Those eyes could pierce the...
Those eyes could pierce the soul of Marsellus Wallace—and he's one bad mofo.
It is not often you find a streetbike with a spec list stretching south of two pages—let alone an R1 that stands unique amongst every other literbike with the tuning fork insignia. The SSB office has laid eyes on the gamut of custom R1s—the sheer number of stretched, track-modified and slaved-over bikes out there is a testament to its popularity—but we have never seen anything quite like what Chris Burns brought to the table. Short of heavy motor work there is not a single bracket, bolt or pertinent performance adder nixed from the mix and still new parts are finding a home on debatably the country’s baddest street-legal R1. Very few have the time, means and dedication to turn a dime-a-dozen sportbike into an extravagant work of speed. Even less would then risk it all frequenting the track.
The story of Chris’s build is one of love, loss and tribute. It dates back to the early ‘70s Yamaha Mini-Enduro 60cc his father taught him to ride on. Motorcycling became ingrained in a family who watched their patriarch ride well into his sixties. At which point, their father’s M1 license was turned in for pedal power and his passion for two-wheels continued. A cycling accident involving an unaware motorist later took the life of Chris’ father, but in the face of tragedy a love of sport riding was reignited. After the courts concluded the driver’s negligence and their mother doled out the settlement equally to each of her five sons, Chris took his share and commemorated his dad the most appropriate way he knew how.
A sweet ride is better off...
A sweet ride is better off getting crashed at the track than left to collect dust on a trailer.
Instead of stowing the cash away for a rainy day or covering a year’s worth of mortgage bills, a brand new 2009 R1 Raven Edition rolled into the garage shortly after Chris returned from military deployment. It had been decades since he’d owned a streetbike, not by choice, but life happened. After his last bike was stolen he moved to the Midwest. Soon after he was a married homeowner, and there was nothing leftover for toys:
“I actually hadn’t ridden in almost 20 years and was hoping to get back into it. And then I ended up getting some money and with it I just wanted to build a really nice bike to have something to remember my dad by. When I first got it my plan was to have something to commute to work on but as soon as I started doing track days and schools I got hooked. Everything I’ve been trying to do is for performance with inspiration from a lot of the bikes on the R1 forums,” Chris explained.
The handling upgrades didn't...
The handling upgrades didn't come cheap, but the golden Ö doesn't disappoint in front and rear
For the ultimate in style...
For the ultimate in style and protection, a clutch, oil pump and crankcase cover sliders were added.
While maybe not making massive...
While maybe not making massive power, the R1 still kick out 160 horses, putting it right at the top of the streetbike food chain
Building an R1 that could be called the baddest of its breed commenced. When he returned from Iraq an Akrapovic Evolution full exhaust, Power Commander V and complete set of Motovation sliders that he’d already ordered welcomed him home. Then came a full set of Pro-Bolt titanium fasteners for a sleeker look (and lighter weight) and exotic PVM wheels from the UK. All the while Chris fueled his next purchase with research into the routes others had taken:
“I love World and British Superbike style so I’ve tried to build as close as I can to something they’d run there, which is not really possible but you can get a little bit of it. At some point I’m going to do a motor build leaving the bottom end alone for reliability. It’d be nice to have more power but it’s hard to use everything I have right now.”
Taming the dark horse took a change in body English from that used on his last 1989 GSX-R750—found out after highsiding at a track day—and Öhlins helped the reeducation. Insurance covered the crash to the tune of $6,000, and after spending a fraction of the payout on repairs the rest went towards a suspension overhaul. Big-dollar Öhlins FGRT 808 forks and a TTX36 rear shock removed the bounce felt in the stock suspenders and planted the chassis. Attention turned to the finer details of protection and weight reduction from international companies that wouldn’t even show up as a blip on the radar for most riders.
