Yamaha R1: Is it any good as a commuter?

6001 miles of country to city riding clocked, pros & cons?

There’s one thing that the 2012 R1 has that no other bike in its class does: An engine truly derived from MotoGP, and if you didn’t already know that then where have you been?

Since its introduction to the road in 2009 the Cross Plane Crank motor has been discussed, featured, disassembled and even blown up by members of the motorcycle press. We all know that it sounds amazing, that it’s grunty and pretty darn quick but mention the words MotoGP and engine to me and I think thirsty, twitchy, aggressive and unmanageable on the road. Factors of which could scare off any sensible road ride to the Honda side of the showroom. So what’s that engine like to live with? Can you commute on it?

The truth is the Yamahas engine is far from any of those things and with the added safety net of traction control the R1 is a perfectly usable day to day commuter. Weather you’d actually want to use it for that purpose is another thing but the fact is you can use it Monday to Friday for work and then be fighting for the front of your group at Silverstone on the weekend.

Day-to-day commuting is exactly what I have been doing for the 6001 miles now showing on the clocks. Have I been enjoying it? Yes and no. Yes because the R1 has a lush gearing set up that means 6th gear will work fine as low down as 35mph and the tall first gear will burble away with little effort all the way up to 90mph if you so wish. And no, simply because the Yamaha doesn’t feel at all at home on the road. It’s like owning an Off-Shore powerboat and using it in-between the locks on a local river way. Sure it will do the job just fine, no problems at all, but in your mind you know you are only ever using 20% of its capabilities.

The Big benefit for me with this engine over the standard inline fours is that’s its very economical. Ride it normally and its calmly natured power delivery will return you 49mpg.

If I had the money to buy a litre sportsbike would I buy the R1? Hell yeah I would. You can’t make use of any litre sportsbike performance on the road so you might as well just enjoy the unique noise that only the R1 offers...