Thanks to the Canadian motorcycle season only lasting a few short months each year, we don’t have the opportunity to test as much new product as our colleagues in warmer climates. However, this season has been rather lucky for us, and the fleets have been stacked with street-legal superbikes that are tamed versions of track bikes. The all-new 2015 Yamaha R1 is no different, and is easily one of the most polarizing new designs this year. We briefly checked out the new R1M at a preview event in the winter, but it’s this more livable R1 that really gets my heart pounding.
Although a bike like this is more suited to the racetrack, we don’t have that kind of access until later this season. I decided to pick a week when the weather called for nearly no rain, and use the YZF-R1 as my daily commuter. It just so happened that the first day I picked it up, I was stuck in a torrential downpour complete with thunder and lightning. The 998cc inline 4-cylinder of the R1 doesn’t sound as menacing at idle as the Suzuki GSX-R1000 or even the BMW S1000R. It sounds more subdued, but when ridden quickly and at higher RPMs, the R1 sounds like an roaring tiger. This is one motorcycle where the stock exhaust is more than adequate.
For 2015, the 4-cylinder is completely reworked to a point of essentially being brand new. It’s lighter than the outgoing model (by 8.8 lbs), thanks to lighter titanium connecting rods and other weight reductions. Cylinder bore has been increased from 78mm to 79.0, the intake has a larger diameter, and compression has been bumped from 12.7:1 to 13.0:1. All of this increases the redline from 13,750rpm to 14,500rpm. Throttle response is instantaneous, and thanks to the full computer setup, everything from throttle response to power delivery and traction control is customizable – more on that later.
What’s truly special about the new R1 is how versatile the new engine is. Despite being a liter bike, it’s just as pleasant to ride around the city as it is to cruise down the highway. The quickshifter is phenomenal, and has adjustable settings as well. I found the clutch to be on the heavier side, but there’s a definite grab point that was very easy to learn. Rev-matching downshifts and finding the sweet spot for peak power in every gear is effortless, and the Yamaha keeps a smile on your face the entire time.
Overall response when handling is sublime with the new R1 – the bike changes directions as soon as you begin to think about making your next move. This motorcycle is absolutely telepathic and there’s no question about it. Cornering lean is bang-on for a liter superbike and is sharper than the CBR1000RR, and very close to that of the GSX-R1000. Out of the three, this would be my choice if doing a ton of track riding, but I would still opt for the GSX-R for daily use.
The riding position on the new R1 is more hunched over and definitely track-inspired. This is great for those who intend to track their bikes, but for commuters such as myself, this puts unnecessary weight on the wrists. I was fine for short stints, but longer highway runs had my body feeling more beat-up overall. I do like the full fairings, and when tucking, there isn’t much wind intervention and the R1 seamlessly slices through the air. To share a contrasting opinion, one colleague who’s about three inches shorter than I and a bit heavier disagreed with my complaints on the riding position – he claimed that the R1 packs one of the most desirable positions out there.
Despite new computer setups that competitors such as BMW and Ducati offer, the Yamaha’s electronic management system is the most agreeable. The YZF-R1 allows you to customize everything from power output to the SCS (slide control) and traction control at the flick of an easy-to-use switch, the bike quickly transforms character. For those concerned about safety, some adjustments cannot be made while the bike is in motion, for obvious reasons.
Styling is at an all-time high here for Yamaha; the 2015 YZF-R1 is absolutely stunning. Even in the two-tone blue/silver paint scheme (I personally prefer an available jet black with red highlights), it stands out from the mounds of sportbikes crowding our streets. The new LED light setup is stunning; and the furrowed-brow look works beautifully and creates an evil look for the bike. The taillight is a vertical design and flows perfectly with the lines of the R1. I’d do away with the rear fender and flush-mount the license plate. Additionally, the LED lights on the front are sexy, but the actual headlight is a circular one below them.
The 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 is an exquisite choice in the liter superbike segment. It boasts characteristics that are unique from its competitors, along with styling that’s uncompromised. This is a bike that looks nothing short of a proper race bike, and has the dynamics to match those good looks. Priced aggressively at $18,999 here in Canada, Yamaha also offers three colour combinations for the R1. For those looking for something out of the ordinary that’s still capable of demolishing machines with far greater price tags, the 2015 YZF-R1 might be just the ticket.