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Yamaha R1 & R1M (2020) - Review

BikeSocial Web Editor. Content man - reviewer, road tester, video presenter, interviewer, commissioner, organiser. First ride was a 1979 Honda ST70 in the back garden aged 6. Not too shabby on track, loves a sportsbike, worries about helmet hair, occasionally plays golf and squash but enjoys being a father to a 6-year old the most.



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



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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.


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



2020 Yamaha YZF-R1 – the UK road test

By Steve Rose, Publisher, Bennetts BikeSocial 

Launching a 197bhp superbike on a racetrack makes perfect sense. But what about the buyers who want one for the road?


Looks aggressive, rides aggressive, sounds like the apocalypse on full throttle


A nerve impulse travels at 268mph between your body and your brain, which is why the part of your nervous system that deals with automatic responses can react so quickly. That still doesn’t feel fast enough to shut the throttle on a Yamaha YZF-R1 - that some fool just dropped down into second gear and opened the taps - before the speedo hits ‘Yikes’. If you decide to go for it on a bike like this on the road, make sure the road is very long and you have an escape route planned.

Most of us still harbor the fantasy that the joy of a £16k sports bike is carving through the countryside like Hickman on a hot one. If you, like me haven’t ridden a superbike for a couple of years, the first few rides will be a shock to the system. Even more so when it’s Yamaha’s crossplane crank YZF-R1, which is by far the most ‘emotional’ and brutal of the Japanese superbikes – like an Aprilia V4 that you’d actually buy. The defining moment of my first day is when, after a few gentle miles to scrub in some brand new tyres, I drop down to second gear at around 60mph on the motorway and open the throttle as hard as I can.

The over-riding emotion is the noise. A deep, low-frequency, guttural resonance – mostly from the airbox – like someone switched on the badly-earthed PA system halfway through the Motorhead gig when you’d just stuck your head in the bass bin. The acceleration hits you at the back of your eyes, feeling the speed in a set of sinuses that haven’t evolved to be ready for this.

On the road instinct shuts the throttle almost immediately, by which point the numbers on the speedo read zero, one and two, but not necessarily in that order. 

Eighty three miles through an overcast Surrey, Hampshire and Sussex was a real eye-opener on my first ride. Firstly, I am not too old, creaky or overweight to still ride a sports bike. And this, despite the fact it took three goes outside Yamaha’s HQ to get my foot high enough to find the footpeg after two weeks on a Tenere 700. In fact, at the end of it I was genuinely surprised how not-creaky I felt. Sports bike ergonomics have come on a long way in the last ten years.


All kinds of electronic trickery inside, but nowhere to mount a sat-nav


The 2020 YZF-R1 is a very clever motorcycle. It uses a 6-axis IMU that knows where it is in space, time and proximity to the nearest sandwich to control traction, slide, wheelies, power delivery and braking at any angle of lean, pitch and yaw. If only it could remember to turn the indicators off when I keep forgetting, it would be almost perfect. I’m pretty sure no one decides to spend £16k on an R1 because of the indicator performance, especially if they bought it for track riding. But there’s an awful lot to think about when you’re blasting through the countryside on a 197bhp superbike; why do my eyeballs hurt? Who put Metallica in the airbox, what’s the boiling point of sperm?

With all that going on, it would be useful if you didn’t have to remember to switch off the winkers.

Can I make a confession here? In all the time I rode the R1 I barely changed any of the electronic settings. I did have a play with the power modes because I remember my old 2009 R1 being better in the middle of three throttle settings. But on this bike, the sharpest setting is fine because the rest of the bike is so easy to use. The limiting factor in my b-road cornering has never been losing traction on the way out of bumpy corners. I’m far too busy looking for the exit to appear, checking there isn’t a tractor half across my side of the road coming the other way and looking for gravel etc. Sometimes I just go slowly because I like to look at the scenery.

I thoroughly enjoyed almost all my miles on the R1. The focus, the induction noise, being hunched into a silly, exaggerated racing crouch again; eyes narrowed, flicking a light, responsive bike left and right is wonderful, when the weather is good and the roads are dry.


English country B-roads only need half the gearbox


What I struggled with was the time required in a country packed with cameras to cast a cautious eye at the speedo every time you open it up. Oh, and the aforementioned centrally-heated groin, which I don’t understand, given that there is nothing especially warm anywhere near your boybles.

At one point I even got into fourth gear. The intensity is draining but invigorating. The thrills are all still there. It’s just that on the road they would be equalling thrilling if this were a four-cylinder crossplane cranked 400 making 80bhp instead of a litre bike making so much power it never gets close to being stressed. In the 350 miles I did on the R1 I doubt I even stretched its camchain.

The not-so-good thing is that I can’t see how anyone can ever come close to getting the best from a machine like this. I know that statement is hardly news to anyone who’s ridden a sports bike in the last 20 years. When I road tested the first R1 in 1998 I had exactly the same sensation of uncontrollable acceleration and unsettled sinus aches. Back then we were riding sports bikes all the time, before today the last superbike I rode was BMW’s 2019 S1000RR, which is completely different. On standard settings the BMW is smooth, refined, highly capable and (can’t believe anyone would say this about a 200bhp bike) not-that-memorable. By focusing on making it brilliant, BMW engineered out the soul. Which is fine for racers where the only thing that matters is being faster than everyone else. But for road riders, who rarely get even in top half of the performance curve, I’d go for emotion and personality every time.


