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THIS REVIEW WAS UPDATED 19th March 2006: go to the reveiw end for the latest on this awesome motorbike! --------------------------------------------------------------------------
Well in my experience there are three types of FEMALE motorcyclist.
1. Takes a bend as though they were riding around the outside edge of a threepenny bit 2. Plods along at no more than 80 miles per hour as any faster than that would pull the arms out of the sockets 3. Smooth, slick, and tend to ride very fast everywhere, but are generally very safe.
I first passed my motorcycle test in April 1999. Since then I have progressed through stages 1 to 3. I've owned 6 motorcycles, dropped one or two of them on petrol forecourts and the arch enemy surface - gravel, and been hospitalised by a group of female golfers in a Ford Galaxy.
What's a girl doing with a high performance motorcycle? -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Riding it fast usually!
I own a Yamaha R1 1000cc Supersport motorbike. This bike tops out at 179mph and has enough acceleration to obliterate my bra at that kind of speed (should I have been wearing nothing else upon opening up the throttle). I know about knees in the breeze but rippling nipples would be quite something else.
The bike is a 2004 model with the under seat twin exhausts and it is RED. The most popular colour for the new model instead of the bland silver / black version, or the "seen it all before" blue and white version. The red is not the normal run of the mill red of course; it's more a metallic deep red. Very sexy, but doesn't quite go with any set of leathers out there which incorporate red, as red to leather and accessory manufacturers mean post box red.
Are you sitting comfortably? ------------------------------------- I'm not the tallest of women at 5'6", and I've struggled with bikes where the seat height has been stated as 805mm. I was on the balls of my feet most of the time with my Honda VFR (805mm) and my CBR (810mm). The lean angle against the tank on my SV650S (805mm) was so severe I struggled with tip toes. Then I discovered a Yamaha Fazer (780mm) with both feet flat on the ground, and then I moved on to a Ducati 748R (780mm), also a very nice flat foot on the ground position. So why oh why oh why - when its clearly stated in ALL reviews and magazines that the R1 has a set height of 833mm, should I be able to get my feet FLAT on the ground sitting astride it?
The answer is simple, the seats on all of the other bikes (with the exception of the Ducati) are designed with touring and comfort in mind rather than track or sports riding. My VFR and CBR had very well padded seats which meant that numb bum was never to be felt ever. The Ducati however, was a lot firmer but still took a good one hundred miles before the cheeks of my bottom started to tingle. So theoretically, the R1 should be the most uncomfortable bike to sit on ever. The seats on sports tourers are wide which means the feet are pushed apart so the actual length to the ground is lengthened. The R1 however, has a very narrow seat at the tank. The feet are much closer together; there is no stretching for the ground, so the feet are completely flat. Once the bike is moving, the riding position is slightly sitting back off the tank as with all motorcycles, and as the R1 is brought up to a halt at such a rapid pace (usually) this means body weight shifts forward without noticing it, and feet are ready to be flat on the floor again.
Being able to put feet flat on the floor not only provides confidence that the bike can be safely brought to a halt on any surface, including gravel, but that uneven surfaces, wet surfaces, and even hills can easily be coped with as the bike will always be supported by one or two legs which are not straining to reach the ground and hence causing instability. In reality what this translates into, is less of a tendency to DROP the motorcycle.
The performance of the motorcycle is legendary and any bike magazine or online review will give you the full low down and specifications, which is why there is no need to repeat such here. Except to say, it is everything and more that Yamaha and R1 lovers everywhere, claim it to be. It is a stunning motorcycle. Rides perfectly, handles beautifully, balance is unbelievable, and if I thought the Ducati was light!
Living with an R1 ---------------------- As most girls seem to do, my R1 had to have a name. In the past I have had Severe, Ceber, Wolf, Mr. Tibbs and Mars. I pondered long and hard but in the end the solution was simple and born out of the lettering in the registration, FELIX, and because he purrs like a cat.
