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What to do when presented with multiple versions of a single sportbike model? Does one spring for the more exotic or reap the savings of a base model at the risk of remorse? What’s in your wallet might be the deciding factor, but one can’t help but wonder what the base model gives up and what the upscale model gains.

Owners of European performance bikes are well versed in this particular dilemma. Aprilia, BMW, Ducati, KTM, MV Agusta, andTriumph all offer tiered performance upgrades on various super­sports and sport nakeds. Here we’ve pitted the Cycle World Ten Best-winning YZF-R1M (introduced a year ago) against its new-for-2016 YZF-R1S cost-conscious sibling.

Yamaha YZF-R1S and YZF-R1M on-track action

While very similar in outward appear­ance, the $14,990 R1S is wrapped in plastic, while the $21,990 R1M wears carbon-fiber bodywork. The S has five-spoke aluminum wheels of the same rim width as the M’s lighter magnesium hoops and comes standard with longer-wearing street-oriented tires. Aside from the different color and graphic treatment, the most notable visual cue is the Öhlins active electronic race suspension supporting the M. What you can’t see matters as well, in that the S supplants the M’s fracture-split titanium connecting rods with less-expensive, conventional steel rods. The resultant increase in reciprocating weight saddles the S with a 2,000-rpm-lower rev ceiling. While the S shares the same six-axis IMU-based electronic rider aids as its intelligent sister, Yamaha’s superb quick-shift feature is an accessory add-on, and you will also make do without the trick communications-control unit, datalogging feature of the R1M.

2016 Yamaha YZF-R1S and YZF-R1M group static

2016 Yamaha YZF-R1S and YZF-R1M.

Strapping the bikes onto the Cycle World dyno answers the foremost question, as we found the power graphs of each couldn’t have been more identical in shape and peak output. The obvious difference being the S’s rev limiter that cuts in at 12,200 (a mere 400 rpm beyond peak output) whereas the M curve extends to 14,200, though power tails off throughout this (useful) over-rev region.

Both engines deliver a similar silky feel on the freeway with very little vibration reaching the rider. As ergonomics are identical, the M gets the nod with unmatched suspension ride quality and the convenience of selecting between customizable settings with a few button presses. Labor is cheap, however—if you don’t mind pulling the Allen wrench from under the S’s passenger seat and dialing the damping adjusters of its KYB components to your liking.

Following tailwind assisted quarter-mile runs in which the S held its own, we headed to the big track at Willow Springs International Raceway for the meat of the test. Riding talent runs deep within the Bonnier Motorcycle Group fold. Account Executive Chris Siebenhaar, a former AMA Superbike/Supersport racer with plenty of Willow race laps under his belt, joined me for this test.


2.5-mile road course

Willow Springs Raceway turn map

Utilizing our VBOX Sport datalogger has allowed further analysis of each rider’s quickest lap with peak speed measured on the front straight and point-to-point speed average in the following areas: Constant-radius T2 sweeper ridden on the tire’s edge; side-to-side transitions in section 3 from T3 to T5; section 4 cresting T6 and accelerating to T7; gritting it out and braving the gusting wind through the apex of Willow’s infamous turn 8 and tipping into T9.

Siebs 1.31.68 151.4 82.9 68.5 113.0 118.8 95.2
Canet 1.31.74 154.4 83.9 69.1 115.2 119.4 90.7
Siebs 1.31.41 154.2 83.7 68.7 115.2 118.5 94.3
Canet 1.32.47 156.2 83.7 68.7 114.2 116.5 89.3

Unfortunately, we faced some of the nastiest wind either of us had ever ridden in. I figured we were destined to be blown around, as my iPhone weather app displayed a swirly cloud icon and unseasonably low temps. The grim forecast was validated by the Mojave tumbleweed that blew onto the road en route, tracking the R1S like a heat-seeking missile as I veered into the oncoming lane and exploded it upon impact! Even our medical standby at the track expressed concern, “I can’t believe you guys are riding; we’ve had trucks blown over on the highway today!”

Siebs and I tightened our helmet straps and rode like the wind…sorta.

2016 Yamaha YZF-R1M static side view

2016 Yamaha YZF-R1M.

With both bikes on equal footing, fitted with the Bridgestone RS10R radials that come standard on the M, a VBOX datalogger was used to record comparative lap times and average speed through key sections of the circuit. Our timed stints aboard each bike produced surprisingly close results despite both of us hammering the S-model’s rev limiter quite often. “I liked that the R1M has a higher rev limiter,” Siebenhaar noted. “It allowed stretching each gear that extra little bit out of corners to either not shift before the next or hold onto the gear until you’re more on the center of the tire.” That along with the quickshifter eases the task of keeping the M on the boil. Fortunately the S’s rev limiter comes in soft and didn’t upset the chassis if bumped midcorner.

“Both have extremely usable and ‘friendly’ power characteristics for 1,000cc bikes,” observed our guest tester. “The speed just sort of creeps up on you; it’s pillow soft on the bottom and then just out of nowhere you’re going fast.” Certainly, the electronics play a major role in the high degree of confidence both R1 models instill. We settled on identical rider-aid settings for each: A mode (full power and response), TC level 3, slide control level 2, and minimal wheelie control.

2016 Yamaha YZF-R1M on-track action

2016 Yamaha YZF-R1M.

The M model’s Öhlins active suspension mode provided an impressive feeling of bump compliance and overall chassis control. I rode my timed laps with default A2 settings, and although Siebs preferred the firmer feel A1 provided (and also experimented with the non-active manual mode) his quickest lap was turned in A2. We were both inconsistent boring through the gusting winds. As chance had it, I turned my fastest lap aboard the S despite finding its suspension harsh by comparison, even after freeing up front and rear damping quite a bit from the baseline setting. “The S worked extremely well for being ‘basic,’ when compared to the M-version’s electronic Öhlins kit,” the former racer said. “If it weren’t for such high winds and cold temperatures, no doubt the bike is capable of much, much more. The KYB fork has all the necessary adjustments of preload, compression, and rebound and feels like it’s sprung and damped to run a pretty quick pace.” Not surprising considering the R1S shares the same legs as the $16,490 Yamaha YZF-R1, the middle child of the current R1 trio.

2016 Yamaha YZF-R1S static side view

2016 Yamaha YZF-R1S.

It can’t be ignored that the standard R1 offers what the S-model lacked most. “If I was able to change anything about the bike, it would be a higher rev ceiling,” Siebenhaar noted. This and the quickshifter make a strong case for the sibling we left out of this test. “You can see where Yamaha saved the money when compared to the R1M,” he added. “The steering stem isn’t drilled out, bolts are standard hardware-store style, and there’s no exotic suspension or carbon, mag, or Ti materials. But nonetheless, the bike is still just as stunning to look at, with an exhaust note to match. If you have the extra space in your wallet, the R1M would be the pick. It’s just awesome. Between the Öhlins suspension and the datalogging system, this bike can provide a rider with copious amounts of information that if deciphered correctly can help tune the bike and lower lap times.”

2016 Yamaha YZF-R1S on-track action

2016 Yamaha YZF-R1S.

As Yamaha Media Relations Manager Marcus DeMichele said: “Yamaha has provided an R1 model that retains the core features of the R1 and R1M models, such as the crossplane-crank engine technology and a proprietary six-axis IMU that communicates with a Moto­GP-derived electronics package, at a price point similar to some competitors’ models that do not have such features.”

Being a champion of the affordable, I can’t deny what Yamaha has achieved in the R1S, hitting a price point without sacrificing a level of performance that exceed the needs of all but the most rabid trackday rider or racer. In this case the choice appears righteous no matter which way the wind blows.

2016 Yamaha YZF-R1M studio side view

2016 Yamaha YZF-R1M
UPS + Free to rev
+ Intelligent suspension
+ Affordable exotica
DOWNS – Diminishing price/performance ratio
– More costly if you crash
PRICE $21,990
DRY WEIGHT 419 lb.
WHEELBASE 55.4 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 33.2 in.
1/4 MILE 9.89 sec. @ 155.01 mph
0-60 MPH 2.9 sec.
TOP GEAR 40-60 MPH 3.4 sec.
60-80 MPH 3.5 sec.
HORSEPOWER 164.7 @ 12,500 rpm
TORQUE 74.3 lb.-ft. @ 8800 rpm
BRAKING 30-0 MPH 31 ft.
60-0 MPH 122 ft.

2016 Yamaha YZF-R1S studio side view

2016 Yamaha YZF-R1S
UPS + Peak power isn’t neutered
+ Full electronic rider aids
+ Great performance value
DOWNS – Bah-ba-bah (goes the rev limiter)!
– Dash displays some inactive features
PRICE $14,990
DRY WEIGHT 422 lb.
WHEELBASE 55.4 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 33.0 in.
1/4 MILE 9.88 sec. @ 149.37 mph
0-60 MPH 2.7 sec.
TOP GEAR 40-60 MPH 3.3 sec.
60-80 MPH 3.3 sec.
HORSEPOWER 163.1 @ 11,770 rpm
TORQUE 75.3 lb.-ft. @ 8830 rpm
BRAKING 30-0 MPH 32 ft.
60-0 MPH 125 ft.

2016 Yamaha YZF-R1M dash details

2016 Yamaha YZF-R1M dash.

2016 Yamaha YZF-R1M badge close-up

2016 Yamaha YZF-R1M badge.

2016 Yamaha YZF-R1S KYB shock details

2016 Yamaha YZF-R1S KYB shocks.




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