New 2010 Yamaha Sportbikes

A racy-looking Rossi-rep R1 leads this year's lukewarm line-up.

Back in 2008, the last time Yamaha offered a Fiat/MotoGP factory team replica, you had to buy the $2500 (!) bodywork kit separately and install it yourself. This year, you just check the right option box and tack a $1200 premium onto the YZF-R1's $13,290 base price. This gets you an already-assembled YZF-R1 LE, stickered up to look just like Rossi's ride-right down to the "Doctor" decals on the windscreen and a reproduction of Vale's signature on the fuel tank.

Unfortunately, unlike the 2006 YZF-R1 LE that featured upgraded Ohlins suspension, Marchesini wheels and more power, the only difference between this year's base bike and the LE version is the bold new graphics. Otherwise, the two bikes are identical, and utterly unchanged from 2009 as well. That's not a huge problem: The R1's signature Crossplane engine, with its uneven firing order and trick technology like the chip-controlled intake and throttle, did earn our 2009 Motorcycle of the Year award. It's just that, when we spy the vaunted "limited edition" tag (and the corresponding uptick in price), we hope for something more significant than special stickers.

The 2010 YZF-R6 shows even more evidence of recession-wary product planning on Yamaha's part. In addition to less-bold new graphics (Is it just us, or is this the most conservative "Team Yamaha" paint scheme yet?), changes are limited to a new, 100mm-longer muffler for "increased" performance and "revised" ECU settings. With this pair of barely warmed-over YZF's following closely on the heels of last week's non-news about Honda's similarly unchanged CBR600RR and CBR1000RR, 2010 is shaping up as a yawner of a year for sportbike fans.