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Hayes Yamaha YZF-R1 Superbike Review

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Back in the day... Old school... When men were men...

We’ve all heard these adages plenty of times about umpteen different subjects, usually from wise old men with glossy eyes recalling their days of youth. And in motorcycle road racing these typically refer to fire-breathing TZ750 2-strokes, 500cc GP bikes and Superbikes of yesteryear – man-eating machines that required Superheros to ride them. These days traction control and electronic aids have improved safety and indeed dropped lap times, but in some people’s eyes have also reduced the excitement level. Just ask Yamaha’s Josh Hayes!

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Executive Editor Atlas puts Hayes' Yamaha YZF-R1 American Superbike to the test.
Rolling Art

One look at the Yamaha Superbike and any Petrolhead will surely fall in love. A simple glance at that deep blue-bathed bodywork covering a host of too-trick-for-mere-mortals parts, the lot lathered in carbon fiber and titanium, and it’s utterly impossible for one’s jaw not to drop to the floor from excessive staring. It’s the prettiest bike I’ve ridden this year, no question. Beyond the beauty, though, let’s have a look at what is responsible for propelling it around the racetrack to seven American Superbike wins this season.

As per DMG’s new American Superbike rules, much of the internal engine parts must remain stock. These include the pistons, rods, crank, transmission and clutch assembly. One would think with so much standard equipment internally, the amount of power possible from the bike wouldn’t be much more than stock. One would be wrong, though. While not willing to divulge actual numbers, they did hint it’s close to 200 horsepower at the crank on Yamaha’s engine dyno. So where does this added power come from? Yamaha's YEC kit parts mated to the team’s handiwork. That’s where.
Josh Hayes Factory Yamaha YZF-R1Josh Hayes Factory Yamaha YZF-R1Josh Hayes Factory Yamaha YZF-R1Josh Hayes Factory Yamaha YZF-R1Josh Hayes Factory Yamaha YZF-R1Josh Hayes Factory Yamaha YZF-R1Josh Hayes Factory Yamaha YZF-R1
It's all in the details, they say...

YEC kit cams, generator and variable YCC-I intakes are used in the engine, while Yamaha U.S. modifies the cylinder head in house and it is one of the biggest secrets to the added oomph. This is aided by an Akrapovic exhaust designed just for the Yamaha R1 SBK in conjunction with the team. The final piece in the power puzzle comes from Magneti Marelli electronics – ECU, fuel mapping, dash – which are designed solely for the Yamaha squad and their machines. Included in the Marelli system is full data acquisition, though that goes to tuning the chassis equally as much as the engine.

And, like the engine, more of the chassis now must remain stock per the rules as well. This includes the frame and fork externals. The swingarm must start stock but can have gusseting or bracing added, though the Yamaha boys stick with a totally OE unit. For the fork they run Ohlins TTX internals, while the shock is an Ohlins TTX unit throughout. Graves Motorsports provides adjustable triple clamps, different shock links, handlebars, rearsets and case guards. As for other trick bits, the handmade aluminum fuel tank comes from Gmeiner Racing Parts and brakes are all top-spec Brembo throughout, while lightweight 17-inch (as per the rules) wheels come from Marchesini and are shod with Dunlop’s latest spec slick tires.

Throw on some Sharkskinz bodywork covered in a slick coat of paint from MC Pro Designs and, more or less, you’ve got yourself a factory Yamaha American Superbike. Add some No. 4s and a couple windscreen stickers and now it's Josh Hayes’ daily driver, sitting and idling while emitting a soothing lump in Spring Mountain Motorsports Park's paddock, waiting for I to descend the red mist upon thee.

Time to rock ‘n’ roll!

Art at Speed

The harder you ride it the better it performs...

