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Yamaha R1 Reaches End of the Road

The Yamaha R1 and R1M could be reaching the end of the road…as a road bike. Yamaha has announced that it won’t be updating the iconic one-litre sports bike to Euro5+ emissions regulations, which means that it can’t be legally registered for the road in Europe, or the UK once existing stocks have been sold. You might ask, why has Yamaha decided not to update such a milestone machine as the R1?

The story behind all of this isn’t just ever-tightening emissions regulations – Euro5+ requires more sophisticated onboard diagnostics, durability, and noise tests – but that the sports bike market has changed hugely since the R1 was first launched back in 1998. Twenty-six years ago (yes, that’s how long ago it was) sports bike sales dominated most of Europe, especially the UK. These days, the demographic has changed, as existing riders get older but aren’t being supplemented by a younger generation. Also, the atmosphere around speed limits has evolved, with tighter control and more 20mph limits. Consequently, sports bike sales have shrunk while naked and adventure bikes take their place.

However, this may not mean the end of the R1 per se. The 600cc R6 is no longer available as a road bike but is still offered as a track-only machine – it’s likely that the R1, which has bagged five BSB titles in its long career, will follow the same path.

Jim Freeman, Chair of the BMF, said: “I’m not surprised. In the world of ‘20’s plenty’, bikes that don’t really work properly at the national speed limit, let alone 20 mph, are an anachronism. SuperSport’s bikes always seemed to belong on track. I remember very clearly the 1st ride I had on one, not an R1, and hit 90mph in 3rd gear, changing up at 50% of the red-line rpm, because it had less than 100 miles on the clock. Interesting experience, but guaranteed to lose me my licence, so I had no urge to own one. Then there was the comfort aspect, if I wanted to be a jockey, I’d ride horses.”

Written by Peter Henshaw

Top image courtesy of Yamaha