Gen 1 YZF-R1 vs New YZF-R1
The Yamaha YZF-R1 series has been with us for more than 20 years. The first R1 really shook up the 1000 cc Superbikes and redefined the class.
It combined the big power of open class motorcycles Such as the Kawasaki ZZR1100 and Honda Super Blackbird but came in a much more compact package, had class-leading lightness, and handling rivalling 600-750 cc class Supersport and Superbikes of the time.
Many years have passed with various new and improved versions of the R1. Today the latest version could not be more different than the original, though traces of the OG R1 DNA can still be observed and felt.
It is interesting to see how time and the subsequent advances in technology that transpired have improved engine performance and straight-line speed.
Back in the day the Original R1 set all the benchmarks though with how things move so fast in the space it was objectively overtaken in 2001 by the new at the time GSX-R1000.
The first-generation Yamaha YZF-R1 engine and the current 2020 onward Yamaha YZF-R1 both share the same engine capacity of 998 cc and four cylinders.
The older motorcycle has the five-vale head as did the revised and upgraded newer versions up to the 2003 model.
Up until 2003 these engines were broadly the same and made the same power with the latter versions having a softer and more manageable power delivery over the brutish delivery of the original 1998.
1998 to 2001 R1’s had carburettors with fuel injection arriving for the 02-03 model.
It wasn’t until 2004 that the R1 got a whole new engine. It was primarily in response to rivals such As Suzuki’s GSX-R1000 that set the performance bar even higher.
The 2004 Yamaha R1 engine designers took a different approach and went for a high revving short stroke engine as opposed to the longer stroke engine that served the R1 so well from 1998 to 2003.
2004 to 2006 was a longer and more svelte motorcycle. It had upswept Ducati 916 inspired under-seat exhaust and looked a little grown up compared to the brutish look of the original.
It still looked like an R1 with its piercing twin headlights and was considered one of the most attractive motorcycles of the time.
the 2004 to 2006 model was up 20 horsepower and revved like a 600 cc motorcycle to 14,000 rpm which was unheard of at the time for a 1000 cc superbike.
It was wildly fast at the top end but lost much of what made the previous R1 engine so good – which was that bottom and midrange thrust.
That model ran from 04-06 with minor changes while in that time the competition was busy introducing newer and better performing motorcycles.
The GSX-R1000 was now on its third variant – the K5, while we got the very first ZX-10R that replaced the ageing ZX-9R. Honda finally gave us a 1000 cc CBR too.
The 07-08 YZF-R1 was revised to fix the 04-06’s woes though was a short-lived model. It was the most powerful Yamaha R1 yet, and Yamaha also made some great improvements to that lacking midrange punch of the 04-06 model that it replaced. It was known as the best of the Yamaha R1 ‘screamer’ engines. More of that in a min…
Things really took a turn in 2009 with the R1 being totally redesigned. It was still 998 cc and was an inline four-cylinder engine, but it sounded weird and not like any inline-four we know of.
It did not scream like the previous models, instead sounded like an American V8 that revved to 13,500 rpm.
The 2009 model still resembled the 07-08 and looked like an R1 but was shorter and fatter looking. The new sound was born from the new engine that was based on Yamaha’s MotoGP motorcycle.
All inline four-cylinder engines have a flatplane crank configuration while the new Yamaha R1 engine uses a ‘crossplane’ crank configuration.
With the crossplane crank, the pistons are spaced with a firing order of 270-180-90-180-degrees which is the same fire order as some V4s.
This was why the sound changed and is the same reason why a Ferrari V8 sounds different to a Mustang V8.
The R1 now had a whole new sound though it was down a little in terms of peak power compared to the previous model and was a little heavier too and objectively slower. This was especially the case for the more restricted US models.
The 09 models ran till 2014 with one model revision that added some styling tweaks but more importantly introduced traction control and power modes.
A lot happened between 09-14 with newer and faster motorcycles introduced by rivals with the Yamaha R1 ending up being considered one of the slower of the 1000 cc Superbikes despite its 179 claimed horsepower, a figure that is substantially up on the original.