Read any racebike review and there's a good chance a statement of this context is art of it. And while I’m sure this is true of all of these bikes – a racing machine’s intended purpose is such, after all – never has it been as apparent to yours truly as with Hayes’ factory Yamaha. At anything less than really, really hard, the R1 plain kicks your butt. But gather the balls to really push the beautiful blue girl toward its limit and she comes to life like a stripper that’s just seen a fat roll of $100s. And it’s every bit as exciting as you may think. Exciting like taking a bath with a toaster, that is…

Much of this comes down to Hayes’ preference to run extremely stiff suspension – I’m talking high school principal stiff! As the crew puts it, “Josh runs it stiff to know what’s going on under him, to always know the limit.” I thought big boy Aaron Yates ran a rigid set-up on his Jordan Suzuki, which I rode a few months back; that was until I hopped aboard the No. 4 machine. I would be surprised if the suspension even moved at all during my warm-up laps as I got acclimated with the Superbike. At those speeds the bike kicked my ass. I was knackered after only a handful of laps; wrists pumped up, hands numb, knees locked. It was time to summon the racer within, otherwise it was going to be a very long and tiring day.

Watching a recent broadcast of the last round of the American Superbike Series at New Jersey Motorsports Park I caught wind from the announcers that double-race-winner Hayes wasn’t running any traction control. As I was due to ride the bike in a week’s time, this piqued my interest. But as sometimes announcers have been known to exaggerate a tad, I was skeptical. Especially in this day and age, where every Superbike I’ve recently ridden has had it in some form or another. As it turns out, for once the TV folk weren't exaggerating. And the plan was for me to ride the bike just as it rolled off the track from Hayes’ season-ending double-win. In fact, even if I wanted to switch it on I couldn’t, as the option doesn't exist on the No. 4 Yamaha. Time for some good ol’ right-hand-TC to keep this nearly 200-horsepower Superbike at bay. Nervous? Never…

Josh Hayes Factory Yamaha YZF-R1
Hayes R1 surprised with its stiff suspension and rigid chassis, though once acclimated things came into focus.
Due to my complete trust in the cat-like reflexes and sheer talent I am blessed with, I hopped right on and gave the bike the beans exiting the pits. Yeah, right… To keep life, limb and that wondrous blue paint intact, easing up to speed was the name of the game. But as I said before, going at an “easy” pace on this bike is quite tiring. And while I wasn't about to abuse the right grip immediately, no such caution was needed with the chassis.

When you are put on a stripped down motorcycle like this you get back to what the core of road racing is all about; the noises, the vibration, the feel ... oh, man, the feel! While I had assumed the unorthodox Inline-Four crossplane engine would garner most of my attention right off the bat, it was actually the Yamaha’s chassis and resulting mid-corner ability that was the most eye-opening.

Begging to be leaned further and further, corner speed building, the feedback and ability to push the big-bore blue bike through the center of the turn was downright staggering. Compared to the street version it’s as if layers of filtering have been stripped away. Think decaf versus triple-shot espresso. Quickly finding myself pulling my knees in as tight as possible and even picking up my elbows to miss the curbing in spots, never in my life have I pushed a production-based literbike of any caliber through corners with such aggression and pace. And ease, for that matter. Only complaint? The footpegs were too cramped for my bum right knee. Thus, we lowered them and back out I went,

But something strange happened as a result. The R1 wouldn’t change direction like it had previously, wanting to run wide mid-corner and all the way out though to the exit. I’m not talking a small change, either. I’m taking a massive change – it felt like a totally different bike. Never have I ridden a machine so sensitive to such a small differences. Turns out Hayes and crew spent a good deal of time this season with such things and, not surprisingly, know what they are doing. Back went the footpegs…

Josh Hayes Factory Yamaha YZF-R1Josh Hayes Factory Yamaha YZF-R1Josh Hayes Factory Yamaha YZF-R1
While the engine impressed, the real star was the motorcycle's ability to hold loads of corner speed with ease and inspire loads of confidence in the process.

