Yamaha's YZF-R1 goes head-to-head with itself in a bitter, old-versus-new family feud. Niall Mackenzie splits the difference in sunny southern Spain.
Yamaha launched the 2004 R1 under the banner 'Excitement Intensified.' The previous model had been accused of losing the spice of the ground-breaking 1998 bike, and Yamaha wanted to once again stamp its authority on the litre class. But in the same year Kawasaki launched its bonkers ZX-10R and Honda its sportiest Fireblade yet, which made the R1 look less impressive than it actually was.
Yamaha gave the R1 a very slight update in 2006 with altered frame stiffness and, unusual in these times, created the YZF-R1 SP homologation special, which in fact featured little more than a few bling-bling suspension bolt-ons.
For 2007 the brash paint scheme and red seat of the original 1998 bike is back, sporting variable intake trumpets and, for the first time, a four-valve cylinder head in favour of Yamaha's once-trademark five-valve design.
Sometimes it is the smallest details that can have the biggest influence when it comes to first impressions of a new bike. On the latest R1 it was the front brake lever that first caught my attention when I hopped off the old model and jumped onto the latest version. It doesn't look that different but its new contours make it feel 10 times nicer, giving you confidence that any other changes for 2007 might be just as good. The discs are now 10mm smaller in diameter, thinner and squeezed by six pot calipers.
Like the brakes on the new 1098 Ducati, it's the instant braking connection that's most noticeable from any other road bike to date. I found the best approach was to use two fingers for light braking and three fingers for high speed hard braking. It took a few laps to adjust to the feel but after I jumped back on the old R1 I found myself regularly missing apexes. I gave the 2007 brakes a good hammering for three days at Almeria with no problems but I've heard a few dealers reporting problems so I hope Yamaha haven't pushed the envelope too far.
How engineers and development riders work out things like torsional and lateral rigidity on chassis and swingarms is beyond me. But work it out they do, and although the new frame looks the same as the old it has been completely reworked to improve rider feedback. The new asymmetric swingarm however does have the 'factory' look and I can confirm there is a significant difference in feel between the old and the new.
Although there is no difference in weight or riding position even sitting in the pit lane, the new R1 feels more agile. This could be the altered swingarm pivot position or the suspension having less sag, but I found the feel also transfers to the track. The whole package is much sharper, from letting the brakes off, through turn-in, tracking round mid-corner and exit. While the old model is very stable, it felt lazy through the bottom twisty section of Almeria and was a lot less responsive when changing direction and less accurate when trying to hit the perfect apex lap after lap.
Coming off the corners was also easier with the new bike as I had virtually no understeer due to an increased compression rate on the rear giving added support under acceleration. With our older model I found rather than being able to build speed mid-corner I was having to run in wider, square the corner off and fire it out in a more up right position.
Apart from dragging my boots everywhere with the low footpegs the only other downside on the new bike was less stability at high speed. With my average top speed being around 175mph I experienced some steering head-shake from just over 150mph. I tried stiffening up the rear and tried different ride heights but this only made the handling worse elsewhere, so I decided a good steering damper would be the best solution. To be fair, most bikes suffer on this particular section of Almeria as it's exposed and windy, so in the grand scheme of things this was only a small blip over an otherwise enjoyable lap.
Continue the Yamaha R1 2007 vs. 2004 Test - 2/2
TYPE - SUPERSPORTSPRICE NEW - £5000 (USED)ENGINE CAPACITY - 998ccPOWER - 153.5bhp@10,600rpmTORQUE - 79.5lb.ft@8300rpm WEIGHT - 206kg (WET) SEAT HEIGHT - 835mm FUEL CAPACITY - 18L TOP SPEED - 177.5mph
Posted: 17/06/2008 at 16:25
Posted: 17/06/2008 at 16:39
Posted: 17/06/2008 at 16:41
Posted: 17/06/2008 at 16:45
Posted: 17/06/2008 at 16:59
Let's be totally honest as far as the majority of us are concerned we ride what we ride by preferance of what folk's say about it and what it looks like,
I have had an 04 R1 which did me good service and kept me on pace with whatever dared to challenge, especially when blowing off our European Cousins on the open roads on the continent. since getting it I have did MotoGP Mugello , travelling Hull Rotterdam 580 miles on day 1 to Insbruck ( bit toooo adventurous ) as we ended up on the Tyrol Alps in the dark, in the snow and have never been so cold. but we struggled on, got a good nights sleep and after climbing out of Insbruck and doing The Brenner Pass route 75 miles of unadultrated twisties all that had occured prior was very quickly forgotten, 2006 I chopped her in for the Aniversary model and did MotoGP at Catalunya via Millou Viaduct ( what a bridge ) great ride out especially when you encounter western europeans to play with en-route
Best of all was my trip to Magny Course last year on my 07 R6 0 > 120 not alot could catch the little bitch, light as a feather, responds immediately to right hand abuse, and as a bonus not only looks the part but with stub pipe SOUNDS the part. if the bottom end on any of Yams R series is cack, as the fitter at my dealership stated " rotate your wrist more and mek the Bast**d have it ! " Let me tell you IT WORKS !!!
Posted: 09/07/2008 at 12:09
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