What Size Victory? 600? Openbike? Twin?

600? Literbike? Twin? How many horsies can you ride at once anyway?

Torrance, California, June 14, 2001 --

That's right, there's no 600 comparison test this year, and the reason for that is simply that the 600s in question--Honda F4i, Kawasaki ZX-6R, Suzuki GSX-R600 and Yamaha YZF-R6--have changed for the '02 season not a whit, with the exception of their paint schemes. Last year, we liked the Yamaha best, so why wouldn't we favor it this year too? Besides, the 600 sporty-bike class is the dog-eat-doggiest one out there, and as a result the bikes are so close to each other in terms of horsepower and all other measurable performance aspects, that the question for most of us is not really Which 600? as much as Do I want a 600? Or something larger? Or something Entirely Different?

Because if you're looking at an R6 or similar, chances are what you're really after, and correct us if we're wrong, is maximum velocity with minimum hairball production during heavy-duty street strafes and track days. A bike that makes you look like you know what you're doing when the time comes to take up the cudgels and scuff the ol' pucks, right? Maybe you need more power, you're thinking, maybe one `a them 1000cc bikes? Then again, the Ducatis and RC51s are kicking butt around the world's race tracks, so maybe a twin is the way to go? Cash in the 401k, eat the macaroni for a couple years?

Well, don't do anything rash, perhaps we can help make the decision easier. So happens we had an R6 lying around the shop, and an '02 R1 as well, and we knew where to find an Aprilia Mille R. A quick scan of fastrackriders.com revealed a track day at the Streets of Willow, MO's main line when evaluating all-out performance. A call to Metzeler produced, like magic, fresh M-1 Sportecs for all three bikes ET VIOLA!--another penetrating and possibly perplexing performance-bike pu-pu platter.


Ah, another day at the office: Once again into the cow suit, and off I go on the R1 on its fresh Metzeler Sportecs, bearing in mind that my policy with the Southeastern Life Assurance Company or whatever it's called, is still pending. One of the questions was, Do you participate in racing or other dangerous activities? Well of course not. This is a track day, it's not racing at all. Unless somebody the same speed happens along anyway....

What negative thing can you say about this 998cc Yamaha on a nice, smooth race track? It wasn't as fast as the GSX-R lap-time-wise in our open-class shootout, but we all thought it was friendlier and easier to ride, with the smoothest onset of power of almost any four-cylinder out there when it comes to getting back into the throttle while on the edge of the tires. At the track, that's pretty much what it's all about; how early in the corner can you crack the gas back open?

And while we've been programmed over the years to be very leery of things with this much power (the midrange torque's the thing that will get you in trouble on these bikes, really), so smooth is the bike's power delivery that the R1 never threatens to spit the rear tire out. It's simply a case of its reputation preceding it. It's also a case of modern tires being really good. I do 1:33-somethings in the first session, just warming up. More to come.

Hop on the Mille R.You're right again, the standard Mille would be a better comparison since it's closer in price to the other two, etc., but Will Tate--Aprilia fleet center guy--doesn't happen to have a standard Mille lying around--and since either Mille spots the R1 over 20 horsepower and quite a few pounds, it seems like a fair trade-off, no?

The Mille's a twin-cylinder motorcycle, and everything I've read tells me twins put power to asphalt more controllably, and since I believe almost everything I read, I whack the throttle open with a bit less caution and scoot around the Streets a little quicker. Superior brakes, superior ergos to the R1--but mainly there's a little kink at the end of the back straight that you can blaze through like hot stink provided your eyeballs are not joggling so much in their sockets you can't see to line things up.

On the Mille R, you come flying in there as if in a very low, steady airplane; the bike's chassis is so not upset by the bumps, I bet I carry an extra three or four mph through there, counting on the Mille's super tactile brakes to slow me on the way through instead of on the way in. Also, I don't doubt Aprilia's claim that the Milles are the most aerodynamic bikes on the market. When you get behind the fairing down the straight, it's quiet and still, and so why are we not closing up on Mini on the R6 dammit?!

In terms of weight and steering feel and effort, I rank R1 and Mille very close to each other, the difference being that the Mille feels, thanks again to the Ohlins suspension, more supple and more precise at the same time. It doesn't joggle your eyeballs.

And then onto the poor, unempowered R6. What's the deal then? Why is the bike with no torque the one that wheelies every time out of that tight little first-gear right? Gearing? Weight? Dunno.

"What I do know is that it's weird how a bike with 97 horsepower never seems to be at much of a power disadvantage against bikes with 112 (the Mille) and even against bikes with 139 (the R1)."

The Streets' straights aren't exactly long, but the back straight has to be a quarter-mile, with a right that opens up leading into it--and you'd think the R6 would get swallowed up there. It doesn't. It's in the *process* of being swallowed up by the end of the straight, but at that point, the R6 turns so quick and light that you feel safer laying off the brakes longer--and the more powerful bikes are stuck behind it again.

And in the tight parts of the track, it gaps the big bikes again, and so the circle of life here in the Mojave continues. The scales say that, at 425 pounds with fuel, the R6 isn't that much lighter than the other two, and it's not that much smaller--but it feels like a toy after you hop off the other bikes, and you have to adjust to how quick you can turn it into the tighter corners (short trail and wheelbase, less flywheel gyroscopic force). If its suspension isn't quite as good as the Mille's, it's damn close: taut, controlled yet really bump-absorbent--it makes the R1 feel like a couch.

I might've gone a little faster on the couch in the afternoon (more rear preload had made it much better since my morning run), but all of a sudden its battery went dead. We charged it up quick-like, but on about my second lap, we started losing power again (in a very fast left with an R6 Mini-missile right up our tailpipe). Luckily, we're trained professionals on a closed circuit. Either our R1 got stuck with a bad battery, or there's a problem in the charging system--either way, fuel-injected bikes don't run without electricity for long.

In any case, I'm proud of my ability to deduce hard facts from random observations. How about this one: Will Tate and myself were within about a tenth-second of each other on the other two bikes, so I imagine I would've turned an R1 time similarly close to his, had the bike not taken a dump. Also, all our fastest times on all the bikes were recorded in the morning sessions anyway; in the afternoon, the temperature went up and the traction went down.

May We Have the Envelope Please? In the final analysis, the unblinking official Hackfu timing system has it:

Aprilia Mille R: 1:31.34

Yamaha YZF-R6 : 1:31.78

Yamaha YZF-R1 : 1:33.43

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