[There are only few of us who can put the deposit down on a brand new YZF-R1M like it's just going to the movies (hell, I'm too cheap for popcorn). So while we're all getting excited about Yamaha's latest development in the sport bike world, we can still purchase last year's model... and the model before that. As we wait for the R1M to become attainable for guys like you and me (aka sit on the used market for a few years), we decided to pick up a bone stock 2014 Yamaha R1 and hand it off to our resident R1 expert, who has owned his modified 2008 model for a few years. We want him to answer a few questions, like was last year's model significantly better than the generation before. - Edit Note]
"I volunteer as tribute"
I’ve ridden various modified versions of the Yamaha R1 for about nine years now and have become an advocate for their brutal speed, stable chassis and faultless reliability. So when a stock 2014 R1 was delivered to RideApart's main offices, I naturally volunteered to put it through its paces.
Arriving during the Los Angeles “winter,” the subsequent rain and strong winds meant we weren’t going to get an opportunity to track test it, or even get it close to the outer limits of its performance. So we decided to make it a comparison test against my own 2008 R1 on my daily 55-mile commute—with some weekend shenanigans thrown in.
[Correction: the 2014 model utilizes a "cross-plane" crank and the 2008 uses a "flat-plane" crank. It was originally mixed up the wording below, it has since been fixed.]
The latest cross-plane cranked 2014 R1 has some very obvious advantages over its older sibling—most noticeably its technology. I was particularly grateful for the traction control and drive modes for the drive-by-wire throttle when I encountered inclement weather.
While many riders eschew the newest technology in favor for a more pure, more analog experience, I welcomed the opportunity to remain upright in difficult conditions. I took full advantage of the gadgets, fiddling with the seven-level traction control as conditions dictated – dialing in considerably more in the rain for peace of mind. This is easily selected from the handlebar rocker switch and visualized by a bar graph on the LCD display.
The traction control can be used in combination with the D-MODE selector that gives you three choices of throttle actuation, making it more precise at low to medium speeds (Mode A), or dulling its sensitivity for tricky conditions (Mode B) with the standard setting offering the best of all worlds.
To be honest, I found the more sensitive setting a pain since bumps in the road would cause you to wind on a little more throttle; therefore, causing the engine revs to seesaw. It felt uncomfortable and was difficult to make progress on anything other than the smoothest roads.
I also tried Mode B in the rain, but since I was familiar with using less gas in slippery conditions, I didn’t find it particularly useful. However, somebody with less experience in the wet would undoubtedly benefit from its reduce sensitivity.
When it wasn’t raining, and I was able to turn off the traction control and open up the 998cc in-line four, it brought a smile to my face. The engine's design provides a linear power delivery that ensures impressive application and good traction. In fact, it was so good, it almost felt tame in comparison to some of its liter-bike rivals. This also had you questioning its weight, but at 454lbs, it’s not exactly portly.
Whatever the cause, the 2014 R1 seemed to lack the raw excitement and ludicrous acceleration you expect from a superbike. This might be because my frame of reference is skewed due to my own 2008 R1. More on that later…
The cross-plane crank produces a noticeable vibration in the mid-range when you open the throttle to overtake. With earplugs fitted, you don’t hear the Ducati-esque engine note, but do feel the vibration every time you twist the grip. It’s not a major gripe, but the cross-plane cranks’ uneven firing order doesn’t have the smooth power delivery of some of its rivals.
Having sung the praises of the 2014 model’s technology, I don’t want to give the impression that the six-year old 2008 R1 is a dud. In fact, it shares a number of the same technologies, such as a fly-by-wire throttle system, slipper clutch and six-piston front calipers. It also has variable intake funnel length for a broad spread of power, which is where this superbike scores big over the newer model.
At this point, I should explain it’s not a level playing field. The older R1 has a number of upgrades that give it the upper hand in terms of power and flexibility. These include a Bazzaz power module with a custom tune from WestCoastGP Cycles. It has Yoshimura slip-ons in order to retain the cat and a kevlar clutch. I also fitted a lightweight DID 520 race chain and sprockets. This included a +2 rear sprocket to reduce weight and friction, making the gearing more aggressive. Finally, I added a Speedohealer to compensate for the altered gearing.
Claimed to be of the most powerful stock R1s ever tested by a couple of Los Angeles dyno facilities, I started with a good platform. Adding the Bazazz and exhaust bumped the power to almost 190hp at the rear wheel. Also, lowering the gearing on this explosive combination has produced a phenomenal machine that makes most other liter bikes seem pedestrian…CONTINUE READING
Photos courtesy of Brent Sorbom for Yamaha.