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Twenty years of Yamaha YZF-R1 glory is waiting for you to discover

Published: 07 April 2018

In 1998 the Yamaha YZF-R1 arrived and rewrote the sportsbike rulebook, creating the blueprint that superbikes continue to follow to this very day. It was, quite simply, a revolution. Not to mention very, very fast!

Since the day in 1997 when Scott Russell emerged from a cloud of smoke in a silver race suit at the Milan Motorcycle Show to unveil the R1 to the world, Yamaha’s premier sportsbike has continued to evolve and improve. There have been major changes such as fuel-injection arriving, underseat pipes replacing the side-mounted exhaust, radial brakes, a four-valve head and now, on the latest versions, cutting-edge electronic assists – but the name on the fairing has always remained the same.

If you fancy owning an R1, MCN has compiled this guide to highlight every generation. Some have very different characters to others, from the wild original model to the more refined underseat pipe bikes, so there is an R1 out there to suit anyone’s tastes.


The original: 1998 Yamaha YZF-R1 4XV

The YZF-R1 redefined the boundaries in terms of power, weight and handling. The R1 used Yamaha’s traditional five-valve head, but by repositioning the gearbox mainshaft above rather than inline with the crankshaft the R1’s design team created the first ‘vertically stacked gearbox’ on a sportsbike (if you don’t count the TRX850). 

  • 150bhp – 79ftlb – 177kg
  • Used prices from: £3500

First update: 2000 Yamaha YZF-R1 5JJ

Yamaha made over 150 changes to the R1 in its first update. A stronger gearbox and taller bottom gears were the big news. The exhaust was also titanium now, but unless you are a real R1 geek you won’t spot the altered shock rebound adjuster, thinner mirror stems, smaller brake master cylinder etc…

  • 150bhp – 79ftlb – 175kg
  • Used prices from: £3000

New injection: 2002 Yamaha YZF-R1 5PW

The big advancement of the 2002 R1 was the introduction of fuel-injection. Designed by Mikuni, the system used a vacuum-controlled intake. The vacuum pressure controls the movement of valves in the 41mm throttle bodies, regulating flow and giving amazingly-smooth response.

  • 152bhp – 80ftlb – 174kg
  • Used prices from: £4000

Power play: 2004 Yamaha YZF-R1 5VY

The first motorcycle to claim a 1:1 power to weight ratio. By tilting the cylinders forwards 40°, Yamaha ran a new frame over the top of the motor, creating a straight line from the headstock to the swingarm pivot point for a 200% increase in rigidity. New radial brakes and the 2006 bike had 3bhp more and a longer wheelbase.

  • 172bhp – 81ftlb – 172kg
  • Used prices from: £4000

WSB special: 2006 Yamaha YZF-R1 SP

The first time that any Japanese manufacturer had released a homologation-special litre bike. Essentially a 2006 R1 with a few race-orientated goodies bolted on, it was the first R1 to gain a slipper clutch as standard and also came with Öhlins suspension and forged aluminium Marchesini wheels. Only 1000 were produced worldwide – 500 for America and 500 for Europe.

  • 175bhp – 81ftlb – 170kg
  • Used prices from: £12,000

The wild one: 2007 Yamaha YZF-R1 4C8

A return to the original’s wild attitude with a strong top end kick and less midrange. The biggest shift for Yamaha on the 2007 R1 was the change from a five-valve to a four-valve head. In addition, the R1 gained a similar ride-by-wire throttle as the firm’s R6 and also variable intake tracts, making it the first mass-produced 1000 to have them. A slipper clutch, new chassis and massive six-piston radial brakes completed the revolution. 

  • 180bhp – 83ftlb – 177kg
  • Used prices from: £5000

Crossplane arrives: 2009 Yamaha YZF-R1 14BE

The 2009 R1 introduced the world to the crossplane crankshaft. Where in a conventional motor the pistons move up and down in pairs (two outer and two inner) with a 180-degree firing order, the crossplane has an uneven 270-180-90-180-degree firing sequence and the pistons are not paired up. This firing order reduces fluctuations in torque, giving a better throttle response, increased drive and improved grip. 2012 bike got TC. 

  • 179bhp – 85ftlb – 206kg
  • Used prices from: £6500

Box of tricks: 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 2CR

Lighter, more agile and considerably more powerful this model also added cutting-edge electronics. The 2015 bike’s motor was completely redesigned with a rocker valve system to allow a higher rev limit and larger valves. A six-axis IMU measures the bike’s movement 125-times a second and feeds this data back to an array of electronic assists that include traction control, anti-wheelie, slide control, ABS and launch control.

  • 196bhp – 83ftlb – 199kg
  • Used prices from: £10,500

The R1M lands: 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1M 2KS

In addition to the R1’s electronic assists, the M added semi-active Öhlins suspension and Yamaha’s Communication Control Unit (CCU), which is a GPS-operated datalogger that has its own app and can communicate wirelessly with a smartphone or computer. A carbon fairing and aluminium tank are just the icing on this extremely impressive cake…

  • 196bhp – 83ftlb – 200kg
  • Used prices from: £14,000


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