2008 Yamaha R6 - First Ride

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2008 Yamaha R6 - First Ride

Post by ganahsokmo on Thu Jul 08, 2010 12:32 pm

Yamaha’s YZF-R6 has been a major player in
the middleweight sportbike wars ever since it debuted in 1999. Combining
light weight with razor-sharp handling and a wailing top-end punch,
Yammie’s 600cc screamer has been a potent tool that perennially competes
for top honors in its class.


Then in 2006, the R6 received a ground-up overhaul that resulted in a
package that many judged to be the tastiest eye-candy in the segment.
That (plus an optimistic 17,500-rpm tachometer) garnered plenty of
attention among consumers and the media alike. This flash and
controversy somewhat overshadowed a stellar chassis and the bike’s
less-streetable character from its racy ergos and the engine’s top-heavy
powerband.



Yamaha
lured us out to Laguna Seca to sample its significantly revamped R6.
What was once a great bike now handles better and has a stronger engine.


So in this mid-cycle revision for ’08, the tweaked R6 has a bolstered
midrange punch and even better handling dynamics in the face of
new-for-2007 challengers from Honda and Kawasaki, plus a revised
GSX-R600 from Suzuki for ’08. Yamaha invited Motorcycle.com to the hills
and twists of Laguna Seca near Monterey, California, so we could
gleefully sample the latest iteration of this sportbike sales success:
R6 sales are up 44% since 2001.


This is a critical class for all manufacturers of sportbikes. The
600cc segment makes up 51% of what Yamaha calls the Supersport market, a
segment that is up in sales a huge 52% since 2001.


The key change to this new R6 is an engine that is architecturally
the same but has received some 50 refinements to improve how it delivers
its power. Working in conjunction with the bike’s existing YCC-T
ride-by-wire throttle is another techie acronym we first saw in last
year’s R1: YCC-I, which is a variable-length intake trumpet stack called
Yamaha Chip Controlled Intake. At lower revs, the intake air is fed
with the fuel-injection’s velocity stacks in their long configuration
for enhanced torque output. But the system electronically converts to a
short intake tract at 13,700 rpm for optimum performance at the top-end.

Yamaha showed us a dyno-chart comparison of this new model against
last year’s that demonstrate a stronger midrange plus even more power up
top. Although the chart didn’t have numbers on it that show exactly the
parameters of the power comparison, the curve of the new bike was
clearly stouter in the upper midrange. Peak torque now arrives 1000 revs
sooner at 10,500 rpm. And at the upper end, a Yamaha rep revealed to
Motorcycle.com that horsepower at the rear wheel handily exceeds 110.


Rocketing out of Laguna’s Turn 11 and onto the front straight reveals
seat-of-the-pants impressions that back up the dyno chart, although the
R6 still can’t be described as torquey. As before, strong power arrives
only once past 10,000 rpm, but now the hit is superior in its quality
and quantity. From that point, there’s a 6000-rpm strata of ripping
high-end power that is a joy to crank up around a racetrack. As long as
you use the excellent gearbox to keep the engine in this bountiful
range, the R6 will be hard to catch by any other middleweight.
Those
velocity stacks click open at 13,700 rpm, optimizing power at high revs.
Below that point, the funnels are lowered into a seated position for a
longer length that produces greater midrange torque.

This chart
compares the old R6 with the 2008 model, the latter of which shows its
newfound potency.

To
achieve this augmented powerband, Yamaha engineers made several other
modifications to the 599cc powerplant in addition to the YCC-I. A bump
in compression from 12.8:1 to 13.1:1 aids torque production, as do 83%
larger crossover pipes in the exhaust headers. Cam timing was subtly
altered to augment the new engine tuning. Meanwhile, several tweaks to
reduce internal friction free up more ponies in the upper range, and
wider connecting-rod bearing increase durability. The MotoGP-inspired
snub-nosed exhaust retains its titanium construction and
powerband-enhancing EXUP valve.

The changes to this year’s R6 go much further than the engine room.
Yamaha’s testing guy Mike Ulrich stated in his presentation that it’s “a
brand-new bike from the tires up.” While the chassis’s geometry remains
unchanged (24.0-degrees rake; 3.8 inches of trail; and a 54.3-inch
wheelbase), the cast-aluminum frame has received a major overhaul. In
the quest for the optimum balance between rigidity and flex to achieve
the finest feedback to the rider, a crossmember was removed from between
the frame rails which are now thicker and stronger. The net result is
incrementally increased flexibility in all three axes.

