Ride Review: 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 & R1M

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When the R1 was first launched it became an instant icon. A tri-axis engine with a GP style chassis was cutting edge technology back in 1998.

The bike has evolved through the years with fuel injection, a crossplane crank, and electronic systems amongst the hundreds of development upgrades.

The original R1 design focus was primarily for the street, however that has all changed for 2015, with Yamaha’s Engineer’s instructed to design a bike mainly for the track.

A team of 50 design engineers worked closely with Yamaha’s MotoGP team and test riders from divisions in Japan, Europe, and the US, including Valentino Rossi and US rider Josh Hayes, to come up with perhaps the most technologically advanced electronics package on a motorcycle ever made available to the riding public.

Many of the senior engineers were in attendance at Sydney Motorsport Park – Eastern Creek in Australia for the R1 world launch, providing excellent technical support for the test riders and a unique insight into the challenges they each faced creating the new R1.

The 4.5km Brabham circuit provided a world-class test track for the 100 journos who descended from all over the globe to experience the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 and R1M for the first time.

The diverse range of 18 corners, including one of the fastest turns in Australia, approached at nearly 300kmh, was perfect to test all the attributes of a new motorcycle.

Our test group had some quick guys including Josh Brookes, Steve Martin, and Cam Donald, so there was no hanging about. 



Yamaha’s marketing clearly aligns the R1 with the M1 MotoGP bike, and the world’s press was about to sample a detuned version of the latest 280hp MotoGP machine.

In my mind, I envisaged a two-wheel version of the Eurofighter, highly maneuverable, yet unstable, and un-flyable by any human without extensive electronic pilot aids.

However, this was not the case at all.

A Good Base Package


The R1 base engine and chassis package, without the electronics, is extremely well-balanced. Yamaha Motor Europe Chief Test rider Jeffry de Vries gave us some insight.

“It’s so important to get the base bike right and we focused a lot on the bike without electronics. The 1st prototype in 2011 was an R6 with an R1 engine,” he explained.

De Vries, a World Superbike veteran, is a key guy to analyze the bike on the track and communicate with Yamaha’s Engineers.

“The target was to produce the best superbike for the track – not public roads. I test rode the M1 several times, comparing it to the R1M,” he continued.”The riding position is the same as M1, both bikes look small but have space, this comes from Rossi.” 



An incredible amount of detail design has gone into the new R1 engine. Yamaha’s Engine Project Chief Yuugo Tomaru’s brief was to make the 998cc engine as powerful, lightweight, and compact as possible but also easy to ride and Tomaru-san has worked closely with the chassis and electronics departments to produce a very integrated package.

The clean sheet engine design, while not quite as revolutionary as the electronics package, as it uses existing engine technology from the automotive world, combines some of the best engine expertise around, resulting in a more powerful motor that is an impressive 33mm narrower and 8 lbs lighter than the previous model.

The major talking points include the crankshaft, which has 20% less inertial moment than the previous R1 crank. From an engineering perspective this is very significant, and had a big effect on throttle response and roll rate, as it reduces the engine’s gyroscopic effects for fast changes of direction.

Yamaha’s vast experience with crossplane big-bang cranks follows through on the new engine with 270° – 180° – 90° – 180° firing order providing ideal power pulses for excellent acceleration traction on the test, even with the electronics switched off.

The new airbox gets super sized to a voluminous 10.5 liters, 23% larger than the previous box. This has a big effect on engine performance especially at high-rpm, highlighting the track design focus.

The fueling was smooth and seamless with no dips, the connection from throttle to rear tire was confidence inspiring.

Yamaha’s Chip Controlled Injection uses 45 mm throttle bodies with long and short funnels. Electronically activated for optimal power output and torque, the longer funnels increase low rpm torque and short funnels increase high rpm power.

Again the track-focused design is obvious, with the high rpm funnel 20% shorter than the previous R1.


Reduced friction and rotating mass was also high on Yamaha’s list, and this was achieved by using good old-fashioned engineering design principles.

