– Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

2002 Yamaha YZF-R1: MD First Riding Impression

Yamaha’s totally redesigned 2002 YZF-R1 has been available at dealers in the United States for approximately two weeks. We have spent some time riding a production model. Consider this report a first riding impression — to be followed later by more extensive testing and impressions.

Technically, the new R1 contains many changes and refinements (only the engine dimensions are similar to the prior model). Many of these changes and refinements are discussed in a brief, technical review published by MD on September 17, 2001.

After you take a look at our previous technical analysis, consider these additional details.

The R1 has an all-new frame that is 30% stiffer. The rigidity of the new R1 frame is closer to that of the R7 superbike first introduced by Yamaha three years ago. Also shared with the R7 is the reduced off-set (now 25mm) for greater stability. Trail has been increased from 92mm to 103mm. While retaining the same wheelbase as the prior model, these steering geometry changes have a significant impact on the new R1’s handling (see discussion of increased stability, below).

The new frame holds the engine (a stressed member of the frame) a significant 20mm higher. You may recall that Aprilia significantly raised the engine in its second-generation Mille. Yamaha did this for the same reason Aprilia did, i.e., it concentrates the mass closer to the rolling axis of the bike. This contributes to easier direction changes without sacrificing straight-line stability.

Also affecting handling is the new, larger-tubed, 43mm front fork. Fork travel was reduced by Yamaha this year by 15mm. The previous R1 had extremely long travel in the front forks. Yamaha now considers this a mistake, and has a more conventional fork travel.

Although the basic design of the engine is unchanged, many internal parts are different, and the fuel injection system is entirely new (the old model was carbureted). A significant problem for many fuel injected bikes is abrupt off/on throttle transitions. Different manufacturers have addressed this problem in different ways. Yamaha has a new “suction-piston type” fuel injection that, according to Yamaha, significantly smooths the throttle transitions. A vacuum-controlled intake system is the key, offering, according to Yamaha, a blending of the feel of carburetors with the efficiency of fuel injection.

The engine also features a new airbox that draws cooler air (five degrees cooler, apparently) and a new four-into-two-into-one exhaust system (the old bike had a four-into-one system) for enhanced low-end and mid-range torque and power.

Okay, so Yamaha shook up the sportbike world four years ago with the introduction of the first R1. What is the new bike like? To find out, editor Dirck Edge and expert-class roadracer Jeff Whitmer from Temecula Motorsports went out on an extended first ride of the all-new R1. Swapping back and forth between the R1 and Kawasaki’s 2002 ZX-12R (an interesting experience, in itself), we tried to experience as much variety in riding conditions as possible (high speed, straight-line, as well as sweeping curves and tight corners).

The first thing you notice about the new R1 is the riding position. The bike feels tiny. The bars seem closer, and the seat lower. You feel more like you are sitting in the new R1 (while you were sitting on the old R1). Wind protection from the new fairing is much better, and the bike, overall, is much more comfortable.

The engine is extremely smooth and linear in its power delivery. Off/on throttle transitions (the bane of many fuel injection systems) were handled superbly by the R1. In this sense, the R1 felt in the same league as our prior favorite, fuel-injected power delivery (contained in Honda’s 600 F4i).

There also seems to be a significant boost in low-end and mid-range torque, but, at the same time, that added boost comes on more smoothly and controllably. Yamaha appears to have done an excellent job of making the new R1 very user-friendly (something that must be a priority for all open-class sportbikes these days with their huge power outputs). Yamaha claims power is enhanced from bottom to top, and the bike does pull hard all the way through the powerband (the peak horsepower of 152 at the crank occurs at 10,500 rpm this year).

The new R1 clearly changes directions easier than the old bike. The chassis and suspension changes (including the relocation of the engine in the new frame) create a very fluid riding experience. The R1’s moves are smooth, but quick. The bike goes exactly where you point it, holds its line well, and is significantly more stable at the same time. These were Dirck’s impressions, but, more importantly, distinct impressions for Jeff, as well. Jeff has owned two prior-generation R1s, one of which he raced at the expert level.

Suspension balance felt good (we stiffened the rear end a bit from the stock settings), and the shorter travel in the fork may have contributed to a more planted feeling.

The transmission seemed to shift a bit smoother than the prior model — confirming Yamaha’s subtle changes to the gear change pedal and shift cam (now shot peened for an extremely smooth surface).

Due to slightly damp road conditions (yes, it does rain in California, occasionally), we did not put the revised brakes to the acid test. During our ride, they felt predictable and strong, nevertheless.

Our first impressions of the new R1 reveal a more refined and user-friendly package from Yamaha this year. We hope to have a more extensive review forthcoming in the next few months. Take a look at Yamaha’s website for technical specifications. The U.S. MSRP of the 2002 YZF-R1 is $10,299.

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