Yamaha’s carefully considered response to the CBR900RR took a while getting here, but when it did it achieved immediate supremacy via 150 claimed crankshaft horsepower from its 20-valve inline-Four and a great reduction in mass from the previous YZF1000R. At the same time, a huge increase in overall compactness resulted from fresh thinking including stacking the transmission input and output shafts, and the original R1’s sleek, predatory bodywork and beautiful brushed alloy frame make it one of the prettiest Japanese sportbikes of all time in many eyes. This one really ushered in the current era of full-on 1000cc pure sportbikes, an arms escalation that continues today.

Our take on the last of the first-gen R1s, the 2000 R1, is here.

  • spiff

    Good list. They 90s were cool.

  • Born to Ride

    I love the 99 SV review. I remember reading it nearly ten years ago when I was first becoming a MOron.

  • SRMark

    I’ll take the 916 to look at, the VFR750 to ride. And put that Buell in the mix.

    • spiff

      I used to have a thing for the VFR. Never rode one, but that’s what I wanted.

  • Mahatma

    Where’s the RC45?Arguably the best sport bike made in the ’90s-albeit pricey.

    Also,the honda nt650gt preceeded the ducati monster,and it’s not hard to see the similarities there.

    • mikstr

      RC45? You mean the one with a reputation for understeering and which needed all of HRC’s engineering might, virtually unlimited funding and some of the world’s top talent to turn into an eventual winner? It is where it belongs, off this list.

      • Mahatma

        Like Duxcati didn’t need help winning?Alwways felt they were given preferential treatment in WSB…

        • mikstr

          WSB rules favoured twins at the time (hence Honda’s decision to release the RC51). Notwithstanding that, the RC45 still doesn’t belong on this list. Now if they make one for overrated underachievers that’s another story….

    • john burns

      Unless your goal was to beat Carl Fogarty, I think that `94 VFR750 was what you wanted.

  • Randy Rjd

    Crazy to think 170hp is standard for a modern 1000. Guys are getting 200 and change with dyno tunes.

  • Jon Jones

    Great trip down memory lane.

    I just want to go back…

  • JMDonald

    I remember most of these bikes. Looking at them now they seem so unrefined. Who says older is better? Not me and not always that’s for sure.

  • Kevin

    I don’t know how you can leave out the 1995 Kawasaki ZX6R Ninja. It was huge back then. They claimed it was the first 600 to break a 11 second 1/4 mile and 100HP. Kawasaki was a little optimistic about the HP. Kawasaki made 3 Ninjas that year and the 600 was faster than the other Japanese Supersport 750s that year. Until the new GSXR 750 came out the following year. Most of the 90s were about 600s and 750s. We did like the CBR900RR and the Ducatis. The VFR 750 was always considered more of a sport touring bike just like the Ninja ZX11. I spent every nice weekend up in the North Georgia Mtns from 1990-1998. The first bike I rode up to Deals Gap was on my 2 year old 1988 Katana 600. In 1990, about 3 hours away from Atlanta. We never dreamed that road, that was just a really good road that went between 2 states would turn into “The Tail of The Dragon”…Disneyland for motorcycles. Hahaha.

  • major tom

    Over all I’d have to say these bikes are better looking then anything today. Swoopy, clean, no gratuitous, random, irregular, useless slabs of flat black plastic scattered around. And look! They have actual functioning fenders! Some even have, gasp, choke, centerstands! And gas tanks usually of five gals. with a cruising range far exceeding the 100 miles before the low fuel light comes on like today’s bikes. And this retrograde de-evolution is the bike rags fault. Got to have something to sell mags. Hype sells.

  • Old MOron

    Ha ha, I dig that SV650 review. “Just ride it.” I wonder who wrote it. Who had a high-speed debacle in Arizona in early 1999 or late 1998?