While some other manufacturers are abandoning the 600 cc race replica category, Yamaha has doubled down on its YZF-R6 for 2017 by adding traction control and ABS and giving it a new, aerodynamic look to match the recently updated YZF-R1.
The R6 has always been among the raciest and most track-oriented supersports, and Yamaha pointed out that it has won 21 AMA professional road racing titles over the last 13 years. New MotoAmerica Supersport champ Garrett Gerloff rode the new R6 onto the stage at the AIMExpo in Orlando this morning to introduce it and he'll be campaigning it in the MotoAmerica Supersport class next year — a class Yamaha already dominates.
While the new R6 is still just as racy, the addition of traction control and ABS makes it a better bike for the street, where you always face the possibility of hitting a diesel spill or having a driver suddenly turn left in front of you. Those rider aids will no doubt save a few R6s from the indignities and expenses of rashed fairings.
The traction control offers the rider six levels of intervention and can be turned off. Yamaha says it also compensates for rear tire wear so performance is consistent. Also added is what Yamaha calls "D-Mode," which lets the rider choose from three different throttle response maps to suit the riding conditions or personal preferences. The final key rider aid is the new anti-lock brake system to add a layer of safety to the power of the twin, radial-mount 320 mm disc brakes up front.
Yamaha updated the front suspension on the R6 quite simply by bolting on the same 43 mm KYB inverted fork that's used on the R1, but with different settings. A quick shifter that enables full-throttle clutchless upshifts is available as an option.
New look and feel for the Yamaha YZF-R6
Supersports are all about performance, but that doesn't mean we don't pay attention to looks. We are human, after all. Yamaha's 1998 R1, for example, was a milestone model not just because it advanced sport bike performance, but also because it pushed styling in a new direction.
Not surprisingly, the new R6 gets a greater family resemblance to the new R1, with the same beady LED headlights and wind tunnel tail section. But beyond tuning the looks, Yamaha claims the new R6 bodywork makes it the most aerodynamic production motorcycle they've ever built, with an 8 percent improvement in aerodynamic efficiency. In addition to the shapely fairing and smaller headlights, the turn signals are incorporated into the mirrors.
The fuel tank is now aluminum and Yamaha reshaped it, the magnesium rear subframe and the seat to make it easier to get feet on the ground and grip the tank with your knees.
Yamaha's silence on changes to the engine, other than the electronic aids, leads me to assume it's essentially the same. Not that it needed much, for its intended purpose of winning races.
MSRP for the 2017 YZF-R6 comes in at $12,199 and it will be available in March. If you're already sold, you might want to visit your dealer and put down a $500 deposit because Yamaha is giving the quickshifter free to the first 500 buyers (installation not included).