I’ve just spent the weekend with a Yamaha YZF-R1 in my care. I’ve ridden a number of motorbikes now including most often a CBRE 600, but also a Honda Blackbird, a VFR 800 and, some time ago, a distant relative of the R1, the Fazer FZ6 600, but this is the first time I’ve taken one of the really top-of-the-range sports bikes out.
Initially I was nervous about opening the throttle anything more than a quarter of an inch. This thing has a lot of power all the way through the rev counter and I don’t think I went above 4000rpm for the whole journey out of London, but the first time I did venture the throttle open a bit more on the open road I felt just how much power there is there to be used. For the whole three days I had the bike I never did find how far it went, though. It’s just ticking over at motorway speeds in fourth gear, and any lower gear has so much power it’s a struggle to hold on if you open the throttle. (The feeling is worth the effort, though.) I can say one thing: you’ll never feel like you need more acceleration to get past something. I can’t see that it’s even possible to accelerate any quicker than this on two wheels, and still hang on (and change gear).
Stability felt pretty good to me, although I still prefer the smaller 600cc sports bikes for agility. Sometimes it felt like a bit of an effort to coax the thing into a corner. It also seemed quite easy to lock the back wheel up but that could just have been me getting tired. I also prefer something a bit shorter so I’m nearer the front wheel, although with this amount of torque there’s no way the front wheel isn’t going to be trying to get off the ground most of the time anyway.
The faring was surprisingly good as I wasn’t really expecting much and even an hour or so at decent speeds on the motorway wasn’t as tiring as I find it on smaller bikes. It’s also not revving very highly which makes it more comfortable than the CBR 600 which always leaves my arms vibrating inside for hours afterwards. Other practicalities: I managed to get something like 150 miles out of a tank of petrol too, which isn’t too bad I don’t think. There’s no gauge but a warning light comes on when you’re on reserve, with about 20 miles (so I’m told) left.
There’s no real point writing anything about the speed of this bike. It’s just huge. Imagine the fastest thing you can, and then add a bit. I couldn’t find any shortage of power at any speed. I have a feeling it slows down a bit once you get past 150mph, but obviously there aren’t many opportunities to test that theory out.
In the end, though, there is just too much power. On the road you’re rarely using anything but a small percentage of the bike’s potential. The power band of 4th gear is hardly starting when you’re at the top of road legal speeds. I also found I could easily get lazy with overtaking – 6th gear is still more powerful than most things on the road at anything more than about 40mph. That said, I’d still change down to 3rd or 4th anyway to make it more fun… All in all, I can’t really see myself owning one of these because it’s just too big for the road. I think I’d rather stick with a 600cc that makes me work a bit harder but at least I’m more likely to be using more of what it’s got to give.
Brecon Cathedral: This is how far I got over the weekend. (Oh, and the road between Brecon and Llandovery is excellent.)