The Superbike class has a new benchmark

Seventeen years after Yamaha reinvented the literbike class with its original YZF-R1, the Tuning Fork brand pushes the performance envelope further with its 2015 R1 ($16,490, ‘M’ version $21,990). Engineered for competition, Yamaha raises the bar of what riders and racers expect from a production Superbike.


There’s a whole lot to love about the new R1: the thrilling performance of the still crossplane crank-equipped but more oversquare Inline Four engine; the planted, corner-speed-loving chassis; and the class-leading electronics package. Yet the most impressive feat is the seamless integration of every component of the motorcycle. It all works in unison on the redesigned R1, allowing fast laps to come at relative ease.


Although the engine feels a little soft off the bottom, it spins more rapidly (due to lighter engine hardware) and power comes online sooner in the rev range with a mild but still noticeable "hit" through the midrange. Snappy with a voracious appetite for revs, the 8.8-pound-lighter mill continues to build linear, useable power equating to a nearly perfect power curve all the way to redline (14,500 rpm).

The R1’s engine is so smooth yet rich in over-rev that it never felt like it ceased pulling as we turned laps at Sydney’s Eastern Creek Raceway during the international press launch. Engineers were so hyper-focused on getting the powerband as efficient as possible that not only does the R1’s cylinder head employ larger valves, it’s also now fabricated from billet aluminum instead of a cast piece. Like before, the R1 benefits from its now signature M1 prototype growl (sounding like a hybrid of a V-Twin and Inline Four with conventional firing order) for a more thrilling experience behind the windscreen.

The powertrain employs an enhanced version of Yamaha’s D-Mode system, with four selectable throttle/engine power maps that permit the rider to tweak the engine response. It’s complemented by nine-way traction control, three-way adjustable slide, and lift (wheelie) and launch control. But we’ll get to those settings in a minute.

The reworked transmission (first through fourth gears are between 3-6% lower) and innovative electronic quickshifter (integrates ECU data to automatically adjust shift mapping for smoother and responsive clutch-less upshifts) function in complete harmony, making for immediate and virtually nonstop acceleration force. Curiously, however, the shifter doesn’t incorporate any auto-blip functionality, so downshifts have to be made the old-fashioned way. The clutch was also upgraded with an inner hub cam system to boost engagement force during acceleration, which also made for a reduction in its physical size and weight. It’s still augmented via cable design that delivers excellent feel and action.

Although Yamaha remains tight-lipped on horsepower numbers, we estimate between 170-175 rear-wheel horsepower at the OE-fitted RS-10 Battlax tires by Bridgestone (Bridgestone’s latest high-performance street tire, think Pirelli SP V2 and Dunlop Q3). It’s also important to note that U.S. spec R1s will be at a slight power disadvantage due to emission regulations; however, the Tuning Fork company will soon sell a kit ECU (pricing TBD, but expect less than $400) that will provide full power, as well as eliminate the Unified Braking System (UBS) and rear ABS functions.


Physically, the R1 is smaller than its predecessor. It’s considerably slimmer (think R6/RSV4 slim) through the midsection at the fuel tank (now intricately fabricated from three sheets of aluminum, thereby shedding 3.5 pounds). Wheelbase has also been reduced by almost a half-inch. All told on the scales it’s 35 pounds lighter than the 2009-2014 model.

The way the rider interacts with the machine has been tweaked too, highlighted by a taller, flatter and wider seat, which equates to a racier feel. The rider triangle has expanded with just over two extra inches of space between the seat and clip-ons, nearly a half-inch more between the rearsets (non-adjustable) and seat. The footpegs were also moved forward slightly to shift added weight on front of the motorcycle.


Although the headstock angle and trail numbers are unchanged, the construction and rigidity balance of the entire R1 chassis has been enhanced. Specifically, the forward portion of the main frame is cast from a much larger section and is now braced behind the 24% larger airbox. The swingarm is now right-side up with 15mm shorter arms and features a new upward-truss type manufacturing design. The subframe continues to be manufactured from magnesium (cast), as are the wheels, cylinder head, engine covers and oil pan.

As soon as we left pit lane, we were in awe of the R1’s maneuverability. It’s so agile that it takes a few laps to acclimate to its sharp handling. Yet, it remains neutral – never steering more or less than inputs received through the controls. But perhaps the most impressive part of the chassis is the astronomical level of feel through turns. Take big swooping "classic" road race lines and the R1 rewards, feeling planted with loads of stability and grip. The chassis simply loves corner speed.

Handling is further improved with the fitment of the R1M’s up-spec Electronic Racing Suspension, which swaps out the KYB-sourced damping components for Ohlins. While it can be manually adjusted (electronically, of course), we had the best experience with the "A-1" automatic setting. In this mode, the speed of suspension action is tuned, in real time, based on pitch, roll, rear wheel speed and front brake pressure. This made the motorcycle feel perfectly balanced, at all positions, from corner entry to exit, allowing for hard-charging maneuvers with near perfect stability. It’s easily the finest electronic suspension we’ve ever sampled on a production motorcycle and worth every penny of its $5,500 asking price.

