Buyer Guide: Yamaha R1 Series

The ultimate buyers guide to the R1 written by the people who actually own the bike…

Click to view: Yamaha R1 owners reviews, specs and image galleries.

A few bikes have such an impact they’re known outside the two wheeled world. Harley Davidson is one – ok, that’s just the brand. The Honda Gold Wing’s another. Ditto Honda’s FireBlade. And the subject of this buyer guide, Yamaha’s mighty R1 is also so big-time that people who know zip about bikes may well have heard of it anyway.

How come? Well it moved the sports class forward another step when it appeared in 1998, it’s always been spanking gorgeous to look at and it even figures big in modern music culture thanks to numerous appearances in hip hop videos and lyrics.

Hype aside, it’s simply an effing stunning sports bike. The GSX-R1000 may have a stronger engine, certain versions of the Kawasaki’s ZX-10R may be more exciting (read scary), Honda’s Fireblade better built but as an overall package the R1’s a tough act to beat. It’s outrageously fast, stops and handles like a GP bike of decade ago and has a real presence which makes every ride feel special.

Loads of R1 owners took the time to fill in the on-line survey and tell us about their bike – that’s what the buyer guide's all about, getting the low down on a bike from the people who own them and live with them every day. And guess what? They all love their R1s. There’s the odd minor grumble but nothing more. From the early classic ‘98 machine with its brutal power and lively handling through to the more refined but even faster recent models it’s impossible to pick a duffer – because there isn’t one.

Yamaha YZF-R1 Specifications


Engine l/c, 20v, in-line four, 998cc Power 150bhp @ 10,00rpm Torque 80ftlb @ 8500rpm
Dry weight 177kg Seat height 815mm Fuel capacity 18 litres Top speed 175 mph


Engine l/c, 20v, in-line four, 998cc Power 150bhp @ 10,000rpm Torque 80ftlb @ 8500rpm
Dry weight 175kg Seat height 815mm Fuel capacity 18 litres Top speed 175mph


Engine l/c, 20v, in-line four, 998cc Power 153bhp @ 10,900rpm Torque 77ftlb @ 8200rpm
Dry weight 174kg Seat height 815mm Fuel capacity 17 litres Top speed 175mph


Engine l/c, 20v, in-line four, 998cc Power 180bhp @ 11,000rpm Torque 77ftlb @ 10,500rpm
Dry weight 172kg Seat height 825mm Fuel capacity 18 litres Top speed 180mph


Engine l/c, 16 valve, in-line four, 998cc Power 187bhp @ 12,500rpm Torque 87ftlb @ 10,000rpm
Dry weight 177kg Seat height 835mm Fuel capacity 18 litres Top speed 180mph

The nuts & bolts


  • Top tyres

1) Michelin Pilot Power 2CT – 27%
2) Pirelli Diablo III – 23%
3) Pirelli Diablo Super Corsa – 10%
=4) Pirelli Diablo Corsa
=4) Dunlop D209

Favorite tyres are Michelin Pilot Power 2CTs. Owners say they last better than average and grip well in all conditions including heavy rain. Pirelli Diablo III are also very popular and get rave reviews for road and track use. Pirelli Diablo Super Corsas are definitely more of a race or track day tyre but get them warm and they’re almost impossible to lose traction on.

The original ‘98/’99 bikes came on Metzeler MEZ3s which were rubbish at the time and ten years on will be even worse if any bikes still have them fitted. The ‘00/’01machines had Dunlop D207s as standard – not a terrible tyre at the time but outdated now and there’s loads of better options available.
Average front tyre life is 5,328 miles and rears typically last 3,125 miles. Ride hard and a track day or two will kill a pair but take it easy and 6,000 from a rear and 8,000 from a front’s possible.

What goes wrong
It’s a reliable bike. Only six owners in our survey reported faults other than normal wear and tear. And they’ve got 65 years of R1 ownership among them in total. Some gearboxes gave problems, particularly on the earliest (‘98/’99) bikes and some of the slightly later (‘00/’01) models too. Typically the detention spring breaks and second gear’s lost. If so you’re looking at £500 plus to get it sorted.

The famous EXUP power valve in the exhaust can seize or jam up. This mucks up the power delivery but doesn’t cause the bike to break down. Some owners lose it when they fit a full exhaust system, others need to keep the moving parts and cables in good condition. Apparently leaving the bike outside in the rain can accelerate the problem.

Clutches aren’t the most durable but they’re kind of a consumable and most seem to last fine unless owners give them a really hard time.

Charging system faults, often with the reg/reg failing, are not unheard of and again, it’s the older bikes that suffer more.

Some machines use a fair bit of oil. Yamaha say up to one litre per thousand miles is acceptable. That means checking the level every regularly is a must.

Owner Case Study: "I’m on my fifth R1"

Stan Fisher’s had most models of R1.

