Segueing the next day to the expansive grounds of Chuckwalla Valley Raceway in the desolate and aptly named location of Desert Center, California, saw the R1s outfitted with Michelin’s superb Power One DOT racing rubber in preparation for the track flogging. Chuckwalla’s layout is a nice combination of fast- and medium-speed corners that are linked in a cadence that flows well, mostly placing a premium on rear acceleration grip — perfect for sensing just how well a traction control system is working.
The majority of corners at Chuckwalla are fast enough that we found the A riding mode to offer better response. The standard mode seemingly required us to grab a lot more throttle before we got the desired acceleration effect, and although the A mode demanded a very deft throttle hand in the slower corners to avoid upsetting the chassis, the tradeoff in the faster sections was more than worth the trouble. A tighter course, however, might necessitate a move to the standard mode.
Yamaha’s GYTR Street and Genuine...
Yamaha’s GYTR Street and Genuine Yamaha Accessories division now stocks a huge array of performance and styling accessories from both inside and outside suppliers, with everything from slip-on/full exhausts to aluminum/magnesium wheels to numerous carbon bits…basically everything you’d need for your new R1.
The LCD dash display has a bar graph to show what level TC you’re set at (more bars equals more TC), with a yellow warning light on the dash that flashes when the TC is active. In the higher (more TC) levels such as 6, 5, and 4, it was fairly easy to activate the TC and get the light flashing; in fact, in level 6 and 5, you could get it to stay on solidly instead of flash. The power was definitely reigned in when getting on the throttle while leaned over, although not overtly enough to make it feel like you’ve lost a cylinder, and you could feel power being fed back in as you picked the bike up onto the fat part of the tire.
As expected, it was in the lower TC levels where the Yamaha really shined. In level 3, the TC lets the rear end step out just a bit under hard acceleration, and it seemingly holds it there smoothly without any pumping or harsh movements while still driving forward. Level 2 allows a definitely perceptible increase in wheelspin that allows you to pivot the rear in faster corners, again with little sensation that the electronics are reining things in; you simply feel like you’re getting good drives off corners, with no rear suspension theatrics being caused by rough decreases in power to counter wheel slip. And needless to say, level 1 gives the rider a lot of freedom with wheel slip, which obviously must be handled with care.
Providing you have the proper riding skill foundation to use it, the R1's TC can make you feel like a hero "
As we’ve said before with all of the TC-equipped literbikes: the systems are not foolproof when set in the levels with less intervention. Grab a handful of throttle at max lean in a slower turn, and if you don’t immediately pick the bike up when the tire spins, the resulting gain in traction when the system finally intervenes can quickly put you on your head if you suddenly chop the throttle.
The Yamaha TC’s transparency during intervention reminded us of how the Aprilia and Kawasaki systems feel — the dialing back of power is so subtle that most riders would never know it was active. Provided you have the proper riding skill foundation to use it, the R1’s TC can make you feel like a hero.
There was a bit of uncertainty from Yamaha reps regarding the TC’s ability to handle different tires or changes in gearing. The BMW S 1000 RR can use different tires programmed into its Race Calibration mode, and the Aprilia RSV4 APRC has a “learning” mode that can calibrate itself to the tires mounted. However, if the R1 uses the same traction control system described in the patent we found (which is a near certainty, judging by the similarity of their inner workings), it most certainly can adapt to tire and gearing changes. Actually, adapt is probably the wrong term; “ignore” is really a more accurate description. The Yamaha system’s filtering concept that we described earlier basically makes those changes irrelevant because it eliminates that variable altogether. Without treading onto The Geek’s turf and getting into the technical aspects, in simplistic terms the R1’s TC only looks at the numbers that are important, and those numbers are relative no matter what size tire or gearing you use.
Overall handling was basically the same as the previous model, with the Michelins quickening up steering substantially; still, flicking the bike through Chuckwalla’s fast switchbacks required more muscle than usual. One definite improvement was the rear suspension behavior; as expected, the rear spring rate change works with the shock linkage to help keep the rear end from squatting too much under hard acceleration, while assisting with better compliance over the bumpier sections of Chuckwalla’s pavement. The brakes seemed to work better with the higher heat generated by racetrack use, but we’d still prefer a little more progressiveness in their response. And while we love the R1’s engine characteristics and midrange pull, a fast circuit like Chuckwalla exposes its one weakness: a slight lack of top-end compared to the other literbike competition (although we’re sure a visit to ECUnleashed would cure most of that issue).
So how much better is it?
When Yamaha introduced the crossplane crankshaft engine in the 2009 R1, it completely changed the way we look at inline-four powerplants and how they get that power to the ground. The concept was a truly revolutionary move that transformed the R1 and solidified its status as a major player in the literbike wars.
While the new traction control system on Yamaha’s flagship doesn’t quite have as dramatic an effect on the R1 as the crossplane crank engine, it does add significantly to its performance prowess without negatively affecting the bike’s attributes in any way. When set properly for the conditions and rider skill, the Yamaha’s TC is a very transparent and subtle safety net that doesn’t overly intrude upon the riding experience. For $700 more than the previous year’s base model (plus $500 more if you want the limited production 50th Anniversary red/white paint scheme), it’s definitely worth the price of admission in our opinion.
Good enough that we can’t wait to get one for a full test and pit it against the latest crop of literbikes. Bring on 2012! SR
2012 Yamaha YZF-R1
MSRP: $13,990 (Team Yamaha blue/white, Raven);
$14,190 (Pearl White/Candy Red); $14,490 (limited edition 50th Anniversary red/white)
Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse, DOHC inline-four
Bore x stroke: 78.0 x 52.2mm
Compression ratio: 12.7:1
Induction: EFI w/Y-CCT, Y-CCI, 45mm throttle bodies, dual injectors/cyl.
Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Dunlop Sportmax Qualifier II
Rear tire: 190/55ZR-17 Dunlop Sportmax Qualifier II
Rake/trail: 24 deg./4.0 in. (102mm)
Wheelbase: 55.7 in. (1415mm)
Seat height: 32.9 in. (836mm)
Fuel capacity: 4.8 gal. (18L)
Claimed wet weight: 454 lb. (206kg)