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The all-new R1 is back, with a vengeance!

Road test by Adrian Percival

The new Yamaha R1 has been eagerly awaited by the Yamaha faithful (including me as an owner of a 2000 model), and we recently got a chance to sample one courtesy of Yamaha in Weybridge. The new bike has seen a total revamp yet retains the traditional R1 features and good looks, which stunned the superbike market when it was released in 1998. The stance and unique looks of the R1 makes this bike stand out from the crowd in a style that could possibly be the Japanese equivalent of the Ducati 916/998.

So is the new R1 a match for the GSXR 1000? It certainly has enough power at 152bhp but if it were just in this category then the R1 has lost out before the game has started. The new R1 is just as extreme as the old model yet can be ridden as softly as you like, or it can become one of the craziest rides you have ever had! Switch on the ignition and everything lights up. You get a pre-flight check of the gauges and digital dash confirming that the clutch, gear lever, throttle and brakes are all where they should be, no big surprises there then. Pulling away, I could immediately feel the R1's usual immense torque at the bottom end of its big 4cyl 1000. The great thing about R1's is the tons of low-end torque with huge middle and top end pull.

The new bike has had some major work done in the weight department with the wheels and brakes seeing major changes. This is the first time that Yamaha have put fuel injection and forced induction on the R1 and it brings it smack up to date in the technology stakes. Get on the new bike and it feels tiny due to its redesigned tank and new fairing design. The R1 still has the familiar Deltabox III frame but is redesigned, with a new swingarm and the dimensions, geometry and satin black finish from the R7 racer. It's more rigid, lighter and holds the engine some 20mm higher as a fully stressed member. I'm sure that Yamaha realised that they couldn't match the GSXR 1000 on the power front using the current engine so they seem to have made this new R1 into a track day blitzer instead. At speed, the bike is calm and well mannered and really feels like 600 in terms of size. The turn in on corners felt remarkably pinpoint and stable, I'm sure that the new engine position also helped with its 'deckability' (is that a word?) I must stress just how impressed I was with the way the new bike rode in comparison to the old model. In a corner, the new R1 is extremely stable and the only time I felt a wobble or two was over the odd bump under pretty hard acceleration. The front end calmed down within a couple of twitches but I never felt that it would become a problem, unlike the old model!

R1's are easy to ride fast but you can get in over your head, this requires a lot of composure from both bike and rider, the R1 won't let you down, it's the rider that I'd be worried about. But it’s not the smooth new fuel injection system, the wide power band of engine or the now tamed and good handling characteristics that makes the new R1 so good.The bike still features a designer titanium pipe, which looks so familiar but in reality is reshaped, lighter and now has titanium header pipes for company. The EXUP valve is still there, but redesigned to be smaller and lighter, better, stronger and faster etc. The radiator has been enhanced to provide increased efficiency with cooling fans that Yamaha claim produce 20% more airflow (that should help with the 'hot leg' syndrome of old).

The brakes were always good on R1's but the new ones are, dare I say it, are even better! The twin 298mm front discs now feature gold-anodised 4-piston calipers and new aluminium pistons and sintered brake pads. Two-finger braking was all that was needed for a comfortable and progressive stopping during the time that I rode it. The rear brake has also been redesigned and is now smaller as a 220mm disc and has a redesigned 2-piston caliper. Even here the new rear brake seems better than the older, larger disc with more feel and stopping power.So, it starts runs, handles and stops well. Anything else? The tail section has been restyled and is significantly sharper. It is now fitted with a rear LED taillight which is a bit dim when viewed from behind, but when the brake lights do come on it's a real attention grabber to say the least. The new bike has higher pegs and lower bars than the old model but it doesn't seem to affect the distance capability of it at all, which surprised me, maybe I'm just the right size for the R1 and am used to the slight pins and needles you tend to get with it on a long run! The first thing that I would recommend and do, as a lot of other rider will also do, is to fit a double bubble screen to take away that 'direct wind blast' from the tiny screen that comes with the bike.

The new R1 should prove an easy bike to look after, with the all new satin black frame and swing-arm it will mean an end to the never ending cleaning of the polished alloy of the old version, and it still comes with an undertray and a colour matched rear hugger to keep the grime at bay on the rear shock assembly. Take note here you other 3 Japanese manufacturers, take a leaf out of Yamaha's book and do this as a standard feature on your sportsbikes.


Having just spent a few days in the company of a GSXR 1000 at the Nurburgring I honestly feel that the R1 is a distinct threat to the crown of 'Best Sportsbike'. It may not have the power of the Gixxer but it certainly has the edge in the handling and agility stakes. I felt a lot more at ease on the new R1 than I did at any time whilst riding the GSXR 1000. There were far less 'moments', the bike felt like a lightweight in comparison to the Suzuki and in my opinion on 'real roads' the R1 is a lot less of a 'Drama Queen than the big Suzi! You get off at the other end with the feeling that you just enjoyed that ride and not one of just having done 5 rounds with Lennox Lewis! There is no substitute for power, both these bikes have much more than most riders can handle...unless you are a pro, as they say, if you must have a big dog, get one that doesn't bite back.... it's your choice!

Tech Specs

  • Engine: DOHC, 20 valve, 4cyl, 998cc
  • Power output: 152bhp @ 10,500rpm
  • Torque: 77.4 ft-lb (107Nm) @ 8500rpm
  • Compression: 11.8:1
  • Weight: 174kg
  • Fuel tank: 17lt
  • Tyres: 120/70 ZR 17 front 190/50 ZR 17 rearSeat
  • Height: 815mm
  • Wheelbase: 1395mm
  • Length: 2,040mm
  • Service intervals: 6000mls / 6 mths
  • Ins: Grp 16


Motorbikes Today Rating

  • Engine: 5 star
  • Braking: 5 star
  • Comfort: 3 star
  • Handling: 4 star
  • Fun factor: 5 star

Overall Rating: 4 star

Read external Yamaha R1 reviews on ciao.


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