2004 Yamaha R1 Street Test

story by Sean Alexander, Photograph by Fonzie & Additional Photos by Tom Riles, Created Feb. 18, 2004
At long last, here's the 2004 Yamaha R1, the third all-new bike in the highly anticipated 1000cc supersport class. We told you all about the 2004 Kawasaki ZX-10R, back in December, after I rode it at Homestead. More recently, I got a chance to spend a day aboard Honda's new CBR 1000RR and now the trifecta is complete with this review of the 2004 Yamaha R1.

The first R1 made its debut in 1998 and its styling raised the bar for Japanese sportbikes. Each revision since then has refined the look and this new one is undoubtedly the prettiest R1 yet. After seeing this bike in person and oogling the new metallic red and the two-tone silver paint jobs, I sincerely feel that Yamaha has displaced Ducati at the top of the sportbike styling heap. (Of course Ducati helped, when they replaced the gorgeous 916 family with the 999 series) Yamaha says the new R1 is: "Michelangelo meets Sir Isaac Newton". I'd say: From the voluptuous upside-down swingarm, to the flowing intake snorkels, the 2004 R1 just oozes sex appeal.

Sure it looks great in pictures, but in person the new R1's "Shift Red" paint scheme is absolutely stunning. Yamaha could have simply restyled last year's excellent R1 and given us the new look without a full redesign, because most buyers couldn't even get near the absolute performance limits of the original 1998 R1. However, Yamaha intends to do some serious racing with this new bike and not only are there looming 1000cc threats from Kawasaki and Honda, but last year's GSX-R 1000 also had the old R1 covered from a pure performance standpoint. Wisely, Yamaha decided to go hole-hog for 2004 and the result is a bike that shares little more than an oil filter with the 2003 R1.

A comprehensive listing of the changes and revisions is included in Yamaha's spec-chart at the end of this article. However, at the risk of being redundant, I'd like to breeze through a few of the biggies. The entirely nMan this job sucks! Why couldn't I just push paper for a living? ew 998cc engine is claimed to make 172Hp and 180Hp "at speed" (thanks to ram-air induction, a first for R1s). The engine is over 56mm narrower than last year's motor, even though cylinder bores are now 3mm larger. This is mostly due to movement of the starter and charging systems to the back side of the cylinders, but also from a 23.7mm shorter crankshaft and a reduction in bore spacing, from 9mm to 5mm. The cylinders are now canted 40° forward from vertical (last years engine was 30°) this allows for even straighter intake ports and most importantly makes the engine shorter, so that the new "Deltabox" frame can route its spars over the engine (like the new ZX-10R's frame) instead of around the sides, for a narrower midsection. That new frame is 200% stiffer in the vertical plane, 50% stiffer against side forces and 30% stiffer torsionally, it is also has been reduced in width, from 464mm down to 395mm. A slightly narrower valve angle allows the compression to be bumped to 12.4:1 from last year's 11.8:1 (be sure to use premium gas) which is a big help in boosting power. Reciprocating and rotating inertia has been reduced, via 3% lighter pistons and a 16% lighter crankshaft, which makes the engine quicker revving and gives it a more "lively" feel. The lighter weight internals also help the engine to survive near its 14,000Rpm rev limiter.

The two-tone Liquid Silver/Cerulean Silver color scheme gets color-matched intake snorkles. Grrr Baby, Very Grrr!The new engine's redline is an unbelievable 2,000Rpm higher, at 13,750 compared to last year's 11,750Rpm redline. The fuel tank is fully 2" narrower than last year's. Front brake rotors have stretched from 298 to 320mm but are now .5mm thinner, so they weigh the same as last year's brakes. The front calipers now feature the de-rigueur radial mounting and the master cylinder has been changed to an excellent radial piston Brembo. Intake ports are straighter and 5% larger than last year's. Exhaust gasses are vented through 5mm larger ports that are surrounded by an extra water jacket for improved cooling, then routed out through a catalyst equipped exhaust that's (with the exception of the catalyst) 100% titanium from header to mufflers. The new steering damper is equipped with a mechanical ball check-valve that floats out of the way during slow movement, but is forced to block an oil passage when the damper is moved quickly. This allows for lighter slow speed handling, but allows for the necessary resistance needed at high-frequencies (like headshake).

