2016 Yamaha YZF-R1S Review | High-end Bike on a Budget
With the hot sun warming the perfectly surfaced asphalt that snakes through mile after mile of mountainous terrain with little to no traffic at all, this summer we have had perfect conditions on some of the finest roads that Southern California has to offer a sportbike rider. I’ve been riding the new 2016 Yamaha YZF-R1S and I am incredibly impressed.
I’ve never been sold on the rider-aid electronics technology that most manufacturers spend countless hours developing with the intention of making us faster and safer riders. I was part of a (decreasing) number of old school die-hards, and we don’t want a computer making decisions for us. You know the type—the “My traction control is my right hand” mindset.The 2016 Yamaha R1S has changed everything for me, and it all starts with that crossplane crankshaft motor. The crossplane design is not new, we’ve seen it on the R1 since 2009, but I don’t think it gets the praise it deserves. The idea of the crossplane crankshaft in the R1S engine is to increase throttle response, drivability, and mid-range power by reducing inertia. This is done by placing the crankpins at 90-degree angles (as opposed to the typical 180 degree angles) to each other—so that each piston reaches its TDC at different times, maintaining crankshaft momentum.
When you fire the R1S motor up, it sounds a little rough as if one of the cylinders is misfiring. However, as the revs climb from idle, the motor syncs into perfect harmony and erupts into a symphony of horsepower around 6000 rpm where the mind-blowing midrange kicks in and drives hard all the way to the redline. I love this engine. As if by magic, it combines the midrange punch of a big displacement twin with the blistering top end of the inline four.Power-wise there is not much to talk about before 4000 rpm, so if it is instant grunt you’re after, look elsewhere. However, if you want to roll out of a corner and have the kind of midrange power that’s akin to a shot of nitrous, then you’ll be hard pressed to find a better package than the motor in the Yamaha R1S.At just under $15,000 the S (Sport) model is a little more modestly priced than the other two R1 models. One change made in the name of affordability is that the YZF-R1S’s connecting rods are made from steel instead of fracture split titanium, so the R1S redlines slightly lower than the R1. Other lightweight parts such as the R1’s magnesium oil pan and engine covers are now aluminum, and the titanium exhaust headers get changed for stainless steel.The R1S is also equipped with aluminum wheels instead of the magnesium units found on the standard R1 and track-spec R1M. The difference in weight between the R1 and S models is a mere nine pounds (per Yamaha). Although this would have an effect on track, on the street it makes a negligible difference. The only time you’ll notice the difference is when you pull out your checkbook and pay up to $7000 less than for the M model.The R1S chassis is superbly configured and no compromise has been made compared to the standard R1. So it comes with the same superb KYB suspension (not the electronic Öhlins suspension from the M model), and the rear shock has both high and low speed rebound damping adjustment. The suspension is smooth but very firm on the street; however once on the open road that stiff chassis translates to superb, agile handling that makes the R1 feel more like a 600 supersport machine. It goes precisely where I want it to with zero understeer when coming back hard on the throttle. The quickshifter is now optional, and that shaves off a few dollars, but with a gearbox as slick as the R1S’s, you’re not going to miss it much either.
At the heart of the R1 is that magnificent electronics package that includes traction control, wheelie control, launch control, and Yamaha’s exclusive slide control—the R1S has it all. I tried the different modes but ultimately settled on maximum power (1), traction control 3, lift control 1 (of 3), and slide control 1 (of 3).Out on the open road, I was impressed to discover later on video that the R1S was laying long black lines of rubber from mid-corner exit to 60 feet down the straights; yet the traction and slide controls work in such harmony, and so seamlessly, I had no idea from the seat.
The R1S feels more like a 600cc supersport bike as I roll off the power, dab the brakes, and drop a gear into the next sharp corner. Exit the next corner in second gear and feel the gut-wrenching torque as the bike catapults you into 3rd gear, all while the electronics take care of the messy job of keeping you sunny side up. The bike felt perfectly hooked up and, although some credit goes to the Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport S20 rubber, clearly the R1’s electronics are amazing.Likewise the R1 brakes are tremendous, with amazing precision at the lever. They inspire the confidence to carry more speed into a corner—and, oh boy, does this bike have speed! It’s so good in fact that I am now an electronic rider aid convert, and may quite possibly find myself at the nearest Yamaha dealership explaining to the salesman why he should sell me the R1S. If you were considering buying something else, slow down—the 2016 Yamaha R1S must be an option.Photography by Arthur ColdwellsRIDING STYLE
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