Yamaha YZF-R1 Traction Control Comparison

MotorcycleUSA Staff | August 31, 2012

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MotoUSA investigates traction control and learns how each top manufacturers system performs in this 2012 Superbike Traction Control Comparison Video.

Yamaha is the most recent entry to the traction-control battle with its Traction Control System (TCS) as fitted on the 2012 Yamaha YZF-R1. Developed at MotoGP racetracks across the globe, the Tuning Fork system works in unison with the friendly powerband of its crossplane-equipped Inline Four, delivering an experience few machines can match.

Where many of the other bikes were developed and released with integrated wheel spin electronics, the Yamaha was fitted three years into its design cycle. Considering how integrated the electronics are, it’s clear the bike was designed with it from the get-go. On paper the Yamaha’s system is most similar to Kawasaki’s (no gyros or accelerometers). It calculates slip based on inputs received from the wheel speed sensors. It also analyzes throttle and gear position as well as the rotational speed of the crankshaft. If the allowable range is exceeded the computer applies correction by manipulating the throttle butterflies, fuel and/or ignition curve to one, or more of the four cylinders. A yellow TCS light on the instrument panel illuminates showing intervention, though it isn’t as easy to see at a glance as the BMW’s. Curiously wheelie control functionality is integrated into the two highest TC settings only and there is no launch control.

TCS offers six-levels of adjustment and can be fully disabled as well. Similar to the Ducati and Kawasaki a rocker switch on left handlebar is used for adjustment and can be used on the fly while riding. However, the motorcycle has to be stationary to turn it off. A small horizontal bar graph within the LCD instrument panel shows what level is

Yamaha’s TCS offers six-levels of adjustment (plus off) and can be adjusted on the fly while riding—which is a big plus. It would be nice if the levels had numeric designations for better ease of adjustment.

selected, but it lacks numerical indicators and so it isn’t as easy to tell what level you’re in compared to the more straightforward numeric labeling systems on the other bikes. Even still the electronics are simple to adjust.

Considering the friendly power pulse characteristics of the Yamaha’s engine paired with the fact that it is one of the slower motors in terms of outright power output, the blue bike is one of the few machines that feels like it can get away without traction control. Still the technology proved to perform at a very high-level. Its biggest asset is how transparent the system is, with it modulating torque in a gentler manner than the other systems (with exception of Aprilia). It’s so unobtrusive that it was difficult at times to even know if it was working, which actually made it harder to acclimate to (good problem). Once we were comfortable, however, the electronics instilled trust allowing for stronger throttle inputs off corners. The data revels that the Yamaha carried corner speeds at, or near, the top of the chart when averaged.

Yamaha YZF-R1 Suspension Settings:
(From full stiff)
Preload: 2
Compression: 10
Rebound: 6
Preload: 9
Low-Speed Compression: 9
High-Speed Compression: 4
Rebound: 15

Although the R1’s electronics are more discreet feeling under hard acceleration, the YZF registered the least amount of acceleration force upon averaging both rider’s data. Perhaps this is attributed to the blue machine’s lower power-to-weight ratio—as its engine torque output below 9000 revs is similar to the Ninja and BMW (see torque dyno chart in 2012 Superbike Smackdown IX). Maximum speed as measured at the end of each straightaway was also at or near the bottom, but again that may be credited to engine performance rather than the electronics.

The difference in Superpole times demonstrates the effectiveness of the Yamaha’s electronics with both riders lapping very closely to what they did in Superbike Smackdown Superpole with TC turned off. And while we

The Yamaha’s electronics were rated second only to the Aprilia set-up according to our testers. We loved the smooth actuation of the system.

genuinely liked its system it needs greater tune-ability, including adjustable wheelie and launch control, if it wants to compete toe-to-toe with the Aprilia’s APRC package.


CHRIS SIGLIN: “Yamaha got it right. That’s the whole point of traction control — you want it to be as unobtrusive as possible. And of all the systems the Yamaha is one of the best. It has a soft transition from on and off. It’s so super smooth on how it cuts the power; I almost couldn’t even tell when it was cutting the power. Maybe it’s because the bike is a little slower than the rest, I don’t know. But I could apply the throttle and it would continue to accelerate forward without disruption and no weird seesaw. This was my second-favorite system.”

ADAM WAHEED: “The Yamaha electronics really surprised me. I was a little apprehensive at first because I assumed TC would kill the power too much and on the R1 you need all the acceleration you can get. But the system worked great. Its biggest asset is how smoothly it intervenes. Although the wheelie control doesn’t work in the bottom four settings the R1 doesn’t really need it. It was one of my favorites for sure.”

Yamaha YZF-R1 TCS Level 3
Yamaha YZF-R1 TCS Level 1

MotorcycleUSA Staff