2020 Yamaha R1 and R1M Review from Jerez MotoGP Circuit
Every time an OEM revises a motorcycle that is already and often stupidly capable in the hands of any level of rider, I ask how much better can these bikes actually get?
This sentiment floated throughout my thoughts as I traveled to Spain’s Circuito de Jerez for a first-ride review of the revamped 2020 Yamaha YZF-R1 and its premium carbon-fiber clad brother, the YZF-R1M.
Just as each of the previous generation R1s was a significant advancement over their predecessors, the ninth-gen R1 has done it again. And then some.
The changes to the engine, electronics, suspension, and bodywork are subtle but significant, making the 2020 R1 and R1M superbikes feel 10x more lethal than the 2019 Yamaha R1 in the grips of both novices and seasoned racers.
Jerez is a MotoGP circuit that provides the perfect playground for safely testing the limits of motorcycles. During the test, I spent an hour (three 20-minute sessions) on each platform.
1. Before we begin, both the base and M models are identical, except the R1M is upgraded with new Öhlins NPX ERS (electronic racing suspension) and carbon-fiber bodywork at an $8700 premium. The R1M also arrives standard with a CCU (Communications Control Unit) that interfaces with the Y-TRAC app (free for both iOS and Android). The CCU is a $699 accessory for the YZF-R1.
For the Jerez test, the YZF-R1 was shod in Bridgestone Battlax Racing Street R11 tires (190 out back) and the YZF-R1M in Bridgestone Racing Battlax V02 slicks (200 in the rear). Both models arrive stock with Bridgestone RS11 tires.
2. Both YZF superbikes have the same fourth-generation crossplane-crankshaft engine that debuted in 2015. The engine’s character mimics the crossplane platform of MotoGP prototypes that were built with input from Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo. The 2020 changes are subtle; they offer smoother delivery across the entire rev range rather than more raw power. This allows the CP4 powerplant’s 270-180-90-180 firing order to hook the tires up with more traction in a more finely tuned manner.
3. You can more easily read the tarmac and quickly dial in maximum throttle output for the amount of traction available. Sure, the electronics we’ll discuss below are a huge assist on this, but the revised CP4 provides more of a connection to the tarmac before the electronics such as traction control intervene. The CP4 powerplant creates an estimated 200 horsepower and a capability of a 183+ mph top speed. For 2020, it gets a variety of new parts—cylinder head, fuel injectors, finger-follower rocker arms, and camshaft profiles. The result is a sound unlike any inline-four on the planet—pure music that increases the pulse.
4. Four refined power modes are available and at least one for any riding situation, with 1 being most aggressive. Mode 2 was optimal for smoother power delivery on the track because mode 1 is a bit harsh with an aggressive throttle delivery. Mode 2 allows the revised CP4 engine to produce smooth and predictable output when either blasting to full throttle after cornering or regulating a maintenance throttle throughout a corner. This smoothness occurred across the rev range, whether at 5000 rpm or nearing redline at 14,000 rpm.
5. New for 2020 is refined ABS (Yamaha calls it Brake Control, or BC) and Engine Brake Management (EBM) for a total of seven independently adjustable electronic control rider aids. The motorcycle’s refined magic is delivered by the EBM, which has three settings, with 3 offering the least amount of braking.
I prefer setting 2—it has just the right amount of engine braking needed when going from wide-open throttle to braking. Also, when regulating throttle through a corner after running wide, the engine braking slows the bike down just enough if needed to tighten the line, whereas on the previous generation I relied more on a slight touch of the back brake. The previous R1’s linked braking system is gone. The new Brake Control compensates for it, and is a much better option—seasoned riders will concur with after the first corner.
6. The 2020 Yamaha YZF-R1 and YZF-R1M return with:
- 10x traction control settings
- 4x slide control
- 4x wheelie control
- 3x quickshifter (clutchless shifting)
- 3x launch control
All work identically to the previous generation R1s and integrate seamlessly when dialed into your riding style. On the track, my map basically read 1 across the board, except for 2 on the engine braking management and power mode—all are changeable on the fly. Even when the tires got greasy, the electronic intervention was not noticeable. For the truly experienced pro racers, traction, slide and lift control can be defeated with the motorcycle stationary.