It probably helped that the R6’s senior project engineer, Kouichi
Amano, comes from an extensive testing background and can haul ass
around a racetrack. “The concept is razor-sharp handling,” the gracious
Japanese engineer told Motorcycle.com, “and front-end feedback is more
better than current R6. This model is more for track riding, so we made
it sharper handling.”

Yamaha
made subtle changes to the rigidity of the R6’s frame for an intended
improvement in front-end feel. They worked.
Amano and his team also made revisions
to the R6’s aluminum swingarm, adding some internal ribbing and
replacing an extruded-aluminum section with a new forged piece for less
overall flex. The R6’s aluminum subframe is replaced by a magnesium
casting in a first for a large-scale production bike, with a weight
saving of 1 lb in a critical area for attaining best
mass-centralization.


Yamaha research shared during the R6’s presentation revealed that
annual track miles for the 600cc Supersport class have gone up 42% from
2004 to 2006; for the R6 in particular, track usage is up an incredible
86%. As such, Yamaha has fitted slightly stiffer springs in the front
and rear suspension of the new R6 to keep it taut under the rigors of
track abuse. And to retain the proper steering geometry when spooning on
larger-diameter rear race rubber, Yamaha has thoughtfully endowed the
new R6 with greater attitude adjustments in the form of longer fork
tubes and a rear ride-height adjuster – with some race rubber, last
year’s bike required the fork tubes to be positioned below flush in the
upper triple clamp.


Adjusting ride heights at Laguna Seca wasn’t an issue, as we would be
riding on the bike’s stock Dunlop Qualifiers. A “PTM” designation
indicates a tire developed specifically for the R6, with a slightly more
pliable sidewall. These Qualifiers didn’t immediately endear them to
the assemblage of journalists, as cold track temperatures conspired to
keep grip levels low. Further holding back my confidence in my first
session were suspension settings that were too stiff for my scrawny
little frame, which weren’t allowing the tires to be worked hard enough.

It performed so well that I couldn’t
imagine a change that would improve it...

That left
turnsignal is getting close to the ground considering the stock Dunlop
Qualifier street rubber.


The astute Ulrich took a step of spring
preload out of both ends of my bike and reduced the fork’s new
high-speed compression damping circuit. The result was a bike that now
responded perfectly. A slight increase in front-end dive made the front
tire dig in harder, and turn-in response that was initially reluctant
became easier. I also noted an increase in rear-end grip, and soon the
tires were scuffed all the way to their edges. With these settings, the
R6 responded kindly to pavement imperfections and felt much more
composed. It performed so well that I couldn’t imagine a change that
would improve it, so the eager wrenches in the pits sat idle for the
rest of the day.


With the setup dialed in, I could now concentrate on the nuances of
how the R6 performed while re-learning a track I hadn’t ridden on in
more than three years. Despite having been repaved twice in the past two
years, the track surface has a few chewed-up spots in a couple of
corners, but the more compliant suspension happily shrugged them off.
Feedback from the bike was plentiful, and I’d rate it improved over the
previous iteration’s admirable chassis communication. Several of the
motojournalists in attendance reported front-end slides as the tires
struggled early with grip, but not one rider had a rubber-side-up result
all day. (We can’t say the same about another web-zine’s “daily” author
on the previous day…)

The
cockpit of the R6 is a great place to watch the twists of Laguna Seca
unravel.


The aspect of the bike’s performance most appreciated is the revised
engine’s flawless throttle response. I experienced none of the
digital-feeling abruptness common among many fuel-injection systems,
either while coming back on the throttle or while closing it when
slowing for corners. Yamaha has cleverly modified the new EFI to allow
some fuel to continue to flow through the throttle bodies under
trailing-throttle conditions. This, combined with a mostly excellent
slipper clutch, removes harshness from the driveline during corner
entries, allowing a rider to focus on brake modulation while getting the
bike adequately slowed.


