February 15, 2019

Road Trip Special: Recording the Yamaha R1

Last Monday was our first full day in Greenville, SC. We didn’t have many big plans that day, just location scouting, organizing gear, building rigs, and a few other housekeeping activities on the agenda. We were supposed to be recording a MasterCraft Ski Boat with a nearly 400hp Carbureted Ford V8 inboard engine on it, but the weather prevented that. As a consolation, Will, our host, mentioned that his good friend, Gareth, had a Yamaha R1 bike that we might be able to play around with.

Having no other plans for the rest of the night, we jumped on it, and were soon meeting up with Gareth to record his R1.

I’ve recorded bikes before, but only from a fly by perspective – never with an onboard recorder, so this was a bit new to me. I had to figure out how to fit all of my gear – mics, recorder, mixer, and power – onto a bike barely big enough to carry a person.

After quite a bit of deliberating, this is what we came up with:

We had 2 Sanken Cubs on the bike. One up front next to the top of the gas tank, and the other next to the license plate. Next, we had a Shure SM57 attached next to the other side of the licence plate, facing down towards the exhaust. Last, we had a Neumann KMR81i attached next to the swing arm, facing back towards the exhaust.

Here’s two pics of the mic setup:

In the first picture, there is a Cub under the wind protection on the right side of the gas tank. In the second picture, there is a Cub under the left-most foam piece by the license plate. There is the SM57 in the center, pointing down, and then you can see the KMR81i on the right, in the half-burnt Rycote Softie (oops – previous mistake – not make by the bike!).

The next problem was how to get the recorder, mixer, and power onto the bike. We considered putting everything in a backpack on the rider, but decided that, because of safety reasons, it would be best not to do that. So we needed to fit everything on this tiny bike. Gareth showed me the only storage space on the bike – an incredibly tiny cubbie under the “back seat” of the R1. We couldn’t fit either the mixer or the recorder in it, so forget about both. The power system fit nicely though (We had a Remote Audio BDS system with an IDX LI NP1 battery). We also shoved some of the excess cable from the other mics in there to help keep it out of the way.

Here’s a pic of that:

Now to fit on the mixer and recorder. The most difficult, and scariest job yet! Strapping $5300 of Sound Devices gear to a tiny object that rockets down the street… I can say with confidence that I’ve never been so nervous as the moment Gareth took off with this stuff strapped to him – if anything happened, I could do nothing but watch… Of course, I was insured for everything – but how do you try to explain that accident?

So, I shoved my emotions down into my stomach and grabbed my gaff tape. We figured the best place to secure the recorder was to the seat we had removed before – it allowed us to tape completely around the seat, since it was removable, creating the strongest anchor point for us – and then the seat was able to lock back into the bike.

I think I used a quarter roll of 1/2″ gaff tape to secure this thing… I wasn’t taking any chances! Then we wired everything together and made sure it was all secure and working before finally locking the seat back into place.

Here’s a pic of the final recorder / mixer setup:

Now we get to the fun part – the recording!

We had Gareth rev quite loudly a few times to try to get levels. I set everything a bit low to allow for potentially louder levels from the bike. I also turned on all the limiters (Sound Devices limiters rock!). We were in a fairly populated / busy area at this point, so we decided to move to a remote area. So we packed up and shot over to a friend’s neighborhood where there was hardly any traffic. It was amazing – no traffic at all! The only problem was all the bugs! They were so loud that we couldn’t record much of anything. The onboard rig was working fine, but we couldn’t get any decent fly bys (I forgot to mention, we had a fly by rig that consisted of a 744T and a CSS-5 in mono – operated by Johnny).

Will and Gareth talked for a bit about another location, and we were off traveling again. Of course, I set the onboard machine to record the whole journey, just so I had more material 🙂

When we arrived at our second location, I was pleased to find that there were far fewer loud bugs. There was light traffic, but nothing we couldn’t work around – we would just have to wait for traffic and time performances just right. So after a quick safety check of all the gear on the bike, and a quick level adjustment, we were off recording again. Gareth drove about 1/4 mile down the road and waited for traffic. The first by he did was insane – 140mph! And boy did it sound good! We repeated about 6 or 7 times total at different speeds (the pic at the top of the post is Gareth going by at around 50 – 70 mph), then brought the bike back to base for some revs and idling sounds.