7. Helping the model with future Euro5 compliance, the 2020 R1s have a ride-by-wire system, the first for a Yamaha R1. The lack of cable operations cleans up the dash, but I felt no noticeable difference in throttle feel between the 2020 RbW system and last year’s throttle cable-operated system. Two-thousand seven was the first model year with YCC-T (Yamaha Chip-Controlled Throttle) with cables from the throttle tube actuating an electronic servo. Technically, the 220 model was the introduction of a ride-by-wire system.
8. The 2020 Yamaha YZF-R1 has revised KYB suspension that furnishes a more planted feel throughout acceleration, stopping, and cornering. Tossing the already lightweight (450 pounds, ready to ride) around through quick switchbacks is effortless with the R1’s KYB setup, and even more so with the YZR-M1’s electronic suspension. That feeling is especially apparent during mid-corner throttle—the motorcycle remains stable and smooth as it maintains the optimal line.
9. The more planted feeling is due to Yamaha totally revising the R1’s KYB inverted fork with a new internal shim stack design, and optimizing the KYB shock settings. I did experience some front-end chatter under heavy braking at the end of both of Jerez’s long straights, but I didn’t have the time to dial in the settings fully. Although the revamped 2020’s KYB suspension may not be noticeable to a novice rider familiar with last year’s R1, it definitely offers more feeling that inspires more confidence when pushing the motorcycle to the limit.
10. The 2020 Yamaha R1M’s Öhlins Electronic Racing Suspension (ERS) uses an NPX fork with integrated gas cylinder and optimized shock settings. The R1M feels immediately dialed in and adapted to any condition the track supplies, from drastic elevation changes to tight switchbacks.
11. I wanted a bit more stiffness on Jerez’s final section due to the tighter layout, but a softer feel for the double-apex turn five that flows quickly uphill and leads onto the back straight—and the R1M compensated for this. The suspension set in setting 1 (of five) was so good that by my second lap on the R1M, I was more focused on perfecting my lines instead of tweaking suspension settings. You forget about suspension all together—a sign of a remarkable setup.
12. Whereas the R1’s suspension changes will only be fully appreciated by the advanced rider, the same can’t be said of the new Öhlins electronic suspension on the R1M. I’ve said it before and will say it again—electronic suspension is pure magic, especially on the race track.
13. Yamaha refined the already stellar braking system (Advics and Nissin) on the 2020 R1 and R1M with updated brake pads. You get dual 320mm discs up front squeezed by four-piston radially mounted calipers, and a single 220mm disc out back squeezed by a single-piston floating caliper. The feel at the lever is precise and only requires a one-finger pull. I didn’t feel one ounce of brake fade throughout the day, which can be attributed to a newer brake pad material.
14. There’s a new Bosch ABS unit on the Yamaha superbikes, and stainless-steel braided front brake lines. The ABS feels different, and is available in two settings—BC1 and BC2. I prefer BC1 because BC2 intervenes too much under harder braking at the end of the straights. For the street, I’d surely prefer BC2, but BC1 was perfect for the track setting.
15. Both the 2020 Yamaha YZF-R1 and YZF-R1M arrive stock with updated Bridgestone Battlax Racing Street RS11 tires, which feature a more advanced tread pattern and updated rubber compounds. You can quickly tell that MotoGP technology has fully hit the street tires (Bridgestone was the spec MotoGP tire supplier from 2009-2015). The test was done with the R1 on the stock tires and the R1M on V02 slicks. The RS11s provide stability and constant feedback under hard braking and acceleration. They did get a bit greasy during the final laps, which was expected.
I shared the R1 with another rider, and we pounded them for two hours on the Jerez with the air temperature in the 90s. For normal street use, the Bridgestone RS11 tires are definitely a top choice.
16. The bodywork is slightly massaged for 2020, and Yamaha claims a 5.3-percent increase in aerodynamic improvement when a rider is at full tuck. I couldn’t tell the difference on Jerez’s straights, but Michael van der Mark of the Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team said he positively feels the difference—we will have to take his word for it. Besides the slight massage, the YZF-R1 also has a full carbon fiber tailpiece to complement the returning carbon fiber side fairings and nose.
17. The R1M also has a super slick GYTR Communication Control Unit (CCU) that uses GPS to track the motorcycle’s position and recorded data from the IMU and ECU. The data shows everything from throttle opening to engine speed at whatever area of a track you’re working on, allowing you to truly dial the R1M in for your riding style and bike setup to the track for the fastest lap times.
