At first glance the R1 looks quite similar to last years model but upon closer inspection you will see a host of changes. While I expected to see a radical change in the cosmetics, Yamaha decided to keep with the classic look of the R1 and enhance its already sleek stylish lines. Look closely and you will see a redesigned tail section with the exhaust rotated upward for a more compact design and a redesigned tail light.
The front is all new with layered cowling designed to create a vacuum to draw hot air away from the engine compartment and increased air intake flow to improve power and reduce air resistance. There is a bit of the R6 in the styling but this bike is still unmistakably R1. There is a look to this bike that seems to separate it from the rest of the Japanese bikes available, it just seems to have that touch of an exotic look to it
When it came to the motor Yamaha decided to stray from their traditional 5-valve motor in favor of an all new 4-valve design. The new 4 valve head design has an increased compression ratio (12.4 : 1 to 12.7:1), new titanium intake valves, greater air intake volume due to high lift cam shaft and improved combustion efficiency to improve low, mid and top end power.
Yamaha\'s engineers have also incorporated the YCC-T “Yamaha chip controlled - throttle” (Same basic system as the R6) to ensure precise throttle and engine management along with a seamless power delivery. They have also applied the YCC-I "Yamaha Chip Controlled - Intake" the R1\'s variable intake system. These are computer-controlled intake tracts that switch between 65mm and 140mm in length to optimize power output at all RPM\'s.
The R1 now also comes standard with a back-torque-limiting slipper clutch previously only available on last years limited R1 and a curved radiator with a 13% larger surface area for increased cooling efficiency. Yamaha claims a 5 horsepower gain on top without any ram-air effect.
But wait, there\'s more... (in my best cheesy infomercial voice). There’s an all new frame redesigned to maximize rigidity cradling the motor. There is also a new truss aluminum swing arm which is 16mm longer rear arm. Torsional rigidity is increased by 30% and lateral rigidity is slightly decreased. There is also more room out back for race tire fitment. A new rear shock with separate high- and low-speed compression damping is coupled with a new 43mm fork sporting larger-diameter pistons.
All right then let\'s get to the good part. How do all of these changes translate to performance on the track? By noon the sun had broke out and the madness was about to begin. The first thing I noticed on track was just how fast the bike felt up in the top end. I spend most of my time on race bikes with race gearing so street bikes can sometimes feel a little subdued in comparison but not this R1. There is a big top end hit which had the front wheel pawing the sky seemingly out of every corner. Very impressive on a stock street bike.
Despite the front end getting light I was surprised at how composed the bike felt while hard on the gas. When the front wheel came back down to earth, it was totally in control never causing me to have to back out of the throttle or check my shorts.
This stability made the R1 an absolute blast to ride around Laguna, a track I feel suits the R1 very well. Laguna is a very flowing track unlike many point and shoot tracks here in the U.S. The flow of the track lets you keep the R1 in its sweet spot above 8,000 RPM. Drop below that and I\'m afraid the new R1 is still a little lacking in the low end department. This wasn\'t really a big problem as long as you kept it on the pipe but it was definitely noticeable exiting the turn 2 area in second gear. If I didn\'t keep the RPM\'s up exiting the corner, I definitely paid for it all the way to turn three. Fuel injection seemed very smooth though with no noticeable glitches, and keeping the R1 in the higher RPM\'s rewards you greatly. The top end rush of this bike let\'s you know, this is one seriously fast motorcycle!
Slam on the anchors and your world slows down in a hurry. The new six-piston calipers up front do an excellent job with great feel and stopping power and the slipper clutch helps everything stay composed out back. I seriously can\'t imagine riding a bike without a slipper again, and it is definitely the cat\'s meow. Braking into turn 2 at Laguna is a perfect place to test the performance of the R1\'s slipper and it was definitely up to the task. No matter how bad I botched my downshifts the R1\'s slipper seemed to take care of it.
The handling of the R1 has always been a strong point and this year is no different. It still changes direction with ease but where it really impresses is mid-corner. It was rock solid once leaned over and very stable going over turn 1, an ultra fast blind left-hander. The only issue I had with the R1 chassis was on turn in. The bike seemed to have some trouble settling down when being thrown into a corner, taking just that instant longer to settle into the corner. We were able to tune most of the issue out but it just never felt 100% planted when turning in. When going for a few hot laps it became a little more apparent and had me running wide on corner entry on a few occasions. According to some of the Yamaha reps this was something that they tried to improve on the \'07 model with the changes in geometry but I still didn\'t feel totally confident.
Watching the MotoGP races this year at Laguna I couldn\'t help but notice the nice set of whoops they put in after the corkscrew going into Rainey curve. After seeing the way the factory bikes were bouncing through that area I was prepared to lose some dental work on a bike with stock suspension. I am happy to say I still have all of my fillings. You would have thought I was on Yamaha\'s YZ450F the way this bike handled the whoop section. The bike felt very plush without feeling too soft as is often the case on stock suspension. The R1 felt very composed and the rear shock gave excellent feedback and traction was never a problem with the rear hooking up excellent.
The Yamaha R1 came equipped with the Pirelli Diablo Corsa. Sizes are a 120/70 ZR 17 up front and a 190/50 ZR 17 in the back. I\'ve got to be honest and say I was a little concerned when I saw we were going to be riding a bike with this much power on what is basically a street tire. These tires may have been the biggest surprise of the test. The Pirelli\'s were able to handle all of my ham-fisted maneuvers on the day and never gave me any scary moments. After riding most of the day on one set of tires the rear started to look pretty shagged but still offered excellent grip. The front barely looked scrubbed in! The weather was pretty chilly when we first got on the track and a bit damp but the tires came up to temperature nicely with no hairball cold tire slides to be reported. Pirelli markets the Diablo Corsa as a "Racing & Street" tire and I must say they are more than up to the task for both duties.
The R1 will be up against some stiff competition this year. Time will tell how good the new GSXR1000 is going to be but I think the changes Yamaha has made should put it right in the hunt with the other unchanged models for \'07. While still lacking a little down low the motor pulls much stronger on top making it a much more lively bike to ride than last year\'s version. Throw some race gearing at the bike and you will be in good shape acceleration-wise. The mid corner stability is very confidence inspiring and the cockpit of the R1 is a great place to spend a day. In terms of styling the Yamaha looks as great as ever.
Personally I would have liked to see them stray away from the appearance of the old R1 just to spice the bike up a bit more, but maybe the adage of don\'t fix it if it isn\'t broken applies here. My only other real suggestion would be the addition of a gear indicator on the instrument cluster. I\'ve become fairly addicted to them and they can help tons when learning a new track.
Overall, I\'d say I\'m pretty impressed with the package Yamaha has put together and I\'ll bet the boys in blue who will be making a return to Superbike racing stateside this year will be too. So maybe I didn\'t get the call from the Yamaha bosses for a full time racing gig and maybe I won\'t steal Bostrom\'s ride.