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2009 Yamaha YZF-R1 Comparison Track

Monday, May 18, 2009
2009 Yamaha YZF-R1 Smackdown Track Test
Yamaha YZF-R1
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
Outright Top Speed: 186 mph (limited)
Racetrack Top Speed: 153.97 mph
Superpole Best Time: 1:57.58
Overall Ranking: 5th Place
'Derived from MotoGP technology' is the tagline for Yamaha’s all-new YZF-R1 for 2009. Yes. We’ve all heard this a million times and it’s just plain getting old. But simply start the R1 and you can tell this is no ordinary Inline-Four 1000. Thumping, growling and rumbling, the R1 sounds more like a cross between an angry V-Twin and a racing V-Four, provoking emotion right from the first thumb of the starter button.

We sampled the bike in a stand-alone test in Australia earlier this year and came away impressed, to say the least. When ridden by itself and set-up by Yamaha’s experienced European testing staff, the R1 shined like a new set of chrome rims. I was convinced it would vie for top honors, no doubt. But when it comes time to compare all the bikes… well, things are not always as they seem.

Highlighting the changes for the all-new bike is the much-talked-about crossplane crankshaft. This was developed by Yamaha’s MotoGP team starting in 2004 to get the bike off the corner with more torque. As a result, Rossi took them to a couple world championships: Nothing to scoff at there. Thus, Yamaha figured if it worked in MotoGP why not try it in street form?

Rounding out the updates includes radically-styled bodywork and a D-mode selector on the right clip-on that allows adjustments in responsiveness via different maps for the YCC-I (Yamaha Chip Controlled Intake) system. And the changes don’t stop there, oh no – be sure to check out our 2009 Yamaha R1 First Ride for complete technical details.

These massive changes caught several of our testers off guard when first hopping on the Yami, as one isn’t expecting an Inline-Four to sound, feel or behave anything like this latest Tuning Fork-bred machine. It’s exactly that which our testers first took note of. It’s also what left us with extremely mixed reviews of the new Yamaha R1.
2009 Yamaha YZF-R1 Smackdown Track Test
2009 Yamaha YZF-R1.


“Wow, they said eventually MotoGP technology would make it to our street bikes and here it is,” said Sorensen. “The feeling and the sound of the new R1 motor reminds me of the Honda VFR750. Trailing throttle off corners the Yamaha is very tractable; it is truly in-between riding a Twin and Inline-Four. One disadvantage of this configuration might have is that it doesn’t have the 'warp speed' top-end some of the other bikes have.”

“On the track it seems the easiest to ride, the least intimidating of the group by far,” adds Hutchison. “I was able to get comfortable on the R1 almost immediately and it was one of the first two bikes I broke through the two-
2009 Yamaha YZF-R1 Smackdown Track Test
Radical styling changes out back for '09.
minute mark on. It always made me feel as though I could be confident it wasn’t going to highside me on corner exits. Something about that crossplane crank makes the bike feel very tractable.”

Said Earnest: “The motor is disappointingly slow. It pulls well off slow corners but it just doesn’t seem to make much power when revving up – very flat on top.”

This lack of outright power is no surprise when you take a look at the hard numbers. The R1 produced the lowest horsepower (146.08) and second-lowest torque (73.12) of the bunch. And as for the data, its recorded
2009 Yamaha YZF-R1 Smackdown Track Test
Waheed coming down the mini Corkscrew at Thunderhill on the new R1.
maximum acceleration coming out of turns 14 and 6 was the second-lowest in the group, only marginally higher than the Ducati. Also, top speed was down at the bottom, recording a best of 153.97 mph at the end of Thunderhill’s fastest straight.

Furthermore, we once again took the machines to HPCC for performance testing and its relatively weak power output and vague-feeling clutch produced the slowest quarter-mile ET of the day at 10.53 @ 137.5 mph, as well as a fried clutch after only three runs. The numbers may not have been impressive compared to the competition but the highlight of the R1 experience is hearing the Yamaha come by at full-steam, as that crossplane engine wails more like a fighter jet than a motorcycle. It’s unreal!

