This sexy blue and silver R1 is the first sportsbike I’ve had for a long time. I’ve been scooting around on super-nakeds for the past few years, but I’m gagging to do more trackdays with my mates. It’s something I haven’t done for ages, so my new Rossi replica is going to fit the bill nicely.
I’m also planning to do a few dawn raids on the TT circuit when I’m there in a few weeks’ time, and I’m looking forward to giving it the berries over the Alps and Pyrenees when I take the R1 on my summer holidays. I’m also going to get to grips with some of the most advanced rider aids yet fitted to a road-going superbike.
I’ve owned two R1s in the past: the 2004 twin underseat pipe one and the 2007 16-valver, but this is the most advanced by far. It has front wheel lift control, a quickshifter, traction control, variable power modes, slide control and a TV for a dash, with more channels than my first telly.
You can tailor these rider aids and the dash displays to suit, so for the road I’ve dialled in lots of traction and slide control, just in case, slowed the quickshifter response and turned the anti-wheelie off. There’s no point having a superbike if you can’t pull the odd Cat Deeley, is there?
But for riding on track it’s the opposite: wheelie control on, traction and slide control turned right down. It’s the cleverest sportsbike to come from Japan but it’s also the most uncompromising. The R1 really is a race bike with lights, and the chassis and suspension are so stiff the Yamaha is a handful on bumpy roads.
The riding position is pretty extreme, too. There’s plenty of legroom, but the seat is hard and the clip-ons are low and a long stretch away. But there’s lots of wind protection, especially with the taller Yamaha accessory Endurance Screen I’ve fitted (£101.99).
But the crossplane crank motor is incredibly smooth on the power and the throttle response is peachy. Off the throttle it’s like no other engine: it feels like it’s stalled and you’re coasting silently… until you get back on the gas and the volume goes back up to 11. And despite the gravelly exhaust note and growling induction roar, the engine is super smooth and emits zero vibes.
Despite its silkiness, the engine doesn’t give you a big impression of speed on the road. It’s like you’re running on tickover, even with hedges blurring your peripheral vision, so it’s hard to keep your speed down. On motorways the R1 does around 45mpg and the reserve light comes on at 128 miles… and a lot less if you’re thrashing it.
But the R1 is all about the hell you unleash when you tug on its electronic throttle strings. It hits harder than any R1 ever built and has a healthy 189bhp at the rear wheel – 30-odd more than the old crossplane crank version – and it’s accompanied by a harder-edged, wailing MotoGP soundtrack.
At speed that hard chassis set-up starts to make sense, giving you incredible feel diving into corners. The faster you go in, the better the feedback from the front end and the bigger the grin that spreads across your face. I’ve already fitted an official Yamaha slip-on titanium Akrapovic end can (£669.99) but it keeps the standard headers and cat. Yamaha says the cat weighs a hefty 7kg, so we’ll have to get rid of that at some point.
The brakes lack bite at normal speeds, so I’d like to try some different pads and I’m going to fiddle with the suspension to try and give it some compliance over the bumps. I’ll admit there are lots of things I miss about a super-naked, especially the BMW S1000R I ran last year: a more upright riding position, windblast that keeps your speed down, cruise control and heated grips. But I can forgo all this practical stuff, because I can’t wait to get stuck into my first trackday.