Yamaha R1: Confined To The Track

The 2025 Yamaha R1 will be a track-only bike in Europe. No word yet on plans for Canada. PHOTO CREDIT: Yamaha

Although sportbike sales are still strong in Europe, the times—and more importantly, the anti-pollution regs—are a-changin’. Superbikes are getting increasingly pushed to the sidelines, and the Yamaha R1 appears to be the latest victim.

Earlier this month, Yamaha Motor Europe confirmed that their flagship literbike will no longer be offered as a street-legal machine in that market; they will not be offering a Euro 5-legal machine that complies with the latest emissions regs. Here’s how their press release put it:

In line with the change in demand and customer needs, Yamaha Motor Europe has taken the decision that the future of its track-targeting Supersport models will be dedicated solely to track use from 2025 – with the R1 following the same route taken with R6 in 2020.

However, they preceded that announcement with these lines:

Yamaha Motor Europe remains committed to the road going Supersport segment in the future and is confident the product line-up in this sector – based on platform models like R125, R3 or R7 – will continue to excite and exhilarate customers both on the road and the track.

No surprise there; the problem isn’t that people don’t want sportbikes. It’s that they’re becoming increasingly expensive to build, and the economics are getting harder and harder to justify on the company’s internal spreadsheets. The interesting thing is that there are most definitely still customers for these fast machines, no matter the price. The R1 will continue as a production model, just like the R6. But in Europe, these bikes will now only be available as trackday models, supported by dealership-run GYTR Pro Shops.

The next question is, what’s coming for Canada? It is worth noting that the R6 is no longer sold here, with sales canceled in 2020, and that certainly throws shade on the future of its superbike big brother. However, canceling a litrebike would be a pretty big deal in North America, as there’s still plenty of competition in this segment. But if the dollars and cents don’t make sense to Yamaha, the demands of the customers wouldn’t matter. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that the Big Four were flooding the market with sportbikes, with multiple lineups from a single brand, and a wide range of machines from sport tourers to beginner bikes to supersports to hyperbikes. Those days are gone, and the R1 announcement is just the latest move in an industry trend away from powerful four-cylinder litrebikes.

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