, was happiest at higher revs at Thunderhill. The engine pulls strongly from around 9000 rpm to the 16,500-rpm redline.
The Traction Control worked flawlessly. The six-level system relies on Yamaha’s revised ride-by-wire system, and was completely transparent throughout the day in both dry and wet conditions. On Level 6 in the pouring rain while running Bridgestone Racing Battlax WO1 rain tires at top pace, the intervention was barely noticeable, and I only saw the TC light flash once on level one at pace in the dry. All settings, including off, are switchable while riding with an easy to use button on the left control.
The R6’s revised KYB suspension provides much more stability, especially under braking and hard cornering. The 43mm fork (the previous generation had a 41mm fork) is the same used on the YZF-R1, though tuned for the smaller bike, and provides feeling like no other R6. Otherwise, the chassis specs are exactly the same as the previous generation.
Braking was never issue at Thunderhill—the new 320mm discs squeezed by Advics calipers providing gobs of stopping power. The discs grew 10mm from the previous generation, and ABS is now standard. The ABS is not switchable, but displayed no issues on the track. Intervention is noticeable while replicating hard emergency braking, but not to the point of feeling out of control.
Ergonomics are improved thanks to a new seat design. The seat gets a bit higher near the tank, and is 20mm slimmer up front. This allowed for easier transitioning across the seat during difficult challenges such as Thunderhill’s corkscrew.
The revised gauge layout is much easier to read than the previous generation. Thankfully, the giant analog tach remains.
The 2017 Yamaha R6 has three power modes that are all useful, though full-power A was used most of the day at Thunderill. B offers super relaxed throttle response and power delivery, and is definitely useful for rain situations. As for the third, Standard, it will be great for urban situations where you don’t need a quick-revving engine.
Weight is up only two pounds over the 2016 due to ABS, but it’s not noticeable. The ABS would have added at least an additional three pounds, but Yamaha offset that weight by using a magnesium subframe and aluminum gas tank. Fuel capacity is unchanged at 4.6 gallons.
Taking some hints from its R1 brethren, the 2017 Yamaha R6 arrives with revised bodywork that not only looks the part, but also is aerodynamically savvy. Yamaha claims an eight percent increase in aerodynamics, but it feels like much more when riding the bike back-to-back with the 2016 model, especially at full tuck.
The optional quickshifter worked flawlessly throughout the day at Thunderhill. It only allows for clutchless upshifts, and I was craving clutchless downshifts by day’s end.
The third generation impressed, but the fourth generation that starts with the 2017 model impresses even more. The new Yamaha R6 is finally here, and the wait was worth it.
Expect this fourth-generation YZF-R6 to hit showroom floors early to mid April.Photography by Brian J. NelsonRiding Style:
Hello everyone and welcome once again to Ultimate Motorcycling’s weekly Podcast—Motos and Friends.
My name is Arthur Coldwells.
This week’s Podcast is brought to you by Yamaha motorcycles. Discover how the YZF-R7 provides the perfect balance of rider comfort and true supersport performance by checking it out at YamahaMotorsports.com, or see it for yourself at your local dealer.
This week’s episode features Senior Editor Nic de Sena’s impressions of the beautiful new Harley-Davidson Low Rider ST that is loosely based around the original FXRT Sport Glide from the 1980s. Hailing from The Golden State, these cult-status performance machines became known as West Coast style, with sportier suspension, increased horsepower, and niceties including creature comforts such as a tidy fairing and sporty luggage.
In past episodes you might have heard us mention my best friend, Daniel Schoenewald, and in the second segment I chat with him about some of the really special machines in his 170 or so—and growing—motorcycle collection. He’s always said to me that he doesn’t consider himself the owner, merely the curator of the motorcycles for the next generation.
Yet Daniel is not just a collector, but I can attest a really skilled rider. His bikes are not trailer queens, they’re ridden, and they’re ridden pretty hard. Actually, we have had many, many memorable rides on pretty much all of the machines in the collection at one time or another.
From all of us here at Ultimate Motorcycling, we hope you enjoy this episode!