Fracture-split titanium rods, a world’s first on a production motorcycle, increased high-RPM power by reducing weight (40% lighter than steel), and they reduced friction, as the increased circular precision in the rod’s big-end gives consistent performance by reducing deformation at high-RPM.

Friction reduction is further enhanced with short skirt lightweight forged aluminum bridge-box Teflon coated pistons, 8.5 grams lighter than the previous R1. The 2mm bore offset, a requirement to prevent the short skirt pistons rocking in the bore, promotes less drag.

The free-revving engine is also more over-square than its predecessor, with a larger bore (79mm) and shorter stroke (50.9mm) allowing higher rpm, and hence more power, without excessive piston speed.

More clever detail designs are obvious with an air-cooled oil cooler – just by rerouting oil to the inside of crank, centrifugal forces now assist lubrication, reduce pumping loss, increase power, and eliminate the need to water-cool the oil.

The slipper clutch worked beautifully too, allowing just the right amount for engine braking torque to be delivered to the rear tire, to optimize backing the bike in on corner entry, especially noticeable on the road tire equipped R1.

The gearbox has a number of ratio changes and worked perfectly throughout the test.

The engine makes lots of power, it has less of the old R1’s low down grunt, but more importantly the curve is very linear, and really kicks off when the EXUP valve opens at 7,500 rpm.

Maximum power is around 147.1 kW (197.3 HP) @ 13,500 rpm and maximum torque 112.4 Nm ( 82.89 lbs•ft) @ 11,500 rpm plus one of the coolest exhaust notes around. 



The famous Deltabox aluminum frame now incorporates a magnesium subframe and has undergone and complete re-design – again with a major track focus.

Yamaha R1 Chassis Design Chief Ryuuta Mitsuoka and his team prioritized braking stability; corner entry and front tire feeling, improvements that were very evident when I tested the bike on the track.

The R1 corner entry was very precise with good feeling from the front tire. The balanced chassis contributing to good edge grip and a confidence inspiring corner speed.

The lightweight chassis contributes to an impressive 200 kg wet weight – measured with 17 liters of fuel and 3.9 liters of oil.

Wheelbase is 10 mm shorter than the 2014 YZF-R1 at 1405 mm, and swingarm length 15 mm shorter at 570 mm. On the track, improved traction on corner exit was exceptional.

Rigidity is also improved at the front axle, up from 22 mm to 25 mm with a beefier axle bracket for improved braking & corner entry feel.

Cast magnesium wheels have been engineered to reduce unsprung weight by nearly 1 kg overall, reducing the front inertial moment by 4% and rear inertial moment by 11%. This has notable roll rate and change of direction performance gains especially noticeable through the tight S – bends at Turns 6, 7 and 8.

The brakes have also been upgraded to new monoblock 4-piston calipers with Nissin radial master cylinder & lever assembly and dual 320 mm diameter discs, up 10mm on 2014.

Powerful and progressive, the front brake allowing confident braking to the corner apex.


The brakes on the R1M, tested on the latest Bridgestone slicks, did fell a little wooden on initial application at turn one, however this is approached at nearly 300kmh, which is a lot of energy to dissipate. I would, however, try different pads on the R1M next time.

Braking performance is further enhanced with new chassis cross members designed to reduce splaying under heavy braking, a problem on the previous model.

ABS is great for the road, but not on the track. Racers can outperform the ABS; plus more importantly, ABS normally takes away front end feel when trail braking deep to the apex.

The bikes ran a circuit ECU that deactivated the rear ABS and activated a track-spec front ABS.

To be honest I couldn’t feel the front ABS working even on the road tire equipped R1, a testament to the high-spec electronic development.

The KYB suspension was impressive, providing a predictable and solid feel around the Sydney Motorsport Circuit on Bridgestone’s RS10F G & RS10R G road tires. This is certainly ample for most track day riders and offered good response to adjustment.

The R1 KYB rear shock is adjustable for preload, high/low speed compression and rebound with a track focus 5% increase in spring rate.

The 43 mm KYB dual damper forks, both forks control compression & rebound damping, have fully adjustable preload, compression and rebound with circuit developed damping characteristics. 

