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Thursday 13th October 2011

PH2 Tested: 2012 Yamaha YZF-R1

Now with Traction Control, just like the M1 MotoGP bike...



Yamaha's YZF-R1 was the bike that transformed the whole 1000cc sportsbike class. In 1998, when the first R1 was launched, it was a bolt from the blue and delivered race track (if a touch lively on the road) handling in a bike with a ferocious engine that was packed full of the latest technology. Fast-forward to 2009 and after dropping off the top of the sportsbike tree, Yamaha unveiled a motorcycling first - a 'cross plane' crankshaft in an inline four bike.


While the rest of the litre bikes (FireBlade, GSX-R1000, ZX-10R) had conventional inline four engines that fired every 180-degrees, Yamaha's new R1 had an uneven firing order. It fired at 0 - 270 - 180- 90 - 180-degrees, a development that Yamaha claimed helped eliminate 'inertial' torque. It's complicated, but in a nutshell every time a piston goes up and down it has to stop and start again, which creates uneven torque characteristics. On a bike the connection between the throttle and the power is essential for quick lap times as too much power, or bad throttle feel, equals slow lap times. The 'cross-plane' engine helps reduce the effect of the start-stop of the pistons and create a 'purer' torque delivery through its firing order. Does it work? Ben Spies won the 2009 World Superbike championship first time out on the R1 and Tommy Hill has just won the British Superbike title on the same bike - so in racing, yes. Oh, and the Yamaha MotoGP bike also uses a cross-plane motor and it has done ok...


On the road it is a different matter. The big thing about the R1's motor on the road it what it feels like. The 'cross-plane' configuration not only sounds completely different to an inline four, it behaves differently. Where inline fours deliver a smooth and relatively vibration free build-up of power, a cross-plane engine is smooth on a constant throttle, but kind of lumpy and rough under acceleration. Not in a bad way, but in a completely different way to a 'conventional' inline four - almost like a V-twin. That's the history lesson over, so what's new about the 2012 YZF-R1?

Well that's the thing, to be honest not a lot. The 2012 model has an identical chassis and motor to the bike launched in 2009 bar a few very small changes to the suspension, but it now comes with Traction Control fitted as standard.


Traction control is still in its infancy in bikes and there are two systems - one works on wheel speed sensors, one on monitoring spikes in the engine's revs. The R1 has wheel speed sensors, generally regarded as the best system. Why do you need TC on a bike? The rear wheel on the R1 has around 155bhp (Yamaha claim 180bhp at the crank) being delivered to the road through a tyre contact patch roughly the size of a squashed CD. If this breaks traction and you don't close the throttle in time (or you do and it grips when the bike is sideways) you have a 'highside', at which point the standard procedure is to leap about ten feet in the air and adopt a star shape with you legs and arms.

This hurts when you return to the ground - a lot. Just look on YouTube for evidence. Traction control means that mere mortals can open the throttle hard with the bike lent over without the fear of a crash. It is also very good on wet roads.


Yamaha's system has six different levels, so you can adjust while on the move according to your riding style or the amount of TC interference you want via an up and down button on the left hand switchgear. Testing the bike around the Valencia circuit in Spain I set the TC in on the highest setting and when at maximum lean in first gear I simply cracked the throttle wide open and held on, something I wouldn't recommend on a non-TC bike! With a warning light flashing (indicating the TC was activating) the bike leapt forward, stuttered a bit as the anti-wheelie kicked in (all part of the TC system), the fired out of the corner. As I was still on the bike I concluded the system worked well... I know this sounds a bit flippant, but an R1 can do about 100mph in first, so we aren't talking small speeds here, and this kind of test highlights if a system works or not at maximum stress.

Happy with this I upped the pace and dropped the TC to a lower setting. This model of R1 can be a bit sluggish to turn on track but Yamaha has added some subtle suspension alteration to the 2012 model, increasing the shock's spring's length and reducing its spring rate. This, along with a change of tyres to Dunlop's Sportmax Qualifiers, seems to have added a bit of urgency to the R1's rate of turn in. It's not as sharp as the more aggressive Kawasaki ZX-10R or BMW S1000RR, but it's certainly sportier than the 2010 model and feels very balanced while lent over.


