Family Feud: Yamaha FZ6R vs. YZF-R6

Fraternal Fours

By Ari Henning, Photography by Kevin Wing

When the work week is over and it's time to hit the hills for some motorcycling catharsis, it becomes obvious who inherited the athletic genes. Wind the R6 up into double-digit revs and the short-stroke four produces serious power to slingshot you from turn to turn. Staying in the engine's happy zone is easy thanks to a smooth-shifting close-ratio transmission. Conversely, rolling the FZ6R's throttle open is completely underwhelming, and you regularly rev it to the limiter in search of a non-existent top-end rush. In town the FZ's soft throttle response is pleasant, but when you're trying to reel in the R6 on a flowing back road that fluffy feeling becomes an annoyance, and only contributes to the bike's overall disconnected feel. The FZ's budget brakes are surprisingly good, and get points for excellent feel and adequate power. The R6's Akebono calipers are exponentially stronger, but their firm initial bite gives way to a dull feel at the lever. Feedback is further numbed by rubber brake lines, making it difficult to modulate power and sucking the confidence out of hard braking.

Everything that felt awkward while riding the R6 to the office feels fantastic while rampaging up a twisty mountain road. Ride the FZ6R in a sporting fashion and its heft and soft suspension are painfully apparent. Tipped into a fast sweeper, the FZ wallows and constantly tries to right itself. Moving your upper body forward helps settle the bike and finish the turn, but it's just a band-aid to cover the ill effects of abundant trail and a rearward weight bias. Railing through the same turn, the R6 feels so settled and controlled that it practically rides itself. Dunlop Qualifiers offer good traction and the taut chassis relates everything that's going on at the contact patch. The Soqi suspension is fully adjustable, but the R6 handles so flawlessly that we felt no need to stray from the stock settings. If the FZ had options beyond shock preload, we certainly would have liked to add more damping front and rear to help calm its mid-corner nervousness.

But it's an unfair game of tag, so don't play. Let the R6 run ahead and blast through Officer Brown's speed trap at double the limit. Dialed back to the traffic engineer's recommended rate of travel, the FZ feels perfectly composed and comfortable. Just relax and enjoy the scenery, and ignore the feelings of insufficiency. It may look like a supersport to the uninitiated, but the FZ is a sheep in wolf's clothing. Its aerodynamic attire passes for classy at speed, but at a standstill things stand out. Bad things. The combination of painted, matte and textured paneling complicate and sully the bike's appearance, while stamped-steel foot controls, oversized chain guard and footrest brackets, and a swingarm that one tester compared to a piece of lawn furniture make it look cheap. Things get worse the longer you look, so don't.

Parked nearby, the R6 could inspire a design student's senior paper. It probably has. Sleek, sharp bodywork gives way to broad frame spars and a sculptured swingarm. Everything about the bike exudes refinement, speed and purpose, and the R6 has the performance to back up its appearance.

Between your house and work, the FZ6R is king. It'll coddle you with touring-rig comfort, impress your cage-driving co-workers and maybe even get you a nod of approval at Bike Night. Its engine is obedient and user-friendly, and there are even acceptable accommodations for a passenger. It's reliable, functional and ... entirely uninspiring.

The YZF-R6 is arguably the most track-biased supersport on the market, which is exactly why it's so appealing. It's $3000 more expensive and the riding position may be grueling for day-to-day commuting, but that exhilarating, twice-a-workday, first-gear roll-on onto the freeway makes it all worthwhile. And when the weekend comes, you wouldn't want to be riding anything else. With 40 more horsepower, 50 pounds less weight and all the bells and whistles of a thoroughbred racing machine, it's pretty clear the YZF-R6 is the better Yamaha 600.

Off The Record
Justin Fivella, Associate Editor, Super Streetbike magazine
Age: 27
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 195 lbs.
Inseam: 31 in.

I've logged well over 1000 miles on each of these two mounts and can safely say they're worlds apart. On one hand, the YZF-R6 offers zero concessions to civility with pretzel-like ergos and a hard-hitting engine that goes from zero to hero in the blink of an eye. On the other, the FZ6R does little to stir your soul, but offers the kind of practicality the R6 could only dream of. While the FZ is a great all-rounder, in the end I'll throw sensibility to the wind in favor of the high-rpm roar straight from a racebike's pipe. Viva la R6!

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You youngsters kill me, with your got to have a bike that is for racing to ride around everyday. I'm cool man I have a R6 under me. As soon as I get out of site I will have to pull over and get the kink out of my legs and back. Point being if you are going to spend $11 to $15,000.00 on a super-sport, then by all means do but take it to the track not on the streets and highways. Buy a second bike for the city streets that wont cripple you in the process. Nuff said
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