Öhlins Suspension


The R1M is certainly more race-focused with Öhlin’s EC suspension and Bridestone VO2 slick tires, including a 200 rear.

These extra features combined with new R1 chassis to provided a whole new level of performance.

Front spring rate is up a whopping 16% vs. the 2014 R1, to provide extra support for the slick shod bike on heavy braking; and the rear is up 2%, again emphasizing the track focus.

The Öhlins electronic adjustment is integrated into the dash and is very easy to adjust, offering settings for all riding abilities. Suspension is automatically adjusted depending on lean angle, rear wheel speed and front brake pressure to increase circuit-riding performance.

On the brakes, the R1M front dive is controlled for more support and less pitch for improved corner entry.

The slight roll rate change took me a little while to get my head around on the track, compared to the reduction in trail experienced with the conventional front forked R1’s dive while turning in on the brakes.

The R1M was nicely balanced mid-turn, allowing some extreme lean angles. On corner exit the bike has noticeably reduced pitch, contributing to the increased grip and improved steering on acceleration.


Ohlin’s Engineer and test rider Anders Anderson, explained how the Suspension Engineers worked with Yamaha on the R1M project.

“Yamaha gave Öhlins freedom with the R1M to produce a good track day bike. As with most motorcycles a good chassis base has made the suspension relatively straightforward.“

The very experienced Anderson, a legendary racer who has worked with Öhlin’s since the 80’s, went on to say, “The EC system was run in 2008 with Troy Corser and Nori Haga on Yamaha superbikes, and we used a lot of that data on the current system.”

“Rossi too was surprised and very impressed with R1M during the press work,” Anderson added.

Martin Lugnberg developed the initial software algorithms for the Öhlins EC and explained that the system analyzes what the rider is trying to do with the bike, and choose the best possible setting for each situation.

“The Öhlin’s system uses data directly from the IMU.” Martin said “It’s the main component to understand what’s happening on the bike. The IMU is like a human sensor, you feel everything, you feel the acceleration, you feel the gyros.”

Martin disclosed that Öhlin’s EC also uses predictive logic to anticipate upcoming situations as well as a being a dynamic system.

Öhlins been busy testing the system on public roads too for comfort, safety, and a more plush ride.

Electronics — Total 3D Control


The electronics package on the new R1 has been developed using M1 MotoGP technology and it is simply revolutionary. The electronic rider aids include the following systems:

  • Banking angle sensitive Traction Control System (TCS)
  • Rear wheel Slide Control System (SCS)
  • Front Lift control system (LIF)
  • Launch Control System (LCS)
  • Quick Shift System (QSS)
  • Adjustable 4-position PWR power mode selection system
  • Yamaha Ride Control (YRC) function
  • Ohlins Electronic Racing Suspension – R1M only

At the core of the R1 is a six-axis IMU or Inertial Measurement Unit, which is a MEMS (micro electro mechanical system) combination of a three-axis accelerometer and a three-axis gyroscope packaged, all on a single chip.

These sensors provide accurate motion tracking data to the ECU by measuring lean angle, slide speed, and pitching rate via the gyro’s pitch, roll and yaw data and the accelerometer’s forward – backward, up – down, and right – left motion data.

R1 Project Leader Hideki Fujiwara provided more insight on the challenges his design team faced, disclosing that Yamaha even designed their own IMU, rather than source commercially available units, such is the importance of this sensor to the performance of the electronic rider aids.

Interesting to note Yamaha retained the simple hall effect wheel speed sensors rather than use embedded magnetic ring element encoders seen on some MotoGP bikes. These sensors outputting a much higher resolution data stream enabling traction control systems to react faster.

This demonstrates how much the R1 relies of the IMU and complex algorithms for its control systems.



Banking Angle Sensitive Traction Control System (TCS)

Takashi Watanabe, based at Yamaha Europe R&D, is the Electronics Project Chief on the R1 and explained, “the traction control system primarily uses the wheel speed sensors. The ECU reads this data along with other sensors on the bike and via complex algorithms computes the outputs that control traction, slide and lift.“

The throttle butterfly regulates initial slip. Sudden slip is controlled with ignition & fuel cuts. This all happens at 125 times per second.

