In fact it is a superb road bike, with a sorted engine that has a fat midrange and manages up to 96bhp / 160mph as standard, super-smooth carbed power delivery, fully adjustable suspension and R1-derived brakes in a package that also offers decent rider and pillion comfort and protection. It will out-drag an R6 up to 8000rpm yet you can ride it for hundreds of miles without crippling yourself, get 180 miles to a tank and actually store things under the seat. It is not as heavy as its size suggests - a claimed 180kg - people often assume it is a litre bike on sight.
The bike remained almost unchanged throughout its 8-year life -- European sales ended in 04 due to omissions regs and production has halted, thought it is still available new in the US. Paint schemes improved over the years from horrible yellow/sliver and orange/sliver to the far more sexy blues and two-tone black. There were slight mods to the rear suspension in 2000 but all units remain compatible. Parts availability is good, especially second-hand through ebay and breakers yards. Better still, all parts fit all years.
While generally a reliable bike there are a couple of gremlins to watchout for, the most important being a weak second gear. It is vital to test ride the bike, and wind on to full throttle in second. If it pops out of gear, or if the gearbox feels sloppy or clunky, walk away as it is a very expensive repair.
Also watch out for are rotting exhaust headers -- aftermarket stainless steel items can be had for about £180.
Rear shocks to not perform well after 20-30k miles and are often upgraded, if not budget for this on higher mileage bikes. Ohlins are around £450, Hagons cost about £200.
The bike has a few built-in irritations; the headlight is poor, and even with a 80/100W bulb is only just acceptable. It is also prone to carb-icing and a fuel additive (DryFuel, Silkolene ProFST) may be needed in cold damp conditions.
Good second-hand examples can be had from £1000-£2000 which is a true bargain for the performance and versitility of the bike, which is so good it has a strong fanbase of its own:
- MSN Thundercats site (UK): groups.msn.com/yamahathundercats
- New 'Not just for Thundercats' site: thundercat-yzf.net/
- YZF600R owners site (USA): www.yzf600r.com
- Theo's bike pages: www.offwidth.co.uk/bike/