While getting acclimated to the chassis helped increase my pace to a point, somewhere in the mid-1:43 range, the real speed would come from picking up the throttle earlier and being harder on the brakes. That is what Superbikes are all about: get in deep, turn quickly, get back on the gas as early as possible. Needless to say, sans Traction Control, this took a few laps to get used to.

And though it may have taken me half the day to truly explore the lengths of the right grip, once I did it became apparent just why Hayes doesn’t run TC. There’s no need. Seamless on/off throttle response mated with the torque of the crossplane crankshaft engine makes for one of the smoothest and easiest to use power deliveries of any big-hp machine I’ve thrown a leg over. Even with TC on some of the other Superbikes I’ve ridden, the Suzukis specifically, I still found the Yamaha easier to ride. In fact, it may be the easiest Superbike I’ve ever twisted throttle from stop to stop on.

A typical byproduct of such bottom end torque can be a lack of top-end power and especially over-rev. Not with this Yamaha. It really is a belter engine; grunty low down, savage up top and musical everywhere. Get the blue bomber above 12,000 rpm and she comes to life like an un-caged rabid dog, shiftlights flashing from green to red fast enough to spin your eyes backwards. How Hayes uses them I’m not sure – they did me little to no good, quickly learning to paw for the next cog on the quick-shifter the split second I saw the first of the green lights. Anything later and I was having a violent affair with the limiter.

Once the grey matter between my ears had digested just how easy it is to exploit the traction and power from this R1 something wonderful happened: The lap times began to drop with – I was easily into the 1:42s, consistently. Next order of business: Explore the immense braking potential of the Brembo monoblocs.

Like his chassis, Hayes prefers his brakes single-minded and uncompromising. No initial squish or progressively building pads here; just 100% braking power – right here, right now – at the slightest touch of the lever. Keep pulling the lever and they bite harder, slamming the rider forward, taking a good bit of one’s upper-body strength to not go flying through the screen. Starting to get the drift here – Hayes likes it STIFF.

Josh Hayes Factory Yamaha YZF-R1
No shortage of power and Hayes' preference to not run TC or much wheelie control made this quite easy exiting just about any corner.
The binders also follow in the footsteps of the rest of the bike in regards that you get back exactly what you put in. The harder one pushes and the deeper into the suspension stroke one gets, the more feel and feedback the chassis provides. Due to limited hard-braking areas at SMMP there were only a couple places to really explore the brakes potential, but they are impressive, to say the least. On the other hand, when easy with them and not at pace, they lack feedback and do little more than make the rider jerky and awkward. Thus, there was no other option – hard on the brakes wherever possible.

The final two sessions of the day cemented things in perspective. For the second-to-last outing I took it easy, concentrating on photos, as I had a few good runs under my belt and the aim was to not bring it home in a box. Problem was, at a leisurely pace the bike once again reminded me how brutal it was – arms pumped back up, hands numb and I was quickly overheating. Thus, for my final “photo” session it was time to grab it by the scruff and give it everything I had – and then some – dropping my times by over two seconds a lap (best a 1:40.3; 1:39s easily in sight). Doing twice as many laps as the previous session took half the effort – arms loose and no hand numbing here. Everything was spot on. Not to mention, how many opportunities does one get to really push a factory Superbike towards its limit for a full day? I wasn’t about to let a single lap slip away, that’s for damn sure. And while I could tell the team was a bit nervous that she would come back in one piece, it reaffirmed what Hayes’ Yamaha YZF-R1 is all about: Ten-tenths or no-tenths.

No TC or overly-complicated electronics here – just an astonishing reach of rudimentary ability; the relentless neck-snapping acceleration, the deep and glorious exhaust note and the almost spookily rigid, yet truly communicative chassis. This thing really is a proper Old School Superbike at its finest. And I enjoyed every last adrenaline-filled second of it…  Santa, I want on for Christmas, please!