From 2015 until current, the R1 got itself a whopping 200 claimed horsepower engine which is 50 horsepower up on the original. It looked more like Rossi’s MotoGP bike than any R1 that came before.
How does the monster engine of the original compare to the latest and greatest? Can it trade blows with the new R1 or even keep up when push comes to shove?
1998 YZF-R1 vs 2020 Dyno curve and engine performance
– 1998 YZF-R1 – 2020 YZF-R1
Both the original and the current model R1 displace 998 cc and are inline fours. It has taken 17 years for a 50 horsepower jump which is a number that is hard to ignore. Especially considering how ground-breaking and fast the original engine is.
By today’s standards, the 1998 R1 has a relatively long stroke engine at 74 mm × 58 mm and was designed to provide class-leading peak power without sacrificing power and torque throughout the rpm range.
Midrange torque was further increased without a sacrifice to the top end via the use of Yamaha’s ingenious EXUP valve.
The EXUP system is placed in the bottom end of the exhaust’s downpipes and will fool the exhaust into thinking it was the best ‘length’ for both mid-range and high-rpm operation.
The end result was a very impressive bottom and midrange spread of torque at the time.
The original R1 claimed 150 horsepower delivered at the crank and a peak torque figure of 78 ft/lb.
At the rear real we are looking at 135 horsepower at 10,400 rpm and 75 ft/lb at 8000 rpm
These numbers do not sound hugely impressive today but were 15-20 horsepower up on other class competitors at the time.
While the peak figures were very impressive it was also the spread of power and torque throughout the entire rpm range that made the 1998 Yamaha YZF-R1 such a weapon on the road and the track.
You could run a gear higher than a rival and still convincingly out-accelerate it and pretty much any production vehicle on the road at the time.
Open-class motorcycles that made similar power could be matched or beaten on a roll or outright due to carrying 30-50 kg more than the R1.
Even today from a top gear roll on from 70 mph 1998 is in the top percentile of all motorcycles.
The engine does not have a powerband as such, it just provides drive everywhere with an instant delivery of acceleration that is accurately and smoothly provided via the brilliant carbs that still to this day can’t be matched or beaten by FI systems for accuracy IMO.
The current Yamaha YZF- R1 has a claimed 200 horsepower which is very impressive. As engine capacity has remained the same how has Yamaha found an extra 50 horsepower? It is an amazing feat.
Power is the simple equation of torque multiplied by rpm divided by 5252. So, if you want more power you must spin the engine faster with the goal of producing as much torque as possible at the highest rpm possible.
It is of course more complicated than that though that is the basic principle.
The latest R1 is a much shorter stroke engine at 79.0 mm x 50.9 mm and is oversquare as a result. Pistons do not cover the same distance along their stroke.
This along with lightened and more durable internals allow the engine to spin much higher and produce more power.
The original R1 had a rev limiter of 11,750 rpm and made its peak power at around 10,500 rpm give or take. The current 2020 plus Yamaha YZF-R1 will rev out to just shy of 14,300 rpm and produces its claimed power of 200 horsepower at 13,500 rpm.
If we compare the dyno graphs of each motorcycle it is clear to see that they deliver their power quite differently.
The current 2020 plus Yamaha YZF-R1 dwarfs the older model with a peak of 185 horsepower just under 14,000 rpm while the 1998 model chimes in at 135 horsepower at 10,400 rpm
The winner is clear to see but it is not total domination by the newer motorcycle as the 1998 R1 produces more power from the off up until around 8,500 rpm, with the latest R1 displaying a huge flat spot in power and torque between 5500 rpm and 7,000 rpm.
The difference (while not all of the difference) in how they deliver their power and torque is a great example of a long-stroke engine versus a short stoke engine, as well as 20 plus years of development in materials and design.
The gaping hole in the newer R1’s torque curve is further exasperated by noise and emissions regulations which were not close to being as strict for the original R1.
– 1998 YZF-R1 – 2020 YZF-R1
1998 YZF-R1 vs 2020 in-gear acceleration
Looking at the dyno graph most would assume that the 1998 R1 would be stronger everywhere in any gear if rpm is below 8000. This would only be true if both motorcycles had the exact same gearing and rear tyre diameters, but they do not.
