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Common Tread

In the mind-blowing liter sport bike class, Yamaha builds a more "sensible" R1

Oct 08, 2015

Yamaha is not only giving the U.S. market the 60th anniversary version of the YZF-R1 that we asked for recently, but also a lower-cost version of the R1 for the street rider who can live without titanium connecting rods.

That means for 2016 three versions of the R1 will be available: the basic R1, with its new suite of electronic aids that was introduced for 2015, the R1-M, which goes even further with the use of lightweight materials and adds the Ohlins Electronic Racing Suspension, which taps into the Inertial Measurement Unit to adjust suspension systems on the fly, and now the YZF-R1S.

2016 Yamaha YZF-R1S
The 2016 Yamaha YZF-R1S. Yamaha photo.

2016 Yamaha YZF-R1S gauges
The 2016 Yamaha YZF-R1S cuts some costs but not with the electronics package that makes the bike special. Yamaha photo.
The latter, new for 2016, carries an MSRP of $14,990, which is $1,500 less than the base R1. For the price break, you give up the titanium connecting rods and some magnesium engine parts. The redline is a bit lower. You get different wheels and tires. Importantly, you don’t give up any of the R1’s impressively extensive electronics package, from angle-sensitive traction control to slide control to linked, anti-lock brakes.

2016 Yamaha YZF-R1S
The 2016 Yamaha YZF-R1S. Yamaha photo.

For the rider who rides on the street (and, to be honest, for a track-day rider who is not riding at race pace), these changes are not likely to be noticed. With any luck at all, you'll never see those titanium connecting rods, anyway. The extra $1,500, however, you might notice.

True story: About the time Yamaha was releasing details on the three versions of the 2016 R1, I was sitting on my non-current Triumph Daytona 675 on the grid at the track, waiting for the green flag for the next session, when a guy pulled up beside me on a brand-new YZF-R1M. I was more than a little surprised when he looked at my 675 and the first words out of his mouth were, “I think I’m going to buy one of those.”

“Really? You can’t do much better than what you already have,” I replied.

“To be honest,” he said, “this is too much motorcycle for me. It’s beyond my skill level.”

To be honest, any of us who don't have a pro contract aren’t going to be able to exploit the capabilities of an R1 to the fullest. There’s no doubt in my mind, however, that the R1’s array of electronic aids will not only make mortal riders faster, but also safer, as they learn and explore their limits. So I'm glad that's included in the R1S.

2016 Yamaha YZF-R1S
The 2016 Yamaha YZF-R1S. Yamaha photo.

Of course some people will have to have the R1M, just because they want the top of the line and enjoy the bragging rights. The base R1 is an impressive motorcycle. I’m not in the market for a liter bike, myself, but if I were, and you offered me the choice of an R1S with the full electronics package, no titanium connecting rods or magnesium engine cases, and $1,500 in my pocket, or a base R1, I know which I would choose.

2016 Yamaha YZF-R1 60th anniversary
The 2016 Yamaha YZF-R1 in 60th anniversary paint. Call it "speedblock," call it "bumblebee," call it whatever. Call it gorgeous. Yamaha photo.

The only thing I'd miss would be that sweet 60th anniversary paint.