Drag site icon to your taskbar to pin site. Learn More

2009 Yamaha YZF-R1 Comparison Street

Monday, May 11, 2009
2009 Yamaha YZF-R1 - 5th Place
2009 Yamaha YFZ-R1 Street Comparo
MSRP: $12,390
Curb Weight: 476 lbs.
Horsepower: 146.08 @ 11,800 rpm
Torque: 73.12 lb-ft @ 9000 rpm
Quarter Mile: 10.53 seconds @ 137.5 mph
60 to 100 mph Roll On (fourth gear): 4.81 seconds
Average MPG: 29.61
Top Speed: 186 mph
Of all the motorcycles in this comparison perhaps the most anticipated was the new Yamaha YZF-R1. MCUSA Executive Editor, Steve Atlas, couldn’t stop blabbing about how cool it sounds and the direct connection that it fostered between rider and rear tire during his 2009 Yamaha R1 First Ride feature.
Looks wise, on paper and on the computer screen, I honestly wasn’t fond of the R1’s updated styling initially. Before having seen it in person I would have preferred if Yamaha had abandoned classic styling cues, like its under-seat exhaust and V-shaped front end, and gone with something fresh instead. But as soon as I laid eyes on our test unit up close in its Pearl White/Rapid Red colors it became obvious how wrong I was. The new R1 is truly the evolution of contemporary sportbike design. If you don’t think so right now, just wait until you see one in person.

From its tiny projector headlights to its flat side body panels and even its jumbo-stylized, twin undertail exhaust pipes, this motorcycle screams 21st-century style. Still, we would have preferred to see the front turn signals integrated into the rear view mirrors, for aesthetic reasons and because they’re more easily seen there.

If you’re a longtime Yamaha R1 or R6 fan, you’ll immediately feel at home aboard the new R1. The cockpit is laid out similar to the traditional Yamaha YZF-series, albeit with a more open rider triangle. The seat itself is still wide and flat, but the reach to the handlebars isn’t nearly as racy as before. The footpegs are also now adjustable (like the Suzuki’s) and allow the rider to tailor the fit of the bike.

In its redesign process engineers added some pounds but somehow made it feel more compact. Although the R1 is perhaps the widest looking and feeling motorcycle in this quartet, it feels short from front-to-back. This year it tips the scales at 476 lbs. That’s 29 lbs more than the class-leading Honda and Ducati and 12 lbs more than the ‘07-‘08 generation R1 it replaces. The extra weight is noticeable in the parking lot or around town, but once you get on the open road, it doesn’t feel that far off the lighter bikes.
2009 Yamaha YFZ-R1 Street Comparo
Perhaps the best thing about the Yamaha YZF-R1's new engine is the way it sounds. Especially when you're really on the throttle. Perhaps that's why the Yamaha's fuel mileage is so poor?

Thumb the starter and the Yamaha fires to life with a burble reminiscent of a hot rod Chevy V8. It is a huge departure from what you expect a 1000cc Inline-Four to sound like. But it’s for the better and makes the R1 stand-out, even when compared to the aural splendor of the Ducati. In fact, I can’t wait to scare the neighbors once we get Yamaha’s factory GYTR pipes installed on our test bike in the next few weeks.

Quite a bit of clutch work is required to launch the Yamaha R1, perhaps even more so than last year’s bike but that goes with the territory as it’s tall first gear is apparently a prerequisite at the racetrack. Twist the throttle and you might notice the reduced effort required to rotate the throttle tube. You’ll also be taken back by how the R1 lunges forward with the same kind of authority you’d expect from Ducati’s L-Twin Superbike. Credit for this instantaneous response is due to a well-sorted engine management and Yamaha’s Chip Controlled Throttle (YCC-T) ride-by-wire system.

Out on the road it’s difficult not to notice the R1’s improved bottom-end punch from the 998cc Inline-Four and its innovative cross-plane crankshaft design courtesy of Yamaha’s YZF-M1 MotoGP racebike (for more information on how it works see our 2009 Yamaha YZF-R1 First Ride article). The problem is when we tested its roll-on prowess it didn’t accelerate as swiftly as the class leaders. At the drag strip it lagged behind too with a best run of 10.53 @ 137.5 mph, which was a solid half-second behind the other bikes. It also had the slowest trap speed. Also consider that we only got three drag runs before we used up its clutch.
2009 Yamaha YFZ-R1 Street Comparo
The Yamaha recorded the second lowest average MPG of all of the motorcycles. Our average aboard the R1 was 29.61 MPG.

