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Pre-R1: One-owner 1997 Yamaha YZF1000R Thunderace

Before Yamaha dropped its lithe, world-beating R1 in 1998, it had already set the bar pretty high for itself with the YZF1000R Thunderace, which took home bike of the year honors in ’97. Elsewhere around the globe, the YZF1000R was sold for seven years, stepping in as a blistering sport touring mount once the R1 came out.

In the U.S., the 1997 Yamaha YZF 1000R was a one-year only machine, bridging the gap between the FZR1000 and the R1. Never officially dubbed the Thunderace in this country, the name followed the American-market bikes, chiefly because it is the best motorcycle name of all time. Thunderace. Thunderace. The name alone is a trump card at any cruise-in parking lot peacock session.

“Oh, you bought the CBGSXR1000? