Published on February 23rd, 2015 | by Boris


I sat at the world press launch of Yamaha’s new flagship bike and just blinked with amazement.

What was being offered to the world as an out-of-the-box motorcycle was simply overwhelming.

The last time I felt like this was when BMW launched its S1000RR.

I thought then that when (it was never gonna be an ‘if’) the Japanese decide to hit back at the Germans for having the temerity to usurp the top of the Superbike heap, it is going to be a king-hit.

And it is.


The R1 comes in three different colours. This, red and black.


The R1M only comes in this colour of hate.

Halfway through the press briefing, right about the time I was being told that technology from Rossi’s 2012 MotoGP bike had made its way onto a 2015 streetbike, I realised that not only was this a king-hit, but Yamaha was putting the boot in as well.

And it just got nastier as the presentation went on.

Hell, Bridgestone had even created new tyres for this thing.

In the end, after we had been told all about the R1 and its sexy mad, even-more-racier brother-with-the-hand-buffed-aluminium-petrol-tank, the R1M, I had a beer and went home to put all my rarely-used racetrack shit together.

For I was to ride them both upon the ’morrow.

Now I do not blame some of you for wondering what business a tubby, middle-aged twat like me has making stupid attempts to fang a missile like the R1 around a racetrack.

Surely racers the calibre of Josh Brookes, Cam Donald and Steve Martin would be better at this caper?


Me not being a racer.

And in that, you are entirely correct. They were there and they were so much faster than me, feeling them go past me liquefied certain organs in my body. I say ‘feeling’ because when one of them whams past you, you first feel their passing (there were no mirrors on the test bikes), then you realise how shit-slow you are, then you see them disappearing.

And yes, they can tell you what the bike will do when it’s being pushed by men who have won multiple world championships, raced the Isle of Man or beaten the Aussie Superbike field.

How relevant that is to an everyday monkey like me, you have to decide for yourself.


This is it in red.


Nope…didn’t crash here either.


The uphill section was challenging.

I have fundamentally never cared what a top-end racer thinks about a bike. I cannot relate, even remotely, to a bloke that has sponsorship on his leathers. Like so many other riders, I simply marvel at their skill and courage. The fact that a front-end might be getting juddery as he canes a test-bike around Turn X at Circuit Y is only of interest in purely academic terms. I really don’t give a shit and have never bought a bike based on what a racer tells me about it.

What I can do is tell you how a normal rider goes on the new Yamaha. I cannot yet tell you how it behaves on the street, for at the time of writing there is not a single registered R1 or R1M here (but that will change in a week or so), but I can certainly tell you how it feels for such a rider to get on a track and ride the most technologically advanced you-can-buy-it-in-a-shop-superbike on the planet right now.

The fact that I am still alive is testament to the bike’s brilliance.


There’s a big Italian guy lying in the boot of a 300C Chrysler with a pillow and a camera just in front of me. How sausages get made.


This corner did not punch me in the face either.

The fact that I am not leaking internal glargh into a plastic surgical bag is hard evidence of its wizardry.

The fact that no new bones have been screwed together with titanium hardware is tribute enough to Yamaha’s current dominance of the sportsbike world.

I did about 30 laps on the R1 and maybe five on the slick-shod M. Weariness had overtaken me, and by 3.30pm, it was a zero sum game. I was not going to go any faster and there was nothing being tested here except me. It was 100 types of horrible humid out at Sydney Motorsport Park. My helmet was a pot full of rank sweat, and inside my leathers I felt like I was made out of meat-porridge and wearing a freshly skinned wildebeest.

That was all my fault. The R1 cannot be blamed at all. It’s not middle-aged, unfit and recovering from busted necks and arms.

It’s roomier and more comfortable than its predecessors. The seat is wider and flatter and no longer forces you to ride on your junk which is no longer being forced into the tank.

Two corners into my first lap, it was very obvious that there were a lot of other differences between this bike and its predecessors. And every other bike on the market right now.


I’m thinking it should come in Kenny Roberts colours – yellow, white and black.

This is a pure race bike. It was designed to be ridden on a racetrack. The electronics are otherworldly – both in terms of how advanced they are, and in the way they make this much motorcycle so immensely rideable – even when you’re nothing but ageing meat-porridge poured into a race-suit and trying not to get in the way of world champions.

Three laps in, I no longer cared about the world champions. They certainly knew enough to pass me and leave me to my own amateurish devices. We could always fight it out later in the pits with knives if it came to that. But it didn’t come to that.

Three laps in and I was actually getting my knee down in places I have never even shown a knee-slider. It’s like I suddenly had skills I never even dreamed of. Was this possible? Clearly it was, since I was not spearing off into the pebbles. I tried going a little faster. Yep. Same thing. The R1 just turned when I asked it, provided power upon the instant I demanded it, and made absolutely no attempt to murder me. Even under death-braking at that stupid off-camber hairpin they’ve welded to the back of the track. Hell, it didn’t even try and scare me.

It’s insanely fast and it’s insanely civilised and rideable. That combination is rare and ever so devastating.


I almost ran into the back of the car here.

I pulled into the pits and a wonderful Japanese Yamaha tech was grinning and asking me if everything was OK.

I hugged him a little bit. He hugged me back.

“OK?” he asked.

I nodded. This was a little bit more than just OK.

This was a whole new thing.

I spoke to Steve Martin, Josh Brookes and Cam Donald about the R1 – more to reassure myself that I was not being delusional about the bike as a result of the humidity.


The M and slicks an another corner it did better than I ever could.


Yeah, I was as amazed as anyone else.

“This thing is pretty special, huh?” I asked each of them.

All of them nodded.

The R1 was indeed special. How much more special its special brother, the up-spec R1M is, was yet to be seen, but since it was equipped with Öhlins race suspension and a batshit crazy racing ECU, I could only imagine.

I did two more 10-lap sessions on the R1 and nothing changed. It just did what it did – which was go stupidly fast with consummate ease and make me look like a better rider than I was.

The electronics that keep you on the track are so advanced as to be almost un-noticeable. They’re certainly un-noticeable by me. You can set their level of intrusion pretty much anywhere you want, so wheelies are still doable – and even powerslides coming out of corners are easily possible. The Slide Control will make sure that doesn’t turn into a highside. I decided to take that aspect as an article of faith.

You are all free to believe in Jesus even though you’ve not witnessed Him. I shall believe in Yamaha’s Slide Control in exactly the same way.

Then it was lunchtime. And after lunch it was hammer time.

The R1M hammer came with slicks and sat in pitlane idling pure race-venom at me. The little red light blinking on the tyre-warmers looked like a ticking bomb.

The only appreciable riding variance is the wider back wheel and the amazing Öhlins racing suspension. Yes, the difference is noticeable. That is the nature of Öhlins. That is why it is the world’s best suspension. No, I’m not doing an ad for it. I’m just stating a fact.

It only took a few laps for me to understand that the M is a little bit more special the normal R1. And that R1 is already to hell and gone more special than anything I’ve ridden. So you can understand the difficulty I was having.

I took it back to the pits and went to get changed. I was done. More laps would not change anything.

It’s not like I was suddenly gonna find an extra few seconds, or try out some new lines.

I knew all I needed to know about the R1 and the R1M and what they do around a track with me on board.

The road would be a different world – and I will visit that world in the fullness of time.

Now then, is the M worth the extra dollars?


There’s that really steep bit again.

Only you can answer that question. Personally, if I was shopping in this market, I would get the M. I don’t give a shit about the hand-buffed alloy tank, but I very much care about the Öhlins suspension.

Ultimately, this kinda sexy race-stuff is not lost on me, or anyone else who hasn’t got and will never have the skills a racer has. You don’t need to be an expert marksman to appreciate a finely crafted and perfectly weighted rifle. You don’t have to be a gypsy knife-fighter to know that your balanced Damascus-steel blade is a thing of great craftsmanship. You may never even draw it in battle, and you’re content to have it sitting in your display case. Once in a while you take it out and hold it and wave it around. You smile when you do this. You’re happy because you know you’re holding a masterpiece in your hands.

In your hands it is a legendary weapon. In other hands, it may well be just a tool – a means to an end. That does not make it any less a masterpiece.

A racing bike a racer can utilise as a tool for success, which can be bought off the shelf, driven to a racetrack, shod with slicks and fired off a grid, is pretty exceptional. A bike which offers everything a racer needs and wants without intruding on his chi and skill with overt electronics is even more exceptional.

But when a normal human being can buy that very same bike, for what is, by any reasonable measure, a very fair and honest price for the technology you’re getting…well, that bike suddenly becomes more than just exceptional.

That bike becomes game-changing.

And so the game has been changed.


Here are some of the salient talking points, because I know numbers and technology intrigue some of you. They certainly intrigue me as well, but only in terms of “Wow! Check this shit out! That sounds hell-sexy – bet it cost a lot to make. What does this button do? Oh God what have I just done to its ECU?”

And this is the $23,500 R1. I’ll get to the $29,990 R1M in a sec…

Yamaha built this bike to race on tracks. It just so happens you can register it and use it on the road. This is a complete about-face in terms of the factory’s sportsbike design paradigm.

The 998cc engine is brand new. It has a 13.0:1 compression ratio, a crossplane crank, is 33mm narrower at the crank axis and four kilo lighter.

The 10.5-litre air-box is 24 per cent larger than the previous model and air is forced through ducts in the actual steering head, just like on the M1 MotoGP bike.


Lighter, narrower, and nastier.

The exhaust system is titanium. All of it. It has a servo-motor controlled exhaust valve, which only opens over 7500rpm when you’re in Boss mode.

The funnel-intake system is 20 per cent shorter than on the 2014 model. Why? So when you’re revving the shittery out of it, it’s happier and more productive. Likewise, the fuel-injectors have been angled differently, and now provide fuel in a more efficient manner to the back of the valve. This also makes revving the shittery out of it better.

The cylinder head and valve design have been sexed right up.

In 2014 it went like this:

Intake valve diameter 31mm; Exhaust valve diameter 25mm; Bore and stroke 78 x 52.2mm and compression ratio of 12.7:1

In 2015 it does this:

Intake valve diameter 33mm; Exhaust valve diameter 26.5mm; Bore and stroke 79 x 50.9mm and compression ratio of 13.0:1.

The little things make all the difference.

So we go on, yes?


They’re not usually this still and peaceful.

Rocker-arm valve actuation has been en-beautened substantially. The rocker-arm lever ratio now produces a larger valve-lift than the cam. The load is decreased and the friction is reduced. There is a DLC coating (Diamond-like Carbon) on the slidey areas. This also makes you revving the shittery out of it a more pleasant experience.


I’m pretty sure it comes with a cover.

The camshafts are new, and come with increased valve lift and revised timing. The pressure on the valve springs has also been reduced.


These things suck in air, gravity, light and fear.

There are forged aluminium bridge-box pistons in the engine. These are highly rigid and allow for a 3mm thinner piston-crown. It’s all about the weight, huh? That’s been reduced 8.5gm even though the bore is a millimetre bigger. Oh, and that DLC stuff is smeared on the piston pins.

It boasts titanium fracture-split connecting rods. This is a world-first on a production motorcycle. It’s a good thing because the titanium is 40 per cent lighter than the steel it replaces, which once again means that revving the shittery out of it makes it happy by increasing the precision of the rod’s big-end and reducing deformation at 25 million rpm.

Each cylinder is offset 2mm to the exhaust side, which decreases friction and provides more power.