At a speed that I would call 'fast trackday group' (I'm no BSB racer) the traction control was very impressive. Again, being brutal with the throttle to encourage slides, I found that in setting four and five the TC would catch slides and retard the power before my brain, and throttle hand, could react, which is all you can ask for really.

How do I know this? When I felt the bike move the yellow 'TC warning' light would simultaneously flick on to tell me. It seems a very impressive system and despite my best gorilla-handed riding the TC prevented what would have been a few huge accidents when the road tyres started to become overworked due to the 32-degrees heat and constant track use. On the road it would be a Godsend in the wet.


However there is a problem. Due to the drive the TC gives you out of corners it was all too easy to arrive at the next bend 10mph faster than I was anticipating, something that TC can't help with! That's where rider skill starts to get involved and with all the electronic aids that are now finding their way into motorcycling (ABS, TC, anti-wheelie) I do worry that riders will come to rely on electronics rather than good old feel. Oh yes, and anti-wheelie on the R1 is only on 6 &5 TC settings, you can still hoist one up if you wish!

The R1 comes in a choice of red, blue, matt grey or the stunning '50th Anniversary' colours of red/white, which is limited to 2,000 worldwide. Actually a few less after some of the French journos got over-excited...

No word on price, but expect around £13,600 for a stock colour with a premium for the special.

Jon Urry
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Author Discussion

Garlick

Original Poster:

40,600 posts

126 months

[news] 
Thursday 13th October 2011 quote quote all
Watching that video makes me wish I could ride a bike thumbup to our man in the saddle.

RemaL

21,575 posts

120 months

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Thursday 13th October 2011 quote quote all
Paul I thought u rode a bike or was it just a CBT

good write up PH

Biker's Nemesis

26,340 posts

94 months

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Thursday 13th October 2011 quote quote all
I don't like the colours. I bet the yanks have the better options again.


chanjam

87 posts

111 months

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Thursday 13th October 2011 quote quote all
oh god here we go - i bet someone goes on about not liking the presence of electronic aids....

Biker's Nemesis

26,340 posts

94 months

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Thursday 13th October 2011 quote quote all
I don't like the idea of it having TC or anti wheelie.
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The Danimal

177 posts

41 months

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Thursday 13th October 2011 quote quote all
The speed block colours look super fruity. Is it still really expensive? last time I had a go on one last year, the sticker price made me go all dizzy.

scorcher

2,383 posts

120 months

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Thursday 13th October 2011 quote quote all
chanjam said:
oh god here we go - i bet someone goes on about not liking the presence of electronic aids....
If the Blade don't need them, nor does the Yam. Doubt it makes it a better bike.

Castrol Craig

18,073 posts

92 months

[news] 
Thursday 13th October 2011 quote quote all
155BHP? so, in essence, its gone backwards from the original big bang R1?

With a new Ducati & BMW on the way, the kwak with awesome power Yamaha & Honda really need to hope the current offerings measure up, my thinking is that both have something mega lined up for 2013, all yamaha need is 10kg less & 15bhp more and with its nice power delivery it would be a weapon.

seefarr

289 posts

72 months

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Thursday 13th October 2011 quote quote all
I love the sound of these yams. I never thought something would sound better than a Ducati.

Biker's Nemesis

26,340 posts

94 months

[news] 
Thursday 13th October 2011 quote quote all
The TC may not be a bad thing on the big bang R1, It's the only 1000 thats nearly spat me off half a dozen times due to the mid range pick up.

The worst one was in the hight of summer last year, we'd been on it for over an hour and were just South of Hawick, tyres were Power one's, they were red hot and the bugger went sideways at over 100 mph in 3rd gear coming out of a right hander.

I was just picking it up from knee down when it went as soon as I tapped into the power.

All the other times have been cold tyres and not trying at all.

braddo

4,460 posts

74 months

[news] 
Thursday 13th October 2011 quote quote all
seefarr said:
I love the sound of these yams. I never thought something would sound better than a Ducati.
I've really liked hearing them too but every time I did, I saw a R1 and got all confused because it still looked like an inline 4 bike.... I assumed there was perhaps a V4 or something lurking in there.

