Yamaha R1 Valentino Rossi LE | Test

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Rossi R1 Review

I will never forget the date-July 7, 2005. It is a bright sunny Thursday afternoon at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. MotoGP finally returns to America, and the love of my life, my wife Malin, met the love of her life-Valentino Rossi.

Malin is a self-confessed celebrity stalker, and I was admittedly scared, for I landed my current role as Malin’s husband due in no small part to my keen likeness to Joey McIntyre-the lead singer of the ’90s boy-band New Kids on the Block-another of Malin’s stalking victims.

As a Swedish tweenager, she spent countless hours outside of the band’s hotel when they were touring through Stockholm. In the freezing Scandinavian rain, face-painted, she huddled with hundreds of other girls, praying for a glimpse of Joey. She was experienced at this, and I was the benefactor of her NKOTB infatuation. Now she had her sights deftly set on The Doctor himself. How could I possibly compete?

Needless to say, living in the The Doctor’s shadow over the last five years has had its ups and downs. Malin and I thoroughly enjoy every aspect of the MotoGP experience, and have amassed quite a collection of photos, autographs, and other Tribù dei Chihuahua memorabilia.

The race weekends have taken on a very predictable pattern. We inevitably find ourselves in front of the Fiat Yamaha paddock box, Malin patiently waiting next to the rail, surrounded by a sea of yellow, with pen and camera in hand. I play it cool, sitting off in the distance, pretending to be immersed in the race program that I have memorized word-for-word hours earlier. My mind wanders and I can’t help but wonder, “What if I were Valentino Rossi?”

Emulation seemed impossible, but I needed to act. A million thoughts raced through my head over the arduous span of a nanosecond. The solution was ridiculously obvious, but its implementation would be near impossible, and perhaps utter folly. I had no choice; I had to become Rossi.

Enter the 2010 Yamaha YZF-R1 LE-the street legal edition of Valentino’s legendary YZR-M1, with its revolutionary crossplane crankshaft, the first of its kind in a production motorcycle. The pendulum began to swing in my favor, and I had a chance at godlike transformation.

I couldn’t wait to surprise Malin with the R1 LE; I even used her truck to pick it up to personalize the delivery. I parked in the driveway, and angled the truck so the R1 LE was predominately featured in the bed. I then quickly ran in to grab a camera to capture the expression on her face when she arrived home. Much to my chagrin, she came home early and beat me to the punch-she was already snapping iPhone photos for instant posting to her Facebook page.

Nevertheless, I unload-ed the bike with the care and reverence it deserved, and we both studied its aggressive lines as I caught Malin smoothing her hand over Valentino’s signature on the fuel tank. The legendary number 46 emblazoned both fore and aft, accompanied by the obligatory Doctor decals on the windscreen, elicited so many great MotoGP memories. We both felt that the machine had finally found its home in our garage.

Execution of the plan is now in full swing, but the transformation of our protagonist is not complete until we procure the proper Dainese protective gear-the superhero suit. Of course, that entails a trip to the Dainese shop to get fitted for a Gran Premio suit with the ultra comfortable 3D Bubble inner lining (the Rossi replica leathers and AGV helmet weren’t in stock in my sizes-next time!).

Malin was just as excited as I was, giving me a sly wink and a thumbs-up when I strutted my way out of the fitting room to straddle the bike in the showroom to ensure the proper fit. Ignition gloves and Torque Out D-WP boots rounded out the ensemble, and I was now prepped for flight.

My first test day could not have arrived soon enough, and coincidentally it was also Malin’s birthday. A few snaps of her hubby in all of his newfound glory would make the perfect birthday gift.

Changing out of my office clothes and spectacles, I drew mental analogies to Clark Kent and Superman as I stretched the Dainese suit around me and swaggered toward number 46 waiting outside. With a press of the button the R1 LE roars to life, and the odd 270-180-90-180 firing order is an instantly audible reminder that this is not your standard inline-four liter bike.

Rumbling the R1 toward the ribbons of tarmac awaiting me in the canyons, the torquey acceleration of the bike is readily apparent and akin to a high performance V-twin. But, as I twist the fly-by-wire throttle even further, the linear pull of the powerplant revs up with the unmistakable laceration of an inline four-truly the best of both worlds.

This rocket-like thrust allows for blistering turn-to-turn acceleration that would not be possible if not paired with a slipper clutch and an ultra-strong braking package that provides single-finger progression with precise operation. Sweeping turns and tight hairpin corners reveal a sharp turn-in feel with the R1-specific Dunlop Sportmax tires, followed by rock steady stability and confidence inspiring roll-on out of every exit. SOQI suspension may not yet be a household name, but the highly adjustable forks and shock behave flawlessly.

Now that I was truly feeling like The Doctor, I swapped the D-MODE Variable throttle control from the standard ignition mapping to the A mapping for a snappier response in the lower half of the rev range. With the gratuitous amounts of torque that the R1 LE produces, the A mapping is better applied by Vale himself, and I switched to the more docile B mode-ideal for wet or low traction situations.

I determine that the standard mapping providsthe optimal performance for the current conditions and allows me to ride with the most comfort, enabling my mind to drift toward the grandiose idea of achieving my goal of Rossi personification. Later, I take advantage of the adjustable footpegs to tailor Rossi’s bike to my frame.

I look forward to having number 46 parked in my paddock for some time and, although it is technically a Yamaha R1 LE, we call it our M1. Malin absolutely loved the photos, but she firmly denies that it’s humanly possible to love me anymore than she already does. I still feel like a champion, for in my mind, I one-upped The Doctor himself. Today, I am Rossi. Viva la Figa. <<

2010 YZF-R1 LE Valentino Rossi Edition | Motorcycle Specs
Engine type…998cc, liquid-cooled 4-cylinder DOHC 16 valves (titanium intake valves)
Bore x stroke…78.0mm X 52.2mm
Compression ratio…12.7:1
Fuel delivery…Fuel Injection with YCC-T and YCC-I
Ignition…TCI: Transistor Controlled Ignition
Transmission…6-speed w/multi-plate slipper clutch
Final drive…#530 O-ring chain
Front suspension…43mm inverted fork; fully adjustable, 4.7-in travel
Rear suspension…Single shock w/piggyback reservoir; 4-way adjustable, 4.7-in travel
Front brakes…Dual 310mm disc; radial-mount forged 6-piston calipers
Rear brakes…220mm disc; single-piston caliper
Front tire…120/70ZR17
Rear tire…190/55ZR17
L x W x H…81.5 x 28.1 x 44.5 in
Seat height…32.8 in
Wheelbase…55.7 in
Rake…24.0°
Trail…4.0 in
Fuel capacity…4.8 gal
Estimated fuel economy…33 mpg
Wet weight…454 lb
Color…Fiat Yamaha Team Graphics

Motorcycle Apparel
Helmet: HJC FS-15 Carbon
Leathers: Dainese Gran Premio
Gloves: Dainese Ignition
Boots: Dainese Torque Out D-WP