The Bike

The Yamaha YZF-R1 motorcycle, introduced in 1998, was the first significant motorcycle in the true litre class (1,000 cc) “handling arms race” between the Japanese Big Four motorcycle manufacturers (Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha). When introduced, it took the class closer to a true racing motorcycle, and increased the handling capabilities.


Before the Honda Fireblade, the basic principle of performance motorcycle models was that as engine capacity got bigger, so did the bike and the length of its chassis. Hence, big motorcycles in the one litre class came in two formats - tourer or Harley Davidson like cruiser. The market opportunity lay in replicating the capabilities of a race bike in a road going machine.

Honda engineers took a 600 cc chassis and installed a 900 cc engine (bored out from a Japanese only 750 cc - the largest block they could get into the chassis), to create the CBR900RR Fireblade. It enjoyed strong sales globally from its introduction in 1992.


Yamaha saw the opportunity in developing their competitor model, using their unique copyrighted Deltabox chassis technology to create improved agility. To increase the agility, Yamaha redesigned the Genesis engine. In traditional inline-4 motorcycle engines the crankshaft, gearbox input and output shafts were parallel in a flat plane; in the R1 the shafts formed a triangle. This made the engine very short, allowing the wheelbase to be shortened, resulting in fast turning handling and an optimized center of gravity.


The launch model Yamaha YZF-R1 was available in white/red or blue. In Europe the blue proved to be the most popular and was in very short supply, added to by early models being subject to a worldwide recall for a clutch problem. This bike has a compression ratio of 12.4:1. with a 6-speed w/multi-plate clutch transmission. Yamaha today describe the launch R1 as the true value of “Kando”.


Few changes were required, apart from paint and graphics, a redesigned gear change linkage and the gear change shaft length was increased for better gear shifting. Fuel tank reserve capacity was reduced from 5.5 liters to 4.0 liters, with the total fuel tank capacity was unchanged at 18 liters. A second worldwide recall to change a coolant hose clamp under the fuel tank which could under hard use come adrift affected the early 1999 models, with all 1998 models were all recalled


Yamaha introduced a series of changes to improve the bike, plus minor changes to the body work to allow for better long duration ride handling. The R1 was an excellent bike to live with on short runs, but due to its quick handling was not a favorite longer run bike.


2001 was the first year the R1 was truly beaten in performance numbers. The Suzuki GSX-R 1000 k1, weighed about the same but produced a bit more power and torque. This also marked the last year that Yamaha used a carburated engine in the R1. Subsequent R1s would employ a fuel injection system.

2002 - 2003

A new fuel injection system was introduced for the 2002 year, which worked like a carburetor by employing a CV carburetor slide controlled by vacuum created by the engine. With a similar power output to the 2001 bike, the engine was developed (larger bore, shorter stroke) to rev higher, faster and for longer. For 2003, the only change was the choice of colors. The previous years all had a “Red” option, but this was replaced by a black with red flames “Limited Edition” which cost an extra $100. Also in 2002, Yamaha released the newly developed “Deltabox III” frame, which, with its hydroformed construction, dramatically reduced the total number of frame welds, thereby greatly improving the frame’s strength and torsional rigidity. The rear end of the motorcycle was updated and streamlined with an l.e.d. taillight. This allowed for very clean rear body lines when choosing one of several common aftermarket modifications, such as removal of the turn signal stalks and stock licence plate bracket; and replacing them with assorted available replacements that “hug” the body or frame. Also, front end lighting was improved in 2002, between the higher definition headlights and also side “parking” lights within the twin-headlight panel, giving more aftermarket possiblities to remove the front blinkers and utilize these front lights as directional or hazzard markers while stopped.


2004 YZF-R1

2004 YZF-R1

With the competition advancing, Yamaha took to a major development. This included style updates like an underseat exhaust, and performance upgrades including radial brakes and for the first time on an R1 Ram-air intake. Furthermore, the wheelie-tendency known from earlier productions is drastically reduced by changing frame geometry and weight properties. The all new engine (no longer used as a stressed member of the chassis) featured a separate top crankcase and cylinder block. The 2004 R1 produces a stated 172 hp at the crankshaft (excluding RamAir) and also weighs 172 kilograms, giving it a theoretical 1:1 power-to-weight ratio. Also newly added for this year was a factory installed steering damper. Combined with the changes to the frame, it helped to eliminate the tendency of the handlebars to shake violently during rapid acceleration or more so during deceleration on downgrade and less-than-perfect surfaces (aka “tank slapping”).

2005 - 2006

In 05,06, Yamaha is now mated with a 180 hp at the flywheel. In addition, due to acceleration instability, the swingarm was extended 20 mm longer. Also, in 2006 the 50th anniversary of Yamaha racing in America, Yamaha released a Limited Edition yellow/white/black bike in original Yamaha racing colors. They also made a Special edition model (SE) featured black paint, front and rear custom Öhlins suspension units developed by the people who work on the YZR-M1 MotoGP bike. Custom forged aluminum Marchesini wheels specifically designed for the SE remove nearly a pound of unsprung weight. A back torque-limiting slipper clutch and an integrated lap timer switch on the right handle bar round out the package making the SE more of a production racer, and brembo brakes. It has an MSRP of $18,000 and only 500 units made for the United States.


An all-new YZF-R1 for the 2007 model year was announced on 9 October 2006. Key features include an all-new inline four-cylinder engine; going back to a more conventional 4-valve per cylinder rather than Yamaha’s trade mark 5-valve genesis layout. Other new features are the Yamaha Chip Control Intake (YCC-I) electronic variable-length intake funnel system, Yamaha Chip Control Throttle (YCC-T) fly-by-wire throttle system, slipper-type clutch, all-new aluminum Deltabox frame and swingarm, six-piston radial-mount front brake calipers with 310 mm discs, a wider radiator, and M1 styling on the new large ram-air ports in the front fairing.

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