It is with heavy heart that I must report the R1 and I are no longer together. Irreconcilable differences (Yamaha wanted her back!) meant she was returned to Fast Bikes towers. Tears were shed (mine), others sniggered (BJ) but we parted life long friends.
So, after four months would I recommend you buy an R1? My answer is ‘Yes, if that’s what you want’. A cop out, but let me explain. I haven’t tested the R1 against all its competitors. On paper it is the wrong end of the weight, power and lap time leader boards but you cannot choose a bike by stats alone. Different bikes have different strengths and different riders have different preferences. The R1 is still right for many, very stylish and biblically quick by any measure.
In truth, the R1 and I have had a love/hate relationship. Actually mild dislike, then love.
Elated to have won the competition, I gratefully collected the bike from Yamaha, cracked the throttle and thought someone had removed a spark plug. Below 8000rpm it’s weak but this is a Euro 3 engine and not the toxic fume spewing pre-07 bike I’m used to. It took time but after a while this actually became an advantage as I used more top end and was rewarded with a genuinely more exciting ride.
The first slow corner I came to I thought the R1 wasn’t going to turn. But once again, I can now state that the R1 poops all over my GSXR K5 on the road. The handling is smooth, precise and stable. You’ll go quicker and feel safer. For me the traction control is pointless but the brakes are excellent, the gearbox precise and the slipper clutch smooth.
Special mention has to go to the underseat exhausts. In late summer, they genuinely put me off rides as I was fed up of being baked from the nads up. Luckily, race cans and colder weather improved the situation.
So if the Yamaha takes your fancy, here’s what I’d do. Buy an R1. Upgrade the clutch. It is truly awful and grabbier than a Bangkok Lady Boy. Fit a full exhaust system. Removing the underseat catalytic converter may just stop you roasting in summer and the cacophonic sound of the irregular engine has character many bikes can only dream of. I’d fit a power commander and try reducing the front sprocket to allow more revs at lower speeds. For less than the European competition, you’ll have a superbly balanced, beautifully made and ever so slightly exotic road bike.
All that remains is to say a HUGE thank you to Fast Bikes, Yamaha and Bikesure. The R1 has been a massive pleasure and it has been an utter privilege to contribute to this superb magazine. These guys work unbelievably hard and it is a true labour of love. They deserve our respect.
Regrets? Only that I never got to resurrect the 90’s bike journo’s favourite words ‘scratch’, ‘trick’ and ‘cager’.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my efforts. I’ve tried to be entertaining as well as informative and hopefully raised a smile or two. Have a superb 2014 and enter more competitions. You never know, you too might just win.