2018 Yamaha Sportbike Lineup Review: R3, R6, R1 + R1M

2018 Yamaha YZF-R3 Review

2018 Yamaha YZF-R3, YZF-R6, YZF-R1 + YZF-R1M

Yamaha brought Ultimate Motorcycling to the stellar Utah Motorsports Campus (UMC) for its R-World press event, where we had our pick of the entire Yamaha Supersport product line. Better yet, Yamaha partnered with Bridgestone to help them launch the ultra-sticky Bridgestone Battlax Racing R11 DOT-approved track tire.

R-World is Yamaha’s way of describing the full Supersport line up, which includes the 2018 Yamaha YZF-R3, YZF-R6, YZF-R1S, YZF-R1, and the line topping YZF-R1M. This gave Yamaha a perfect chance to show off some of its factory authorized accessories from GYTR, Graves Motorsports, and Yoshimura R&D. Above all, it allowed us a chance to test some of the mechanical updates made to the 2018 Yamaha YZF-R1 and YZF-R1M.

2018 Yamaha sport bike lineup

Here at Ultimate Motorcycling, we ride and review every bike under the sun. In this case, we had the rare opportunity to test a manufacturer’s supersport lineup in pristine environment, with a Bridgestone Battlax R11 as a control tire.

For our readers, participating Yamaha dealerships will be hosting Yamaha RiDE events, where you’ll be able to experience a wide variety of Yamaha bikes on the street. If you want to put a bike through its paces and learn a whole lot in the process, Yamaha is also supporting Yamaha Champions Riding School, which has a full fleet of Supersport and Hypersport machines at its disposal.

With a complete Supersport lineup in Yamaha’s bag of tricks, let’s go through each model and their highlights.

2018 Yamaha YZF-R3 Review

The Yamaha YZF-R3 is a perfect and sensible entry-point for motorcycle riders who want to kickstart their sport riding career. If you don’t plan on carrying passengers, the factory seat cowl bumps the looks up and bit and gives it the appearance of a racy little supersport.

The R3’s 321cc parallel-twin offers tractable power that newer riders will be able to become accustomed to, whether on the street or at your first track day for some advanced training. On a close quarters track like the East Circuit at UMC, the YZF-R3 has plenty of power to teach you the importance of throttle control and line choices. With add-ons such as the Yoshimura slip-on muffler, you’ll also be able to spice up your machine’s tone without too much work or a massive hit to your wallet.

2018 Yamaha YZF-R3 Review

Lightweight machines are especially nimble, as the shorter wheelbase, lower power figures, and upright riding positions make them extremely accommodating to a wide swath of riders. They’re also physically lighter and easier to manipulate. If you’re above 6’ 2”, chances are you’re going to feel a tad cramped in the legs, but that’s the price you pay for being tall and handsome.

Mounting up a set of sticky tires like the Bridgestone Battlax R11 is transformative. Stock tires get the job done on the street, but the confidence a DOT race tire gives any machine tons when cornering is impressive.

On track, that translates to a machine that is surefooted in hard braking zones with loads of available grip. That encourages riders to get back on the gas as soon as possible. The Bridgestone R11s allow riders to extract every ounce of performance that the Yamah R3 offers. For riders just coming into the fold, it raises the bar in terms of grip and stability high, so they’ll have a wide margin for error.

2018 Yamaha YZF-R3 test

Starting just shy of $5k, the YZF-R3 is a solid option in the extremely competitive lightweight sport bike market. ABS will set you back an additional $300; that’s something that we strongly encourage for new riders who will be spending most of their time on the street,

For 2018, the Yamaha YZF-R3 will now be available in three color options—Raven, Team Yamaha Blue, and Vivid White, closely matching the appearances of its bigger siblings.

2018 Yamaha YZF-R6 Review

The Yamaha YZF-R6 is a machine that almost needs no introduction, as it’s remained one of the most competitive supersport offerings around. It’s been ridden to countless MotoAmerica and World Supersport titles, as well as helped launch the professional racing careers of more than few of your racing heroes.

Last year the Yamaha YZF-R6 received its biggest update in a decade, getting a new fork, larger rotors, a new master cylinder, an electronics package including ABS along with adjustable traction control, and a cosmetic update that brings it in line with the powerful YZF-R1, just to name some of the finer points.