I found the traction control seamless on the track. Even with the highest control setting it was very difficult to feel it working.

Rear-Wheel Slide Control System (SCS)

A first on a production motorcycle, slide control comes directly from the 2012 Yamaha YZR-M1, and controls rear wheel slide during acceleration. This system works with the traction control system based on data from the IMU, with four setting levels (Off +3).

Slide control was evident on the street equipped R1, allowing a controlled slide with the wheel out of line on corner exit. I needed more track time to get the slick shod R1M to spin up; rear end grip on corner exit was huge.

Front Lift Control System (LIF)

IMU data and wheel speeds detect the bikes pitching rate and controls engine power to reduce wheelies – 4 setting levels (Off +3).

The LIF system worked beautifully allowing the front wheel to hover consistently on corner exit. However, I found it was still best to get over the front of the bike for the best lap time as the engine is cutting power.

Launch Control System (LCS)

LCS assists with smooth and consistent fast starts and uses ECU data and wheel speeds in conjunction with input from the TCS and LIF Systems. Revs are limited to 10,000 RPM at WOT allowing the rider to focus on clutch control – 3 setting levels (Off +2).

The launch control system seemed to work well, however with the limited track time we had available I focused more on riding the track than practicing starts.

Quick Shift System (QSS)

Allows seamless upshifts at WOT without the use of clutch by detecting shifter movement and uses ECU data to adjust engine output – 3 setting levels (Off +2)

The quick shift worked great on the track allowing smooth acceleration without upsetting suspension and geometry, especially noticeable when the bike was on its side.

Adjustable Four-Position PWR Power Mode Selection System


A further advancement of D-MODE the PWR system consists of four different control maps to regulate throttle valve opening depending on the degree of throttle grip opening.

These presets where good to test the range of power curves on the track, especially useful for the wet or when the tire goes away.

Yamaha Ride Control (YRC) function

Yamaha Ride Control system (YRC) offers four groups of presets for simple one-click selection of all electronic controls through handlebar switches.

Each YRC mode can be freely adjusted into new combinations based on rider preferences. I found having the four factory pre-sets allowed different combinations of electronic control.

This is a great setup tool for the track and can be saved with your own custom combination of settings.



Test riders, especially on a bike launch, have a limited amount of time to assess the bike. Using a setup process that works in the one direction is the quickest way.

Running initial base settings with suspension soft and high electronic control gave good feel to the tires, and as you sharpen up settings the bike performs better and you go quicker whilst experiencing the full range of adjustability.

I gradually worked my way through the electronic settings until I had them switched off on the last session. The 3 x 20 min tests on each bike provided just enough time to optimize setup.

The bike felt compact and nimble like a 600; even for my jockey frame, with the ergonomics pretty much spot on for the track. The seat was long to allow for bigger riders.

The fact that the engine has near 200 horsepower on this bike is obvious, and with such good traction and drivability on partial throttle you could really hook up the rear, firing the bike out of the turns, even with electronics turned off.

This high mechanical grip is a testament to the bikes solid base design.

Advances in electronic control systems have brought an incredible amount of rider aids to the motorcycle world, now allowing ordinary riders to have an extraordinary riding experience.

Yamaha has integrated the MotoGP M1’s electronics into a completely redesigned chassis and engine to produce a bike that is easy to ride fast.

The secret to the revolutionary performance of this bike is the integration of lots of chassis and engine detail engineering combined with the IMU sensor, and the highly secretive and complex algorithms that process the data and output to control throttle butterfly, ignition, and fueling to provide the rider with a very natural and fast two-wheel experience.


Mark McVeigh is a former international motorcycle road racer and MotoGP engineer who now works as a moto-journalist and development rider.

He currently is also the Director of Coaching at the motoDNA Motorcycle Academy. Read more of Mark’s work on the motoDNA blog, and follow motoDNA on Twitter and Facebook.