The R1s always employed stout braking components, but braking sensation has never been a strong point – until now. Although each front caliper lost a piston, the new ADVICS monobloc design functions marvelously. Both power and feel are through the roof (stainless-steel brake hoses are now standard, and the front discs are 10mm larger), and the ABS and UBS perform so flawlessly that we couldn’t even detect the R1 was equipped with it.


We came away impressed with Yamaha’s first shot at traction control on its 2012 R1 model, which we rated second only to Aprilia’s setup. But the new system ups the ante by facilitating a new level of control. To do this, engineers integrated gyro and accelerometer sensors. Dubbed an IMU (Inertia Measurement Unit) the tiny chip measures acceleration (forward/back, up/down, left/right) as well as pitch, roll and yaw. This technology, first employed on the MotoGP M1 prototype, gives the R1 situational awareness on the road.

The IMU supplements the traction control and ABS systems’ wheel speed sensors by delivering more accurate electronic intervention at lean. It also serves as the basis for Yamaha’s patent-pending Slide and Lift (wheelie) Control System (SCS and LIF). Pulled straight from the M1, SCS modulates engine power output when a lateral power slide (rear wheel drift) is detected. It functions in unison with traction control and allows just the right amount of wheel spin for optimum acceleration.

Engineered for advanced riding, it takes considerable speed and/or rear tire load to get a feel for the electronics. However, the few times we flirted with it, the SCS performed as advertised, allowing us to maintain (or increase even) throttle pressure while maintaining a near perfect slide off turns. It’s truly amazing technology and a feature that will help riders understand the true acceleration potential of the motorcycle in a safer way. The LIF electronics are equally remarkable and facilitated the perfect wheelie without overly curtailing acceleration on the fat part of the tire.

Keeping tabs on everything is a bright and easy-to-read full-color TFT-type display. It incorporates unique street and track displays, and offers iOS-like (but still no touch) level of intuitiveness. It’s manipulated through a rocker-style switch on the left clip-on, and a rolling wheel on the right that makes adjustment a snap, even while riding.


Never before has a production sportbike been this closely aligned with a MotoGP prototype for less than 22 grand. Yamaha has effectively built a road-legal YZR-M1, with the precision and elevated level of build quality that we expect from the Japanese engineering powerhouse. It’s so incredibly well polished that the rider can simply focus on the task of riding, without having to even think of any sort of mechanical limitation. Make no mistake about it: the new R1 may be the bike that finally eclipses the competition in the Superbike class.

YZF-R1 Settings



  • Preload: 9 (Turns in)
  • Compression: 17 (Turns out)
  • Rebound: 7


  • Preload: 11.5mm (spring free length)
  • Low-Speed Compression: 10
  • High-Speed Compression: 3
  • Rebound: 12


  • Power Mode: 2
  • TCS: 3
  • SCS: 1
  • LCS: 1
  • QSS: 1
  • LIF: 1

Yamaha YZF-R1 Highs & Lows


  • Seamless integration of every component
  • A chassis that begs for corner speed
  • Class-leading electronics


  • No auto-blip downshift functionality
  • Might require a knee puck sponsor
  • Makes your current sportbike feel obsolete

2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 Technical Specs

  • Engine: 998cc liquid-cooled Inline Four
  • Bore and Stroke: 79.0 x 50.9mm
  • Compression Ratio: 13.0:1
  • Valvetrain: DOHC, 16-valve
  • Fuel Delivery: Electronic fuel-injection with YCC-T and YCC-I
  • Clutch: Wet, multi-plate slipper clutch, cable actuation
  • Transmission: Six-speed
  • Final Drive: Chain, 16/41 gearing
  • Frame: Twin spar aluminum
  • Front Suspension: 43mm KYB inverted fork; three-way adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping; 4.7 in. travel
  • Rear Suspension: KYB gas-charge shock; four-way adjustable for spring preload, high/low-speed compression and rebound damping; 4.7 in. travel
  • Front Brakes: 320mm discs with radial-mount Advics monobloc-style four-piston calipers
  • Rear Brake: 220mm disc with double-piston caliper
  • Curb Weight: 439 lbs.
  • Wheelbase: 55.3 in.
  • Rake: 24.0 deg. Trail: 4.0 in.
  • Seat Height: 33.7 in.
  • Fuel Capacity: 4.5 gal.
  • MSRP: $16,490 (R1M – $21,990)
  • Colors: Team Yamaha Blue/White; Rapid Red/Pearl White; Raven
  • Warranty: One year, unlimited mileage