2018 Yamaha YZF-R6 test

The Supersport 600 class of sport bike is a personal favorite of mine, as the power from a 599cc inline-4 is more than thrilling, yet still manageable. The inline-4 configuration has a classic personality, with most of its power and torque coming into play above 8k rpm and, when on track, you’ll rarely be dropping below that. Toss in the Yoshimura R&D Y-Series slip-on, and you’ll be able to coax a nice tune out of this screamer engine.

The current powerplant remains largely unchanged from previous generations, but with about 120 horsepower and 45 ft/lbs of torque on tap, you’ll be able to build your confidence and begin to truly take advantage of what’s being offered.

Helping me snatch gears on corner exit was a GYTR Quick Shifter Kit that allowed me to stay on the throttle and get solid drive. It’s also available in a GP Shift pattern if that’s your preference.

The R6 is the first major step into an aggressive ergonomic set up. While that might not be ideal for the street, on track it’s exactly what you’ll want when the pace picks up and you’re venturing into triple digits.

2018 Yamaha YZF-R6 for sale

Pushing the R6 around corners is one of the most rewarding aspects of this class. With quick left-to-right transitioning as a highlight, the R6 can quickly be tossed into corners and allows for a massive amount of confidence while at lean.

Because you’re using an engine with modest power in comparison to a liter bike, it makes riders focus on utilizing their corner speed and make the most out of each cornering opportunity.

A few other nifty accessories we had on the bikes were engine case protectors and frame sliders. While there is always a hot debate regarding frame sliders on the track—some believe they can hook a bike and flip it once it hits the dirt—case protectors are essential to ensure that your engine doesn’t take avoidable damage in a crash. Frame sliders are great for the street and help protect your bike if you accidentally drop it at low speeds or when starting and stopping—it happens to the best of us.

Many riders have picked up YZF-R6s as a track bikes, mainly because they offer much of what a liter bike would in terms of handling, ergonomics and abilities, sans the brutal acceleration, making it a great platform to learn advanced techniques on.

2018 Yamaha YZF-R1 Review

In 2015, Yamaha unveiled the latest generation of the YZF-R1 and it was a game changer for the Japanese brand in terms of design philosophy, with track riding put at the forefront. And that philosophy has paid off in making the YZF-R1 a popular club racing and track day platform. Since then, the YZF-R1 has remained largely unchanged, until this year.

At the heart of the R1 is the venerable 998cc crossplane concept inline-4, which has an exhaust note that has become something of a fan favorite in the motorcycle community. With a seemingly unlimited amount of power on tap, it takes a serious rider to tame the beastly Yamaha.

Luckily, it can be kept in check with the Yamaha Ride Control suite. The R1 makes use of a true six-axis IMU, that monitors lean sensitive ABS, traction control, LIF, slide control and all other safety systems.

2018 Yamaha YZF-R1 review

Keeping the R1 in fighting shape is the addition of a quickshifter and autoblip system. It’s a subtle, yet crucial, update that allows the current R1 platform to continue trading punches in a superbike market that has received new models from nearly every manufacturer in recent years.

When pouring on the gas, this new quickshift and autoblip system works just as intended, having adequate kill-times that don’t upset the chassis or throw your rhythm off.

Additionally, you no longer must worry about clutching your downshifts and that allows you to focus on your corner entry. It’s also available in GP shift pattern. In the dash, there are two settings to choose from—“1” being the quickest and “2” for more casual riding.

There are several keen updates that have been made to the electronic side of things. Yamaha saw it fit to reevaluate the level of intrusion its three-level wheelie control. Some riders felt that Yamaha’s wheelie control stepped in too much when accelerating, and that weakened their drive out of the corners. As a result, riders would often turn it off completely. That was a case of electronics working against highly skilled riders, and the goal is always to have electronics work with the rider.

The wheelie control didn’t step in for a rider of my skill level and, with the Bridgestone Battlax Racing R11 doing the heavy lifting while on the gas, I felt like I was getting great drive. If you’re smooth with your inputs, you’ll be able to float the front end comfortably. If you whack the throttle on, it still steps in as intended.

Bridgestone Battlax R11 Review

Yamaha’s launch control has gone through an update as well. Engineers bumped the rpm down from 10k to 8k, as it proved to be a more effective and less stressful use of the system.

