2011 Supersport Shootout - Street [Video]
Honda CBR600RR vs. Kawasaki ZX-6R vs. Suzuki GSX-R600 vs. Yamaha R6
2011 Yamaha R6 $10,690 – $10,890
Only the CBR beats the R6 for “Least Changed 600.” With the exception of exhaust and ECU tweaks aimed to improve mid-range in 2010, it’s the same bike as when introduced in 2008.
While a strong mid-range has some benefits during trackdays or racing, useful pulling power in the meat of the powerband is of even greater value where street signs, traffic lights and divided lanes rule the riding environment.
The result of this regrettable reality is that a rider might feel it necessary to keep the R6’s high-strung engine spinning in the upper reaches of the rpm range in order to access more power. Too bad for the R6 rider that street riding usually doesn’t present regular opportunities to hover at high rpm. Instead, day in and day out riding is generally dominated by short squirts between stoplights, dreary freeway stints and the long arm of the law.
“On the street, the R6’s weak lower-end power makes itself constantly known,” laments Kevin.
A slipper clutch inside the Yamer engine works pretty darn well and is a worthwhile feature – one that the Honda lacks but the other two posses. Yet we think the Kawi’s back-torque limiting clutch has the slightest edge thanks to its near transparency, whereas we could get the occasional tire chirp from the R6 if we banged down through the gears too fast and carelessly dumped the clutch lever.
The gearbox in each machine was trouble free, like usual, but the Yamahauler’s clutch engages near the end of the lever’s release, making for occasionally tricky modulation of throttle and clutch when starting from a stop or picking around tight spaces at ultra-low speeds.
The R6’s race-inspired design is reflected in its aggressive seat/peg/clip-on relationships. As mentioned earlier the Yamaha has the tallest seat height. The rear half of the saddle is quite wide which offers decent support, but this width also exacerbates seat height; it’ll splay a shorter-inseamed rider’s more so than the others, therefore seeming to make the seat feel even taller than it already is. For the track environment, the R’s saddle isn’t so bad, for the street realm, not so good.
Combine the tall, wide saddle with what feel like the lowest clip-ons, and the R6’s ergos are racetrack ready. Which is fine if all you’re doing is racing or having a blast at as many trackdays as you can possibly attend. Contending with such an assertive rider triangle while commuting is a less pleasing prospect.
Back-to-back canyon runs revealed the R6’s compares well with anything in the class. However, Kevin was of the opinion the Yamaha should’ve exhibited greater agility than it did considering it’s the only bike in the 600cc inline-Four class without a steering damper. And Tom thought the Blue Bike required the most steering effort of the four.
With an identical trail and steering rake only 0.5 degrees milder than the GSX-R, we expected the R6 to provide handling similar to its competitors. While that’s not entirely the case, what the Yamaha chassis does do well is communicate to the rider that the front-end is securely planted with predictable stability throughout a canyon corner or racetrack turn.
Several years ago the R6 had class-leading front brakes, the likes of which provided stopping power we hadn’t previously experienced on a modern supersport. Now, in contrast to the Ninja’s superb stoppers and the Brembos on the Suzuki, the R6 binders are average at best. A healthy handful of brake lever will reel in the Yamaha pronto, but we noted the numb feel at the lever prevented us from braking as late into some turns as we were able to do when aboard the other machines.
Again, not a bad set of brakes here, but the competition keeps raising the stakes.
The R6’s dash area is as uninspiring as the Honda’s, and doesn’t offer the small token of a fuel gauge or GPI. But we must give the Yamaha props for being the bike that looks as fast with its sidestand down as it does when screaming to 15K rpm.
We all agreed it was the best looking of the four, with a distinct, fast-looking line that runs from the center of the main fairing to the razor-sharp tail, and its pointed headlamps and upper fairing shape reinforce the fast-at-a-standstill illusion. The bold but tastefully styled white accent on the main fairing and underside of the tail section is the icing on this good looking 600cc cake.
“There is much to like about the R6, most notably its racy feel, stellar appearance and laudable racing history,” says Kevin. “It’s held back only by a relatively weak street engine and mediocre brakes.”