Forum finds directed Chris towards uncommon purchases such as the Japanese AGRAS engine case and oil pump sliders and a Magical Racing carbon fiber mirrors. Lightweight and durable carbon fiber from lesser-known manufacturers like Lacomoto, Tekarbon and King Carbon fastened into place with titanium hardware. Throughout the build, the constantly evolving R1 was put through its paces at tracks and bike nights to the pleasure of all who understood what they were looking at.
How often do you see an R1...
How often do you see an R1 roll up to a bike night with a lap timer strapped to the triple tree? This ain’t no poser’s ride though, as its owner takes it to the track on a regular basis.
As the Raven improved so did Chris’s lap times. Screaming through the gears with a HM Quickshifter—yet another respected brand missed by most—increased the need for stronger brakes. A veritable who’s who of braking royalty turned a semi-soft setup into a progressive hit of instant stopping power. Beringer six-piston calipers to the front and dual-piston on back, Galfer Wave rotors complete with stainless steel lines and a Brembo 19RCS master cylinder assured slow-down dominance:
“They are really strong but not overaggressive and the lever never hits that rock hard point anymore. It has a nice progressive feel to it that’s really light. When it comes on it just gets stronger and stronger.”
The caliber of this build is in a league of its own and with more carbon fiber, motor upgrades and Brake Tech Axis iron rotors on the way, it’s only getting better. An estimated $18,000 in upgrades—not including the price of the bike—and Chris is in it for Ducati Panigale S money but he wouldn’t have it any other way:
“People have told me to get a track bike but I love this bike too much. I spent all that money on it to make it handle and ride like it does and I don’t see any reason to get another bike and let this one sit. I just make sure not to do anything crazy on it but I’m always pushing to become a better rider. I’ve not made that complete switch to track plastics though because I still like to go out to local bike nights and hang out.”
What gives this beauty the top honor is that it was not the concoction of a fair-weather rider with deep pockets, an industry celeb or race shop, but a man set on building a mechanical wonder for the real riding world. Yes, it lacks custom paint and heavy motor massaging but it makes up for it in exotic performance-driven detail. There are other insane R1s out there with mod lists equally as long, but many of those travel on a trailer. We ask those who don’t agree that this is the nastiest Yamaha R1 on the street to prove us wrong!
2009 Yamaha R1
Front End: Öhlins forks and steering damper, Attack Performance triples, Beringer calipers, Brembo master cylinder, lever and brake reservoir tubing, CRG clutch perch and lever, Galfer Wave rotors and brake lines, PVM wheel, Rizoma brake reservoir
Rear End: Öhlins shock, Beringer caliper with GP mount, Galfer Wave rotor and brake line, PVM wheel, Rizoma brake reservoir, RK 520 chain, AFAM Workslite sprockets (15T, 43T)
Motor: Akrapovic full exhaust, Power Commander V with custom map, JETT Tuning ECU Unleashed reflash, HM Quickshifter RL quick shifter, Shorai battery, BMC filter, Graves smog block-offs
Accessories: Brake line quick disconnects, Renthal clip-ons, Rizoma grips, oil cap, rearsets, race pegs, bar end sliders, fluid reservoir bracket, Starlane GPS lap timer, Speedo Tuner calibrator, Samco silicone hose/clamp set, Harris Performance fuel cap and damper mount clamp, Cox Racing radiator guard, carbon fiber tank cover, seat panels, front mudguard, rear hugger, expansion cover, clutch cover, chain cover, Tekarbon carbon fiber lower cowl, Lacomoto swingarm protector, Carbonpartz sprocket cover, King Carbon sprocket guard, Blown Concepts number plate kit, Hotbodies Racing headlight covers, Gilles Tooling chain adjuster, lifters and crash pads, Motovation complete slider kit and license plate kit, Magical Racing screen and mirrors, AGRAS engine sliders, Yamaha seat cowl, Gregg’s Customs mirror block-offs, Blaster-X LED taillight, Watsen Design signals, Pro-Bolt titanium hardware kit and gearshift rod
Owner/Builder: Chris Burns