Literbikes on the street are – let’s face it – chronically over-specified. If you’re fortunate enough to own one, you likely attend track days, and if not, you’re probably thinking about giving it a go. And if you’re going to ride a very powerful bike hard, then you also want easy. These things unleash such power that they’re hard to hold on to; they’ll make you sweat when turning, and they create enormous g-forces when you’re on the brakes coming down from speed.So everyone wants ‘easy’ – especially when it comes to riding fast on track. Even the great Valentino Rossi always had Jerry Burgess tune his YZR-M1 MotoGP bike to be exactly that, even at the expense of outright power. Then when Yamaha first thought up the crossplane-concept motor, they had several riders test it back-to-back with a conventional engined bike, and nine-time World Champion Rossi immediately preferred the new concept, dubbing it the “sweet” motor.
Clearly Yamaha learned lessons from MotoGP (and arguably Rossi himself). The concept behind the all-new 2015 YZF-R1 and the limited-edition YZF-R1M is “pure Supersport from the highest technology” – in other words, a street legal MotoGP machine. And Yamaha used the YZR-M1 as ridden by Rossi and two-time MotoGP Champion Jorge Lorenzo as the basis for the superbike.Having taken the concept to heart, Yamaha’s overriding goal has been to make the new R1 not just easy to ride, but especially, easy to ride fast. They succeeded. This is the first machine where I have felt as though the electronics were designed as an integrated part of the machine–and not just added as an afterthought.The 2015 YZF-R1’s 998 cc inline-4, crossplane motor reputedly puts out an eminently believable 200-plus horsepower (at the crank). We’ll put it on the dyno, but until then, I’ll simply state that the power is plenty. The bore has been increased, the stroke has been reduced to allow for higher revs, and larger titanium valves at a narrower angle help combustion efficiency. At 13:1, the R1 has a high compression ratio, and it inhales through a larger airbox with a straight intake tube.Exhaling through a titanium exhaust and discreet single muffler, mid-range performance is helped by a servo-controlled EXUP valve that opens after 7500 rpm; this allows the engine to breathe even better at high rpm. New camshafts with more lift now operate on DLC coated rocker arms, and the forged aluminum bridge-box pistons with titanium con-rods easily handle the 14,000 rpm redline. Yamaha has also managed to reduce the engine’s width by almost one and a half inches. By using magnesium covers and spraying aluminum bolts everywhere, Yamaha also managed to clip a creditable 8.8 pounds off the predecessor’s engine weight.Power is focused in the mid-range and high-rpm, and accelerating onto the straight at Australia’s Sydney Motorsports Park (aka Eastern Creek International Raceway) I felt it for sure, as the engine went from pleasantly agreeable to rocket ship so quickly and with such force I had difficulty hanging on.Don’t get the impression that this engine lacks for low-down torque though, because it absolutely does not. Accelerating up the hill from Eastern Creek’s Turn 5 is typically taken in second gear, but just for grins I started using third and found an arguably better drive from the lower revs.I also found that coming from the very slow right-hand Turn 13 it was easier to short-shift into third while leaned over on the right. This made it easier to use the low-down torque to drive hard down and through the very fast left-hand Turn 14, rather than try and grapple with the gearshift while leaned over to the left at speed.What it all amounted to is that the breadth of controllable power in the R1 simply gave me more choices as a rider, and that of course led to better lap times coupled with a much more secure feeling than I have ever experienced. The electronics systems are so seamlessly integrated into the motorcycle that I definitely felt safer with this level of power than I ever have before.People nowadays talk about whether they are able to trust the electronics, and as an old-school type rider I typically have a hard time with that. Such is the intuitive nature of the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1, I found myself pushing the envelope much further than I ever have previously, especially coming on the throttle harder and faster than I normally would even consider.Of the four engine maps, the first three deliver maximum power with varying degrees of ferocity, while the fourth mode reduces power considerably for low grip (rainy) conditions. “A” mode is recommended for track use only, and experiencing full thrust from the crossplane four I can see why.A six-axis “brain” interprets both gyroscopic movement and g-forces, and so it monitors pitch (back and forward); roll (side-to-side); and yaw (right and left). All that information is then extrapolated to allow for TCS—Traction Control (sensing of rear wheel slip); SCS—Slide Control (sensing that the rear wheel is actually moving sideways out of line with the front wheel); and LIF—Lift Control (aka wheelie mitigation).There is also launch control where the revs are pegged at 10,000 rpm, allowing the rider to focus solely on clutch control, and a quickshifter for clutchless upshifting. Interestingly, Yamaha have omitted a blip-downshifter, which is rapidly becoming de rigeur on flagship sportbikes such as the MV Agusta F3, Ducati 1299 Panigale, and BMW