Place the tip of your thumb and forefinger three millimeters apart. That's about 1/10 of an inch, and how much Yamaha engineers raised the rear swingarm pivot on the 2007 YZF-R1. Chew on that for a second - not 2mm, not 4mm, but 3mm, to reduce chain tension under power. That's just one instance of the continuous refinement characterizing the 2007 R1, the successor to the iconic bloodline that first burst onto the scene in 1998.
It's hard being an icon. Just ask Ducati, who misfired with their 999, or Honda, whose CBR900RR dropped jaws in 1993 but stumbled into middle-age just five years later. Yamaha has worked hard to avoid a similar fate. As well they should - the R1, making up 26 percent of the 1000cc sportsbike market, has tallied 25 percent sales growth from 2001-2002 to 2005-2006. With the overall market for sportsbikes booming 59 percent in that time frame, it's important for Yamaha to stay on its game.
They haven't messed with the basic R1 formula - one state of the art 1,000cc, inline-4 motor suspended from a modern, lightweight chassis, wrapped in sharp, aggressive bodywork - however, they have made many small changes that add up to a new and improved motorcycle.
The R1 motor features the same 77mm x 53.6mm bore and stroke as the prior model, but Yamaha has moved away from the signature 5-valve head, a longstanding feature of their top-end sportbikes. Engineers claim that the 4-valve head (with titanium intake valves and steel exhaust valves) improves combustion efficiency and power throughout the rev range.
Air is fed to the engine through computer-controlled air intakes. Yes, computer-controlled air intakes, the Yamaha Chip Control Intake, (or YCC-I for readers who speak in acronyms). Each intake is comprised of two tubes stacked directly on top of each other like straws touching end to end. Together, they form a 140mm-long intake tract. At 10,400 rpm and throttle valve positions greater than 57.5 degrees, the top tube of the intake separates from the bottom tube by 28mm via an electric motor, reducing the effective intake length to 65mm. Conceptually, the idea is related to Honda's VTEC system, in that it emphasizes intake velocity at low to mid rpm and intake volume at high rpm. The end result is a wide flat torque curve.
And Yamaha continues to lead the charge towards fly-by-wire throttles, first with the 2006 R6, and now with the R1. The system, Yamaha Chip Control Throttle (YCC-T), measures throttle grip position, throttle valve position, and other parameters 1,000 times a second. The throttle is closed the old-fashioned way, with a cable, to prevent speed-hungry electronic gremlins from jamming the throttle wide open.
A 32-bit Denso ECU manages the YCC-I and YCC-T and meters the fuel with dual-mode ignition mapping (one mode for 1st and 2nd, another for 3rd through 6th). Power is sent to the rear wheel via a six-speed transmission activated by a slipper clutch carried over from the 2006 R1 LE. Finally, exhausted gases are handled by an underseat system mainly composed of titanium, including the EXUP valves.
Chassis & Brakes
The 2007 R1 is designed with what Yamaha calls "rigidity balance," balancing the rigidity of the various components of the chassis to provide high performance and good feel. The frame features cast parts built for rigidity coupled with extruded parts designed for flex, resulting in 50 percent less vertical rigidity, 24 percent less side rigidity, and 25 percent less torsional rigidity. Similarly, the new front-end features increased stiffness around the fork and steering shaft clamping area, paired with thinner walled (and thus less rigid) 43mm KYB forks. Out back, the 16mm longer swingarm exhibits 30 percent increased torsional rigidity along with "slightly decreased" lateral rigidity. The swingarm is suspended by a single SOQU rear shock that provides high- and low-speed compression and rebound adjustment. Preload is set with a 9-step ramp adjuster.
Deceleration is provided by new 6-piston Sumitomo front calipers with individual pads (to equalize wear) on 310mm dual discs (down from 320mm). The disc surface width is 5mm narrower while pad surface width is 7mm narrower. These changes are aimed at improving performance while moving the components closer to the axle, reducing rotating inertia for a lighter handling feel. The rear brakes are single piston, pin slide.
At 50 paces, the 2007 model is unmistakably a R1 - from the dual lens/quad reflector headlights and the sharply arcing bodywork, to the dual underseat exhausts. Placed beside its predecessors, the evolution is clearly delineated. A lot of effort has been spent on air management to reduce air resistance, increase air intake flow and, using the R6-style layered side panels, to draw hot air away from the engine compartment. Very little storage space is available beneath the pillion seat, and advanced bungee techniques may be required to secure a tailpack.
