It’s an interesting time in sportbike land, as displacement limits have gone up, technologies are ever-improving, and in general, motorcycles are getting better and better. But one fact of life no manufacturer can escape is the looming Euro5 emission regulations. The toughest standards to date, Euro5 rules are said to be significantly more stringent than the Euro4 rules that preceded it. To meet the new standards, some OEMs have simply added displacement to engines to offset the increase in the number (or size) of catalyzers.
Clearly, I’m not going to turn down an opportunity to ride two of my favorite sportbikes – the Yamaha YZF-R1 and R1M – around one of the best circuits in the world, the Circuito de Jerez. But an evolution, not revolution, of the current R1 platform first introduced in 2015 (which, coincidentally, I was also present for) seemed hardly a reason for Yamaha to spend a sizeable chunk of cash to rent the world-renowned track, fly journalists in from all over the world, feed them, and put them up in a fancy hotel. What was up?
There seems to be much doom and gloom in the motorcycle industry surrounding the state of sportbikes these days. We keep hearing about dropping sales and shifting consumer interest, which will combine to turn the sportbike as we know it into a museum piece one day, gone the way of the Dodo bird.
During the media launch of Yamaha’s significantly updated R6 at Thunderhill Raceway, the bikes were fitted with the GYTR Communication Control Unit (CCU) first available on the high-end YZF-R1M. This electronic device logs data incorporated from a GPS sending unit and the bike’s ECU that allows riders to analyze braking, throttle position, gear indication, as well as other data that can be helpful in evaluating performance of both bike and rider.
It used to be commonplace to expect to see technology seen in Grand Prix racing bikes and/or World Superbikes trickle down to road-going production models within a decade’s time. Now, with OEMs like Yamaha, Aprilia, BMW and Ducati all having some way to view or alter bike parameters from a cell phone or tablet app, we’re seeing racing tech fast-track its way onto the bikes mere mortals like us can purchase, in less than half that time. Maybe the coolest part of this technological tour-de-force is the capabilities the manufacturers place in our hands, allowing changes to be made almost instantly, all from a few button or touchscreen presses.
In case it wasn’t clear from my 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 and R1M First Ride Review, I’m a big fan of both bikes. The complete revamp of Yamaha’s flagship sportbike was a dramatic move, but the incorporation of electronics and technologies directly from MotoGP has made the new R1 duo incredibly impressive machines. Traction control, lift control, slide control, among many others, are just a few of the rider aids seen on the new R1, with development work assisted by none other than Valentino Rossi and Josh Hayes. In fact, the slide control feature is a technology that was only first seen on Rossi’s M1 MotoGP bike in 2012!
Cresting the hill coming onto the front straight at Sydney Motorsport Park (better known as Eastern Creek Raceway), the throttle is wide open in second gear. As I click into third, the front comes up, rests at a neutral position about a foot off the ground, then gently returns to Earth moments later. All the while, the throttle was resting on the stop. Drive never felt interrupted, and despite the roughly 200 horses packed inside the new 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1, there was never a fear of being too liberal with the throttle. That’s when I knew Yamaha has just raised the bar. A lot has changed since the original R1 was introduced in 1998, and with the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 and R1M, never has the line between MotoGP and lil ’ol me been so blurred. That’s not just a Yamaha marketing tagline, either. Valentino Rossi himself (along with American Superbike champ, Josh Hayes) had a significant role in developing the R1, with the aim to incorporate the most sophisticated level of electronics on a production sportbike. These are just a few examples:
There’s a lot of hype surrounding the 2015 model year. With so many new models coming from almost every manufacturer, it’s hard not to be excited. And of all those new models slated to arrive within the coming months, this week’s Top 10 lists the ones your MO crew are most anxious to ride.
If you’re like us, then you must be salivating over the 2015 literbike prospects. With no less than eight new bleeding-edge sportbikes on the table from both European and Japanese marques, the bar is being raised in the quest for track domination or, in the case of the Kawasaki H2 and H2R, simply having the rider experience intense acceleration like they’ve never felt before. However, there’s an interesting trend in the method in which each manufacturer is going about upping the literbike ante. More and more, a greater emphasis is placed on technology and electronics rather than hardware. Sure, hardware isn’t being ignored, but with today’s bikes making so much power, being able to harness it effectively is of utmost importance.
Rules are rules when it comes to racing, but Yamaha’s new YZF-R1 – the star of EICMA 2014 for some of us – doesn’t have to follow any of them. Things get coy when you ask how much horsepower a factory Superbike makes, and Yamaha USA doesn’t even care to divulge horsepower numbers for an off-the-shelf R1. Its European counterparts, though, make no bones about it: 200 PS, they say, which is about 197 crankshaft horsepower in a 439-pound package that looks a lot like the one Vale rides.
For as much buzz as the Kawasaki Ninja H2 is drawing, arguably the real show stopper seen during EICMA 2014 comes from the Yamaha booth and the new R1 and R1M. Derived directly from the M1 MotoGP machine Yamaha riders Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi pilot, Yamaha said bluntly the R1 was designed for the track first, street second. The Crossplane crank inline-Four is back, but that architecture is about the only thing retained from the previous R1.