Road Test Review
Whizbang technology from Yamaha’s M1 MotoGP racebike trickled down to the masses in 2009 when the R1 sportbike became the first production motorcycle to use a crossplane crankshaft. Each crankpin is offset 90 degrees from the next, which produces an uneven firing interval that dramatically changes the sound and feel of the engine. Fluctuations in inertial crankshaft torque are smoothed out, which provides more linear throttle response and helps keep the rear tire hooked up when powering out of corners. The crossplane design—combined with throttle-by-wire—delivers immediate, predictable power. We preferred the standard throttle control map (drive mode) over the aggressive “A” and subdued “B” modes. Also new for 2009 is a redesigned chassis that centralizes mass and more aerodynamic bodywork.
We’ve read complaints about the R1 being heavier and less powerful than its liter-class competition, but its centralized mass compensates for the weight and it offers enough shot-from-a-cannon power to keep us happy (151.6 horsepower and 76.0 lb-ft of torque on the Jett Tunin Dynojet dyno). The sportbike-spec brakes and adjustable suspension handle all of this power very well. Revised ergonomics are tight and track-oriented, with a forward-sloping seat that wedges your pride and joy against the tank. Although we struggled with heat from the underseat exhaust that ranged from warm to thigh-roasting, and too-tall gearing that hindered first-gear starts (amazingly, you’ll be just shy of the ton in first when the rev limiter kicks in), this is an impressive sportbike. The only changes planned for 2010 are a price increase and the release of a Limited Edition model in Valentino Rossi/Fiat Yamaha livery.