YAMAHA R1M (2020 - on) Review

At a glance

Power: 197 bhp
Seat height: Tall (33.7 in / 855 mm)
Weight: Medium (445 lbs / 202 kg)

Prices

New £21,999
Used £22,000

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
4 out of 5 (4/5)

Riding a Yamaha R1M on track with sticky tyres is always an event. It’s comfortable at speed and hugely capable, but the 2020 model isn’t a whole lot different to the previous version, which is no bad thing as the old bike was so good.

Braking performance still can’t match the best of its European rivals, but that didn’t stop Alex Lowes setting a 1m 43.9s lap of Jerez, riding a standard R1M on slicks at the launch (he said he could go even faster) –that's  three seconds off his WSB race pace. Modern superbikes really are better than we mortals.

Ride quality & brakes

Next up: Engine
4 out of 5 (4/5)

Like the stock R1 the M’s chassis remains the same, but the electronic semi-active Öhlin’s TTX36 rear shock features the Swedish firm’s next generation valving and its new NPX-EC gas forks are less prone to cavitation (producing tiny bubbles), offering more consistent damping under hard use.

A combination of its plush Öhlins, racing slicks, the motor’s strangely vibe-free character and a recently surfaced Jerez, gives the surreal impression you’re riding on velvet to second you leave pitlane and it keeps on getting better the faster you go.

Then Yamaha’s strange braking character gives the front end a slightly wooden feel, but ignore that and, as before, the R1M’s cornering poise, stability and agility is up there with the best. Few superbikes are as easy to ride quickly and constantly flatter the rider. Just point where you want to go and it obediently follows.

Despite a new electronic engine braking control system (three levels) and a revised lightweight ABS pump with two-stage braking control, the R1M’s (and R1’s) brake-by-wire system still lacks feel, power and consistency. Squeeze the lever as hard as you can, even crushing it with four fingers and the Yamaha only gives you the braking power it thinks it needs, which can leave you sailing past a corner.

Cornering on the 2020 Yamaha R1M

You can feel the ABS pulsing through your right hand into hairpins and after a full track session the lever starts coming back to the bar. These braking traits are shared by all the Japanese superbikes, but not the Aprilia, BMW or Ducati and is the R1M’s only glitch in a sea of brilliance.

Lose the ABS, fit a race exhaust and keep it fed with hot and cold running racing tyres and the R1M will be one of the most formidable, but friendly trackday tools around.

Engine

Next up: Reliability
5 out of 5 (5/5)

With four power-sapping cats stuck in the Yamaha’s new exhaust system to meet Euro 5 regs, Yamaha has extensively worked on its crossplane crank motor, just for it to make the same 197bhp and 83ftlb of torque. It’s a top to bottom overhaul: a reworked cylinder head, finger follower rocker arm, throttle bodies, 10-hole injectors, crank and oil system.

Swap the pipe for a free-flowing racing system and all that work will add up to more power, which will be good news for the bulk of riders who’ll buy the R1M for the track.

Predictably, its performance is similar to the out-going model. That’s not the worst news ever because the crossplane motor, with its ghostly wail, still accelerates off corners with barely believable ferocity and delivers mind-boggling speed along the straights.  

A fully electronic ride-by-wire throttle is now cable-less and there’s a smorgasbord of rider aids: four power modes, 10 traction and four slide control levels, three launch control settings and three up/down shifter modes.

Riding on Bridgestone’s super-sticky V02 slicks for our launch test (it comes on Bridgestone RS11s as standard) it’s hard to unstick the rear, but when it does go, the R1M’s traction and lean-sensitive slide control holds you safely in a serene drift, transforming you briefly into the pro you’d always dreamed of being.

Its anti-wheelie is still up there with the best, holding a low-hung Bridgestone inches from the tarmac without having to shut the throttle. 

Reliability & build quality

Next up: Value
5 out of 5 (5/5)

MCN readers have given this generation R1 nothing but glowing five-star reviews, so there shouldn’t be any problems with the engine, chassis or electronics on this model.

2020 Yamaha R1M swingarm

Value vs rivals

Next up: Equipment
3 out of 5 (3/5)

Mixing with superbike royalty the beautiful R1M isn’t cheap, costing more than the M Package BMW S1000RR, Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory and base Ducati Panigale V4. For dedicated circuit work we’d recommend going for the base model and spend the change on suspension, tyres and lots of sunny trackdays. 

Equipment

5 out of 5 (5/5)

The R1M gets the same engine overhaul, chassis, styling and electronics tweaks as the 2020 R1 and as has been the tradition for this special online-order only machine since 2015, it’s dripping with goodies: semi-active Ohlin’s suspension, carbon bodywork, a polished tank and swingarm, a wider 200-section rear tyre, a data logger and a Yamaha Racing Experience Day.

You can also download an app that lets you set the R1M’s electronics, which now works on a smartphone as well as a tablet. 

New for this year are gas-pressurised forks and the full carbon-fibre fairing has a revised nose shape with its side panels flowing into the tank. There’s a new taller screen, magnesium bellypan panels, aluminium air intake duct and the tail section is in carbon.

2020 Yamaha R1M clocks

Improved shark-eyed LEDs give the R1 a more sinister look. The previous model’s lights were so effective they were still used by endurance racing teams.

For the first time the R1M comes with a numbered plaque on top of the fuel tank. Yamaha press the button on just one R1M production run a year. 

Specs

Engine size 998cc
Engine type liquid-cooled, 16v, inline four
Frame type Aluminium twin spar
Fuel capacity 17 litres
Seat height 855mm
Bike weight 202kg
Front suspension 43mm Ohlins, semi-active
Rear suspension Ohlins monoshock, semi-active
Front brake 2 x 320mm discs with four-piston radial calipers, cornering ABS
Rear brake 220mm rear disc, twin-piston Brembo caliper, ABS
Front tyre size 120/70 x 17
Rear tyre size 200/55 x 17

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption -
Annual road tax £93
Annual service cost -
New price £21,999
Used price £22,000
Insurance group 17 of 17
How much to insure?
Warranty term -

Top speed & performance

Max power 197 bhp
Max torque 83 ft-lb
Top speed 186 mph
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range -

Model history & versions

Model history

2015: Yamaha R1M launched. Based on the heavily revised R1, the limited-edition, online-only order machine was fitted with semi-active Öhlins, a wider 200-section rear tyre, carbon bodywork panels, polished tank and swingarm, a datalogger and set-up app.

2016-current: An M version has been offered each year alongside the R1 with subtle colour tweaks and the same updates as the standard version.

Other versions

R1 – Standard version with same engine, chassis and electronics, but KYB suspension instead of Öhlins, a 190-section rear tyre, plastic bodywork, painted tank/swingarm and no datalogger/set-up app.

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