Living with a 2002 Yamaha YZF-R1

Cantlie goes mega fast and offends the law on his R1


July 2002

After copping loads of flak for enjoying an alternative lifestyle last year on the Honda GoldWing, I figured it was time to go back to my roots and get back on a sportsbike. The new Yamaha R1 in silver and black is the smartest damn thing to ever come out of Japan, so after several thousand phone calls I managed to wrangle one off the lads at Yamaha for the year. Looks-wise, I think it rivals Ducati's 998 for sheer style. The black frame is stunning, the angular silver bodywork is sex on legs, and the way the bike handles reminds me (again) of a Ducati. You can just lean and lean until you ride off the side of the tyres. Suspension-wise, I've done this: Forks: Raised 7mm through the yokes. Compression: 11 back from max. Rebound: 9 back from max. Preload: 5.5 rings showing

Rear: Compression: 2 turns extra in from stock. Rebound: 10 back from max. This has tightened up the whole feel of the R1 and will make it tankslap on the right roads. But I like bikes that move around a bit - gives them a bit of life. I've ordered a Tri-Oval Yoshimura exhaust can for the bike (the standard exhaust can is huge, round and kills the engine sound stone dead) and will be shipping the R1 off down to bodywork specialists Dynamite in Bournemouth to clean-up the rear end. At the moment, I'm just running it without the whole rear assembly. Tidies the backside up a treat. Oh, took the girlfriend 475 miles on the back and she was almost crippled with pain. The pillion seat's a plank, the pillion pegs are too high, forget going pillion in the new R1. That's an order.

October 2002

Six months into R1 ownership, and the bike is getting better and better. I felt cheated when I first took delivery, to be honest. It looked so saucy in its black and silver livery, but the gargantuan silencer killed any sporty noise, and the smoothly-metered fuel injection just didn't deliver enough kahunas in the midrange.

I'm a midrange junkie, see. Big, fat spoonfuls of power right where you can use it, great for pumping out of corners and great for wheelies. The old R1 had a lovely slug of power right in the middle but the new un' delivers its power more evenly across the board. So, what to do?

First, a can. But the pointy, angular lines of the 2002 R1 wouldn't be complimented by an oval or round silencer, so there was only one choice - Yoshi's utterly sexy Tri-Oval titanium affair. At £496 it ain't cheap, but the sound is perfect - deep throated and not too loud - they weigh next to nothing, and release 4bhp at max rpm (taking the R1 up to 147). But as everyone knows, for real performance gains there's no point just fitting an exhaust if you're not going to adjust the intake to match.

Enter FW Developments in Preston (01995 600680), tuning experts to the aristocracy, Dave Jefferies and, err, us. We shipped the R1 up to 'em to have a Dynojet Power Commander III fitted. Think of Power Commanders as a jet kit for fuel injection. They allow the operator to dial-in the fuelling with a specific engine and exhaust system for optimum performance.

"What we can't do is dial-in loads of power in the midrange, or the top-end," cautions Frank. "A lot of people think you can just lump in a load of power where you want, which isn't the case. What the Power Commander does is optimise fuelling across the rev-range so in every gear, at every rpm and every throttle-setting, the fuel/air mix will be spot on, and that can transform some bikes completely."

Remove the shackles of noise and emissions tests, and you may find a whole bunch of power...

The Power Commander plumbs in between the bike's ECU and, er, some other wires, and allows Frank to adjust the fuelling with a laptop and some Dynojet software. Adjustments are made with the bike on a dyno so she can be run up at the same time as adjustments are being made and CO2 output can be measured to make sure it's all going properly. Couple of hours later it's all done - so how does it feel to ride?

Transformed, absolutely trans-bloody-formed! Goodbye somewhat asthmatic and unexciting fuelling, hello instant throttle response and proper midrange punch. Tweak the throttle and she's so much healthier it's not true. Slip in first gear (gotta love the gearbox on this bike) crack her open and - whammo! Much more like it.

But let's get this in perspective. What you haven't got here is 185bhp and turbo-charged torque. You'd need a 1,300cc big-bore kit and (strangely enough) a turbo for that. What you have got - and it's something no dyno printout can really show - is instant response as soon as you hit the throttle, and an engine that positively bulges with rude health. With the Yoshi exhaust warbling away at 11,500rpm, the shift-light flashing in your face, and that slick gearbox doing its job, my R1 now satisfies on every outing and for me, is able to put its mouth where its trousers are. 

