Part of the impetus for our...
Part of the impetus for our project came from seeing this "FZR1" conversion from Wyn Belorusky. Longtime readers will remember seeing Belorusky's immaculate Yamaha RZV500, and his converted R1 is just as beautifully turned out. The bike sports a first-generation FZ1 fairing, a slightly higher handlebar than what we used and many custom-made bits.
But Does It Work?
In a nutshell, our naked R1 flat-out rips and puts any naked bike we've previously ridden to shame. Power is everything you'd expect from a literbike but amplified, because the bike is lighter (21 pounds less than the stock 461 pounds) and you sit more upright. Opening the throttle in first gear will result in a wheelie. Continuing in second most likely will, too. Steering from the wide handlebar is expectedly light and neutral, making the bike feel like even more weight was shed in the transition than the scales would indicate. The naked R1 feels so different from the standard version that even after a short ride you would swear they were two completely different bikes.
On a stock R1 there are piles...
On a stock R1 there are piles of wiring connectors outside the main frame rails. We tucked them all inside to keep the look as clean as possible. The radiator overflow bottle was painted black to stand out less. Vortex rearsets open the leg room a small but significant amount, and by flipping the mounts the pegs can go even lower. With no fairing our bike seems to run cooler, a hidden benefit of going naked.
The Ride Engineering fender...
The Ride Engineering fender eliminator kit and Micron MotoGP silencers complete the clean-and-simple look out back. The rear sprocket is a Driven Racing replacement steel part in the stock size. Bridgestone's BT-016 rear tire looked fresh and hardly used after a hard day in the canyons and provided stunning grip. The front tire is in the air most of the time on this bike, so its performance is difficult to evaluate.
While we had the airbox off...
While we had the airbox off to install the longer throttle cables, we put in this Pipercross air filter from Cal-Sportbike. The $68 reusable filter came pre-oiled, slid right in and included everything necessary for cleaning and re-oiling.
Start railing down your favorite canyon road and the usual benefits of a naked bike are realized: You can change line at any time and flip from full lean to full lean with merely a thought, running circles around your sportbike-mounted friends in the tighter sections. Front-end feel is usually the first thing to go on a traditional standard, but with top-shelf brakes and suspension bits the R1 can be flung into a turn with confidence. It helps that the Bridgestones grip pavement with the tenacity of a kitten hanging onto a ball of wool, increasing confidence in midturn.
Corner exits, especially in bumpy sections, will faze the naked R1 somewhat. We removed the steering damper to help make clearance for the gauge package, and even though the bike remains stable in most situations the front end has a propensity to hunt for the sky, unraveling things if you get too greedy with the altitude-control grip. Getting on the power early with the bike leaned over and taking full advantage of the rear Bridgestone's grip helps by keeping the bike lower to the ground, but things can still get lively in the lower gears.
At a pace that would leave any other naked or standard gasping, our project R1 remains composed and barely breaking a sweat. At the other end of the spectrum, the undressed Yamaha requires far less effort to ride at speed than the standard version does, and we'd bet it's flat-out quicker down a given twisty section of road. In terms of cost, our project bike is certainly more expensive than an FZ1. Add the price of the bare modifications-handlebar kit and lights-to the cost of an R1 and you'd have about $13,000 invested compared with the $9300 FZ1. But we've also got a stack of desirable parts that could be easily sold to recoup some of the difference.
When it comes to performance, however, the naked R1 wins hands down. Our bike packs a punch the FZ1 could only dream of and is an insane amount of fun to ride. It just seems to work better the more we ride it and the more we adapt to take advantage of its strengths. Of course to fully exploit the naked R1's limits we'll need to hang on to it for quite a while. A few months more ought to do it . . .