Yamaha R1 First Ride
Apparently -- at least according to the Internet, source of all the answers to all the questions in the world -- people, like fine wines, mellow with age. A variety of studies -- some as recent as June 2006 -- indicate that older folk are much better at dealing with negative emotions and generally have a better handle on their emotional roller coaster then their younger, whippersnapper counterparts.
Think about it for a minute. What's the image that many of us have when we think of our elders? Perhaps we conjure some old geezer casually sipping coffee or iced tea on a porch swing with nothing better to do than watch the world pass by their house. For me, the perfect example of this might have been my own grandparents. For well over twenty years that we shared our lives together I rarely, if ever, saw them get their feathers ruffled about much of anything. They always seemed happy and easy going. Heck, I even witnessed the change in my own dad. A man that was once a stern, headstrong, willful person had become someone who didn't sweat the little things anymore, and was often more inclined to respond with a tempered remark than to bark out his irrefutable edict.
"What in tarnation do old people have to do with motorcycles?"
Alright, maybe you don't think of yourself as old or getting old, but Yamaha's research about their venerable, standard-setting liter bike says that R1 owners or prospective buyers are, in short, a more mature lot. Feel better about yourself now?
According to Yamaha the liter-bike crowd is comprised almost entirely of boys (97 percent), are on average 33 years old, have 13 years riding experience, ride approximately 7,300 miles per year, and first-time buyers make up a very small percentage -- less than 10 percent -- of sportbikes displacing 1,000cc. We could also extrapolate from Yamaha's number crunching that the liter-bike owner is probably wiser, and not just older. It seems that 1,000cc junkies are "...more focused on commuting, less on touring and slightly more focused on track riding..." as compared to the industry average. Specifically of the R1, Yamaha claims that owners get in 13 percent more track time than the "industry average" and are far more interested in the handling traits of their motorcycle(s) than they are in adding more power.
Are any of these descriptors hitting close to home? After hearing these stats on the typical liter bike rider/owner, I reasoned that Yamaha most certainly had sent a team of Men in Blue (MIB) to chart my every move. Speaking for myself, I fit the liter bike rider mold pretty darn well.
So, if the typical big-bore sportbike guy is in his mid-thirties, likes to take it to the track a little more than his neighbor after commuting all week so he can sort out the handling on his heavily-ridden machine, what do you suppose that says about what Yamaha did with the 2007 R1?
To put us in the know, Yamaha invited a cadre of journos to the current home of the US MotoGP, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, CA. It was here that we would see if we could discern if all this new techno wizardry had dramatically improved the R1 or simply brought it on par with the competition.
If you haven't heard, Yamaha made some pretty big news when they broke a long-standing tradition and did away with their time-honored five-valve layout. The two remaining titanium intake valves increased in size to 31mm from three 23.5mm bits, while the two steel exhaust valves keep their '06 dimensions of 25mm. Valve angles have also changed to match the new head. The single intake's angle is now 11.5 degrees while the exhaust is now 12.5 degrees. The 2006 model's two intake side valve angles were 15.75 degrees with the center valve angle -- remember it was a five-valve head -- at 8.75 degrees and the exhaust angle was 11 degrees. Speaking of valves, lift was also raised on both the intake and exhaust cams, from 7.6 to 9.2mm and 7.5 to 8.3mm respectively.
The end result is a cylinder head that has a greater intake volume thanks in part to a high-lift cam profile, and a compression ratio that was bumped from 12.4:1 to 12.7:1. This has allegedly improved combustion efficiency, and power across the low, mid and top ends, and thanks to a smoother combustion chamber and re-shaped pistons -- specifically designed with the new head in mind -- the R1's cleaner-burning power plant can meet stringent 2008 emissions standards. We know how much you worry about cleaner-burning motorcycles.
Oddly enough, bore and stroke is unchanged from 77mm by 53.6mm. But in order to deal with the increased power from the new head, the connecting rods were strengthened by adding more material in all the right places.
New head aside, the R1's other large overhaul was in fueling and all that it entails. More big numbers pop up when we look at the throttle bodies. Though they still have the same 45mm bore, they no longer use a measly four injector holes, but a whopping 12 holes are employed to improve atomization. But adding more holes is about as low-tech as improving the fueling gets. Borrowing from its little brother, the R6, the 2007 R1 now utilizes YCC-T or Yamaha Chip Controlled - Throttle. Some people just like to call it throttle by wire. Simply put, it's a system comprised of an accelerator position sensor (APS), throttle position sensor (TPS) and opening and closing throttle "wires." With the 32-bit Denso ECU calculating throttle grip position and throttle valve opening every one thousandth of a second, a tiny motor performs the actual work of opening and closing the throttle. For those of you paralyzed with fear after watching the Matrix trilogy, the rider can still close the throttle "mechanically" by wire if electricity is interrupted.