Yamaha is among the most respected brands of motorcycles in the world today. The Japanese icon has delivered high performance and dependability in bikes that are good for cruising, tearing up motocross tracks as intense competitors as well as a range of other options. They’ve excelled in giving us a range of models to choose from through the years. One of the most fondly remembered models in recent history is the 2001 Yamaha YZF-R6. As we sort through the files of our memories, the R6 became an iconic bike at the turn of the century and it deserves a backward glance in time to understand its importance in the evolution of Yamaha’s sportbike class.
A new option coming in at the end of the 1990s
Yamaha produced its first edition of the YZF-R6 in 1999. It was just before the turn of the century. The brand was set to offer its loyal customers a supersport edition of the YZF -R1 superbike, which was perhaps a little less aggressive, but not as calm as the YZF600R. It found a home in the middle between the two popular sellers to open up a new range for those who found fault with either of the higher-powered or lower-powered bikes. There was a demand for something in the middle and the R6 version satisfied the longing.
The first edition of the YZF-R6
According to Wikipedia, 1999 through the 2000 model years of the new R6 launched with an all-new engine design. Yamaha beefed up the horsepower to more than 108 while stationary. It was the first production bike in the 600 cc class in the world to offer a 4-stroke system that cranked more than 100 horses. And that was in its stock form without any special modifications. By 2001, numerous updates were made that propelled this bike to even higher levels of respect and admiration.
At first glance, the bike was a gorgeous sight to behold. It was decked out with full fairings in red and white with flames and a design that gave it a winged appearance from a side angle. It was sleek and aerodynamic and it had the most aggressive look of any Yamaha we’d ever seen to date. The appearance could be a bit intimidating to new riders because it reeked of power and speed, but it was also inviting.
A closer look at the updated 2001 Yamaha YZF-R6
In 2001, the R6 had been produced for two years and it was entering into its third model year. Yamaha gave it a few timely updates before they introduced fuel injection into the power plant. Bikez confirms that the tweaks resulted in a 598 cc inline-four, four-stroke engine that cranked out 120 horsepower at 13,000 RPM. It also generated 50.2 ft. lbs of torque with a top speed of 155.3 mph in testing runs. It ran off a carbureted system with liquid cooling and a 65.4 x 44.4 mm bore x stroke with 4 valves per cylinder. The engine was matched with a 6-speed chain drive transmission.
The Chassis, suspension, brakes, and wheels received upgrades as well with a dual disc brake in the front and a single disc in the rear with 130 mm front wheel travel and 120 mm in the back. The dry weight of the bike was 360.3 pounds until you added a few extra goodies. The seat height of 32.3 inches for adjustable models at the lowest setting could be raised. The generously sized fuel tank held 4.49 gallons of fuel and it was equipped with an electric starter. A notable feature about the 2001 R6 is that engineers at Yamaha found a way to lighten its weight by five pounds, through the use of new alloys and a few design tweaks. It was light and fast. It was a remarkable bike in its day with a noted jump in horsepower and torque for the model year. The R6 also received an update to the fuel system with a 37 Keihin CV Downdraft with a throttle position sensor. Technology was becoming more advanced and as they say, the devil is in the details. Even twenty years ago we can look back and see a solid foundation for the evolution of the R6 model. It had been a necessary addition to the Yamaha lineup in the 600 motorcycle class. The seat height was raised by a few mm and the wheelbase was shaved by 20 mm. Performance was also upgraded slightly. 1999 through 2000 model years had a claimed zero to 60 speed of between 3.- to 3.35 seconds. Yamaha tweaked the engine for more power to deliver a flat 2.8 second time reaching 60 mph from a standstill. It might have lost a little in the top speed. It was 157 to 160 mph in the first two model years. That’s okay. It held steady at a claimed 157 mph, which is as fast as anyone needs to go. The fuel economy bumped up from an estimated 38.1 mpg to a more affordable 44 mpg.
The Yamaha YZF-R6 was an exciting sports bike when it was first offered back in 1999, but it would evolve even further within two years of its initial production run. It’s no small wonder that it became popular in the US. It offered another option in the 600 cc sports bike class. Future updates and upgrades were coming for the model through the years. All this aside, 2001 remains one of the most exciting times in the history of the YZF-R6 lifespan. The R6 was a necessary addition to the class. It was evident that something was missing. Some riders couldn’t find what they were looking for in the YZFR or the YZF-R1. Yamaha makes a habit of filling in the gaps whenever they become apparent. The YZF R6, 2001 model will remain in the memories of those of us who remember the feelings we had at first glance.