Expert guide to: 20 years of the Yamaha YZF-R1

bikes for sale

1 of 1

With carbon-fibre parts, GPS datalogging and a crossplane crank motor making it sound like Valentino Rossi’s M1 MotoGP bike, Yamaha’s revised- R1M can claim to be the most advanced sportsbike ever from Japan, even if at £20,199 it’s also one of the most expensive.

But you can live the R1 dream for much less. There are now 20 years of R1s available and while the technology and performance has markedly improved, they all share a level of quality that makes them a great used buy.


MCN has taken a look back through the last two decades to explain the differences between the models and what to look out for if you're considering a purchase.

An original Yamaha YZF-R1 for sale

The original - 1998

Powerful, light and full of still-relevant tech like a stacked gearbox and monoblock brakes, the Yamaha YZF-R1 was launched to compete with the Honda CBR900RR Fireblade and the Ducati 916. Yamaha wanted to blow the competition away with performance, and although the R1 only made 150bhp (naked bike territory these days), that was 22bhp more than the Blade and 41bhp more than the Ducati!

Watch out for

Seized EXUP valves, (a factor across the series), gearbox that jumps out of fifth and warped discs.

A fuel-injected Yamaha YZF-R1 for sale

The first injection model – 2002

The first injected R1 got a small bump in power and has a titanium exhaust making it the lightest R1 money can buy. The looks are also sharpened up with a switch to a black frame and swingarm, and a letterbox tail light.

Watch out for

Non-standard cosmetics. Panels and undertrays are getting harder to come by.

An example of the 'prettiest' Yamaha YZF-R1 for sale

The beautiful one - 2004

This is the most beautiful R1 ever made featuring sharper styled bodywork, new suspension and radial calipers. It’s the first to feature an underseat exhaust and power is up to 165bhp, probably because the Suzuki GSX-R1000 has been released with 160bhp. The R1 further cements its reputation as a maniacal machine, requiring more skill to ride fast than its rivals.

Watch out for

Fluctuating idle, related to throttle sensor problems.

A four-valve Yamaha YZF-R1 for sale

Four is the magic number - 2007

The first time Yamaha ditch their five-valve system in favour of a more popular four-valve arrangement in the R1. This version boasts 170bhp, fly-by-wire, variable-length inlet stacks, new chassis and styling.

Watch out for

Noisy bottom-end. Listen around the generator area.

A crossplane crank Yamaha YZF-R1 for sale

Bring the noise - 2009

The first generation of the R1 to feature the famous crossplane crank engine providing an amazing soundtrack and 179bhp. The new engine adds weight but also improves low down power.

Watch out for

Rattling cam-chain tensioner at start-up, grabby clutch on early models, fuel level sensor failure.

A 2015 Yamaha YZF-R1 for sale

The Doctor is in - 2015

This is essentially a lower-spec version of the 2011 Yamaha YZF-M1. The 2015 model is lighter and nimbler than before. It has Kayaba suspension and the same booming crossplane motor as the previous version, plus excellent rider aids like the MotoGP-inspired slide control.

Watch out for

Front sub-frame can snap if dropped.

The 2018 Yamaha YZF-R1M

YZF-R1M - 2018

The halo model of the two-tier R1 family comes with improved Öhlins semi-active suspension and refined anti-wheelie software. It has a genuine 188bhp at the wheel, yet is very usable.

MCN says: "The sexiest bike that Japan produce. Bar none." Want to buy one? £20,199, £375 a month on a four-year PCP deal.

Find your next Yamaha YZF-R1 at MCN Bikes for Sale.

Read the latest stories causing a buzz this week in Promos…

MCN News

By MCN News