Don’t worry, yours will come with this all covered up.

Yamaha has also sorcery-ed up the crossplane crank. Its 27.1mm narrower and its inertia weight has been reduced by 20 per cent. The main journal diameter has been increased by 2mm, which is also all about revving the shittery out if it.

There is an entirely new lubrication system in the engine. Previously, centrifugal force had to be battled to get oil into the connecting rod of each big-end. Now there is a central passage that utilises that same force to feed the madly whirring things needful lubrication. Yes, at high revs. Glad you’re paying attention.

The clutch is all new. It is a Slipper and Assist clutch. It’s 19 per cent lighter and seven per cent smaller in diameter; the new cam system now helps out when you’re hard into a corner, off-throttle and praying the slipper clutch doesn’t decide you can go and get fucked by back-torquing you into buggery. This will never happen to me because I ride too slow. But it’s nice to know it’s there.


No, it does not come with tyre-warmers. Do not be greedy.

The gearbox is all new too. All the ratios have been revised, and second gear is a thing of beauty. No more shifting into first for that super-tight stuff.

There are magnesium covers all over the engine. The top, bottom (where the sump is) and some of the round bits on the side where the clutch is – in all, six major bits now weigh less than a whore’s empty promise.

Now the chassis, yes? Perhaps a new box of tissues? Hell, we ain’t got to the electronic stuff yet. You might need sponges for that.


On the M, you get a polished one.

The wheelbase is 10mm shorter (now at 1405mm) than the 2014 model and the swingarm has also been trimmed 15mm (now 570mm).

New KYB shocks – adjustable for everything – pre-load, high-and-low-speed compression and rebound. (The M has pure Öhlins racing suspension front and rear with servos and voodoo and shit)

The 43mm USD front is also new with the adjustments looking all sexy on the top of the fork tubes. Racing motorcycles is all about front-end feel and making sure shit doesn’t get all gooey when you’ve compressed everything under death-braking. Thus has Yamaha created a high-rigidity axle bracket and increased the diameter of the axle itself from 22 to 25mm.


This belongs to the M.


As does this front.

Cast magnesium wheels, bitches. Yes, the clever monkeys will know how important reducing unsprung weight is when it comes to handling. Front inertia has been reduced by four per cent and the rear by a whopping 11 per cent. There is no comparison to the old R1.

The Nissin front brakes with the radial master cylinder and lever assembly, and variable-sized pistons are all up in your shit and new as well. Braided stainless lines are standard and the discs are 10mm bigger than last years at 320mm. Cleverly, the new calipers use a standard bolt-pitch of 108mm, not 130mm, so banging in race-level stuff is easy.

The fuel tank is 17l of lightweight aluminium (1.6kgs lighter than it was in 2014). Just like it is on the MotoGP bikes. In the case of the R1M, it’s been hand-buffed and will always be unique to the bike it’s bolted to.


Trick, huh? This is the R1. The M has this covered by servos.


The menu button. The serrated thing to the right of it is the scroller. How would Sir like to play today?

The fairing and screen have been directly sourced and closely copied off the MotoGP M1. Thus has the wind resistance been reduced by eight per cent. My personal wind-resistance has probably increased by that same amount, but even I could find shelter from the blast down the main straight.


Sexy as, I reckon.

Ergonomically, there’s very good news for big blokes. The distance from the seat to the handlebars has been increased by 55mm, and the seat is wider and flatter. It’s still a race crouch – but it’s much more civilised than it was. I’ll let you know how it goes on the road.


All that other stuff is pretty good, but it’s the electronics package that raises the R1 above its rivals – and I use the term ‘rivals’ loosely.

Much of the stuff is sourced straight from the 2012 MotGP bikes, ridden by Rossi and Lorenzo. It’s 2015, and to have this kinda wizardry available out-of-the-box, shows that Yamaha is dead serious about reclaiming its place at the top of the heap.

