When the first Yamaha YZF-R1 fell from the heavens in 1998, that stunning sportbike was a proverbial game changer. Twenty-two years later, the R1 and its up-spec brother, the R1M, remain the Iwata factory’s brand-defining machines. To remain on par with the always-moving yardstick of superbike performance, Yamaha has further developed the new-from-the-ground-up package introduced in 2015, which went on to become a Cycle World Ten Best Winner, not to mention a four-time MotoAmerica Superbike champion. For 2020, Yamaha revised the cylinder head, intake layout, fuel injection, airbox, and valve train for improved efficiency. Updated electronics include a new ride-by-wire system that uses magnetic throttle-position sensors at the handgrip instead of wires.
Speaking of electronics, the current suite has improved slide and wheelie control, as well as advanced engine-brake management, all to keep rider aids at the pointy end of technological advancement. Other changes include more aerodynamically efficient bodywork and reworked suspension internals to improve feel. The carbon-fiber-clad R1M also gets an Öhlins semi-active gas-charged fork, the first of its kind on a production superbike. No question, this latest iteration offers performance worthy of the R1’s legacy of road-and-racetrack greatness.
Cycle World’s Annual Ten Best Bikes
In 2015 and, again, two years later, Cycle World named the YZF-R1 its Best Open-Class Streetbike. Between those successes, the R1 was named 2016’s Best Superbike, with editors describing the combination of manufacturer’s suggested retail price and competition-derived technology as “the art and science of MotoGP brought to the people.”
2020 Yamaha YZF-R1 Reviews, Comparisons, And Competition