| THE ONE
If ever there was a good reason to leave your earplugs at
home, the Yamaha R1 is it. Since the new model was
launched in 2009 there have been no major updates.
Newer models such as the BMW S1000RR and the new
Kawasaki ZX-10R have moved the game on another few
steps with developments such as traction control and ABS,
not to mention even bigger gains in power. For many this
would be reason enough to overlook the R1 in favour of
the newer, more developed competition. That would be a
With sportsbike development meaning higher and higher
rev limits, it's a refreshing change to jump aboard the latest Yamaha R1 and revel in the masses of midrange torque available. And the noise. Oh the noise! Even with standard exhausts it still emits a unique throaty rasp that means needlessly blipping the throttle quickly becomes an addictive habit. The engine note turns heads, which is just as well, as the looks aren't particularly inspiring and are certainly nothing to write home about. The latest update has added a few inches to the rear end, giving the R1 a chubbier silhouette than previous models.
Aesthetics aside it's immediately apparent the R1 is a hugely capable road bike. The riding position is roomy and all-day comfortable. The engine is tractable at legal speeds as well as being stupidly fast when the mood takes you. It takes a special bike with a special engine to make me swear out loud when riding it. The R1 achieved this and the first few times I opened the throttle in full-power 'A' mode the air turned blue!
This is what 1000cc superbikes are all about. Their party trick is massive acceleration. Involuntarily lifting the front wheel in third gear on a constant mission to headbutt the horizon. This is where the R1 excels. Even without the latest fancy ABS the brakes are still superb and not once did I feel the need to have traction control intervening while playing on the local twisties.
Make no mistake though, the R1 demands respect and a steady throttle hand, as there is still over 170bhp on tap. If you fancy taking things steady, the R1 has three power modes to choose from. 'B' mode offers a softened throttle response and a cut in power: ideal if you're caught out in a downpour. 'Standard' mode offers full power, but only when the revs reach the redline. 'A' mode is recommended for track riding, or for when you're really in a hurry! The full fury of the engine is unleashed. One for the brave.
The Yamaha may be lacking some of the other latest and greatest electronic gizmos but it really doesn't need them. The finished article is refined and stable enough to just get on with the job, albeit at mind-bending speeds. Perhaps the rival machines will be marginally faster on a racetrack, but on the road where things really matter, the R1 is still relevant.
WORDS SHAUN POPE PHOTOGRAPHY MOJOFFOTO
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