2004 Yamaha R1 Street Test


At long last, here's the 2004 Yamaha R1, the third all-new bike in the highly anticipated 1000cc supersport class. We told you all about the 2004 Kawasaki ZX-10R, back in December, after I rode it at Homestead. More recently, I got a chance to spend a day aboard Honda's new CBR 1000RR and now the trifecta is complete with this review of the 2004 Yamaha R1.

The first R1 made its debut in 1998 and its styling raised the bar for Japanese sportbikes. Each revision since then has refined the look and this new one is undoubtedly the prettiest R1 yet. After seeing this bike in person and oogling the new metallic red and the two-tone silver paint jobs, I sincerely feel that Yamaha has displaced Ducati at the top of the sportbike styling heap. (Of course Ducati helped, when they replaced the gorgeous 916 family with the 999 series) Yamaha says the new R1 is: "Michelangelo meets Sir Isaac Newton". I'd say: From the voluptuous upside-down swingarm, to the flowing intake snorkels, the 2004 R1 just oozes sex appeal.

Sure it looks great in pictures, but in person the new R1's "Shift Red" paint scheme is absolutely stunning. Yamaha could have simply restyled last year's excellent R1 and given us the new look without a full redesign, because most buyers couldn't even get near the absolute performance limits of the original 1998 R1. However, Yamaha intends to do some serious racing with this new bike and not only are there looming 1000cc threats from Kawasaki and Honda, but last year's GSX-R 1000 also had the old R1 covered from a pure performance standpoint. Wisely, Yamaha decided to go hole-hog for 2004 and the result is a bike that shares little more than an oil filter with the 2003 R1.

A comprehensive listing of the changes and revisions is included in Yamaha's spec-chart at the end of this article. However, at the risk of being redundant, I'd like to breeze through a few of the biggies. The entirely nMan this job sucks! Why couldn't I just push paper for a living? ew 998cc engine is claimed to make 172Hp and 180Hp "at speed" (thanks to ram-air induction, a first for R1s). The engine is over 56mm narrower than last year's motor, even though cylinder bores are now 3mm larger. This is mostly due to movement of the starter and charging systems to the back side of the cylinders, but also from a 23.7mm shorter crankshaft and a reduction in bore spacing, from 9mm to 5mm. The cylinders are now canted 40° forward from vertical (last years engine was 30°) this allows for even straighter intake ports and most importantly makes the engine shorter, so that the new "Deltabox" frame can route its spars over the engine (like the new ZX-10R's frame) instead of around the sides, for a narrower midsection. That new frame is 200% stiffer in the vertical plane, 50% stiffer against side forces and 30% stiffer torsionally, it is also has been reduced in width, from 464mm down to 395mm. A slightly narrower valve angle allows the compression to be bumped to 12.4:1 from last year's 11.8:1 (be sure to use premium gas) which is a big help in boosting power. Reciprocating and rotating inertia has been reduced, via 3% lighter pistons and a 16% lighter crankshaft, which makes the engine quicker revving and gives it a more "lively" feel. The lighter weight internals also help the engine to survive near its 14,000Rpm rev limiter.

The two-tone Liquid Silver/Cerulean Silver color scheme gets color-matched intake snorkles. Grrr Baby, Very Grrr!The new engine's redline is an unbelievable 2,000Rpm higher, at 13,750 compared to last year's 11,750Rpm redline. The fuel tank is fully 2" narrower than last year's. Front brake rotors have stretched from 298 to 320mm but are now .5mm thinner, so they weigh the same as last year's brakes. The front calipers now feature the de-rigueur radial mounting and the master cylinder has been changed to an excellent radial piston Brembo. Intake ports are straighter and 5% larger than last year's. Exhaust gasses are vented through 5mm larger ports that are surrounded by an extra water jacket for improved cooling, then routed out through a catalyst equipped exhaust that's (with the exception of the catalyst) 100% titanium from header to mufflers. The new steering damper is equipped with a mechanical ball check-valve that floats out of the way during slow movement, but is forced to block an oil passage when the damper is moved quickly. This allows for lighter slow speed handling, but allows for the necessary resistance needed at high-frequencies (like headshake).

GYTR Carbon Fiber Parts for the 2004 R1 2004 R1 Racebike   

Who needs excuses, I know I'm sexy According to Yamaha, the new R1 has the same ground clearance as their M1 MotoGP bike (except for the footpegs which would need to be changed for racing), thanks to the narrower engine and underseat exhausts.

Ergonomics are typical modern supersport and felt a little cramped at first, though I must confess to just getting over the flu and being somewhat stiff at the beginning of the ride. After I stretched a bit, I was perfectly happy and after a solid day of riding, I was still fresh and had no aches to complain about. The footpegs have been moved down 7mm and forward 2.5mm from last year's R1 and the clip-ons have been raised 10mm. When you couple this with a significantly narrower motorcycle, you end up with a roomier riding position. In addition to the new ergos, the new engine is quite smooth for an inline four and was noticeably less buzzy than the Honda CBR 1000RR.

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