So what is it like to live with Felix? I normally ride on average 25,000 miles per year on my motorcycles in ALL weathers, and ALL year round. With the exception of the Ducati which refused to come out of the garage last October and had to stay there until Easter (there was the fact that my knee was bust also however), all of my bikes have been used and abused in winter. Road salt acts like mild sandpaper and gives most metals a nice white fur coat come spring, so it will be interesting to see how Felix fairs this year.
For riding position he is not as radical as first glance may suggest. His position is low, and the legs are high on the foot pegs, however, most of the body weight is borne down on the balls of the feet, and with knees gripping the sides of the tank on breaking, all weight is OFF the wrists making this a most comfortable ride.
I toured with my other half a couple of weeks ago in Scotland. Just at the time when there was land slides and the worst rain in 20 years (they saw us coming), and I had not a single problem with the bike. Everything functioned as it should and did we ride through some of the worst weather I have known! 1500 miles later
Pictures of Yamaha YZF-R1
R1 in action
and ¾ of Scotland covered all the way up to Ullapool; I can honestly say that I never felt a twinge of discomfort. Now this may be attributable to my height. A 6'2" wo-man may find life a lot more difficult with knees up around his ears!Unfortunately luggage is to say the least "difficult". Travelling any distance with a rucksack, in the same riding position, puts too much strain on the back, no matter how up to date and wonderful the rucksack may be. To help out with this, Yamaha in their wisdom have provided a nice plastic cover for the tank, which means the tank bags are confined to the bottom of the wardrobe for the foreseeable future as there is limited metal for the magnets to attach to - DOH! Similarly there are token straps which fold out from underneath the rear seat to attempt an attachment of a tail pack, but I just had visions of my underwear streaming out in a line of washing behind me as the thing bounced down the road in protest from such a flimsy fixing. I have tried and tried to fit my bog standard Oxford tail pack but it really is so unstable that I would not trust this to distance. Although the bungees can be taken from their holding D loops and looped in through the small seat straps and up onto the tail pack for securing, the biggest problem is the fold out flaps which should be used to stop the bungees chaffing against the paintwork. These have to be folded closed under the tail pack as they can't be used. As they buckle shut, once weight is placed in the tail pack this leaves a very nice dint in the foam of the backseat and over time I would imagine that constant rubbing would cause the seat to be damaged altogether. Trying to secure the tail pack by this method also means that wonder web can't be used to protect the paintwork. So the tail pack does "overflow" the seat and over a journey is going to rub and nice matt finish into the beautiful red.
Not to be defeated I assumed that Yamaha had thought of this issue, and a visit to the Yamaha dealers brought about the purchase of an R series tailback. What a fantastic item. The trouble is, as one pleasant gentleman pointed out as we sheltered from the rain at Eileen Donan castle, "my wife couldn't get her make-up in that!" I had a complete weeks clothing in there. (Steady on girls, he was in his 80s after all and was quite amazed a girl was riding at ALL, although he lost me when he started talking about his Francis Barnett!)
See picture for the amazing Yamaha tail pack, the dimensions are 10" front to back 8.5 inches wide and 8" tall (at a stretch). Hmmmm. Well the key is to invest in Travel Wash! Let me take you boys and girls through the ART of small space packing for the R series of motorcycle.