"I started with a 1998 one. It was great but I fell off it in France and smashed it up. So I bought another one the same to replace it. I ride with a group of lads who have all sorts of bikes and I’ve tried most of them but I like R1s best so I’m sticking with them. I’m not a Yamaha fanatic with the name written through me like a stick of rock – if a different bike came along and it was better, I’d get one instead. Anyway, I saw a 2001 R1 for a good price so I bought that and sold my other one. I kept that and did 35,000 miles on it. By then it was a bit worn so I got rid of it and bought a 2004 model. Now I’ve just bought the SP. It was a bit of an impulse buy really.

"I go on R1 forums a fair bit and most SPs seem to be bought as investments or to look at. I wanted to buy one to cane the thing. I flew to Scotland, bought it and rode it home 490 miles in one day. I had to have a day off work to recover. Some people may tour on them but it’s not for me. I’m going to the Nurburgring soon and I’ll trailer my bike there. I’m pleased with the SP although I haven’t had a chance to set it up properly or give it  a real thrashing. You can’t go mad on one straight away; they behave to a degree then they can spit you off. The R1’s got more refined over the years. I wouldn’t say better but more refined."

It’s one of the biggest complaints about modern bikes – the finish isn’t good enough. But R1 owners seem to be pretty impressed with their bikes with the possible exception of Sarah Hanson who recons the paint and heel plates on her 29,000 mile 2004 model are tattier than they should be. There’s a few grumbles about fasteners and bolt heads rusting, ditto the odd mention of the brake discs showing some rust and wheel paint not being up to the job but a staggeringly impressive 83% of owners didn’t have any complaints about the bikes finish. Some went as far as saying it was better than other bikes such as Suzukis they’d owned.

All but two bikes in our survey had been modified in some way. Exhausts are popular. Akrapovic is the number one brand and no-one’s got anything bad to say about them other than the price.

Few owners tune their engines in any way – most recon the bike’s fast enough as it is. Some fit a Power Commander to optimize engine performance with their exhaust. The odd person’s got velocity stacks (by Graves) modified the airbox and just one (Brian Young) has actually done any other engine tuning. What is popular is lowering the gearing. A 15 tooth front sprocket is the most popular way of doing this.

Steering dampers are also very popular. Ohlins is the favorite brand. Re-working or re-valving the front forks is also common. A few people recon earlier bikes didn’t turn in so well and this helps and some of these machines are old enough to warrant it anyway – remember replacing fork oil should be done every two years. Double bubble screens are also common as they decrease wind blast and help taller owners see the clocks. Pazzo short clutch and brake levers are surprisingly widespread too and owners claim they improve feel and control as well as looking nifty.

Posh rear shocks (Öhlins are the top choice again) and light weight wheels (Marvic) are the sign of a hard riding R1 owner and there’s a handful of each in the survey.

Most riders are happy with the brakes but of those who’ve tried other brake pads, EBC HH are the most popular followed by much smaller numbers of Carbonne Loraine and Brembo.

Running costs
It’s a range topping sports bike so don’t expect to run it for pence but an R1 shouldn’t hit your wallet as hard as something like a super sports Ducati. Servicing is every 4,000 miles / six months on the ‘98/’99 bikes and every 6,000 miles / 12 months on all later ones. The big service with valve clearances is only sche duled every 24,000 miles which is much less frequent than many bikes. Average prices paid for services are £108 for the minor, £187 for intermediate and £310 for the major one. A couple of riders paid over £600 for the major service – we’d guess that’s at a main dealer, definitely includes the valve checks and might include a tyre or something else too.

Average fuel consumption is 37mpg and typical chain life is 10,600 miles. All in all that’s not as scary as you may expect from such a powerful machine.

Owner Case Study: "I’ve got two"

Andrew Oakes has one for the road and another to go racing with..

"I’ve had my 1998 R1 for over three years now. I love it to death. It’s just a toy really. I used to commute on it but I use a van mainly for work so there’s no need. It’s done over 40,000 miles now although the clocks don’t show that as they stopped working and I replaced them. It had done 14,000 when I got it. I did about ten track days on it last year and around eight the year before. It went well but I was dragging the pegs everywhere.

"I’m a big bloke and it was on the original suspension which didn’t help as it must have been pretty tired. I got it re-worked by PDQ and that’s made a huge difference. My only complaint is it eats tyres and chains and sprockets. It’s easier on tyres now the suspension’s been done but it still gets through them. To be fair I ride like a loon so it’s to be expected really and I con’t blame the bike.

"I’ve got a year 2000 one too which I’m planning to take racing but something always gets in the way so I haven’t managed yet. To be honest it’s cost a fair bit to prep it up and get it ready. The plan is to race it in the Derby Phoenix pre-injection class. It’s an unlimited class and I can’t think of much on carbs that’ll be as quick out of the box."