The Fireblade Got Elbowed Out

Believe it or not, we can actually thank Honda for the groundbreaking Yamaha R1 Superbike. Although the ‘Thunder Ace’ gave more power than the Fireblade, the short compact dimensions of the Honda were far superior over the larger Yamaha in the handling stakes…

In fact, Yamaha Japan were initially reluctant to take on the Fireblade and only started development of the R1 in earnest after consistent lobbying from Yamaha Europe. And that development actually started at the launch of the Yamaha Thunder Ace in South Africa as the “father of the R series”, Kunihiko Miwa, sketched an initial idea on a napkin after hearing feedback from some influential journalists via Yamaha’s engineering staff who attended the launch.

Yamaha redesigned the basic architecture of the old, powerful but bulky litre class Genesis engine repositioning the gearbox main-shaft above rather than in line with the crankshaft, creating the world’s first ‘vertically stacked gearbox’. This allowed a much shorter wheelbase, and lower centre of gravity giving much faster handling, and making the overnight making the previous class leading ‘Blade’ seem rather ordinary!

When it arrived in 1998 the R1 not only blew the competition out of the water with its 150bhp, it ran rings around the rather porky Fireblade thanks to a 177kg dry weight and sharp geometry. The even spread of this power was assured thanks to the EUPV (exhaust ultimate power valve), which is an electronic valve in the exhaust designed to improve intake efficiency, boost power output and improve fuel economy.

The R1 singlehandedly redefined the sportsbike class and first generations examples (especially in the bold red and white paint scheme) have become appreciating classics. Whether you need parts for a 1998 or a 2018 YZF R1, CMS has got you covered with the largest inventory of OEM parts in the world!

issued: Thursday, August 31, 2023
updated: Tuesday, September 12, 2023

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