The Yamaha R1 was the sensation of the 2009 superbike
class. As the first production machine to utilize a version
of MotoGP’s exotic “big-bang” firing order, it propelled
Yamaha to its first ever World Superbike Championship in the
hands of rookie WSBK contender, Texan Ben Spies. Spies, fresh
from three AMA Superbike Championships pried from the hands
of none less than Mat Mladin, his former Yoshimura Suzuki
teammate, racing on European tracks he’d never seen before, was
simply phenomenal - fully justifying his immediate move to
MotoGP for 2010.
Essentially unchanged except for colors in 2010 (our test bike’s
white livery is new this year), the 2009 R1 was massively different
than the 2008 version. Its changes included an even more
over-square 998cc engine that spun a unique “crossplane” crankshaft.
Its forged pistons gained 1.0mm in diameter, to 78.0mm and
the stroke was reduced from 53.6mm to 52.2mm. The new pistons
gave a compression ratio of 12.7:1. The remainder of the DOHC
16-valve top end was unchanged, still using 31mm titanium intake
valves and 25mm steel exhausts. Unlike the classic “big bang” GP
designs, which would effectively turn a four-cylinder into a twin
with pairs firing together, the R1’s crank was exactly the same as
Yamaha’s unusual MotoGP design, with the rod journals offset
90° from one other, but the actual firing sequence oddly staggered,
to give intervals of 270°, 180°, 90°, 180°. As this would
naturally spoil a four-cylinder’s inherent smoothness, a counterbalancer
was required to mitigate excess engine vibration. The
result is a four cylinder engine that produces the sound, feel and
torque production of a twin at lower rpm, for excellent traction and
control, while equaling the mid-range and top-end power of their
previous in-line four. A tradeoff: The new crankshaft is heavier
and, together with the counterbalancer, accounts for an engine
weight increase of 3 kg. or 6.6 lbs.
The R1’s drivetrain was also changed. It retained the same
ramp-type slipper clutch and primary drive gear ratio, but the
stacked transmission received revised gearing from first through
fourth. Fifth and sixth gear ratios were unchanged. However, the
final drive sprocket gained two teeth, lowering the top two ratios
overall. The combined changes resulted in a noticeably taller first gear, closer middle ratios and a top gear that almost allows the R1 to reach its redline in sixth, at an actual 176.7 mph.
Also new was a full titanium exhaust system, a four-into-two into-
one-into-two design that ends with twin catalyzed titanium
mufflers. Notably, the 2009 R1 did not utilize an EXUP back pressure
control system, nor does the 2010 model.
YCCT and YCCI Electronics
The new hard parts were matched with several layers of electronic
enhancements that do at least as much to create its winning
performance. Atop the intakes resides its YCCT (Yamaha Chip
Controlled Throttle), a computer-controlled system that determines
the optimum opening of its 45mm throttle butterflies in
response to twistgrip requests. Each cylinder is fueled by a single
12-hole injector for superior atomization and combustion
efficiency. The YCCT system also gained a new “D-Mode”
(drive mode) switch that provides three separate maps of fuel
and ignition combinations. As long as the throttle is in the closed
position, each is available at anytime via a quick toggle on the
right handlebar. The “standard” or default setting is automatically
selected upon engine start-up; it produces a peak of 151.66 hp @
11,800 rpm and 74.69 lb.-ft. of torque @ 8800 rpm. The optional“A” mode sharpens engine response and performance slightly,
giving 154.10 hp @ 11,800 and 76.28 lb.-ft.@ 9000 rpm. The “B”
mode option softens response and smooths the powerband,
giving “just” 146.22 hp @ 11,800 and 73.61 lb.-ft. @ 8900, which
makes it better for riding in inclement weather.