When it comes to brakes, the old R6 wasn’t really lacking. It already
enjoyed the benefits of features like radial-mount one-piece calipers, a
radial-pump master cylinder and generously sized 310mm front rotors.
For ’08, the twin discs up front have been widened by a half millimeter
to 5.0mm for additional heat-shedding properties, and it’s hard to
imagine a better combination of power and feel from a set of binders in
this class. The bike’s slipper clutch is unchanged, and it proved
flawless when banging down a couple of gears for Laguna’s Turn 2
Andretti Hairpin or the positive-camber Turn 5. A slightly harsh
downshift was revealed only into the first-gear Turn 11 that precedes
the track’s front straight.


Railing
through Rainey Corner at about 100 mph, the R6 offered the confidence
needed to lay the thing over.


By the time the Turn 1 crest in the road
has your butt flying off the seat, an R6 rider is almost all the way
through fourth gear. I predict the R6’s upper-range power is superior to
all its class rivals, and on the racetrack, it’s easy to keep the
shrieking, rev-happy mill on the boil. Only racers or Group A trackday
riders will require more ground clearance than what’s offered with the
R6’s footpeg feelers removed, offering a claimed 57-degree lean angle.


As for how the bike might perform on the street, we can only
estimate, as all our time on the pre-production bikes was spent on the
2.2-mile racetrack. However, clip-on handlebars that were already quite
low have been lowered a further 5mm (they are also 5mm further forward,
but so is the seat), which won’t be appreciated during long slogs on the
street. And the limited amount of time we spent with the tach below
10,000 rpm did expose that the R6 still has a way to go to match the
amazingly punchy CBR600RR.

One thing that won’t hold back the R6 for street riders is its
creatively distinct styling that has made it a class favorite. Bodywork
looks very similar but is all new, with a slightly more aerodynamic
appearance. Its arresting stealth-fighter edginess remains. The most
stylistically appealing bit is a new tailsection that is thinner when
looked at in profile. It’s a bit wider across the beam, and it
incorporates a few new interesting facets. The rider’s wide seat remains
unchanged.


Duke
"Danger" wishes his ass looked half as good as the R6’s

The R6 and
the Corkscrew gets our tester’s approval.
One part of
the spec chart Yamaha neglected to shine a light on was the bike’s
claimed dry weight. At 366 pounds devoid of all fluids, it’s 9 lbs
heavier than claimed for ’07. And that’s despite the lightweight
magnesium used for the engine covers and new subframe. It seems as if
blame must fall on the additional complexity of YCC-I, longer fork
tubes, the beefed-up chassis and the thicker brake rotors.

Pricing is in line with the R6’s weight: up incrementally. The three
main color choices of the black Raven (with sponsorship decals), Team
Yamaha Blue and new Liquid Silver have an MSRP of $9,599 and will be in
dealers soon. For those who need a bit more bling, you might want to
wait an extra month for the $9,799 Cadmium Yellow version with flames to
arrive in showrooms.
The 2006/2007 R6 was revered for its radical styling and sharp
handling, but its relative lack of midrange grunt made it less desirable
for typical streetbike use. This new iteration is better in most every
conceivable way, but it remains saddled with a racer-oriented design.
The bulk of its engine output is still in the upper ranges, the
handlebars put more pressure on a rider’s wrists, there’s not a lot of
wind protection from the fairing, and the seat height is among the
tallest in the class.


But for all those R6 riders who take their bikes to the track, it’s
hard to imagine a better tool for learning to go faster while giggling
like a schoolboy inside your helmet. In this environment, there might
not be a better choice than the eager R6 and the operatic soundtrack as
it shrieks to its 16,500-rpm redline.
Is this ’08 version good enough to command an extra 300 bucks? You
betcha!
In addtion to the comprehensive R6 video that automatically loads
in this article, we've also put together an exciting couple of on-board
laps for your viewing pleasure. Click on this link
to see it.


The
Perfect Bike For…
An experienced sportbike enthusiast
who wants to look like a hero at the track and at the bike nights, and
one who isn’t afraid of accessing the big numbers at the far end of the
tachometer.

Highs: Sighs:
- Aural and visceral delight above 10,000 rpm
- A jewel of a
chassis
- Ahead-of-the-pack styling
- Limp low-end power
- Racy doesn’t always work well on the street
-
A pricier price that is pushing 10 grand

Related Reading:
2006
Middleweight Shootout
2005
Yamaha R6 Review
2007
Kawasaki ZX-6R Review
2007
Honda CBR600RR Review

ganahsokmo

Join date : 16/01/2010
Age : 35

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