Yamaha YZF-R1 road test


200 hp at 13,500 rpm, 112 N.m at 11,500 rpm, 199 kilos with full fuel, from € 18,499

Is the Crossplane engine an advantage in road use ?

Even if the current context is not for the promotion of high-performance machines, it is always a pleasure to take a sports car to carve out a good stretch of road ! Because with 200 horses for 200 kilos, we are touching the category of gear the strongest in sensations. And, among the Japanese, the Yamaha YZF-R1 is undoubtedly one of the most sophisticated. Admittedly, the restricted circle of Japanese sports cars includes within it Honda CBR 1000 and Suzuki GSX-R 1000 (old but still largely victorious in Endurance); Admittedly, the Kawasaki ZX-10R is also very sophisticated, but Yamaha goes further with this Crossplane engine, with similar technology to the MotoGP M1 and whose introduction in dealerships dates back to the previous generation of R1, in 2009.

This therefore gives us an atypical machine, with a particular sound, motor character and sensory universe. The YZF-R1 and its upgraded version YZF-R1-M have already been tested on the Den by my young colleague the dashing Loïc, on the Eastern Creek circuit (Australia). What follows is therefore a further test, carried out during more road use (although sporting!) Of the machine..

Yamaha YZF-R1 static left side


Compact! This is the least we can say about this last generation of R1, especially when we compare it to the previous one, of which I was personally quite a fan for 3 reasons: the length of its engine and its relative smoothness. , even in full power, its suspensions rather conciliatory in road use and its generous size which allowed me to wedge my large carcass well. In short, from 2009 to 2014, the R1 was also a good road sports car. But that was before.

The design of the fairing, which almost manages to hide the presence of the headlights, reinforces the expression of compactness and gives it almost the appearance of a competition motorcycle! Still, this R1 has allure and that on its handlebars, you will be sure to get noticed. The good news is that looking at the detail is by no means disappointing: high-end peripherals, high-level workmanship, a dash that is as small as it is impressive, not to mention the details that kill, such as the sidewalls. hollowed-out saddles, which give the feeling that they were designed to take care of the aero downforce at high speed.

Yamaha YZF-R1 Contoured Seat

In the saddle

The saddle of the R1 is 855 mm high and cannot be tamed by smaller riders, despite the compactness of the machine. If the strap handlebars are at knee height, the tank has the advantage of not being too long (which can handicap large riders on the track, because they lack room to move on the handlebars), but on a daily basis, this remains livable. And do not count on the dead travel of the shock absorbers to gain a few millimeters: it is firm !

The 998cc 4-cylinder CrossPlane comes to life with a push on the starter and maintains syncopated idle, with hints of V4. Before hitting the road, you will therefore have to choose in which configuration you want your R1. On the left stalk, the "Menu" button allows you to quickly select from among the 4 driving "modes", each referring to a "Power" level, for a direct or downright annihilated response (in 4) as well as, by default, a corresponding level of traction control (TCS) and rear wheel drift permissiveness (SCS). While driving, only the TCS and SCS levels can be changed.

Yamaha YZF-R1 left switch

The on-board computer is managed by the "menu" dial on the right stalk. It takes a little getting used to before grasping all of its features since to set everything up, you have to know when to turn it, exert short presses or long presses..

Yamaha YZF-R1 Right Switch

The dashboard is tiny, 109 millimeters wide and offers two modes. The "track" mode gives pride of place to the gear engaged and the tachometer is only graduated from 8000 rpm; the "road" mode includes a lot of information, including a kind of inertial unit on the right. We say to ourselves at the beginning that all this is messy and difficult to read, before getting used to it over the kilometers. And welcome the quality of the lighting, the resolution, as well as the "Day / Night" transfer of the screen depending on the light conditions..

Yamaha YZF-R1 dashboard

In the city

It is rarely the preferred universe of 1000 sports cars, because of their driving position on the front, their infernal turning radius and the length of their gear ratios, with a first that often exceeds 150 km. / h. In this area, the R1 does not appear to be a good student in the category, especially as its engine is less flexible than the traditional 4 cylinders and in addition it gives off beautiful heat rises, noticeable under the rider saddle and passenger.

However, its turning radius is less catastrophic than some of its counterparts and its compactness makes it rather easy to take between the lines of cars. But jerks of injection (except with Power in 4, when the engine is totally anemic) and an unpleasant, rough and noisy selection, do not make it the queen of everyday life. Without a doubt, the 3 other Japanese women are less disagreeable in these conditions. The R1 prefers the great outdoors.

On motorways and main roads

In sixth at a little over 5000 rpm, we get bored copiously at 130 km / h! But that’s life and you have to live with it. Or go to Germany and watch for free portions. That’s good, that’s what we did. And there, that changes everything. Obviously respecting the elementary safety rules and behaving like a responsible citizen, the R1 reveals another facet of its personality: it is an airplane !

