Saturday, February 4, 2017

2015 R1 Long Term Review

After a year and a half of ownership of a brand spanking new 2015 Yamaha R1 I thought it was time to put down some of my thoughts on this machine and do a long term review based on my experiences with this bike. Now I'm not going to go into all the technical specs of this bike as there are magazine articles and online reviews which tell you all about the bikes tech specs, rather I will go into what's it like to own and live day to day with a 200hp modern sportsbike.

First a little history of the previous R1, which ran from 2009 - 2014 virtually unchanged in this time except cosmetics and in 2012 the addition of an electronics package which added traction control. These model R1's did not have ABS, which was one of the reasons I held off buying until the new model came out. These model R1's were the first bigbang(Crossplane) engine R1's which basically means the engine has a 90° firing order which gives it the best of both a V twin engine with down low torque and the benefits of the high power output top end of an inline 4 cylinder engine. These R1's have a very distinctive exhaust note, much similar to a V twin but its an inline 4. These model R1's had twin exhaust pipes up under the seat and reading on forums they roast the riders in hot summer weather.

The 2015 R1 is an all new bike from the ground up. Its 998cc inline 4 cylinder with crossplane engine. There are two versions of the bike the R1 and the R1M. I got the standard base model R1, the main difference is the R1M comes with electronic adjustable suspension and full electronics data logging package. The design focus of the bike went back to the original design spec to be the fastest race bike at the track, no compromises, lighter(199kg) and faster(200hp) with a sophisticated electronics package unparalleled  on a road bike and with development testing even coming from Motogp Champ Valentino Rossi. The dual underseat exhaust pipes have been replaced by a single exhaust can on the right hand side.

With all that said what's it actually like to own and ride a road bike that is focused for winning at the track? This might seem like a stupid thing to do but lets see how it actually goes.

Picture above right is me on the day of purchasing the bike at the dealer.

First Ride Impressions

From the very first ride out of the dealers and up onto the Putty Road I was pretty impressed with the bike. Even though I was still running it in it had an awesome power delivery. The engine is silky smooth with heaps of power starting around 4000rpm and then pulling extremely hard around 7-8000 rpm to the point that at first it was intimidating with how fast and savage the power kicks in. The engine in this is truly a savage beast, but at the same time tamed by the electronics.

The ride by wire throttle is especially jerky in A mode Power 1. I ended up riding the bike in C Mode with power 2 or 3 setting just to make it smooth and linear more like a carbureted bike.

The next really noticeable thing was how hard the suspension and seat were. The suspension can be adjusted but what about the seat? It's built for the track so the standard setting are way to hard for road riding especially on our dodgy Australian roads. Needs to be softened to be usable. Also the seat is way to hard.

The bike has incredible nimble steering, sometime I was tipping into corners to soon, it has a very neutral steering and carves up corners like butter.

First Ride Out

Day to Day Impressions 

First impressions were correct and the suspension has been set up for the track. Backing it off on several different occasions I found I had it backed off to the very minimum setting just to make it bearable for road riding and it's still a tad on the hard side. The suspension is actually quite easy to adjust with the an allen key on top of the head stock fork risers. Funny though the allen key is under the rear seat, and now I've put on the single seat cowl you need an allen key to get the seat cowl off. D'oh.

The seat was way too thin and lacked any sort of padding, it was only 15mm thick. After  2 days of riding I ended up with a sore back and really couldn't ride another day. So it was off to the re-upholsterer and a gel pad insert and extra foam padding was inserted. This was the fix I was looking for but still at the end of a full day in the saddle I get a sore butt, due mostly to the firm suspension.

After the initial run in period the engine has freed up at about the 10k km mark and putting a Yoshi 3/4 pipe on had made the exhaust note a lot beefier but also it builds even more power now, not that you need it, plus the combined ECU flash it takes out the snappy throttle and actually makes the bike ride able in A mode Power 1. Oh that engine is so, so sweet.

First gear is extremely tall to the point of being a bit ridiculous to ride, what do I mean by this you ask? Well first gear is capable of sending you straight to Jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200 dollars.  The bike capable of about 170kmh  in first, far too tall and I think a sprocket change will be in its future. The flip side of this is, in a set of tight twisty bends of 35kmh corners you only use first gear leaving you to concentrate on braking, accelerating and corner speed and working on that perfect line without the hassle of gear changes.

