Church Of MO – First Ride: 2002 Yamaha YZF-R1
This week’s Church feature continues the Yamaha R1 love I started last Sunday with the Y2K Yamaha R1 and the all-new 2015 R1 and R1M posted Friday. Here, we have the first ride review of the 2002 R1, provided to us (with a fee) from one Sir Roger Daily after another freelancer bailed and left MO high and dry. Details aside, this piece was chosen this week because of the impression it left on the author. Yamaha clearly toiled to make this bike better than before and the result was a supremely confident street bike that could also earn its keep on track. After reading this, click on the R1 and R1M link above and you’ll understand the change in direction Yamaha has made in 2015.
First Ride: 2002 Yamaha YZF-R1
Spain, 26 February, 2002 — Sorry for the delay, loyal MO reader; we would’ve had news of the launch of the new R1 posted from Barcelona yesterday, but were–how you say–Royally Screwed, by an ex-European Correspondent. It happened like this: Minime was all set to attend the launch, when a Legal Emergency required his presence in Los Angeles. To cover, our (disloyal) English subject was therefore called in as a replacement, but somehow managed to file his (less than stellar) report with another (less than stellar) web site! Shock, horror! What an idiot!
We at MO, luckily, like to believe everything happens for a reason. Okay, well, most things. It so happened that a much more experienced motojournalist with a large print publication who’s also a good friend of MO happened to be at the launch and agreed to fill the void, for a small fee, because he likes us and is a fine human being.
A quick confab with Oliver after the first track session had me releasing one line of spring preload from the new fork in an effort to get the bike to turn a bit sharper, and it’s revealing to, ah, reveal that doing so resulted in a feelable difference in session two. Allowing the R1’s front end to settle that much more into its front travel resulted in a bike more willing to dive in on the brakes and one less willing to understeer at the exits — as well as one less light-feeling in front down the front straight; truly, this bike attacks that straight with airplane-taking-off velocity. Springs are considerably stiffer at either end of this year’s R1, no doubt in order to deal with the greater fore/aft pitching forces produced by raising the engine fully 20mm in the new, 30-percent stiffer frame.
Well, I could go on with more tales of track derring-do, but the fact is that riding a bike this powerful, on a track as fast as Catalunya, really is akin to shoving the Preparation H back into the tube, on street rubber. On D208 race-compound tires, I’d no doubt be able to whinge on ad infinitum about how easily the R1 trails the brakes into the tightest apexes, etc., etc., but the fact is that on the stock rubber, nobody felt particularly comfortable doing so. Even Oliver said he was doing most of his braking while straight up and down, and there was plenty of talk concerning the bike’s ability to overcome the rear’s tenuous grip even on what felt like neutral throttle in some of the circuit’s never-ending corners. (And immediately afterward, everybody also commented upon how composed and controllable the bike felt with the rear tire spinning merrily along.) An increase of 11mm trail — that’s a bunch — keeps things nice and stable. The same 1395mm wheelbase as before, along with the aforementioned 20mm raising of the engine, means the thing turns just as light and quick as ever. The purpose of raising that engine, the engineers say, is to achieve greater mass centralization between it and the bike’s other heaviest bit — its rider. The swingarm pivot was raised 17.5mm accordingly and the 2.5mm increased offset between the two means the bike should better transfer weight onto the rear tire under acceleration. And once off the edges of the tires, the bike’s impeccable FI did allow a pretty healthy whack of the throttle post-apex.
Anyway, I was lost as hell and didn’t speak the language, but had a vague idea that the coast (del Mar) probably had to be in a general downhill direction, and so had an entertaining time all morning taking wrong turns, passing the German contingent, who were also lost, and waving them on as if I knew where I was going, speeding up and ducking down alleys out of their sight, then backtracking the right way. The Germans will follow anybody who appears to know where he’s going. Of less historical significance is the fact that you can ride around on this bike for a long time with none of the sort of impatient discomfort you experience on things like a Ducati 998.
In the afternoon we followed Yamaha’s directions and came upon the amazing twisty coastal mountain route between del Mars Lloret and Tossa, a saucy wench of a road upon which you could just leave the R1 in third gear and blaze trail, or shift down to second in the corners and wheelie maniacally down the ensuing straights for even greater entertainment, which is nice since I was never any good at wheelies before. Truly, I can’t remember the last time I had more fun on a motorcycle. Wait, I can: the times on the straights that morning when we’d clutch the R1 vertical in second at 60-70 mph. Though it’s still down a tad on power to last year’s Open-class beast GSX-R1000, the R1’s less peaky delivery seems to blast it out of the type of corner found on the street even harder. Less oversquare of engine than the others, the Yamaha seems to fill its cylinders even better at 4000 and 5000 rpm, and on the street the chassis and tires constantly complement each other — the rear Dunlop spinning just enough at each of those second-gear exits to rocket the engine into the meat of the powerband — and there goes the front end again when it hooks up, no clutching needed.
On the street, their intended venue, the D208 Dunlops are fine, neutral steering and happy to turn with the brakes on, off, or any combination thereof.
New and Improved
Other items of note:Chassis
Fork tubes have grown from 41 to 43mm, with 1.75mm walls instead of 2mm ones for decreased weight rebound side of the fork stroke is now 120mm instead of 135mm Soqi rear shock uses different linkage but same lever ratios as before rear preload adjustment collar is a very nice and easy to reach aluminium alloy casting the rear brake has shrunk from 245 to 220mm, with a two-piston slide-type caliper atop the axle a la R6 the front wheel is 96g lighter, the rear 176g lighter-about 0.4 pound clip-ons are one-piece, forgedEngine
Troy's been riding motorcycles and writing about them since 2006, getting his start at Rider Magazine. From there, he moved to Sport Rider Magazine before finally landing at Motorcycle.com in 2011. A lifelong gearhead who didn't fully immerse himself in motorcycles until his teenage years, Troy's interests have always been in technology, performance, and going fast. Naturally, racing was the perfect avenue to combine all three. Troy has been racing nearly as long as he's been riding and has competed at the AMA national level. He's also won multiple club races throughout the country, culminating in a Utah Sport Bike Association championship in 2011. He has been invited as a guest instructor for the Yamaha Champions Riding School, and when he's not out riding, he's either wrenching on bikes or watching MotoGP.
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