Sometimes thinking out loud-or in this case on paper-can have unexpected consequences. Example: In our group test of six naked bikes last year ("Naked and Naughty," Sept. '07), one of our staffers commented in his SRO that rather than buy a Yamaha FZ1 or Kawasaki Z1000, he'd start with an R1 or ZX-10R and "work the other way. Strip off the bodywork, mount up some lights and a handlebar, and I'd be in business." We've long desired a naked bike with the unadulterated power and chassis of a real sportbike rather than a neutered look-alike, and we're sure our man's comment expresses the feelings of many. But not long after that issue went on sale, a Yamaha representative called the unidentified staffer (whose name begins with G and ends, appropriately, in "eek"). "We'd like you to do just that," the man in blue said. "We'll send over an R1 and you can get started." Thus another SR project bike was born.
How best to proceed? To get an idea of exactly what was required we began by stripping the Yamaha down to its bare essentials. The upper and lower fairings came off, as did the stock headlight shell, ram-air ducts and turn signals. Clip-ons? Who needs 'em? No passengers, either, so off came the pillion seat and footpegs. The shelves in the shop filled up with various brackets and hardware, and soon we had a bare-bones R1 (with wires hanging everywhere) and a shopping list to fill.
You can see here how the riding...
You can see here how the riding position is significantly changed from the stock R1. The project bike is plenty comfortable around town and even on the freeway, although it would benefit from a flatter seat now that the riding position is rotated rearward.
At the top of the list was, of course, a standard handlebar to provide the more upright riding position that defines the standard class. Spiegler Performance Parts is a one-stop shop for such conversion kits, and a phone call netted us a box full of goodies. Spiegler's $579 kit consists of an LSL aluminum Superbike Bar (a number of options for height, width and bend are available), a nicely machined-from-billet ABM top triple clamp, longer throttle and clutch cables, a set of longer-than-stock Spiegler stainless steel brake lines, wiring extensions for the switch clusters, a master-cylinder reservoir bracket and all the necessary hardware. While the kit will work with the stock bodywork in place and minor modifications to the windscreen, the installation is simpler without the fairing. Routing the switch-cluster wiring behind the fork tubes left plenty of excess, saving the trouble of tapping into each individual wire. The only issue we encountered was swapping out the throttle cables: The R1's throttle-body cam is buried behind the frame rail, calling for deft fingers and long tools to remove the old cables and install the new ones. Everything else went smoothly, and with a day's work and some help from test fleet manager Michael Candreia we had the handlebar in place and all the controls mounted.
A handlebar kit alone does not make the perfect naked bike, and next on the list were adjustable rearsets to alter the bottom half of the riding position. Vortex provided a set that offers enough adjustment to lower footpeg height by about 10mm-not a lot, but enough to be noticeable. An added benefit of the Vortex parts is that the right and left adapter plates look like they can be switched, lowering the solid, grippy footpegs significantly if desired. The $408 kit, offered in black, gold or silver anodized finishes, includes tiny bearings in the shift and brake levers for light action and relocates the shift rod outside of the frame to allow the wide range of adjustment. No provisions are made to retain the stock brake-light switch, but Vortex does offer an inline pressure switch.
To replace the R1's lights with something more appropriate to the theme we turned to Monrovia, California-based Headwinds, well known for its work in the cruiser and automotive markets. The company fabricated a custom bar to mount two of its 4.5-inch headlight shells to the stock fairing bracket, giving the bike a Speed Triple look. Each light contains an H4 bulb set in a polished-aluminum shell. We were hoping to use the company's new carbon-fiber shells, which will be both cheaper and lighter than the aluminum parts, but they are not yet available in production form. The total cost for the lighting package-including two lights and mounts, the custom bar and all-stainless-steel hardware-came to $640. We used small bits of angle aluminum to mount a pair of Targa Accessories micro-LED turn signals ($35/pair) to the stock fairing bracket. The company sells a variety of handy related knickknacks, such as wiring adapters to plug aftermarket signals into OEM connectors, plates to install the signals in the stock mounts, and a "flash controller" that installs in parallel with an LED turn signal to retain the stock flash rate. Targa also provided a set of Hindsight Lane Split mirrors ($84.95) that attach to the handlebar ends and fold in when necessary. The mirrors are unobtrusive but quite convex, showing a wide view of what's behind.