The Yamaha R6 wants you hunkered down behind the screen, chin on the tank, flirting with its 15 500 r/min redline and carving apexes on your knee. What is it like to own or use on a daily basis? CARtoday.com correspondent Patrick van Sleight investigates.
Motorcycle journalists and observers often ponder how much and how often superbike riders use the performance potential of their machines. The general assumption is that riders simply ride them for pose value, for that “my stick is bigger than yours” attitude.
The latest Yamaha R6 is a case in point; it is the first standard production, naturally aspirated vehicle sold to the public to offer 200 bhp (149 kW) per litre. To put it into perspective, two four-wheeler icons, the BMW-powered McLaren F1 and BMW’s own M3, manage just over 100 bhp per litre. (Exact figures for these much larger-engined, therefore less free-revving, units are 103 bhp per litre for the McLaren and 106 bhp per litre for the M3.)
The pace of technological development is such that superbikes seem to have a lifecycle of two years, after which the replacement model renders the previous one slow, heavy, underpowered, and certainly out of fashion. The only other consumer-oriented products that develop at such a high pace are personal computers. The R6 sports sleeveless cylinders made possible by ceramic-coated bores; the frame is 50 per cent lighter than the previous model, yet stronger, as are the swing-arm, forks and wheels.
But this high-performance technology comes at a cost, and at an officially listed price of R92 967, it is the most expensive sports 600. You are looking at a small family saloon for the same money; the days you bought a bike because you could not afford a car are long gone. One-year-old R6 models can be had for as little as R68 000. But any highly-strung, high-rev engine needs tender loving care, so there is still maintenance and professional servicing to add.
The cost of looking after an R6 varies widely, depending on how it is used. Service intervals are every 6 000 km, and a major service goes for R1 300, while a minor one (oil change and filter only, usually every second service) costs R850 at official dealerships. Superbikes are notorious for “eating” rear tyres (R1 000 and can last an average of 10 000km) and chains-and-sprockets (R2 500 and last 20 – 35 000km). Just compare these costs to looking after your average car…
Launched in early 2003, the current R6 is already at the end of its lifecycle. By next year it will be old news. However, it remains one very high-tech machine - one that exudes pure class. Its feline, predatory lines are finely honed and the R6 has several detailed, quality touches. Since its launch in 1998, the R-series Yamahas have arguably been the most elegant-looking bikes to come out of Japan since the demise of the Honda NR750. Wherever an R1 or R6 parks, heads turn and crowds – comprised of the full spectrum of humanity, from pensioners to toddlers - gather. The R6 is a poseur’s delight, if that is all you want from your bike.