2009 Yamaha YZF-R1 - First Ride

More MotoGP.

2009 Yamaha YZF-R1 - First Ride

It is one of those eternal questions: Which is better, quality or quantity? Yamaha found out in surveying buyers of its YZF-R1 that they are more interested in rider-friendly features like additional bottom-end torque rather than just outright horsepower. So the all-new 2009 YZF-R1 doesn't gain much peak output or lose weight, but it does use new technology to optimize and improve the quality of its power delivery. Two years ago when Technical Editor Kevin Cameron dissected the previous-generation R1's tech sheet (CW, December, 2006), he stated: "Power free of surprises is usable power."

It appears Yamaha took this to heart, and to achieve such delivery, engineers borrowed from Valentino Rossi's YZR-M1 MotoGP racer. The liquid-cooled, 16-valve, 998cc inline-Four gets a new "crossplane," or 90-degree, crankshaft. This crank phasing results in a staggered firing order—270, 180, 90 and 180 degrees. The usual 180-degree crank stops and then accelerates all four pistons every 180 degrees, with the two inner and two outer pistons rising and falling in pairs. This creates large inertial energy pulses spaced evenly, every 180 degrees. But just as the uneven firing sequence of a V-Twin engine helps a flat-track racebike have better traction exiting corners on dirt, so too does the unevenness of the crossplane crank help the M1/R1 rear wheel maintain better traction when accelerating off a turn on a paved surface. Although the 90-degree design doesn't increase torque, the better sense of traction it offers the rider can give the R1 an edge in the Open-class wars.

"The engineers in Japan wanted to know if we sought more power or better control," said Yamaha Product Planning Manager Derek Brooks, "but we couldn't have both, so we picked controllability."

To smooth out any vibration brought on by the uneven firing sequence, the engineers equipped the '09 R1 motor with a balance shaft. Air and fuel delivery is optimized by the fly-by-wire throttle and variable-length intakes first fitted to the R1 in 2006.

Although the chassis retains the 24-degree rake, 4.0-inch trail and 55.7-inch wheelbase used on the previous R1, the frame, diecast magnesium subframe and swingarm are new. And an electronic steering damper has been added.

New SOQI suspension is fitted front and rear. The fork now has separate damping circuits: The right leg handles rebound and the left compression, similar to the M1's fork. The shock (with both low- and high-speed compression damping) features a new hydraulic preload adjuster. Front brakes are six-piston radial-mount calipers with 310mm discs; the rear has a single-piston caliper and 220mm disc. Footpegs are adjustable for two positions.

Styling is as distinctive as the bike's engineering. Yamaha stuck with twin underseat exhausts much like those used before, but did alter the front end more dramatically with two bug-eyed projector-beam headlamps integrated into the ram-air ducts in the nose, as well as "layered" body panels on the fairing sides. A redesigned dash includes a gear-position indicator. R1 purists will celebrate the Pearl White/Rapid Red paint option reminiscent of the first-generation R1 introduced in 1998. The bike will be in dealers in January; prices start at $12,390, $691 more than the 2008 model.

2009 Yamaha YZF-R1

2009 Yamaha YZF-R1

2009 Yamaha YZF-R1

2009 Yamaha YZF-R1

2009 Yamaha YZF-R1

2009 Yamaha YZF-R1

2009 Yamaha YZF-R1

2009 Yamaha YZF-R1

2009 Yamaha YZF-R1

2009 Yamaha YZF-R1

2009 Yamaha YZF-R1

2009 Yamaha YZF-R1

2009 Yamaha YZF-R1

2009 Yamaha YZF-R1

2009 Yamaha YZF-R1

2009 Yamaha YZF-R1

2009 Yamaha YZF-R1

2009 Yamaha YZF-R1

2009 Yamaha YZF-R1

2009 Yamaha YZF-R1

2009 Yamaha YZF-R1

2009 Yamaha YZF-R1

2009 Yamaha YZF-R1

2009 Yamaha YZF-R1

2009 Yamaha YZF-R1

2009 Yamaha YZF-R1

2009 Yamaha YZF-R1

2009 Yamaha YZF-R1

2009 Yamaha YZF-R1

2009 Yamaha YZF-R1