There are generally two type of bikes. There are bikes that you sit IN, and bikes that you sit ON. The R1 is definitely in the later category when you get on the thing you feel like you are sitting on top of it feeling like you are perch up quite high.

The R1's fuel consumption can be a bit of a contentious issue. On the very first ride out I ran it out of fuel with 211km on the clock, D'oh. That was a bit embarrassing I must say. However since the run in stage the bike can get surprising mileage. Surprising at both ends of the spectrum, where I've seen 4.9L/100km doing highway miles and at the other end of the scale when at Sydney Motorsport park it guzzled a whopping 14.35L/100km, yep 16.5ltrs for 115kms. So if you hit your favourite set of twisties a bit on the hard side the fuel consumption can rise dramatically, just be careful.

The standard OEM tyres on the R1 are Bridgestone Battleaxe RS-10, RS stands for "Racing Street" and 10 stands for many kilometers your going to get out of them with hard use. Seriously though I used 2 sets of the RS-10's and they are a great sport tyre but they are for the track. The RS-10's are the stickiest tyres I've ever used and possibly as good as the slicks I used previously on my old R1. They are great track day tyres and I got about 2700kms out of each set, much too little to be riding on the road unless you've won the lottery.

Over longer distances the R1 can become a bit hard to live with. With the long reach to the low bars, high foot pegs combined with the hard suspension and seat. Day rides out are usually fine, but when you string together 5 days in a row at 500kms a day, by the end of the last 2-3 days it so relieved to get off at the end of the day.

The bikes steering geometry is bloody fantastic having a shortwheel base it's inducive of quick steering and when you are out on your local twisty bit of tarmac this bike urges you to attack each bend, it wants you to go faster and faster. If your riding at 50% pace it tends to feel slow. These modern sportsbikes urge you on. But it is so sharp in its steering coming out of one corner it is so easy and effortless to just flick it into the next, sometimes to easy. On unfamiliar bumpy roads though the suspension is hard and this can cause you to start bouncing off the bumps leaving you feeling uneasy and pushing wide, its then an effort as to how fast to attack the bend and you usually end up going in slowly and cautiously until powering out. Another bike that soaks up the bumps better will probably easily keep up with you in these type of situations and feel better to ride too, but when it's a smooth bit of black top its hard on the gas all the way to the point of effortlessly getting your knee down on the road.

This bike is capable of speeds of 300kmh which is bloody fast in anyone's language. It's interesting to find that the Japanese have a great sense of humour as I found this little gem pictured below in the owner's manual for this 300kmh missile. If you shifted this bike at those speeds you'd be stalling it.

Shift into 6th doing sixty, yeah right and stall it and crash more like it

MotoGP Inspiration

It's clear to see the motogp heritage that has be handed down from the Yamaha M1 race bike directly to the R1, from the top triple clamps to the grille like indents in the petrol tank, straight from Rossi's machine. Even if you don't like sportsbikes there's something that is just sexy about them, just like their race bred brothers they are born from.

R1 Headstock

M1 Motogp Headstock

R1 Tank
M1 Tank Design

The Dash

The dash itself is a coloured LCD unit with everything easily accessible. The dash board layout and subsequent menu's and sub menu systems are something like out of the starship enterprise rather than a motorcycle and even turning on the ignition it sounds as if it going to take off.

On the right hand handlebar is a click wheel, much like a computer mouse wheel that scrolls through various menus or for changing the smaller readouts like kilometers/fuel consumption/trip meter/temperature etc. On the left hand handle bar is the Mode button with up/down buttons to change the settings.

Main Dash Layout - Street mode(Track mode is displayed in the video below)
Above - Scrolling the click wheel changes the display where Trip-1 and Fuel consumption is shown and puts up other useful information. The Street mode is the base setting for the road, which can be changed for the track. In Track mode the taco starts at 8000rpm and the gear indicator is larger and the speedo becomes smaller there is a lap timer where the main speedo used to be.

Modes are shown at the bottom of the screen, you can see in the above picture it is in Mode A, Power 1(highest setting), TCS - traction control on 3, SCS - slide control on 2.

Some of the info displayed is quite useless such as the brake pressure indicator on the right hand side where it shows the picture next to the bike. If your accelerating hard a blue bar will indicate the amount of force on the back wheel where as the opposite happens when braking hard it shows the pressure under brakes with the bar going towards the top of the bike which is kind of pointless because you cannot look at these when you're riding anyway.

