It’s obvious Yamaha had racing on its mind when it engineered its new YZF-R1. But what about for us guys who ride on the street? Yamaha finally has the answer with its more affordable YZF-R1S ($14,990).
Three Flavors, One R1
The ’S’ designation denotes an entry-level “street” R1 in Yamaha’s liter-class sportbike line-up. It features the same fabulous engine, chassis and electronics, only with a few tweaks dropping MSRP by $1500.
Starting with the engine, the R1S is powered by Yamaha’s smooth and rowdy CP4 crossplane crank-equipped Inline Four. Originally introduced in 2009, and completely re-tooled last year, the engine is based on the Tuning Fork brand’s YZF-M1 MotoGP prototype. There are, however, some differences.
Titanium connecting rods were replaced with steel components, necessitating a 2000 reduction in maximum rpm. Redline now arrives at 12,200 rpm. Externally, the cast magnesium engine case covers were swapped for alloy pieces. Furthermore, the fasteners that bolt components together are fabricated from stainless-steel instead of aluminum.
The R1’s now class-leading electronics also transfer over, except for the electronic quickshifter which is available as a $199.99 GYTR accessory through the Yamaha accessory catalog (part no. B67-E81A0-V0-00). It’s also compatible with Yamaha’s new FZ-10.
On the chassis side, the chassis, suspension, and brakes all carryover. Look closely and you’ll see cast aluminum five-spoke wheels opposed to the trick-looking 10-spoke cast mags. Tires are different too with the ’S’ sourcing Bridgestone’s more street friendly Battlax S20 rubber instead of the grippier RS-10 hoops. For most road riders however, this is likely a blessing in disguise as the S20s offer better mileage, which equals more time riding, and less time wrenching.
On the scale, these changes equate to a nine-pound increase versus the standard R1 with the R1S weighing 448 pounds with its 4.5-gallon aluminum fuel tank filled.
How Does It Stack Up?
Despite its “street” moniker this R1 is anything but a purpose-built street bike. Remember this is essentially a production version of a MotoGP prototype: the seat is tall, clip-ons low, and the suspension and chassis in general is on the stiff side. Throttle response is equally sharp, bordering on abrupt— especially around town when the most aggressive ‘PWR 1’ setting is selected. ‘PWR 2’ softens things a bit, yet still allows for full engine torque.
Split out of town, find some twisty tarmac and those squawks evaporate—replaced with sheer exhilaration. This YZF is every bit as sharp, playful, and rambunctious as its brothers. Hard on the throttle it makes all the right noises making you feel like you’re riding a racebike. Heck, even the front fairing looks like a race piece— ready to slap your number on and line up at the next traffic light. Good thing launch control is standard as well.
A hybrid between the roaring long-power pulses of a V-Twin and the screaming epilepsy-inducing wail of an Inline Four— the R1’s soundtrack delivers. Plus, its note is virtually identical to Valentino Rossi’s M1 that you’ve likely heard at some point speeding across a MotoGP straightaway on the tube.
Even with the ultra-quiet stock exhaust (recording 79 dB at idle and 99 dB at 6100 revs) — it sounds plenty appealing. Another plus is that the engine is very well balanced giving off just enough vibration in the lower revs to make it entertaining, but not so much to be annoying.
Sure it doesn’t rev as far as the standard model, nor does it produce its 164-plus horsepower figure, yet its power numbers (153 ponies at 11,800 rpm and 70 lb-ft at 8900 rpm) is nothing to scoff at. Realistically, you’re going to be hard pressed to notice the 12 horsepower deficit at anything short of a ballistic track pace. True, the lower rev ceiling does require more left foot work which would be aided by the aforementioned GYTR accessory shifter.
Even without this add-on, the six-speed gearbox moves between each cog smoothly offering precise engagement. It’s rare you’ll ever miss-shift an R1. Because of the linked hydraulic brakes, it’s actually difficult to get an accurate read on the true performance of the slipper clutch. Still, it’s nice to know it’s there.
A colorful iPhone 6-sized display conveys fun visually. It packs an enormous amount of information within its bright screen. A digital speedometer and rising-rate horizontal tachometer is front and center. Below is the gear position indicator. Adjacent is a nifty brake pressure readout that shows how hard you’re applying the front anchors.
Speaking of brakes, the front lever has six-way adjustment to accommodate different hand sizes. Stainless-steel lines are another nice touch as opposed to the budget-minded rubber set-up that the competition often uses.
