Yamaha generally don’t get the credit they deserve when it comes to build quality and the R1’s level of finish is superb, easily on a par with Honda and probably even better. However the R1 does have a few issues when it comes to reliability.
While the engine is solid, the gearbox is a bit weak and second gear loves to go missing. Always ensure it locates nice and positively (it is clunky) and doesn’t hop out on a test ride. While on the test ride, always check the tacho as the R1 has a fault diagnosis system that will cause the rev counter to drop to zero, return to a set figure, then drop to zero again before showing the actual revs. This usually means that either the EXUP valve is seized or the Throttle Position Sensor (TPS) is broken. Neither is that expensive to fix, but they are annoying.
Checking the EXUP valve involves removing its cover (under the engine, near the right-hand foot peg, the cover’s fixings will almost certainly be rounded) and seeing if the valve turns when the motor is revved. If all is well, assume the TPS is down and haggle £90 for a new sensor and £150 to get it fitted off the bill as it needs careful calibration by an expert.
Early R1s have a large electrical connector located on the left hand side below the air scoop that is the main electrical feed. The connector isn’t really up to the job though and often corrodes and fails or shorts, causing the lights to flicker as a warning sign before the whole bike’s electrical system fails. You can update this for a better connector, but always check the lights aren’t flickering at all. Other than these issues it’s only oil level, seized suspension linkages, crash damage and worn bearings that you really need to worry about.
R1 is worthy of a standing ovation.
Time hasn’t dulled the appeal.