Welcome to another edition of GAS Superbike. This month we bring you a report on the closest thing to Valentino Rossi’s GP bike you are ever likely to ride. That is, if you are brave enough and happen to have a quarter of a million bucks lying about.
Yamaha, by the end of the 2014 World Championships, had already won 205 premier class races. Rossi had won 49 and Lorenzo 33. Eddie Lawson won 26, Wayne Rainey added 24 and Kenny Roberts brought home 22. Even with a record like that, laid down by the greatest riders the sport has ever known, the best was still to come.
The Yamaha Factory Team set about the 2015 season by winning 9 of the first 12 races and scored podiums at the other 3. The World Championship is now a straight fight between the double World Champion Jorge Lorenzo and nine time World Champion, Valentino Rossi, both on Yamahas.
Meanwhile, in Africa, if you potter up the M19 to RBS Yamaha with a suitcase stuffed with cash, you can, quite incredibly, ride away on the closest thing to a real MotoGP bike that has ever been available: the 2015 Yamaha R1M. When you turn the key and notice the dash light up like a control panel, a “MODE” button on the left handlebar cluster and a thumbwheel labelled “MENU” on the right side, you know you have turned on something special.
The R1 offers the rider different levels of Traction Control, which limits rear wheel spin in the direction of forward travel, Slide Control, which limits rear wheel movement perpendicular to the direction of travel and Lift Control, which controls wheelies. There is a multi-level Launch Control that allows the rider to redline the engine and simply dump the clutch leaving the ECU to subvert disaster. The rider is also left to select his or her own throttle map. The quick shifter allows you to simply click the gear lever up and down, without using the clutch or lifting off the throttle but does require the rider to program the kill time.
All this is managed by a set of gyroscopic sensors that measure the bike’s forward and lateral acceleration, lean angle and pitch, then feeds the information to the ECU which then manages engine output. It has ABS with a linked function that distributes brake force between front and rear.
This bike requires you to brush up on your physics, read the owner’s manual and program it before you ride it. And what a surprise awaits you when you do ride it. Nothing, but absolutely nothing, happens. I rolled the R1 out of the shop and pointed it down the M19. A fistful of throttle and nothing happened. The R1 simply shot forward at lightning pace without any drama. Ask it to turn right and it drops over like an obedient slave. Up and over to the other side? No problem. It just rolls over like a well-trained Labrador. Slam on the anchors and again nothing happens, the bike just slows down, rapidly, but without a hint of anything dangerous.
After the M19 I went up one of my favourite roads, the R614 from the coast up towards Dalton. This twisty, rural, macadam patch is a proper test for any bike and it is heaps of fun. Except on the R1. The ride was over, very, very, quickly and nothing happened. If you roll the throttle too much mid-corner the rear just bites and drives. Wrong gear on the exit? No problem, the cross-plane big-banger has enough low down torque to squirt you out. Potholes, changes of surface and even the odd sugar-cane stalk could not upset the R1.
The bottom line is that this 2015 R1 has ice in its veins and works like a surgical tool built to carve out lap times. The electronics package is astounding. The chassis is astounding.
The geometry somehow does the impossible and allows the bike to turn quickly yet remain stable at all times. Yamaha have overcome a fundamental design contradiction as old as motorcycling itself.
This is one of the most effective bikes I have ever ridden and it just gets the job done. Really quickly. This motorcycle will win races. The engine is perfect.
The R1 will get you around your favourite circuit faster than any other bike you have ridden. It is brilliant.
It is a technological masterpiece. Yawn.
How to get your knee down?
Don’t let anyone kid you. It is, without exception, the coolest thing you’ll ever do on a motorcycle. It is also surprisingly easy. All you have to do is attend a track day.
The most accessible tracks are Dezzi Raceway in Port Shepstone, Redstar in Delmas, Phakisa in the middle of nowhere or Zwartkops in Pretoria. Superbike tracks days are usually organised into slow and fast groups, with instruction available to everyone and are always run in a safe and really friendly, no-pressure environment. You can even insure your precious ride for the event.
Contact Arno Bareiss on 083 332 5767 at Trackdaze who organise awesome weekend events at Phakisa, Sue Cronje on 076 624 6972 for Redstar Raceway, Zwartkops Raceway on 012 384 2299 or Dezzi Raceway on 012 384 2299.
We would also love to know about you and your bike so please send your photos and stories to firstname.lastname@example.org
WRITER – SANJIV SINGH