If you look at the above in-gear thrust curve you can see that the in-gear acceleration in the first half of each of the gears’ speed range between the two is closer than the dyno may suggest, despite the 1998 R1’s torque advantage below 8000 rpm.
This is because the 2020 plus model R1 has lower gearing in all gears except for first gear.
Even though the 2020 plus R1 has shorter gearing from second to sixth, it still has substantially higher top speeds in all gears.
For two motorcycles with similar power, the advantage that higher revving motorcycles have over motorcycles that rev lower is that they can run lower gearing without sacrificing their theoretical top speeds in each gear while improving in-gear thrust/acceleration available.
The 2022 Yamaha R1 has a theoretical top speed of 205 mph at 14,300 rpm in sixth gear. If it had the same sixth gear ratio, primary and final drive as the 1998 Yamaha R1, its theoretical top speed in sixth gear at 14,300 rpm would be 219.8 mph.
The 2020 Yamaha R1 could run an even lower sixth gear as it does not have the power to hit 14,300 rpm in top gear with stock gearing.
Likely Yamaha kept it as is for a more relaxed highway rpm and better fuel consumption, even if the current R1 is a focused track bike.
What this means on the road for both is that while it is obvious that the newer R1 punches harder at the top regardless of each of their respective gears, it also punches harder at almost any chosen speed in second, third and fourth gear.
In first gear, the 1998 R1 is significantly stronger up to around 60 mph. After that, it’s only really in fifth gear between 75 and 100 mph, and 80 to 115 mph in sixth gear where the older R1 can claim to have a significant edge over the newer machine.
On the road, this results in the 1998 YZF-R1 picking up and accelerating harder from any fifth or sixth gear roll between the mentioned speeds above, where it will gap the newer R1 by a good few car lengths. The 1998 R1 will soon be chased down and passed, though the speeds will be quite high before this happens.
98 R1 vs 2020 R1 speeds in each gear
|Speed at 5000 rpm||1998||2022|
|Speed 1st Gear||33 mph||34.5 mph|
|Speed 2nd Gear||46.5 mph||41.2 mph|
|Speed 3rd Gear||57.1 mph||48.7 mph|
|Speed 4th Gear||64.3 mph||56.8 mph|
|Speed 5th Gear||71.4 mph||64.9 mph|
|Speed 6th Gear||76.8 mph||71.7 mph|
Around town and at normal speeds the first generation R1 is much more responsive in most of first gear and from lower speeds and will wheelie from barely over tickover on the power alone.
You must be over 60 mph before the new R1 provides more thrust and acceleration than the gen 1 if both are in first gear.
The 98 R1’s extra thrust in first gear is mute though as both are pretty much unusable at max throttle and will wheelie very easily.
The newer R1 of course has wheelie control that does make fully wide-open throttle in first gear possible albeit kept in check.
In isolation and not after getting off the new R1 or any current litre Superbike, the 1998 R1 feels insanely fast and as if nothing could beat it.
If you just have jumped off the new R1 and onto the older model, I am surprised to say that one is left feeling a little underwhelmed with the older R1’s engine performance, with it feeling a little flat up top.
It feels strong under 6000 rpm, though as you drive it hard through 7000 and 8000 rpm and upward you come to expect it to pick up hard in the top end, but it doesn’t behave like what you may be used to with the current litre Superbikes.
If you’ve just jumped off a 600 and onto the 98 R1 then I take this statement back.
Changing up at around 11,000 rpm would be short-shifting on the new R1 but is thrashing the nuts off the 98 R1.
Even if you did short shift on the new R1 you’d still be accelerating harder than the 1998 R1 as the 2020 R1 is producing almost 170 horsepower at 11,000 rpm.
On the newer R1, the big dip in toque is very noticeable on the road. You also feel it more when the engine recovers and piles on rpm and speed as you hit 7000 rpm.
The dip is made to feel worse on the road than it really is, as the upper midrange and top-end hits so hard.
But objectively even at the bottom of that dip in second to fourth gear it pretty much matches or beats the older model in terms of available acceleration, where no such dip in power and torque exists in the older model.
