New Bikes 2006

Starting the Second 50 Years

With the candles still smoking from its 50th birthday party, Yamaha enters its second half-century with something for everyone. For starters, there's an all-new 17,500-rpm R6 and an avant-garde FZ1 that's essentially an R1 in the buff. Just so you don't forget that 50th birthday right away, there's a limited-edition R1 as well, strategically fortified with Marchesini and Brembo hardware and wrapped in retro-chic yellow-and-black strobe-stripe livery. For devotees of long-playing adventure, the FJR1300 has been tactically revamped as well.

Despite that broadband approach, the emphasis for '06 is clearly on 600s. There are four in this latest lineup, starting with an unchanged YZF600 and the omnivorous FZ6 with cosmetic tweaks. For sporting bargain-hunters, the '04-spec R6--no inverted fork or radial front brake-caliper mounts--is back for an encore as the R6 S. But if you're willing to pay for top-shelf technology--and Yamaha thinks you are--the new-from-the-pavement-up R6 is the year's hottest middleweight ticket thus far.

Taking its external cues from Formula One automobiles instead of MotoGP motorcycles, the heart of Yamaha's first Extreme Supersport is a totally new 599cc four. Though it retains last year's basic engine architecture, its 67.0mm x 42.5mm cylinders are more oversquare than the '05 bike's 65.5mm x 44.5mm holes. The redline moves 2000 rpm to the right, from 15,500 to 17,500. Transmission and final-drive ratios have been reshuffled to match, running through a new slipper clutch. Factor in higher compression (12.8:1 vs. 12.4:1 in '05), 16 titanium valves (the first on a Yamaha streetbike) and revamped ram-air system flowing straight through the frame and exiting via titanium exhaust plumbing and you're looking at a serious contender. It's also the first 600 equipped with Yamaha's signature EXUP exhaust-valve technology. Specifics are scarce at this juncture, but all that should add up to a significant bump over the '05 bike's 110 rear-wheel horsepower at 13,000 rpm.

Cast using Yamaha's proprietary Controlled Fill technology, this latest Deltabox aluminum skeleton routes main spars over--not around--the engine to keep things narrow between the rider's knees. The CF-cast swingarm is new as well, though the 54.3-inch wheelbase is only a twinge shorter. Steering geometry steepens rake from 24.5 to 24.0 degrees, padding trail slightly from 3.7 to 3.8 inches. The result, Yamaha says, shifts weight bias toward the front wheel for more precise steering.

Yamaha hasn't told us how much the bike weighs, but we'll be surprised if it's not under the '05 version's claimed dry weight of 357 pounds. Price is still floating around on some computer somewhere in the Tuning Fork Company's Cypress, California, headquarters, but bank on an '06 R6's admission leapfrogging the $8399 you paid for an '05.

Undressing the R1
Yamaha retired the venerable '05 FZ1, jacked up the logos and slid an undressed R1 underneath. OK, there's a lot more to it than that, but this is what we've hoped for all along. Yamaha's big, naked bruiser always had the muscle. Powered by a lightly domesticated version of the current fuel-injected 20-valve, 998cc R1 engine, this '06 version should overshadow its predecessor's 125.7 rear-wheel horses. The R1-spec 77.0mm bore and 53.6mm stroke are more oversquare than the elder FZ1's 74.0mm x 58.0mm cylinders. All four still exhale through EXUP exhaust valving and a single sculpted muffler.

Despite any passing resemblances to its racier brother's aluminum skeleton, the CF-cast FZ1 frame--complete with detachable subframe--is an all-new piece and purpose-built for this job. That swingarm is a derivative of what you've seen on the current R6. And while the '06 is comparable to the '05 FZ1 in terms of basic dimensions such as length and width, seat height is a push at 32.1 inches. Its 57.5-inch wheelbase is 0.4-inch longer than the '05 bike's. Sportier steering geometry--25 degrees of rake and 4.3 inches of trail versus 26 degrees and 4.1 inches in '05--should put a sharper edge on the new bike's backroad behavior. Fully adjustable suspension--led by a phat new inverted fork--should help as well. So will those 320mm front rotors replacing the 298mm bits that stopped its predecessor. There's also a fat, 190/50 ZR17 radial out back to put that extra power to the pavement. Yamaha says the new package weighs in at a tick less than 450 pounds--about 10 pounds lighter than its immediate ancestor. Purists can shave a little off that number by dispensing with the stock centerstand.

The only twinge of bad news in the first batch of numbers is a 4.8-gallon fuel tank that will have you stopping for super unleaded sooner than the old 5.6-gallon vessel. Expect to pay something more than the current FZ1's $8599 sticker, too. But considering Yamaha's characteristic affinity with affordability, this one should still be a bargain.

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