Yamaha YZF R1 2006 – Thunder in the Mountains!

I have always wanted to ride an example of the iconic Yamaha R1 sports bike. Back in 2007 I was in the town of Aosta in the north of Italy. A group of us were on an epic European riding tour. My mount at the time was a Yamaha YZF600R, itself a very decent bike. But one of the lads in the group rode a 2006 R1 and when he offered me the keys for the morning I leapt at the chance.

In the Shadow of Mount  Blanc

I was really touched that he was good enough to give me an opportunity to satisfy this craving. Under the shadow of Mount Blanc is a pretty spectacular setting to realise a long held ambition!

Not a bad location for my first ride on a R1!

The name of the beast…

I must admit that I was actually a little reluctant to ride the R1 initially: It was after all somebody else’s very expensive bike, we were many miles from home. Not only that but we riding on the ‘wrong’ side of unfamiliar and demanding roads: What if I dropped his pride and joy? So the first emotion I felt when sitting on the big Yamaha wasn’t excitement, anticipation or fear even. No it was nerves. However as the miles mounted this feeling rapidly subsided and after 15 miles or so things were beginning to really come together. My my nerves just melted away and I really started to bond with the bike.

Accessible Performance

What struck me was just how easy it was to ride. Somehow I had expected that any of the hard hitting litre super bikes like the R1 or Fireblade would be difficult to master.  In fact the opposite was true and the performance was extremely easy to access. While I don’t think I went that much faster than I normally do…the shear ease of it was immensely impressive.

The R1 was great in the twisties too especially when left in a lower gear, say 3rd or 4th and rowed from bend to bend. I particularly remember a sequence of perhaps a dozen bends that flowed into one another in quick succession and it felt great to flicking from left to right and attacking each one in turn. Even with a marginal rear tyre the R1 felt assured and stable and my confidence was growing with every mile. The brakes were superb and similar in feel to those on my Thundercat, but with way more bite especially from higher speeds.

All the great stuff we read about about performance, handling and brakes is hardly surprising, but the level of comfort I enjoyed during my ride was. My expectation had been the R1 would be cramped and whilst the riding position was compact the Yam left me with no aches or pains for the 140 miles or so she was mine.

A Dream Realised

Overall the R1 proved itself to be the bike I expected, but without the intimidation to go with the power. What a machine; at the time I thought that very very probably the R1 will be my next bike when the time came. Thanks Prezzo, a gent to give me such a wonderful chance!

I think we look made for each other…

Words and Pictures: Tony Donnelly