Other mods are official Yamaha parts. The smart carbon tankpad, the single-seat conversion for the rear seat unit, and the very sleek pillion-peg eliminator kit to tidy up the rear end. Taking a passenger is now not an option. Also out of the Yamaha accessories brochure are the crash mushrooms, mounted on alloy plates either side of the motor. It's good to see manufacturers now supplying high-quality accessories for their bikes - call Yamaha UK on 01932 358000 for their official trick parts brochure.

Obviously, I'm still running my stealth numberplate (dis) assembly. I haven't been nicked for it yet, but everyone else who rides it gets tugged immediately. That's their fault for stopping...

The handling is immaculate on my settings (see TWO July 2002 for full spec), and I'm running the excellent Dunlop D207 tyres at 40psi rear and 36psi front for the best steering speed. She tankslaps occasionally, and that's fine with me, but everywhere I go people comment on the R1's looks. It really is stunning - even my missus, who was going to buy a Ducati 748, is now thinking about one of these instead. But obviously, being a bird, she'd never be able to handle the power...

Future modifications would be a set of five-spoke race wheels in silver, and that would be it. Even as it is now, I'm happy just to ride my R1. Anyway, I couldn't go with the lads to Cumbria because I was off at the Suzuka 8-Hour race in Japan, so handed my beloved over to our mate Chris Davies. Chris does all the scanning and finalising on our mag, and has owned a '99 R1 for the last two years. So then Chris what did ya think then?

Well, it feels a bit like my 2000 R1 to be honest, even down to the slightly loose and knocking head bearings, although it's not as comfortable - my wrists were in agony by the time I made it to the hotel. Fuel injection is bloody good though, I wondered if someone hadn't slipped in a set of race carbs when I wasn't looking. No snatch, no nastiness just a lot of shove. And there's more up top to play with than my bike on this one too.

But that tail section. Man, there I was minding my business when the inevitable happens and Mr Plod pulls me over for a word...

"Your numberplate seems to be hidden, sir," he said trying to sound like Morse making a major case breakthrough.

I was tempted to ask if he wanted a medal for observation, but instead only managed to mumble something about someone reversing into the bike in a car park, and the Velcro being a temporary measure until I could get it sorted.

Plod looked slightly baffled (well, the story didn't make much sense to me either), but opted for giving me a ticket to fix it within 14 days and let me get on. But the damage was done and I was now convinced every police car on the planet was after me. I arrived at the hotel looking like a haunted man, jumping at the slightest noise and having ridden the rest of the way slower than I would have done with a plate on display.

Plate worries aside though, the R1 was an absolute pearler and had me considering a trip the bank manager on my return.  Then again, with the state of the weather right now I reckon I'd be better off investing in a submarine...

November 2002

Been having some bother with plod of late, but ironically enough the worst case was on Gus's BMW, and not on my R1. I got pulled by two of the biggest dickheads ever to wear a police uniform. I've been doing this job for 9 years and in that time have been tugged well over 60 times. Most of the coppers I've met have been decent blokes doing a job, and they get my respect for that, but these two were shocking.

I trickled past these coppers at 51mph in a 50mph three-lane A-road. Gus keeps a layer of shite over his numberplate for deflecting Gatso cameras. "Well, well. Your bike is very clean - apart from the numberplate! Why would that be?" "Well, it's not my bike, so I don't really know." "Oh, not your bike? BMW's, is it? They should know better now, shouldn't they. You better clean the plate or you'll have to leave your bike here." "It's not my bike and so I don't really care if I have to leave it here."

"And what do you do?" "I'm the editor of a motorcycle magazine." "Can't be a very good magazine if you don't take any responsibility." "Please don't insult my job - I haven't insulted yours."  "I don't like your attitude. Do you think a ticket will work for him?" At this point I'd had enough of these pricks. "Are you some sort of comedy duo?" I ask increduously. "I fail to see what's so funny about the situation." And on it went - until they drove off 20 minutes later after giving me a verbal warning! Why??

In the meantime I've fitted a diddy MAL numberplate to the R1 to stop the more humorous tuggings, last night some absolute piece of shit ran his key down the side of the tank, and just recently I've noticed that the R1 is the revered pinnacle of urban super-cool. Respec', and all that.

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