This simply is a result of the new R1’s lower gear ratios as demonstrated earlier.
– 1998 YZF-R1 – 2020 YZF-R1
1998 YZF-R1 vs 2020 acceleration curve
The 1998 Yamaha YZF-R1 was the fastest accelerating motorcycle in the world, both outright and from a roll in any gear. Not much had a chance.
It was the Hayabusa in 1999 that took the title away from the R1 but that was an open-class motorcycle, so it did not count. Besides the 1998 R1 was about as quick up to around 150 mph whereas the Hayabusa’s extra power and more efficient aerodynamics would have it pull ahead.
Today the 1998 Yamaha R1 still puts out impressive times at the strip though objectively it is ballpark as accelerative outright as a Panigale V2 which despite its 155 horsepower at the crank is considered a middleweight motorcycle.
From 0-60 mph both the old and new R1s are very close, and it really comes down to which rider is best, and which motorcycle is easier to launch.
The old 1998 R1 is easy enough to launch if at 7 tenths but if you really must get the best ETs you have to be proficient at controlling wheelies. Aw wheelie it will do!
The 98 R1 has a shorter wheelbase of 1390 mm versus 1405 mm for the current bike and has a softer rear shock that is more liable to squat on hard acceleration.
The propensity to squat changes the geometry and shifts weight distribution off the front which is wheelie-inducing.
The 1998 R1 also has massive thrust in first gear due to its power and big torque. Combine this with the short wheelbase, low first gear and tendency to squat on acceleration means the R1 does more wheelies than accelerating if you are not accurate with the throttle and clutch.
It won’t bog like the new R1 if you let the rpms drop too low when slipping the clutch. You can drive it from 5000 or 8000 rpm and your results will be similar. It will wheelie or drive but more likely wheelie!
Either way, if you have the skills to control the wheelies effectively the first generation R1 will dip under 3 seconds with a 0-60 mph time of only 2.93 seconds.
Getting a good 0-60 mph time on the new R1 is a little trickier. It doesn’t make its peak thrust in first gear until a fraction over 60 mph.
You must slip and use the clutch for longer than on the older bike to get it moving, with it often being fully disengaged approaching, or at around 60 mph. Though your technique might be different.
You can’t get the clutch engaged quick and drive it from lower rpm as it is more liable to bog and lose time. If you do get the clutch quickly engaged say from say 5000 rpm at 35 mph, then drive it in first, from around 50-60 mph the wheel just heads for the sky.
It’s best to slip the clutch to around 60 mph and then get on the gas hard but you’d already have hit 60 mph by then before you’ve even gone full throttle.
With the current model R1 you can be more consistent with wheelie and TCS on, but it is more likely to bog a little and hold back acceleration potential when the wheel lifts or breaks traction if really chasing optimum times.
Either way, 0-60 mph for the 2020 R1 arrived in 3.00 seconds flat. Most times are around 3.5 to 3.6 seconds though just like the older bike it’s very easy to mess them up.
On the 98 R1, you are battling wheelies in first gear until you change up into second gear at around 70 mph. Once into second gear, you can get on the throttle 100% and not worry so much about her lifting.
If you hit a bump or an undulation, then it will point to the sky when hard in second gear but it’s not something you have to be concerned about in most situations.
If you are already carrying a wheelie, even a tiny one in first and hook second, then the wheel will stay off the ground. When this happens you will have to let off and get back on it to avoid losing time.
As the 98 R1’s 135 horsepower is not overwhelming second gear, this means that it can put that power down for great effect and score a 0-100 mph time of 5.32 seconds which is a fraction quicker than the new R1 at 5.49 seconds.
The new R1’s 50 horsepower advantage is not very effective for the 0-100 mph sprint as it just can’t be fully utilised even with rider aids on.
This is because it has too much power. First gear on the 2020 plus R1 will take you almost to 100 mph. Once the clutch is fully engaged at around 50-60 mph you are fast approaching peak potential thrust and acceleration in that gear.
From 50 mph to 95 mph in first gear, you can’t go full throttle as you are battling wheelies. It becomes more settled in second gear but for half the time it will lift again as you hook second without letting off.
