I’ve been a sportbike junkie since getting my motorcycle licence many many years ago, but which only seems like yesterday to me. I’ve owned everything from the Honda CBX550 and Interceptor 750 to the newer Yamaha R6 and Suzuki GSXR750; how far the sportbikes have come in the last 20 years is amazing.
Recently, I had the opportunity to do a quick three-day test ride of the new 2014 Yamaha R6. I was eager to get on this bike and see how it compared to my 2001 that I had owned for over 6 years. So when the heavens cleared for a few days, I pulled out and cleaned my leather riding suit, gloves, boots and trusted helmet. This was going to be fun.
It’s important to note that the 2014 R6 is well, uhm…ahem, pretty much the same as the 2013 model. Not much has changed, except for the colours. My test 2014 R6 was red, white, and black in colour – official name is Vivid Red – and in my humble (maybe biased) opinion, is one of the best looking sport bikes, period. It’s aggressive, bold, austere, and has just the right amount of full fairings mixed with naked chassis. Yamaha is still sticking with its side exhaust with the R6; personally, I think they should go with the underseat system, like in the Honda CBR 600RR, so that it shows off more of the gorgeous bike. Of course, you could get an aftermarket system that would fit underneath the seat, with some minor modifications.
As I was doing up my helmet before getting on the bike, you could probably see my smile from a mile away. I turned the key, pushed the start button and the devilish beast awoke. Since this was a stock bike, the exhaust pipe was not loud and offered only a slight rumble at idle. It’s worth noting that I’m a proponent of aftermarket pipes, not just for the extra couple of horses, but for the sound quality. You want the bike to sound aggressive; more importantly, most aftermarket pipes are louder, making you “visibly” louder on the road.
I started the ride slowly, getting the feel of the bike. As with the previous R6 models, the bike is quite light and nimble; the fairings are deceiving, making the R6 look and feel bigger and heavier. The seat is probably the tallest in this class, at 33.5”, and pitches the riders forward. Don’t get me wrong though, the ride quality is quite good, but not excellent. Compared with Honda and Kawasaki, the Yamaha is the least friendly commuter bike, but I didn’t mind. Riding around town was quite nostalgic, bringing back memories of my original 2001 R6. The bike turns very easily with the rider and requires little effort when leaning into corners and curves. After a few hours, I headed home, where I parked the 599cc, DOHC, 16-valve, liquid-cooled bike for the night. Getting off the bike, I just stared at it, tempted to buy one for myself.
On Saturday, a group of us headed out towards Whistler – two R6’s, a CBR 600RR, one GSXR 750, and a cruiser. All riders liked the styling of the R6 and the new colours. While heading out towards North and West Vancouver, I could feel that the R6’s performance suffers at the lower rpm’s. I had noticed the same issue in the 2006 model and thought for sure that it would be better. Never-the-less, get the tach needle past 10,000 rpm’s and this thing really takes off, almost sending me off my seat. Now, this is what the R6 is built for, open riding in canyon-like winding roads. The six-speed transmission coupled with the slipper clutch is nothing short of perfect. Downshifting didn’t change the behaviour of the bike at all, as didn’t the braking. For you really aggressive riders, you may want to customize the Soqi suspension a little, but even at stock, it’s great. Riding through Squamish and towards Whistler gave me ample opportunities to push the R6 into corners and really get a track like feel of the bike. The Deltabox aluminum frame and magnesium subframe do offer a great compromise between lightness and rigidity.
Whereas the Honda and Kawasaki are “easy to ride,” the Yamaha is definitely more precise and needs skillful hands to control the bike. As I was telling a friend, this is by far the “scariest” of the bunch, especially for a novice rider. Experienced riders will love the R6 because it waits to be pushed to its limits, where it shines the most. Handling can be scary, but if tuned and calibrated properly, it will keep up with the rest of the pack.
After a quick late lunch, we headed back home and this time, enjoyed the winding roads much more by opening up the throttle once in a while.
The 2014 Yamaha R6 is a great bike, but I would not recommend it for a novice rider. To truly enjoy a bike of this calibre, you need to have some experience riding for some time. The Honda CBR 600RR and Kawasaki Ninja may be more commuter friendly, but come on, the R6 just calls out to riders. The 2014 Yamaha R6 is priced at $11,999.