YAMAHA R1 (2020 - on) Review
- Latest version of one of the best-known superbikes
- Subtle tweaks over previous iteration
- Glowing reliability record
At a glance
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
The 2020 Yamaha R1 still flatters on track with superb rider aids, exquisite rear tyre feel, immense speed and a howling soundtrack, but it’s a small step in road trim, so no need to rush out for a trade-in.
It’s tricky to notice the engine updates, as it would be with the same claimed power as before, but lose the Euro5 cats and it could be a different story.
Chassis changes are just as subtle, but the front brakes don’t have the pile-driver feel, power and consistency of its European rivals, which, like the previous R1, slightly spoils the riding experience.
There's a thriving online community for the R1 at the Yamaha R1 Owners' Club.
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
Aluminium frame and swingarm, wheels, subframe and steering geometry all remain, but KYB forks and shocks have revised internals and the electronic steering damper has less low speed resistance. It’ll come on Bridgestone RS11 fast road rubber, but we’re on racier R11s here at Jerez.
Handling has always been an R1 high point and it’s still more of the glorious same with sweet steering and loads of rear tyre feel, but on road rubber, here on a sweltering MotoGP track, it’s prone to understeer and its wooden brake set-up robs the R1 of front end feel tipping into a corner.
New pads and electronics are designed to help the new R1 glide more easily into corners. There are three levels of engine braking control, ABS settings for road and track and a lighter ABS pump. To a pace all is well, but up the ante and the power you put into the front brake lever doesn’t match the force the brake-by-wire system delivers to the calipers.
At Jerez it’s full, forearm-bulging, four finger braking, just to get stopped for the hairpins, which spoils the otherwise sensational riding experience. Even on its racy setting the ABS intrudes too early and brakes fade under hard use.
On the road, the R1 is choppy, hard and unforgiving, much like the previous generation.
EngineNext up: Reliability
With four new catalytic corks rammed up its new exhaust system for Euro 5, Yamaha has reworked its motor just to maintain its claimed 197bhp and 83ftlb, with a new cylinder head, finger follower rocker arms, throttle bodies, 10-hole injectors, crank, oil system…the list goes on.
Yamaha insiders says the R1 makes serious power when you remove that heavy, restrictive pipe – enough to convince its BSB riders to stay for 2020 and put a smile on the face of the WSB team.
Unsurprisingly the engine feels much the same as before, yowling like a MotoGP missile with a searing top end to match. Thanks to its unique crossplane layout and uneven firing order, the R1 still has the unique ability to drive harder from apex to corner exit kerb than any of its rivals.
One of the first machines to use a six-axis gyro to control its rider aids in 2015, the new R1’s electronics are even more advanced with four power modes, 10 traction and four slide control levels, three launch control settings and three up/down shifter modes. A new lighter ride-by-wire throttle is now completely cable less.
These refinements aren’t a noticeable step, but the R1’s rider aids are still impressive, especially its ability to hold you safely in a drift, leaning on a slide control system that even the WSB Yamaha isn’t allowed to have. Its anti-wheelie is also up there with the best.
Find out more about the Yamaha R1's engine in our technical showcase.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
We don't currently have any 2020 Yamaha R1 owners' reviews. However, looking at the previous model's, it's one seriously dependable machine.
It's a little early to comment on the R1's reliability with the 2020 parts on the bike, but our initial impression was one of good quality parts and solid build.
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
The days of ten grand superbikes are sadly behind us. The R1 isn’t cheap, but it’s in the ballpark of the base-level Japanese superbikes and standard BMW S1000RR. But it’s a bargain when you compare it to top-spec superbike royalty – fit some decent aftermarket suspension, gearing and strip off the ABS and you can turn it into one of the best trackday weapons and racers, bar none.
Watch: 2020 Yamaha R1 real-world video review
Yamaha R1: new vs old
We pit the original Yamaha R1 against the brand new 2020 bike on UK roads during a gruelling MCN250 test. So is the new R1 now too trackfocused? Your wrists and bum will certainly think so after a few hours in the saddle and it trips over its own laces when the conditions aren’t right – but no, it isn’t. For intense road blasts the new R1 will leave even the most hardened sportsbike fan in awe and it’s no more extreme now than the original was in the late nineties.