Below - Holding down the click wheel for 2 seconds takes you into the menu system where all of the more advanced system settings can be changed. Items such as the traction control setting, mode setup settings. You can fully customize each mode. There are 4 modes as standard A(Warp Factor 10), B(F*cking Fast), C(Bloody fast), D(Not quite as fast as Bloody fast). It took a little while to get used to the timing of the click wheel button as I kept going into the menu instead of resetting the gauges.

Main Menu
Below - These are the Yamaha Ride control settings which are all adjustable and completely customizable. For obvious reasons you can't change these whilst your riding but realistically you wouldn't really need to anyway. You can change some of the settings with the mode button on the fly without entering this screen anyway.

PWR - Power
TCS- Traction Control System
SCS - Slide Control System
LCS - Launch Control System
QSS - Quick Shifter System
LIF - Lift Control/Anti Wheelie

YRC Settings
I initially changed a few of these setting but now rarely touch them as it is pretty damn good without making adjustments, but they are there if you need them. I would suggest that these are really for the track and there's not much discernible difference on the road with the exception of the power mode - this changes the whole characteristic of how the bike delivers its power.  It was unrideable on the road in A mode until I got the ECU flashed which smoothed out the jerky throttle and made A mode actually usable. Whats so important about riding with a smooth throttle you may ask?

Let me explain it like this then. Riding at Sydney Motorsport Park(SMSP) as fast as I possibly can and at the edge of traction, braking hard into a bend and rolling off the throttle it would just instantly power off and put pressure on the front tyre which if enough can cause the front to lose traction, and on the other side putting the throttle back on it would put the power immediately on lurching weight onto the rear tyre unloading the front tyre which can also create a front end lose. It was just not smooth, since the ECU flash it is now smooth in A mode power 1 and is usable but you still have to pay attention otherwise if you are a bit ham fisted with the throttle you can still jerk the power on too hard too quickly.

Below - For track riding you can set up the display so that when you press the high beam flasher it starts the lap timer and it can be reset each lap when you press the flasher again.. Yep those are my lap times for Sydney Motorsport park last year. I might be slow but I'm consistently slow. Australian Superbikes lap SMSP in 1:30. Yikes

Lap Time Recording

At the Track

This bike was born for the track, it's in it DNA. After all it is what it is designed for. So what is it like when you're at the track where there are no limits.

What can I say but, it's...... #FAN F#CKING TASTIC.

This bike is absolutely rock solid at the track, not once did I feel like I was out of control in any way and the quickshifter and horsepower really come into their own here. Not to mention the firm suspension is simply the best at the track. This bike feels like its on rails. This would be where you could really experiment with the traction and slide control to test its limits out. The bike feels like it can do no wrong and really inspires you to push harder and harder until you hit your limits, which is much sooner than the bikes limits. The high footpegs that were bad for riding on the road are long forgotten here and are perfectly placed. I would need to do multiple track days to get better and better.

Here is a little snippet of my fastest lap of SMSP on my new R1, at my fast moderate old guys pace. Notice the Track mode display instead of he street display.

If you are in the market for a track only bike, then this is the bike for you. Look no further sell your kids and your house and get an R1 and take it to the track. It's more addictive than any drug and you will absolutely love it. It's the ultimate track bike.


Here are the modifications I've made to the bike, some are cosmetic and some have functional purpose to them.

Ventura Rack and Bag - This is pretty well essential on longer 5/6 day trips away as carrying a back pack on this bike is not really a pleasant experience, plus I can take a lot more things now.

R&G Fender Eliminator - not really for any purpose except to make the bike look sexier, one thing I have noticed though is that a lot of debris flings off the tyre and now hits the number plate and the rear brake light. I noticed a crack in the brake light from a stone chip. Mud also sprays up onto the number plate and brake light covering them in crud, both good and bad depending on the circumstance.

Ventura Rack and R&G Tail Tidy
R&G Radiator/Oil Guards - I decided to put these on straight away as my old R1 radiator looks like B17 bomber after a mission over germany, there's that many holes peppered in it and fins bent out of place the engine runs hot because its blocked up so much.

