A quantum leap in performance over the mighty FireBlade, the Yamaha YZF-R1 set new standards for power and performance at its launch back in 1998.
New and old models alike still sizzle today.
GO BUY a mint 1998 YZF-R1 now. At the moment they're a good buy. While many have suffered the ravages of time and endless cack-handed wheelies, treat it as an investment. Here is a machine that was so mental that, unless you possessed Quaker-like self-control of the twist-grip, the headstock would be indelibly imprinted on your lid's chin bar. It was more powerful than a jet fighter and had a chassis stiffer than Ron Jeremy in front of a camera.But let's start at the beginning. Kunihiko Miwa was sat at the launch of the cuddly Thunderace at the end of 1995 and was a little unhappy with the lardy machine they'd created. Instead, he decided to build the lightest, most powerful and most compact supersports machine on the market. At the launch Yamaha knew it had a 150bhp, 177kg winner on its hands. It stuffed the 1998 FireBlade and newly-lithe ZX-9R in group tests around the world, at the same time becoming the best-looking sportsbike to ever come out of Japan. But, like the Blade before it, further upgrades softened the R1's character. In 2000 the bike had the rough edges of the motor and suspension smoothed off, giving a linear, stepless power delivery and making the suspension a little more compliant.2002 saw a major engine upgrade with fuel-injection slapped on the four-cylinder motor, a new Deltabox III frame, bigger, 43mm diameter front forks and an aggressive new look with minimal fairing, sleek, angular lines and a pointed, LED rear-light unit. The latest version is the crazy 172bhp, 172 kilo R1. Except that it's not crazy. It's comfy, keeps your nads warm (underseat exhausts, y'see) and is as practical as a superbike can be, while still scaring you shit 'n' witless. Whichever one you can afford and whatever model you finally choose, you'll be blessed with a bike with some of the biggest balls in the superbike class. And yes, that includes Ron Jeremy.
Posted: 17/01/2013 at 22:47
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