A Review of the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6

03/23/2017 @ 2:51 pm, by Jensen Beeler65 COMMENTS

Since 1999, Yamaha has sold over 153,000 YZF-R6 supersport motorcycles, and for the 2017 model year the Japanese manufacturer adds a new chapter to that 19-year history.

Big Blue calls the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 a fourth generation motorcycle, but for those paying attention, it is obvious that Yamaha has merely taken its class-leading 600cc sport bike, made some refinements to the machine, and added an electronics package to the mix.

While there is disappointment that Yamaha didn’t bring as revolutionary of a debut to the YZF-R6 as it did just recently with the YZF-R1 superbike, we should state quite clearly that the Japanese brand continues its dominance in the 600cc sport bike realm with this most-recent addition to its lineup.

We should also give full-marks to the the realization that for Yamaha’s competitors in the supersport category, it will be considerably harder going forward to compete with Yamaha’s 600cc offering – a task that has already been a tough feat.

What’s New?

The recipe for the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 is straight forward, as the chassis and engine from the third-generation machine carry on, with the notable addition of a new magnesium rear subframe.

Other changes include an aluminum fuel tank, a refined seat shape, new KYB suspension fore and aft, and revised bodywork that give the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 a refreshing yet familiar look.

Of course, the changes of real note come in the form of the added electronics: six levels of traction control, three riding modes via ride-by-wire, and (permanently enabled) anti-lock brakes.

To the chassis, Yamaha has made an interesting dance of both stiffening and loosening things up in the front-end, with much of this work being through the KYB suspension pieces, which also happen to drop 1kg of weight off the bike.

Much of the added stiffness comes from the beefier and fully adjustable KYB forks, but Yamaha has reinforced the front axle as well.

All of this added too much stiffness to the design, says Yamaha though, so the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 compensates by reducing the cross-section of the lower triple clamp, thus bringing some suppleness back into the front of the rolling chassis.

The fully adjustable (high-speed/low-speed compression, rebound, and pre-load) KYB rear shock has also been upgraded, and now has a threaded pre-load adjuster, instead of the step-adjuster system from before, which makes for more refined changes to the shock pre-load.

The brakes on the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 have also been upgraded, with 320mm discs now doing the stopping duties up front (the 2016 model has 310mm discs), with the help of a new Nissin radial master cylinder and ADVICS four-piston radial calipers.

Perhaps the most obvious change for the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 is its new sleek bodywork, which makes an 8% improvement in aerodynamics over the 2016 model. Now with a taller windscreen as well, the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 now offers the same wind protection as the current YZF-R1.

With all these changes afoot, the question surely on everyone’s mind though is how big of a step is the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 from its predecessor? Fortunate for us, a 2016 Yamaha YZF-R6 was available to us for back-to-back comparisons. The answer might disappoint or delight, depending on your point of view.

New vs. Old

After a handful of laps on the 2016 Yamaha YZF-R6, it was abundantly clear to us that the technical changes made to the 2017 model are modest at best. Electronics aside, the two motorcycles behave almost identically on the race track, with a couple notable exceptions.

Yamaha’s changes to the chassis, especially the front-end of the machine, do produce some different feedback results when pushed the right way and under the right conditions.

The stiffness changes made to the 2017 model are certainly an improvement, though maybe too subtle to matter to anyone that doesn’t ride motorcycles for a living. For the typical street or track rider, the 2016 and 2017 R6 motorcycles will feel exactly the same when railing through the corners.

However, bigger improvements can be found in the braking package, with the larger front brake discs providing noticeably more stopping power, and the Nissin radial master cylinder providing better lever feel. Where the 2016 machine feels wooden when you are on the binders, the 2017 edition modulates nicely.

Interestingly enough, the biggest surprise comes from the ABS setup on the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6. It would be easy to chastise the Japanese manufacturer for not giving riders the ability to disable ABS on the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6, but we were impressed with how Yamaha’s the ABS package intervened when pushing the front tire to its threshold.

I would dare say that even for track day duty, having the ABS enabled is going to be a non-issue, at least when Bridgestone’s very sticky R10 track tires are installed, as they were for our event.

The Bridgstone S21 tire will be the OEM fitment for the North American markets, so some performance differences could exist at OEM-spec.

