In a world before traction control was made fashionable, the Yamaha R1 crossplane crankshaft was the darling of some of the biking press. We've got one on our fleet to see how it measures up to the latest rolling laptops from BMW and Kawasaki
Yamaha YZF-R1 news
Tinted visor, cunningly disguising closed eyes...
20th February 2012
It's definitely too cold for R1s. Unless, of course, you have some handy Oxford heated gear to wear, woo hoo! As warm as the Oxford Inox heated vest has been keeping me, the below-zero ground temperatures have meant some decidedly skiddy rides to work. This, in turn, has lead to a bald rear tyre after only 1,500 miles. Ouch. In fairness to the Metzeler Racetec Interacts, most of those miles have been spent seeing how fast I can wheelspin the R1 up to, accelerating the wear rate somewhat.
After a couple of weeks riding in the salt and snow, I gave the R1 a proper deep clean and was really impressed with how well it has resisted corrosion. A couple of bolts are showing some slight furring, but overall the finish of the bike is remarkably un-tarnished. Good show Yamaha.
Better still, all the snow and slippery roads have made the performance advantages held by Hogan's ZX-10R and Kenny's S1000RR irrelevant, leaving me free to charge off enjoying an exhaust note that nothing short of a Group B rally Audi Quattro can beat.
I’ve almost finished laughing about John’s hilarious horn-wired-to-the-brake-light prank (see Jan 2012 issue of SuperBike), although I’ve not come up with a brilliant retaliation yet.
The brief spell of sunny weather presented the perfect excuse for a blast down to the South coast although my excitement about riding on old stomping grounds was rapidly quenched by thick fog, boo. For the ride back the fog had lifted and the opportunity presented itself for Hogan and myself to have a, ahem, brisk ride back though the winding lanes of Kent. I must confess that the roads we rode were my old stomping ground, giving me an unfair advantage, although they seem a lot smaller on the R1 than they did on the Gilera DNA 50cc moped I used to race down them on. Despite the cool temperatures, occasional damp patches and hilarious oncoming lorries on our side of the road, it was a great ride with wheelies, skids and all the good stuff that we enjoy doing all Summer. Maybe Winter isn’t so bad after all. 26th July, Carbontek
The R1 has now gained a set of paddock stand bobbins to make
lubing the chain and cleaning the rear wheel less of a game of side stand
roulette. These were selected from the Yamaha genuine accessory catalogue,
along with some of Yamaha’s crash protection. The swing-arm bobbins are
designed to double up as crash protection, so they’re rather large and end up
looking like two black doughnuts sticking out either side of the bike. The size
of the plastic sliders makes it tricky to get a paddock stand to work with the
bobbins, which was the main reason for fitting them. Yamaha do also offer
normal swing-arm bobbins, which don’t offer much protection but do work much
better with a paddock stand.
The side panel crash protectors are lovely forged aluminium
parts that are easy to fit and don’t require any butchering of the fairing
panels. That’s all the feedback that can really be given about crash
protection, without crashing and finding out that they’re a) fantastic and the
bike came away from a 300mph crash unscathed or b) I dropped it in the car park
and they snapped and hit me in the eye. We’ll wait and see what the future has
in store for us on that front, but from and engineering point of view, I have
good faith in them; engineers love forgings.
By far the most exciting shiny bits fitted are the new
Yoshimura R77 slip ons and a cat replacement pipe. As with the GPR system I
tried earlier in the year, the Yoshimura silencers are actually slightly
heavier than the standard, titanium silencers. Again, the weight saving comes
from replacing the heavy catalytic convertor with some swanky straight through
pipes. The silencers were easy to fit and came with black anodised finisher
pieces on the link pipes that fill in the gap left when the standard exhaust
trims are taken off. Oh yes, almost forgot; they sound like God.
27th June, London
It’s been a busy ol’ time for the cross-plane cruise missile
since the last update. I've replaced the nasty, standard issue Dunlop D210 Sportmax tyres
which seem to offer all the grip qualities you’d expect from a non-stick
saucepan. They take an age to warm up and, once they have they’re, at best,
scary offering very little feel from the front. On the road things aren’t quite
so bad so long as it’s a warm sunny day, but there’s still a massive lack of
confidence from the front. Mind you, being discerning sports bike fans, none of
you would even consider riding on the standard tyres, and hey what’s another
£200 when you’ve just spent £13k? No further tyre whining is required though, as the R1 now
wears a nice set of Metzeler Racetec Interacts and feels approximately a
squillion times better for it.
Ready for a group test, the R1 was
returned to standard condition and lost it’s booming exhausts and flip up
levers. It’s made me realize that the standard levers actually feel nicer and
the brake lever offers a greater range of finer adjustment, d'oh! The throttle
response feels smoother with the standard pipes too, so I’ve made a mental note
to get the fuelling tweaked when I next bring
Riding all the other litre bikes, I was concerned that I’d
fall out of love with the R1, spoilt by ridiculous peak power figures and
electrical gizmos. As luck would have it, the R1 still has the best feel
between right hand and rear tyre and holds its own surprisingly well in such
high-tech company. Furthermore, the BMW S1000RR has a crack in its defenses, in
the form of a quickshifter with a stutter. To capitalize on this, I’ve been on
the phone to the nice chaps at HM Quickshifter and ordered one of their strain gauge
quickshifters, which claims to be the only one of its type outside the MotoGP
paddock. That’s pretty damn good pub bragging rights in my mind.
