Yamaha R1 & R1M Review (2020)


On the face of it the changes might not be revolutionary but Yamaha has given its 2020 YZF-R1 and YZF-R1M a significant revamp to counter both stricter emissions regulations and ever-improving rivals on track.



It’s easy to cast an eye over the spec sheet or a photo and dismiss the 2020 bike as not having enough difference because it looks the same. However, the main objective from the Japanese manufacturer cannot be underestimated – the goal was to create a litre sports bike that complied with Euro 5 but lost little, if any, performance. And that goes for the R1M too, with a new and exclusive set of Ohlins suspension to go some way to justifying the price.

The outgoing model, introduced in 2015 and updated in 2018, has been a popular weapon for track dayers as well as road riders given its unique engine character, exhaust bark, ease of use and the availability of upgrades. It’s a good looker (even with those ‘droopy eye’ headlights) and suits riders of all shapes and sizes.

Overall, the upgrades can be categorised in four main boxes; Engine, Electronics, Aerodynamics and Chassis, details of which follow. So, despite sharing its DNA with the existing model, the updated R1 promises to be a vastly improved package.

Off to Jerez in sunny Southern Spain we went to find out by riding both bikes back-to-back at the International Press Launch, with a couple of handy guide riders available to show us the way around; the 2019 Pata Yamaha World Superbike pairing of Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark.


>> Read all about what Euro 5 emissions regulations mean to motorcycles, here.

2020 Yamaha R1 and R1M - first thoughts
The press launch took place at Jerez with three twenty-minute track sessions on each bike determined as long enough to understand the upgrades.


Yamaha YZF-R1 and YZF-R1M (2020) Price

Considering the work that’s gone into the new R1 so it matches the performance of the outgoing version, then a £300 price hike up to £16,799 seems very reasonable. Whereas the R1M comes with a £21,999 tag (up by £1,800 on the outgoing model, mainly down to the Ohlins) which puts into the realms of the S1000RR, Panigale V4S and RSV4 1100 Factory. Both are available from the middle of October (the R1M via the online purchasing system), well ahead of many 2020 models.

The R1 is available in two colours options: Icon Blue or Midnight Black while the R1M comes only in the Icon Performance, thus showing off its full carbon fibre fairinged beauty.


Power and torque

I sound like a broken record already but the engine upgrades (details of which are below) have allowed Yamaha to conform with legislation while retaining a claimed peak 197bhp, identical to the outgoing model, while torque is marginally increased from 112.4 Nm / 82.9 lb-ft @ 11,500 rpm to 113.3Nm / 83.6 lb-ft @ 11,500rpm.

It’s a hearty figure when you consider the effort required, and those four-cylinders are just crying out to be released from its Euro-5 harness.


New styling, suspension, electronics & engine mean that despite sharing its DNA with the existing model, the 2020 Yamaha YZF-R1 promises vast improvements.

Above: Mann shows van der Mark the way… maybe


Engine, gearbox and exhaust

While on the surface the upgrades don’t appear that sizeable, it’s underneath where the magic lies; the crossplane engine has had a boost - a new cylinder head with intake volume reduced by 12%, new rocker arm and cam design, a new fuel injection system with new throttle bodies, four (yes, four) catalysers in the exhaust chamber with a quieter muffler and a revised oil system resulting in 5% less bhp loss at high rpm.

The uneven 270° - 180° - 90° - 180° firing sequence not only gives each piston and con rod its own individual and separate movement but continues to emit a unique and audibly agreeable deep howl. The overall package compliments itself providing improved combustion and more direct throttle response, the sensitivity of which is just about noticeable at the first few degrees of twist, then again when in long-radius corners, of which there are several at Jerez, keeping the power application smooth and allowing me to worry about the right line.

I’ve been spoiled recently by spending plenty of time on the BikeSocial BMW S1000RR M Performance long-termer recently, with its straight through full Akrapovic system and the resulting sensational mid-range torque. Comparing the Euro-5 friendly Yamaha is slightly unfair when pulling out of the last hairpin onto the start/finish straight, the initial surge is quite restrained up to 9,000rpm, but then it fires itself into the middle distance, surging through the revs begging to be changed up to a gear at 13,500rpm. And a full throttle only then drops to 11,000rpm.

I had the opportunity to play with power settings too. Of the three my initial and rather obvious choice would have been to have the bike on its sportiest setting of ‘1’ but for added smoothness when feeding on the power out of the tighter corners, I was advised that ‘2’ would be more appropriate. For each degree of throttle opening in setting ‘1’, the butterfly valve opens one degree too, whereas on setting ‘2’, each degree of throttle opening equates to ¾ of a degree of the same valve, until offering full power at one-third of the throttle application. Make sense? Even the racers present were using ‘2’ for softer acceleration and better feel, coupling personal traction and slide control settings alongside.