Still, rarely did we see the ABS show its face while lapping at Thunderhill Raceway, and when it did, the pulses and modulations weren’t overly harsh or degrading to the feel of motorcycle. The nerds in Iwata, Japan are doing their jobs very well indeed.

Of course the big topic is the new traction control system for the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6. Measuring wheel-speed from the front and rear wheels, Yamaha is managing traction through several methods: cutting ignition, changing timing, modulating fuel injection volume, and controlling the throttle opening via ride-by-wire.

While the real-world difference between the six traction control settings isn’t as distinct as we would like (read: there is almost no difference between them in dry conditions) the manner in which the Yamaha traction control intervenes shows the system to be highly competent, and clearly derived from its more sophisticated superbike counterpart.

If it wasn’t for the blinking amber light on the dash, one would rarely know that 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 is keeping things copacetic at the rear wheel of the motorcycle.

Still, one does have to wonder how necessary traction control is in the supersport class, especially with the segment not seeing meaningful changes in engine horsepower figures. As such, the value of the added electronics shines more clearly when road and track conditions are sub-optimal, not to mention when you are no longer shod in DOT race rubber.

While the addition of traction control and ABS to the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 does create another level of security for riders of these machines, it is easy to feel let down when you witness the real-world effects that Yamaha has brought to its supersport offering. But, as we warned before, that is only part of the equation.

The Emperor’s New Clothes

It is easy to be cynical about the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6, and we use coy moto-journo phrases like “evolution” or “refinement” to signal the fact that the changes to the R6 are subtle, if not underwhelming.

But one also has to look at how this new YZF-R6 fits into the supersport lineup as a whole, and that tells a different story about the machine.

If the differences from the 2016 machine are subtle to our eye, the reasoning for this might be based on the fact that the out-going YZF-R6 was already such a potent weapon for two-wheeled enthusiasts.

And while we lament the lack of “new” that comes with the 2017 model, we also have to remind ourselves that the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 benefits greatly from the pedigree it so closely follows.

Unsurprisingly then, we found that the delta box chassis provides excellent feedback to the rider, with handling characteristics that conjure words like “scalpel” or “telepathic” from motorcycle journalists.

The handling might be too good, in some respects, as the front-end can easily get out of shape as the load to the front tire decreases.

Yamaha has always walked closely to the thin line that separates the point where razor-sharp handling turns into twitchy front-ends. As such, owners will want to search for an aftermarket steering damper, and then feel confident that they have one of the best handling motorcycles on the market.

The 599cc engine creates similar compliments of its prowess, with the inline-four making predictable and smooth power. Of course like its predecessor, the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 doesn’t have anything going on engine-wise below 9,000 rpm – reminding us that riding modern supersports means keeping the needle at the top part of the tachometer.

In typical Yamaha fashion, the six-speed gearbox too on the R6 is smooth and decisive in its operation, and the installed slipper clutch makes aggressive down-shifts a no-drama affair on this pint-sized thoroughbred.

To ride this steed, you better be jockey sized though, because it is not like the Yamaha YZF-R6 grew any larger for the 2017 model year.

Yamaha has made some improvements to the ergonomics via a new seat and fuel tank shape, but larger riders (like myself, at 6’2″) will feel a little cramped on this pocket rocket. Such is the nature of the beast.

So Is It Any Good?

If one was told to ride the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6, without knowing the machines that came before it, and thus did not have the expectations that come from a 12-year hiatus, the results would be favorable. This R6 is unquestionably the standard by which all other 600cc sport bikes will be measured – full stop.

This “fourth generation” R6 is that good of a motorcycle. But, knowing what we do know, it is clear that Yamaha did not set out in 2017 to redefine the supersport segment – a segment that is suffering greatly from the complicit stagnation of the Japanese manufacturers.

It is hard to fault a company when it continues to lead all others though, and you have to give credit to Yamaha for continuing to invest in its supersport dominance, especially when other brands are content to wave the white flag.

The Yamaha YZF-R6 was already at the top of its class before this model year, and the 2017 model just became an even tougher act to follow.

Priced aggressively at $12,199 in the US market, one of the cheapest in the 600cc sport bike class, it would be hard not to recommend the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 as our supersport bike pick. So, we make no attempt otherwise. If your garage demands a supersport motorcycle, this is the one.