This year Yamaha uses its new drive mode (D-MODE), allowing the rider to select between three different throttle response settings via a right-side handlebar-mounted switch. Unlike Suzuki’s S-DMS system that limits actual power production, the R1’s system modifies the intensity of throttle response. By default when you start the R1 it’s in standard mode. By selecting A-mode the engine becomes more responsive to throttle input, conversely in B-mode the engine doesn’t responds as instantaneously when the throttle is twisted.

Although the difference between each of the three separate throttle settings is noticeable, our testers all agreed that A-mode was too sensitive, especially when riding through the city or in situations that require delicate throttle response. On the other hand B-mode left us feeling like we had to twist the throttle more than necessary. We can see the benefit for a less experienced rider or for perhaps riding in the rain, but the standard default setting became our preferred choice.

While we really enjoyed the R1’s immediate throttle response, and decent low-end grunt, we weren’t that impressed by its outright acceleration. Sure, its bottom-end is effective, but as the tachometer needle climbs the R1 doesn’t reward you with that same rush of endorphins like the other bikes. It leaves you wanting more. Ridden alone you’d think the Yamaha was the fastest thing in the world, but compared directly to the other bikes the engine feels sluggish.

“The R1 is a difficult bike to figure out this year,” says Hutch. “First off it sounds so gnarly that I would make one my own based on that alone. It gets off the line pretty good despite the tall first gear and seems to accelerate pretty good out of the hole. But then it kinda peters out while the other bikes are still making steam. Don’t get me wrong, this is all relative because it hauls ass – it just doesn’t feel as fast as the other bikes here.”
2009 Yamaha YFZ-R1 Street Comparo
Although the Yamaha's six-piston calipers are the biggest they don't provide as good braking performance as the other four Japanese bikes. Specifically, they lack just a bit of feel.

Last year our testers griped about excessive heat coming off the fairing and from the underseat exhaust. While engineers seemed to do-away with most of the lower fairing heat issues the heat radiating from the exhaust pipes is downright unbearable: Especially on the warm 90-degree days we experienced during our first street ride. It was funny how at the track we were fighting over who got to ride it first, but on the street we were fighting over who had to ride it at all.

“This may be the hottest underseat exhaust set-up I have ever felt,” whines Hutchison. “Seriously, I was wondering if the exhaust valve was stuck or something because it was so insanely hot. It would be great for anyone living in cold weather or commuting to work on a cool morning but if you live where the temps reach triple digits, all I can say is, have fun.”

We were also less than enthused by the R1’s fuel consumption. On average we got 29.6 mpg, so it’s a good thing the R1 has the biggest fuel tank (4.8 gallons) because next to the Ducati it guzzles the most gas.

Yamaha has built a reputation for building precision-tuned instruments (no pun intended), so it comes as no surprise that the six-speed gearbox feels exquisitely accurate. Each gear change is accompanied by a positive feel and its slipper clutch alleviates any error you could possibly make while downshifting.
Next to the Ducati 1198  the Yamaha YZF-R1 has the best looking instrument display.
Next to the Ducati 1198, the Yamaha YZF-R1 has the best looking instrument display. We appreciated how bright it is and features such as a programmable shift light and instant and average MPG functions.

Following in the R1’s futuristic theme, its white-backlit instruments are by far the coolest looking. Similar to Honda, the tach is huge and inset with a gear position indicator. It’s flanked on the right by a multi-function LCD housing a speedometer and double trip meters. You also have the ability to view instant MPG and average MPG. Even cooler is the horizontal bar-type throttle position indicator that displays how much throttle is dialed in. I don’t really know what its purpose is, but it sure looks cool when you’re going for it on the road. We also really dig the R1’s humongous programmable shift light.

Although some aspects of the new R1 were appreciated by our testers such as its more sedate riding ergonomics and amazing new engine sound, many of us weren’t impressed enough with its outright engine power not to mention the constant barrage of heat radiating off the machine. Still we’ve got to hand it to Yamaha for creating something new and most importantly different as compared to your cookie cutter sportbike. We’re also happy that the price didn’t increase too much with the new R1 starting at $12,390 depending on color. That positions it between the Kawasaki ($11,799) and the Honda ($12,999).

