In the late '90s the Yamaha YZF1000 R1 was one of the most popular motorcycles on the market worldwide. The arrival of the YZF1000 R1 toke the motorcycling world by surprise. Back then, it was nothing short of incredible. The Yamaha YZF1000 R1 specifications said it all and, as expected, the YZF1000 R1 making 150 horsepower instantly became the motorcycle to have. Clichés like 'setting a new benchmark', 'ripping up the rulebook' and 'changing the face of biking' showed up in press reports of the time.
The first Yamaha YZF1000 R1 actually turned out to be a bit too much for some, and many of their riders ended up in ditches or even worse. Thankfully, by the time the 2002 model arrived, the rough edges had been smoothed and riders had a better chance of staying on the saddle.
By the very latest standards, the 2002 Yamaha YZF1000 R1 feels a little less sharp and able. But let's have a reality check here, shall we? Because, as long as you've got a sorted, well-cared-for-example, your riding ability is going to run out long before the motorcycle lets you down.
Steering isn't the lightest or fastest, but it can be improved by fitting sharper profile tires. But be warned, the already flighty front end may well become even more nervous should you do that. A steering damper is a very wise addition. The front-end geometry helps to give the Yamaha YZF1000 R1 a very direct feeling which in turn passes on a good idea of how well the sharp end is behaving. The good communication lets you know when you're getting to the edge of adhesion, before it lets go completely. It's a similar tale at the back end. The rear of the Yamaha feels secure, provided the suspension is well set up, allowing you to take advantage of the considerable drive from the 20-valve, fuel-injected engine.
The Yamaha YZF1000 R1 engine is a real strong point of the motorcycle. It's not as shockingly powerful as some of the stuff fitted in the latest 1000cc sportsbikes of course. But you certainly can't call it slow. The power is spread quite nicely and can sometimes give the impression it's a bit flatter than it actually is. But one quick glance at the digital speedo usually confirms your rapid level of progress. Although the gearbox is a bit heavy and notchy, changes aren't needed too often to quickly up your speed. Winding the throttle on is all that's generally required to go mental. And the adjustable rev warning light won't often flash if you've got it set anywhere near the redline, as there's no need to rev the engine too hard.
When it comes to slowing the Yamaha YZF1000 R1, you need to give the front brake lever a fairly good squeeze to get the YZF1000 R1 hauled up sharply. What were once benchmark brakes aren't quite up to 2012 standards. Though if they're in good condition and fitted with quality pads and lines then they're still excellent.
The Yamaha YZF1000 R1's riding position isn't the most roomy or comfortable. It's not as bad as it can be on some Italian motorcycles, but some may find the slightly committed forward stance a bit hard on their wrists and necks – especially when running around town.
Though a subjective issue, many consider the 2002 version of the Yamaha YZF1000 R1 one of the best-looking Japanese motorcycles ever made. It certainly has a sharp and classy style that's not quite as in-your face as some modern sportsbikes.