Susan's 1998 YZF600R

In February 2000 we bought a 1998 Yamaha YZF600R (a.k.a. Thundercat) with only 110 km on it. We had come to the conclusion that, although it might have been fun, it wouldn't be worth the further expense and effort of trying to cure the remaining shortcomings of her previous bike, a 1986 Yamaha FZX750 Fazer. Susan has wanted a new sporty bike for some time now but all the 600cc sportbikes are too tall, their clip-ons too low and too far away for her, since she's not very tall. The YZF600R seemed the closest of the bunch, and the best-suited to her riding style judging from the reviews, and with a few critical modifications, it has worked.

If you're interested, there is a YZF600R mailing list and web site in which you can participate.

Accessories so far include Heli Modified handlebars, an Adjustment Tech suspension lowering kit, Intuitive Racing frame sliders, a Yamaha tank bra and rear wheel stand, a Throttle Rocker hand rest, and a Factory Pro shift kit. We'll also probably get a Ventura luggage system. Accessory reviews are below.

Accessory Reviews

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Heli handlebars

Heli's product for the YZF consists of replacement bars that insert into the stock "bosses". (The bosses are the cylindrical clamps that slip over the tops of the fork tubes.) The stock bars extend straight out from the bosses, whereas the Heli bars have a slight offset which both changes the angle and raises the height. It's fairly easy to transfer your grips and controls from the old bars to the new ones. The Heli bars are equipped with threaded ends for the bar-end weights and pilot holes in the right places for the locating pins on the ontrol clusters. Because the bars are completely covered with the grips and controls, and you retain the stock bosses, you can't even see that the bars are not stock, so from a cosmetic standpoint there is no harm.

Heli seems to have moved the bars as high and rearward as they can within the limits imposed by the lengths of the various cables and hoses that attach to the bars, and without allowing the bars to strike the gas tank. At full left lock, the throttle cable assembly does graze the inner edge of the fairing.

Depending on how your YZF is wired, you may find that the wiring from the horn button to the horn is not long enough. On mine, I loosened the horn mounting bolt and rotated the horn so that the terminals were facing back to the left, rather than forwards, in order to move them closer. I also re-routed the wiring through the left-side opening in the plastic shroud above the horn, rather than through the centre opening. These two changes allowed the horn wiring to reach.

A member of the YZF600R mailing list recommends using LocTite on the bolts that hold the handlebars to the bosses because he has had the bolts vibrate loose.

The change in handlebar position never looks like much with Heli bars but it does produce a very noticeable change when you sit on the bike and grasp the bars. I have them on my VFR too, and am very pleased with the results.

Intuitive Racing frame sliders

The frame slider is a short hard plastic cylinder that attaches to the frame of a bike to protect against damage in case of a crash. Primarily intended to save the frame and engine of race bikes that slide down the track, they're also handy for reducing or preventing damage to expensive fairings on streetbikes in case of a parking lot tip-over. On some bikes, one must cut a hole in the fairing to get access to a suitable mount point on the frame, but thankfully on the YZF600R, the mount point is exposed and no modifications are required. The sliders attach to the engine hanger bolts just behind the large openings in the side fairings. Replacement bolts are provided. Installation is easy. You have a choice of black or white plastic.

I'm happy to say we have not had to test these devices yet but others report that they seem to work quite well in reducing the damage of those almost-inevitable tip-overs.

Yamaha tank bra and rear wheel stand

Unfortunately Yamaha has removed the web pages on these products. All you can see now are cruiser accessories (e.g. Royal Star, V Star).

The Yamaha tank bra is plain black. It extends all the way forward across the top of the tank where it clips to the tank's front edge. There's an opening for the gas cap. A thin stretchy nylon panel provides a pocket for slim items at the back. The bra attaches with clips along the bottom edge of the tank. There are no straps or cords. Some adhesive hook-and-loop material is provided, apparently to stick to the tank just below the seat, but we elected not to use this and have not had a problem. Additionally, a wide strip of hook-and-loop material is included, apparently for you to sew to the top of the bra. This allows the Yamaha tank bag to stick to the bra.

The rear wheel stand has adjustable spring-loaded rubber-coated tabs to support the swing-arm. The wheels are plain plastic with no cool ball bearings like somee stands. A short extension offers additional leverage. I'm certainly no Mr. Muscle and it takes real effort to lever the bike up. Having a friend provide a little tug on the passenger grab-handles makes it easy. I would rather have a centrestand than a rear wheel stand. After all, this is a street bike. Oh well.

Rumour has it that the Suzuki stand is cheaper than the Yamaha one and has ball bearing wheels, but alas, it was backordered. Oh well.

Throttle Rocker

This little gadget is great. It's a simple piece of molded plastic that slips onto the throttle grip and provides a contoured platform on which you rest the palm of your hand. Rather than having to clench the throttle, you can relax your grip and let the weight of your hand hold it open. There are some similar products around but this is the only one I've found with a nice contour to fit your hand. It's also short enough that it's less likely to hit the tank when you turn the bars to the right. At only ten bucks (US) it's the clear winner.

Adjustment Tech suspension kit

Adjustment Tech makes suspension kits for a variety of bikes. You can raise or lower the chassis over a wide range, without having to change shock settings or modify the shock itself. Their slogan is "Lift your ass... Plant your feet" :-)

Have a look under the YZF and you'll see two "dog-bones": long flat narrow strips of metal that join the suspension linkage to the swing-arm. The Adjustment Tech kit replaces these fixed-length dog-bones with threaded adjusters, allowing you to dial in as much raising or lowering as you want (within limits imposed by suspension travel and clearances with the fender liner, etc.) Of course you'll want to adjust the forks in the triple clamps a corresponding amount in order to preserve the front-rear attitude of the chassis.

You could make your own replacement dog-bones of different length, but there would be some trial and error until you figure out how long to make them. The Adjustment Tech kit seems pricey at $349 Cdn, but seeing as it provides full adjustability and can make the difference between being precariously on tippy-toes (or unable to ride the bike at all) and being able to get your feet down, it's not a bad deal.

If you're interested in this kit and want more information, you can read my detailed report. (This report is not yet as complete as I'd like it to be, but it's a good start.)

Factory Pro shift kit The YZF has a reputation for notchy noisy grinding shifting which in some cases has led to premature wear of transmission parts requiring expensive repairs. To improve shifting and avoid potential problems, I followed the crowd and installed a Factory Pro shift kit. Wow, what a difference! You can read my more detailed report.

YZF600R Reviews and Related Sites

Here are some sites that review the YZF600R, as well as other related links.

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