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2002 Yamaha YZF600R: MD Ride Review


2002 Yamaha YZF600R Outfitted with Luggage From Marsee Motorcycle Gear

We like to talk a lot about “real world” motorcycles here at MD. You know, the bikes you need, but not necessarily the bikes you want when you first go into the dealer showroom. In the real world, as opposed to that fantasy world where we are all Valentino Rossi ready to squeeze every last ounce of performance out of the latest and greatest performance sportbikes, you might be surprised at what works best.

I can remember when Yamaha introduced the YZF600R several years ago. At the time, it was Yamaha’s cutting-edge 600cc sportbike, featuring fully adjustable suspension, front and rear, (preload, compression and rebound), good tires, thorough instrumentation, and very streetable ergonomics and wind protection. Shortly thereafter, Yamaha introduced the R6 — a bike much lighter and much more aggressive from a sportbike perspective. The R6 was the “no compromises” sportbike.

Yamaha continues to manufacture and sell the YZF600R, because it offers a very comfortable and practical alternative to the R6. In the U.S., the YZF600R is available at an MSRP well below the latest 600cc sportbike designs. Priced at $$6,999.00, it is roughly $1,000.00 less than the average 600cc sportbike (the Yamaha R6, for example, is available for $7,999.00). What you get with the YZF is a 600 that is heavier and less focused on hard core sport riding, but with trade offs that make it a much more practical mount.

The YZF600R has excellent mid-range power for a 600 — even compared with more current designs. The carbureted engine has good throttle response after it warms up (like a lot of carbureted bikes, it is a bit cold blooded). It might lack the top end rush of some of the other 600s available, but the motor works extremely well at sane rpm levels, and is very flexible.

The ergonomics and wind protection, simply put, are the best in the 600 class. The bar/seat/peg triangle is far less severe than most other 600s, with the exception of Kawasaki’s ZX-6R. The Kawasaki also offers excellent real world comfort, but the YZF has it beat in this regard.

The fully adjustable suspension is outstanding. Indeed, we were a bit surprised at how well it worked, both on the street and on the track (yes, we took the YZF to a track day at California Speedway). Its standard settings are very plush, yet reasonably controlled on the street. The added weight the bike carries is actually a plus in most street riding situations, reducing the unsprung weight of the machine as a percentage of its overall weight. The YZF600R proved to be an excellent freeway mount here in Southern California, where high speed travel can unsettle many bikes. The bike felt completely planted at elevated speeds.

Moreover, the 600R has a balanced feel cornering on the street. It changes directions easily, holds its line through corners well, and is largely unaffected by mid-corner bumps. Excellent.

Getting back to the ergonomics for a moment, the YZF600R has a very large, comfortable seat, both for rider and passenger. We took some long trips with a passenger, and, once again, passenger comfort easily surpasses that offered by most modern sportbikes.

We happened to have the YZF600R with us during a track day at California Speedway. We threw our resident roadracer, Willy Ivins, on the bike. First, however, we substantially stiffened the standard suspension settings, adding additional spring preload both front and rear, as well as compression and rebound damping. The bike did a surprisingly good job of moving from plush street settings to settings that worked reasonably well on the track. As a footnote, the track day was run by Fastrack Riders, and the Fastrack instructors have, for several years, used YZF600Rs to rail around Willow Springs Raceway, and, more recently, California Speedway. Yours truly has been easily passed on the inside and on the outside by a top notch rider on one of these machines at a track day. The bike is definitely capable as a pure sporting machine.

At the track, both Willy and I noted the superb front brake on the YZF600R — basically identical to the original front brake on the Yamaha R1. Excellent feel and power.

Ground clearance is more than you would typically need on the street, and adequate for the track, as well.

Where the YZF600R really shines, however, is on the street as an all-around, every day, do-it-all machine. With large capacity gas tank (5 gallons), good touring range, low vibration, and the comfort discussed above, the YZF600R offers a very strong package to the person who uses their bike for more than Saturday morning blasts through the canyons, but still wants high handling limits.

Take a look at Yamaha’s web site for additional details and specifications.