When fresh the brake set-up is both crisp and powerful, however, the system is prone to degradation after a couple hard charging sessions in the canyons. To keep things tip-top, we recommend regular hydraulic fluid replacement and/or replacing the OE brake pads with a more sintered compound.
There’s also front and rear load indicators relaying the amount of force being applied to either end of the chassis. Both these features are cool, but in application, they’re a bit gimmicky and tough to read while riding. What would really be neat is if this information was displayed inside your helmet visor, or via a heads up-type display on the windscreen. Knowing Yamaha, it’s probably working on it…
The footer includes combined riding mode selections, or as the Tuning Fork people call it Yamaha Ride Control (YRC). Each setting (A, B, C, and D) can be further adjusted individually (throttle mapping, traction and slide control) using the switch gear, while riding. Lift (wheelie) control adjustment on the other hand, needs to be made at a stop.
Other riding metrics including odometer and trip functions, as well as air and coolant temperature, fuel consumption and average mileage can be viewed and augmented via the righthand side menu rocker dial switch.
And trust us, the way this R1 guzzles 91-octane, you better be cognizant of gas stations. We averaged 30.5 mpg during mostly stop-and-go city riding, but saw that number fall to 25 mpg during pure canyon staffing missions. On the other end we noted readings in the mid-30s during pure point to point freeway trips. A tip: due to the position of fuel pump, when it runs out of gas, it happens with only seconds of warning!
The dash display can also be reconfigured to display a track-specific setting which replaces the speedometer with a lap timer that can count up to 40 laps and is manipulated by a button on the left switch gear. You can also adjust the setting and brightness intensity of the shift light.
And the best part? Menu navigation is fast, clean and straightforward making adjustments a snap. It’s clear Yamaha spent some time to do things the “right way” and it certainly shows.
Complete integration of rider aids is where Yamaha really stands out from the competition. Although engineered for racing, the gyro-enabled traction and slide control add a safety net when you’re railing around deserted canyon roads. And the wheelie control? It’s calibrated so perfectly, it’s nearly idiot proof when enabled. We also like that each setting can be disabled. However, the electronics function so marvelously we question why you ever would?
While it isn’t necessarily our favorite feature, the linked brakes and always-on ABS perform as advertised, expanding that aforementioned “safety net” if you get too aggressive with either brake lever, or are riding over slippery surfaces.
Clearly the R1 is track oriented, yet the LED headlights are incredibly bright throwing a wide, and deep swath of light making it easier to see where you’re going after dark. The LED running, tail and turn signals also help it stand out and are welcome features on the street. We also appreciate the subtle styling touches that give it that prototype racing feel including the slits on the top of the fuel tank, and the thick machined top clamp.
Making it Yours
Gas and tires — that’s what you’re going to spend the bulk of your cash on when you buy Yamaha’s new R1. Still, if this bike were ours there’s a couple things we’d do:
Windscreen – Yes, the OE windscreen is relatively tall for a sportbike. Still we wish it was even bigger. Thankfully Yamaha sells an easy to install Endurance Windscreen available in both clear (part no. 2CR-F83J0-V0-00) and tint versions as a $139.99 accessory.
Seat – For half days in the saddle, the stock seat works fine. Anything more and you’re going to want something thicker with added padding. Saddlemen makes an affordable option with its GP-V1 Sport Bike Seat. If you plan on riding two-up with anyone larger than a child, the skinny rear pillion will need to be upgraded too.
Rearsets – We miss the old R1’s adjustable footpegs. Although generally designed for competition, aftermarket companies like Lightech, Graves Motorsport, and Attack Performance make adjustable options— though often these setups can be set higher, and more aggressive than stock.
Tires – Battlax S20’s by Bridgestone are a solid all-arounder. Still, having been released four years ago, it’s now old rubber tech. So when it comes time to fit a new set of shoes, we’d go with the Japanese company’s new and improved S21 rubber. It benefits from improved shape and compounding technologies.
Should I Buy One?
For most sport riders, myself included, the R1S makes a lot of sense. You get nearly the full undiluted R1 experience including its one-of-a-kind powertrain and electronics package for 90% of the price of the standard machine. Sure it’s a tad heavier, and not quite as fast at a heated track day pace, the reality is you’ll be hard pressed to notice the difference. You’ll also be happy with an extra $1500 in your pocket that you can use to tweak some of the componentry and tailor the bike for you.