I wonder if this crossplane idea could be applied in the car market? I like the idea of an Elise or MX5 with a v-twin sound.

bass gt3

5,059 posts

119 months

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Thursday 13th October 2011 quote quote all
Biker's Nemesis said:
I don't like the idea of it having TC or anti wheelie.
Not wanting to get into a barney here, but i'll just offer one thought from the other side of the coin.
If Ismad had TC on his bike and it saved him the off, trip to hospital and cost of a rebuild, wouldn't we agree it's agood thing? If a TC system can be disabled by a talented rider, isn't that the better option? There for all but removeable by those that wish not to have it?
I for one am all for systems that keep bikes and bikers shiny side up as much as possible, but leave the option to have/have not up to the given rider on any given day.
Just a thought.

spareparts

5,022 posts

113 months

[news] 
Thursday 13th October 2011 quote quote all
bass gt3 said:
Not wanting to get into a barney here, but i'll just offer one thought from the other side of the coin.
If Ismad had TC on his bike and it saved him the off, trip to hospital and cost of a rebuild, wouldn't we agree it's agood thing? If a TC system can be disabled by a talented rider, isn't that the better option? There for all but removeable by those that wish not to have it?
I for one am all for systems that keep bikes and bikers shiny side up as much as possible, but leave the option to have/have not up to the given rider on any given day.
Just a thought.
^ absolutely yes

subzero

69 posts

84 months

[news] 
Thursday 13th October 2011 quote quote all
Great write up. nice to have some proper tests of bikes coming through on PH.

Regardless of whether bikes should have these features or not (although we should note that they all come with off switches) i still cant get over the fact Yamaha have added a couple of toys, not updated the chassis, bodywork or engine and yet still charge more than Kwaka or Beemer for a lesser product!!

Having ridden all 3 of them in anger i can tell you that as an average road rider the Kwaka felt the best. The Yam is still too big, feels too heavy and even with 155bhp at the wheel, feels slower than the other 2.

More effort required from Yamaha. Although im sure they'll sell a huge number thanks to their racing pedigree and good marketing.

At least Honda know the Blade isn't offering any more than its rivals (other than the best chassis IMO) and have priced it lower accordingly.

xspencex

1,534 posts

122 months

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Thursday 13th October 2011 quote quote all
I think the R1 is a cracking bike, it’s just a shame that when it hits the dealers it is still going to cost too much. . .at least £2k too much!

As for TC, I can only see benefits with these systems. As long as they remain switchable, then those that want it leave it on and those that don't switch it off.

What is important to say is that the manufacturers should not be using TC to mask a bikes inadequacies. . .especially in the management of power delivery.

Tin Hat

618 posts

95 months

[news] 
Thursday 13th October 2011 quote quote all
great review, great looking bike!

Where will the technology take us in another 10 years??

Biker's Nemesis

26,340 posts

94 months

[news] 
Thursday 13th October 2011 quote quote all
bass gt3 said:
Not wanting to get into a barney here, but i'll just offer one thought from the other side of the coin.
If Ismad had TC on his bike and it saved him the off, trip to hospital and cost of a rebuild, wouldn't we agree it's agood thing? If a TC system can be disabled by a talented rider, isn't that the better option? There for all but removeable by those that wish not to have it?
I for one am all for systems that keep bikes and bikers shiny side up as much as possible, but leave the option to have/have not up to the given rider on any given day.
Just a thought.
See my reply 2 above yours Steve.

russellwatson17

278 posts

74 months

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Thursday 13th October 2011 quote quote all
Have they re-modelled the front lights? Anyone else think that compared to the agressive stare the 2009 bikes have it looks a bit... gawapy? Or maybe they just dont photograph as well and look better in the flesh!

predding

446 posts

102 months

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Thursday 13th October 2011 quote quote all
spareparts said:
^ absolutely yes
+1 and again...

Been looking at a BMW K1300S after a while away. Subzero - what BM did you ride 'in anger'

Having come off a trail bike in a paddock 2 years ago and broken collar bone, ribs shoulder blade and v badly winded (10 seconds no breathing felt like a lifetime) - am all for as much TC as I can get...

hughcam

167 posts

51 months

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Thursday 13th October 2011 quote quote all
TC aside the bike is still waaaaay over priced. BSB aside the bike is lacking as a road and track bike (in comparison to the competition value wise). For me the Yam isnt the thinking mans option.
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