The 2012 Yamaha R1 is the model to go for – Yamaha’s intoxicating crossplane crank combined with six-stage traction control; win, win.
I’m not going to lie, I’m a huge fan of this bike. From the moment I swung a leg over the bike I felt at home. It’s very accommodating and comfy, with all the controls falling easy to hand. Yes, admittedly the clutch feels grabby, but this is the third cross-plane crank R1 I’ve spent some time with, and they’ve all been the same. That minor niggle aside, the R1 is a comfortable place to be. The riding position feels roomy and there’s no pressure on the knees or wrists.
The R1’s engine is proven and the noise from the crossplane crank and its irregular firing order emit a pleasantly deep rumble as the bike idles. It sounds like a twin, and the aftermarket Akras fitted to this machine add even more menace to its bark.
The big news here is the bike’s sophisticated suite of rider aids. As well as three riding modes –you’ll really only ever use the one – this bike was the first Yamaha to receive traction control, developed using feedback from their YZR-M1 MotoGP bike. It’s essentially a six-stage system which lacks an internal gyrospcope and instead relies on a wheel-speed sensor on the front and rear wheel to measure the difference in speed between the two, only intervening when the rear has started to spin faster than the front. And the system works to, only cutting in when things threaten to get really out of shape.
Out on the road and stretch the bike’s legs and the engine’s character begins to make itself known, and I love it. It’s beautifully elastic and feels really punchy. It’s blends the best of every engine format – it has the lowdown grunt of a big twin, but the linear delivery of a screaming 600, although it lacks the urgency of its rivals in this class.
Crack on, and it becomes clear that the way to ride the bike is to fire it through the corners and get on the throttle as soon as possible. The smooth nature of the inline four means the R1 is rapid, even if it lacks the outright speed of a BMW S1000RR, and it’s perfectly happy on the road, although I’d suggest you may crave more power down the straights when you’re on track. During our time riding the Snetterton 300 it excelled during the tight sections, but was found wanting down the two straights. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not slow; it just doesn’t have the legs of its rivals at the top end.
As the sessions fly by in a blur of splatted flies and well executed apex after well executed apex, another trait of this R1 becomes apparent – the heat emitted from the underseat exhausts. It’d be most welcome on any cold morning ride, but here in Norfolk, it’s 26C, and it’s just irritating.
During the 1500 miles we racked up during our week together the R1 continued to deliver big smiles, proving to be just as happy on the daily commute as it was tramping along my favourite B-road loop (Colsterworth to Bitchfield to Colsterwoth if you’re asking), that engine delivering a satisfying amount of drive and drama with every twist of the throttle.
And that is the R1 in a nutshell. It’s a machine that turns every ride into an occasion. I just wish our time together could have been longer.