It’s an interesting time in sportbike land, as displacement limits have gone up, technologies are ever-improving, and in general, motorcycles are getting better and better. But one fact of life no manufacturer can escape is the looming Euro5 emission regulations. The toughest standards to date, Euro5 rules are said to be significantly more stringent than the Euro4 rules that preceded it. To meet the new standards, some OEMs have simply added displacement to engines to offset the increase in the number (or size) of catalyzers.
Yamaha didn’t have that option with the 2020 YZF-R1 and R1M. In order to remain legal for racing, the 998cc crossplane crankshaft four-cylinder was staying put. Instead of relying on a size increase to offset the pollution nannies, Yamaha chose to pass the sniff test by making combustion as clean and efficient as possible (and they also added more catalyzers, too).
That’s where I find myself in this video, attending the launch of the 2020 Yamaha YZF-R1 and R1M at the iconic Circuito de Jerez in Southern Spain, to see how the efficiency changes affect the new motorcycle. Of course, if you’ve already read my First Ride Review, then you know how impressed I am with the job Yamaha did making the R1 burn cleaner without taking away any of its charm. But if you’re the weird type that prefers to hear me talk about a motorcycle, this video is for you. There are a host of little changes, primarily to the cylinder head, that I note, but other tweaks throughout the bikes also get a mention. From there, the focus goes to the R1M and its updated Öhlins electronic suspension, carbon fiber bodywork, and sophisticated electronics package that includes GPS data-logging with information you can access from a phone or tablet.
It all really is next-level stuff. But next-level means nothing if the machine is boring to ride. Luckily, as you can see in the video, the new R1 and R1M are anything but boring.