2008 Yamaha YZF-R6 - First Ride

Fly-By-Wire Throttle,Variable-Length Intake Tracts And Other Electronic Trickery Make The '08 R6 The Most Potent Yet

By Aaron Frank, Photography by Fran Kuhn, Yamaha

Yamaha claims the benefit of this system is even more pronounced on the smaller-bore R6 than on the R1, and after riding it, we agree. While no horsepower or torque claims were made, a spokesman did show us comparative dyno curves that suggested the '08 R6 makes similar low-end power compared to last year, but significantly more midrange power as well as a flatter, broader curve from 12,000 rpm up. This feels valid at speed: It's still a slow train to Slugville under 6 grand, but the bike now pulls strongly from 6000 rpm all the way up to the 16,500-rpm redline. It should be noted that the pitch change in the intake howl that occurs at 13,700 rpm, when the intake funnels snap from the long to the short position,is absolutely hair-raising, making this one of the most aurally stimulating sportbikes we've ridden.

Throttle response is instantaneous and flawless thanks to a revised version of Yamaha's revolutionary YCC-T Fly By Wire throttle that electronically modulates throttle input to provide seamless throttle action. A new antiengine-braking ECU circuit keeps the throttle butterflies cracked under heavy deceleration to aid the slipper clutch in keeping the rear wheel from locking during aggressive corner entries. The first few times this system activated, at the entrance to Laguna's hard-braking Turn 11 or the Corkscrew, it was startling-it feels almost as if you failed to close the throttle completely and the bike is still accelerating slightly against the brakes. Once you get accustomed to this sensation, however, the system proves exceptionally effective. Hacked-out, tire-howling corner entries are way too easy on the '08 R6, making us look (and feel) much more competent than we really are. Better living through electronics.

The chassis has been completely redesigned this year as well, with spring rates increasing slightly at both ends (2.5 percent front/5 percent rear) and a new frame that is slightly less rigid to better communicate what's happening at the contact patches. The rider now sits farther forward and lower thanks to re-angled clip-ons mounted 5mm lower, improving forward weight bias and enhancing turn-in and corner grip. Suspension is four-way adjustable, allowing riders to dial in a set-up sensitive enough to soak up small bumps but stiff enough to resist bottoming.

Handling is markedly improved. We found the last-gen R6 to be somewhat nervous,turning in too quickly for our tastes and sometimes requiring mid-corner corrections to stay on line. This year's version, with stiffer, betterbalanced suspension and slightly increased fork offset, transfers weight more progressively under braking and acceleration, making it easier to control. When you need to change your line quickly-as you do at least twice per lap at Laguna, in the double-apex Turn 2 and, of course, the Corkscrew-the more forward weight bias makes the '08 bike more responsive to steering inputs.

With even lower bars than before, the R6 requires a certain amount of athleticism to ride-a touring bike it's not. Yamaha staff did suggest a novel way to improve rider comfort,however, at least for casual riders who are less concerned about outright handling precision. Thanks to extra ride-height adjustability added this year, the front of the bike can be raised and the rear lowered slightly to effectively shift the weight bias rearward and take pressure off the rider's wrists without impacting handling too badly.

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