The older R1 lets you get fully on it in second gear from 70 mph while on the newer R1 you can get full throttle in second only half the time and this is mostly why the older R1 beats the newer R1 from 0-100 mph on average all other things being equal.
Anything under 110 mph it is very close between the two from a dig. It’s only beyond 110 mph where the 2020 plus R1 can begin to use its extra 50 horsepower.
Once the older R1 is in third gear at 100% throttle the newer R1, if not lifting is driving harder and is in second gear at the top and close to hooking third.
After third gear is engaged on the 2020 plus R1 at around 115 mph it is pretty much game over for the 1998 R1. From then on, the new R1 eats into the first gen’s small lead and then passes a little before the quarter-mile mark which it crosses with a time of 10.15 seconds at 152 mph.
The 1998 R1 crosses the quarter mile a fraction later with a time of 10.29 seconds at 140 mph.
The times are very close, but you can clearly see how the newer R1 picks up speed from being behind at around the 200m mark and then at the 402m mark has a 12 mph speed advantage across the line.
Both motorcycles are still in fourth as they cross the line and are about to hook fifth gear. The new R1 was already starting to gap the first-generation R1, though from here on the current gen R1 walks away from the older model.
It’s quite embarrassing and hard to get your head around.
When the older R1 hits 157 mph at around the fifteen-second mark, the new YZF-R1 is at around 177 mph and over 50 metres in front.
By the time the 1998 Yamaha R1 hits its top speed of 171 mph after a little over a mile, the current model has extended its lead to 170 metres and is almost a dot on the horizon at this point.
This gap could be a little large as the new R1 hits its top speed of 189.9 mph at the mile mark and about 100 metres before the older model. If it was not restricted the newer R1 would get very close to 200 mph and the distance between the two an even wider margin.
The famous Dragy 60-130 mph times close. Both motorcycles put down their fastest times using first gear.
The newer R1 is much more likely to wheelies from 60 mph onward as it continues to produce massive thrust in first gear, while on the older R1 while still making peak thrust at 60 mph, as speed and rpm increase thrust starts to fall away, and this is less inducing of wheelies.
Both motorcycles are easier to manage in second gear from 60 mph but will be around 0.6 or more seconds slower as a result for the 60 to 130 mph sprint.
When all is said and done the new R1 is around a second faster with a time of 4.53 seconds with the 98 R1 coming in at 5.58 seconds.
To summarise, the new R1 is much faster than the original R1 in terms of outright acceleration.
It is also around 80% of the time faster in any gear at any speed and once rpm is up above 7000-8000 rpm its performance is next level and the older R1 just has no chance.
While the newer bike has much more performance the older R1’s performance is much more accessible and does not require higher rpm or higher speeds to get at the performance it has to offer.
The 2020 plus R1 requires you to be above 100 mph to really go full beans and make use of that extra 50 horsepower fully and without moderation via throttle control or rider aids.
On the road and down your favourite stretch of slow twisty tarmac the new R1 can’t really use its power, though, of course, its electronics will allow you to lay it down when rpm gets into that wild zone, but on slow twisty roads, it won’t be so often where you’ll get to use that 7000 to 14300 rpm powerband in first let alone second or third unless you have a decent straight in between corners.
The older R1 will let you drive from one corner to the next just as hard even if it has less acceleration available, though this provides you have a very steady throttle hand otherwise you’ll be high-sided into a hedge.
As the roads open and become faster or when you are hitting those longer straights the new R1 will gap the gen 1 easy but then we are talking silly speeds hat will mean jail in many countries.
The extra power of the new bike will only be of use on the highway when doing roll-ons to flat out, as with equal riders in most normal spirited riding situations the old R1 will be glued to the back of the new one.
1998 YZF-R1 vs 2020 YZF-R1 Acceleration
|Speed||1998 Yamaha YZF-R1||2020 Yamaha YZF-R1|
|SS/QM||10.29 @ 140 mph||10.15 @ 152 mph|
|SS/KM||18.90 @165 mph||17.98 @ 183 mph|
|SS/Mile||26.86 @169 mph||25.10 @ 189 mph|
|Top Speed||171 mph||189.9 mph|