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YAMAHA R1M (2018-on) Review

Published: 03 December 2018

Minor changes have made Yamaha’s R1M faster, easier to ride and simpler to set up

Yamaha R1M

Minor changes have made Yamaha’s R1M faster, easier to ride and simpler to set up

Overall Rating 4 out of 5

Three years after its introduction, minor changes have made the Yamaha R1M faster, easier to ride and simpler to set up. It’s still the booming, intoxicating track weapon it was before, but new semi-active suspension, more sophisticated anti-wheelie and an auto-blipper allow it to keep pace with rivals from Honda and Kawasaki.

Former MCN Senior Editor, Matt Wildee had the opportunity to ride the 2018 R1M at its launch in February 2018 on track and soon after Chief Road Tester, Michael Neeves took it around the toughest route in the UK, the 'MCN 250' mile test.

Speaking about his experience Matt said: "The host of small updates enhance the R1M experience. All the good points of the old bike remain: the same nimble handling, partly afforded by the lightest wheels in the class (the R1M’s the only one with magnesium as standard).

And there’s still the same gloriously fluid crossplane-cranked motor sniffing out exit grip before droning to a heady, screaming top end down the next straight.

Yamaha R1M on track

"Cosmetically, the R1M is virtually identical to before, save a different colour bellypan. This is no bad thing – it’s a unique, carbon-clad demonstration of cutting-edge tech. But does it feel different enough to justify jacking in your old bike?

"If you already own an R1M, the answer’s probably not. But if you’re trading in at the end of your finance package you will feel the benefit. And if you’re buying for the first time you’ll be picking up the keys to a true piece of exotica."

Yamaha R1M wheelie

While Michael added: "There are golden moments where the R1M is the most perfect, magical motorcycle ever. Its speed and stability into fast, sweeping corners defies belief and its crushing, MotoGP acceleration is ably contained by some of the best electronics in the business.

"Not only is it other-worldly rapid, this M version, with its carbon and Öhlins, is knee-tremblingly sexy, too. For the rest of the time the R1M is brutally uncomfortable and its limit is so far removed from the real world, there’s little impression of speed. However, even with it's limit, at most we imagine the R1M could hit about 186mph.

"That’s a modern-day superbike in a nutshell; epic in small doses and I hate to say it, slightly pointless the rest of the time."

Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5

The biggest update is to the semi-active suspension. When launched, the R1M was the first Japanese thousand with electronic suspenders and its Öhlins Smart EC system was astounding – constantly adjusting itself in real-time.

For example, the front end would stiffen itself on the brakes, soften itself off to give feel in slow corners and increase the compression on the rear shock to limit squat when you’re on the gas.

On the road, it gave a magic carpet ride that could be altered at the touch of a button. It was suspension heaven. Almost. The only real downside was its slightly off-putting interface. If you wanted to fine-tune the settings, the electronic menus needed some thought.

Yamaha R1M switches

For some, the units of adjustment were baffling, especially as the lower the number on the display, the stiffer the setting. All that’s now changed. Just like on the Fireblade SP in 2017, the 2018 R1M has the second generation of this technology, which has a much clearer level of adjustment.

During the launch, the test bikes were equipped with slicks which combined with stiff auto track settings, meant going quick was about taking a leap of faith. But once you believe, it’s like having a ticket to best roller-coaster in the world.

Sadly, the R1M still comes with the same brakes. Yamaha is persisting with a linked system meaning a smidge of rear brake is always applied when you activate the front Sumitomo monoblocks.

It works well on the road but on track means the rear feels loose under heavy braking and bumps set it off into a tyre-squealing fishtail. Lever feel isn’t great either. Later, we also tried a race-kitted R1 with Brembo calipers, master-cylinder and linkage: a far better option.

Yamaha R1M cornering

During our 250-mile MCN test route: On a ribbon of tarmac the snarling superbike glides from corner to corner with breath-taking accuracy. Dopamine floods my brain and as the Yamaha noses into third and fourth gear corners with unflappable confidence, all that wristy weight over the front end starts to makes sense.

It’s the same story with its wafer-thin seat. It’s torture after a couple of hours, but it lets you feel what the rear tyre is doing when you pile on the power; electronics gently controlling slip and tugging the front wheel back to the floor.

Engine 5 out of 5

Yowling and screaming its head off, the crossplane crank motor still amazes nine years after Yamaha brought out the original big bang R1.

This clever engine has the easy, vibe-free flexibility of an electric motor, on and off the throttle, mated to the kind of ballistic top end you can only really exploit fully on track.

Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5

The build quality and finish of the R1M is high, as you would expect for a bike costing more than £20k. Reliability shouldn't be a problem.

We could stare at the R1M all day, drinking in its squat, racebike-like proportions, ogling its fat rear tyre, shiny brake calipers, gold suspension and carbon weavage.

Insurance, running costs & value 3 out of 5

There are slightly friendlier, comfier superbikes out there, such as the Suzuki GSX-R1000 and Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade, but they’re still not what you'd call comfy and get to you in the end.

Superbike prices have rocketed, too, which is why even a race replica-loving nation like ours is leaving them to gather dust on showroom floors. 

Insurance group: 17 of 17 – compare motorcycle insurance quotes now.

Equipment 4 out of 5

The auto-blipper is a decent addition to the 2018 R1M. Since the Yamaha R1 first came out, owners have been adding aftermarket blippers, but with mixed results. Some work well, others are clunky. But Yamaha’s new system is perfect, meshing rpm and adding to stability.

Yamaha R1M quickshifter

The new wheelie control lets the front float out of corners with stunning precision – it’s far better than the unpredictable system on the Honda Fireblade SP, for example.

The bike still has the same six-axis Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU), too, meaning a huge range of traction control settings and slide control, which when you’ve got it on the correct setting allows even modest riders to smear rubber. But of course, like everything on the R1M, you do need to work up to it.

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 2018
Year discontinued -
New price £20,199
Used price £19,000 to £20,400
Warranty term -
Running costs
Insurance group 17 of 17
Annual road tax £88
Annual service cost -
Performance
Max power 197 bhp
Max torque 82.9 ft-lb
Top speed -
1/4-mile acceleration -
Average fuel consumption 39.2 mpg
Tank range 147 miles
Specification
Engine size 998cc
Engine type 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, forward-inclined parallel 4-cylinder, 4-valves
Frame type Diamond
Fuel capacity 17 litres
Seat height 860mm
Bike weight 201kg
Front suspension Telescopic forks, Ø43 mm
Rear suspension Swingarm, (link suspension)
Front brake Hydraulic dual disc, Ø320 mm
Rear brake Hydraulic single disc, Ø220 mm
Front tyre size 120/70 ZR17M/C (58W)
Rear tyre size 200/55 ZR17M/C (78W)

History & Versions

Model history

Each year since 2015 Yamaha have produced a special, limited-edition (around 750 to 1000) R1 produced alongside the standard bike.

Badged the R1M, it has magnesium wheels, a lacquered aluminium fuel tank and swingarm, semi-active Öhlins, a datalogger, Bridgestone RS10 rubber and a carbon fibre fairing, front mudguard and rear seat cover.

Other versions

None

Owners' Reviews

No owners have yet reviewed the YAMAHA R1M (2018-on).

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Photo Gallery

  • Yamaha R1M
  • Yamaha R1M styling
  • Yamaha R1M quickshifter
  • Yamaha R1M on track
  • Yamaha R1M cornering
  • Yamaha R1M set-up suits the track
  • Yamaha R1M is a trackday weapon
  • Yamaha R1M linked brakes are more road biased
  • Yamaha R1M is packed with electronics
  • Yamaha R1M wheelie
  • Yamaha R1M has unbelievable front-end grip
  • Yamaha R1M switches
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