Yamaha R1 Review

SINCE its inception in 1998, the Yamaha R1 has been one of the most popular, fastest and best-selling sports motorcycles in the world. With its World Superbike DNA and a steady stream of MotoGP technology, the latest versions are as technologically advanced as anything else currently available.

For 2019, Yamaha has chosen an evolution rather than a revolution for the 2020 YZF-R1 and R1M. Yamaha claims that both bikes are more manageable and refined than previous editions, while also being Euro5 compliant. This is how they did it.

Yamaha R1 Price and Colors

The base model YZF-R1 costs £16,799 and is available in Icon Blue, as pictured, and Midnight Black. New styling tweaks for this year include matte gray front fenders, rear unit flanks and revised front fairing, said to deliver 5% more aerodynamic efficiency; a new fairing was fitted to both models.

The YZF-R1M costs £21,199 and is only available in the Icon Performance color scheme. The 2020 machine has a full carbon tail unit and is easy to spot on the road thanks to the large silver race-style number dashboard adorning the nose cone.

PCP and financing options are to be confirmed and both bikes should be at UK dealers by the second week of October 2019.

Yamaha R1 Engine

Both machines are the first in the Yamaha range to comply with the latest Euro5 regulations. To help achieve this, Yamaha engineers increased combustion efficiency by moving the injectors to come directly out of the intake rather than over it, and by moving the throttle valves closer to the combustion chamber. The new engine is also blessed with revised finger followers, a new oil supply system, revised exhaust ports and a new drive chain.

New 10-hole injectors, a 21.5° spray angle and relocated throttle valves have reduced intake volume by 12% to improve combustion stability, which should contribute to a more efficient engine.

To exceed Euro5 standards, the R1 and R1M are equipped with four catalytic converters. Two at the front of the exhaust chamber and two at the back, just below the connecting pipe.

On the fast Jerez circuit, the engine’s torque and power delivery are unmistakable, with the four catalytic converters doing little to muffle the MotoGP exhaust note. If anything, the engine feels like it pulls better in the lower gears than the outgoing machine. Aside from the handling improvement, most other revisions are hard to spot from the saddle and probably have more to do with emissions and noise regulations, rather than improving the show for the average rider.



The 43mm KYB forks have been modified in hopes of improving rider response. The damper valves have been redesigned and are arranged in a laminated design. The 2020 R1 also gets a modified steering damper, as well as revised rear damper settings.

The morning I spent on R1 gave me the chance to get acquainted with the revised machine and the fast and fluid place of MotoGP. As I slowly increased my speed, I discovered that the R1 was an animated bike, constantly shifting and moving to let you know what’s happening below you. As my pace picked up, I found that the rebound damping could be overcome in fast corners, and even the softest front brake release caused the front end to lift a little more than I would have liked. For those trail-inclined, a little time spent tweaking settings should score this in a few sessions.


The 2020 R1M has high quality Öhlins ERS NPX gas pressure forks with electronic control. The new pressurized element puts some pressure on the fork, which helps reduce the kind of bounce I found on the stock R1 in the morning sessions. The Öhlins electronic rear shock has also received a modified preload.

In the afternoon, we only rode the R1M, which was fitted with slick Bridgestone Battlax V02 tires, further enhancing the bike’s already rail-like cornering ability. The unmanageable bounce of the morning sessions was completely gone and the Öhlins EC system now stiffened up the front end by braking hard while responding to the bumps in Turn 6 in the process. With all the electronic intervention and the slicks, the bike loses some of the feedback it gets from the base R1 model, but it’s noticeably more planted and stable.

Suspension settings via the TFT dashboard are the same as before and can be updated and adjusted via the official R1M app.


Both versions of the new bike have the same Sumitomo calipers as the previous R1 and R1M. Thankfully the braking system is no longer engaged (I found the system a bit off-putting at the Silverstone masterclass), although brake feel and longevity are really the only fly in the ointment.

The first few laps were fine, although as the pace picked up the brakes seemed to lose some grip and feel. With the lever returning to the bar at the end of the session. For general highway driving, you’ll probably never notice it, but if trackdays are your thing, you’ll probably want to make a few changes to the pads, lines, or even calipers to remedy this.