The R1 also continues the use of YCCI (Yamaha Chip Controlled
Intake), or variable length intake tract funnels. Below
9400 rpm the system’s stacked funnels create a length of 140mm
for increased ram effect that improves cylinder filling at lower
speeds. Once above 9400 rpm, the upper set separates, so the
65mm lower funnels take over, for increased top-end rpm and
power. The R1’s redline is marked at 13,750 rpm and our test
bike’s tach indicated that it would reach nearly 15,000, although
the dyno printout showed it never exceeded 13,500 rpm. Does
Yamaha have another tachometer accuracy problem?
Chassis, Suspensions, Wheels & Brakes
The new engine is installed in a slightly more forward position
in a new chassis with revised stiffness. The frame is now stiffer
in both the steering head and swingarm pivot areas, but to achieve
37% greater torsional flexibility for better road feel, it uses “controlled-
fill” die cast downtubes welded to extruded inner sections.
To reduce weight distant from its center of mass, the R1’s
rear subframe has been cast in magnesium—just like the latest R6.
|The R1’s heavily triangulated
swingarm is a mixture of cast and extruded
aluminum components for optimum stability
and road feel. A new more progressive
linkage works with a revised SOQI shock
that is fully adjustable (except for ride
height) and has easy access adjusters.
The swingarm receives a similar cast and extruded aluminum
construction and now uses a more progressive linkage to support
a revised SOQI monoshock. Access to the shock’s dual-stage
compression damping and single speed rebound adjusters is excellent,
while a hydraulic preload adjuster makes spring tuning a
snap. The rear suspension offers 4.7" of travel (.25" less than the’08 shock), however it is still not adjustable for ride height.
The R1’s front suspension is also new—a 4.7"-travel, 43mm
SOQI male-slider fork that separates damping functions to reduce
oil cavitation—rebound in the right leg, compression on the left,
with screw adjusters on top only. Preload is handled by the usual
hex-type adjusters atop each leg.
Another new feature this year is an active steering damper. At
throttle openings above 50% or speeds over 125mph, the
damper’s resistance force increases. Below these thresholds,
damping is reduced so it doesn’t interfere with steering ease.
Rolling stock includes lightweight cast alloy, 5-spoke rims,
3.50" front and 6.00" rear, fitted with 120/70ZR and 190/55ZR
Dunlop Qualifier D210 rubber. The front brakes are dual 310mm
semi-floating stainless rotors, mounted on stiffened carriers. The
front calipers are monobloc types (one-piece forgings) in a six piston
configuration that contains four pads per caliper. Two
larger brake pads serve the two leading pistons while one set of
smaller pads back the trailing pistons. The front brakes are controlled
by a Brembo radial-pump master cylinder for best feel,
while the fixed 220mm rear rotor is stopped by a single-piston
Nissin caliper, activated by a matching Nissin master cylinder.
Bodywork, Instrumentation & Ergonomics
New, more abbreviated bodywork distinguishes the new R1.
The fairing’s side panels have been smoothed and shortened to
reduce drag and enable greater heat extraction. The nose has a new
look, featuring dual projector beam headlights placed in slots on
each side that form the ram air intake openings. Both headlights
remain on, regardless of beam selection. In the low setting, the
illumination is decent, but the beams have a distinct vertical cutoff
above which the rider’s field of view at night suffers. On high
beams, however, illumination and brightness are excellent.
|The instrumentation is easy
to read at a glance, and the bright
shift light at the top is programmable
for your preference. Trip computer
functions like average and
instantaneous gas mileage can be
interesting when road conditions
are less than all-consuming.
The R1’s instrumentation is very complete. Atop the dash is a
bright programmable shift light that’s easily seen. Centered in
the dash is an analog tachometer and a gear position indicator, a
digital speedo, a fuel reserve indicator (which typically turns on
after 95 miles are traveled), current and average fuel consumption,
an odometer, two trip meters, reserve fuel range, coolant temp
gauge, Drive Mode setting, lap timer, throttle opening value and
a clock. Warning lights for high beams, turn indicators, neutral,
oil level, coolant temp, battery charge, EFI and steering damper
warning and low fuel complete the comprehensive data.
