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Digital Subscriptions > Fast Bikes > 338 > R GENERATION


For twenty years Yamaha’s R1 family has been redefining the sportsbike market. Here’s our guide to the clan…

In a period when manufacturers were undecided between following the controversial litre bike path the FireBlade had forged or sticking to the traditional WSB-rule complying 750cc capacity, Yamaha’s new sportsbike was the determining factor. It came, it saw and conquered our hearts with cutting edge design, mouth-watering power figures and a look like no other that had come before it. Here’s our guide to the R1 clan…

1998-1999 YAMAHA YZF-R1 4XV

Rumoured to be a 750, mainly as Yamaha’s WSB riders Scott Russell and Colin Edwards were both spotted testing what was to become known as the inaugural R1, the replacement to the YZF750R arrived in 1998 and cemented the death of the three quarter litre class. Developed alongside the YZF-R6 and YZF-R7 under the watchful eye of project leader Kunihiko Miwa, the YZF-R1 set the blueprint for the modern sportsbike. If you compare the basic engineering principles that the 1998 R1 has with a 2018 sportsbike they remain directly linked – it really was that advanced.

So what made it special? Yamaha built a ground-up newmotor for the R1 and while it retained the five-valve head design that they had been using on their sportsbikes since the FZ750 in 1985, it was incredibly compact thanks to some revolutionary thinking. By positioning the gearbox’s main shaft above rather than in line with the crankshaft, Yamaha created a vertically stacked gearbox (technically it arrived first on the TRX850), which dramatically shortened the length of the motor. This new compact engine allowed the use of a longer swingarm for better traction while still retaining a short wheelbase and therefore agile sportsbike handling. To this day, every sportsbike has a similar design of gearbox. And it doesn’t stop there…

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In this month's issue of Fast Bikes ... - 2018 Yamaha R1M ridden tech it to the max - ZX-9R: Bargain Bullet tested living with a £2K Kwacker - Best of British Triumph's speed triple RS - Win bike transport to Toulouse worth £600 - MOTOGR is go! Season preview - SX appeal Kawasaki's Supercharged sensation - How to clean your leathers - Challenge your limits - Run your bike in - Buy used ZX-10R