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Axe falls on Yamaha R1 as a road bike

2014_Yamaha_YZF1000R1

Yamaha has confirmed its iconic R1 superbike will not be sold for road use from next year, although a ‘race only’ version will remain for track use.

The R1, or YZF-R1 as it was originally known, rewrote the rules on what a roadgoing superbike should be when it was launched in 1998. With 150bhp and a compact chassis, it was an instant best seller in a sportsbike obsessed UK. The first R1 came at a time when 1000cc sports bikes were generally considered to be GT style machines, and where the sportiest bikes on sale were typically road going versions of the 750cc fours and 1000cc V-twins used in superbike racing. The R1 was such a success it spawned a whole generation of imitators, with the Suzuki GSX-R1000, Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade and Kawasaki ZX-10R Ninja all fighting it out for top honours on and off the track in the early 2000s.

The financial crash of 2008 signalled the beginning of the end for the superbikes and changing tastes has seen sales of Japanese superbikes almost completely dry up. The once popular 600cc supersport class was the first to go, with Yamaha dropping the R6 road bike in 2021, and now it seems the flagship sports model will go the same way from 2025. As with the R6, the R1 will remain available for race teams to purchase but it will not be homologated for road use in Europe.

 

2014 Yamaha El CMA Global press Premiere

 

The decision coincides with the introduction of the latest round of emissions laws coming in. Each time the rules are changed, manufacturers have to decide whether or not it is economically viable to update models to meet the latest regulations. Since 2021, motorcycles have had to conform to Euro5 rules for exhaust emissions, which is why we saw a number of slow selling vehicles such as the aforementioned R6, Suzuki’s GSX-R1000, Honda’s VFR1200 and a number of air-cooled machines like Harley-Davidson’s Sportster and Yamaha’s cruisers all being discontinued. The latest regulations come in for 2025, with the R1 unlikely to be the only motorcycle to be culled.

The current Yamaha YZF-R1M is currently homologated for racing purposes for at least the next four seasons, meaning any teams wishing to take part in top level competitions like world superbikes or world endurance racing will be able to do so with the existing model.

Yamaha has confirmed it is committed to supporting teams looking to race the R1 and R6, such as Jonathan Rea’s factory world superbike outfit, but it will be interesting to see if a replacement model does appear eventually in order for the company to stay competitive in production-based racing. With European brands BMW and Ducati continuing to develop their superbikes at pace it will be tough for Yamaha to remain competitive without an updated base model, but with demand for such machines almost non-existent among road riders it is hard to see a strong business case for reviving this iconic model.

 

2024 Yamaha YZF1000R1

 

Want to know more? Here’s a feature about the history of the Yamaha R1 from our archives.

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