There is that twinge though, that feeling in the back of our mind, that while the R6 is the best supersport available on the market, it doesn’t represent the best of what the motorcycle manufacturers are capable of creating. I believe the word we’re looking for is bittersweet.

Photos: Brian J. Nelson

  • FLYGOD

    Should’ve been a triple. Thanks for the honest review(s).

  • Scott

    Yamaha already has a fantastic, best-selling, street-friendly triple… ;-)

  • Arno

    Excellent review. Too bad that white/fluo version isn’t coming to Europe.

    P.S. #Dankwheelie
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/2e467ac7e01e97aa3b1404d298f404cd62f856858adf0fd8715d26ea9624312c.png

  • sigsegv

    Yes, and it would be the perfect lump for a Yamaha sport tourer. If Ducati Supersport sales are good, we might se some crossplane-three declination of it from Iwata.

  • Scott

    God, I hope so! :D

  • BK

    Jensen, I can’t help but notice the lovely A&R Alpinestars leathers you are wearing… was someone listening to Two Enthusiasts finally fed up with your comments about Dainese being superior leathers?

  • motoschmoto

    Curious what makes it stand out so emphatically in your mind with respect to it’s competition. I ride a ’13 ZX6 and love it. I had an 899 before it (and a ’12 multistrada) and it’s by far my favorite bike ever. It’s got ABS and TC as well and the front brake is by far the most confidence inspiring I’ve ever used. The 675 seems to get some pretty glowing reviews out there too. Admittedly I’ve never ridden any of it’s direct competitors so I’m genuinely interested.

  • moto_junky

    Good review. Any plans for a “street” review? Also, any thoughts on how the R6 compares to the Kawi 636?

    P.S pristine leathers look fantastic 🀠

    Kickstands up!

  • moto_junky

    Glad to hear that. I’m just about to purchase the 2016 or 2017 model depending what deal I get. This review made me pause a bit. I’ve been riding Kawis for a while though, so I think I will stick with what I know. Have you had any reliability issues with your 636? Any advice? Cheers.

  • NortNad

    leathers looks a bit tight there mate :)

  • MikeD

    I can’t say for track prowess but on the streets a Triple would have made for a more “accessible” power band given everything equal(cc’s, cams, head ports, C.R, etc.). Maybe one day. Maybe . . .
    https://cdn.meme.am/instances/58502734.jpg

  • MikeD

    If i didn’t know any better i would say these pics are Yamaha’s hand overs to the press taken by some super fancy/expensive pro photographer.
    Who took these ? Nice pics. Not to mention those [fresh?] color matching leathers ain’t hurting the whole thing.

  • motoschmoto

    I just got the ’13 about 2 months ago. A driver pulled out from a stop sign in front of me on my ’14 ZX6 (also ABS version) and totaled it. I had the ’14 for almost two years and it’s the only bike (of 5) that I’ve ever wanted to truly keep forever. Never had any reliability issues at all. I think it’s comfortable, quick enough (going down one tooth on the front sprocket gives it a perfect bump in pickup), looks incredible and is fun in almost any kind of riding (I commute and tour on mine too). Can’t speak highly enough about it, though as I mentioned I haven’t ridden the other 600’s.

    p.s. Sorry for the thread-jack Jensen

  • n/a

    Those glow in the dark wheels need to be gunmetal grey.

  • Randolph

    Interesting article. Please visit us at http://www.247collisioncare.com/

  • Alex

    Great engine, but far from fantastic bike. More like cheap and terrible suspension (yes I have ridden it). Pop that engine into the R6 frame and it would be nice.

  • Joker : 118 bhp, hmm. What happened R6? Did your balls drop off.

  • moto_junky

    Good to hear. Thanks for the tips. I hope you’re as good as new after your cager incident. From all my research I’ve gathered that the only bike that is slightly better is the tricked out Triumph 675R. Too much $$$ for my budget, and even if I shelled out the extra $$$ it’s only slightly better. At least as far as most of the journos are concerned. I have not been able to find anyone riding it so far. I’ve ridden all the othe Japanese bikes as they all seem decent. I can only have one ride and it needs to be reliable. The Kawi checks most of the boxes for me. I prefer the Showa forks over the KYB as well. Cheers. Enjoy your ride this summer. Stay safe. Cheers.

