The Yamaha R1 promises to be a genuine breakthrough, making use of a crossplane crankshaft developed in MotoGP to deliver smooth, even power. Will this radical new technology put the R1 ahead of Honda’s awesome current-generation Fireblade?
After hearing the growl of the press bikes running in the pit lane for the first time I knew they reminded me of some other street bike I had heard recently, but I couldn’t recall what. It was only on the lunchbreak that one of my fellow British journalists got it spot on when he said the new R1 sounded a bit like the V4 Honda VFR800. He had a point – the exhaust note does have a vague resemblance, but trust me that’s where the similarity ends.
I wanted the special engine, but I also wanted the new R1 to look like Rossi’s M1 so I was bitterly disappointed after the first pictures were released last autumn. Okay, I realise change is always necessary, but its stocky looks are still not to my taste. Fortunately, like the 999 Ducati, at least in race trim, it does turn from a bulky frog into a horny princess.
The new R1’s overall look might not be to my taste, but it is built this way for a reason. For example, the bulging bodywork carries full-length side air ducts that are designed to create negative pressure, helping expel hot air from the engine. Not pretty, but functional. Up front the headlamps might look bug-eyed, but the new projector solenoid coil lamps halve the number of bulbs on the previous model as they operate as both dipped and main beam. On the upside the new instrument cluster looks fantastic and now includes gear position, engine mode selector and throttle opening indicators.
Although Honda and Kawasaki have dropped their underseat pipes, Yamaha needed to keep theirs in order to get the optimum exhaust length for the new engine. Another reason was to allow room for an all-new, low-slung rear suspension linkage located in front of a lighter swingarm. The rear shock is fully adjustable, including two-way high and low speed compression adjustment. Even better is the handy hydraulic preload adjuster. No more skinned knuckles fiddling with castellated nuts when we want to tweak the rear spring setting can only be good news.
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