Yamaha R1 First Ride

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One more grouping of consonants and a single vowel make headlines on the '07 R1. YCC-I or Yamaha Chip Controlled - Intake is Team Blue's fancy name for what they initially called variable intake length. In the simplest of terms, a small servo motor extends intake snorkels for low to mid-range power from 65mm to 140mm. Over 10,400 RPM the funnels are reeled back to 65mm by a servo motor for improved top-end power. This action takes place in the tiny span of three-tenths of a second, so long as the throttle valve has been opened past 57.5 at 10,400 RPM. The system isn't so much "variable" as it is one selecting one length or the other. So just remember that short funnels -- I like to call them snorkels -- are better for top-end power and long funnels are for low and mid-range power.

It's a stretch, but with the powerful ECU managing the YCC-T that ultimately adjusts for less-than-perfect rider judgment, and the YCC-I that enhances power on the fly, this dynamic duo gets close to what was heretofore unknown to motorcycles en mass: traction control. True traction control involves the monitoring of rear wheel speed against front wheel speed, and momentarily reducing power to the rear wheel if sensors indicate that it's spinning faster than the front. Nevertheless, YCC-T veils, for lack of a better term, response to the rider's input. BMW looks to have the bugs worked out of their ASC (Automatic Stability Control) enough to offer it on 2007 K and R models as an option.

Not quite as impressive as the changes to the head or fueling, but important nonetheless, are the "stick" ignition coils, a curved, twin-fan radiator with 13 percent more surface area for improved cooling, new titanium exhaust system -- still in the twin-under-the-seat variety -- and the same slipper clutch found on the 2006 R1 LE. To accommodate the slipper clutch the tranny main shaft was lengthened by five millimeters. Otherwise, the transmission retains the same ratios as the '06 R1, no matter how tall they may seem to be.

Carrying this new engine around is the job of an equally-new frame and swing arm. With a focus on "maximizing rigidity in cast parts and flex in extruded parts" the frame was redesigned to improve front-end feel in the corners and improve "rigidity balance." A cross member was eliminated and a reinforcing rib was added to the frame. Yamaha claims 50 percent less vertical flex, 24 percent less sideways flex and 25 percent less torsional flex. The swing arm is also new. The pivot point has been raised three millimeters in order to increase room for race tires -- or to "minimize chain tension of drive power", whichever sounds better to you -- and the rear arm of the aluminum-truss swingarm is 16mm longer. The overall focus of the new swinger is improved cornering "turn in" and greater traction upon acceleration out of the turn. This is achieved by increasing torsional rigidity by as much as 30 percent while actually decreasing lateral rigidity a smidgen. In addition to changes to the frame, Yamaha decreased fork offset from 30mm to 25mm and increased trail from 97mm to 102mm.    

The obvious idea here is that you'll get improved front-end feel and steering response.

Suspension components also receive upgrades with the new 43mm KYB front end getting larger diameter pistons -- 20mm to 24mm -- aluminum damping rods, reduced inner tube-wall thickness and a stronger axle bracket. The end result is said to be better damping with less cavitation and lighter weight. The new Soqi rear shock has a revised progressive damping rate with a high and low-speed compression adjuster, an increased link lever rate -- from eight percent to 14 percent -- and a spring rate that was increased to 11.5 percent. What they want to achieve with the revised suspenders is a bike that will have better traction out of corners and a firm feel that's in character with the new frame.

While they were down in the suspension area, Yamaha figured they should improve the brakes while they were at it. Gone are the now-classic four pots and in their place you'll find six-piston binders that crush down on 310mm rotors. The rotors are downsized by roughly 10mm from last year, but because of where the brake pad will ride in the new calipers, effective braking area remains the same, so says Team Blue. It's worth noting that they will use two pads on each side of each caliper. In other words, each caliper will have two small pads and two slightly larger pads. The objective here was to create even pad wear since the new caliper is long compared to most four-piston setups. This resizing and relocating of braking bits apparently reduces "inertial moment" at the axle, which is said to result in a lighter feel.

After hours and hours of track time, this Pirelli Diablo will only be slightly dirtier than it is in this picture. While you're still looking at the bottom half of the motorcycle you'll find track-ready Pirelli Corsa Diablos connecting the bike to the tarmac. Pirelli specifically engineered a set of Diablos for the R1 and they will carry TL Diablo Corsa E designation for the front and TL Diablo Corsa L for the rear. So remember when you head off to get some new rubber for your 2007 R1 to not ask for off-the-shelf Diablos. Make sure the retailer is aware that you need the E and L designation.

With a lot of energy put into redesigning virtually every aspect of the bike, you might expect the bike to look dramatically different. Not so much on the all-new R1. The bodywork is improved in the areas of air-flow management in that it closely resembles the R6's "tunnels" for better heat transfer, has increased openings for the ram-air, and the windscreen receives a hop-up by growing 10mm and is fastened to the bodywork without screws. In the cockpit you can expect to gaze upon a new "multi-function meter", or tachometer and speedometer as MO likes to call them. As a final touch, the tail section was redesigned with a new taillight and the exhaust cans were rotated upward; it's all for aesthetics and they make no bones about that.

If you find yourself thinking that the bike looks basically like it has for a number of years now, you'd be right. Yamaha falls back to their research of R1 owners for justification for keeping the general look of the bike the same. The fact is -- at least according to them -- that many R1 customers didn't go with another brand because they liked the looks of the R1 so much. Stick with what you know.

It goes Zoom-Zoom too.The myriad of changes are all fine and good in terms of keeping up with what the competition is doing, but has the bike mellowed with age? Most certainly not! In short, this newest R1 leaves little to complain about, at least in terms of a track environment.

With what seemed like my own private track day at Laguna Seca, I had hours of time to click off as many uninterrupted laps as I wanted. This was my first trip to Laguna so my time assessing the bike was impeded a little by the learning curve I had to wrestle with while getting to know the track that Nicky Hayden captured two USGP victories on. By midday I had most of the lines figured out and I was able to try to sort some of the nuances of one very fast motorcycle.

Anyone who has ridden or currently rides an R1 will find the fit to be familiar; not much has changed in the ergos overall. Comparatively speaking, the bike feels a hair bigger than the GSX-R1000, but nevertheless it is by no means a lumbering oaf. But before I could start discerning anything about the handling I had to keep myself from being blinded with ecstasy over the power, or rather how smoothly and quickly the power comes on. As one of my contemporaries said during a break, "Linear just doesn't seem to do the bike justice."

The top of the Corkscrew felt like you just rode the bike out of a first story window. But it gets easier... The premise behind the YCC-T and YCC-I is to give the rider a seamless transition through the low, middle and top end. And that it does, in spades. In practice the YCC-T will compensate for a ham-fisted rider who wants to slam the throttle open too soon and decide the best time to give him the boost he thinks he wants. Like coming out of a corner for example; on a bike with similar power but without the advantage of an ECU and YCC-T to temper the rider's enthusiasm, the rear tire could spin up quite easily. Trust me on this one; I speak from experience. Instead, with the R1 I discovered that wicking up the throttle early on -- note that I still tried to ride with all the smoothness I could muster -- only resulted in a constant but powerful rush of power that effortlessly propelled me to the next turn or shift point, whichever came first. I encountered what was a barely perceptible soft spot in acceleration in the neighborhood of 6,000 RPM and lasted for about 1,000 RPM. One of the more elite journalists felt that there was a flat spot around 7,500 RPM that was still haunting the R1 from the 2006 model. Regardless of who had the more accurate seat-of-the-pants-meter, the reality is that fueling is very sensitive and responsive across the map without any abruptness or stumble.

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