(Note to Yamaha – Please build a production version of exactly this bike with lights and mirrors! There’s no question you’ll have a winner. Though you may want to soften the suspension a tad…)
Josh Hayes Yamaha R1 Photo Gallery
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Hayes' Yamaha R1 Superbike Specs
Josh Hayes Factory Yamaha YZF-R1
Engine: 2009 Yamaha YZF-R1 with Crossplane Crankshaft
ECU: Magneti Marelli
Intake: YCC-I / YEC Kit
Transmission: Standard
Cams: YEC Kit
Cylinder Head: YMUS Superbike
Piston: Standard
Rods: Standard
Crank: Standard, Crossplane Design
Clutch Standard
Generator: YEC Kit
Exhaust: Akrapovic
Case Guards: Graves
Fuel: Sunoco 260 GTX - AMA Spec
Oil: Yamalube Racing 15W30

Fork: Standard Fork / Ohlins TTX Kit
Shock: Ohlins TTX
Handlebars: Graves Motorsports
Bodywork: Sharkskinz
Paint: MC Pro Design
Windscreen: Zero Gravity
Rearsets: Graves Motorsports
Triple Clamps: YEC / Graves Motorsports
Link: YEC / Graves Motorsports
Chain: DID, 520 ERV3
Fuel Tank: Gmeiner Racing Parts

Tires: Dunlop Racing Slicks - AMA Spec
Brake Rotors: Braking USA - 310mm (Front); 220mm (Rear)
Calipers F/R: Brembo
Wheels: Marchesini
Final Drive: Vortex Sprockets
Yamaha Team Sponsors
Yamahas Josh Hayes won American Superbike Race 1 at VIR.