VideosOur Sponsor
2009 Superbike Comparison Street Test
Click to view video
2009 Yamaha YZF-R1 Street Gallery
View Gallery
View Gallery
View Gallery
View Gallery
View Slideshow
2015 Yamaha YZF-R3 First Ride
Yamaha finally enters the entry-level sportbike market with its 320cc YZF-R3. MotoUSA takes a spin, including some track time at Thunderhill Raceway for a first ride review.
2015 Yamaha YZF-R1  R1M First Ride
The bike we’ve been waiting for... Yamaha gets serious in the Superbike class with its fully redesigned YZF-R1. Our Road Test Editor fills us in.
Yamaha YZF-R1 Dealer Locator
2009 Yamaha R1 Spec Sheet
Yamahas new R1 retains signature styling traits like its undertail exhaust and V-shaped front end.

Engine: Liquid-cooled 998cc Inline-Four; 16-valves
Bore and Stroke: 78 x 52.2mm
Compression Ratio: 12.7:1
Fuel Delivery: Electronic fuel-injection with YCC-T and YCC-I
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate slipper clutch; Cable actuation
Transmission: Six-speed; chain final drive
Frame: Twin spar aluminum
Front Suspension: 43mm Soqi inverted fork; 3-way adjustable for preload, compression and rebound; 4.7 in. travel
Rear Suspension: Soqi gas-charge shock; 3-way adjustable for preload, compression, rebound; 4.7 in. travel
Front Brakes: 310mm discs with radial-mount Sumitomo six-piston calipers
Rear Brake: 220mm disc with double-piston caliper
Tires: Dunlop Qualifier; 120/70R17, 190/55R17
Curb Weight: 476 lbs.
Wheelbase: 55.7 in.
Rake: 24 deg. Trail: 4.0 in.
Seat Height: 32.8 in.
Fuel Capacity: 4.8 gallons Average MPG: 29.61
MSRP: $12,390 - $12,490
Colors: Team Yamaha Blue/White; Cadmium Yellow; Pearl White/Rapid Red; Raven/Candy Red
Warranty: One year unlimited mileage

Login or sign up to comment.

