Yamaha R1 - The evolution of Yamaha’s iconic flagship sportsbike

Visordown takes a closer look at all the Yamaha YZF-R1 motorcycle models throughout time, from the years 1998 to 2020.

Yamaha R1 60th anniversary

With the launch of the 2020 Yamaha R1 and R1M looming, now seems like a good time to take a peer back into the past and see exactly where the new R1 obtained its racing pedigree from. 

So, let’s rewind 21 years back to 1998 where the R1 as we know it today began. 

P.s if you want to just look at the pictures I won’t be offended.

1998-1999 Yamaha R1


The first iteration of the Yamaha R1 featured a revolutionary ‘stacked gearbox’ design, which allowed for the 998cc inline-four motor to be more compact than ever before. And the shorter engine within the ‘Delta box’ (twin-spar) frame aided the R1’s handling and helped lower the bikes centre of gravity. 

The powerplant was fed by four 40mm Keihin carbs and it claimed a 140-150bhp figure, making the bike capable of 170mph. The even spread of this power was assured thanks to the EUPV (exhaust ultimate power valve), which is an electronic valve in the exhaust designed to improve intake efficiency, boost power output and improve fuel economy. 

The 1999 model received a new colour scheme and saw some minor modifications such as a redesigned shifter length and reduced fuel reserve capacity (from 5.5 litres to 4.0 litres).

2000-2001 Yamaha R1

Yamaha took note of the improvements that were needed on the previous model and got to work fixing them. The 2000 model R1 wasn’t a redesign, but more of a tweak on the previous. 

The most drastic changes came to the engine internals, which housed lighter cams, an upgraded transmission (with a taller first gear) and an upgraded engine management system. The carbs where also re-jetted for better initial throttle response. 

Aesthetically the fairings remained similar, but the front became slightly sharper and more slippery - with a 3% reduction in the bikes drag coefficient. Also, the tank and seat were reshaped and rider ergonomics adjusted to place more of the rider's weight over the front end.   

Overall, the bike was around 5 pounds lighter, and thanks to the repositioned rider position was a sharper and more responsive motorcycle. 


Max power: 148.8hp/ 109.5kW @ 10,000rpm

Max Torque: 108Nm @ 8,500rpm

Top speed: 172mph 

2002 - 2003 Yamaha R1

Along with all-around sharper bodywork, this was the first model R1 to be fuel injected, well, kinda. It used a CV carb slide controlled by the vacuum created by the engine, but fueling is ultimately dictated by the engine management system. 

New cylinder sleeves with high silicon and magnesium content were added to help reduce oil consumption and heat distortion, with the cooling system being modified to aid this effect. And the exhaust ports housed a new four-into two-into-one manifold design (instead of four-into-one on the previous model). 

The biggest change to this model came in the form of a new hydroformed ‘Delta Box III’ frame, which helped to increase the bikes rigidity by 30%. 

The rear tail light was swapped out for a LED unit and the large rectangular indicators were replaced with blade style blinkers. 


Max Power: 152hp / 110.8kW @ 10,500rpm 

Max Torque: 104.9Nm @ 8,5000rpm 

Top speed: 167mph 

2004-2005 Yamaha R1


Major changes to the model included a completely new ‘Delta box V’ frame and fresh bodywork, which at the rear, hosted an under seat twin exhaust. The ‘Ram-air’ assisted engine was redesigned with new crankcases and a sleeveless cylinder block, which combined with other modifications made it the most power R1 to date. 

Internally, the clutch basket swapped out old school diaphragm springs for coil springs, and the basket was modified to reduce weight by 5%. 

The model was equipped with a factory-fitted steering damper to help reduce head wobble. And the brakes were improved to a pair of radial-mounted calipers deployed with a radial master cylinder. 


Max Power: 171hp/126kW @ 12,500rpm

Max Torque: 107Nm @10,500rpm

Top speed: 184mph

2006 Yamaha R1


The only things changed on the 2006 model R1 was the swing arm (20mm longer) to help stabilise the bike during acceleration. But, Yamaha did release a limited edition (SP) 50th-anniversary model in original Yamaha Racing yellow (made famous by Kenny Roberts). 

The SP was equipped with custom Ohlins suspension front and rear, forged Marchesini wheels, slipper clutch and an integrated lap timer.  Only 1000 models were produced. 

Other specs for the mass-produced production model remained identical. 

2007- 2008 Yamaha R1


Featuring an all-new engine - with four valves per cylinder instead of the conventional Yamaha five - and M1 styling, the 2007 R1 used race-derived technology to make it a potent force in the cutthroat superbike market. 

It featured YCC-T or rather a fly by wire throttle, and chip controlled intake snorkels (YCC-I), which could be adjusted in length depending on revs - allowing for better torque distribution without negatively impacting top-end power. 

It housed a slipper clutch as standard and swapped four-pot calipers for six-pot. 


Max Power: 180hp /132.4kW @12,500rpm

Max Torque: 112.7Nm @ 10,000rpm

Top speed: 172mph

2009- 2014 Yamaha R1


The year of the ‘Big Bang’, when the R1 received a new MotoGP derived cross plane crank motor, which in essence, puts the connecting rods at 90° from the next with an uneven firing interval of 270°- 180°- 90°- 180° - the first production motorcycle of its kind. 

