New Bikes 2006

Flight of the BumblebeesThe striking resemblance to what Valentino Rossi and Colin Edwards rode at the USGP is enough to make us drool, but look closer. Unlike other upscale limited editions of big-bore sportbikes, this is much more than a sticker kit. The '06 YZF-R1 LE rolls on forged-aluminum Marchesini wheels shod with gummy Pirelli Diablo Corsa radials. But wait, there's more! An hlins fork and shock replace the run-of-the-mill R1's Kayaba and Soqi suspension bits, and it's also equipped with a slipper clutch to simplify rapid-fire downshifting. Complete with the obligatory 50th Anniversary logos on its nose and flanks, there's also a numbered badge on the top triple-clamp to authenticate the 500 bikes to be built for '06.

If you're not one of the fortunate 500, there's the more readily available R1 SE--a standard '06 R1 dressed up in the retro-chic, yellow-and-black racing livery. The R1 is also available in Yamaha's current blue-and-white racing colors as well as basic black. All of them get a few strategic upgrades for '06. Claimed horsepower jumps from 180 to 181.5 thanks to a subtle increase in compression and other internal tweaks. Elsewhere in the engine, the clutch boss has been revised for better oil flow. Frame rigidity has been optimized, and a longer swingarm stretches the wheelbase from 54.9 inches to 55.7. There's even a lap-timer built into the instrument pod that's triggered by the starter button. Add a Rossi-rep helmet and leathers, some clean underwear and you're in business.

Smooth Blue MoversAfter showing up early as an '03 model and selling out every year since, Yamaha's 1298cc answer to the Shinkansen bullet train gets a raft of subtle enhancements for '06 with a technological bolt from the blue just over the horizon. Though the visible differences are somewhat arcane to all but FJR devotees, Yamaha says new bodywork gives the bike a slimmer look and feel. Sharp eyes will spot the subtleties: a new headlight and taillight, simplified graphics, a new front fender as well as clear turn-signal lenses. Fuel-tank capacity is thankfully status quo at 6.6 gallons. Beyond that, this latest electrically adjustable windscreen is taller and sits closer to the rider. With new vents cut to equalize pressure behind the screen, the cockpit should be a more comfortable place for transcontinental travel.

ABS is standard equipment for '06, and new four-piston Nissin bits replace the familiar R1-style front brake calipers. Gauges are new, and there's a gear-position indicator this time as well. Electric vests and such will plug into the new DC power outlet, and repositioned passenger footpegs--mounted just aft of the swingarm pivot rather than to the subframe--aim to make two-up travel more comfortable.

Although official details were unavailable at press time, reliable deep-cover sources say Yamaha will also roll out an '06 FJR1300 equipped with a semi-automatic transmission. A pair of handlebar-mounted buttons cues the gearbox to shift up and down--so will a traditional shift lever--with no manual clutch to mess with. In fact, there's no clutch lever at all. Further details should be forthcoming, so stay tuned.

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