In every manufacturer’s line-up, the heavyweight sportbikes are arguably the point of most research and development, technical innovation, and pride. The so-called “liter” bikes are realistically the most hotly contested segment of the motorcycle marketplace, and for 2012, Yamaha’s YZF line consists of two of the better known models: the R6 and R1. The 2012 Yamaha R1 returns to the battle with new graphics, its legendary razor-sharp handling, well-respected engine, and new for 2012: fully-adjustable electronic traction control. For 2012, the R6 is a carryover bike and returns with new graphics but maintains all engine specifications and engineering from 2011’s model.
2012 marks the 50th anniversary of World GP, and Yamaha celebrates its racing heritage with new Pearl White/Rapid Red color scheme for the R1 and the R6. Limited numbers of these bikes will be produced with this commemorative graphic kit and each will include a 50th Anniversary emblem on top of the fuel tank, gold Yamaha badges, and a special numbered plate showing the production number.
Style-wise, the 2012 YZF-R1 has a redesigned headlight cowl which is sharper than the 2011 model, LED position lights for a high tech and very visible look, and a new top triple clamp styled after the one found on the Yamaha Moto GP YZR-M1. At the rear of the bike, new muffler end caps and heat shields deliver a more mechanical look and provide additional protection from hot pipes.
The real story for the 2012 YZF-R1 is that it has received another benefit from MotoGP technology: traction control. A seven-level traction control system was developed to give the rider a wide range of choices for preventing wheel spin and the system was developed to be as seamless, and subtle, as possible. No harsh intervention from the system will be felt by the rider. Additionally, there are three throttle control modes for different riding conditions, so riders ultimately have 21 different choices available to tailor the YZF-R1 to their riding preference.
The 2012 R1 also retains the Yamaha Chip Controlled Throttle (YCC-T) that was developed for their MotoGP bikes. There is no throttle cable as on bikes of yesteryear, and instant throttle response is provided by this ride-by-wire system. The 2012 R1 also sports Yamaha's Chip Controlled Intake (YCC-I), which is an electronically-controlled, mechanically-actuated alteration of the intake system to broaden the range of power. As is standard on all modern sportbikes, the fuel injection system provides optimum air/fuel mixtures for maximum power and smooth throttle response.
Front and rear suspension includes large-diameter SOQI front forks which provide their fully adjustable preload and rebound damping through an innovative trick Yamaha developed for their MotoGP bikes: independent damping. Since the fork legs never activate independently of the other, the left fork leg has been designated to handle the compression damping and the right side handles the rebound damping. Splitting the duties like this reduces the possibility that cavitation (the formation of bubbles) will occur and affect the performance of the shocks.
As could be expected, Yamaha’s attention to the technology and race-bred focus of their YZF models shows that the company is dedicated to maintaining their position near the head of this very competitive class.