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romeo -they dont admit it!!!!!!!!!!  February 15, 2010 01:14 AM
like ive mentioned recently, R1 dominated all major GP except AMA. Let me repeat MOTO GP, WSBK, FIM endurance in Austria, British SBK, Dutch SBK French SBK and even Italy SBK also claim they won the championship. I guess no one in history could ever imagine in so many series they almost won it all... Thats the fact... if u dont want to acknowledge it thats fine but that the fact riders!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! so 2009 R1 is the best bike they ever built so far.
Jerry -Batman you are a joke  January 28, 2010 10:34 AM
Batman so what you said is "BMW not winning WSBK last year has nothing to do with the rider" ??? this statement you made proves you know absolutely nothing about bikes. Perhaps another magazine reader/dreamer. I have some facts for you, it is mostly about the RIDER 70 percent of it is the rider. Without the rider the bike is nothing remember that newbie.
batman -s1000rr in WSBK  January 12, 2010 08:35 PM
BMW not winning WSBK last years has nothing to do with the rider!
BMW have always stated from the start of s1000rr development that it didn't expect to be competitive for a few seasons! They are new to SBK production and need time to develop it. People should't be so quick to judge the BMW's lack of success in it's first season, lets not forget the R1 only just won it's first WSBK crown LAST YEAR!!!! The first few seasons will be BMW testing what works and what doesn't, if they approach it like any other motorsport they compete in, i'm sure they will be in a position to win within a couple of years.
Jerry -Klaus  December 19, 2009 04:07 PM
I think you are absolutely wrong, "once they put the right rider on it" what Former Superbike Champion Troy Corser not good enough? Ruben Xaus not good enough?? BMW had there shot, anyone who dares to challenge me on a bet i'll bet you next year and the following year after that 2010,2011 BMW will NOT even come close to winning the world superbike championship who wants to be stupid enough to bet me? the truth is the s1000rr is not a developed bike yet and that's why it got it's tail kicked against the R1 and ducatia 1198R this year sorry to burst your bubble but the s1000rr won't be winning any world class championships anytime soon and anyone who thinks so please please prove me wrong.... i will be waiting
Klaus -R1  December 19, 2009 02:29 AM
Although I do like the R1 very much, I am a diehard Kawasaki fan, and rider.... but I think the new BMW S1000RR is going to shock the racing world... once they put the right rider on it.
thesoapster -Jerry  December 9, 2009 08:28 PM
You can doubt me all you like. Look up the Motorcycle-USA forums (I'm the same user name). I have pictures of it up and actually some early on on-board footage as well. I have much more mileage now and a lot more development/tuning/experience on it. I'm at around 7350 miles, which is not bad for a single season while working full time and going to school in my book. Anyway, I'm not saying the R1 IS NOT the best racing bike, it may very well be. However Yamaha has had some excellent riders (many of which have stellar records), so I would not overstress the R1 too much. I have no doubt (especially given how close Haga was) that if Spies was on a different bike he still would have won (that or Haga). A bike can only be as good as its rider can push it. (Oh, and a side note, I'm not "brand loyal" by any means. Of my three bikes I have owned, 1st was Honda, 2nd was Suzuki, current is Yamaha. Currently loving my R1 and looking forward to developing it more in my second season.)
R34 -RE: Mizake - New AMA vs Old AMA = NASCAR?  December 9, 2009 10:20 AM
Where ever you were trying to go with this, the bottom line still stands...AMA is going down hill faster with DMG holding the reigns. If I wanted to watch "close racing" i'd be more in tune with the 250's or 600's, but don't lecture us on the AMA going in the right direction due to their being more average people out there to provide better racing for the masses. When I watch AMA SBK/WSB/MotoGP...I DON'T want to watch average racers going around, I don't care about up and comers that think they could make it in the premier series...i choose to watch these series because they are thee premier. Listen here DMG boy, if you want close racing week in and week out due to ultra regulated and restricted machinery...watch NASCAR, leave 2wheels to those that actually care about this industry that seems to be going in the toilet in America
Jerry -soapster  December 9, 2009 07:35 AM
I doubt you ride an 09 R1 a out 70% of the guys that claim they ride 1000cc machines in here don't even have bikes most of them are dreamers. Spies won the championship on an R1 but what about the R1 also won the championship in British Superbike, it also won in Dutch Superbike, want more? it also won the FIM world championship in World Endurance and it made maladin's gixxer 1k piss out oil scared, (even though AMA racing is insignificant). So what happend to the gsxr1k,cbr1000rr,duc 1198r,zx10r,bmw s1000rr? if they were such good bikes how come they all got their tails kicked by the r1 this year? where are all their championships this year? like i said the racetrack doesn't lie. as much as you guys are band loyal to your bikes, the racetrack doesn't lie, the R1 is the dominant superbike this year by a longshot.
Mizake -New AMA vs Old AMA = NASCAR?  December 9, 2009 05:32 AM
