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The History and Evolution of the Yamaha YZF-R6

Yamaha YZF-R6

Yamaha is an automotive company that is well-known for its production of top-class motorcycles for the racing and pleasure riding industries. The Yamaha YZF-R6 was mong its more popular bikes that made history in quite a few aspects. The R6 is a class of bike that is designated as a supersport. The roots of this bike are found in models that predated the R6 by more than a decade and a half. Yamaha takes credit for producing the first inline four sportbikes in 1984 with the FJ600 with the later offspring of the technology and idea behind the bike, the R6, topping sales charts in the UK when released as a 1999 model in 1998. For those of you who haven't yet heard the news, the YZF-R6 will no longer be available as a production class road bike. It's a sad closure for some to hear the news, but the model is closing out its lifespan on a happy and positive note. To fully understand the impact of the model we must take a close look at the history and evolution of the Yamaha YZF-R6.

History of the Yamaha YZF-R6

According to Wikipedia, the R6 was first introduced to the world in 1999 under the class of super sportbike called the YZF-R1. This was the predecessor that kicked off the craze and it was followed bike its street-legal YZF600R model that eventually was sold with the R6 edition. It was a breathtaking bike that had a new engine that initially generated 108 horsepower while it was sitting idle. It made history when it became the first 600cc production motorcycle in the four-stroke category that cranked more than 100 horsepower as a stock bike.

Everyone wants to weigh in on the Yamaha YZF-R6

Yamaha YZF-R6 1

According to MC New, the XJ was the predecessor that started the 600 class off in the middle of the 1980s. The Yamaha 600 class became a dominant motorcycle in stock racing with a powerful motor and easy to handle chassis when compared to other racers of its time for the United States market. It offered racers the nimble steering necessary to navigate through tight corners and the bumps and slams of the whoops sections in motocross racing. The YZF-R6 entered the scene in 1999 and it was immediately shortened to the nickname the R6. This was a race replica bike that was the lightest racing bike the world had seen in its class. The bike achieved a low end of rpm ceiling that delivered a margin that was not arguable from any point of view. It featured a new engine that was reminiscent of the high revs of the previous 400 models with a redline at 15,500 rpm. The bike was fast and powerful in its class with an engine that generated an amazing 120 horsepower for the high end, with some claiming just 110 hp. Two years later Yamaha gave the R6 a few tweaks that kept the claimed horsepower at 120 with approximately the same performance specs as the previous edition, but marketing being what it is, there's always the need to do something different every few years.

Changes in 2003

In 2003, the Yamaha YZF-R6 had been out for four years and Yamaha gave it a revamp. The bike received a superior throttle response along with a new motor that now claimed 123 horsepower, along with an injection system that was used in larger models. The chassis also received a redo to make the handling even more nimble and responsive than the previous editions. This was the year that Yamaha did more than giving the bike a facelift. They also took the weight of the superlight bike down even further. Overall, it was a middleweight bike, but in 2005, Yamaha decided it was time to upgrade the chassis further and give the engine a few performance tweaks. The changes Yamaha made for this revamp added a few more pounds to the bike without affecting its overall performance on the track.

Issues with the Tachometer

Yamaha YZF-R6 2

In 2006, Yamaha had to correct an error that was made in the advertising of the new model. The tachometer was claimed to have a redline value of 17,500 rpm when in reality, it maxed at 15,800 rpm due to an ECU limiter. To make good on the mistake, Yamaha offered to buy back any models that consumers were not pleased with due to the mistake made by the release of inaccurate figures. Although there were a few dissatisfied customers, most buyers held onto their bikes because it wasn't worth sacrificing all of the benefits that it had to offer. For most, this was a minor deviation that didn't affect their enjoyment of the bike one way or the other. Yamaha had misspoken about its true capabilities but in the end, they were willing to make it right with anyone who had a problem with what we'll call an error in advertising.

This was also a year that the YZF-R6 received some significant upgrades. Perhaps the most outstanding update to the bike was the addition of the YCC-T ride by wire throttle, and the multi-plate slipper clutch that made up the new engine management system. This was a big change to a bike that had already gained throngs of followers who liked the power and the nimbleness of its handling. By 2008, Yamaha had another card up its sleeve and further improved the bike with a new YCC-I variable-length intake system. This improved the high engine rpm power and the bike also received an update in its frame design with the new Deltabox. The best part of these upgrades is that they now became standard equipment and you didn't need to request special modifications and pay a high price tag for the benefits. The claimed power was also taken up a notch from 123 to a record-breaking 127 horsepower. Although the bump in power made a ding in the midrange, it was something that the general public approved of.