The dashboard is all new, with an analog tachometer paired with a digital speedometer. A programmable shift light and lap timer are present for track-oriented riders, while street riders are treated to dual trip meters, a fuel trip meter, and a clock. The tail features slightly rotated mufflers for a more compact appearance, and a white jewel-like taillight that burns red completes the package.
When you think of Yamaha's R1, what comes to mind? 'Nitro' Noriyuki Haga wrestling a World Superbike to the edge of its performance envelope? A track toy draped with go-fast parts? A bike-night special with chrome and carbon fiber? A GenXer getting his daily adrenaline buzz on the way to work? The answer is yes, yes to all of the above.
For our intro, Yamaha led us on roads the average buyer encounters: commuting roads, rural two lanes, local highways, and small towns in and around California's Monterey Bay. While 1000cc sportbikes do visit the track, the largest percentage of their average of 7,300 miles per year is typically spent going to and from work.
But how exactly do you street test a bike that's capable of 100 mph in first gear? Riding an R1 to work at pedestrian speeds may seem analogous to blowing out a candle with a fire extinguisher, but as a matter of fact the R1 exhibits impeccable road manners at all speeds.
The motor is smooth and powerful, even in top gear, at 2,000 rpm and under 30 mph. Roll on, and there's no bogging, just effortless propulsion. There is so much power available for the street that you can spend all day riding and not ever hit 10,000 rpm or activate the fancy chip-controlled intake. The control, ultimately, lies in your right wrist.
The slipper clutch works flawlessly, handling rapid, red light, multiple-gear downshifts into first with ease. Suspension is predictably firm, designed to handle the forces of the racetrack, but it feels fine on the street. Road surfaces in California are enviably smooth though, so I can't yet vouch for performance on snow-belt tarmac. For those who like their touring with extra sport, the R1 provides nearly all-day ease with a comfortable reach to the bars and decent legroom. Granted, this in no FJR, but Europeans have been known to cross the continent on them. One guy, Sjaak Lucassen, actually went around the world on one. Go figure.
At the end of the day, an out and back ride on Carmel Valley Road (more suited to supermotos than superbikes) was enlightening. Heading out, I rode in a high gear, revs low, weight on the footpegs, and riding the torque curve from tight corner to tight corner. Point. Shoot. Repeat. Heading back, I rode in a lower gear, revs up, riding the horsepower curve, with engine revs setting corner entry speeds. The R1 handled both approaches with remarkable aplomb, but slightly more fluidly on the return trip due to less braking and pitching of the suspension.
That, ultimately, is the charm of the R1 - that it is not just a single-focus, high-strung racer. It may have been born that way, but millimeter by millimeter, Yamaha's engineers have meticulously honed a machine with a large broadband performance envelope into the 2007 R1, which is a stunning, everyday all-rounder too.
2007 Yamaha YZF-R1
+ effortless thrust, refined package, still a looker
- for extreme sport-tourers only; underseat exhaust limits luggage options
Distributor Yamaha Motor Corp., USA.
MSRP $ 11,599 (Team Yamaha Blue) $ 11,699 (Charcoal Silver,Candy Red)
Engine DOHC, 16 valve, inline four-cylinder
Bore x Stroke 77 x 53.6mm
Fuel System fuel injection with YCC-T and YCC-I
Cooling liquid cooled
Ignition digital TC1
Transmission 6-speed w/multi-plate slipper clutch
Frame aluminum twin-spar
Front Suspension 43mm inverted telescopic fork w/adjustablepreload, compression damping, rebound damping; 4.7in travel
Rear Suspension single shock w/piggy-back reservoir; adjustable for hi-/lo-speed compression damping, rebound damping, spring preload; 5.1in travel
Rake/Trail 24°/4.0in (102mm)
Front Brake dual 310mm discs;radial-mount forged6-piston calipers
Rear Brake 220mm disc w/single-piston caliper
Front Tire 120/70-ZR17
Rear Tire 190/50-ZR17
Dry Weight 390lbs (177kg)
Wheelbase 55.7in (1415mm)
Seat Height 32.9in (836mm)
Fuel Capacity 4.75gal (17.9 liters)
Fuel Consumption n/a
Colors Team Yamaha Blue, Charcoal Silver/Matte Black, Candy Red/Matte Black