To start with, bike boots are not too good when in the hotel / pub lounge of an evening, and by far the heaviest item and bulkiest of items are the shoes. The solution is to invest in some climbing shoes or a derivative of such. I invested in a pair of TEVA PROTON shoes. (There are Proton and Neutron versions.) These have none slip "Spider Rubber" soles which are designed for water sports. None slip on surfboards and sailing boats, or for reef walking or beach combing where the feet may get wet. They are actually quite tasty, but the main reason for purchase was that they fold almost completely FLAT and they are very light. Next are the leisure trousers. Again turning to the adventure industry for inspiration I bought some of the packable breathable leisure trousers from North Face. They fold into their own back pocket - ideal. Then a North Face women's T-shirt which is of breathable / technical type. I also have some soft T-shirts which are quite short and so take up very little room. I wear a pair of Lowe Pro women's active boxer type under shorts, and carry a spare pair. I wear a bra and take a spare (in case I get caught in a downpour). The same for socks wear a pair take a spare pair. For toiletries - go on girls you CAN do it - I have a toothbrush, the smallest tube of toothpaste, a hotel sized bottle of shampoo and the same of conditioner. Not all hotels supply shampoo and it doubles as shower gel. I have the type of hair that feels like straw if it isn't conditioned. Where hotels DO supply shampoo I refill the bottle. I use a crystal deodorant which is very small and I live without a hairbrush! My Hein Gericke Jacket is completely waterproof, and I wear leather trousers so have to carry over trousers, which are also Gericke which pack really small. I do wear leather sports gloves, which resemble chamois leather when wet so always carry a spare pair. My phone, Casio Exilim digi camera, house key, a few plasters, eye drops and some lip slave and that is the TOTAL supply for a week. Oh and not forgetting the travel wash - as the riding T-shirt is washed everyday along with a pair of undies / bra and socks. It becomes a simple habit and I make sure I buy the technical outdoor gear which does cost more, but it's designed with very fast drying in mind and so I can guarantee that they will be ready to wear next day. If I go for a walk along the beach or whatever, my bike jacket is tasty enough to wear as a normal jacket. All of that goes into said miniature tail pack - impressed aren't you!
Now back to the R1 and living with it.
The twin exhausts are under the back seat. This makes the seat extremely "hot" when standing at traffic lights or in slow moving traffic. When the sun is beating down on the top of the helmet - this can get uncomfortable, but as soon as the bike is moving again the discomfort disappears.
The R1 does a remarkable number of miles to the gallon. On long runs I can get 50 mpg out of it, yet the tank only holds 17 litres, which makes a max run between fills of 160-170 miles. The bike not only has a low fuel light, but at the point the light comes on the fuel trip also kicks in and starts counting up the miles since the light came on - very handy to know as at that point there is no more than 30 miles left in reserve. The Speedo can be switched between mph and kph which is very handy indeed for European touring.
As I have a datatool alarm fitted to the bike the only place to locate this is under the seat. This means that the tool kit has to be left at home. The amount of room left is only big enough for an Abus type disk lock which is not a lot of space at all. One design issue is the fitting of the rear seat if it has been off for any reason. It is not enough to push it down to click; it must be pushed down really hard until a second click is heard. What seems like a fitted seat is only on first ratchet and as I rode along the road one day I felt the seat lift behind me and I had to reach back quickly to catch it before it tumbled down the road.
The fairing has D-Zuss type fasteners on them. With an allen key they are taken out and the fairings can be off in no more than ten minutes for a full clean of the engine area. After the Scotland trip this was very handy indeed. Remarkably due to the compactness of everything housed within the engine area, there were not too many crevices for dirt to lurk and the cleaning of the bike was sufficiently quick for me to want to do it fairly often.
The small bikini hugger only stops 90% or road dirt being flung onto the rear spring. It does not do anything to deflect dirt going upwards onto the underside of the twin exhausts. In bad conditions these means that the exhausts can get completely caked in filth. This does lead to lengthy clean times and is a bit laborious.
I am conservative when it comes to using rubber on the rear wheel. The bike came fitted with Dunlop 218 L tyres. Very high performance and very sticky. They warm quickly and have wonderful grip in the dry and in the wet. But, I ran through the rear in 3500 miles. OK boys that is a lot of miles to some, but it still amounts to £185 for a replacement! Bridgestone have introduced the BT014 dual compound tyre for the R1 and high performance sports bikes. This has their legendary hard in the middle soft on the rim rubber compound and once the front wears down I think the next set will have to be them. The BT012SS which was fitted to my Ducati was a bit limp on feel compared to the Dunlop's but as I use the bike for such high mileage commuting, as they say, something has to give.
