2006-2008 Yamaha YZF-R6S

Smart Money

Maybe you can afford to shop at the top of the 600cc food chain. But these days, it pays to think long and hard about whether you really need to. Dropping your aim a notch does wonders for the monthly budget without slowing you down much, especially on the street. Case in point: Yamaha's YZF-R6S. Lightly domesticated from the all-conquering second-generation R6, it can't match an '09 R6-mounted expert at the racetrack. But these days, keeping $4300 parked in the bank beats shaving a second or three from your lap times. And it's painless: Though no sport-tourer, the seat and fairing are above average by sportbike standards, and the 4.5-gallon tank will take you upwards of 170 miles between gas stations.

Bars mounted above the top triple-clamp allow a more upright riding position compared to the '03 Yamaha YZF-R6 that donated the basic heart and bones. Elsewhere, you'll find an assemblage of fourth and fifth-generation R6 bits, led by a 43mm fork from the '03 edition. Softer spring and damping rates serve up a more humane ride on public pavement. R6-spec chassis numbers mean handling is far quicker than any other second-string 600, with more encouraging front-end feedback. At 419 pounds full of gas, it's 22 lbs. lighter than Honda's CBR600F4i and 72 lbs. lighter than Yamaha's venerable steel-framed YZF600R. Cam timing and EFI mapping lay out a broader, more usable spread of power that's much easier to use on the street, but the 104-horse herd that arrives at 13,000 rpm is still good for high 10-second quarter-miles at 127 mph.

Midrange power is limp relative to the Honda and its broadband ilk. Shifting can be stiff, and there's a bit too much buzz at five-figure rev levels-potentially irritating when you spend most of your time spinning along 1000 rpm higher than most middleweights. But that's about the end of our glitch list. Given a disciplined approach to oil changes, valve adjustments and the like, the fizzy little 16-valve inline-four should be dead-reliable. Stock is always best, and subtle evidence of slipshod maintenance-rounded-off fasteners, for instance-can tip you off to deeper-seated ills. Be wary of homegrown hot-rod modifications. If you see a Power Commander or some other aftermarket fuel-injection module, make sure it's R6S-specific and not something intended for an R6.

More power and sharper handling than anybody else's second-string 600.

A bit buzzy on top. Six-speed gearbox is clunky getting in or out of neutral.

Watch For
R6 hot-rod parts, incomplete or nonexistent maintenance records.

The sharpest real-world 600 when price is more important than lap times.

2006 $5710
2007 $6325
2008 $6600


2006 | $5810
Honda CBR600F4I
One of the most versatile sporting contrivances yet created on this or any other planet. Not as sharp as subsequent RR-spec derivatives, but a good rider gives up nothing on the street with the ultimate broadband middleweight alternative.
2006 | $5150
Kawasaki ZZR600
Little was really lost in the translation from 1999 ZX-6R to 2006 ZZR600 except the aesthetic attitude. Still inhales through 36mm Mikuni carburetors, but its heart and soul are still intact. Roomy. Comfy. Great headlights. No fuel gauge?
2004 | $3830
Suzuki GSX-F600 Katana
Cheap, friendly and unassuming, the ubiquitous "Can-o-Tuna" was finally phased out in favor of the relatively modern GSX650F. But frugal beginners everywhere can look beyond a lack of pure thrust and see a loyal, air/oil-cooled 600cc companion.