S1000RR.All functions have several levels, plus off, and the higher the number, the more the interference. The Yamaha Ride Control (YRC) allows for four group presets where each function within the preset can be tailored to the rider’s preference. The interface is highly intuitive, and functions can be switched on the fly via the clear to read, anti-reflective colored TFT instrument module that is switchable between a street screen and track display.Downloading the data later from the YZF-R1M that’s upgraded with Ohlins suspension and carbon-fiber bodywork (the communication package is an option on the R1), I could see that I had used traction and slide control coming out of the final Turn 18 on to the straight. It’s a long, sweeping left-hand carousel that crests over a hill—but such was the confidence I had in the R1 systems that I was able to come on the throttle way sooner and much harder than I would otherwise have dared.As the test wore on and my trust increased, I settled on TCS level 3, SCS 2, and LIF 1. I could feel the rear tire just starting to push in a gentle slide (and the data downloaded afterwards confirmed it) as I came hard on the power; not enough to scare me, but enough to thrill me for sure. The electronics kept everything perfectly controlled without making the engine feel weak or held back.As I crested over the hill on to the straight the front wheel would come up. Early on and with the default setting of 3 (max lift control) I found the power cut to be too abrupt; in setting 2 it was improved, and finally in setting 1 it was perfect—allowing me to float the front wheel a few inches off the tarmac without having to come out of the throttle whatsoever. That’s one heck of a buzz–suddenly I was Jorge Lorenzo coming on to the straight at Mugello.Standard on the YZF-R1M (optional on the R1) are some unique electronics, including Y-TRAC, Yamaha’s Telemetry Recording & Analysis Controller that is integrated with a built in GPS sensor and works in combination with an Android or Apple iOS App. The CCU (Communication Control Unit) allows data transfer by WiFi, and includes auto lap timing and 21 channels of data. After downloading everything to a phone or tablet, you can then overlay it onto a satellite map of the track and analyze your performance at every point. You could also download friends’ maps for comparison, and multiple laps and riders can be overlaid and compared with each other. It’s going to be much harder to BS your riding buddies from now on—no more “I was wide open into turn 8” or “I brake at the 50M marker”—‘cos the data don’t lie I’m afraid.The all-new chassis is still a Deltabox aluminum frame, however it has a magnesium sub-frame with a 10 mm shorter wheelbase than its predecessor. Tipping the scales at a very healthy (claimed) 439 lbs. wet, this is a remarkable improvement over the previous R1, which was disappointingly heavier than its competition.By moving the balance shaft weights to the outside two cylinders, and combined with the overall diet of the R1, we are now left with a lean machine that feels truly light and agile. Overall it is well balanced, with intuitive and neutral, precise handling. It simply goes exactly where it is pointed, and seemingly with minimal effort. Whether I was steaming into Turn 1 at around 110 mph, or negotiating the ridiculously slow and tight hairpin at Turn 11, the YZF-R1 simply did exactly as asked. It didn’t understeer, nor was it reluctant to turn into the fast corner, and neither did it flop or weave into the slow one. It just turned perfectly smoothly, as required.The real test of its agility was transitioning through the combination of Turns 6 through 10, where the bike impressively went from maximum lean, to maximum lean, without any huge effort from me. Lofting the wheel slightly in mid-transition caused a mild headshake on landing, but the electronically controlled steering damper rapidly quelled it.The standard YZF-R1 arrives with traditional-sized 43 mm forks and a single rear shock supplied by KYB; the YZF-R1M comes with Öhlins electronically controlled suspension. I tried the standard R1 in the morning sessions and I was immediately very happy with the stock KYB set up; it was exemplary. There are some bumpy corners at Eastern Creek but no matter what I did, I simply could not upset the chassis or handling. Turn in was totally predictable and neutral whether through the fast corners or the very slow hairpins. The rear shock has fast/slow compression damping, and the front fork has all the clickers within easy access on the fork tops.The electronic Öhlins suspension on the R1M was a little more complex. The Öhlins has three automatic settings where the suspension is dynamically adjusted depending on lean angle, rear wheel speed and front brake pressure. It also has three manual settings that have up to 32 steps of individual adjustment that can then be stored into the three presets.I used the R1M in Automatic mode, and accelerating hard through Turn 3 I discovered the rear of the R1M developed some wallow, which was mildly disconcerting. Essentially the system is constantly adjusting the settings depending on the loads at any given moment. I did find that the harder I rode the more it settled down (or the more I got used to it), but as it stands I’d consider the automatic mode to be an excellent street option, and for the track I’d use a manual preset with settings tailored to my riding. To be fair, the Öhlins suspension is