I felt as giddy as a kid at Christmas when I heard Yamaha’s new R1 was prepped and readied for MO’s home-soil evaluation. We already knew it was ready to challenge the best of the best – our Troy Siahaan came back from its launch raving about how the R1 is resetting the bar in the stupefyingly magnificent superbike class – but I was anxious to find out for myself just how impressive it is.
And it looks sensational in person, more like a European exotic than a run-of-the-mill Japanese literbike. The MotoGP theme starts at its number-plate-like nose and continues when its crossplane-crank inline-Four is fired up, changing from an animalistic growl to an otherworldly howl as revs climb. It sounds pretty much like Val Rossi’s bike. A quick blast on the freeway revealed power output levels about as good as anything in its class, maybe even BMW’s awesome S1000RR. I expected to see about 170 horses from its rear wheel.
So, my first stop was a dyno to see what it could do, but our R1 was handicapped in two ways. First, the engine had fewer than 250 miles on it, which means it was relatively tight. Second, the Moto Shop (formerly CM Motorsports/Cycle Mall) dyno where I was headed is notoriously stingy with its numbers. Their Dynojet 250i is often referred to as the Heartbreaker.
The Moto Shop dyno lived up to its name, registering a peak of 158.2 horsepower from our 2015 R1, which is a nice number but not quite as big as what we anticipated. The R1 is purported to generate 200 horses when factory rated at its crankshaft, and when equipped with the accessory Circuit ECU. Subtract a loss of about 10% after going through a transmission and a chain drive and one would expect nearly 180 ponies at the rear wheel. However, there’s more to this story. Much more.
The (pre-2015) BMW S1000RR produced just 163 hp on the Heartbreaker, placing the R1 just five horses down on the class champ. Also, Moto Shop’s owner, Tige Daane, sets his dyno software to the SAE correction factor, which produces lower numbers than the STD setting, and to maximum smoothing, which polishes off the spikes caused by sensor glitches and/or drive-lash. Simply changing the correx factor from SAE to STD results in a 162.2-hp reading. Removing the smoothing function makes it jump to 165.2 hp.
Now, keep in mind that engines with ride-by-wire throttles are operated by a computer that doesn’t necessarily respond directly to a rider’s throttle hand. Tige at Moto Shop says the R1’s ECU is “really restricted,” dialing back throttles at certain stages of its rev range. He estimates he’d see about 175 hp after an ECU reflash and fitment of an aftermarket exhaust.
We wondered if our experience with the R1 on a rear-wheel dyno was consistent to others, so we reached out to Graves Motorsports, America’s most visible Yamaha tuning company due to its heavy racing involvement. Chuck Graves wasn’t too surprised at the 158 hp our test bike registered, as the last one he had on his dyno kicked out just a trio of extra ponies, 161, which was less than he was expecting.
A few months ago, a pre-production R1 spun Graves’ dyno to the tune of 177 hp. It is possible that earlier bike may have been equipped with an ECU map that was not yet compliant with U.S. emissions requirements? Chuck says the 2015 R1’s throttle butterflies close down about 20% once revs climb above 10,000 rpm; the earlier R1s also partially re-closed their throttle butterflies at high revs, approximately 15% according to Graves. He adds that an ECU reflash and a Graves exhaust will yield around 180 hp from the new R1.
When we asked Yamaha to comment on any differences between U.S. and European specs and tuning, media relations manager, Marcus DeMichele, responded by saying: “The U.S. ECU is developed to meet U.S. regulations for exhaust and noise emissions which are not the same as Europe.” Reading between the lines, American-market R1s won’t produce quite the same peak power as European markets due to noise-emissions regulations. This was also the case for the latest-generation Kawasaki ZX-10Rs imported to America.
DeMichele noted that Yamaha will be offering an unrestricted race-spec ECU, but it’s not intended for street use – it disconnects the headlight and linked braking, plus the ABS system goes into a racetrack setting that eliminates rear antilock control . Yamaha has promised we’ll get a chance to test the accessory ECU in the near future so we “will be able to experience the R1 with full power capabilities.”
To see a big horsepower number from the R1, Graves suggested I check with Attack Performance, as that shop was rumored to have come up with some astoundingly large power figures. Attack is another serious tuning shop for roadracers, well versed in technology and performance tuning.
Jozef Tomasovich, a lead mechanic at Attack, told me he saw 178 hp from a new R1, bone-stock except for race tires. He added that BMW S1000RRs usually register 180-182 hp on the Attack dyno, meaning the Yamaha is quite competitive, relatively speaking, with the best in class.
So I took our sexy beast out for a second dyno date, rolling the R1 onto Attack’s Dynojet 250i dyno for another chance at posting an exclamation-point-inducing horsepower number. Attack uses the the SAE correction factor and the smoothing feature set to maximum, so the electronic setups are largely identical to Moto Shop. However, Tomasovich used two methods Moto Shop didn’t to ensure optimum power levels: Tire pressure was dropped from 42 psi to 30, and the footpegs were tied down with straps, both of which help prevent tire slippage on the heavy, knurled steel drum to extract maximum power.
So, the new R1 produces 178.2 horsepower on Attack’s dyno, digits worthy of an exclamation point! It’s ironic that Attack’s dyno is known to be looser than most, while Moto Shop’s is known to be miserly – both shops acknowledge their dynos’ inverse reputations. It is likely the R1’s true U.S. output will end up somewhere in the middle, let’s say around 168 hp.
What matters most, including to the above-mentioned shops helmed by nice and knowledgeable people, are the numbers produced relative to others on the same dyno. To prove how the R1 stacks up to its competition, we’ll need to run all eligible bikes on the same day on the same dyno.
The R1 is an early favorite to grab the laurels in what’s shaping up to be the most competitive literbike/superbike shootout in history. But the class-leading S1000RR received worthwhile updates for 2015, and Ducati’s new 1299 Panigale might be swinging the biggest pipe in the engine department.
And then there’s the refreshed Aprilia RSV4 which I’ll be riding next week, boasting the same 200-hp claim as the R1. Kawi’s ZX-10R is also a formidable opponent, and we wonder if the radical H2 might be able to compete. The storm clouds are gathering…