It's one of the most anticipated bikes of the year, and with all the hype that surrounds it , boosted hugely by Ben Spies' outstanding early success in World Superbike, I couldn't wait to ride the superbike. Feeling jaded suddenly felt very much a thing of the past!Seeing the R1 for the first time in the flesh didn't really get my heart racing. It's a decent looking bike for sure, but nothing exactly outstanding. Its aggressive 'face', build quality and general shape are all attractive, but I'm not sure whether there's enough different about it to turn heads.Fire it up and the unique growl from its pipes is unlike anything else on the market, though it is very similar to the noise made by one of the most famous race bikes out there , Valentino Rossi's M1 racebike. That shouldn't be any surprise really as the R1's 'crossplane' crankshaft has been inspired by the Italian's Grand Prix machine. The uneven firing order it generates is the reason the road bike sounds very similar to his racer. But more importantly, the crank arrangement is also why the R1 delivers its power in the special and very effective way it does.
Add more revs and that acceleration becomes harder, as the effort of all four pistons combines to deliver their real meat. On this year's R1 though, there's already a noticeably harder edge to the delivery at low revs. Not quite as strong or explosive as a big V-twin's, there's still definitely a tempered version of the immediacy typical of those engines in evidence. And thanks to the civilised manners, you can get on the power earlier and not fret about it. It's a truly superb engine that pulls with just the same useful strength in the rest of the gears. Make no mistake though, even though the motor might sound and feel lazy, it's always capable of making some serious speed.It's a sharp, yet friendly pick up that's easily good enough to fire the Yamaha strongly from a standstill, even considering the very tall first gear ratio.
Along with the distinctive sound and manners, the in line four still has the same rush when you do rev it a lot harder. And when the tacho hits 10,000rpm, suddenly all the lazy, easy-going performance is replaced by a very strong charge so typical of a four cylinder. There's a super-thrilling buzz on offer when you cane it this hard, and instantly creates a 'god, I love this bike' feeling. And that's the real beauty. The R1 might now have the shortest stroke engine in the big sportsbike class, but in no way is it peaky. It's utterly fantastic to sample at all rpm. And if you ever want or need to tame things a little, there's a three-position power mode switch that can alter the pace at which all the potential is delivered. 'A' is very sharp, 'Standard' is how I tried it virtually all the time, and 'B' is softer; useful to the less experienced or in poor weather.
Just as brilliant as the engine, is the Yamaha's chassis which seems to easily cope with all the horsepower the motor makes. Given just how potent it is, all components are expected to do a hell of a lot. But in the same, almost relaxed and highly commendable way the engine produces the goods, the chassis also lets you explore its considerable capabilities without ever generating any panic.