2020 Yamaha YZF-R1 (bike review)

EVEN though the prince of Yamaha sports bikes has been around for more than two decades, the Japanese bike maker has yet again managed to impress with the 2020 Yamaha YZF-R1.

One of the most recognised bikes in the motorcycle industry, and known for its raw high performance, the R1 is light and nimble around town, even if it’s not very comfortable when you’re stuck in traffic.

It’s also not big on that P word in the same situation, and struggles up steep hills at low speeds. Kick it past 4,000rpm though, and it’s smooth sailing. It’s in the higher part of the rev range that the R1 shows its true, angry, mean and speed hungry, colours.

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Twist the throttle and it will take your breath away, filling the void with giggles. Lots of them. It’s quickly evident that the R1 was born for the race track. It’s precise around corners, with exits feeling effortless thanks to the slide control system.

Unfortunately, the R1 doesn’t come with Yamaha’s Electronic Racing Suspension (ERS). That feature is reserved for its king, the YZF-R1M. It makes adjusting the suspension on-the-fly a little more time consuming. You’ll also want softer settings for normal street use.

On the straights, there’s no other way to describe this bike than as a teleportation device. It’s truly fast, and thanks to the auto blip when changing up through the gears, it’s butter smooth. After all, this is the famous Yamaha YZF-R1.

Braking on the R1 felt great at first, but we did start to notice some fade during our testing regime, and a little feedback through the brake lever.  We needed to use more force on the brake lever than we’re used to as well.

Squeezing the brake lever hard at high speeds surprised us a little and not in a good way. Add in a lot of interference from the electronic control systems, and it meant we were braking later, and in doing so, losing confidence.

In the looks department, the new R1 receives updated fairings to improve the aerodynamics by 5.3 per cent. The new fairings aren’t just for looks either, as they reduce wind noise and pressure resulting in a smoother, more comfortable ride.

The change also makes the sports bike look even more aggressive and futuristic than before, and a little harder to clean. Yamaha have integrated a full-colour TFT screen that is easy to read and very informative too.

We were pleased to find plentiful options in the YRC (Yamaha Ride Control) settings menu and four customisable riding modes that made the R1 easy to ride in every condition we threw at it.

The YRC is a very important part of the R1, and we spent some time riding in different settings. We can’t express enough how critical it is to find the right settings for you, as the rider. It’s also key to racing this bike, should you ever decide to get into that.

We couldn’t find an option to add a fuel gauge or a distance to empty indicator though, so found ourselves relying on the good old fuel light. That siad, the R1 is truly a magnificent piece of engineering and Yamaha has done an outstanding job yet again.

In its 2020 form, it does sound a little tame in the lower end of the rev range and that’s due to multiple catalytic converters in the exhaust system, to meet the Euro 5 emissions standard.

With less exhaust noise we could hear the beautiful melody of the Crossplane engine even more. Still, Yamaha have managed to put a 4-2-1 mid-ship muffler with two variable exhaust routes on, which means higher flow at higher rpm.

If you’re a fan of sports bikes, and high performance ones at that, we’d recommend you head for your nearest Yamaha dealership to take one for a whirl. If you do though, you might want to take a spare pair of pants with you.

Our test bike was provided by Yamaha Motor Australia. To find out more about the 2020 Yamaha YZF-R1, contact your local Yamaha dealer. Pictures courtesy of Mushroom Owl Photography.


Riding experience
Style and comfort
Braking and handling
Technology and connectivity
Overall bike performance


Pros - ride and handling; good looks; sporty riding position.
Cons - performance at low speeds; seat is a little too wide; exhaust note is subdued.
Robert Abed
Robert Abed
Robert Abed is an automotive enthusiast, with a genuine need for speed. He loves everything that goes fast, and if it doesn't, then he will do his best to make it fast.


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<strong>Pros -</strong> ride and handling; good looks; sporty riding position.<br> <strong>Cons -</strong> performance at low speeds; seat is a little too wide; exhaust note is subdued.2020 Yamaha YZF-R1 (bike review)