Here is a short demo of some of the sounds we were able to get:

A few notes on the onboard rig. Despite the fact that the Sanken Cubs can handle a decent amount of SPL (126db), they couldn’t handle the vibration of the bike, so they were fairly useless at high RPMs. The Neumann had a similar problem – didn’t like higher RPMs. So a lot of what you hear in the loudest parts of the onboard recordings are only the SM57.

I would have loved to be able to do a whole workup of the bike – all sorts of different types of fly bys and whatnot, but since this was an impromptu session and we only had 3 hours with the bike, this was about all we could do. It was a lot of fun though, and most definitely an epic learning experience. I plan to do more sessions like this sometime in the near future.

For now though, I (and Gareth) would like to offer you some sounds! So, below, you can find a FREE library of the sounds we captured from our short Yamaha R1 escapade. (As always, these sounds are subject to the HartFX License Agreement)

These are all in 96k/24b. There’s no meta data printed to them, but the files are descriptively named.

Click Here to Download the Hart Pounding Yamaha R1 Mini Library!

Thanks for reading!


  1. Colin,

    This absa-frickin-lutely rocks. Great job!

    – Ryan

  2. Thanks a lot Colin!!

  3. Stephen Saldanha says:

    I love you.

  4. Wicked. Thanks!!

  5. David García says:

    Colin. So many thanks ¡

  6. Fantastic!!! Thanks, Colin 🙂

  7. Love what you are up to Colin, thanks so much for the gift to the community!

    Thanks a ton!

  9. Cate Cahill says:

    Sounds like you had a lot of fun recording! Interesting note about the mics that did and didn’t handle the vibration on the bike. Good old SM57 still going strong! Thanks for the recordings. Nice to have onboard sounds as well.

    • Yeah – I used to absolutely love the Cubs – thought I could throw almost anything at them. This is the second time I’ve had this issue once – starting to lose faith! Hope I figure out a solution soon!

      I never go anywhere without a 57 in my bag…

      • Was the KMR81i on a shockmount? If not, maybe that could help mitigate problems with vibration for next time …

        Thanks again for this killer library Colin.

        • The KMR81i was mounted on about 3″ of foam padding – effectively a shockmount. I’m thinking that the distortion problems with the KMR were more from SPL than vibration, but I have a hard time believing the SPL on the bike was louder than the 138db rating on the mic – although I could be wrong, wouldn’t be the first time!

          Next time, I’ll be sure to use a higher SPL rated mic…

  10. Great work Colin. Thank you very much!

  11. Lee Grainge says:

    Thank you Colin!

  12. Cool cool stuff Colin, Thanks for the hook up.

    and… Niice

  13. Dana Johnson says:

    Thanks Colin and Gareth!

  14. Steve Urban says:

    Sir, your generosity is only surpassed by your awesomeness. Great job Colin (and Gareth)! Looking forward to more informative posts about the ins/outs of your sessions!

  15. tim schlie says:

    the files are not stereo (or even dual mono), was that your intention? sure, there are two channels there; but the information on each channel is identical.

  16. I have to say, not only are the sounds intense, but this is one of the best-documented bike-recording stories on the Internet. The detail, photos, and results are extremely useful for recordists of all stripes. Thanks for your contribution, Colin!


  1. […] their field recording trips. Colin has also released a new free library of sounds recorded from a Yamaha R1 motorcycle, at […]

  2. […] we finished up recording Gareth’s Yamaha R1, we all decided to go out for pizza and beer. While we were sitting there talking about our plans […]

  3. […] First off, your recent Yamaha R1 bike article states that you were originally there to capture a power boat’s sounds, but weather shot that […]

  4. […] sounds, and this Colin Hart fella is a rock star! Check out his motorcycle sound FX library Road Trip Special: Recording the Yamaha R1 This entry was posted in Music Production and tagged Sound Design, The Gene Pool, Theatre by John […]

  5. […] really appreciate the lengths that Colin Hart went to in order to record a consistently high quality soundset. I’m really impressed with […]

  6. […] inspiring blog posts: Colin Hart’s post on HartFx – Recording the Yamaha R1 Rene Coronado’s four part series on recording a […]

Speak Your Mind