Motorcycle News, the 2006 overhaul was it's first major revamp that added a new version of the bike that was heavily reimagined with new technology. This gave it a major boost of modernity. the 2008 version saw a 2 hp jump in power to 129 hp vs 127 as previously reported by MC. The Delta Box chassis was also stiffer than previous versions.

Notable changes in the evolution of the Yamaha YZF-R6

Bikes Wiki points out a few of the most outstanding changes in the evolution of the Yamaha R6. Models from 2006 forward featured the Yamaha Chip Controlled Throttle with the Yamaha Chip controlled Intake added from 2008 forward. The next truly significant update was the addition of an ABS from 2017 forward. This was the year that the bike also received a new traction control system, selectable drive mode referred to as D-Mode, and a quick shifter system as standard fare. These were electronic aids that modernized a bike that was already holding its own in the marketplace. The styling of the R6 also changed to resemble the M1 with a sleeker aesthetic. It also featured the suspension of the R1 and on top of that, it also came with a higher price tag. It was priced upwards of $1,300 higher than its competitor the Kawasaki ZX-6R, but this didn't curtail sales.

Big changes announced in 2020

Yamaha YZF-R6 3

The Yamaha YZF-R6 is a model that has been around since 1998 in the form of its 1999 debut release model. It was an instant hit when it was first released for sale to the general public. In the United Kingdom alone, more than 4,000 examples of the bike were ordered from dealers. This was a bike that was tough to keep in stock at local dealerships. Although there was an occasional hiccup, the R6 was one of the most successful production bikes in the 600 categories in the recent history of Yamaha. In the year 2020, Yamaha announced that the bike would no longer be made available in its road bike production version. They decided to take the R6 directly to the track as a racer. Starting in 2021, the Yamaha YZF-R6 is produced as a track-only bike with the specification for the European market. The R6 has enjoyed 21 years as a production road bike, but if you're currently looking for the current model year, it's doesn't exist, unless you happen to be a Euro track racer.

A new name for the R6

Expect to continue to hear more about the R6, but now it's going to be called the R6 Race. This is the name that Yamaha decided to go with to signal the new identity of the bike. This is just one more step in the evolution process of one of the brand's most beloved motorcycle models of all time. Beginning in January, of 2021, you can no longer register the R6 for the road so even if you do get your hands on one of the latest editions, it won't be legal to ride on the streets. The good old day of this fast and nimble bike for touring has gone by the wayside.

Is this the end of an era?

Yamaha YZF-R6 4

In a sense, the discontinuation of the Yamaha YZF-R6 does signal the closing chapter of a long and successful run that lasted for over two decades. Just when we were getting used to having the option of going to the dealership and ordering the latest model year of the R6, the option has disappeared into the ether. This is the nature of the business, however. In all automotive industries, models come and models go after they've lied out their lifespan. There is always another that comes to take its place in time. The R6 may not be available for use as a road bike but it will continue to be produced for European track racing where it will keep delivering its nimble handling and powerful approach to racing where skill is just as important as speed, but a good bike can also take you a long way. It will be interesting to watch the further evolution of the Euro model and to see what Yamaha does with the spunky little track bike.

Final thoughts

Yamaha's innovative advances in motorcycle technology as well as their impeccable aesthetics combined to create a very special model that was suitable for both track and on the road as a beloved touring bike. The Yamaha YZF-R6 was recently discontinued after a long and healthy run as a road bike for 21 years. It's still going to be made for the European market as a track racer from 2021 forward. Perhaps it is best to view the years of enjoyment as a gift as the bike truly does belong on the track fulfilling its true potential there. Those who were privileged to enjoy years of exceptional handling and enjoyment of the R6 road bike not only have good memories but also have the option of finding a used model as there are plenty of them still floating around. Yes, it's the end of an era, but it was a good run in the end. It's wise that Yamaha ended the life cycle of the R6 on such a positive note. While there have been ups and downs in the sales history of the bike, it was still considered one of Yamaha's best in class bikes. The Supersport has made its final transition from a road bike to a track bike to bring its life full-circle before fading into our memories. Let's not get too sentimental as we recount the good times and all the fun that this bike produced for thousands of happy riders across the United States, Australia, Japan, and Europe. Here is a nod to the memories and wishing Yamaha the best of luck with its new track-only version.

Benjamin Smith

Written by Benjamin Smith

Benjamin Smith is one of the managing editors of Moneyinc. Ben's been focusing on the auto and motorcycle sector since 2005. He's written over 1000 articles in the space and continues to learn about it each day. His favorite car is "any Bugatti" and he's a die hard Harley Davidson fan.

Read more posts by Benjamin Smith

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