Yamaha YZF-R1 Test by Wayne Vickers – Images by SD Pics
So I’ve put down my thoughts on how the new R1 performs on the road in Part 1 of the R1 review here (link). But I was also lucky enough to get some time on track with it. Trev thought it would give me a more rounded appreciation of the bike. The boss is smarter than he looks sometimes…
It only occurred to me after saying. ‘Yeah that’ll be aces,’ that it’d been over 10 years since I stepped away from racing and sports bike ownership and the same amount of time since I’d swung my knees in the breeze at the track. In a lot of ways I figured that would represent a decent chunk of returning riders out there. After all, it actually is just like riding a bike… Right?
Putting aside the inordinate amount of time it took me to load the bike onto the trailer, and the whole getting halfway to the track before realising I’d left the bike keys at home, the rest of the morning went pretty smoothly. Sign in, scrutineering, a quick safety briefing. The Phillip Island Ride day gang lead by Brouggy have their stuff sorted.
Then the nervous wait for the first session.
First sessions at the Island were always a bit of a mind bender even when I was doing them fairly regularly. A bit of a write-off really as your brain takes a bit of time to come up to speed. The place is so damn fast. There’s no denying that a quick blast on the road just doesn’t compare to sitting up at around 270 clicks for the first time as you approach turn one…
I’d forgotten how much the wind hits you. And The Island being The Island, there was a reasonably gusty wind coming across the track that threw you around quite a bit coming out of 12, and into Turn 1. And pushed you on at Turn 3. So only three of the four quickest corners then – cool.
Back into the pits. I started to collect my thoughts again and it was only during the second session that I was starting to feel comfortable. Lines started to return and I could feel a bit of a rhythm coming back – even if I was well off my previous pace. 10 years worth of rust doesn’t just instantly disappear it would seem.
However, what was noticeable was how well the whole package comes together. Bearing in mind that I still had the suspension on stock settings here and was still running the OEM (and stonkingly good) Bridgestone RS11 Battlaxe hoops, the bike felt so composed on its side at what were still reasonable lap times for a track day punter rider.
Great power, stonking mid-range, excellent brakes and immense feel at both ends. I took it as a bit of a task to see just how far I could go on the stock settings without nudging the limits too closely. I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn’t my bike. And I wasn’t practising for a race… I had Trev’s strict instructions not to push too hard sounding loud and clear in my melon.
Turns out – you can push it quite a long way and still have plenty in reserve. By focusing on cornering and input smoothness – and letting the traction control system work its magic on exit – you’re able to get on the gas relatively hard and early. Felt like cheating to be fair compared to my old ’09 blade without traction control… Not having to worry too much about being spat into orbit sure lets you concentrate on other things.
Speaking of getting on it. While you don’t often need to wring it past 11 thousand on the road due to the great gobs of mid-range grunt, at the track you do – and the sound it makes when you wind it right out is gloriously feral. It moves your soul and the corners of your mouth in equal parts. It’s epic. Out of say… Turn 12, you’re in fourth and as you start to straighten up and tuck in, you’re edging past 11 and steps up a notch and fairly howls. Feed it another gear. More howling.
Into sixth before the finish line and you’re proper shifting as you crest the hill. I was rolling off waaay early (almost at the 200m mark, a full 100+m earlier than I used to) to get the bike settled in the crosswind, but even then you’re fairly hauling. Out of Turn 2 in third and the traction control keeps it tidy as the front goes a bit light.
You feed it another couple of gears as you drop into the fast left hand Turn 3, before banging down three gears via the quick-shifter into the hairpin. That quick-shifter, which to me feels a little doughy on downshifts on the road, doesn’t seem to be an issue on the track. Maybe it’s just wearing itself in. The bike did have only 12 kms on it when I picked it up…
The stock suspension settings were only really holding things back under the hardest braking and on the fastest corners. If it had been my bike and I’d been seriously chasing lap times I’d have thrown some slicks on and firmed things up a little both front and rear. The front to help stop it diving quite so much under braking into the Turn 4 hairpin and the rear to give it a little more weight over the front through the fastest corners.