This incredible sound is just as breathtaking while riding. If one forgets about minute performance differences for a second and takes in just how visceral of an experience the R1 is, with its jet fighter sound and instant throttle response, it truly is amazing. But in a test like this, one quickly snaps back into precision mode, as that is what’s needed to pick apart bikes that all perform so equally. This then reveals another area which could be improved: The clutch.

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2009 Yamaha YZF-R1
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See and hear the Yamaha R1 in action in the 2009 Yamaha R1 Video.

Is the new R1’s transmission and clutch bad? No. Is it as good as some of the competition? No. We found it to hold up to track duty well, though two of our testers did comment on missing shifts. The clutch also has an extremely easy pull with a lever that is a bit far out there for those of us with a smaller hand and has a slightly numb feel to it. The internal slipper-unit worked well at keeping back-torque to a minimum and was universally praised, but when sent out for performance testing the clutch was wasted faster than Waheed can clean out a Red Bull hospitality bar.

2009 Yamaha YZF-R1 Smackdown Track Test
Straight-line speed of the new R1 was a bit disappointing.
“The slipper had good balance of free-wheeling and drag from the engine which kept the bike more in line under braking,” Sorensen said. Earnest, though, wasn’t nearly as big of a fan, adding: “The transmission is okay, but I missed some downshifts from third to second gear.”

When it came to the bike’s handling, we once again had mixed views. Turn-in was quick and fairly easy, but an under-sprung and overly-soft front end would blow through the stroke and bottom out when pushed hard. This made hot laps a bit scary as one was always chasing their tail so to speak, trying to keep both ends in line and planted before initiating turn-in. This would also translate to some troubles mid-corner too. The R1 would ride far too low in the stroke to properly soak up the small pavement imperfections and give the rider the desired amount of feedback.

“The Yamaha backs into corners a bit too much and is unstable on entry,” Earnest comments. “The vague front end on entry is due to it being bottomed out and made it impossible to push hard going into the corners.”

“The Yamaha turn in was very positive,” contends Sorensen. “A little slower compared to some of the other bikes but not a handicap. On the other hand, a missed set up or something hurt the mid-corner stability of the Yamaha. The feedback from the front end was very vague due to where the fork was in its travel. This seemed to mute feedback from the front tire.”

While an unsettled chassis and lack of feedback held the Yamaha back, it’s interesting to note that on the data it shows the R1 recorded the highest level of grip when at max lean as well as one of the highest degrees of lean angle. What this displays is just how important rider feedback is. No doubt the potential is there for the Yamaha to be a front runner, as proven by the data, but without the rider getting the feel needed from the bike he or she is unable to extract all the performance on tap.
2009 Yamaha YZF-R1 Smackdown Track Test
Michael Earnest noted how well the R1 comes of the slower corners, one of the shining points of the new machine.

“With some of the low scores on the Yamaha, I am not bagging the design of this bike,” Sorensen says. “I truly believe this is solely due to setup or maybe something was wrong with the bike. I think with the proper setup the Yamaha would be a serious threat. The engine and chassis totally suit my style of riding on the track.”

Brakes were yet another area with somewhat mixed reviews, though most thought positively of them. They are more-powerful than the previous version, but still lack some of the aggressive initial bite of the Honda, Kawasaki and Ducati. Progressive lever travel and very constant braking force make them easy to modulate, inviting the rider to go deeper and deeper on the brakes, though with the back end always coming around it was nearly impossible to exploit the bike’s full braking potential.

When the numbers were added the Yamaha was clearly at the back of the group. Some of this is due to its lack of performance numbers, which hurt it quite a bit, as well as the overall impressions when pushed hard on the track. No doubt the potential is in there somewhere – look at Ben Spies in World Superbike. They are all extremely close, so you have to remember we are comparing minor discrepancies, but when it’s going up against a field this stacked it just didn’t quite have what it takes to make a run for top-billing this year.