GYTR Carbon Fiber Parts for the 2004 R1 2004 R1 Racebike   

Who needs excuses, I know I'm sexy According to Yamaha, the new R1 has the same ground clearance as their M1 MotoGP bike (except for the footpegs which would need to be changed for racing), thanks to the narrower engine and underseat exhausts.

Ergonomics are typical modern supersport and felt a little cramped at first, though I must confess to just getting over the flu and being somewhat stiff at the beginning of the ride. After I stretched a bit, I was perfectly happy and after a solid day of riding, I was still fresh and had no aches to complain about. The footpegs have been moved down 7mm and forward 2.5mm from last year's R1 and the clip-ons have been raised 10mm. When you couple this with a significantly narrower motorcycle, you end up with a roomier riding position. In addition to the new ergos, the new engine is quite smooth for an inline four and was noticeably less buzzy than the Honda CBR 1000RR.

PAGE 2My only complaint for everyday use in traffic or hot weather, is that there are some extremely high localized temperatures, near the rider's right knee. This is caused by heat from the catalyst leaking through the seam where the subframe bolts to the chassis.

The problem was most pronounced, when making U-Turns and trolling slowly around the photo points. I nearly melted the Cordura on the inside of my right knee. Today 24 hrs after the ride, I still have a bit of a sore spot where my knee was mildly burnt. It was an annoyance that I quickly learned to cope with, by riding with my right knee pointed   outward at speeds below 45Mph. Once I was aware of the issue and adjusted my leg position, the heat didn't really bother me for the rest of the ride.

A nice feature of the R1, is that the low beams stay on, when the high beams are in use and the four beam layout means you never have that "burnt out headlight" look. After a thorough re-think of the new R1, Yamaha has given us a bike armed with far more racing potential than the old R1, while clothing it in an Armani suit and fitting it with real world ergos. The new color choices are stunning and the sound tuning of the stock intake and exhaust are spot-on. The bike sounds exceptionally good from the front, when it's on the cam and the intake is playing its race-bike soundtrack. I'm mighty impressed with all three of the new 1000cc superbikes from Kawasaki, Honda and Yamaha. If my memory serves me (it rarely does), the Suzuki GSX-R 1000 is going to have a tough time defending it's honor on the racetrack. Luckily for you, you don't have to rely on my memory, you can just wait another month or two and read the full-on open class shootout right here on MO. For roadside sound and racer road curb-appeal off the racetrack, it's safe to say the new 2004 Yamaha R1 has them all covered. 

2004 YZF-R1 Specifications
Features & Benefits

New for 2004:

  • New from the ground-up design is lighter and incredibly powerful--as well as more beautiful aesthetically, aerodynamically and ergonomically.
  • Lay-down cylinder block and resulting narrow frame produce a 4-cylinder bike that's slimmer and more compact than ever.

  • Completely redesigned short-stroke 998cc, DOHC, 20-valve, liquid-cooled, inline 4-cylinder engine now produces 180 horsepower at an amazing 12,500 rpm (with Ram-Air).
  • All-new, 27mm narrower, fuel injection system uses motor-driven secondary throttle valves and 32-bit ECU for super-responsive, instantaneous power delivery.
  • Two-piece ergonomically designed fuel tank carries fuel in the rear section, for good centralization of mass, while the front half contains a new, Ram-Air-fed airbox for increased power.
  • Re-angled cylinder head-- 40 degrees forward instead of 30-- optimizes weight distribution, straightens intake tracts for improved cylinder filling, and allows frame to pass over instead of around the engine for great strength.
  • Radical new closed-deck cylinder block reduces cylinder pitch, allowing an engine with 3mm wider bores to grow only 2.8mm wider instead of 12mm.
  • Narrower-angle 5-valve combustion chambers produce a highly efficient 12.3:1 compression ratio. Bigger valves and intake cams with more lift and duration flow more air.
  • 16-percent lighter crankshaft, 3-percent lighter forged pistons, and 9-percent-lighter, 7.5mm shorter carburized connecting rods with perfectly mated big ends add up to a quicker-revving engine with excellent high-rpm durability.
  • High silicon-content ceramic-composite cylinder sleeves ensure greater heat dissipation for consistent power delivery and reduced friction.
  • Strong, yet lightweight clutch and close-ratio 6-speed gearbox with triangulated shaft layout for increased strength, compactness and quicker acceleration.
  • Titanium underseat exhaust system (except for stainless steel midpipe with catalyst) contains a new titanium EXUP valve for a broad, seamless powerband.
  • High-efficiency curved radiator and an aluminum liquid-cooled oil cooler maintain stable operating temperature.
  • Direct ignition coils, new dual-electrode spark plugs and high-output magneto deliver more reliable firing.
  • AC generator moves behind cylinder block for a narrow engine with excellent cornering clearance.