For those wondering what a quickshifter is, it’s a device
that saves the tiresome task of closing the throttle when shifting up gears;
simply hold the throttle to the stop and tap the lever. On the racetrack it
saves valuable fractions of a second each shift, on the road it feels and
sounds cool. I will also argue that, on the road, a quick shifter helps keep
the bike stable when accelerating over bumps, as it removes the need to come
off and back on the throttle, loading and unloading the front tyre. But mainly
it feels cool.
12th May, Yamaha UK
The R1 has been back for it's first service at Yamaha
UK and even received a complimentary steam clean so it looks all
sparkly and new now, thanks guys! It did remind me just how much more special a bike feels and looks when it's been really thoroughly cleaned - note to self, get the sponges and polish out more often.
Ahead of a looming group test, the R1 has been returned to standard condition - gone are the lovely loud exhausts
and flip-up levers. Amusingly, the standard levers actually feel nicer
and the brake lever offers a greater range of finer adjustment.
In this age of fuel injection and ecu's (I remember when this was all carburetors),
it's all too easy to bolt on a replacement exhaust and forget about it,
with scant regard for fueling adjustments. Going back to the standard exhausts, the first thing I noticed (other than the lack of noise) was how much smoother
the throttle response was. Gone is the jerky transition from shut to
partial throttle, making my ride to work better both in the lanes and
around town. Next time I fit noisy bits, I'll be tweaking the fueling, not just to release more power, but to get the smoothest throttle response possible.
Remember, bling doesn't always mean better!
3rd May, Hastings
After a week on the Honda Dominator, jumping back on the Yamaha R1 was a bit of a speed shock
to say the least. To get back in to the swing of 'work', a trip to
Hastings for the May Day run was planned, via an overnight stop in
After a night of beer, pool and barbeque therapy it was an early start to ride to Hastings for the May Day riots/festivities.
Riding with a pillion through endless 30 and 40mph limits was not the
morning blast I’d hoped for and parts of me (my wrists) were wishing I’d
never strayed from the comforting charms of the blue cloth and eight-ball,
besides, I’m sure there were a few cold burgers left. Still, the sun
was out and May Day in Hastings was just as I’d remembered it from my
moped days, although with a lot more hoodies on quads now. If
you've never been, it’s a sight to behold, as the whole of Hastings gets
taken over by bikes. You'll find everything from ridiculously modified
Suzuki Bandits to classic Triumph Scramblers wedged on every inch of pavement space the run-down seaside town has to offer.
Topped up with ice cream, chips and sweeties the ride back was one of the best rides yet. With my pillion dumping me for a more comfy bike, I was free to go bananas back across Kent on all my favourite boyhood roads. I concluded that the R1, even on its (frankly pants)
standard issue Dunlop D210 Sportmax tyres, is a great road bike. The
engine is flexible enough to ride for miles in second gear, revving out
on the straights and pulling hard from low revs in tight corners. The R1
proved its ability to cope with silly road situations too, by surviving
losing the front on an acorn (I do pick some dubious roads for
sports bikes) and meeting an articulated lorry halfway round a blind,
narrow bend. Only the bumpiest of stupid short cuts had me standing up
out of the seat, and the R1, regardless of road conditions, felt like it could be ridden hard and fast all day long, never doing anything unexpected.
Next job is to find some adjustable handlebars and sort out the aching wrists around town.
April 6th, Hertfordshire
The R1 is faster than the 2011 Kawasaki ZX-10R.
OK, not really. On a long straight road, the Yamaha R1 would be the smallest of specks
in the ZX10’s mirrors, as there’s no arguing with a 30-odd-bhp power
difference. The point I’m making with my stupid attention-grabbing
headline, is that on the roads I ride to work the R1 feels faster
than Kawasaki’s flagship rocketship. We’re talking bumpy B-roads,
charging off roundabouts and away from a million sets of traffic lights.
The key to the R1’s feeling fast-ness is low down grunt, pig-in-a-basement type stuff, metaphorically speaking.
Although the ZX-10R is mind warpingly fast, at the bottom end of the rev range it’s a smooth riding pussycat – all the madness is safely tucked away in a box marked lots of revs.
The R1 on the other hand, delivers a shunt of torque from the bottom of
its stomach which, when unleashed, feels like it’s leaving your
internal organs behind. In the dry it’s addictive, punching from corner to corner, traffic light to roundabout regardless of what gear you’re in.
the wet, it’s a bit of a handful and you find yourself nudging the
little button on the right hand switchcube to change to a softer
throttle response mode. With the R1, there’s no trudging to work, half
asleep; like a Doberman that’s woken up to find you halfway across the
garden at night with an x-box under your arm, it’d have your arm off in a