2010 Yamaha YZF-R1

Staffers' Rides

Photography by Kevin Wing

Yamaha YZF-R1

Ringleader: Barry Burke
MSRP (2010): $13,290
Miles: 12-1108
Average Fuel Mileage: 23 mpg
Accessories & Modifications: Dunlop Sportmax GP tires

I got an earful from a few readers about the Yamaha YZF-R1's GPA in our "Class of '09" comparison, followed by the inevitable pushback after we voted it our Motorcycle of the Year. But despite its handful of problems, the R1 remains one of the best literbikes available and a solid foundation for winning races. Ever since that test, I've wanted to lay hands on one to make the suspension and chassis fit my riding style, so this long-term bike is just the ticket.

In Phase One, I'll spend some priceless set-up time and steal a few tricks from the lads that fettled Ben Spies' World Superbike Championship winner while adhering to a parts budget of under $4000. Yeah, I know, Ben's racebike was about as close to what you and I can buy as a Cessna is to the Space Shuttle. But Josh Hayes won a few AMA Superbike races last year on a much less radically modified R1, so give credit where credit is due.

The basic plan calls for starting with stickier tires, fork tuning, an Öhlins shock, ergonomic enhancements, gearing and ironing some wrinkles out of the stock fuel map. I first swapped the stock rubber for fresh Dunlop D211 GPs: a 120/70ZR-17 front ($223.35) and 200/55ZR-17 rear ($349.41). The fat rear is 1.25 inches taller than the original-equipment skin, adding much-needed ride height to increase cornering clearance and speed up steering. I then increased fork spring preload by three turns to where three lines showed on the adjuster. The compression-damping adjusters were screwed in all the way, then backed out six clicks, while rebound was backed out 10 clicks from maximum. Shock spring preload was increased three turns over stock (13 turns from minimum), using the handy hydraulic adjuster. The low-speed compression adjuster was backed out 10 clicks and the high-speed adjuster two turns. This setup works well for a 175-pound expert rider at a fast, reasonably smooth racetrack. And it's surprisingly effective for street riding, as long as you don't mind a firm ride.

These basic changes deliver a vast improvement over stock, keeping the chassis more neutral under hard braking and giving more accurate feedback from the front end. Thus you can enter corners more smoothly, with much less dive, and with added confidence. Even so, a thorough re-valving is worth the money if you're going to spend much time at the track. We'll give you all the details in Phase Two. We'll also try to shed some weight and bolt up some more realistic gearing. Meanwhile, don't forget the little things: For example, simply removing the tool kit for track days makes the bike 1.5 lbs. lighter. Stay tuned and we'll keep the updates coming.

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