With Yamaha jumping in on the traction control scene there's not a single bike left in the liter class without some form of electronic assistance, whether it's ABS, TC or drive modes. While some of the electro-wizardry on other makes has been rushed out of the box and doesn't necessarily work to perfection, Yamaha took its time and hit a homer with its electronic addition to the R1 for 2012.
The bike hasn't been crash proofed-that's impossible. But, trackdayers and drag strippers will both benefit alongside commuters (no need to fear the rain anymore, folks) with the addition of adjustable traction control which means quicker and safer rides. Six different levels are indicated where the previous model's "throttle position" indicator used to reside, and although the slash marks can be difficult to distinguish at a glance that's about the only glitch to be found in the system.
The Traction Control System (TCS) was designed with an extremely intricate application of mathematics and computer chips-much like the three drive modes that were introduced in with the fly-by-wire throttle system. The basic function of the system is a much simpler concept than how it was actually designed however. For each level selected, the ECU consults a preset group of calculations to determine an allowable amount of rear wheel slip-obviously the lowest setting (one bar) will allow more wheelspin than the highest setting (six). Gear and throttle position, RPM and wheelspeed are all calculated and computed in each TCS setting to determine the optimized amount of slippage allowed to retain maximum forward drive. When wheelspin exceeds the allowable level the fly-by-wire system will close the throttle valve, followed by a cut in fuel and finally an ignition retard (if needed). In a sense, there are three tiers to controlling the wheelspin, and if one isn't enough the TCS steps it up to the next level.
The fifth and sixth TCS settings have an additional safety feature that is the best we've experienced to date-wheelie control. Under hard acceleration or purposeful clutch slips the TCS will not allow the front wheel to lift past a certain point before gently bringing it back down to terra firma. Our best attempts to hoist a controlled wheelie were thwarted instantly-but gently-by the wheelie control system. There is no abrupt fuel cut that slams the front end down but instead what feels like a gentle closing of the throttle, which is exactly what the TCS is doing.
In the real world the TCS goes almost unnoticed on the road, and the TCS activation light on the dash only flashed briefly on the highest setting during heavy acceleration and banked over corner exits. The racetrack was the obvious place to really explore the system, and throughout the course of the day it worked flawlessly.
50th anniversary edition ...
50th anniversary edition
There will only be 2000 of the gorgeous 50th Anniversary Edition models produced worldwide and are designated with a numbered plate on the tank. The few extra bucks ($500) is certainly worth the exclusivity.
Learning to trust a computer while shutting off your survival instinct isn't easy, particularly during triple digit, knee down sweepers, but to truly appreciate the TCS that's exactly what's required. In the upper settings (three to six) the TCS light illuminates solid during early corner exits and changes to a flicker as the bike stands upright. The light coincides almost exactly with what feels like a ghost rider gently dragging the rear brake to slow the bike down until it's "safe" to let off and give back 100 percent power. It's an odd sensation to say the least, but after gaining trust in its abilities the throttle can be opened to the full position without the inevitable highside that would soon follow on a bike without traction control. Convincing the right hand to do everything it's been taught not to isn't easy, but the TCS is responsible enough to handle the exaggerated twist.
The lower settings (one and two) are far less obtrusive and allow the rear to move around, sometimes significantly. Bravery couldn't overcome sensibility, so the ham-fisted antics that the upper settings supported weren't incorporated as exuberantly, but the TCS was still doing its job when required. At the lowest setting I was able to activate the TCS in only one particular corner each lap, indicating the tires were hooking up well enough on their own and I wasn't brave enough to whack the gas open at full lean, proving sometimes brain is more powerful than muscle.
Aside from the addition of the TCS, the other updates almost go unnoticed unless compared side by side with the previous model. Bodywork styling has been sharpened in front and rear along with an aesthetically pleasing new top triple tree.
A softer rear spring replaces the previous part-Yamaha claims it has a softer initial stroke that stiffens later in the travel. Another minor chassis mod is the fully knurled footpegs that have increased side grip (for track riding) significantly.
At a glance the 2012 R1 isn't a whole lot different than the previous model, but on the track it's an entirely new animal thanks to the excellent TCS addition. Less significant bodywork and chassis modifications all add up to a better overall package that's easier to ride fast-especially with piece of mind. A momentary lapse of reason with the right hand doesn't necessarily need to end with a call to an insurance agent anymore, but the TCS idiot light will certainly give you an eyeful and make you aware of your error.
Traction control (and drive mode) adjustments can be made on the move as long as the throttle is closed.
The front end...
The front end styling has been tightened up and sees a return to the sharp, iconic style that has been the R1's claim to fame since its introduction.
Colors: Blue, black, white and commemorative
Availability: Go get yours today