Long ago, the thought of owning a 1998 Yamaha R1 consumed my teenage obsessions; I would have given everything to be the keeper of its key. As fate would have it, an R1 wouldn’t enter my garage, but rather a small starter bike was my first two-wheeled ticket. Although my lust for the first R1 slowly fizzled as lighter and faster bikes hit the market, the connection still remained buried within. Even after the GSX-R1000s, ZX-10Rs and S1000RRs stole the subsequent decade of limelight, the internal itch to own the R1 that once captivated my youth never died. What used to be a raging inferno slowly simmered into an ember, yet the flame never completely burned out.
In recent years the thought of finding a first generation R1 had all but vanished if not for the rare occasion I’d see one pass by. Sadly though, most were wrecked, beaten and now some kid’s first bike–a far cry from the days of old when an R1 was the envy of every riding circle and the talk of the industry.
My R1 inferno was again ablaze one random day when an errant Craigslist search unearthed what appeared to be a dream come true–a shot at a proper diamond in the rough. Was there really an old R1 buried in someone’s garage? As luck would have it, there was.
Others warned of the possible let down in reliving the childhood dream, but their caution meant nothing. I saw blue, and lots of it.
Waking The Dead
The old hides were as hard...
The old hides were as hard as wood and happily gave way to some Avon VP2 Supersport tires. A Brillo Pad and Brake Clean removed the surface rust on the aged rotor.
After what seemed like months of blood, sweat, busted knuckles and lots of foul words, the old steed cleared its lungs for the first time (in last issue’s report). Greeted with a rough idle, the old Yamaha was anemic at best, but another look at the carburetors proved the first couple attempts at carb cleaning weren’t thorough enough. With some sweet-talking and a little more tinkering the mighty R1 fired on all cylinders.
Getting It Roadworthy
The act of firing old blue for the first time in nearly a decade was the difficult part, but the next hurdle was getting it ready to ride. The old hides were chucked in favor of new tires. Avon VP2 Supersport tires were the rollers of choice because soft tires are added insurance in keeping a prized ride upright. Sure, the R1 wont see any track time, but sticky tires are a must when it’s time to put the old bike through its paces on the right road.
Elbow grease brought the old...
Elbow grease brought the old chain and sprockets back to life. GYTR replacement parts are a great option when it’s time to replace them.
Whenever wheels are dismounted for new tires it’s a good idea to check the bearings, brake pads and rotors for signs of wear and fatigue. Everything looked solid, even the original chain and sprockets. A good cleaning brought the hardware back from the grave, but they’ve only got one more season before replacement cogs are in order.
New brake fluid was added in place of the crusty stuff and a good bleeding brought the lever and pedal back to life. Sometimes the master cylinder and calipers need rebuilding when the pistons stick, but the R1 was free of such worries.
Fresh brake fluid and a thorough...
Fresh brake fluid and a thorough bleeding restored the brakes’ squeeze.
With all the reciprocating parts checked and rechecked along with new fluids and a good washing it was time for blast off. It sounds elementary, but don’t forget to register and insure the bike before the first ride.
The Maiden Voyage
With a thumb of the starter the R1 gurgled to life. At first just three cylinders signed on, but a coax of choke brought the fourth on board.
Much to our surprise the previous...
Much to our surprise the previous owner outfitted the R1 with Race Tech fork internals and a matching rear shock.
Several minutes of warm-up and a clunk into first gear got things moving. The clutch take-up was quick and the R1 felt slender and light. The digital speedometer was easily legible but the analog tachometer was small by today’s standards. Inside the cockpit the windshield was tiny and the handlebar switches were bulky and rough around the edges.
Once underway I quickly reached sensory overload in an attempt to monitor the gauges and listen to the motor for odd sounds as I tiptoed on cold, fresh rubber. Caught up in the moment I hadn’t realized this finally was my first ride on a 1998 Yamaha R1. In that moment I was back in high school living the dream. I had finally made it.
After the honeymoon miles were over I began to notice character traits that come with, well, age. To someone who appreciates the romance of an older bike, this is all part of the experience. But to someone who prefers cold, hard performance this is more a nuisance than an attribute.