The new bike’s ABS is an IMU-controlled system with 6 measurement axes thanks to a gyroscope and g-force sensors. The IMU and ECU talk to each other 125 times per second. The 2020 bike’s brake control system allows you to select one of two ABS modes: BC1 and BC2. BC1 is a fixed level of ABS sensitivity, while BC2 mode has a flexible ABS sensitivity that depends on the lean angle and position of the machine. In BC2 mode, the ABS sensitivity and intervention speed increase as the lean angle increases, helping to detect brake-related slip and respond appropriately. The ABS cannot be switched off completely and can still be felt on the slicks in the afternoon. You have the option to remove the fuse to completely disable the system. But on a bike this advanced, there’s bound to be warning lights on the dash.

Yamaha YZF-R1 Handling

It is difficult to measure the two machines against each other, and it is not fair to do so. The R1M’s electronic aids and prowess put that machine in a different league from the base model, although it still offers levels of performance and control that will be beyond the abilities of most riders.

Both bikes are physical machines for towing around a track, a reward for a rider who prefers to grab the bike by the neck and push through corners, accelerating out of a corner. The R1M retains that mid-corner stability of the previous model, while the slightly unnerving bouncing action is the only real problem I could find with the base model R1.

Both bikes now have integrated top fairings and tank sides that aim to increase aerodynamic efficiency. While they can help with that, I found it a little harder to grip the sides of the tank with my legs. If you’re looking for a machine to hang on the track, a set of tank grips should be on your wish list.


Along with the aforementioned cornering ABS and electronic suspension, the 2020 versions get a new engine braking configuration with three intervention levels, with launch control now engaged at 9,000 rpm. With the addition of Multi-Level Braking Control and Engine Braking Control, the dashboard has been updated accordingly. But unfortunately it still doesn’t include a fuel gauge, although the fuel warning light is now brighter and can be read even in the 32C Spanish sun.

We love:

  • Electronic devices work perfectly together
  • MotoGP inspired soundtrack
  • brutally fast

We don’t like it:

  • Hard to detect engine updates
  • R1 front end rebound should be adjusted
  • Smooth sides make cornering an effort

Yamaha R1 and YZF-R1M verdict

It would be easy to see the new bikes as simply getting around Euro regulations, and while that may be true in some ways, the differences between the old and new bikes deserve some consideration from those looking to trade in their bikes.

With about 75% of R1 owners taking their bike to the track at least once or twice a year, it’s no surprise that the track is the main focus of the new machine. Rider tools and electronics reaffirm the R1 as one of the most technologically advanced machines in the industry, with a rider interface that, while not straightforward, offers more levels of customization than most know what to do with it! !

For less experienced riders, it will complement their time on the road and track, allowing them to achieve higher cornering speed and lean angle in a safer environment. And for the trackday elite, the new engine braking control means a more personalized package can be created at the click of a button.

The only real problem with the machine that needs your attention is the front brake. A set of super-sticky pads can help, although I think the hardware may need to be changed to get a class-leading front bumper. I think the message is clear when you look at the front end of Yamaha’s supertrick trail weapon, the YZF-R1M GYTR and its gorgeous Brembo Monobloc setup (and feel, I imagine). Don’t let that discourage you from taking it to a dealer for a test drive in October though, you won’t be disappointed.



Engine type 4 cylinder, liquid cooled, inline, 4 stroke, DOHC, 4 valves
Displacement 998cc
Bore x Stroke 79.0mm x 50.9mm
compression ratio 13.0 : 1
Maximum power 147.1 kW (200.0 hp) at 13,500 rpm
maximum note 113.3 Nm (11.6 kg-m) at 11,500 rpm
Lubrication System wet collector
Start system Electric
link type: Wet, multi-disc
fuel delivery fuel injection
ignition system IT
Transmission System Constant mesh, 6 speeds
last broadcast Chain


Frame Diamond
front suspension telescopic fork
travel forward 120mm
distraction angle: 24.0°
Path 102mm
rear suspension Swingarm (shift suspension)
travel backwards 120mm
for brake Hydraulic single disc, Ø320 mm
Rear brake Hydraulic single disc, Ø220 mm
front tires 120/70ZR17M/C (58W) Without camera
rear tire 190/55ZR17M/C (75W) Tubeless


Total length 2.055mm
average width 690mm
Total height 1165mm
seat height 855mm
distance between axis 1.405mm
minus clarity on the floor 130mm
Wet weight (including full oil and fuel tank) 201kg
Fuel tank capacity 17.0 litres
Oil tank capacity 4.9 litres

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