Ahead of Euro-5 regulations coming into force in 2021, rumours are swirling that Yamaha’s looking to completely refresh its YZF-R1 with an updated powerplant and even more MotoGP-derived technology.

Yamaha’s hugely successful YZF-R1 was first unveiled back in 1998 – and over the years the Japanese factories flagship superbike has been updated and evolved to make it more powerful and technologically advanced than the last. And since the latest generation, 200hp track-monster hasn’t seen any changes since 2015, it’s probably time for Yamaha put in some work in advance of the new Euro-5 regulations coming into play.

Rumours suggest that Yamaha is planning to completely redesign its R1 – updating its inline-four-cylinder engine and adding a raft of the latest MotoGP derived technology. What we’ve heard is that the next generation R1 will have a very similar crossplane inline-four engine to the current model, but it’ll come equipped with a range of technical solutions pulled directly from the MotoGP YZR-M1 prototype-racer.


It’s suggested that the new 2021 R1 will come with a counter-rotating crankshaft (much like the Ducati Panigale V4) – which works to help the bike accelerate faster with less of a reliance on electronic traction control and wheelie control. And there’s also talk that Yamaha will also adopt variable valve timing (similar to Suzuki’s latest GSX-R1000 and BMW’s new S1000RR).  

That’s not all. Based on the latest set of patent’s to appear in Japan, the new 2021 YZF-R1 could become the first mass production superbike to use a seamless gearbox. A must-have piece of kit in MotoGP racing, a seamless gearbox doesn’t cut power between shifts, which means that a rider can change gear at big lean angles without worrying about the bike becoming unstable. Plus, it helps to make for quicker, smoother acceleration too. Admittedly, a seamless gearbox typically requires a fair bit of maintenance. And according to reports from the MotoGP paddock, seamless gearboxes on MotoGP prototypes get taken apart at the end of each day during a race weekend.  Of course, that’s simply not sustainable for a street bike, but maybe Yamaha’s found a way to make it work without the need for such regular maintenance.

And finally, with many manufacturers unveiling new MotoGP-inspired aerodynamic solutions for its latest generation of road-legal superbikes (including Aprilia’s RSV4 1100 Factory and Ducati’s Panigale V4 R) – chances are that the new R1 will receive some new aerodynamic components similar to its MotoGP sibling too.


Of course, it’s going to be a bit of a wait before we finally get to see the new YZF-R1 in the flesh – but with Euro 5 regulations coming in for 2021, chances are we’ll get a first look at the latest generation street-legal superbike from the Japanese factory at the big end of year shows in 2020. If the rumours are anything to go by, we can’t wait.

Ross Mowbray

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