The 1990s were defined by three sportbikes – the Honda CBR900RR, the Ducati 916, and the Yamaha R1. Honda’s CBR900RR started the revolution by being 76 pounds lighter than its lightest competition. Soon after, Ducati released the 916. It was technically competent with fuel injection and even an adjustable steering head angle, but it’s best remembered just for being one of the most beautiful motorcycles of all time. In 1998, Yamaha released the R1 and wiped the floor with everyone else – it was the lightest and most powerful literbike available and you had to work hard to find a dealer with one in stock. Almost 20 years later they’re still fantastic machines, so here’s your chance to relive the glory days with a first-year example of the breed.
The basic specifications are 150 horsepower, 419 pound dry weight, and a 2.96 second 0-60 time, per MCN. Those are all impressive numbers, but the design of the drivetrain is what made it all possible. Yamaha was able to make the engine/transmission much smaller by vertically stacking the transmission shafts. Further space was saved by putting the water pump inside the engine cases. The packaging let Yamaha shorten the wheelbase and still lengthen the swingarm, which made the R1 feel like a 600cc bike but with 1,000cc power. For more on the R1 and what made it special, check out this article on Sport Rider. Or for a buying guide geared towards used R1s (with notes like it’s “getting hard to find a clean one.”), check out this article on Motorcyclist magazine.
This example (VIN: JYARN02Y1WA000079) is in good overall condition considering the age with just a few dings and nicks that can be seen in the photos, particularly on the tank and triple tree. Mechanically, it needs nothing – except a new rider.
Photos by Nathan May.