I'd use the cliché new and improved but the "new" part doesn't apply to the "improved" part. Improvements to the ECU still leaves this middleweight lacking, especially when compared to the green bike we brought along. That said, Yamaha still owns the handling department when it comes to rider input. The R6's legendary, eager-handling chassis and suspension combo still sets it apart from a hungry group of 600s.
The core issue is power delivery across the board. The lack of torque still requires the rider to scream the clutch off a standing start and the top end of the engine's powerband is nowhere to be found. This year's R6 is too similar to past years on many levels and current modifications are a mere bandage. Knowing Yamaha's racing heritage, the next generation 600 will, no doubt, attract the competition's attention...just not this year.
The one memory that sticks out in my mind from last year's R6 was taking it home one night and cursing each time the light turned red. Launches weren't the bike's strong point by any means and each green light was an advanced course in the clutch slipping skills I learned during the MSF class. I was so fed up with it that I actually brought the bike back the next day and rode something else home, never touching the Yamaha after that. Fast forward to today and when I took the latest R6 home those thoughts were running through my mind. I'm glad to report that not a single curse word was muttered on my commute home, the increased midrange has made launches much easier.
All told, the latest incarnation of the R6 is a better machine than last years, especially on the street. But at the track that lack of top end is such a downer when this razor-sharp chassis is so eager to cut lap times. There's no doubt Yamaha got caught with its pants down when all these new sniff tests were put into place, but I'm left to wonder why it's having such a hard time coping when it seems the competition has just rolled with the punches. Knowing Yamaha, it won't go down without a fight. Here's hoping these next few years proves me right.
There's no doubt that the latest version of the R6 is improved over the '09 edition, at least as far as midrange power is concerned. You can definitely feel the improvement when getting on the throttle out of medium-speed corners from 8000 rpm; instead of the previous flaccid response, the new R6 at least has some steam that doesn't require the precision with gear selection or corner entry that the older one demanded. And the powerband is much smoother, with no more 10,500-rpm flat spot to contend with.
Handling was as razor-sharp as ever, allowing you to place the R6 in corners with an ease that the other 600s are hard-pressed to match. And even the brake pad compound was improved, with less of the numb feel and response that plagued the '09 version.
Unfortunately, despite Yamaha's adspeak claims of restoring some of the power that was lost from the '08 version, it appears that the stricter DOT/EPA emissions testing has stymied any attempted top-end gains for the '10 model, at least the U.S. edition. In this current 600cc environment, 102 horsepower just won't cut it against competitors pushing at least four to six horsepower more-and with better midrange to match.