“It’s really too bad the Yamaha didn’t work as well as we hoped. The bike is the best sounding by far and in my opinion looks the best as well, it just didn’t work as well at the track as the rest and it doesn’t have the power the rest do. Not sure what happened with it, but I still really enjoy how it feels, sounds and looks,” said Waheed.
2009 Yamaha YZF-R1 Smackdown Track Test
The Yamaha's looks and sound were head and shoulders above the rest of the Japanese Inline-Fours, but a host of minor issues held it to the back of the group.

Waheed is 100% right. It really is too bad that a host of small problems held the Yamaha back. When you break it down, there’s no question there are two bikes, and two bikes alone, that provoke the most emotion in this group: This new R1 and Ducati’s 1198. It’s funny because they both finished at the back of the pack. But one must remember this is a completely track-based performance test and these bikes are all so good and so close that minute differences can mean the difference between first and fifth place. If anything I look at the Yamaha as this: A work in progress. Some minor tweaks to get the performance to match its character and this would be a title contender. I mean, just listen to the thing…



2009 Yamaha YFZ-R1 Track Gallery
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Yamaha YFZ-R1 Dealer Locator
Yamaha YZF-R1 Highs & Lows
Highs
  • Red/white looks hot
  • Amazing sound
  • Improved low-end drive
Lows
  • Where did the top-end go?
  • Overly-soft front end
  • Yellow/black does not look hot
Kinelogix Yamaha Data Chart
2009 Yamaha YZF-R1 Smackdown Trackmap
Some interesting facts to note in the Yamaha data chart: As you can see it has the highest lateral G-forces, or Max Grip as it's called here. This shows the Yamaha was hooked up in the middle of both Turn 2 and 14 well, though some of it is also a result of myself not having the confidence to push the bike hard enough to sliding as I did with some of the others. Also, its lowest-in-class horsepower is very evident in the Max Acceleration and Top Speed numbers, which were some of our lowest of the test.
2009 Superbike Smackdown Bike Weight

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Comments
jamespyne   June 24, 2014 09:31 PM
The R1 is very restricted. Get the ECU flash tune and it will tear other liter bikes up! It will also keep up just fine if the other bikes have the ECU tune. Only in 2011 did the ZX10R take over in that class...
SidR1rider -R1 dominates  September 20, 2010 07:00 PM
I read this article and I wonder what these guys are really doin?

I believe the real test coomparison for these bikes should be the WSBK as it has all the bike manufacturers there and with world class riders. The 2009 R1 dominated every track on the planet last yr in almost every championship .. and here these guys are saying the R1 is slow n bla bla bla .. I completely disagree to these sort of tests.. I think the CBR can be rated as a top bike bcoz these are easy to ride compared to many .. but the R1 sounds, rides and looks better than all the bikes here and also wins races. I think these journos need to understand the R1 before they stick comments on it.
Supera -By passing retardation  May 18, 2010 12:39 AM
I believe power commander has a product to by pass that thing though.. check out their website =)
R1_MI -Fly By Wire Throttle?  May 2, 2010 11:46 AM
I have found "Supra's" explanation to be very accurate with my bike. I find myself short shifting to compensate for the reduced power up-top.Is there a way to bypass the throttle retardant? It doesn't make sense to slow-down a bike that people buy to go fast.
Alex -R1  March 14, 2010 01:56 PM
I like the R1, but not for power. It has less when you compare it to the other machines. I race a ZX-10R, but also tracked a CBR1000RR, and a Suzuki GSX-R1000. Also. If you need to use that tacky throttle limiter or whatever noob thing I call it, you don't have the skills, and should be riding a liter bike. Leave the balls to the real men.
Supra -Answer to the lack of power  November 13, 2009 09:11 PM
The R1 as it turns out in the US is limited below 8000 RPMs by the Fly By Wire throttle. It does not use secondary flies, but uses the fly by wire throttle instead.

Up to 6000 RPMs, you only get 60% throttle, even if you have the twist grip 100% open.

From 6000-8000 you get 80% throttle,

From 8000-12000 you get 100% throttle

From 12000-redline at 13,750 you get 80% throttle.