fivespeed302   April 6, 2014 05:26 AM
Just think of the exhaust heat as a seat warmer that is stuck on "ON". Although I haven't wrapped my pipes, I do have the full carbon/titanium Akrapovic exhaust. The only time the heat is noticable is in traffic and stop lights. As for performance, there's not a 600 that even comes close. I almost rammed a GSXR 600 from behind that had launched right in front of me. All my friends have 600's so I haven't ridden with other liter-bikes, and I haven't pulled up beside some random liter-bike on the open road in the last 7,000 miles, so I can't compare the R1 to other 1000's. When I'm in my car, I see liter bikes all the time. When I'm on the R1, I only see Harleys. Funny how that works.
Brian -My 2009 R1  January 20, 2011 12:00 PM
I bought my new R1 about a year ago. I bought it for the looks, the same as i do with women. Once i got it the first thing i did was replace that ugly exhaust with a Graves Low mount and wrap the pipes. I also added a elimanator kit and flush mount signals. In addition i had the fairings custom painted. My R1 gets so much attention from the looks and the sound that i sometimes get tired of it. On the street i fear no bike and have not been slapped around by any of them. By one but plan on doing some Mods.
M Nance -R1 Rider  January 11, 2011 04:34 PM
Ok, I dont know if this will help or not. I got the 09 r1 last year and I'm satisfied!! I had a 04 cbr before that. I havent had any problems from any other "stock" 1000's out there. Some of the mods Ive done is the yoshi trc exhaust, k and n filter, badazz box, and I got fid of the cat pipe. Heat isnt a issue, power isnt a issue, I love this bike...and it sounds amazing!!!
Otunbatayese -Excessive heat  July 16, 2010 06:02 AM
I will say overall, the r1 looks great and have nothing to take away from the speed when taking off with other sport bike in the same category but the heat can be unbearable on a sunny Sunday, you just want to park and fan your a** a little because it will seems as if it is on fire. I like my r1, I just install another exhaust and hope it will make a difference but if not, I will get rid of it this summer and get something else for nest summer.
Robert Mayer -R1 and a race track  April 29, 2010 01:05 AM
Yes the 2009/2010 R1 is overweight, underpowered and the front end feel is bad with crappy brakes in stock form. BUT a full exhaust system with a new set of hoops, Galpher brake lines and rotors make it something special. I have done track days with an RSV4 Factory, Ducati 1098S and a slew of GSXR 1000's. The R1's motor is what sets it apart. You can trail brake the R1 to the apex of a corner (with mods) like the Aprilia RSV4 yet exiting the corner it can pull 2 bike lengths on it because nothing feels the ground like the R1 exiting a corner.. Its no wonder Josh Hayes doesnt even use traction control! The R1 with a lightened front will make short work of any of the big 4 bikes on the infield of a race track. You just have to spend a little money.. like 3.5 bills... far less then the RSVR or BMW where your talking almost 20 grand to get them out the door. If you want to fight heat get rid of the cat and go to OPP racing and get thermal tape to reflect the heat or get heat wrap to contain the heat and cover the pipes just after the y pipe. If you really want to make the bike perform the best lose 20 pounds. :)
maetsuen -Akrapovic plus y-pipe  March 24, 2010 10:16 AM
Will installing a y-pipe and an Akrapovic slip-on really solve the heat problem of the 2009 R1? Can someone confirm this, thanks guys!
Adrian -help Info  March 16, 2010 05:57 AM
I read in this magazine that they had to replace the clutch. What did they actually replace and why? i know that hey must have been giving it some hard work but that's why super bikes are made for. Should i aspect to replace the clutch if i decide to by one. I was browsing trough the net are the Fast by Ferracci one of the best clutch makers? Thank you for your help
adam-motousa -'09 r1 exhaust heat  October 31, 2009 12:36 AM
the '09 r1 has significantly more exhaust heat than any other R1 ever made. The problem can be solved however by fitting aftermarket or GYTR slip-on mufflers...adam
thesoapster -Heat  September 16, 2009 09:06 PM
You can reduce heat significantly by using a Y-pipe that gets rid of the catalytic converter. That, or you could go low mount, but that's not really my style on this bike...
Deeps -Akrapovic exhaust for R1  August 31, 2009 09:38 PM
Hi I really want to buy R1 but I live in hot weather. Can anybody tell me how would Akrapovic exhaust help to remove excessive heat issues.
AlanG -R1 exhaust  August 20, 2009 06:50 PM
Test rode a new R1 and GSXR1000 today; both nice, but the R1 exhaust
was pretty hot. You can get a Graves low exhaust though for it.
Vishal -R1 on street  August 8, 2009 09:28 PM
Come on guys I think R1 is far better on streets when compared to unstable ZX 10R and 1198.
Prashant -Re: adam - motousa - r1 is tyt  August 8, 2009 09:24 PM
Hey Adam, could you tell me how does 08 R1 exhausts stack up against 09 R1 in terms of heat issues?
Prashant -Re: doug - exhaust heat and integrated turn sigs  August 8, 2009 09:20 PM
How much is the summer temperature in CA?
doug -exhaust heat and integrated turn sigs  July 22, 2009 10:56 AM
I have only been riding this bike for about a week but in southern CA. summer I feel like my ass is in a fire. There has to be some kind of MOD or something that can be done to solve this problem. not so bad when your moving but sitting in traffic is a killer. thank goodness for lane sharing.

