Yep, we know what many of...
Yep, we know what many of you are already thinking: “The ‘09 R1 sucks on the dyno compared to the ‘08 model. How can it be better?” The problem is that a dyno only reads full throttle application in one gear. It doesn’t read partial throttle applications, which is where the crossplane crankshaft’s feel truly excels. The top-end deficit is hard to ignore, however.
We did notice, however, that acceleration tended to tail off a bit past 11,000 rpm, and a look at the dyno chart confirmed our subjective impressions. While the crossplane-crank R1 is by no means a slug on top, it was pretty easy to discern that the Yamaha lacks the outright top-end speed of the faster competition. And it's one that we'd lay blame on three areas: one, the stricter EPA noise tests that force a smaller inlet pipe in the titanium mufflers for U.S. models; two, the counterbalancer necessary to run the crossplane configuration robbing power at higher rpm; and three, cam timing with significantly less overlap than the previous generation R1. On the street, the deficit isn't noticeable, simply because by the time you get to that rpm even in first gear, you're already exceeding the national speed limit by a good margin. On the track, it may not be as much of a liability as you'd think, due to the R1's ability to get off the corners so well. We'll see just how much of a concern it might be when we get all the current literbikes together for our shootout next issue.
The R1 not only comes off corners well, it gets into them with serious speed too, thanks to precise steering, a suspension/chassis combination that provides excellent feedback, and an engine character that seems to roll into corners better with less back-torque/compression braking than a conventional inline four. The firm suspension spring/damping rates come into their own once speed picks up, absorbing most pavement imperfections while keeping the chassis stable and planted (we loved the hydraulic spring preload adjuster on the Soqi rear shock; far better than being forced to use a hammer and punch, or fabricate some sort of special tool). While steering effort isn't as lithe as a Honda CBR1000RR, it's still easier than the rest of the competition to flick into a turn, and as long as the pavement's smooth, the precise steering characteristics of the OEM Dunlop front tire allow you to pick your entrance line down to the inch. The chassis' superb handling masks the R1's heft well; you don't really feel the extra weight in the vast majority of riding situations, and it'd be easy to think you were riding a bike weighing 40 pounds lighter. The same heavier-flywheel sensation of the engine felt at slower speeds also seems to let the R1 enter faster corners with less engine drag when you're off the throttle, freeing up concentration for quicker turn entries.
Note that we said "as long as the pavement's smooth" with regards to the R1's steering. The Yamaha comes equipped with a Japanese-made OEM-spec version of the Dunlop Sportmax, dubbed the "D210 Sportmax" (this is not the same as the OEM-spec Sportmax Qualifier that is found on other U.S. bikes—including the R6—whose genetic lines were descended from the last generation D209 Sportmax GP DOT racing tire). Although overall handling and grip from the D210 is good, we found the carcass on this particular OEM-spec Dunlop to be very stiff, and while it provides good feedback on smooth pavement, any bumps encountered at various lean angles can quickly cause traction to deteriorate significantly. No amount of suspension or tire pressure fiddling could make up for the D210's rigid feel, and the tire's rough ride definitely compromised cornering on rough tarmac. It should be reiterated that this is an OEM-spec tire, and it will only be available as a replacement fitment from Yamaha dealers. We're anxious to try the R1 with some different rubber, and will report on our findings soon.
Braking power from the radial-mount/six-piston...
Braking power from the radial-mount/six-piston calipers was good, although we’d prefer a little more progressiveness; really aggressive braking required a lot of lever effort. The OEM-spec Dunlop D210 tires offered decent grip and handling, but their ride was overly stiff, compromising traction on rough pavement.
Braking from the six-piston radial-mount Sumitomo calipers and 310mm discs was excellent for the most part, with nice response, good power, and decent feel. We'd prefer a little more progressiveness in the braking power though, as really strong stopping power requires a he-man pull on the lever, especially at street speeds where the pads don't have much time to warm-up. The R1's slipper clutch worked well, although we're not sure how much of its superlative action was due to the crossplane crank engine's lack of engine braking. Case in point: the R1 will back into a corner when downshifted into first gear if you don't make a concerted effort to blip the throttle.
R Is For Ready
With the all-new GSX-R1000 finally making its appearance elsewhere in this issue and showing a much improved level of performance, and the new faster and stronger Ducati 1198 being debuted earlier, it’s clear the new R1 is going up against the toughest literbike field ever. There’s no room for slacking in this class; even the Honda CBR1000RR and Kawasaki ZX-10R, both returning for ’09 basically unchanged, are formidable sportbikes packing some serious firepower. This is going to be one monster literbike comparo coming up.
But one thing’s for sure…the Yamaha R1 is up for it, ready and waiting.