Many people believe that the 2002 to 2003 Yamaha YZF-R1 is the best R1 to date. Yes, some more so than than the newest Yamaha YZF-R1 with its sales pitch engine, even. It wasn't perfect, but it was close, and the 2002-2003 Yamaha YZF-R1 had so many qualities that you can't help but admire, even today.
The '02 Yamaha YZF-R1 was Yamaha's initial attempt at taming the best. The first model could be terrifying, scary fast and unruly. It didn't have the poise needed to control the rampant engine. The next incarnation was just as bonkers.
2002 saw this model revealed, and in black and silver it's one of the best looking motorcycles on the planet. A side profile that's MotoGP-modern sharp, it took Honda's idea of 'compact', and showed them how to really do it.
The YZF-R1 engine sported a larger bore and longer stroke than before, meaning more revs. The reality effect was that it lost its trademark power surge, amongst a new revvy personality. But as spin monsters go, this was a blinder. A peculiar mix of fuel injection and carburettor technology, vacuum controlled, fed it's eager cylinders resulting in more accurate fueling than some of today's sportsbikes. And the handling came into particular praise, far sharper and more precise in nature, as opposed to the previous 'stop it and fire it' necessity. The hydroformed Deltabox III chassis was able to deliver, though the suspension remained largely similar – bar some effective internal tweaks.
One thing I've noticed from riding a few used tests is that the 2002 to 2003 Yamaha YZF-R1 models are all in nick condition. I'm sure there are bad ones out there, but this one, my brother in law just bought has heart-pounding performance on a budget. The rim tape may not be to everyone's taste, but we've all got finger nails. Other gripes could be aimed at the iffy grips, and we just can't understand why anyone would want to fit these hideous monstrosities.
Back to the Yamaha YZF-R1, and it's lost none of it's excitement or potency. The real beauty of this motorcycle was that, for the first time on a YZF-R1, you didn't feel like your life was truly on the line each time you cracked the throttle open.
The only thing that ruins the party slightly on this particular motorcycle is the brakes. It's not a big issue in the grand scheme of things, because they're easily fixed if you have the inclination, or need. Just replace the stock brake pads with Brembo brake pads, and most of the problems are gone.