Last yearís AMA Superstock winning Yamaha R1 isnít the ultra tuned and super exotic racer you may think it is. The good news is that you can easily transform your R1 into the same beast.
Itís not as common as a Michael Jackson court appearance, but occasionally we get the opportunity to go thrash a factory supported race machine around a top notch circuit. You can imagine the excitement and trepidation building when Yamaha offered us a leg over Aaron Gobertís championship winning Yamaha R1Ö
Rider/Writer: Dave Sonsky - Editor, 2Wheel Tuner Magazine
Pics: Kevin Wing
Excitement at the prospect of doing some laps on an R1 that should theoretically blow the doors off anything else on the track is understandable, if not mildly daunting. Hopping on said R1 to scurry around a fast and notorious circuit can, however, keep you up late at night with visions of high-siding at 150mph in the infamous turn eight. The surprising (and relieving) thing about the Graves R1 is that, although it is quite a monster, itís more of the friendly Snufalufagus type than the snarling dragon I expected. But donít think old Snuffy canít whip some serious ass if provoked.
The day began with a few gingerly ridden sessions aboard a stock R6 simply to distinguish the circuitís lefts from rights and the like. The sight of an overturned BMW M-something series inside turn two helped keep any spirited hamminess on the throttle to a minimum, at least during those early sessions. Knowing that my turn on the race bike was soon approaching it made sense to up the power for a stock R1 though.
Thereís a reason this bike has won top honors year after year in the liter bike shootout tests, and I neednít get into all the reasons itís such a clever performer. Whatís more important to address is how easy it is to transform the already rocket ship fast and remarkably nimble stock version of Yamahaís flagship racer into an incredibly quick and nimble bike with enough manners to still hit the canyons for Sunday morning blasts. The extra benefit of tuning your R1 besides owning a ridiculously quick and nimble bike will be to leave your riding buddies scratching their heads.
Such itchiness theyíll encounter is from trying to discern how a seemingly mildly tuned R1 (because you donít make enough cash to own a factory racebike) can brake so much later and explode out of corners so much earlier than their own. The secrets arenít actually secrets at all, which came to be a surprise to more than most of the journalists picking Chuck Graves apart (so they thought) during the presentation. He was quick to remind us that the street rider can buy (and afford) every component on these Superstock machines. There arenít any tuning secrets or one-off parts as in the Superbike class, which is good to know for the track day rider or someone who simply wants a balls-out streetbike that, in the right hands, can win AMA championships.
Jamie Hackingís bike was available for us to sample along with Gobertís, and the Graves team swore both bikes were identical save for seat height, bar positioning and suspension settings. My first session was a five-lap teaser on Hackingís bike, and it within about half a second of putting a leg over it my nerves were on end. I found the focused riding position exciting and radical, but not to the point of being uncomfortable (quite a few other guests were squawking about the bars being too far forward, but these ainít no cruiser bikes yíall). The bars were stretched out wide and the nose pointed down, which meant the rear of the bike was jacked up more than standard to help quicken the turn in.
Upon pulling off and heading down the pit lane I was surprised, if not initially disappointed. There wasnít a great top end blast like I expected from the motor, but rather a smooth and linear delivery that didnít give me the spooks like some of the turboed and big bore machines Iíve sampled. Instead, power came in strong from down low and drove right through to the top, emphasized of course, by the wailing exhaust. But when expecting something like a manic Suzuki GSX-R1000 top end ďpower bandĒ the R1 seemed initially a bit of a dog. The front didnít want to smack you in the head like a Lennox Lewis uppercut, but instead wanted to pull hard forward.
It wasnít until a few corners later that it all made sense, much in the way a Ducati doesnít necessarily feel fast, when actually youíre howling around much quicker than you think.
At the mercy of my clumsy efforts the best I could muster was a measly 1.38 around the circuit, while team owner Chuck Graves and number one plate holder Aaron Gobert turned reverential 1.24s with ease. That umpteen second buffer between us means there wonít be any trophies on my mantel, but that doesnít change the fact that the bike was ridden to my limits, which are typically dictated by a monetary figure that my bank account canít cover.
The constant ringing in my helmet wasnít from the full Graves titanium system (as lovely a tone as it is), but rather Aaron Gobertís voice reminding us not to crash thes bikes. With that in mind the braking markers were pulled significantly forward so as to avoid any moments, but with each lap on the race machine my nerves began to subside and the utter enjoyment of such a superb package was enjoyed more and more. Aaronís quirky accent began to subside to the bellowing exhaust and the rear Dunlop slickís chirping while it occasionally argued for grip.
The most obvious difference this machine had over anything Iíd been on yet that day was its ability to turn what I had previously considered small full throttle straights into almost short blips on the gas. I wasnít quite ready to explore its cornering superiority, but the pavement leading up to them became blurring flashes of desert accentuated with mild head-shakes as the rear end demanded the pavement to agree with the power it was laying down.