The lights look a bit cross eyed when spotted in the rear views, but they more than function well at night. They are permanently on, in the hope that you will always be seen. Yamaha has the hazard warning system on the R1 also for roadside parking in the event of a problem.
The engine has a definite flat spot at 4900 revs. Whether this is due to extra valves kicking in, or the point where the EXUP kicks in I don't know, but it does cause a characteristic vibration through the front end of the bike. It is simply a case of not sticking in that zone, but unfortunately that seems to be where it is happiest to sit. The bike performs beautifully and smoothly right through the power range when pushed on. Spin it up to 10,000 revs and be sure that you are continuing to build speed with a fast change up or you will be shot forward as the engine over revs.
Felix apart from his little idiosyncrasies is a remarkable cat. I love him to bits and he IS without equal, the best motorbike I have ever owned. He is a bike that has to be lived with for his shortcomings as the overall package is so complete, it will be difficult to equal.
FELIX is now 20 months old and still trucking. He has seen two winters (almost through the second) and is running very very well.
So what have been the problems?
ELECTRICS mainly of course - are there any other sorts of complex problems for motorcycles! Actually he has behaved very very well for a motorcycle of his miles - he now has 20,000 miles on the clock (I'm not doing as many miles it would seem - must be because I'm working closer to home).
His first problem was not actually a Yamaha problem, more a dealership problem. When he was uncrated and put together ready for delivery (to me) the clutch cable was not routed correctly. Allowed to be free by the side of the tank has meant that during operation the movement has caused undue wear on the underside of the air intake tube. This over time has resulted in an extensive groove which, had I not noticed it would have resulted in a complete hole on the intake tube. I did notive it however during cleaning and a replacement was ordered (on warranty) and the dealership replaced it.
Another consistent problem has been snapping of the quick snap plastic fairing fasteners which hold the fiarings to the framework. Mainly at the front under the headlamps. Quite often when in for servicing these small plastic clips snap and the service teams just bung in the next best fit - which usually is not a fit at all and is something belonging to a completely different bike. The result is that they work loose, fall out and the fairings start to move around when riding - not good. Not major movement but enough to be noticeable. BEWARE your servicing teams and make sure that you check these small items whenever you are returning for your motorcycle after servicing.
The biggest problem of all has been fuse corrosion. There is a bank of fuses under the seat and down the left hand side of the front fairing (plus many more fuses all over the motorcycle). These two banks seem to come under the most pressure with rain and road salt. The underseat fuses seem to get damp and I have had to ensure everything is covered in copper grease to try and relieve the problem of damp electrics. This has not been a ride stopper (yet) so hopefully its prevention before the fact. One show stopper however was the corrosion of fuses under the left hand front fairing. It does not seem to be in direct contact with rain but over time road salt and water from the roads does get thrown up under there and has resulted in major electrics failure. One morning there I was with key in lock and the starter trying to fire away and nothing! The bike had to be stretchered to the dealer via transit van to discover that the fuses which had gone (and their housing) were the working of the immobiliser system. The whole box had to be replaced, and then the keys (including the red key) re-programmed before the bike would start again. Great news for security of the motorcycle - but not so good on the very morning the owner has a crucial meeting at work. That's motorbike life though.
Apart from that - there are some scratched on the bottom fairings from grit and stones. The seat edge has been knocked by my boots so many times the paint is off on the corner (not major and only a tiny bit). The tank is holding up fairly well but would be a lot worse were it not for the rubber tank guard. The swinging arm is also showing signs of grit and chipping damage. The side kick stand receives a lot of chain lube collection which keeps it protected but when it comes to cleaning ut, the black paint of the colour moulded fairing has worn down to light grey along the edge. Not really noticeable to anyone but the fanatic - but all the same - its not coloured right through as Yamaha suggest.