Handling is just as impressive as it has always been since the 2015 launch, making it a pure joy out on the circuit. Diving into apexes is done with the utmost confidence. Thanks to the brilliant engine, you’ll be quick to get out of them as well.

The final update to the 2018 Yamaha YZF-R1 has been to the OE Bridgestone RS10 tires. Bridgestone revised the compound in the front and rear tire, to offer more grip. The rear tire has also undergone a revision, moving from a single-ply to a dual-ply contruction, aimed at improving the carcass stiffness and handling abilities.  If you’re serious about the track, however, you’ll want to upgrade to the new Bridgestone Battlax Racing R11.

Since its introduction, the Yamaha YZF-R1 has remained in the running for supremacy of the liter Supersport class. Its raw power and handling abilities remaining quite competitive, in the bolstering big bike market and it’ll certainly put your skills to the test.

2018 Yamaha YZF-R1M Review

The 2018 Yamaha YZF-R1M is the undisputed flagship of Yamaha’s Supersport lineup, and the most easily recognized due to its carbon fiber bodywork. It’s a treat and from the moment you hop in the saddle, it’s tough to deny that you’re not about to turn laps on something special.

All the updates that we’ve talked about with the R1 are applicable here, but the R1M has also received some new toys as well. The electronic suspension is now equipped with the Öhlins EC2 system, which includes a new control system, additional sensors and the Objective Based Tuning interface (OBTi).

Yamaha YZF-R1M ReviewYamaha worked hand in hand with Öhlins to redevelop the R1M’s electronic suspension. To help its reflexes while on the road or track, the system now boasts 12 internal sensors, instead of the previous nine, allowing for more precise measurements. According to Yamaha representatives, this new control system is making roughly 100 adjustments per second and helps the bike conform to your settings.

As this was the first time using electronic suspension on a Supersport platform, I left the track impressed. From the first turn, I noticed that the YZF-R1M felt a slightly stiffer and more poised than it’s sibling equipped with conventional suspension. It’s adjusting your suspension live – in short, it deals with whatever your throw at it.

What stood out immediately was how the R1M dealt with bumps mid-corner, which was a completely new sensation. I had come to expect these rough portions of the track, and quickly began to forget about them with a handful of laps under my belt on the R1M.

For our purposes, the OBTi simplifies suspension tuning to a point that most motorcyclists will be able to understand. Instead of relying on the front/rear compression, and front/rear rebound, it’s been boiled down to Brake Support, Corner Support, Acceleration Support and Front/Rear Firmness in plain English nomenclature.

That puts suspension tuning into terms that become accessible. For example, if you feel that you’re getting too much dive when on the brakes, just add some Braking Support. If you’re getting unwanted wheeling from excessive squatting, add a bit of Acceleration Support.

2018 Yamaha YZF-R1M ReviewThose are the changes that I ran with, and was quite happy with the result. The best part is that it took about 40 seconds to complete. Normally, adjustments like these would have had me scampering off to the garage and breaking out the tools. Instead, I pulled off track, made my adjustments and was back out in no time at all.

The interface also simplifies the riding mode nomenclature. Now, the Auto Mode has a T-1 and T-2 setting. The first setting is for slick racing tires, and the second for everything else. Additionally, manual modes are now M-1 and M-2.

Overall, the Yamaha YZF-R1M was a blast to ride and after the first few laps. I even forgot about the nearly $23,000 sticker price, though it is something that does quickly return to your mind if you’ve come in to a corner too hot, which from that highly specific example, I clearly did not do.

The R1M does kick the whole R1 platform up to the next level, between its carbon fiber bodywork, electronic suspension, and the updated quickshifting system, it’s an even greater joy to ride. Simply put, the 2018 Yamaha YZF-R1M is something that is truly impressive.

It’s R-World

Spending two days with the 2018 Yamaha Supersport lineup was a treat, and a keen reminder of how competitive these machines have become. Moreover, Yamaha and other manufacturers have a clear-cut path for riders who are interested in things on the more sporting side of things, beginning with the YZF-R3, moving up to the YZF-R6 and, eventually, the thrilling YZF-R1/R1M.

From where I’m sitting, motorcycling is certainly better with the R-World lineup in full swing.

Photography by Brian J. Nelson


2018 Yamaha Sportbike Lineup Review: R3, R6, R1 + R1M