Expert guide to buying used Yamaha YZF-R1 range

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This year marks 25 years since Yamaha released the first R1.

Featuring technology that at the time was radical but is now commonplace, the R1 created the blueprint for the modern sportsbike through its use of a vertically-stacked gearbox, long swingarm, 17in wheels and focus on agility, light weight and power.

A quarter of a century later the R1 is still going strong and although it has evolved as the generations have passed, it still contains the DNA that made the first bike such a revolutionary machine.

The first four-valve R1 makes for a stunning track bike

YZF-R1 4C8

Spec: 180bhp / 998cc / 835mm seat height / 190kg kerb weight

The R1 gained a stack of new technology in 2007 and lost a valve in its head, but in the end was something of a stop-gap model that was only on sale for two years before it was discontinued and replaced. Yamaha attempted to inject a bit more spirit into the performance and as a result the motor is quite rev-happy with a slightly disappointing mid-range. A fairly full-on bike to ride, the 4C8 is undeniably thrilling but maybe a bit too track-focused for some.

Yamaha YZF-R1 4C8 used buying advice

● The stock exhaust pipe will cook your ankle in summer as the catalytic converter gets horribly hot. A de-cat link pipe (around £125) removes the cat’ and makes the R1 not only run smoother but also far cooler around your leg.
● Yamaha decreased the front discs from 320m to 310mm and made them thinner too. Always check their thickness with the minimum service level (it should be stamped on the disc) as they cost over £400 to replace with OE items.
● Always check for warning lights on a test ride; any electrical fault can prove very costly to fix.

1998-1999 Yamaha YZF-R1 4XV – £3,500 – £8,500

The original bad boy can fetch big bucks now for a nice one


Spec: 150bhp / 998cc / 813mm seat height / 192kg kerb weight

Rightly now considered a classic, the 1998 R1 4XW is raw, quite often flighty and very exciting to ride. Even in a modern context the inline four’s mid-range is impressive and given a set of fresh rubber, the chassis has hardly dated. Slightly lacking in refinement, the gearbox is clunky, the clutch quite stiff and it does like to shake its head from time to time – but it still looks fabulous (especially in red and white) and always turns heads.

Yamaha YZF-R1 4XV used buying advice

● There is a big white electrical connector box on the R1’s left-hand side under the panel which loves to corrode and fail. If you suffer any electrical issues, look here first.
● As on all R1s, check the EXUP valve isn’t seized shut by watching the cables turning it (you may need to remove the cover) and ensuring the tacho doesn’t show an error code during a test ride.

2004-2006 Yamaha YZF-R1 5VY – £3,500 – £6,500

Classy and powerful – and now with underseat exhausts


Spec: 172bhp / 998cc / 833mm seat height / 173kg kerb weight

A ground-up new R1, the 5VY (or underseat pipe model as most know it) was the first bike to claim a 1:1 power to weight ratio with 172bhp and 172kg. A more refined beast than before, the 5VY may have been more powerful but it came with drab paint schemes and a slightly subdued nature. That said, it is a classy bike that still looks good and is very well built (generator aside).

Yamaha YZF-R1 5VY used buying advice

● A fairly serious issue on the 5VY sees the glue that holds the magnets to the generator fail, leading to the magnets working loose and dropping inside the motor. This can become a terminal issue. If there are any signs of the charging system failing, replace the generator sooner rather than later.
● The R1’s immobiliser system requires the red ‘master’ key to allow you to re-program black ‘blank’ keys, so always ensure this is included in the sale.

2002-2003 Yamaha YZF-R1 5PW – £3,000 – £6,000

Yamaha inject a dose of extra refinement and timeless class


Spec: 152bhp / 998cc / 813mm seat height / 192kg kerb weight

Arguably, the best of the ‘original’ style R1 models and it’s a beautiful machine to ride. Featuring fuel injection for the first time, which is a clever hybrid of carb and injection technology, the 5PW hits a perfect balance between power and agility. This generation has more than stood the test of time thanks to its user-friendly nature that still contains enough R1 raw spirit.

Yamaha YZF-R1 5PW used buying advice

● The 5PW can suffer from gearbox failures. Generally it is second and third gears that let go, so check all is well on a test ride.
● Check the suspension linkages. If they aren’t stripped and regreased regularly (every four years or so) they can – and will – seize up.
● A lethargic or jerky throttle response is generally down to a blocked fuel filter. A strainer within the fuel pump often gets clogged with age due to rust or gunk from the inside of the tank.

2009-2014 Yamaha YZF-R1 14BE – £5,000 – £9,000

A MotoGP-aping soundtrack arrives with blistering speed


Spec: 182bhp / 998cc / 835mm seat height / 206kg kerb weight

Yamaha unveiled the crossplane engine in their ground-up new (bar its calipers…) 2009 R1. Using the same uneven firing order as their YZR-M1 MotoGP bike, the reborn R1 not only sounded amazing it also delivered a unique riding experience. Lazy-feeling yet still quick, this generation of R1 is a joy to ride on the road and although a touch lardy on track, is still a beauty. Weirdly, the ‘pink’ frame model is now the most sought after paint scheme…

Yamaha YZF-R1 14BE used buying advice

● Some early versions suffered from clutch judder and issues around the OE clutch’s strength.
● Aftermarket shifters can increase wear on the gearbox.
● This R1 runs quite hot, something that can be fixed with an ECU reflash altering the point at which the fan kicks in. This is worth doing if you frequently ride in traffic.