Other than the subtleties with the throttle, when riding the engines changes are tough to separate between the old and new bikes, which is good because if there was one thing this latest generation R1 has going for it was its zesty and characterful motor. It offers the rider plenty of on-and-off throttle feedback and an engine tone deep enough to threaten the beautiful modern day V4’s yet unique enough to be easily distinguishable. Its true potential will be released once the emission-regulated exhaust system is replaced with an after-market version which will allow the gases to flow plus a weight-saving of approximately 6-10kg. Yamaha will be offering an official full Akrapovic system, for instance. The factory World and British Superbike teams will be delighted to get their hands on the 2020 bike as early as this.

Yamaha’s engineers offered the option of road or race shift for the six track sessions, I chose for the latter. The gearbox performance isn’t affected but it’s the inversion of the gear lever allowing for optimal upchanges when still at lean coming out of the hairpin at Turn 2 and the quick change of direction into the faster left of Turn 3. Either way, the short and precise throw between gears going up through the ‘box is almost perfect. Considering the bikes were relatively new and were being hammered on track by a bunch of experienced riders, no gears were missed gear going up. An even quicker change (i.e. less acceleration loss… and we’re talking fractions here) would have been a nice differential between R1 and R1M given the M’s track-orientation. Down the gearbox and the new Engine Brake Management (EBM) with its three settings determine the amount of interference from the electronics. I tried both 1 and 3 and found 3 with a weaker engine braking intervention to be more beneficial for my style of braking, which can be quite late and strong. For the three slowest corners at Jerez, I’d been mainly using second gear but occasionally flirting with first – the advantage to going down that extra gear was the additional engine braking plus a stronger low rpm drive out of the corner though getting the gearbox through neutral and into first proved less-than-slick on a couple of occasions. The latest gen R1 has always offered a strong yet manageable drive through the rev range with a highly effective mid-range so utilising the electronics and finding the right settings to suit my style of riding was poignant.



Handling, suspension, chassis and weight

With minimal chassis changes, the usual excellent standard of handling we know and love from the 2015-18 model is once again apparent. Under extreme test conditions on the Jerez Grand Prix circuit the Yamaha demonstrated its ability to turn quickly and hold the line especially in the faster corners such as the long, uphill right-hander at Turn 5. Squaring off the corner and feeding in full power before the exit of the corner is in view gives a better chance of big mph along the back straight. It also accentuates any flaws in your personal settings, suspension, tyres of chassis geometry and after three sessions on the R1, equipped with Bridgestone R11 tyres (the OE spec rubber are RS11) and I could only feel the rear slide twice – after deliberately pushing harder each lap. All in the name of a thorough test of course.

In the shorter, tighter corners, the front did tend to push wide when I lost a little patience and tried to get on the gas too early. The Panigale V4S and S1000RR both seem to turn tighter with a little extra mid-corner throttle.

An 860mm set height is the highest of all the sports bikes yet the slimmer waist where the fuel tank meets seat courtesy of the engine configuration, makes it easier to mount and flat-foot than the Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory for instance. The pegs are perfectly placed for me; not too high to cause leg comfort issues yet offering plenty of ground clearance not to scrape the Jerez surface.

Aerodynamically, the screen is marginally higher but airflow and therefore efficiency has been improved by 5% as a result of the hard-to-spot front fairing revisions and new material used for the intake. Jerez has several high-speed changes of direction which accentuate where the Yamaha carries its weight. Tipping the scales at 201kg, the R1 is by no means a heavyweight, yet the uneven firing sequence and a hefty crankshaft can

On the R1, the internals of the 43mm USD Kyaba (KYB) forks and matching rear shock have been upgraded with claimed improvements to the front-end feel/rear tyre grip, confidence and higher corner speed but you’d need some seriously complex data and days worth of running to distinguish a difference between old and new.




Here is where the R1M comes into its own. The same engine, electronics and fairing upgrades as the R1 but with a wider rear section rear tyre (200), carbon bodywork, polished tank and swingarm plus wireless communications via an app to assess your track performance, the race version is also equipped some of the highest specification Ohlins suspension ever seen on a production motorcycle – the same forks as on Ducati’s Panigale V4R but this time the NPX pressurised forks are electronically-controlled.

And, for the press launch, a set of sticky slick Bridgestone V02 tyres, the racier partner of this 2020 duo showed even more agility.

To demonstrate how good the R1M is, Pata Yamaha World Superbike rider, Alex Lowes, took her for a spin and managed a lap time of 1m43.9, compared to his race pace on his World Superbike of 1m41.5. Just 2.4s difference on a bike that costs 6-times less, and that you or I could buy.