Having said that, my times were still steadily dropping as the day went on. They plateaued at about my fifth session for the day, but realistically it was me that was the limiting factor – not the bike. That was also the session that I was looking for the chequered flag a couple of laps before it came out, so I decided to call it a day at that. Don’t do ‘just one more’ Wayno… You know how that ends from recent experience.
Yes the traction control system is insanely good and instils so much confidence to explore the limits. As does the LIF system that limits the front from coming up. And the lean sensitive ABS, even though I never reeeaaally let myself fully test that out if I’m honest…
All up the day was awesome. The bike was awesome. The track was awesome. The new gear I was testing was awesome (more on that in a bit). And as track days tend to do – it gave me a much greater understanding of the bike’s immense capabilities and changed my perception of it a little.
Back on the road afterwards I felt even more comfortable on it. Truth be told I could be tempted back to sports bike ownership with one of these jiggers if I could include some track time in my schedule. A 15 year younger me that was still very much into track days would most likely buy one of these from the current crop of sports bikes. I reckon they’ve got this one right.
This year’s R1 really does seem to be an easier thing to ride on the road AND have even more overall performance. With Honda moving in the other direction in terms of only bringing the highest spec CBR-RR-SP in, I reckon Yamaha could pick up a handy little sales boost this year… It’ll be interesting to see how it fares against the new S 1000 RR. But the R1 has a crossplane ace up its sleeve that adds another level of fun in my book.
Now – I mentioned some new gear I’m testing for road and track focussed riding. Here’s the low down on some of what I used on the day.
This is one of a pair of Airoh lids I’m trying at the moment, alongside the matching colour schemed Commander DUO (also from Moto National link). I’m loving both of these helmets, but let’s talk about the GP500 as its the one I wore on the R1.
It’s nice and light at 1200g, is super comfortable and dripping with quality. The GP500 comes with a lightly tinted visor (50% tint which has excellent optics and no visual ripples) and has a PinLock anti-fog strip in the box. Ventilation is really good and I reckon the colour scheme looks mint. The matt paintwork seems to clean easily too.
On the head it feels physically small no doubt due to its weight – and when on the bike the wind noise is really very good for something so well vented. The overall shape reduces buffeting in a straight line and has very little wind grab when you turn side on. It also has Airoh’s ‘Emergency Fast Remove’ cheek pad removal system that means the cheek pads can be removed with the helmet still on – to enable easier helmet removal post crash.
Spidi ‘SuperSport Touring’ two-piece leathers
The other bit of kit I was testing was a tidy new Spidi ‘SuperSport Touring’ two-piece leather suit thanks to Moto National (Spidi Australia website link). The leathers offered typical great Spidi quality with a terrific fit (I’m just on 6 ft, 85 kegs and take a size 54 for what it’s worth). Being a two-piece suit its a bit more usable than a one-piece jobby in that you can obviously take the jacket off and cool down at rest stops.
It comes with flex panels for a great fit and has CE protectors on shoulders, elbows, knees and hips – and is ready for insertion of Spidis ‘Warrior’ back and chest protector units. I wore my existing back protector vest underneath and it was nicely snug. The flex panels provide some ventilation with higher flow panels on the shoulders and back and the inner mesh lining helps wick sweat away nicely.
It also has some neoprene panels on the wrist and neck for optimum fit. It comes with a speed hump on the back for added cools (and better aero) and an internal zipper pocket for stowing the bike keys, while having fairly funky ‘bi-phase’ styled sliders too.
The real test was moving about on the bike on track. And to be honest – I never really had to think about the suit while riding – so that’s a massive win. No rubbing or seams grabbing anywhere, no impaired movement on the bike. The fit was perfect, no doubt helped by the stretch panels. Makes my old Spidi race suit look a bit old school to be honest! That old one-piece is still in great condition mind you – these guys make stuff to last.
Wayne loves all things motorsport, but lives for two wheels. Mountain bikes, dirt bikes, adventure bikes, road bikes, race bikes, the lot.
An ex riding coach and road racer wannabe who simultaneously ran out of talent and money. Rides about a million kilometres a year and has been known to enjoy an occasional wheelie.
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