incredible, and once an owner gets it set up to their personal preference it will clearly outperform the KYB – but it will need some tailoring first. Thankfully the menu system is highly intuitive and any owner will quickly figure out how to make it his own.Braking on the both the YZF-R1 and YZF-R1M is nothing short of spectacular. A unified (linked) braking system activates some rear brake depending on the amount of front brake being used. The rear brake can be operated independently, but since I rarely use the rear brake myself, it was noticeable how good the combined system is.The electronic ABS works especially well, and the system allows for different levels of both that and the distribution between front to rear braking, depending on lean angle, wheel speed and front brake pressure. A track-specific ECU is available that deactivates the linked brakes and the rear ABS.The noticeably linear feel at the Nissin master pump and lever I found once again, to be incredibly intuitive, and although the 320 mm rotors and Advics monoblock 4-piston calipers have enormous power, they don’t have that initial snatch that I dislike so much.Coming down from the high speed of Turn 1 into the slow Turn 2 hairpin it was easy to over-cook it and come in too hot. One lap I knew I’d been a bit too greedy; to quote a famous Aussie I realized “my ambition had outweighed my talent.” So with heart-in-mouth I simply added a lot more pressure to the front lever and turned in anyway. Fortunately the R1 can handle these lapses in judgment, and the bike simply went round the turn with zero drama. Needless to say, I didn’t try that again.Lightweight cast-magnesium wheels carry a 190 rear tire on the standard YZF-R1, but the R1M gets a wider 200 rear tire. Although the standard Bridgestones are a 55 profile in each size, I actually rode the R1M on Bridgestone slicks with a 200/65 rear tire. Due to the increase in circumference (and therefore gearing), Yamaha chose to go to a 43-tooth rear sprocket (from 41 stock) to allow for the change.The stock Bridgestone Battlax RS10R race/street tires on the R1 worked very well, and the slight drifting I experienced coming on to the straight was predictable and smooth. The VO2 slicks on the R1M were awesome, although the extra grip cannot have helped the mild wallow I felt from the Öhlins suspension in automatic mode.The looks of the new YZF-R1 are obviously straight from the MotoGP YZR-M1, with the underslung front LED lights giving a large frontal area to help the illusion. The YZF-R1M comes with lots of lovely carbon pieces, and of course that gorgeous brushed aluminum gas fuel tank among other detail touches. Redesigned bodywork, seat and rear cowling give the base YZF-R1 a complete makeover from the previous model; this new one is available in three color options – Team Yamaha Blue/White; Rapid Red/Pearl White; and Raven, that help it look purposeful and ready to race.The R1 also comes with a nice array of extras and accessories, including a track specific ECU that restores full power to the US model; it also removes the top speed limiter (186 mph); disengages the UBS and rear ABS; gives race spec front ABS, and disables the lights.Yamaha have raised the bar in the superbike wars with the 2015 YZF-R1, which will set riders back $16,490 ($21,990 for YZF-R1M). The R1 is so impeccably well mannered, and so easy and intuitive to ride that it will fool you into thinking you are a much better rider than perhaps you are.For the intermediate rider who enjoys a few track days and plenty of street riding, the new R1 will keep you way safer than anything you are riding at present. For the lucky few who possess the talent and courage to really explore the outer edge of the performance envelope, you will be able to fit slick tires and a race ECU and still find the R1 capable of matching anything you can throw at it, no matter how hard you push. Yamaha’s new YZF-R1 brings new meaning to the word “superbike.”
Hello everyone and welcome once again to Ultimate Motorcycling’s weekly Podcast—Motos and Friends.
My name is Arthur Coldwells.
This week’s Podcast is brought to you by Yamaha motorcycles. Discover how the YZF-R7 provides the perfect balance of rider comfort and true supersport performance by checking it out at YamahaMotorsports.com, or see it for yourself at your local dealer.
This week’s episode features Senior Editor Nic de Sena’s impressions of the beautiful new Harley-Davidson Low Rider ST that is loosely based around the original FXRT Sport Glide from the 1980s. Hailing from The Golden State, these cult-status performance machines became known as West Coast style, with sportier suspension, increased horsepower, and niceties including creature comforts such as a tidy fairing and sporty luggage.
In past episodes you might have heard us mention my best friend, Daniel Schoenewald, and in the second segment I chat with him about some of the really special machines in his 170 or so—and growing—motorcycle collection. He’s always said to me that he doesn’t consider himself the owner, merely the curator of the motorcycles for the next generation.
Yet Daniel is not just a collector, but I can attest a really skilled rider. His bikes are not trailer queens, they’re ridden, and they’re ridden pretty hard. Actually, we have had many, many memorable rides on pretty much all of the machines in the collection at one time or another.
From all of us here at Ultimate Motorcycling, we hope you enjoy this episode!