Ultimate Sports Bike | Seventh Place: Yamaha YZF-R1M

I’ve always had a soft spot for Yamaha’s R1. As a kid I had the posters, as a teenager I had the R1 emblazoned Nokia 32-10 phone case, and last year I had an R1M as a long termer.

Yamaha’s entry to USB is the updated for 2018 YZF-R1M and with its carbon fibre bodywork and its Öhlins EC2 suspension, it doesn’t half look the part. But looks are only a part of the package. As soon as you jump on the R1M the thing feels mega sporty.

The riding position isn’t like the others, it lunges you forward to the extent that you feel like your head is right over the front wheel. At slow speeds, and through town, the hunched forward positioning didn’t do my lumbago any good, not to mention my wrists, but once you get over about 50mph things start to make a bit more sense, as the wind under your chest lifts the weight off your arms.

Article continues below...

Enjoy more Fast Bikes reading in the monthly magazine.
Click here to subscribe & save.

Before you go mad with the throttle, it’s worth taking a moment or two to admire the dashboard on the Yam. It’s got a G-force and brake pressure gauge, which although slightly gimmicky, is pretty cool. The speed and gear position are nice and big and all the modes are simple to toggle between using the switchgears. In fact all of the electronic systems on the R1M are pretty sweet.

The anti-wheelie is probably the best anti-wheelie on any road bike known to man, never mind the ones in our test. The system allows the front wheel to hover around three or four inches off the ground, delivering just the right amount of power to the back wheel to maintain optimum drive with minimal lift-age.

The electronic suspension also highlighted this bike’s great tech on the road. The pre-determined settings allow you to soften things off dead easily when the going gets bumpy, but then to quickly reset it when the road becomes smoother and you are ready to pull the pin.

Article continues below...

The shifter was dead good and never missed a single beat during my testing, but the blipper was a little less smooth. It felt a bit clunky as it went down the box, you don’t get an audible ‘blip’ (which isn’t a real deal-breaker, but it’s always nice to hear something) and you can feel a bit of a nasty twang through the gear selector as the new gear engages. While we are talking about the gearbox, the first gear on the R1M is really quite tall. I must admit, before I got reacquainted with it, I stalled the Yamaha not once, not twice, but thrice – once I got used to it though, I found it made first gear riding much more manageable.

Such is the power of the R1M, though, that you won’t want to be in first gear for too long. The cross-plane crank engine pulls like a train from wherever you are in the revs.

Okay, there is a slight lull just before 8000rpm, but nothing to get upset about. After 8k, things get really silly, really fast and the boom of the exhaust sends shivers up your spine. The faster you ride the R1, the better it feels. The throttle connection feels precise, the suspension soaks the bumps up brilliantly and the chassis and sporty riding position give you loads of confidence to turn hard and fast.

Article continues below...

The only thing that really let the R1 down on our road test were the brakes – more specifically the ABS. The brakes weren’t terrible and certainly had enough bite for everyday riding, but when we upped the ante and started asking a bit more from the stoppers, the ABS was quick to crash the party.

You can’t turn the ABS off on the Yam either, but there is a little trick you can use to disable it – if you wheelie the R1M for long enough that the front wheel stops spinning, the ECU throws a wobbler, brings the ABS light on and lets you do skids and stoppies – but that’s our little secret, right?

All in all, the Yamaha still floated my boat and I reckon it could yours, too. If you want a super sporty, super-racy, superbike for the road, then the R1M is sure to tickle your fancy. But if you want something a little less focused and suitable for long rides at slower paces, you might find better options out there. 

Article continues below...

Bruce on track

  • TOP SPEED: 157mph
  • LAP TIME: 59.978

There’s just something about the Yamaha that really floats my boat – it’s got such a racy feel to it and the noise from the cross-plane crank motor draws more attention than a tart with her knickers down.

In stock form, having taken it for noise testing at Cadwell on day one of our test, I was both surprised and pleased that the bike made a substantial 104dB – quiet enough to be allowed out on track, but loud enough to let people know you were gunning for them.

In the handling department, it proved awesome, mopping up Cadwell’s curves with the tenacity of a heat-seeking missile. It walloped its ways out of corners too, but its brakes were downright terrifying. I lost count of how many times smashing through the track-lining barriers felt imminent as the ABS engaged and the deceleration of the bike didn’t seem to reduce, regardless of how hard I squeezed on the anchors.

The other weird issue with them is caused by the linked rear, which means into corners such as Mansfield, the rear is all too keen to start coming round on you. It’s a great aid for drama, but it certainly did the Yammy no favours when put against the clock at Bruntingthorpe. That was its weakest link, making stopping about as predictable as this week’s winning lottery numbers. I was not a fan, but I can’t say the same for the motor.

It’s packed full of torque and on the handling track the aggressiveness of the drive, the linear delivery of power and smoothness of the throttle application really got my juices going. It was a treat to ride, and I also found myself a fan of the Öhlins electronic suspension that seemed to adapt well to the harsh-surfaced circuit, mopping up its imperfections and giving me loads of feel and confidence. The Yamaha didn’t prove the faster to switch directions, but it could hold its own in the corners and at corner entry it was one of the best on test.

So how come it didn’t top the lap times? In truth, I think it’s out-gunned. Initially it feels raw and punchy, but that eagerness to please tends to drop off as the revs increase and the drive to rear wheel gets more and more asthmatic. Don’t be misled into thinking this bike is like Miss Daisy; it’s still plenty rapid, but not in the same way as some of the newer offerings.

As for tech, the Yammy’s hard to fault (ABS aside). It’s got anything and everything you could ever ask for and, better still, all the systems are easy to adjust and actually do the job they purport to do. The dash is awesome, although it’s got so much data on show it’s hard to take it all in when you’re biting the screen and banging in a fast lap.

To throw a few other concerns into the mix, the size of the bike means you’re pretty cramped, so you feel it in your legs and wrists after a decent stint on track. The gearbox feels a little wooden, too. It’s hard to tell when you’ve downshifted, which isn’t confidence inspiring when you’re powering into a bend. I’m sure you’d adapt to all factors if you were to own this bike.

As O’Halloran and MacKenzie are proving in BSB, there’s still plenty of life left in this old(ish) dog.

Come back this time tomorrow to find out which bike came sixth in our countdown to find the Ultimate Sports Bike.

Subscribe to Fast Bikes Magazine Enjoy more Fast Bikes reading in the monthly magazine. Click here to subscribe.