R&G Radiator Guards
Pazzo Shorty Levers - I wasn't sure whether or not I'd like the short levers but easily adapted to them and now will never go back, they look so much better than the horrible ugly standard OEM items. I see other R1's now with standard lever and they look horrible.

Pazzo Shorty Levers

Oggy Knobs - Front/Rear axles sliders and frame sliders just as a bit of peace of mind in a small low speed drop, these saved Bushpigs R1 at Phillip Island in a 130kmh crash.

Oggy knobs
Single Seat Cowl - The R1 was never designed to take a passenger and even if you did I couldn't inflict that much pain on another human so it got ditched along with the rear foot pegs. Now it looks all MotoGP. So this was just for cosmetics only. Note the seat only comes off with an allen key so there's nowhere to put that except in the ventura bag, no bag no seat off. But on that note there's nothing under the seat except 2 allen keys and seriously you'd have trouble fitting your credit card under there.

Single Seat Cowl
Re-upholstered seat - After my first 2 day rides to Philip Island and back I couldn't ride for a third day, the seat only had 15mm of foam, so I got a 15mm gel pad insert and 20mm of foam on top, and I must say it has made 5/6 day rides bearable but that's not to say I still don't get sore, I do its just bearable now.

Extra padded seat

Yoshimura Alpha1 3/4 Exhaust - This was always going to be on the cards, this R1 crossplane engine sounds so sweat, not like an inline 4 but more like a V Twin and this Yoshi pipe looks and sounds the goods.

Yoshimura Alpha 1 3/4 System


So to sum up this bike there are a couple of bad points which as you'd read previously are the hard suspension and the ultra thin seat combine that with the race crouch  and after several days in the saddle can be very difficult to live with. Fuel consumption is a bit heavy at times but what can you expect with 200hp on tap.

On the other side of the fence there are plenty of great things that I love about this bike. I love that crossplane engine, it sounds glorious at full noise. The engine is the heart and soul of this bike and sets it apart from every other inline four cylinder superbike on the market. The quickshifter is a lot of fun and its handling is superb, it carves up corners like nothing I've ever owned. I've got my knee down more in my forties than I did in my twenties, it's the bike not me honest!

I also love the styling and head lights on this thing, that's a bit of a personal thing as many others think the front looks ugly. I love it though because if I didn't I'd be selling it.

This bike is great for local rides and day trip out on your favourite twisty roads or a track day, but the multiple day tours start to get difficult around the 3rd day and at the very end of each day you start getting sore. The first half of each day is usually ok but the bike just wears you down by the end of the day, this is also subject to road surface conditions. Good road surface then not so bad for 5 days, bad road surface can mean slowing down to cope with it and I've actually taken a day to recover from a ride until I've felt better again. But this road surface was extremely poor.

Whatever you want to buy a bike like this for just don't buy it as a touring bike. I have bought it as an everything bike, day trips, touring, track days. It's a superb handling bike and you won't be disappointed with it or it's performance in any way, it's just not great for touring on. If you want a pure track bike, then this bike is for you you can't go wrong. You can tour on it, but you'll just have to put up with the sore butt. Might have to try one of those air hawks and see how that goes.

The 5 year plan

I've not really spoken about this on the blog before but I have talked about it amongst my riding friends. When I bought the R1 I knew it was going to be a hardcore bike to ride on the road because of its sports focus and lets face it I'm not getting any younger, now I'm just shy of 44 years young. If I was 27 then most of the comfort issues would be a lot more bearable. I had considered a couple of other bikes but the R1 really just drew me to it, like a moth to a light.

The R1 was only ever going to be a 5 year plan at best. Yep you heard it right. 5 years of ownership I gave myself on this bike before I think I won't be able to ride it anymore and then it will be time to choose something that's more comfortable to ride and tour on. I'm 20 months into that plan so far. That's not to say I don't like this bike because that couldn't be any further from the truth, I love it in fact. But I've come to realise as I get older that sooner or later I won't be physically up to riding a sportsbike and it's why I chose it now rather than later, because if I went the other way and got something that was a bit more cruisy then I would have been wondering in 5 or 10 years time gee I wish I really could have ridden another sports bike but by that time it would be physically beyond me. Now I am still young enough(just) to ride one so I will until I can't anymore.