Rider ergonomics are improved, with handlebars 10mm closer
to the rider and footpegs moved forward 10mm. An optional
mounting position is provided that raises the foot controls another
15mm. The lower position was judged high enough, and even
during our most aggressive riding, nothing on the R1 would touch
down. Also, a new fuel tank with a more elongated shape gives
a slimmer fit between the knees and fits deeper within the upper
frame rails to better centralize the weight of its 4.8 gal. of fuel.
YZF R1 Performance
On the strip, we managed a best quarter-mile of “only” 10.05
seconds @ 138.51 mph, attributing our inability to delve into the
nines to a very tall first gear, the factory’s detuning of engine
performance in the lower gears and the R1’s 471.5-lb. wet weight.
Whatever the reason, in stock trim, the big YZF still pulls hard
enough to demand every bit of your full attention.
At the opposite end of the performance spectrum, our
stopping distances were only good, not great. 122.9' from
60mph is decent, but far from our best liter-bike numbers.
But we cannot fault the R1’s braking systems. Its
front brakes offer exceptional feel and power and their
feedback through the SOQI fork and stiff cast steering
head were everything we could have wished. However,
the machine’s forward weight distribution—52.8% front
static, although great for balanced handling with a rider
aboard, and its relatively tall seat—32.25" unladen -
combined to make the rear wheel lift very easily under
the hardest stops, creating a limit that even sticky tires
couldn’t mitigate. During our over-the-road testing, on
the other hand, the brakes were flawless, controllable
and far from overpowering.
Fuel consumption was high, but not reasonable for
such a powerful machine, and our overall average was
29.4 mpg. Highway riding was thriftiest, returning 38.8 mpg,
canyon carving was thirsty, just 25.3 and commuting in heavy city
traffic gave the worst result—just 25.1 mpg.
Several impressions rush to mind when riding this motorcycle.
First is that it offers three distinctly different personalities. In its“A” mode, the throttle response is, indeed, sharpest, but the abrupt
power delivery and its effect on the chassis make the tradeoff
less attractive. Overall, the wide spectrum of useable power available
in the “standard” mode made it the favorite choice during
most of our spirited sport riding and left several of us wondering
why we even needed more. And although we did not spend much
time in the “B” mode, the way this Yamaha produces power we could see that this muted option would be best in the wet.
With its manageable standard power delivery and solid new
chassis, the Yamaha returns especially good feedback from the
rear tire under acceleration, and the crossplane motor generates
a very strong surge that begins in the mid range and continues a
non-stop rush just shy of redline. Starting from a stop at low rpm,
the engine does have a low frequency vibration, perhaps best
described as a faint shudder that you feel through the footpegs and
can also hear. This, however, quickly passes and is superseded by
the torque-filled big bang thrust.
The newest R1 is the most stable version yet. The influence of
its electronic steering damper is never obvious and over bumpy
roads the motorcycle remains solid and true in its trajectory. We
increased front preload and damping slightly over stock, while
reducing rear preload and slowing rear rebound, too, which
improved cornering stability but reduced compliance on freeway
expansion joints. On canyon roads, where this motorcycle is truly
in its element, it will tax the front tire’s traction on corner entry,
so using the OE rubber, an astute rider will want to pick up the
throttle at the apex rather than overload the tire. We think a less
experienced rider on the R1 would be better off using premium
aftermarket rubber with elevated grip levels. Also, the R1
produces significant heat from the rear tailpipes and mufflers. In
warm weather the rider’s calves and thighs were subjected to
borderline tolerable levels of engine and exhaust heat.
For an extremely fast sportbike, you couldn’t ask for more. The new R1 is not the lightest liter-bike, but its potent engine could care less. It looks great, sounds even better and the big bang firing
order is no longer just a racing advantage. The YZF-R1 might
not be for the masses, but for an all-out performer, this machine
can expand horizons...in a big way. It’s that good!