These pictures provide the first proof that Yamaha is seriously working on two-wheel-drive technology for its most powerful bikes. And one man who has ridden the 2WD R1 claims the system improves the bike immensely, even making it safe to ride hard in the wet.
Two-wheel drive could be just he revolution motorcycling requires as it copes better with the ever rising bhp outputs of the latest performance bikes.
The R1 was spotted at a circuit in Spain, where Yamaha was testing the 2wd system to see just how it could affect performance and handling.
The test bike is the result of almost a decade’s development. Suspension firm Ohlins, which is 75 per cent owned by Yamaha, has been working on this 2wd system since 1992.
Indeed, MCN has previously been invited to ride an off-road Yamaha with a similar system fitted.
At the moment, the roles a bike’s front and rear tyres play in acceleration, cornering and braking are clearly defined – and more than anything else it is the limits of their grip that define the performance parameters of any bike. Two-wheel-drive has the potential to share the tyres’ tasks more equally – giving any bike fitted with such a system a potentially huge advantage in outright grip.
Accelerating in a straight line, the front tyre of normal, one-wheel-drive bikes is effectively redundant. Equally, under braking the front tyre takes all the strain.
When a bike is cranked over, both the front and rear tyres have to cope with huge sideways loads. And when they’re asked to cope with either hard acceleration or braking at the same time, they can give up the ghost – with predictable consequences.