Where to begin??? I have had my '01 YZF600R since October of this year and I love it! It is a great looking bike and is very comfortable as you may have heard. I do not believe anything has changed on the '02 other than minor graphics if anything. It has seen no mechanical or structural changes since 1997. I like to think Yamaha got it right and took the theory of "If it ain't broke...Don't fix it!"
I have not ridden and R6, so I can't compare it to the 600R. However, I have ridden a lot of other bikes from a Ninja 250, EX500, ZX6E, ZX6R, FZR600, Katana 750, SV650S, Superhawk, etc.
The YZF600R is pretty quick! It is not as fast as the race replica's (F4i, ZX6R, GSXR, R6), but it can hold it's own. I went to Firebird Raceway last week, but did not race...perhaps next time. I did see a website that showed the YZF600R running 118.XXmph Qtr's in the 11 second range. I do not have the website handy. From the numbers I saw on this site...It is basically spec on with an Honda F3.
As far as comfort goes....The YZF is the most comfortable bike for most people. The geometry of the bike is set up more for the "real world". I have ridden from Phoenix to Tucson and back and was still ready for more. The total trip was 398 miles and I felt great. I have heard people cruising 600+ a day in comfort. Most of the "newer 600's don't offer that level of comfort, but then again...they are geared to win races...not commute or canyon carve on weekends. The seating position is a little more upright and the wind protection is pretty good for a sportbike.
I guess it comes down to personal opinion and a handful of other things. Since late October I have ridden 8000+ miles and have had no troubles or complaints yet....Well ok just one. I rode a VRT1000 recently and was spoiled by the power. I took my wife for a ride and I was kinda wanting more power, but I'm sure if I never rode the Superhawk I would have been fine.
The bike is a little on the heavy side (482 lbs.). Im sure I could ride through the canyons a little quicker on an R6, but half the fun is outrunning the lighter and better handling bikes. you'll get an even bigger smile when you have your helmet off first
A few other thoughts....sorry for the length, but I really like the bike and if you are gonna drop 7K on a bike you might want all the details you can get.
Fuel: about 200 miles per 5 gallon tank
Not as many aftermarket parts like R6 and R1
Don't worry about the gear shifting between 1st and 2nd...if you actually shift properly and firmly while your wringing its neck...it won't happen...I've had it happen about 5 times, but it was my fault not the bike.
Insurance: I'm 27 with no tickets and pay $55 per month full coverage..I hear the R6 is cheaper...Strange! Nationwide Insurance will cover an R6, but not a YZF600R...There underwriters are sleeping on the job.
Other riders may bag on you because you don't have the fastest bike out there, but you can revel in the fact that you probably don't have the same bike as everyone else either. The YZF600 is passed over on the showroom floors for the R6 and R1. If you are or become a proficient rider...you'll be outrunning your buddies in the twisties before you know it!
Ok..Im gonna stop because all the non YZF believers might start bagging on me!
Im 5' 10" and weigh 170lbs and the bike will wheelie and pull pretty darn hard. 88.7 HP I believe is the number.
Go sit on them...Find a used one to test ride out of the paper...It will be the same as a 2002.
If you have any other questions let me know...I'll be happy to help with anything else you may want to know.
Good Luck shopping!