The motorcycle market can be intimidating for a new buyer. There are myriads of choices out there, of all shapes and sizes. One of the more popular bikes you hear about is the Yamaha R1. It looks sleek and well made, but the question you should be asking yourself is, is choosing the Yamaha R1 as a first bike a suitable choice?
The Yamaha R1 is not a good choice for a starter bike; its costly MotoGP-inspired suspension package, lightweight aluminum frame, and high-powered superbike racing motor make this an intimidating motorcycle to operate even for the most seasoned riders.
Having said that, the R1 does have a lot to offer, and once you’ve got your chops up, its high-powered qualities are quite attractive. Read on to explore what makes the Yamaha R1 an excellent destination for a seasoned rider, but it’s an unwise starting point for beginners.
1 Motor Madness
The MotoGP inspired racing power of the R1’s motor makes it a terrifying bike to learn on.
It’s a common misconception that a first bike should be a puny beater with the power of a scooter. It all depends on what kind of riding you want to be doing.
If you aim to be on the highway soon, you need something that’s ready to jump onto the highway, accelerate quick enough to change lanes, and maintain its highway speeds in the elements without struggling.
There is such a thing as overkill, though. For a new rider, the superbike powerhouse inside the Yamaha R1 is an over-slaughter.
The latest generation of Yamaha R1 boasts a 998cc motor, an engine size that’s medium for a cruiser but massive for a stripped-down sports bike on an aluminum frame.
The bike weighs just over 400 pounds, and its engine probably accounts for half of that. That’s a good ratio for racing but a scary ratio for learning.
This 998cc powerhouse generates 200 horsepower, 83 foot-pounds of torque at 11,500 Rotations Per Minute(RPMs).
This is enormous power, and considering the bike is still just cruising at 180 mph, these statistics aren’t ideal for a beginner.
2 Super Suspension
The Yamaha R1’s world-class racing suspension comes at a price, a price that’s not worth paying for an inexperienced rider.
Suspension on a first bike is definitely something to consider. You want to be comfortable because a comfortable bike is a bike that’s ridden often, and just like anything, building reps builds confidence, experience, and muscle memory.
But is there such a thing as too much suspension? Let’s take a closer look at what keeps a rider’s butt in the seat of the Yamaha’s fastest bike.
The standard R1’s comes equipped with a KYB inverted fork and optimizable shock settings.
This state of the art suspension system offers a range of ride customization that would honestly provide more responsibility than necessary to a rider who’s still adjusting to the physics and mechanics of motorcycle riding.
For a ride like this, there is no neutral setting.
The rider’s safety requires constant tweaking to suit the riding occasion, which might be more trouble than its worth.
As I said, that’s just the base model.
The advanced R1M comes straight from the factory floor with a world-class, race-ready, MotoGP grade Öhlins Electronic Racing suspension.
Performance-packed with an NPX fork and gas cylinders, this Electronic suspension dials itself in by adjusting to ride-environment, altitude, etc.
Sure, it requires fewer adjustments from the rider, but it’s close to $1000 for the upgrade to the R1M model, and if you’re not a race-track ready rider, this much attention to suspension is once again overkill for a starter bike.
You may also be interested in our article: Yamaha R1 12 common questions
3 Dodge Discomfort
The uncomfortable, aggressive riding position of the Yamaha R1 makes it unsuitable for a starter bike to learn on.
I’ve touched on this already, but you’re going to want something comfortable as a new rider. You need to spend hours a day on the bike for at least a few days out of the week to get used to the balance, mechanics, etc.
Does the R1 provide its passenger with a comfortability that can sustain itself for hours in a row?
The R1 is a racing bike, plain and simple. It’s made for sporter rips on the track at high RPMs. Translation: Yamaha didn’t intend this bike to start and stop and start and stop again.
The throttle on the R1 is jerky.
It accelerates fast, throwing an unsuspecting rider’s head to and frow as it takes off instantly from the starting line.
This is not an ideal scenario for cruising around the city, learning the clutch, entering intersections, etc.
Because of the nature of this acceleration, the R1 is also designed to stop instantly.
This means abrupt standstills that not only make your eyes feel like they’re rushing forward to free themselves from your sockets, but also that you’d be better be ready to set your feet down on the pavement as soon as you come to the screeching halt, or your bike is flopping down on its side.
And that’s not to mention the R1’s ergonomics. Its riding stance is as aggressive as they come.
You’re hunched forward, stomach hovering over the tank. Your foot controls are far behind you and pretty high-up off the ground, comparatively, as Yamaha built the bike for cornering without peg-scrapping.
This means that you’re sitting on the narrow, lightweight seat with your upper legs more than your bottom, and there’s no way you’re doing hours of riding in a position like that without dead-legging.
Take it from me, this is incredibly distracting when you’re trying to keep the rocket-ship between your legs and off of the ground, and you haven’t even mastered the clutch’s friction zone yet.
Please also read our article: why the Yamaha Bolt is a good starter bike
4 Boastful Bells and Whistles
The R1 features an advanced, customizable electronics system that affects how it rides, and new riders should learn the basics of motorcycle operation before adding so many variables.
As a new rider, I’m sure you’re excited about the multitude of features bikes on the current market offer. Things like Anti-Lock Breaks(ABS) and CPU enhancements are becoming more and more standard. Is this a bad thing for your starter bike?
While it’s my firm opinion that an ABS helps riders of any skill level, modern tech can make even the most straightforward bike more expensive. Still, the tech on the Yamaha R1 is anything but straightforward.
The new R1 hosts a slew of features, many CPU related. New for 2020 is the updated Anti-Lock Braking System Yamaha refers to as Brake Control, or BC, and an Engine Break Management system(EBM).
The EBM has three different settings, with setting 1 providing the most amount of engine-braking and setting 3 providing the least.
This is impressive technology for moto-racers and seasoned riders, but it’s too much and, frankly, too dangerous for beginning riders still getting the hang of the bare-boned basics of engine braking.
Both the EBM and the BC systems are adjustable via a smartphone app and an onboard Yamaha Ride Control system.
The R1 also features a Chip Controlled ride by wire throttle system with adjustable throttle and ride settings and a grip of fast-calculating sensors and control units that pick up on and adjust things like lean-angle, traction, lift control, and launch control.
The R1 also boasts a Quick Shift System that lets you rip up and down the gears in full throttle, without shifting.
This system allows an instant, clutchless shifting that isn’t ideal for a rider still learning the basics of throttling down, yanking the clutch, and shifting through the gears appropriately.
You need to wake before you can run, and learning the basics of your starter bike is more important than learning how to Computer Program your brand new ride.
You may also be interested in our article: Are Yamaha Motorcycles Any Good?
The Yamaha R1 is an impressive machine, but at the end of the day, even the most seasoned rider won’t get their money’s worth unless they’re on a closed race track.
The R1 has some fantastic features, and these features are reflected in the price tag.
Costing between $17,000 and $26,000, the Yamaha R1 is a rip-roaring monster, but it’s not a good starter bike.
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