having spent some time learning a few things about the history of automobile and aircraft engineering, racing, development, and marketing could it be that the turn-over of AMA racing to privateers could make motorcycle racing a quasi-privateer business like NASCAR, a sport that appears to represent a broad swath of our country? Search, how many F1 and MotoGP associated products does our population purchase each year compared to off-road bike products made in USA? this means that, just as NASCAR (and the likes Gurney in F1 and CAN-AM Chapparals in the 1960-70s) has shown that traditional USA technological approaches can create motors with equal and often greater power, can create chassis with equal and often better characteristics, and can create teams with equal and often more successful results than foreign designs, then a future AMA may be better than what there has been so far. The manufacturers' role might become to provide the too-expensive/complex technologies that average folks can't start a small business to supply. So, there might be an increasing proliferation of home-grown motorcycle sports niche manufacturers as there has been with off-road vehicle sports. Note that small, "non-factory" teams, underdogs, are often the cause for a sport to grow into broad acceptance. I think AMA's loss of factory teams may open up a lot more competition from a lot more average people, even if winning purses are low. That's why there are millions of off-road bicycles, bikes, and ATVs sold every year and just a few thousand +600cc sport bikes sold in the same time. CHEERS! here's to a brighter future for more people, bro!
thesoapster -Bikes  December 8, 2009 06:26 PM
I actually ride an 09 R1. Just because Spies won on the R1 does not make the bike the best. It likely just means he was the best racer. (Remember his prior racing career and what bikes he won on?) Rossi won with Honda, too. He switched to Yamaha and helped them develop the M1 into what it is today. The riders deserve a bit more credit.
Jerry -Willpower get a grip AMA is a watered down insignificant class now nobody cares about AMA  December 8, 2009 02:11 PM
AMA's downfall is a direct result of the new ownership and that is why manufacturers are withdrawing from the racing season next year,there will not be any world class caliber racing talent left now that Maladin and spies are gone, so obviously Josh Hayes on the Dominating best 1000cc bike the R1 will win it next year. The AMA will soon be the laughing stock of the racing world if not already so don't you get Maladin winning AMA this year is insignificant and won't catch any REAL World racing class attention. Now if Suzuki, Honda, Kawasaki could capture the World Superbike Championship, or finish 1rst and 2nd in MotoGP or win the British Superbike Championship, Dutch Superbike and FIM world Endurance championship like YAMAHA R1 and M1 did then you can tell me they dominate, until then the R1 is the best racing machine out there that is why they ruled the racing world this year and kicked every 1000cc machines arse (gixxer1k, cbr1000rr,zx10r,1198,s1000rr)
thesoapster -This bike  December 8, 2009 10:59 AM
Such a cool machine. To those (Duane) who want something like this, you can potentially build it. I know of individuals who put YEC ECUs and other parts on their bike. However, a lot of the time you must possess a race license. These are for race use *only*. They are not street legal machines by a long shot, these bikes cannot be built this way and sold on the showroom floor. You would not want to ride a bike like this on the street, anyway. Again if you're wanting it for the track, get a racing license, a good chunk of money, and a good mechanic (if you are not that good yourself [I'm certainly not]). You can make an R1 off the floor into something a lot like this.
R34 -RE: Jerry - The R1 reigns supreme  December 8, 2009 08:47 AM
Jerry -The AMA might field a "full blown race bike," but regarding the R1 even in factory trim, it is not on the same playing field as the WSB Sterilgarda R1. The AMA is soooo restricted in their rule books that it is a surprise that these bikes perform as they do, and NO surprise that a rider gets flagged and stripped of their points for running something illegal during the season...which happens every season.
W1LLPOW3R -jerry get a grip..  December 7, 2009 06:20 PM
Dude, Mladin won AMA on a SUZUKI...
Jerry -The R1 reigns supreme  December 7, 2009 06:03 PM
When it comes to a full blown race bike all brands (1198,Zx10r,cbr1000r,gixxer1k - pale in comparison to the R1 , The AMA superbike spec and the World Superbike Spies Spec are far superior to any other race bike on this planet and that is the reason why the R1 dominated the world in racing this year.
Duane -Build it please!  December 7, 2009 03:57 PM
This is how I like a bike set up. Please Yamaha, build this bike. Even if it's special order! I'll empty my 401k to get it!
Duane -Build it please!  December 7, 2009 03:56 PM
This is how I like a bike set up. Please Yamaha, build this bike. Even if it's special order! I'll empty my 401k to get it!
R34 -Haye's R1 vs Spies R1  December 7, 2009 09:06 AM
Steve -What I am really interested is how this bike stacks up against the WSB Sterilgarda R1...since you have had the chance to test as well...thanks
W1LLPOW3R -R1..  December 7, 2009 07:09 AM
Keep the good stuff coming Steve-o...and with the Anti-social Aussie flown off into the sunset, Hayes has got to be the series favorite..what's with all the Affliction gear brah? training to be a cage fighter?
Brian -fork offset and rear shock linkage  December 7, 2009 06:27 AM
Any chance you have close-up pics or info on the offset of the triple clamps> How about the rear linkage, how is it different than stock?
Night Cop -R1  December 6, 2009 11:49 PM
Man, I just love this new R1. It's beautiful in race or street trim. Plus the amazing v twin sound. Yamaha is the king if racing in '09. Steve, a whole day on the bike and only 1:30 long video???