For the record, I drove with two cars, including a Mercedes C63 AMG. A black sedan that looks like an Uber-mobile, except that inside there is a V8 of 6.2 and 485 hp (thanks to the Perf Pack). In the small game of times, above 180, the sedan is dropped. And if we downgrade with the R1, it turns into humiliation: in my Benz-Benz-Benz, we are foot to the floor, but with the V8 screaming (it does that very well, by the way!) And the motorcycle escapes towards the horizon.

Yamaha YZF-R1 on the highway and under the sun

In Mode A, the R1 rears up on the rear wheel in third at around 175 km / h, when the power peak is noticeable. In fourth, it takes 265 km / h. In fifth, it blocks the odometer at 299 km / h. How much does the 6 take? Mystery. In any case, the acceleration capacity of the R1 between 10 and 14,000 rpm, the total absence of inertia of the 4 cylinders in this section, its deep metallic rumble, serious and angry at the same time and the gearbox. speed which, finally, works in a fast and precise way: all this is only happiness !

At 4000 rpm from the red zone (ie 10,000), the R1 cruise at a good 250 km / h in sixth. Imperturbable. Obviously, the protection is quite limited, especially for large riders. The only solution: hide behind the bubble, with your elbows resting on your knees. The stability in large curves is imperative and one might fear, with the short wheelbase (1405 mm) and the rather closed caster angle (24 °) of the reactions of the front on the bumps in full acceleration. It is not so.

Yamaha YZF-R1 on highway

On departmental

90 km / h in sixth, it is a small 3500 rpm and it is the limit of flexibility of the 4 cylinders CrossPlane. Below, you will feel more comfortable riding in 4th and you will rail against the stiffness of the selection. Among the assets: a neutral and precise front axle and a fork that has a real damping capacity with a deliciously progressive compression in the big braking and a delicate rebound. The rear shock is more prone to swinging racquet hits. The gearbox is still unpleasant and the by-wire accelerator still delivers jerks. It’s amazing, moreover, this Yamaha character trait: how a company that knows how to align the strings gracefully suffers when it comes to gears. ?

Yamaha YZF-R1 in action in a pif-paf

The real question to ask is how to exploit even a tenth of the potential of such a machine while remaining within the limits of legality … Go on the circuit, perhaps ?

Yamaha YZF-R1 in front of a safety sign in Germany

And in very sporty use ?

That’s why here we are at the Nurburgring. It’s quite easy to get there and it is important to be aware of the rules to follow to ride there. But there, finally, we will be able to get into it without ulterior motives. And along the 20,832 meters of the Nordschleife covered several times, the R1 reveals new sides of its personality.

One, the CrossPlane: as we said, not very flexible nor super melodious at low revs, the 4-cylinder really shows itself in the revs.

Certainly, from 5000 rpm, it gives the impression of a certain response on the road, but in the heat of the moment, we realize that it is above 7/8000 rpm that it really deposits and that vigor turns into a form of fury (without the violence of a BMW S 1000 RR, however). What is appreciable is that the acceleration, although sustained, is still measurable. A good point when the need for precision and high speeds combine.

Yamaha YZF-R1 on the Norschleife

The R1’s second asset: the precision of its front axle, especially on a circuit as bumpy as the Nurburgring can be. Not only does the fork absorb bumps without handlebar tendencies, but is also capable of handling unevenness and heavy braking without parasitic movements or loss of precision. For its part, the braking is powerful, measurable, well calibrated with an ABS of which (and this is the proof of the high quality of the front axle), the intervention threshold is very late..

On reading the technical sheet, the R1 is like the gas plant. All the electronics are managed by a six-axis inertial unit, capable of measuring movements in all directions and, in addition, the effects of pitch, yaw and roll of the machine, thanks to three gyroscopic sensors. On the Nordschleife, I had therefore put "Mode" and "Power" on A, but I had kept traction control on 3. Well I took it, because during my second lap, a small downpour. is put to fall while I was already launched: and the TCS saved me from a nice setback suffered when accelerating in fourth. Thank you, guardian angel! Electronics saved my life.

All this package makes 200 horses on the Norschleife, there is nothing "unreasonable".


Even if the R1-M goes even further with its piloted suspensions, the "basic" R1 (an overused expression for a machine already capable of such performance!) Is satisfied with more classic solutions. At the rear, the mono shock absorber debates over 120 mm, as does the solid, fully adjustable inverted fork (and moreover, easily, with all the options offered at the top of the fork tubes). And as always, Yamaha relies on a solid aluminum Deltabox frame for its sports cars..

