What was it?
The Ace came from a long-line of quality litre-class sportsbikes. The FZR1000 was the daddy in 1987, having a pleasant mix of power and handling compared to the likes of Suzuki’s GSX-R1100. The same happened when the EXUP arrived in the Yamaha range in1989, it was THE litre sportsbike, but only until 1992 when the Honda CBR900RR FireBlade arrived. Suddenly 1000cc sportsbikes were old hat!
Yamaha then responded, with a750: the 1993 YZF750 was always on a hiding to nothing when unfairly pitched against Honda’s 900cc beast, but it ran the Blade pretty close. The FZR1000 then received yet another makeover in 1994, Yamaha dressed up the ageing chassis, it also got some six-pot calipers and foxeye headlamps from the YZF then in 1996 it was replaced by the Thunderace….
Yamaha claimed the new frame was based on the YZF750, but sadly the engine was just another outing for the EXUP 1000 motor, despite the new ‘YZF1000’ name it was another half-hearted attempt to blunt the Blade’s success and all with a daft name: ‘Thunderace!’It had other daft acronyms on its flanks too, things like ‘ASS’ or Aero Super Sport.’ I mean, really?
Was it too soft-edged?
This happens with many a cutting-edge sportsbike: they get rebranded as a ‘sports-tourer’ and the Thunderace quickly earned this title. But for many this was a good thing: the Thunderace was (and still is) a comfy bike, even for tall/big blokes and the pillion seat was comfy too.
Have I lost a gear?
The gearing of the five-speeder begs for a sixth cog, but you do get used to it, eventually: a gearbox from a YZF750 has six cogs and will fit directly in to the Ace’s cases, making you wonder why Yamaha never did it themselves…
What’s bad about them?
Anything TLC related can suffer: exhaust headers will not only rot but will also stop the EXUP valve moving, being located low down at the bottom of the pipes the crud can often seize the valves. They can easily be stripped out and serviced which makes you wonder why owners don’t do it more often. Many aftermarket systems don’t incorporate the EXUP valve, which isn’t actually a bad thing. All FZR/YZF motors like to use a drop of oil and being a five-valve per-pot motor valve clearances are a tedious job. Clutches are weak if abused and gearboxes often notchy.
Why would I want a Thunderace?
The Thunderace was more of a gentle giant compared to the likes of the Blade and today this still rings true: it’s a comfy, and a very fast mile muncher. Thankfully there are plenty out there and can be bought for any budget. While many bikes (like similar year/model Blades) are heading north in price the Ace still humbly bimbles in and out of dealerships for more modest amounts – and we like that at CB-Net. In short, it’s a hidden gem which – with a bit of love – can rack up many miles at speed and in good comfort.
Yamaha YZF1000R Thunderace 1996-2003
- Price when new: £9259 (Jan 1997)
- Price now: £1000-£2500
- Engine: Liquid cooled 20 valve DOHC
- Power: 145bhp (claimed)
- Weight: 198kg (dry) 221 (wet)
- Wheelbase: 1435mm