A little more than a year ago, a friend crashed my beloved CBR1100XX into a wall, and I was left without a motorcycle. This went on for several months and in the Spring I could stand no more! Just about that time I found a 1997 YZF1000R for $700! It had bee layed down, and had alot of cosmetic damage and was missing the turn signals, also it neaded tires badly, but it ran well and rode as it should, so I jumped on it.
I used it for the summer and found it to be an enjoyable motorcyle, especially considering the cost.
I never had any mechanical issue with the bike, and it always fired up faithfully and easily, suprising for older carburated bike.
The handling was okay, I could tell it was lighter than the XX, but it wasnt as confidence inspiring. It rode okay too, but couldnt really be called smooth. The brakes were very good. The 5speed tranny was okay, and I never wanted for a 6th gear. The motor was strong, and at high RPM had the same "instant transmission" effect as the CBR, and any number of big modern bikes, though it wasnt as flexible, wouldnt be lugged.
My time with the bike came to an end recently. Someone stole it, made it ~400m then crashed, destroying both himself and the bike. I now have a 1995 CBR1000F, which for the record, is not nearly as good as the Yamaha.
The ThunderAce was made as a more street oriented and cheaper alternative to the R1. I dont think Yamaha did enough to differintiate the two, as the difference between th Busa and the Gixxer, or the Fireblade and Blackbird is much greater. If you want a big, fast comfy road bike go with the CBR1100XX, GSX1300R etc. If you want a race bike get an R1 etc. Not that the YZF1000R is a bad bike in isolation, its just in a no mans land between genres and you can do better on either side.