The bike had pre selectable riding modes added to the existing YCC-T fly-by-wire throttle system: Standard, A (most powerful), and B. 

It still possessed the under tail exhausts like the previous model, but that’s where the similarities end. Everything was new or tweaked, including the electronic steering damper, magnesium subframe and rear shock absorber linkage. 

In 2012 the model received traction control and an updated nose unit. 


Max Power: 182hp/ 133.9kW @ 12,500rpm

Max Torque: 115.5Nm @ 10,000rpm

Top speed: 176.7mph

2015 - 2019 Yamaha R1 & R1M


After six years of the ‘Bang’, Yamaha deemed it time the R1 got a full-upgrade. The 2015 R1 is smaller, lighter, more nimble and more powerful than the previous models. It builds on the ‘Big Bangs’ two-in-one engine philosophy and turns everything up to eleven.  

It has an advanced electronics package which includes: 

  • Traction Control (TCS) 

  • Slide Control System (SCS) (first ever on a production bike)

  • Antiwheelie Lift Control System (LIF) 

  • Linked antilock brakes

  • Launch Control System (LCS)

  • Quick Shift System (QSS) 

  • And selectable power modes

The TFT dash interface communicates critical information to the rider, and the bike itself is monitored by a Bosch 6-Axis IMU - keeping it shiny side up even when it’s on the limit of traction.

The limited-run R1M model has electronic semi-active Öhlins suspension, carbon fibre bodywork, Yamaha’s Communication Control Unit (CCU), Y-TRAC data logging system, and track-focused Bridgestone tyres. 


Max Power: 197hp @ 13,500rpm

Max Torque: 1124.Nm @ 11,500rpm

Top speed: ??

2020 Yamaha R1 and R1M

Sharing much in common with the previous model, the 2020 R1 has a few performance tweaks that once more improve the breed. 

They include tweaks to the fairings to improve aerodynamics by up to 5%, APSG (Accelerator Position Sensor Grip) to improve throttle feel (needed), two different levels of ABS (selectable), and a whole lot more… (see below)

2020 Yamaha YZF-R1 Specifications

  • Aggressive new M1-style cowling

  • Fully integrated bodywork for improved rider/machine unity

  • Aerodynamic efficiency increased by over 5%

  • Reinforced feeling of quality and M1 DNA

  • Uprated suspension for refined surface feedback

  • New 2-mode Brake Control (BC) cornering ABS

  • New 3-mode Engine Brake Management (EBM)

  • Optimised Launch Control System (LCS)

  • New APSG ride-by-wire throttle

  • Enhanced combustion efficiency and high rpm performance

  • Increased braking performance

  • New settings for steering damper

  • Latest Bridgestone Battlax RS11 tyres

  • Uprated TFT instruments with BC and EBM indicators

  • EU5 compliant engine

2020 YZF-R1M New Features

  • Highly sophisticated Öhlins ERS NPX gas pressurised forks

  • Lightweight carbon tail cowl

  • Aggressive new M1-style carbon cowling

  • Stamped with its unique production number

  • Updated Y-TRAC and YRC settings apps

  • Fully integrated bodywork for improved rider/machine unity

  • Aerodynamic efficiency increased by over 5%

  • Reinforced feeling of quality and M1 DNA

  • New 2-mode Brake Control (BC) cornering ABS

  • New 3-mode Engine Brake Management (EBM)

  • Optimised Launch Control System (LCS)

  • New APSG ride-by-wire throttle

  • Enhanced combustion efficiency and high rpm performance

  • Increased braking performance

  • New settings for steering damper

  • Latest Bridgestone Battlax RS11 tyres with 200-section rear

  • Uprated TFT instruments with BC and EBM indicators

  • EU5 compliant engine

Now, that’s a lot of R1’s, but which one takes your fancy? 

Let us know in the comments below.


Ian Judd's picture

I'm particularly fond of the 06 you show for some reason... :)

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purbaha's picture

love this bike R1 , the 2017 model in black looks just like bat-bike its so aesthetically pleasing , love its narrow lights and stealthy look , 2006 R1 in black also looks cool but not like 2017


Surely the exhaust power valve was called EXUP. That's what they put on the sticker on the bikes after all!!

Removed a fair few of them after seizing solid due to lack of maintenance!!

The R1 motorbike is very beautiful and also fun to ride. We are 5 friends and we all have friends R1 bike, There is also a boy in my office and he has Yamaha R2, but when we all friends our own bike ride so my colleague also join us. and SEO experts is my office https://seoexperts.pk/

The 2006 model had the most unique look. Now the New 2020 R125 looks sharp and amazing. https://www.mototechindia.com/yamaha-r125-price-specs-mileage-launch-india/ even the smallest R1 has a premium look and build quality. I love the new Yamaha R125 as it looks much better than its competitors in this segment. Especially the blue colored looks are so premium and exclusive. My second favorite is the 2014 model, it had an amazing headlamps setup. The front end resembles to be a face, it looks cute and it is probably the most cute headlamp setup that gives it a cool face.

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