When I was in school, all I wanted was a sports bike like the Yamaha R6 or R1. I remember watching Moto GP and WorldSBK and dreaming of getting a sports bike as soon as I am old enough. Judging by the amount of forum posts asking whether a Yamaha R6 is a good beginner bike, it seems like nothing has changed.
I can see why it makes sense to want to start on a Yamaha R6. If you have your heart set on a R1 but you are afraid it will be too intimidating, the R6 is the logical stepping stone. I mean, the engine is only 60% of the size, right?
If you’ve not made up your mind yet, let me try and convince you why it is a bad idea to learn to ride a motorcycle on a Yamaha R6. But even if you’ve already decided and nothing is going to change that, read on. The more you know as a beginner rider, the easier it will be and the quicker you will learn.
I’ve ridden motorcycles for many years now, have toured through the whole of Africa on a motorcycle and tested anything from cruisers and adventure bikes to sports bikes like the BMW R 1000 SS.
Here are 12 reasons why I think a Yamaha R6 is not a good beginner bike:
Instability at Low Speed
Like most sports bikes, the Yahama R6 was designed to go fast around a race track. In a straight line, any powerful bike can go fast. But in order to corner fast, a sports bike like the R6 has a very steep rake and trail (the angle of the front fork) and narrow handlebars.
While this is perfect for flicking the bike on its side to change direction quickly, it makes the bike horribly unstable at low speeds. When you are still practicing pulling away smoothly and getting used to all the controls of the bike, the low speed instability of an R6 would not inspire any confidence.
Too Much Power
This is the obvious one, so let’s just get it out of the way early on. You might have heard that the R6 is very tame below 7 000 rpm. That’s because power is generated at high engine speeds on a sports bike. The R6 redlines at an impressive 16 000 rpm and delivers massive power (117 hp) at 14 500. This allows it to reach close to 160 mph.
At low speeds you might be wondering what all the fuss is about, but I guarantee that you will soon start to wonder what it feels like at the power peak. That’s where mistakes happen. Yes, you can plod along at low revs to stay within the legal speed limits, but anything near the power peak will be illegal, even in first gear. It sounds more fun than it is, to be honest, except if you have access to a race track.
You’ll hear moto-vloggers say that you can’t ride the Yamaha R1 flat-out on the road, but you can on the R6. That is just not true. If you ride the R6 flat-out you will end up in one of two places: jail or in a coffin.
Temptation to Go Too Fast
If you are a teenager or in your early twenties, I don’t believe you if you say “I’ll be careful until I can ride properly”. Chances are you’ll push too far too soon and make a mistake. Or a hot girl will walk past and your hormones will take control and you’ll flip the bike. Don’t do it! (If you are a girl reading this, I may believe you).
I can say this now, because I know that’s what I would have done when I was young. Even though I’ve always been a careful person, in my early twenties I just didn’t always use my brain.
Even if you are more mature, the temptation to see what your bike can do will be hard to resist. And once you hit that power band everything happens very fast. You won’t have to look too far online to find a story of someone you got hurt by ‘just seeing how fast it can go‘.
Because a sports bike like the Yamaha R6 can accelerate so quickly, it will be all too easy to enter a corner too fast. Next thing you know you realize you aren’t going to make it and you’re under a car or over a cliff.
Like the R1, the Yamaha R6 is set up for track use not comfort. The short wheelbase helps with fast cornering, but at the expense of rider comfort. The riding position has your feet tucked up under your ass with your knees bent. Your body is slung forward over the tank, so your core and legs have carry your weight.
This is hardly the most comfortable place to start learning how to ride a motorcycle. You will be much better off on a dual sport bike where you sit upright with your arms in a neutral position in front of you. To see why dual sport bikes are more comfortable than almost any other bike, see this post.
Very High Seat
The Yamaha R6 has one of the highest seats in the class. This is perfect for aggressive riding around a race track. It is easier to get the bike to flip over in a corner and allows for more ground clearance when you’ve got your knee down scarping the pegs. To put this into perspective, the Yamaha R6 has a seat height of 33.5 inches which is the same as a massive BMW R 1250 GS adventure bike.
As a beginner bike though, a high seat is the enemy. If you are not able to plant your feet firmly on the ground it will be much easier to topple over. It happens all the time.
Seat height is arguably more important than the weight of the bike when you are just starting out. Read this post to find out how important motorcycle weight is for a beginner rider.
Dropping the Bike Will Cause More Damage
Sport bikes have expensive plastic fairings all around. Dropping the bike, even while parked, may cause thousands of dollars worth of damage. And if you think you won’t drop it, think again. Most people drop their first bike at some point, either at walking pace in a parking lot or while stopping on a patch of loose gravel. I’ve read of newbies totaling a bike just by dropping it as crawling pace.
Rather start on a smaller, cheap, second hand bike and sell it a year later for the same price. A dirt bike is perfect, as there aren’t much that can get damaged in a fall. Learning to ride on gravel will also teach you how to control a bike when it loses traction but at much safer speeds.