  • moto_junky

    All that Mountain Dew 😜

  • Dustin Nisbet-Jones

    For a TL;DR review, this was quite thorough indeed. Great read!

    I have to say, the new look is very, very nice, especially in white. It’s thoroughly modern, pays homage to the R1 and yet is unquestionably an R6.

    Jensen, did you ask for the white model so you would be fabulously coordinated?

  • Jake F.

    1,884 words = TL;DR?

    TL;DR, you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. ;)

  • pidgin

    Make dual-sports great again

  • Moot

    Nice review!

  • Sorry for the long review, I didn’t have time to write a shorter one.

  • No, but I do have a suit for every occasion.

  • Brian J. Nelson – man, myth, and legend.

  • Are you saying that the R6 makes my ass look big???

  • Street review: save your money, buy an FZ-09. Done.

    The Kawasaki is a good bike, and it fits my frame a lot better than the R6 does. That being said, I think it’s a pretty chicken shit move by Kawasaki to make it 636cc.

  • proudAmerican702

    (Double hijack of thread) I used to ride the track quite a bit, and my tools back then were ’08 CBR1000RR, ’09 (and ’12) CBR600RR, and then a ’13 ZX6R. The Kawi was an absolute dream on the racetrack, and just as good on the road (plush, but absolutely planted suspension.) I only sold the Kawi because I stopped riding the track, and my body’s getting older. But boy, I do miss that one.

  • Mian Cowell

    Might as well just fit lower bars and a fuller fairing to the tracer 900

  • Mian Cowell

    Should’ve been an R7

  • sigsegv

    That would be a Tracer with an awkward riding position :P
    Suspensions have to go, replace with a firmer setup with 20 mm less travel. Rake si probably fine at 24Β° so you can keep the frame, but a longer swingarm is needed to compensate for the shorter wheelbase. And so on.
    You will not sell tens of thousands of bikes just by fitting lower bars, imho :)
    Getting too much off topic I guess…

  • motoschmoto

    I’m in one piece for sure, thanks. The 675 has always been interesting to me too. One drawback is that my local Triumph dealer is actually in a massive Harley Davidson shop. My first bike was a ’12 Bonneville that I bought from them and I always felt like a step-child there.

  • MikeD

    It’s cool, they’re NOT allowed to race it anyway. Have to play by the same rules.

  • Spurdog1

    A triple TRX. Cool.

  • Superlight

    A unique “crossplane” designation doesn’t apply to a triple. All brands have the same crankshaft design to make this cylinder count work.

  • Alam R

    Huh?
    Don’t Kawasaki make a ZX6R for homologation in the WSS series?
    So how about the 675’s and the 750’s and the 848 and 899’s? These are all middleweights class of bikes.
    They make better track bikes because they have all the lightness but more torque! Helpful on track.

  • Alam R

    Why no elbow down pics?

  • Alam R

    Come on… the R6 is an awesome road and track bike and they didn’t need to do much to it by all accounts.
    To be honest apart from the aging Honda there isn’t a bad SS 600 bike out there really. It all comes down to what you like.

  • imprezive

    The Daytonas are small man. I’m 6’1″ and felt like a gorilla on a tricycle. It’s a fun bike if you are tiny. My buddy had an 899 and I agree that thing was amazing.

  • imprezive

    Good honest review, I posted it up on Reddit.

  • sigsegv

    I should have used the “CP3” trademark :)

  • Bruce Steever

    No, your fat ass makes your ass look big. But it’s all good, i look even sillier on a 600, and for the same reasons.

    “I’ll be thin in my next life, so pass the cookies.”

  • moto_junky

    No such thing as getting old – β€œLife should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” – Hunter S. Thompson 😜

  • Superlight

    Yes, but it has no bodywork to deflect the wind and is Transformer ugly.

  • Superlight

    As I said, Yamaha triples are no different than triples from Triumph or MV as far as crankshaft design goes.

  • Superlight

    Us smaller guys have the same opinion about the Adventure bikes – I can’t touch the ground!

  • imprezive

    I knew a couple guys who were ~5’7″ with BMW GS’. I don’t know how they do it man. I can barely flat foot one!

  • Ayabe

    Kind of an odd pairing but I’d like to see comparisons of this vs the new STR RS given its track leanings, similar price and the Triumph having better components and a stronger motor.