All these in addition to muffler and air intake restriction in US spec bikes. Maybe thats why MCN whose using a euro spec bike gave the title best litre bike
Jerry -funny the R1 ranks 5th considering it dominated the world in racing this year 2009  November 7, 2009 09:06 AM
Kinda weird how these guys rank the r1 last in superbike smackdown but the r1 dominated the world this year in racing, Second in the usless watered down AMA superbike league, The r1 Won world superbike championship, british superbike championship, dutch superbike championship, 24 hrs endurance the list goes on and on......R6 won the world supersport championship, M1 won first and second place in MOTOGP championship, what happend to Suzuki gixxer1k, honda cbr100rr, and kawasaki zx-10r and ducati 1198? i don't see any of them winning any championships hmmm makes you wonder how these guys tested these bikes?
suzuki dreams -really? a little bias?  October 2, 2009 02:49 PM
this is eronious on all accounts every other article ,magazine, video ive seen or read on the track with controlled riders with controlled tires has the r1 on top. How u guys have it in 5th is beyond me
r1 wheelies -how?  October 2, 2009 02:44 PM
all this suspension talk i dont see any suspension settings
Anon -I4 with crossplane crankshaft  August 3, 2009 06:12 AM
The R1 is not exactly a pure inline 4 with 180degree crank interval. Due to the crossplane crank design, the characteristic of the bike follows the Vtwin at low end and will tradeoff on the outright top end power. Some say the power deilvery is more like a V4. Race track with less hairpin and tight corners will favor the normal I4 design as there is less need to accelerate out of a slow corner. Pls do your homework before you open your mouth.
killakawi -R1 babies  June 22, 2009 09:39 AM
the soapster why does the r1 have to be modified to compete. This is a STOCK test. And as far as "needing more seat time" These guys are pros. They now what they like and dislike. They can rip on everyhting with very minimal seat time. Plus here they had days with the bikes. "The track clearly favors I4's"LOL. The R1 is an inline four. Better learn a bit more b4 you open that mouth.
nerverasp -(Edit) Final Suspension Settings — YZF-R1  June 14, 2009 04:54 PM
My comment below was supposed to read: "_It_ would be very helpful …", not "_I_ would be very helpful …" Because, well, frankly, _I_ don't think _I_ *could* be helpful, but _It_ *would* be helpful to know… Anyway, thanks. (stupid keyboard…)
nerverasp -Final Suspension Settings — YZF-R1  June 14, 2009 03:57 PM
Steve Atlas: I've noticed "Final Suspension Settings" on all the motorcycles in this article — With the exception of those you finally settled on for the R1. Would you fix this article by adding them. I would be very helpful (especially, given the problems you had with the suspension mentioned in the article.) Thank you in advance. (Also, it would be a plus if you could mention whether all the test riders used these same settings… I only add this last request, as I presume the riders do not have similar physiques, as evidenced by some of the photos on the first page. Thanks again.)
Anon -Track Layout  June 2, 2009 08:26 AM
The track layout clearly favors the I4s.... plus the testers are obviously trying to ride the R1 using the same style as the other I4 bikes. Given more track time on this bike and I believe they will change their opinion.
Max Lean -G force more than 1?  May 20, 2009 12:30 PM
How come the Max Grip is more than 1? it seems physically impossible becasue gravity is only 1. Is it temporary g-force, not like a constant one measured on skid pad?
Xite -down on power?  May 18, 2009 08:55 PM
I have heard the same information about the EU version having much more power on tap out of the box...may of made a difference in the results.
R1Fast -Seat Time  May 18, 2009 03:41 PM
I personally feel seat tim eis all that is lacking for this bike. I could not stand it when I first rode it on the track. After 4 race weekends across 4 different tracks, I now believe it is my favorite. But All that stock stuff that was slowing these guys down has been replaced ;)
thesoapster -What happened with it  May 18, 2009 01:57 PM
What happened was EPA. The bike's stock pipes have mechanical baffles, it has a more restrictive airbox, and the ECU mapping is not the same as the EU version. I understand the bikes are judged as they are taken off the floor. However some exhaust work and a PCV does wonders for a bike in this scenario.