2007-2008 Yamaha YZF-R1

Smart Money

In the beginning-familiar to most as 1998-Yamaha's cliche-shattering YZF-R1 changed everything. Then, after relatively major makeovers in 2000, '02 and '04, project leader Toyishi Nishida tossed most everything but the name in '07. Signature five-valve combustion chambers were replaced by a MotoGP-derived four-valve setup featuring titanium intake valves. A slipper clutch came from the limited-edition '06 YZF-R1 SP. The press kit coined new acronyms for MotoGP-derived electronics-most notably YCC-T fly-by-wire throttle and YCC-I variable-length intake runners. From larger ram-air inlets up front to oval mufflers and an LED taillight, precious few part numbers remained.

Combining aluminum castings, extrusions and stamped, 2.5mm-thick sheeting, the Deltabox skeleton was redrawn to deliver more accurate steering and front-end feedback whistling into corners. Raising the asymmetrical swingarm's pivot 3mm, the chassis boffins gave the rear tire more grip exiting corners hard on the gas. New suspension at both ends aimed at creating a sharper, more responsive package. Brakes were new as well: six-piston front calipers clamping down on smaller 310mm rotors for less steering inertia.

While the YCC-T electronic throttle's imprecise response and underwhelming power below 6000 rpm are disappointing, all is forgiven when the tach strikes 7000. Thrust is stunning all the way to 12,500 rpm, at which point the 155-horse herd arrives at that phat 190/50 rear tire. The chassis is sensitive to setup; get it right and the suspension delivers an effective mix of compliance and wheel control. The R1 feels big if you aren't, but those over 6 feet tall appreciate such roomy accommodations. Steering is pleasantly light for a 461-pound package. That's 10 lbs. lighter than an '07 Suzuki GSX-R1000, incidentally. The new caliper/rotor combination provides abundant feel, along with a reassuring amount of initial bite. The R1 got around Thunderhill Raceway quicker than anything else in our "Class of '07" comparison.

The engine is astonishingly durable in stock tune, but runs hot. Avoid any example with low/stale coolant, or a crusty recovery tank. Setting the throttle-position sensor and idle mixture helps the low-rpm lag/bog. Hard starting, surging at idle and/or rough running can mean fouled plugs-back to the classifieds. Some bikes have no throttle issues at all-find one. Assuming you have the skills to match its power, the two of you can live in adrenaline-soaked bliss for years.

Stunning top-end thrust.Precise steering. Great brakes.

Lackluster midrange power. Spastic throttle response.

Watch For
Spastic throttle, hard starting, cooling system neglect.

A stone rocket for those who think life begins at 7000 rpm.

2007 $8315
2008 $8750


2008 | $8695
Honda CBR1000RR
Totally recast for '08, a dramatic weight-loss program dropped wet weight to 435 lbs.-lighter than its literbike peers and easier for mere mortals to manage as well. Spectacular power, but the Dani Pedrosa-sized package is cramped if you're tall.
2007 | $8050
Kawasaki ZX-10R
More sheer muscle with less vibration than anything else in '07, and the sweetest slipper clutch too. High-maintenance chassis makes you sweat through the tight bits. Swapping the stock front Dunlop for something else will transform the steering.
2007 | $8315
Suzuki GSX-R1000
Nearly as strong as Kawasaki's almighty Ninja, the GSX-R's superior chassis and suspension inspire greater confidence. Embarrassingly porky at 471 lbs. wet and a bit buzzy in the midrange, but pure joy on the street.