It is Heavy
While 419 lbs is not heavy for a 600 cc sports bike capable of 117 hp, it is more than 50 lbs heavier than a Yamaha R3. These bikes are perfectly balanced when upright or while riding, but if you have to push it around or reverse is manually out of a parking spot, you will feel the weight. And the high seat may have you up on your tip toes making it even more difficult.
If you lean too far over, you might not be able to hold it. Starting out on a light bike is just so much easier. And when (not if) you drop it, it will be much easier to pick up again. An even better starter bike is something like the Honda CRF 250 L. At 100 lbs less than the R6, and with very neutral ergonomics, you’ll learn so much faster.
It is Expensive
At $12 199 new, it is not a cheap bike to drop in the driveway. Yeah, you can get a decent 2010 model for $6 000, which is still a big chunk of cash for many. But you also need to factor in the cost of proper riding gear and insurance.
If you have made up your mind and are going to start learning how to ride a motorcycle on a Yamaha R6, you better make sure you have the best gear you can get. There’s no use in splurging on a bike but skimping on a helmet, just to crack your skull open when you come down. For some recommendations on safety gear, check out what I use here.
I didn’t get quotes, but from what people have posted on bike forums you can expect to pay anywhere from $1 000 and $4 000 per year for insurance on a sports bike. A male teenager on a Yamaha R6 will probably be the most expensive combination to insure. Get a cheap, second hand 250 or a dirt bike to save a lot on repairs and insurance while you learn.
You Need Confidence
Some say they’ll go for rider training. That is definitely a good idea and a must if you are set on getting an R6 for you first bike. But you need to think long term.
If you have zero experience, a slow, light bike will give you so much more confidence. You will learn much quicker, have a better time doing so and more likely stay alive. As you get more comfortable, you’ll naturally go faster. Rather get a smaller bike like the Yamaha R3. It can still get you arrested for doing 120 mph, but you will have to ride it hard to get there.
Believe me, it is way more fun to ride a slow bike hard, than a fast bike slow. Something I learned by testing a Honda CBR 125 R and a CBR 1000 RR Fireblade in the same week. I had way more fun riding the little 125 to the max (at 60 mph), redlining each gear in the mountains, than trying to enjoy the Fireblade at 4 000 rpm to avoid landing into trouble.
The First Few Months are the Most Dangerous
No-one can argue that the first few months of learning to ride a motorcycle is the most dangerous. You are still getting used to the controls and how the bike behaves in different conditions and circumstances.
If something goes wrong at 50 mph instead of 150 mph, you’ve got a better chance of getting up again. I know, you will ride slowly at first. Okay, even if I believe you, dropping the clutch while revving an R6 can cause serious damage or injury. Do the same on a 250 cc and worst case, you drop the bike.
You Will Want to Keep up With Others
This totally depends on your personality and I always say the most important safety feature you can install on a bike is the rider. But show me a young man on an R6 that stops next to another sports bike (or worse, a Porsche) who does not think “I can beat him”.
Having riding buddies on sports bikes is seven worse. The pressure to try and keep up with them will be unbearable and you’d be much better off learning to ride on a smaller bike until you feel confident at its limits. No matter what any biker on YouTube says, no-one rides a Yamaha R6 anywhere near its limits on the road. Once you outgrow your 300, you’ll be ready for the R6.
If you are in your thirties and have kids, you will be much more likely to apply common sense on a fast motorcycle. Just be aware that, no matter how responsible you are, if you are on a quick bike riding with experienced riders, you will push harder than you should. If you are new to biking, that happens very quickly on a Yamaha R6.
It is Not Convenient
Sports bikes are not designed with everyday convenience in mind. Their sole purpose is to go around a track fast. The rear seat is an afterthought, so forget about pillion riding. It can be done, but don’t blame your girlfriend or wife if she hates it (or maybe that’s your plan, you sneaky bugger).
There’s also very little space for luggage, so you’ll have to carry what you can fit into a backpack. I lie, you can get a tail bag like this one from Nelson Rigg (conveniently available on Amazon), which is very useful.
In short. Don’t learn to ride a bike on a Yamaha R6. It is a terrible idea. Get a smaller, second-hand motorcycle and trade up once you are comfortably riding it flat-out. If it is a dirt bike, even better. That’s where most MotoGP riders honed their skills as kids.
Some final thoughts to consider when you read online that someone started on a Yamaha R6 and survived: Many young riders start on 600 cc sports bikes and some survive to boast about it. But many don’t, and they’re not posting about it on the internet.
Make Sure You are Protected
Beginner riders often skimp on protective riding gear as it can be quite expensive. Most motorcycle accidents happen during the first few months of riding, and a study published in the Journal of Trauma showed 56% of injuries happen to lower extremities (ankles and legs). Bike boots are therefore a must.
A helmet is a no-brainer, and so is a jacket. The hands are also high up on the list of injuries, due to the natural reflex to catch yourself when you fall. While I always recommend getting the best gear you can afford, it doesn’t have to be the most expensive. Below is a list of some good value gear available on Amazon that I recommend:
* To find out whether you should get a full faced street helmet or a dual sport, check out this post.
Related Questions for Beginner Riders
For more tips and information for beginner riders, check out the following posts: