The joy of motorcycling is not something easily captured in words. Part of it is the smell of fresh cut hay on a mid summer ride, part of it is the feeling of being sucked into the bike in a corner, part of it is the feeling of satisfaction of doing something inherently difficult, well. And part of it too, is the equipment. A good motorcycle reflects a discipline of thought, an expression of engineering competence, that tolerates no excess. And there is perhaps no more perfect reflection of this mode of thinking than the modern 1000cc sportbike. These bikes are unbelievably light and make power that 500 GP bikes only dreamed of just a few years back, and yet, they are so refined that they tolerate even a novice, provided that the rider knows their own limits. Go take a look at one. Immediately, youâll see precision parts, often of exotic materials, on display everywhere on the bike. These parts have been hogged out and refined until no excess material remains, only what is needed to do the job. They have huge radiators and pressurized airboxes and brakes big enough for a dumptruck, all of which would not look out of place under a factory tent. And yet, they are available at minimal cost from dealers everywhere. Buy one a generation or two back, and they cost about what bags and tax do on a new BMW. These observations are not offered idly, of course. Sportbikes are my first motorcycle love, and when I get a moment in a bookstore, sportbike magazines are the ones I pick up. I learned to ride just a few years ago on a CBR, and to this day, my head spins whenever I hear an inline four wind up. However, after a few near death experiences of the triple digit sort, I swore them off, resigning myself to a life of slow BMW ownership and dirt riding. Lingering in the back of my mind, though, was the knowledge that this promise to myself could be legitimately dropped if I could change my approach to sportbikes such that I could ride them more safely. Perhaps, I thought, Iâve matured enough that I can keep the inner squid contained. Time will tell. This weekend, on a trip to Phoenix for other reasons, I relieved Motozilla of his R1. Let the madness begin. The first generation R1 has long been a favorite bike of mine, on the short list of âmust ownâ models. Trendsetting at itâs release, it has since been eclipsed in terms of outright performance by the never ending missile race between manufacturers. However, in spite of the few horsepower that it cedes to the latest and greatest, its performance envelope remains ridiculously wider than most riders and far, far beyond safe limits on any public road. The styling, in my biased opinion, is an outstanding tribute to its mission, and good enough to place it in the rarified company of the 916 and such. Compared to the BMW, the R1 is a whole new world. First, the level of mechanical precision and directness expressed by the R1 is worlds beyond the GS. The R1 feels carved from billet, as though the entire motorcycle were of a single piece. By contrast, the GS feels like a collection of spare parts flying in loose formation. In addition, the BMW lets its few horses come out of the barn grudgingly. True, the bike makes useful torque that allows it to get down a twisty road as fast as most anything in creation, but the motor doesnât seem happy about it. Whenever more than 5k revs appear on the clock, you can hear it yelling, with a distinct german accent, to knock off the horseplay... Capable though it may be, playful it is not. By contrast, the R1 has many horsepower, and like stallions cooped up through a storm, they canât wait to go for a run. They are released with amazing smoothness- the throttle feels like a rheostat where one simply dials up the amount of eyeball flattening they would prefer. A twist of the wrist sees the digital speedometer increase so quickly that only every 7th or 8th number is marginally recognizable. What makes the R1 a neat bike to ride is the feeling that there is always more. More power, first and foremost, but also more handling and more braking and more everything. It feels so utterly capable, so calm and composed and unstressed at whatever I happen to be doing at the time. It feels, for lack of a better way to express it, like being at the head of an arrow, an arrow with incredibly precise controls. If I am going to own this thing for long, my resolve to ride it differently than any other motorcycle must hold true. On the BMW, and certainly on the dirtbikes, I ride as hard as I know how, which is not to say I abuse them or take undue risk, but that I push for what they have to offer a rider of my skill. I look at the world as a physics problem, wondering how fast I can approach each corner, and how late I can brake, and how near the limits of clearance and adhesion I can circle. I cannot take this approach on the R1, or it will certainly end in tears. The throttle cannot be to the stop on straightaways or the county jail will be my home for a night sometime soon. I canât use the brakes for all they are worth, or I will wind up with a Buick hood in place of my rear wheel. Instead, I have to savor the feeling of that deep well of capability that is the R1. I can explore it on the track, but almost nowhere else. In the past, Iâve argued that using most of what a bike has to offer is an advantage. Itâs better to ride a slow bike fast than the reverse, I would say. And some days, I still think thatâs right. But other days, itâs fun to ride a MotoGP bike to work, even if I just wobble around slowly on it. I leave this tribute with a final thought. Despite our best efforts to the contrary, motorcycle purchase are not rational decisions. So, if youâre going to be rash, you may as well get what makes your heart tick most. If you havenât ridden a liter bike, but have always wanted to, all I can say is donât die wondering.