Used Bike

Retro File: 1998 Yamaha R1

Yamaha’s original R1 is, even by today’s standards, a gloriously fast and furious superbike. In 1998 it was staggering. Tempted? Here’s everything you need to know about buying, owning and riding this modern classic

Click to read: Yamaha R1 owners reviewsYamaha R1 specs and to see the Yamaha R1 image gallery.


Yamaha managed to keep the fact they were building a 1000cc superbike to kick the FireBlade’s arse very quiet. In charge of the project was a young designer called Kunihiko Miwa, and rather than try and breathe new life into the YZF Genesis 750 motor or lighten the Thunderace’s massive lump, Miwa started afresh with the R1, developing some radical new ideas.

Yamaha has long been a company known for its innovative approach to bike design, and the R1 was to be no exception. Miwa took full advantage of the vast R&D department, not to mention the lessons learnt in World Superbikes, to create a bike that would move the whole superbike class on. Both the chassis and engine were developed simultaneously. The engineers were told to be inventive, to come up with new ideas, and if they were good then the project would use them. There were no hard and fast rules: the R1 just had to beat the FireBlade, hence the then-unusual 1000cc displacement.

Yamaha had learnt with its YZF750 that while racing was important, it didn’t necessarily translate into sales. The Blade still outsold the YZF750 because it had more power, despite the fact it couldn’t race. When it was launched the 1998 R1 had the highest power-to-weight ratio of any production bike, and not just because of its huge power – the bike was also lighter and shorter than the competition. The reaction was amazing. For the first year you simply didn’t see an R1 in dealers because they were all sold out.  More R1s were sold in the UK than anywhere else.

Continue the 1998 Yamaha R1 Retro File

R1 Trivia

  • It took Yamaha six years and a complete engine redesign before they beat the original bike’s 140bhp by more than 2bhp.
  • Miwa’s last R1 was the 2002/03 model, before he handed the project over to Yoshikazu Koike, who designed the first underseat-pipe R1.
  • Obviously aware of its theft potential, the R1 came with a plug built into the wiring loom to fit an alarm.
  • Yamaha claimed the R1’s aluminium handlebars were designed to absorb vibrations to increase rider comfort.
  • The R1’s headlights were designed to give the bike a ‘mean and intimidating’ stare.

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