Stability and grip thanks to the Ohlins/Bridgestone partnership were noticeably brilliant, it was like riding a completely different bike. Silky initial turn-in with the movement across the tyre as the lean angle increased as smooth as you’d want it. The bike sits poised and I’m confident in both the turn angle and balance as I look to pile on the power. At the end of the two fast straights into heavy braking zones, the bike is steady as the electronics all come together to work harmoniously with the rubber bits, springy bits and stoppy bits. Any kind of unexpected movement would be unnerving yet the R1M behaves so well given the conditions. With stability, my only gripe is the…


Above: the gorgeous gold synonymous of those super plush Ohlins


Yamaha YZF-R1 and YZF-R1M (2020) Brakes

Despite having new brake pads on this 2020 model, the unlinked brakes are not a patch on the impeccable Brembo’s used by Aprilia and Ducati for their litre sports machines. Pulling hard on the front brake lever at the end of the two straights made for a strenuous finger and forearm workout – so much so that the effort into the lever doesn’t match the stopping power. To caveat that point though, this was on track in hot conditions and at quick track day pace. I’m not much of a rear brake user but on occasion it was required, as was first gear. And thankfully its was Jerez-style run off and not Cadwell Park.

On the road, the hard pressure requirement wouldn’t be too noticeable and quite frankly it’s handy to know the ABS works so effectively. Plus, Yamaha’s improved Engine Brake Management system allows for three levels of engine brake force as we mentioned earlier, so find the setting that suits you whether on track or on the road depending on how much engine brake interference vs. engine speed that you prefer.

A new Brake Control system is more commonly known as cornering ABS on other models. The two settings give differences in brake and ABS sensitivity depending on cornering angle. Handy for those who prefer to trail brake deep into a corner. Turn one at Jerez, for example, an uphill and late apex right-hander is testing enough to carry corner enough speed and the correct corner entry to maximise a quick getaway towards two. Confidence grows with use because keeping the brakes on into the lean or even giving it an additional squeeze once in the corner would be discouraged by any road-based motorcycle instructor.





The hair-splitting gets finer each time a new or updated model in this road-legal sports bike category is unveiled. Yamaha’s new 2020 bike is the most expensive from the Japanese quartet plus the 2019 German entrant but is the only one to be fully Euro-5 compliant, here are the highlights:



Yamaha R1 2020

Kawasaki ZX-10R Performance

Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade

Suzuki GSX-R1000R

BMW S1000RR Sport


998cc, liquid-cooled, forward-inclined parallel four

998cc, liquid-cooled, inline-four

999c, liquid-cooled, inline-four

1000cc, liquid-cooled, inline-four

999c, liquid-cooled, inline-four


197bhp (147.1kW) @ 13,500rpm

200.2bhp (149.3kW) @ 13,500rpm

189bhp (141kW) @ 13,000rpm

199.2bhp (148.5kW) @ 13,200rpm

203.8 bhp (152 kW) @ 13,500rpm


83.6 lb-ft (113.3Nm) @ 11,500rpm

84.8 lb-ft (114.9Nm) @ 11,200rpm

84.1 lb-ft (114Nm) @ 11,000rpm

86.7 lb-ft (117.6Nm) @ 10,800rpm

83.3 lb-ft (113Nm) @ 10,500rpm


Wet Weight






Seat height






Fuel tank

17 litres

17 litres

16 litres

16 litres

16.5 litres

Price (from)







Then, lining up to pit their wits against the “limited edition race and track bike” R1M would be the more executive bikes, including the M Performance BMW and the 2019 Aprilia:


Yamaha R1M 2020

Kawasaki ZX-10RR

Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory

Ducati Panigale V4S

BMW S1000RR M Package


998cc, liquid-cooled, forward-inclined parallel four

998cc, liquid-cooled, inline-four

1078cc, liquid-cooled 65° V4

1103cc, liquid-cooled, 90° V4

999c, liquid-cooled, inline-four


197bhp (147.1kW) @ 13,500rpm

201bhp (150kW) @ 13,500rpm

214bhp (159.6kW) @ 13,200rpm

211bhp (157.5kW) @ 13,000rpm

203.8 bhp (152 kW) @ 13,500rpm


83.6 lb-ft (113.3Nm) @ 11,500rpm

85.4 lb-ft (115.7 Nm) @ 11,000rpm

90 lb-ft (122Nm) @ 11,000rpm

91.5 lb-ft (124 Nm) @ 10,000rpm

83.3 lb-ft (113 Nm) @ 10,500rpm


Wet Weight






Seat height






Fuel tank

17 litres

17 litres

18.5 litres

16 litres

16.5 litres

Price (from)








Rider aids and extra equipment

A raft of rider aids comes as standard with many motorcycles in the £10k+ category, and the higher the price tag, the more goodies you get to play with.