So here ya go – and remember, this is still the R1, not the M…

Six-axis Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU), featuring a gyro sensor that measures pitch, roll and yaw, and a G-force sensor, measuring gravity pushing forwards, backwards, up, down and right and left. This is straight off the 2013 MotoGP bike and the only jigger of its type on any production bike in the world. Every other electronic aid on the bike gets its info from this brain. So every time the bike steps in to fix your shit, it’s the IMU that’s enabling it to make the calls it makes.

Those other aids?

The job-lot.


The racetrack display. Shut-up. Nothing under eight grand need concern you.


The street display.

Ten-level traction control that can be switched off; four-setting Slide Control (also off the MotoGP bike) that detects your back wheel sliding and tells the engine to behave; four-level Lift Control system that controls the rate your front wheel comes off the ground. A three-setting quick-shifter – and we all know how much fun a quick-shifter is. Or we should; a Launch Control system with three settings, allowing you to launch at 10,000rpm with the throttle wide open and focus on your clutch kung-fu. The brakes are ABS as well as UBS, which is a Unified Brake System. Using just the front brake, the back brake will also be applied according to the info the master brain feeds the system. The rear brake operates only the rear brake. I don’t have the words to describe how seamless this is. I’m now just the best braker in the world. Oh, and it can all be switched off with a bolt-in ECU that comes as an aftermarket extra on the R1, but is included with the R1M.

There are four Power Modes. Only Number Four, the rain one, limits the horses on tap. The other three all deliver the same horses, just with various degrees of aggression. The differences are subtle, but noticeable.

Yamaha YZF-R1M 15  6

Think of how good that’s gonna work with Andy Strapz!

Finally, the Yamaha Ride Control System. This allows you to pre-set four different modes of the seven different electrical thingies (PWR, TCS, SCS LCS, QSS, LIF and ERS), all of which can then be adjusted individually. The mind boggles. This is like a bike built for OCD lunatics who wanna be involved in every minute aspect of its performance. Or you can just leave the factory pre-sets and stay happy.

The instrument display is in colour and you can choose to have a track display or a street display. The main difference is the track display tacho starts at 8000rpm, while the street display concerns with prominently showing you at what speed you’ll be losing your licence.


Carbon-fibre fairing. Hand-buffed aluminium petrol tank and polished swingarm. Öhlins Gold. Pure racetrack suspension with a spring-rate increase of 16 per cent at the front (and two per cent at the rear) over the R1. Is it noticeable? Yes. If you’ve never ridden with Öhlins, you don’t know what you’re missing out on. Is it worth the extra cost? You’re only asking that question because you’ve never ridden with Öhlins, aren’t you?

This suspension has three manual-adjustment settings with 32 increments that can all be programmed into the bike. There are also three automatically adjusted suspension settings already programmed into the bike. So you needn’t obsess too much. But, yes, even they can be adjusted if you’re really weird.

The rear tyre is also wider than on the R1. It’s a 200/55ZR17 as opposed to a 190/55ZR17 – we are indeed in racing slick territory.


Bridgestone invented tyres for this thing and brought a few along in case we ran out.

And finally, you get the full I’m-a-real-racer Communications Control Unit which you allows you and your bike and your tablet or Smartphone to chat about settings and data-logging. This goes with the app Yamaha has called the Y-TRAC, which offers telemetry recordings, GPS maps of your track, and will ultimately get you punched in the face at a trackday when you start pretending like any of your shit telemetry is worth recording and then talking about it in the pit.

So there it is. I told you you’d need a roll of paper towels. The tissues just don’t suffice.

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About the Author

is a writer who has contributed to many magazines and websites over the years, edited a couple of those things as well, and written a few books. But his most important contribution is pissing people off. He feels this is his calling in life and something he takes seriously. He also enjoys whiskey, whisky and the way girls dance on tables. And riding motorcycles. He's pretty keen on that, too.

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