Yamaha take the already sublime R1M and add latest-generation electronics derived from Rossi’s Motogp machine…
Yamaha prove beyond doubt that racing really does improve the breed.
ALITTLE OVER TEN years ago I rode Valentino Rossi’s Yamaha M1 Motogp bike and Ben Spies’ World Superbike Championship-winning R1 – the latter at Portimao in Portugal, where I’ve just got off the 2018 Yamaha R1M. And get this: the R1M is better than both. I kid you not. Back in 2006, Motogp bikes only had traction, wheelie and launch control. By 2008 a second ECU arrived that was smart enough to ‘feel’ bike movement, but it was crude. As Rossi put it: ‘when the first electronic systems arrived in Motogp, it was a kind of shock for riders.’ Not until 2012 did these electronics start to work effectively with accelerometers and gyroscopes to help racers go faster in corners instead of just helping them get out of them faster. Now these systems are filtering onto road bikes at all levels – Yamaha’s big-selling MT range for example. But nowhere are they as sophisticated or as close to a Motogp bike as the R1M. Racing technology does improve the breed and this bike is proof. How is the 2018 R1M better than a ten-year-old Motogp and World Superbike? Because it has a bigger brain. The inertial measurement unit (IMU) hidden inside the R1M gathers more information than any other production bike. Yamaha and Öhlins collaborated to produce the ‘next generation smart control unit’ – the Öhlins Smart EC 2 ERS. According to Öhlins it is the ‘most advanced fitted on any production motorcycle’ and while we’ve heard ‘Motogp developed’ many times before I’m hard pushed to find a more meaningful example. Braking from flat-out in fourth, downhill, off camber, across bumps into a tight hairpin I have no choice but to trust these electronics. Feel, grip, feedback and confidence are way up the scale because I’m pushing harder each lap until things teeter on the edge of grip.
‘Racing tech does improve the breed and this bike is proof’
That teetering limit never arrives and not for want of trying. Bridgestone V02 slick tyres deserve credit (production bikes will come with treaded RS10S), because they are incredibly consistent. The characteristic R1 front-end confidence is ever present too – arrowing into corners in its trademark fashion. But the limit? During seven 25-minute sessions it was always me – how much I could hold on under immense Brembo braking force and how much speed and brake I dared carry. This is the stuff of dreams on track, and I don’t say that lightly. Cornering ABS, semi-active suspension and slide control are constantly working to obey my settings – there‘s a hell of a lot going on in that ECU – but do I appreciate it? No. I’m too busy having a ball. As the front wheel rises nicely over Portimao’s infamous mid-lap crest it takes me half the day to trust the wheelie control and stop either rolling the throttle or stroking the rear brake. When I do, eventually, dare myself to keep on the throttle the sling-shot effect through the next roller coaster left is hair-raising and brilliant all at once. There’s no question the electronics are making me faster. The 2018 model also has an improved quick shift system (QSS), adding a downshift assist to the upshift assist using a blipper system. Yamaha’s Ride Control (YRC) function on the full colour TFT instrument panel make adjusting every aspect of this wizardry simple and comprehensive too. We’re in Honda Fireblade SP, Kawasaki ZX-10R SE and the new Ducati Panigale V4 S (see p44) territory here. Yamaha’s approach is to throw a huge pile of Genuine Yamaha Technology Racing parts at the bike and on this evidence, it works. Not that long ago, we were riding mongrels far removed from the race bikes our production bikes pretended to be. The 2018 R1M is a pure breed – a perfect example of technology transferred from race to road (well, mainly track I imagine). Yes, fewer people buy sportsbikes than they used to, but there’s a clear answer to: ‘what’s the point?’ The point is that racing improves the breed.
A technological masterclass, more destined for the track
than the road
Well you weren’t expecting analogue, were you?
hlins: getting ‘smarter’ with every bike they help develop
This is the IMU, we are told