Yamaha's small but potent sportbike lineup returns with few changes for 2001, the lion's share of which have been lavished upon the all-conquering YZF-R6. The semi-naked Euro-market Fazer we told you about last month comes stateside renamed FZ1.
This year, Mr. R6 gets a host of small changes aimed at keeping the bike at the top of the middleweight charts despite the threat of a superlight and all-new GSX-R600 and the revamped Honda CBR600F4i.
Internally, the R6's high-revving engine is largely unchanged, save for a slight juggling of piston and connecting-rod height-the piston pin is 0.5mm lower in the piston (effectively raising the piston dome) and the connecting rod is the same amount shorter to maintain the 2000 model's stroke and 12.4:1 compression ratio. To save weight (the whole bike is said to be seven pounds lighter than the previous R6) the exhaust header's crossover tubes are now straight instead of curved. Further downstream, there's a revised shift-shaft bushing arrangement to improve shifting.
Chassis-wise, the R6 has received similarly subtle alterations. The steering stem and nut are now aluminum, and the taillight is now a clever LED unit that's white until activated. YZF-R1-style mirror stalks should improve rear vision and you may notice new graphics on the upper fairing. Out back, the R6 has gained an R1-like inner fender. New bar mounts angle the clip-ons down by an additional two degrees (now at 12 degrees of droop). Other weight-saving measures include a smaller battery and ignition-control box.
Beyond that, the R6 is the same as ever. So, for that matter, is the R1. After some 200 improvements for 2000, Yamaha's groundbreaking literbike goes unchanged for 2001, although it and the R6 will be offered in Champions Limited Edition versions that feature special factory team-inspired blue-and-white paint schemes. (Standard schemes for the R1 and R6 are blue or red.) And the evergreen YZF600R carries on in blue or black for a paltry $6999. (Other prices had not been released at presstime.)
For cruiser fans, rejoice in the fact that much of Yamaha's street-savvy lineup returns with minor changes for 2001, from the diminutive Virago 250, up to the bossy V-Max. (It was rumored that the Max wouldn't return for 2001, but it's looking to make one last curtain call.) For $10,699, you can have your V-Max dressed only in black.