Here in America, the Tuning Fork brand has had plenty of success with its 2012 Yamaha YZF-R1. Paired with the technical savvy of Graves Motorsports and riding talent of Superbike racer, Josh Hayes, it’s proven to be the machine to beat in the AMA ranks.
Swinging a leg over it reveals a more ‘classic’ feel to it as compared to the competition. It’s one of the larger bikes in the test, however the seating position is functional, windscreen tall, and the ability to adjust the position of the foot controls is a great feature, too. Despite shedding a number of pounds courtesy the Graves titanium exhaust, it still weighs 464 pounds (second heaviest) with a full tank of gas (4.8 gallon).
“The Yamaha felt like one of the biggest bikes when just sitting on it,” said Chamberlain “But once in motion the larger feel disappeared and was actually one of my favorites in terms of ergonomics.”
Since it’s so hefty, it’s no secret that the R1 demands more muscle to get turned. Still the front end offers pinpoint accuracy and goes exactly where the rider desires. Once pointed, we were caught off guard by just how well it tracked mid-corner.
(Top) AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore.com SuperSport rider Devon McDonough aboard the 2012 Yamaha R1. (Center) The Yamaha YZF-R1 is significantly down on power in the liter-bike class even with the fitment of a Graves racing pipes. (Below) Despite an excellent chassis set-up the Yamaha had the lowest average corner speed.
“I really like the handling,” comments Siglin. “When you first jump on the bike it feels big and bulky but when you start putting in some laps it actually handles really, really well. I was surprised for sure.”
Looking at the R1’s maximum flick rate as measured from Turns 11/12/13 (low-to-medium speed left-right-left chicane) proves that it takes more time for it to change direction from side-to-side. It posted the third-slowest number (39.6 degrees/second) behind the Ducati and Kawasaki. Though once leaned over the Yamaha instills a fair amount of trust with it recording the third-highest lean angle degree of 50.0 down The Cyclone (Turn 5).
“The R1 was a bit of a surprise,” agrees Garcia. “Sure it feels kind of big, and doesn’t steer as fast as some of the other bikes but man, is that thing planted mid-corner. It comes off the corner really well too—I was startled by how early and hard I could accelerate when I started to stand the bike up.”
While each one of our test riders was pleased with how the R1 felt at lean, it consistently posted some of the slowest corner speeds in Turns 2, 6 and 14. When averaged it was ranked the lowest which hurt it on the scorecard. It’s strange because Yamaha arrived at Thunderhill with a near perfect set-up with the front and rear suspension working in total unison offering excellent balance and pitch control. But since it carries around more mass and pumps out the least amount of power, it isn’t much of a surprise that it is a little off pace in the corners.
Right off the bottom the R1 pumps out a mellow spread of power. It fourth-lowest peak torque figure of 76.07 lb-ft. But the real problem is how far down it is in terms of horsepower as it cranks out between 10 and 26 horses less than the competition. It is worth noting, however, that peak power arrives relatively early for an Inline Four (148.55 horsepower at 11,900 revs). The addition of the Graves pipe also allows power to stay on longer, as compared to stock, before the rev limiter shuts things down 1700 rpm later. This gives the rider a wee bit more flexibility in regards to whether to upshift or just hold a gear in some situations.
(From full stiff)
Low-Speed Compression: 9
High-Speed Compression: 4
“It’s down on power compared to the other bikes. It doesn’t have that ‘whoa’ factor when you get on the throttle,” recalls Neuer. “But at the same time it’s one of the easiest bikes to ride and I never have to worry about it getting away from me when I’m on the gas.”
“The power is so mellow it took away from the handling a little bit,” adds Earnest. “It almost feels like a 750. The Graves pipes definitely helped the bike out on over-rev but I was still expecting more.”
Based on the results at the dyno, it isn’t much of a surprise that the R1 posted the second-lowest acceleration force numbers off Turn 6 and Turn 15 (0.75g and 0.63g). It also registered the lowest top speed down the front straightaway (155.9 mph) and third-lowest mph down the back straight (142.9).
“It isn’t super fast… but the engine is one of the smoothest out there and it’s fun to ride,” explains Montano. “It was really easy to ride and the engine is good but it’s not like the Beemer where it’s hauling balls everywhere.”
Of all the bikes in this contest, the R1 arguably had the most to gain out of the fitment of a quickshifter. With it added the R1’s drivetrain performed flawlessly with the transmission exuding a precise feel. Another plus is the short shift lever throw as well as the near perfect slipper clutch calibration.
(Top) Waheed said that the R1 was the most fun to ride. Though it lacks the outright performance to run up front with the competition. (Center) The Yamaha was one of the heaviest-steering bikes in this test. (Below) The R1 tied the BMW as having the highest maximum braking force proving the effectiveness of its brakes.
“The R1 didn’t feel like one of the fastest bikes out there but the power delivery was very linear and did seem to build very quickly,” remembers Dawes. “The transmission worked really well too—especially with the addition of the Dynojet quickshifter.”
Although the R1’s brakes don’t offer the greatest feel, they do offer tremendous stopping power plus they are about as consistent-feeling as sportbike brakes come. The anchors were rated third-best on our rider’s notepads and also indicated the most amount of g force on the computer screen at the entry of Turns 10 and 14 (-1.42g and -1.41g).
“The R1’s brakes worked awesome,” notes Hutchison. “For sure some of the credit goes to the fork as it was set-up superbly so you could really grab a handful and the front end wouldn’t pitch so hard on its nose like it did in past years.”
The numbers don’t lie and in Superpole the Yamaha was the second-slowest bike for Siglin and the slowest for the author. Although the R1 didn’t blow us away with its speed there wasn’t one rider who didn’t enjoy riding the Yamaha. All of our testers couldn’t stop talking about how much of a blast it was to ride and how cool it sounded with the Graves pipes. Problem is that this test is all about performance, and more outright performance is what this machine needs if it is going to run up front.
- Smooth, friendly powerband
- Good mid-corner stability
- Strong brakes
- Too heavy
- Needs more power—everywhere
- Could be smaller dimensionally
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