Finding the optimal setting for a Sunday blast may take some time with a 6-axis IMU (Intertia Measurement Unit) taking 125 measurements per second from its sensors around the bike and feeds them into a central on-board computer which has the parameters for the power modes and settings for traction control, slide control, launch control, lift control, brake control, engine brake management and quickshifter… and anywhere between three and 10 options for each.

Oh, and there’s a revised launch control system for the 2020 model too. The tracker wheel on the right-hand side of the handlebars operates it all fairly intuitively by pushing in for a second or two then skipping through the menus selecting your preferred options. It’ll take a bit of getting used to but isn’t terribly complicated.

Four pre-sets will help if you fancy dialling in a track day setting, a commute setting and a wet setting for instance.



Yamaha YZF-R1 and YZF-R1M (2020) verdict

A classy, well put together, Euro 5-compliant beauty that gets the 2020 holeshot in terms of sports bike bragging rights. It’s a tough fight at the top of that tree and the R1 offers a top quality showing with is beautiful howl, terrific throttle connection and satisfying ride quality. Seemingly unaffected by the EU nonsense in terms of performance, Yamaha are to be congratulated for their ability to conquer these emissions laws without sacrifice and the proof will be in the pudding when it comes to whipping the standard exhaust off. Would I choose the R1 over the BMW S1000RR? Well, on the basis you'd want the M Sport version of the three bike BMW line-up, you’d have to stump up an extra £2,500… which is the approximate cost of a full system and remap for the R1. But yes, the BMW would still just edge the Yamaha.

Ah, but then Yamaha plays its trump card; the R1M. Release it from its restrictions courtesy of a full after-market exhaust system and, despite the additional expense, this is going to be taking the superbike game straight to Ducati and its Panigale V4S… or R in the case of the homologated road-bike based Superbike Championships. Hang on though, we’re getting too loose with the purse strings now; so if there’s £16,800 burning a hole in your pocket (or whatever the equivalent PCP deal offers) then there’s little better than the standard R1 on the market right now for that kind of budget.

Let’s face facts, if the European regulations keep stifling emissions then in a just a handful of years, and without the likes of variable valve timing, larger displacements or even forced induction, there’ll be fewer and fewer proper litre sports bikes.


Three Some things I loved about the Yamaha YZF-R1 and YZF-R1M (2020) …

  • Engineering magnificence considering the Euro 5 restrictions
  • Initial turn-in and cornering stability
  • Array of electronically adjustable options to custom fit each ride
  • Sublime suspension quality (R1M)


Three things that I didn’t…

  • Front brake feel and ABS intrusion
  • A physically demanding bike to ride quickly
  • Dashboard hasn’t the quality of the Ducati or BMW


New styling, suspension, electronics & engine mean that despite sharing its DNA with the existing model, the 2020 Yamaha YZF-R1 promises vast improvements.


Yamaha YZF-R1 and YZF-R1M (2020) spec


Yamaha YZF-R1

Yamaha YZF-R1M

New price






Bore x Stroke

79.0 × 50.9 mm


Engine layout

Liquid-cooled; 4-stroke; 4-valves; DOHC; 4-cylinder, crossplane crankshaft



197.3bhp (147.1kW) @ 13,500rpm



83.6 lb-ft (113.3Nm) @ 11,500rpm



Constant Mesh, 6-speed


Average fuel consumption



Tank size

17 litres


Max range to empty (theoretical)



Rider aids

Power modes, ERS, QSS, Lift Control, Launch Control, Slide Control, Brake Control and Engine Brake Management





Front suspension

Kayaba 43mm telescopic fork

Ohlins 43mm NPX-EC

Front suspension adjustment


Electronically controlled with three pre-sets (inc. brake support, corner support, acceleration support, front and rear firmness) and three manual modes

Rear suspension

Swingarm and KYB monoshock

Ohlins TTX36 shock

Rear suspension adjustment



Front brake

Hydraulic dual 320mm disc brake


Rear brake

Hydraulic single disc brake


Front tyre

120/70ZR17M/C (58W) Tubeless, Bridgestone Battlax RS11

Bridgestone Battlax V02

Rear tyre

190/55ZR17M/C (75W) Tubeless, Bridgestone Battlax RS11

200/55 ZR17M/C (78W) Tubeless

Caster angle/Trail




2055mm x 690mm 1165mm (LxWxH)





Minimum Ground clearance



Seat height



Kerb weight




2 years






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