Simple wheel and switch combo controls the electronics


Even more bizarre is that on the BMW you can dial-in some character using the programmable electronics. The R1 might not be as easy to ride or maybe even as quick in road trim as the BMW (which also has heated grips and cruise control), but it’s a heck of a lot more memorable. If I were paying this much for a bike that is so impractical I’d want every single ride to be memorable.

And as churlish as it sounds, those ‘cracking-it-open’ moments are the best thing an R1 does on the road. I can see now why rural Britain has a problem with bikers leaving their 30mph villages and opening it up as soon as they see the national speed limit signs. Because, really, that moment of insane acceleration is the best thing about a superbike on the road. The rest of it is just ego.

Think that’s harsh? Ask yourself, what else is there? The riding position makes getting through slower traffic harder than a tall-rounder or naked because you can’t see. Your neck and back hurts when you look into the distance at slower speeds, the quickshifter becomes a clumsy slow-shifter at low revs and the mirrors only show 20 per cent of what’s behind you.


UK’s angriest sports bike meets the UK’s least suitable road to ride it on.


But the most surprising thing is in the corners. Surely the 2020 YZF-R1 will slay any other non-sports bike with gravity-defying lean angles and grip like a horny octopus? If the A32 was the Isle of Man Mountain course, then yes, maybe. But it isn’t and when the corners are blind, busy and with a truck you haven’t yet seen coming the other way, you can’t commit enough to even hang off the bike in a useful (as opposed to cosmetic) manner.

The R1’s riding position means you brake hard while bracing your arms almost perpendicular to the tank. Then you release the brake, drop your elbows to be parallel with the tank, steer, and hang on for dear life as you accelerate out of the corner. On a race track, in one-piece leathers, where the corners come thick and fast, you are throwing yourself all around the bike and so it just works. But on a road, where you don’t hang off that much, it becomes intrusive. On a bike with a more upright riding position your arms stay in roughly the same position meaning this all happens in one simple movement, giving the rider more time and fine control.

Twenty years ago, you had to have a sports bike to go fast round corners because nothing else handled well enough. But now you can buy 150bhp adventure bikes with suspension that’ll keep your petrol-powered skyscraper under perfect control and sports touring tyres are grippier than sports tyres of 15 years ago. Plus, most of those adventurers will do 50+ mpg and 200 miles to a tank, where the R1 averaged 39mpg and around 150 miles.


Update, sharper styling loses the previous model’s ‘Futurama’ gawkiness and gains some style. Mirrors are ok… for a sports bike, but show much more elbow than the road behind


So, given all the above, a sports bike has to offer something special to a road rider to be valid. The answer is subtle-but-effective. It’s about that last ten per cent. The chassis stiffness, suspension fine control (especially on and off the brakes) and sharpness of steering. Plus, of course the fact that a sports bike generally weighs around 30kg less than sports tourers and the kind of adventure bikes with huge power and flash suspension. When it all works, a sports bike works better than anything and demands the kind of focus and rider attention that makes a ride truly memorable.

And in reality we should be welcoming the additional choice of other kinds of bikes and not kicking the sports bikes for not being all-rounders. If you ride the kind of roads where a sports bike excels and don’t need it to be your only transport, then you’d be daft to buy anything without riding an R1 for comparison. Like I said earlier, the Yamaha might not be the most perfect bike on track (and I’m certainly not skilled enough to separate it from the others), but on the road it has a character and personality that the other inline-fours lack.

The only let downs for me, were the brakes, which although powerful when warm, needed a good tug on the lever before they built-up power. On track that wouldn’t be an issue because you are using them hard every few seconds, but on the road it might be minutes between braking and they don’t have the initial sharpness that I’d prefer.

The other let down for me is the bike’s subtle colour scheme. I love the new styling, especially from the front, where the running lights are a huge improvement on the previous model. But, from other angles it doesn’t look like a £16k motorcycle. The TFT display is small, cramped and lacking in options besides the performance electronics. There’s no fuel gauge, just a warning light and yet there’s a display that shows braking and acceleration force – which are surely to things that

  1. The rider already knows

  2. You really should be looking at the road ahead when experiencing and not down at the clocks


We tried to do a pillion test, but none of our mates could bend their knees far enough


2020 Yamaha YZF-R1 road test verdict

There are many good reasons to buy a new sports bike. Firstly, it’s new and will have the latest, wizziest technology. Secondly, it’s new and so won’t have been crashed, thrashed, raced or rebuilt after doing cartwheels through Cadwell’s kitty litter. The very latest fuel injection and compliance with emissions regulations have made all bikes easy to ride, with smoother fuelling and impressive mpg for the performance on offer. We averaged 38mpg in our time with the R1 – that’s very good for a 197bhp sports bike that encourages you to be snappy with the throttle.

The riding experience is either awesome or frustrating depending on how far you have to ride in traffic to get to your favourite roads and, obviously, only a sadist would make anyone ride pillion and only a masochist would agree to it. Truth is, you’d be better off removing the pillion footpegs and saving an extra kg of weight.

The money goes into making that much power and still being civilized. Plus a chassis and suspension that are so much more capable than all-but a handful of top racers can exploit. If that’s you and you still want a road bike, maybe the even-more-exotic R1-M’s electronic Öhlins suspension will suffice. There’s a £4k price difference between the two – I’d buy the standard bike for weekends and a brand new scooter with the change for commuting.



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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