Yamaha YZF-R1, fork adjustment

Yamaha YZF-R1, rear brake and exhaust


Dual 320mm disc at the front with radial 4-piston calipers, a single 220mm disc at the rear. An efficient and well calibrated ABS. Power, dosability, efficiency: nothing to say !

Yamaha YZF-R1: powerful and adjustable braking

Comfort and duo

There are some good and some not so good. The good thing is that the R1 promised everything from the fakir board and that in the end, you can inquire 1200 kilometers in the weekend plus a few laps of the circuit without being completely roasted. I expected to suffer and in the end, it went well! The protection is nothing fantastic, but the ergonomics are well designed. And, over the long haul, the rear shock is a little dry in rebound, but the fork seduces with its many qualities..

Yamaha YZF-R1 saddle and sidewalls

For the passenger, on the other hand, it’s harder! Already, the space is minimalist, the protection non-existent, just like the places to hang on. Well, we still took 280 km / h in duet (still in Germany, of course!), When I received a little pat on the back because the passenger felt that she was having more and more pain to stand and was afraid of being thrown parachute way, to the general hilarity of the passengers of the Benz AMG who was on the vacuum. As for the R1, it was unfazed.

Consumption & autonomy

Bad news: the CrossPlane consumes! 7 l / 100 on the motorway and up to 10 l daily. With 17 liters in the tank, you will be forced to take a break every 200 kilometers.

Yamaha YZF-R1 Right Side Static


The new R1 is more radical. This was wanted by the manufacturer, who wanted to make him regain the path of the podiums in major international competitions (strategy partly won, thanks to two victories at the 8 Hours of Suzuka 2015 and 2016). But this radicalism is also paid for on a daily basis.

Compared to the previous generation, the new R1 is more compact, more wired, less comfortable, less protective. By changing the vintage, its engine goes from 182 hp at 12,500 rpm to 200 hp at 13,500: it is more powerful, less inert, but also less round at medium speed and a little less pleasant at the bottom. And, in 2016, Yamaha is still struggling to make gearboxes with convincing approval, as well as soft and transparent by-wire..

Fans of thrills and sporting efficiency are sure to gain from this; those who like to practice their R1 on a daily basis, a little less. But the R1 avoids the pitfall of extremism thanks to an excellent fork as well as an efficient and intuitive electronic package. And as she drops off her mother, adrenaline and CrossPlane fans will find something to satisfy their emotional needs..

The Yamaha YZF-R1 salutes you!

Strong points

  • Excellent front end
  • Sounds and driving character in the towers
  • Fire performance !
  • Electronic aids welcome and easy to calibrate
  • High level design and finish
  • Amazing non-discomfort

Weak points

  • Disagreeable selection (except thoroughly)
  • Injection jerks at stabilized speed (except in Power 4 mode, suitable for lemurs under Tranxen)
  • Flexibility and sound at very low revs
  • Rising heat under the rider and passenger saddles
  • Versatility behind
  • High consumption


Test conditions

  • Route: 1,400 km in one week, with a few days of use in Paris, a round trip to the Nurburgring and a few laps on the infamous Nordschleife
  • Motorcycle mileage: 4500 km
  • Problem encountered: A Porsche 911 Turbo S on the big climb to Nurb ‘. It was not easy to overtake. And a start of square acceleration in 4th, during a downpour on the Nurburgring, fortunately stopped by the TCS which put me back on the right track.

Competition: Aprilia RSV4, BMW S 1000 RR, Ducati 1299 Panigale, Honda CBR 1000 RR SP, Kawasaki ZX-10R, MV Agusta 1000 F4, Suzuki GSX-R 1000

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  • All sports trials

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5 thoughts on “Yamaha YZF-R1 road test

  1. Among the neo-retros expected in 2018, with this BBB sold for 14,350 euros, the Kawasaki Z900 RS at 11,999 euros (the one painted in Henry Ford’s favorite color) seems almost inexpensive …

  2. The anecdote is true to smile

    And I can only encourage you to go and ride in Germany, or even at the Nьrburgring! It’s like Space Mountain, but in real life…

    Thank you anyway for following us,


  3. Motorcycle that scrapes in the bends.

    Ridiculous autonomy.

    Exorbitant price.

    But what a look !

    A real bistro motorcycle. One more.

    I do 15000km per year, I definitely can’t recognize myself in this kind of machine.

    The average mileage of bikers continues to decline year after year.

    In short, it’s "trendy", it corresponds to a demand.

  4. Personally, I do not find anything out of date in this machine, aesthetically I find it magnificent with (like the false carbs) many nods to the past. Necessarily designed and designed by enthusiasts, it is to current motorcycle production what the Breitling Navitimer is to connected watches in watchmaking. Afterwards, the tastes and the colors …

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