The Thunderace was designed to be an all out sports bike, its job was to replace the iconic FZR1000 EXUP as the flagship of the Yamaha armada in the mid 1990s but instead it sadly sunk, but not without a trace. The R1 would eventually arrive in 1998 and restore some big guns to the fleet. So why did the Ace live on in the range until 2004?
The Thunderace was the last big sports bike that Yamaha made and those proportions lend it perfectly to being a sports tourer, which is where the Thunderace earned its reputation. There wasn’t too much new about the model when it was launched in 1996, the all alloy frame was pretty much a reworked YZF750 item and the engine was from the well proven EXUP. Styling wise, it didn’t set the pulse running, but it was still a very capable motorcycle and, with over a 140bhp on tap, it was a fast bike.
It wasn’t as refined as it could’ve been, build quality was iffy in places and suspension was always an area for improvement if you wanted to go trackside, which a few did as superstock racers. When it arrived in 1996 it carried a list price of £8,999. By the time it bowed out the range in 2004, that sticker price had fallen to £7,634. There were further bargains to be had if you looked hard enough. That’s where the Thunderace sits now, it is a bargain basement superbike that’s actually a very capable all round sports tourer.
What’s it like to ride?
It feels big once you jump on. The pegs are quite high and the bars are a bit of a stretch, but you soon feel at home and get comfy. The tank is wide and holds enough fuel for a range around 180 miles. Many owners fit a flip up screen and it’s easy to see why, as the standard one is on the low side. The motor is a gem. There’s plenty of power at your disposal but not enough gears in the five speed‘box. You’re always reaching for a sixth gear until you get in the swing of things. Pillions get a decent perch and that’s obviously why these bikes tick the sports tourer box. One part of the Ace that was new was the now famous blue spotted front brake calipers, they are an excellent brake set-up.
What to look for?
We spoke to Vinny Styles who’s the Sales Manager at Wheels Motorcycles –
“Always a steady seller in their day, although now too long in the tooth for us to retail. We see plenty presented in part exchange. Service history is a good indication of whether the bike is sound or not. They like a drop of oil those engines. EXUP valves will seize although many aftermarket systems do away with this. Frames are wide; any bikes with carbon frame protectors will be hiding scuffs. There’s also lots of plastic bodywork and many crashed bikes get resprayed in all manner of race team inspired schemes.”
What goes wrong with them?
We spoke to Chris Tombleson at Grumpy 1260. He said: “The engines are still very popular with people building YZF750 projects. There’s lots of hidden performance in those 20 valve motors and the YZF750 six speed gearbox will go straight in too. We always sell the blue spot calipers, they retro fit many other Yamaha models. Bodywork rarely survives a crash and a decent Thunderace can be had for less than £2,000, so it’s rare for damaged bikes to get repaired. ”
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