I didn’t see my data until I left the Circuito de Jerez, but for the racers and track riders who want to achieve the very best, this data is the equivalent of having a factory-spec team of analyzers behind you. The CCU is compatible with the Yamaha Y-TRAC app for mobile devices. Communicating via Wi-Fi, it facilitates downloading data and making settings changes. This is a $700 accessory for the base YZF-R1.
18. The full-color TFT gauge’s layout is simple, showing Yamaha Ride Control (YRC) settings and the electronic suspension settings on the YZF-R1M. You can select what info you want to show in the main view, such as a lap timer. Yamaha uses a simple wheel on the right control to scroll through information such as miles and temperature, making it easy to switch info on the fly with gloves on. The left control has a simple three-button switch to change YRC settings. Also, a gear indicator is standard.
19. Yamaha didn’t change the ergonomics on the 2020 R1 and R1 models. The rider triangle caters to my nearly six-foot frame, though the short reach to the footpegs may cause some discomfort for taller riders. I have a rod in my right femur—if a motorcycle crunches my legs, they typically go numb after three sessions. The Yamaha induced no numbness, which is how I effectively gauge if the ergonomics work for me.
20. If I were choosing between the two for a street bike, the base R1 would certainly be my pick. The suspension updates combined with the engine and electronic refinements don’t create a want for the typical Öhlins upgrades; the bike works optimally out of the gate. I’d take that extra $8,700 I saved and buy some tires—I know I’d be burning through them quickly as my smile continuously grew from corner-to-corner.
21. The R1M has the goods for the track. The most significant advancements are the engine braking control and advanced suspension on the R1M lead to one of the favorite aspects of riding confidently—mid-corner stability and smooth throttle.
22. For 2020, Yamaha has dropped the red color scheme on the base R1. The 2020 R1 is offered in two color options—Team Yamaha Blue and Raven. The R1M is available only in Carbon Fiber.
23. Prices are up for 2020, and so is performance. These changes mean the R1 is $700 more expensive than last year, and the R1M has a substantial $3100 price increase, primarily due to the electronic Öhlins suspension. While the changes to the CP4 engine, electronics, suspension, and bodywork may seem subtle on the computer screen, the differences are extraordinary when pushing the 2020 Yamaha YZF-R1 and YZF-R1M to their limits on the track. Both Yamaha superbikes are available in October.
- Helmet: Arai Corsair-X Carbon IOM TT
- Suit: Alpinestars GP Pro V2 with TechAir Technology
- Gloves: Racer High Speed
- Undersuit: Alpinestars
- Boots: Alpinestars Super Tech R
2020 Yamaha YZF-R1 and YZF-R1M Specs:
- Type: Inline-4
- Displacement: 998cc
- Bore x stroke: 79.0 x 50.9mm
- Compression ratio: 13.0:1
- Valvetrain: DOHC, 16 valves
- Transmission: 6-speed
- Clutch: Assist-and-slip
- Final drive: Chain
- Frame: Twin-spar cast aluminum w/ magnesium subframe
- Front suspension; travel: Fully adjustable KYB 43mm inverted fork; 4.7 inches (YZF-R1M: Fully adjustable Öhlins Electronic Racing Suspension NPX 43mm inverted fork; 4.7 inches)
- Rear suspension; travel: Linkage-assisted fully adjustable KYB piggyback reservoir shock; 4.7 inches (YZF-R1: Linkage-assisted fully adjustable Öhlins Electronic Racing Suspension piggyback reservoir shock; 4.7 inches)
- Wheels: 10-spoke magnesium
- Tires: Bridgestone Battlax Racing Street RS11
- Front tire: 120/70 x 17
- Rear tire: 190/55 x 17
- Front brakes: 320mm discs w/ 4-piston radially mounted calipers and master cylinder
- Rear brake: 220mm disc w/ single-piston floating caliper
- ABS: Bosch (cornering and adjustable)
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 55.3 inches
- Rake: 24.0 degrees
- Trail: 4.0 inches
- Seat height: 33.7 inches (YZF-R1: 33.9 inches)
- Fuel capacity: 4.5 gallons
- Estimated fuel economy: 33 mpg
- Curb weight: 448 pounds (YZF-R1: 450 pounds)
2020 Yamaha YZF-R1 and YZF-R1M Colors/Prices:
- YZF-R1: Team Yamaha Blue and Raven; $17,399 MSRP
- YZF-R1M: Carbon Fiber; $26,099 MSRP