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2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 Review


by Pascal Bastien ,

Sized like a 600cc model and blessed with a number of solutions directly derived from the championship-winning M1, the all-new 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 makes no compromises and is locked and loaded to take down lap-time records.

Yamaha's latest weapon of mass acceleration should be feared by all on the starting grid. The company has put its entire know-how into the YZF-R1 to set new benchmarks for superbikes, achieving 200 hp with a machine that weighs 200kg (all tanks full). Numerous electronic aids by Bosch mark a clear improvement from the generic, road-oriented system found on the outgoing model. On paper, the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 has nothing to envy from the top European competitors.

Yamaha YZF-R1 2015

MotoGP styling
Whether at idle or on the move, this bike screams racing thanks to a new, eye-catching front fairing (which even includes a spot where the race number would go) as well as LED headlights flanking the ram-air intake system. The rear looks sharper with a pair of diffusers a la Ducati Panigale and a uniquely shaped LED taillight.

The 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 is super-compact with low, rearward-facing handlebars, a short, narrow fuel tank, and high-mounted footrests that remain close to the rider. Its aspirations become crystal-clear as soon as you get yourself into position: Ergonomics were developed with aggressive riding in mind to the obvious detriment of on-road comfort.

Manageable mountain of power

The engine in the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 retains its signature crossplane crankshaft and distinctively raspy sound, but the rest is all-new. Weight goes down, size is reduced, and power increases. Expect the same level of reliability, though.

The list of internal upgrades include larger valves, short-skirt, forged aluminum pistons, repositioned twin injectors, titanium "fracture split" con rods, 20% reduced crankshaft inertia, and new "finger follower" rocker arms, just to name a few. The 25% larger airbox still features Yamaha's Chip Controlled Intake (YCC-1) with variable-length intake funnels, while the tailpipe and muffler featuring the Exhaust Ultimate Power Valve (EXUP) have switched on the right.

The inline 4-cylinder cranks out 200 hp at 13,500 rpm with as much determination as the original version. Hang on for dear life if you select Power Delivery Mode 1, because the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 leaps and surges forward like a seemingly untameable cheetah. Unless you're a masochist, there's basically nothing to gain from this mode and its abrupt, imprecise throttle. Novices will prefer to set power to Mode 3, while rainy conditions are best tackled with Mode 4. For sporty jaunts on the road and all-out attacks on the track, Mode 2 is the way to go for both seasoned riders and average Joes. Power and torque flow like a torrent, yet remain manageable, ensuring super-sharp acceleration and allowing you to focus on your line.

Anvil turns into scalpel

Whereas the old model often felt like wielding a heavy hammer through S-turns and striking an anvil in the switchbacks, the chassis of the new 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 is a marvel of grace and precision. The frame incorporates new engine mounts, geometry is improved, and other modifications work to deliver a greater balance of strength, rigidity, and tuned flex. The Kayaba suspension, which consists of a 43mm inverted fork with compression and rebound adjustment; a single rear shock with spring preload, high/low-speed compression and rebound adjustment, plus a new steering damper, does an excellent job on the road despite the stiff, track-tuned settings.

In corners, the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 stays neutral, easy to steer, and predictable in all phases. You can brake late and hard without compromising safety, and then shoot your way out at full throttle even on rough pavement. With a perfectly warmed up rear tire and full twist of the wrist, the level of grip achieved by the new R1 is mind-blowing. Good luck trying to upset the chassis -- it is arguably the biggest improvement over the past edition.

Designed for racing
The 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 fully embraces advanced electronic aids (bundled together in what is called "Yamaha Ride Control") starting with a Bosch Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) -- exactly like the one found on the BMW S1000RR.

The IMU features six axis of measurement using a gyro sensor to detect rotational motion in the pitch, roll, and yaw directions. A "G" sensor detects acceleration/velocity in the forward & back, up & down, and left & right directions. Then you have Traction Control (with a lean angle sensor), Slide Control, Lift Control, Launch Control, and a Quick Shift System (upshifts only).

The instrument panel on the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 adopts a TFT liquid crystal display. Two modes are available: Street and Track. I like having all sorts of information, but the 4.2” screen is a bit too small and hard to read.

The great thing is that the aforementioned rider aids prove extremely competent and transparent, yet do not affect the riding skills involved or the thrills you enjoy. Just choose the settings based on your experience, and the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 will act as an extension of your body and mind.

Yamaha YZF-R1 2015
Yamaha's latest weapon of mass acceleration should be feared by all on the starting grid. (Photo: France Ouellet)

Bottom line
After five years with little change, the YZF-R1 evolves substantially and eclipses its domestic rivals, setting the stage for a tight race with the best from Europe. It allows riders to focus on their line and make the most of the mighty 4-cylinder engine with a crossplane crankshaft. Hopefully, Yamaha will carry these new solutions over to the 2016 YZF-R6.

  • New, lighter, and more nimble chassis
  • Phenomenal rear-tire grip
  • Super-competent suspension
  • Fearsome, yet perfectly manageable engine (in Power Mode 2)
  • Effective and transparent electronic aids similar to the top superbikes

  • TFT display is too small for the amount of data
  • Quick Shift System only works with upshifts