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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Crossplane R1 relooked

Taking into account the relatively unchanged version since 2009 of the cult bike, the YZF-R1, since the time Ben Spies unveiled it in 2009 with much fanfare, it is time to take stock of this bike with the a unique heart, a kind of machine that is present only in this One, straight out of the track, originally envisioned for MotoGP races on which the great Rossi won several podiums from 2008. Yamaha brought track jargon right into coffee table household discussion by revolutionising street (track) bike engine design when they got the irregular firing engine and today four years later, crossplane crankshaft is used frequently in regular parlance.

There have been no major changes since 2009. Other than some electronics thrown in. I rode the 2009 when it was introduced. And I was quite impressed by the way Yamaha had handled low end torque by radically increasing it by ingenious innovation on a race track oriented machine. For all its touted aggression and innovation in performance technology, not much got translated in terms of turnover figures. Especially for nascent markets like India where it is just a showpiece model and not much marketing strategy is either planned or envisioned for high-end models.

And four years down the line, I thought of giving it another spin.


Especially in the light of the recent rumours and “spy shots” of the inline four being shown the door and a triple coming in. I got hold of a crossplane crankshaft machine with a good mileage on it and pretty well run in. I cranked it. The engine roared to life. Now let me tell you guys one thing. We all say that the “engine roared to life”. It is probably the most commonly used phrase in motorcycle writing. Let me tell you, the crossplane crank roaring is the REAL thing! Even a novice can hear the difference. Put your best inline fours in a line. Fire them up. Then start this particular Yamaha R1 with the crossplane crankshaft. The growl of this machine makes the inline fours sound like whimpering sissies! I remember people comparing this sound to that of a V. And I remember agreeing partly to this theory five years ago. And today I affirm it further. This is one distinct sound that really sets this bike apart.



I quickly shifted from Std Mode to A mode. Hey, I am supposed to be a Superbike rider… have a few kilometres behind me. Why ride it on Standard mode? It is crappy isn’t it! I mean I want to use all the horses. Not something reduced. Big mistake! It took me a few seconds getting adjusted to the wide tap flowing out the torque like I was on a turbo. And this I am saying after back to back rides with some of the most powerful machines on the planet, the K1300S and the S1000RR. The low end torque generated by this particular R1 is something that I have not felt on race track oriented production motorcycles, with the possible exception of the Vees! Paper torque charts be damned, but in real life, this bike was wearing out my rear tyres faster than Michelin can manufacture them.

The riding pattern requires some undoing by the rider to control this machine and one might need to have a paradigm shift for a beginner used to riding your usual inline fours. I recall the new frame being agile. My second take on the frame would be light and jittery. This also calls for a paradigm shift in riding patterns. But of course, when one settles down into this R1, with the crossplane, one begins to create that zone around oneself that can only mean one thing: racetrack madness. It is indeed unbridled. However, that surging torque hits a total flat plane around 11K. I did not have a second bike to try out. But that plateau can be upsetting.

After four years of mediocre sales with this particular engine, dipping global sales, newer benchmarks being set by other manufacturers, it is indeed a surprise that Yamaha did not try to innovate further on this innovative engine that could have worked wonders. Like it is still doing on the racetrack. MotoGP is still dominated by the crossplane engine of the M1. And all this talk of the probable phasing out of this motor and such a short lifespan given to this bike becomes even more relevant seeing the unveiling of the new triple “crossplane” by Yamaha.


I wonder why they are calling it a crossplane triple. A triple is always an irregular firing order. And it is really a “faux” crossplane since the shaft is not a real cross… not at 90°.

How much that triple is going to see the light of day, only time and probably more “spy shots” will tell. This has been showcased so far only as a “concept”. Maybe Yamaha is making a triple monster. Maybe they would want to really work on the once cult motorcycle the R1 which is fast losing its sheen. Maybe Yamaha is still not interested in the litre class. Maybe they want to bring down costs further by making a triple. And yet keep the iconic status going. Will they succeed? More convincing spy shots are required…

Author : Krishnendu Kes
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Item Reviewed: Crossplane R1 relooked Description: Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Sajal Chakraborty
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