2 R1's at Mt Lindsey, Queensland


  1. Well, as a committed Vespa rider, it's odd to end up commenting on a post like this. I've sat on machines like this only to immediately haul my now 62 year old body off what seems to be a concrete blog for a seat. And the riding position, oh well. The closest I'm been to riding anything like this was a Triumph Sprint (riding position) or a Ducati Hypermotard (power). The Hypermotard was very comfortable.

    As I said, odd to be here. But your review sucked me in. Perhaps because early on you were bemoaning the seat. And at the end wondering how long you have to ride such a machine. But in between your observations were engaging. And the video -- great stuff. Something I'll never experience by circumstance or choice. Loved the view though.

    If there was anything missing it was about the road experience and whether you ever venture down a gravel road or can to putt along at 20mph to smell the roses.

    Anyways, thanks for the great read.

    Steve Williams
    Scooter in the Sticks

    1. Hi Steve
      All comments are welcomed. Yes at 62 I wouldn't be riding one of these either.
      Interesting that you'd ask about riding a bike like this on the dirt, it's not something you would go out of you way to do but yes I've probably ridden the bike on about 80-100km of dirt, not all at once but its a typical sportsbike take it slow and you'll be fine, fat tyres with no tread pattern are not a good choice for dirt riding and you can't pull up on a step down hill in the dirt but just be careful and you'll be fine.
      You can put along at 20mph to smell the roses if you want, but do that for to long and you'll get bored on this thing.

  2. Great post mate. I'll be interested to see if you make the 5 years

    1. Thanks mate
      I didn't know you were a regular reader. Cheers
      I'll be interested if I make it that far to, but there's only 3 years to go so that should be easy enough, unless Bushpig wants to do Dungog trips, then I'm giving up riding or taking a different route.

  3. Steve, I really enjoyed reading your review. I think that you've been very realistic about owning one of these as you age if it is your only bike. I like your concept of a 5 year plan for motorcycle ownership. It's always going to be impossible to get the bike that meets all your needs, as your needs change over time.
    I'm really looking forward to reading about your NZ trip in a few week's time. Ride safe and have fun!
    Cheers Jules.

    1. Hi Jules
      Yes this is one of those bikes that you can't own forever unless you have more than one bike. If you had 2 bikes it could be a day ride bike and then have a bike to tour on, that would be the best of both worlds. Might have to put some though into that.

      Yep only 2 weeks to go now and we will be in NZ, look out Geoff James and Andrew Thomson, lock up your daughters and wives.

  4. Long term review eh? Maybe I'm due one for the Connie?

    Neat read. Love the sound of the cross-plane too - I've chased one for a bit a while ago...

    1. The connie is past due now mate, whats the story?

      Chased a crossplane R1 eh, lucky you had the E-07's so you got past pretty quick and blasted that dratted sportsbike into the weeds.

  5. Don't worry about the "5 year plan" too much Bro. Just retire the R1 to day rides or track days and get something a little more comfy for the multi day rides.

    1. Hey I'm not a rich billionaire pilot bud i cant afford that many bikes

  6. Good thing you bought the bike now before your knees say "oh hell no".

    I say that as a 45 year old who's knees and wrists don't like her bike anymore. I've had the Gladius for 6 years next month.....

    Sure is a pretty bike though, the heart wants what the heart wants.

    1. Yes luckily the knees are holding up ok. The heart is willing but the flesh is weak lol

  7. What a fantastic review Steve! Tons of great detail both from a technical and rider's viewpoint. I learned heaps and your writing style made it both enjoyable and easy to understand. Sadly, even if I had Executive Permission for a second bike, I don't think my knees would bend far enough to get my feet on the pegs of an R1! I rode a Daytona 675 for about 50 km three or four years ago and that just about crippled me :-). From personal experience, tastes change as you age, not only by physical limitations but simply from wanting to try something different too. You'll know when that time comes so have lots of fun in the meantime!

    1. Thanks Geoff, that means a lot coming from someone as distinguished as yourself.
      I know exactly what you mean, my tastes are changing and my physical limitations are now becoming more apparent. I've often wondered actually how long I will be able to ride for and then I look at you and think if Geoff can do then so can I. You are a bit of an inspiration mate, especially doing your first track day at 68. Legend!

  8. thats right Hoss....i knew the writing was on the wall and bought that v a result the old R1 s got 52 k on it an d the v stom 70 k and the Tiger 30 k....Your arse always wins..