Yamaha's Revealing Red Line
There is no such thing as bad publicity, they say, so the big flap about a misleading tachometer redline on Yamaha's 2006 YZF-R6 may do the company more good than harm. The story, in case you haven't heard it, is that the R6 started turning up at bike shows with a mind-boggling 17,500 rpm tachometer redline, suggesting that this street-legal, fully warranted motorcycle would operate at engine speeds on the margins of Formula 1 Grand Prix technology.
F1 cars use pneumatic valve springs, have no starter motors, and need to talk to laptop computers before they even think about starting. They now rev to over 19,000 rpm, but they also last two races, max, and conform to no noise or emissions standards we can think of. The R6, on the other hand, meets the Euro 3 emissions regs, and operates at sound levels within compulsory federal guidelines.
So we were all notably impressed. But then stories began to circulate about R6s that would rev no higher than 16,000 rpm when their ignition events were monitored by expensive and accurate dynamometers. Yamaha admitted that the tachometers were 9-percent fast (but avoided the question of why the gauges were calibrated to the heroic 17,500 mark), and offered to buy bikes back from disgruntled owners.
Here's the thing. Anybody who has been riding the R6 around is extremely unlikely to be disgruntled. They may be slightly miffed at this marketing-redline business, but they will have realized by now that the bike itself is a gem. I don't know about you, but 16,000 rpm (and the 112 rear-wheel horsepower that accompanies it) is perfectly adequate for me.
The development aim of the new R6 was to increase track potential, pure and simple, while retaining all the street potential of the former model. It's easier said than done, but a test session on both the long Willow Springs track and short Streets of Willow track in California convinced all attendees—some of whom had extensive racing experience -- that this was no idle boast.