Yes, it has a lot of power and you can’t begin to use a fraction of it away from a circuit, but snatchy low-speed throttle aside, it’s delivered perfectly and never feels unwieldy or too much. And who doesn’t want a bike that dances through corners with such ease and electronics that are trained to keep you safe? Two decades, nearly 50bhp and a heap of tech separates the new R1 from the old, but the 1998 bike still has the performance to stay glued to its tail pipe. It’s softer, more comfortable, a whole lot cheaper and if you spent some of the difference on 21st century suspension, tyres and brakes, fuelling, you’ll have bagged yourself an legend for peanuts.
Although the R1’s colour dash now looks dated compared to the big-screen TV sized display on the 2019 BMW S1000RR, the R1 is dripping with toys and tech: magnesium wheels and swingarm, fully-adjustable suspension and a full suite of electronic rider aids.
With styling originally inspired by Yamaha’s 2011 MotoGP machine the new R1 is tweaked to look more like the current YZR-M1 with a new fairing nose, side panels that flow into the bottom of the fuel tank, magnesium bellypan panels, a reshaped air scoop (going into a new aluminium air duct), a taller screen and meaner-looking LED shark eyes.
It’s still one of the most handsome of all the current superbikes, especially with the rear number plate hanger removed for track use. 2020 colours are blue or black.
The new R1’s colour TFT dash was first seen on the 2015 model and displays brake pressure, pitch level, gear position and ride mode (now including new engine braking control and adjustable ABS functions), but even this looks dated now, compared to bigger, bolder offerings from Ducati and BMW. Oddly, neither has a fuel gauge.
|Engine type||Liquid-cooled, 16v, inline four|
|Frame type||Aluminium twin spar|
|Fuel capacity||17 litres|
|Front suspension||KYB 43mm forks, fully adjustable|
|Rear suspension||Single KYB shock, fully adjustable|
|Front brake||2 x 320mm front discs with four-piston radial calipers. Cornering ABS|
|Rear brake||220mm rear disc with twin-piston Brembo caliper ABS|
|Front tyre size||120/70 x 17|
|Rear tyre size||190/55 x 17|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||-|
|Annual road tax||£96|
|Annual service cost||-|
|Used price||£11,000 - £16,500|
How much to insure?
|Warranty term||Two years|
Top speed & performance
|Max power||197 bhp|
|Max torque||83 ft-lb|
|Top speed||186 mph|
|1/4 mile acceleration||-|
Model history & versions
- 1998: Yamaha R1 launched – a landmark superbike, if there ever was one and way ahead of its tine, easily trumping the Honda Fireblade, Kawasaki ZX-9R and Ducati 916 of the day.
- 2000: Detail changes included sharper styling and a 2kg weight reduction.
- 2002: The R1 gets fuel injection for the first time, angular styling and a new chassis.
- 2004: First underseat pipe R1: more power, a new chassis and braced swingarm, it was MCN’s group test winning superbike that year.
- 2006: Detail changes, including a longer wheelbase. Limited edition SP version also released with Öhlins, Marchesini wheels and a slipper clutch.
- 2007: First four valve R1 got more power ride-by-wire, electronically-controlled inlet trumpets, a new chassis and styling. Won MCN’s 2007 superbike of the year.
- 2009: First crossplane crank R1 with engine layout based on MotoGP M1, a new chassis and styling.
- 2012: First R1 with (six level) traction control, together with detail changes.
- 2015: Smaller, sharper and packed full of electronic rider aids for the first time, including slide control, the R1 was starting to be aimed more at track than road riders. It was the first Japanese superbike to properly join the big power race, started by BMW’s S1000RR in 2010 and made over 190bhp on MCN’s dyno. It won our superbike shootout in 2015.
- 2018: Minor electronics updates, including an up/down shifter
- 2020: Substantial engine updates to counter Euro 5 restrictions, the R1 makes the same power and torque as before. Additional engine braking and ABS electronics, revised suspension internals and styling tweaks.
- R1M - Sharing the same updates as the R1, the R1M also has new semi-active Ohlin’s gas forks for 2002, a full carbon fibre fairing and a Yamaha Racing Experience). Online order only.
Owners' reviews for the YAMAHA R1 (2020 - on)
No owners have yet reviewed the YAMAHA R1 (2020 - on).