  • Ayabe

    That bike is a disappointment, it’s a looker but otherwise overpriced and underpowered.

  • sigsegv

    I wrote that we might see a Supersport on the same engine platform as the MT-09 from Iwata. Yamaha refers to that engine as “CP3”, it is a trademark (https://trademarks.justia.com/857/68/cp3-85768949.html), like “Ecoboost”. CP does stand for crossplane – or maybe cherrypeach, it does not matter, because both are not trademarkeable – and I used the extended form in the original sentence.

  • sigsegv

    My bike does over 150 HP at the rear wheel and I wouldn’t call the Supersport underpowered. And neither a looker :P
    I suppose you are referring to the Ducati and not the 09 because of “overpriced” ;)

  • Michael Wertz

    Sooooo….. Arrival Date is when..!? Most of the facts about the bike have been known since October. Give us the concrete arrival date!!!!!!?

  • Ayabe

    Yep, talking the new Duc SS, looks are subjective but you seem to be in the minority, many people think it looks great. “ELECTED MOST BEAUTIFUL BIKE EICMA 2016”

    13K with no heated grips or CC or hard bags, looking at 16K for all that.

    As I said, overpriced.

  • H.T.V. Blu

    I get what you are saying but I don’t agree in the end.

    Ultimately, it is the oldest of the 600s.
    It is the least powerful of the 600s.
    It is the most expensive of the 600s.
    It has been entirely abandoned in WSS for several seasons & in the UK only the Suzuki has fewer numbers of racing.

    I own a garage and concentrate on sports bikes (sales and builds.) The R6 feels slower, the least comfortable, and after the Honda (which is just more powerful) has the least torque and the least comfort.

    Despite these facts (I repeat, facts) Yamaha have managed to get the vast majority of the motorcycle press parrotting that this is the pinnacle of the supersport class and is somehow the classes saviour.

    Again despite; it being the joint oldest – Suzuki have updated the GSX-R600 twice (update/fundamental redesign AND an all new model.) Kawasaki have introduced 2, yes two, all new models. MV Agusta have released a totally new design and Triumph redefined the whole sector.

    I struggle to see with which bit you contend or why it deserves ANY of the plaudits it is receiving.

    None of this makes it a bad bike but I suggest it is fanciful to make the claim:

    “…we should state quite clearly that the Japanese brand continues its dominance in the 600cc sport bike realm.”

    This is nonsense, however you consider the facts. Worst of all though, to my mind, is that these exact words have appeared in UK and Australian MCN, Performance Bikes magazine, Cycle World (I think) and Auto Evolution.

    This clearly tells me that it is straight from the Yamaha marketing department to the writers of all the copy, despite it being passed off as a journalist’s own opinion.

  • ryu600RR

    great write up, for sure will be looking for honda/kawi comparison with this bike soon, i might be in the market for one later

  • 2Kcowboy

    I have not done any track days. And correct me if I’m wrong, but wouldn’t something like an XR1200X with worn out tires make for a better learning tool than something like this Yamaha?

  • durandal1

    Can’t go wrong with a track-prepped Ninja 300/R3 for learning. In the beginning, it’s all about the corner speed and a bike that responds clearly to input.

  • AlexKnolly

    Yeah, I’m fairly sure that’s what this model is on Kawasaki’s website: https://www.kawasaki-cp.khi.co.jp/mcy/street/13_zx600r_e.html

    Not completely as up to date as the 636, but still about 10 years newer than the last time the mass-market ZX6R was 600cc.

  • NortNad

    We all would look silly on a R6, but not as much as you 😜

  • Jake F.

    Elbow down pics would have necessitated bike down pics and those are not flattering.

  • H.T.V. Blu

    I know you didn’t ask me but as someone who sells all the Japanese bikes for a living, I can tell you, on road, the Kawasaki and Suzuki both beat the Yamaha. Easily. The Suzuki is a touch softer, the Kawasaki has a slightly harder edge. Both have more than 10bhp more than the Yamaha – 10% nearly! That’s quite a lot in this market. The Showa BPF are so much better than the KYB it should embarrass Kayaba.

  • darren636

    nah, 636 just works.

  • Alam R

    Lol..

  • Axel

    Was thinking the same, as I’m on the market for a 1 pc tracksuit – I have an Alpinestars body. And a Shoei head.