Some say the 600cc supersport class is dead, that it has left the station never to return. Detractors argue modern-day motorcyclists don’t want racy ergonomics, a top-end-focused powerband, or anything less than 150 hp measured at the rear wheel. Well, perhaps they should ride the latest-generation Yamaha YZF-R6 to remember why middleweight sportbikes were—and remain—so special. And why the R6 owns a big chunk of the trackday pie.
Unlike many smaller-displacement sportbikes that have an air of soft-edge civility, the R6 is pure race replica with trick bits to match. The engine boasts titanium valves, ceramic-composite-plated cylinder bores, and magnesium cases. With a 16,500-rpm redline, the R6’s key components need to be strong, slippery, and light. There is, as a matter of fact, a replacement for displacement: light weight.
To that end, the R6 also has a magnesium subframe, a titanium muffler, and an aluminum fuel tank. The electronics package features six-level traction control, including “off,” and three-way-adjustable throttle response. A slipper clutch and variable-length intakes further evince the single-minded pursuit of middleweight performance. The Yamaha YZF-R6, significantly updated three years ago, is a quintessential example of the breed.