Yamaha YZF1000R Thunderace

Yamaha YZF1000R Thunderace – Tomorrow’s Classic Today

We love a trier, here at CB-Net and the Ace was always one of those…

It tried hard, it was a great bike, but also – strangely – a bit of an also-ran. It was Yamaha’s stop-gap answer to the Honda CBR900RR FireBlade. Yamaha had been kings of the sportsbike hill with previous offerings, such as the Genesis thou’ and later EXUP 1000, but from 1992 the Blade had ‘em all beat.

Come 1996 Yamaha had had enough… their answer though didn’t quite cut it. Essentially, the Thunderace was the last of the big, bulky, comfy sportsters which had dominated the sportsbike world until the arrival of the Blade. It was fast, but you could easily go two-up somewhere nice. Try that on today’s Panigale V4…

It wasn’t quite what the doctor ordered as it was a bit more of a refinement of what had gone before. The chassis came pretty much from the YZF750, so it could hustle, meanwhile the motor was the 20-valve 1002cc mill, taken lock-stock from the EXUP. This means it had a claimed 145bhp which should have had the whipping of any but a modified Blade. The swingarm was robust (and now a popular item with modders) as were the right-way-up forks. Brakes were the very fierce Blue-Spot Sumitomos.

Yamaha YZF1000R ThunderaceIt was bigger than a Blade but for many that was a positive thing and it meant that the Ace took many things in its stride – not least two-up riding or even touring. It even looked handsome enough, avoiding some of the more garish colour schemes of the 1990s…

Issues: well, not many, as you’d expect with tried-and-trusted parts. Yes, the brakes need TLC to keep up to spec, of course the engine burned oil (it’s a Yamaha, sir) and the EXUP valves would stick if not kept up to the mark, but the clutch was strong enough and the brake discs didn’t warp like some earlier Yamaha sports machines.

The biggest plus point is left to today… price. Sure, we’ve seen half decent bikes for around £500 a few years back, but prices – while they’ve gone up a little – aren’t anywhere near Blade prices. Rough bikes now start at around a grand, but nice, low milers are still sat under £2000.

For: comfort, power, brakes, handling. What more do you want?

Against: Not king dick – and never was!


Model YZF1000 Thunderace
Years available 1996-2003
Major changes Colour changes
Cost £9259 new in 1997.

Now: £1000-£2000+

Verdict: Under-rated do-it-all sportster…