  • All-new, aluminum Deltabox main frame rails pass over the engine instead of around it, resulting in a structure that's 200-percent more rigid vertically, 50-percent stiffer laterally, and 30-percent stiffer torsionally.
  • Overall frame width is reduced from 464 to 395.6mm, which produces more comfortable ergonomics as well as more efficient aerodynamic penetration.
  • All-new, Controlled Fill die cast, truss-type swingarm is 30-percent stronger, and long for optimal traction and feedback.
  • Front-end geometry with 5mm more fork offset and reduced trail from 103mm to 97mm, for increased maneuverability; transverse steering damper mounts below steering head for excellent high-speed tracking.
  • The rider is repositioned for greater comfort: Clip-on handlebars are 10mm higher, footpegs are 2.5mm forward and 7.5mm lower, and the fuel tank is narrower.
  • Controlled Fill die cast, detachable aluminum subframe is light, strong and allows easy rear shock access.
  • Rear brake caliper is 12% lighter and rear disk is 10 grams lighter.
  • Dual 320mm front disc brakes, lighter/stronger, forged one-piece radial-mount calipers and Brembo radial-pump front master cylinder with adjustable lever delivers great braking controllability.
  • Fully adjustable KYB inverted telescopic front fork gets stiffer springs, 4.7" of travel and rigid, 43mm tubes.
  • Piggyback rear shock gets a stiffer spring, 5.1" of wheel travel, full adjustability and a lightweight, accessible aluminum preload adjustment collar.
  • New, 5-spoke wheels are 10% lighter in front 7.5% lighter in rear, for improved acceleration, deceleration, handling and suspension action.
  • Underseat titanium exhaust system is lightweight, reduces drag, enhances mass centralization, allows 56-degrees of cornering clearance--and adds to R1's predatory appearance.

Additional Features:

  • Two multi-reflector and two projector "Gatling-beam" headlights provide great illumination and distinctive style.
  • New instrument panel with adjustable LCD illumination and multi-function digital gauges: odometer, dual tripmeters, water temperature, air temperature, full-time clock and lap timer. Large 15,000 rpm analog tachometer with adjustable shift light.
  • Aggressive new bodywork for improved aerodynamics, with twin Ram-Air intakes for increased engine performance.
  • LED taillight is light, bright and highly efficient.
  • Sticky 120/70-ZR17 and 190/50-ZR17 radial tires for incredible grip and precise handling.
  • Forged footpegs are extra durable and light.
  • Extensive use of hollow bolts and lightweight fasteners help trim overall weight.
  • 8.2 AH battery is more compact and 25-percent lighter.
  • EU2 and California emission compliant.
  • Durable #530 O-ring-sealed drive chain.
  • Standard toolkit located in convenient storage compartment under passenger seat.
MSRP $10,599



998cc, liquid-cooled, 20-valve, DOHC, in-line four-cylinder
Bore x Stroke 77 x 53.6mm
Compression Ratio 12.4:1
Carburetion Fuel injection, dual-valve throttle bodies with motor-driven secondary valves
Ignition Digital TCI
Transmission 6-speed w/multi-plate clutch
Final Drive #530 O-ring chain


43mm inverted telescopic fork w/adjustable preload, compression and rebound damping; 4.7" travel
Suspension/Rear Single shock w/piggyback reservoir and adjustable preload, compression and rebound damping; 5.1" travel
Brakes/Front Dual 320mm discs; radial-mount forged 4-piston calipers
Brakes/Rear 220mm disc w/single-piston pin-slide caliper
Tires/Front 120/70-ZR17
Tires/Rear 190-50-ZR17


Width 28.3"
Height 43.5"
Seat Height 32.8"
Wheelbase 54.9"
Rake (Caster Angle) 24.0°
Trail 3.8"
Fuel Capacity 4.85 gallons
Dry Weight 379 lbs.


Primary Reduction Ratio

65/43 (1.512)
Secondary Reduction Ratio 45/17 (2.647)
Color Team Yamaha Blue/White; Liquid Silver/Cerulean Silver; Shift Red
Warranty 1 Year (Limited Factory Warranty)


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