2012 Yamaha YZF-R1

First Ride Review

After debuting its crossplane crankshaft in 2009, Yamaha’s 2012 update of the YZF-R1 has focused on refinement, adding traction control, updating the look and celebrating the company’s Grand Prix racing heritage. Worldwide, 2,000 World GP 50th Anniversary Edition YZF-R1s, with anniversary livery, numbered plate, anniversary emblem and gold tuning fork badges, will be produced.

The R1’s traction control, operated by a rocker switch on the left handlebar with settings displayed on the instrument panel, has seven positions: off plus six levels of increasing intervention. Combined with D-Mode throttle response maps (Standard, A and B), there are 21 possible combinations that can be changed on the fly. Styling changes are subtle: a new top triple clamp is modeled after the one on Yamaha’s YZR-M1 MotoGP racebike, footpeg tips offer more grip, muffler heat shields and end caps have been redesigned, and the front fairing has new LED position lights and cut-outs.

On the road, the new R1 feels like the old R1–precise and wickedly fast with an aggressive riding position. And the underseat exhausts still roasted my thighs, a situation exacerbated by riding on traffic-choked streets in 100-degree heat. As the Pines to Palms Scenic Byway climbed into the mountains, the air cooled and the curves came aplenty. In such an environment, the YZF-R1 is stunning, with crisp throttle response, intuitive handling and firm suspension. When we put the 2009 model on the dyno, it made 151.6 horsepower and 71.6 lb-ft of torque–all you’ll ever need. Even though I was on a tight mountain road lined with guardrails and boulders, on the most conservative setting I got the TCS light to flash without feeling the intervention. The electronic safety net is designed to be non-intrusive, and Yamaha seems to have achieved its goal.