I cant believe that on a 2009 bike we couldnt get a integrated turn signal in the mirror. GSXR has it.
cggunnersmate -badlikeme  July 16, 2009 02:13 PM
I think the only reason they left out the RSV4, S1000RR and RC8 is that they aren't available in the states yet. Chris, don't let this one review spoil the 09 R1 for you. That's just Motorcycle USA's opinion. In straight up street tests by MCN the new R1 beat the CBR and RSV4 (though they think the RSV4 would win in a track test). In Cycleworld the R1 came runner up in Superbike of the Year to the RSV4. I think the heat issues with the exhaust could be managed with some cheap ways (some type of heat shielding or insulation) or even a free flowing aftermarket exhaust (FMF looks and sounds the best so far IMO). For me it's between the RSV4 and R1. If money and dealer network was no issue I'd go for the RSV4 (I own a Tuono) but they are issues and I think I like sound of the R1 a little better as well. I'm sure the RSV4 will have some issues this first run I'm sure.
badlikeme -missing some compeition  May 26, 2009 01:51 PM
you guys left out some crucial competitor in the field. Aprilia RSV4, BMW S1000rr, and KTM RC8. I like to see those three in the mix, when doing this superbike smackdown competition.
JASON -Style  May 25, 2009 12:51 AM
I'm not a Ducati fan, but I agree with Superlight. When it comes to looks, none of the japanese bikes are anything on the ducati. Reliability, ease of riding etc, the japanese are best. I really miss the way bikes used to look, in the 90s, GSXRs looked great (along with Kwakas & Yamahas) and had that rorty feel, today they look just odd and seem to be very refined, with no real character.
i want to buy R1,but the undertail exhaust is real -i want to buy R1,but the undertail exhaust is really too hot  May 18, 2009 06:28 PM
i want to buy R1,but the undertail exhaust is really too hot
Chris -08 vs 09  May 15, 2009 09:35 AM
Well I thought I was set to buy the new R1, but reading the smackdown has really changed my perspective. I still want it but I'm not sure if its worth it. I had high hopes for the crossplane crankshaft, and it looks more compact and nimble but, from the article, I feel last years model might be a better hot sunday canyon carver. I preffer the super model looks of the older gen aswell. If anyone has some insight or has ridden both please advise. Its not going to be my track bike just a weekend driver willing to take corners.
Matt -Ducati Looks  May 14, 2009 02:18 AM
I love it how people always look at Ducati and say wow that is awesome. Just because its Italian design doesnt mean its automaticaly better. Look at the new Ferrari. Ugly but at least it performs
Superlight -R1 Styling  May 13, 2009 04:26 PM
Adam, we know styling is a very personal, subjective topic, but the new R1 looking better than the Ducati? Oh, come on. Its a design abortion compared to the 1198.
Bobo -R1, successful in superbike trim, but a dissapointment in stock form  May 13, 2009 10:48 AM
Even with an Akra evolution full titanium exhaust the weight savings is only 9 lbs, and you gain a paltry 4hp. A K9 GSXR1000 or a ZX-10R both lose almost 2x more weight with the same exhaust and gain much more hp. The North American R1 does have a restricter in it's airbox (that the euro models don't have. Apparantly removing that helps top end power slightly. Unless you put the R1 on a diet of carbon wheels, and other exotic magnesium, titanium, unobtanium bits, it'll be hard for streetgoing R1's to overcome it's weight problem. The essentials in the package are there, as seen by Ben Spies masterful ride in WSBK. However, I believe the tweaks that make the R1 such and effective weapon are closely guarded secrets in the world of circuit racing.
Frak! -R1  May 13, 2009 06:15 AM
Consider this... this is somewhat of a revolutionary engine design w/ the crossplane crankshaft being employed. Its entirely possible, that Yamaha released it to the public in some what of a de-tuned state... just as a margin for endurance? I gotta believe that its more capable than what the tests indicate.
adam - motousa -r1 is tyt  May 12, 2009 10:27 PM
i agree with you matt-- yamaha looks the best even better than the ducati. and the thing i really like about it is that its different. it's not some cookie cutter 1000cc japanese bike. it's unique. the problem is that it doesn't feel that fast when you ride all the bikes back-to-back and the exhaust heat that comes off of it on a hot day makes riding it unbearable. still for me since i live where its cool most of the time i'd take one because it'll keep my body warm on a chilly morning and that in itself is worth it to me.
Matt - New R1 -Hype  May 12, 2009 10:00 PM
I think the R1 is the best looking bike of the bunch but I also think that mechanically and performance wise, it is the most overated bike ever (for the last 5 years). Yamaha never seems to have anything that stands out about the bike other than looks and sound. Dissapointing.
Dustin -exhaust  May 12, 2009 08:25 PM
That exhaust has to weigh at least 25 pounds.
Jordan -Exhaust(ing)  May 12, 2009 08:05 PM
I wonder how much the exhaust weighs on the new R1 and what a good after market setup and tune could do for the power delivery. And this maybe a stretch but has Yamaha been using the same 5-spoke wheels on their R1/R6s since 2003? It sure looks like it at first glance. Despite all this, my inner tuning fork fan boy-ism can't help but drool all over this bike.