RUNNING COSTS .......................
I did in the end stick with the Dunlop tyres and they are averaging 4.5 thousand miles - and are holding their price at around £180 per change. The front tyre is averaging 6 thousand miles and is usually £110 per change.
Servicing costs are not too bad either (in the grand scheme of things). First service at 600 miles was of course free. The next service was 6000 miles ( the great selling point for Ducati, Triumph and Yamaha - come on Honda, Kawasaki and Suzuki - you must do better than your 4000 miles intervals). Including a front tyre this totalled £320. Next serviced at 12,000 miles including a rear tyre and spark plugs, plus side Yamaha impact protectors for the engine, plus the fluids of course - £562. Next serviced at 18,000 miles which included a front tyre £304.
Last Insured in July 05 this cost me £350 with 4 years no claims and is fully comprehensive (I was 43 at the time). Only 4 years you say. Well there is a story to this. When I was knocked off my CBR in 2001 I was insured with Norwich Union. Even though it was proven that I was 100% blame free and the driver of the Galaxy took full responsibility - Norwich Union still deducted 2 years of my no claims - I simply had no read the SMALL PRINT. Needless to say - I most certainly read the small print these days and if I'm not 100% sure of things I phone them up and get them to put query answers in writing so that should there be an issue at a later date - then I have some come back.
Talking of insurance issues - make sure you don't have some strange clauses in there as well. Most companied insist that if you have stated you have a garage - then the bike should be in it. If the bike is parked at home - sometimes during the day and it is stolen - then you are not covered. Just be careful then when you are washing it on the drive that there is not a transit van parked round the corner waiting for you to go refil your bucket!
When the bike has required remedial help on warranty - the dealer through the warranty scheme has bourne all costs. So for the recent electrics problems - I paid nothing. This is good news from Yamaha and a good selling point. But make sure that if they collect your vehicle - that the cost is covered sometimes its down to the owner to cover this cost.
Yahama supplies 2 years european service cover with the motorcycle - but only ONE years RAC cover is built in. Remember to renew your RAC membership after one year. Try to stick with RAC if you have a car as well - remember you are covered not the vehicle so you get 2 for 1 if you have bike and car - after all you can only drive / ride one at a time.
So in total then - I bought the R1 in July 2004 at full price - there were no discounts at the time - so that set me back £9400. Servicing has set me back £710. 3 front tyres at £330. 4 rear tyres at £720. Set of engine crash mushrooms fitted for £100. So that's £1860 for running costs. 2 lots of insurance averaging £800 over the two years (to day another set due in July of course). Road tax at £45 per year. Plus the endless supply of WD40 and PJ1 Clear Chain Lube (£8.00 per tin).
The trade value (that is if you bought my bike at a dealer today) is somewhere near £6300 due to the high mileage. Buy it privately and you'll expect to pay £5800.
The bike is still in stunning condition and of course has a full dealer service history which is very important for high performance motorcycles as it is easier to tell how long it has taken for the mileage to be run up - so combating speedo fraud.
All in all then since I bought the bike 20 months ago - I have spent (and lost in depreciation) £6350!
Not to mention the petrol I have used to cover those 20,000 miles !!!!!!!!
Biking is something you have to LOVE. Do not buy and run a motorcycle from new if you can't afford to say goodbye to every last cent of that nigh on 6.5k because there is no way to get it back.
The plus side ................... I can not describe the hours and hours, days and weeks in fact of endless bliss riding this motorcycle. It is powerful, stunning in looks, a complete pleasure to ride. It goes fast and slow down fast. Its brakes are STILL amazing and it is running on its original chain and sprockets (kept well lubed and clean this is amazing mileage for a sports performance motorcycle - and it IS getting some heavy handed use at times).
After all of that cash - I still can NOT recommend any other motorcycle ................. this machine is the ONLY machine for the serious biker.
ENJOY ....................... every last moment of your riding ........ you only have ONE life ........................... X