Yamaha R1s of old had a midrange silliness that made it nearly impossible to keep the front end on the ground for the first three gears, but this was no wheelie machine. Instead, a smooth and easy to control rippling mass of muscley sinews all seemingly flexed together, and allowed me to enjoy sitting perched on its powerful spine without tipping me off the back. Thatís not to say the front wouldnít come up in third with merely a deep breath, but it was extremely predictable all the while.
As expected, the first lap and a half were more or less tip-toers with heavy experimentation on the straight bits just for a giggle. But as I realized the session was coming to an end a sense of urgency to explore the full range of the bike hit me. The realization that I had been going faster than Iíd planned to was strange because I was so much more comfortable at a quicker pace than I had been earlier in the day.
Thatís the secret of a proper suspension. The moments of squirliness under heavy braking and the butterflies in the pit of your stomach from coming in too hot fly away on a bike set up like this one. Previously precarious knee-down bends became tucked in sweepers, and small head-shakes became a sign that the exit was hit just right as opposed to a signal that the front end was struggling.
When those five laps came to a close I found myself grinning from ear to ear and wanting nothing more than to do another five now that my confidence was bubbling up and the timidness had begun to subside.
Itís usually tricky to put it all into context after a quick session of five laps, but before my helmet was even unsnapped a barrage of expletives had already been unleashed to the team mechanics about how the suspension was so agreeable and the motor so smooth. I had already begun my argument that there was a lot of secretive work in that engine Ė no pipe and Power Commander could do all that.
But most of the engineís extra magic does indeed come from Gravesí wand, which happens to be shaped like a full titanium exhaust. He claims that the pipe and Power Commander are able to pull upwards of fourteen horsepower from the motor, with more to come once the engine loosens up a bit. In an age where most full exhaust systems are pulling something around ten horsepower on their best day thatís quite an achievement, but Graves plays it off as simply knowing your stuff and tuning accordingly.
After lunch I was given a fairly open ended session on Gobertís number one bike, and after adding a few more clicks on the Ohlins steering damper I set off, noticing the only real difference between the two bikes was that Gobertís riding position isnít quite as radical. The bars were closer to standard and the ride height wasnít cranked up as much. Whether that equated to my slower lap times was unlikely, and probably due to fatigue as opposed to bike set up. The power came on in the same enormous yet smooth wave as Hackingís, which was exactly as the team had explained to us was the goal. More horsepower means nothing if it only contributes to continually lighting up the rear end, and these two Graves bikes make that occurrence as minimal as possible through proper suspension tuning and power delivery.
If youíve not been to an AMA Superbike weekend it should be chalked into your plans because these guys are riding bikes in the Supersport and Superstock classes that arenít that different to the ones we ride on the road. Instead of buying the cheapest pipe on eBay try looking to these race teams for guidance. Itís their long hours of development that reflect in championship winning bikes, and these R1s are the perfect example of trickle down race technology made available to the street rider.
If trackdays and aggressive street riding categorize your style you neednít look further than these examples. They not only look trick but also will inspire your confidence and thereby make you a better rider. All the while your buddies will still be trying to figure out what secrets you have under the hood.
So How Much?
If youíd like to make your R1 perform like these stunners youíll want to know what sort of financial commitment youíre getting into of course. Hereís the rundown:
Graves clip-ons $149.99
Renthall grips $12.95
CRG brake lever $99.95
CRG clutch lever $99.95
Ohlins Steering Damper $329.99
Graves steering damper clamp $39.99
Sharkskinz bodywork $1,268.00
Graves rearsets: $634.99
Zero Gravity windscreen $39.95
Graves fairing stay $159.99
Graves quick release fairing brackets $19.99
Graves titanium full exhaust $1,599.99
Graves billet engine covers $144.99
Graves smog block-off plates $34.99
Dynojet Power Commander $331.99
Graves clutch plates $125.99
Dynojet speed shifter $265.99
Graves 246mm shift rod $25.95
Ohlins Factory Kit forks $1,599.99
Ohlins rear shock $1,049.99
2004 Graves Yamaha R1
Engine: 20-valve DOHC
Bore x stroke: 77 x 53.6
Compression ratio: 12.3:1
Frame: twin spar aluminum
Rake/Trail: 24ļ/3.8 in.
Suspension Front: Ohlins factory Kit
Rear: Ohlins with Graves valving
Wheels: Front: 120/70-17 Dunlop slick
Rear: 190/50-17 Dunlop slick
Brakes Front:dual 320mm discs, radial
calipers with Ferodo
Rear: single 220mm disc/single
piston caliper with Ferodo
Fuel capacity: 4.8 gal.
Dry weight: n/a
MSRP: $10,999 (+$8,034.62 in extras)
Reprinted with permission:
Link to full article at 2wtmag.com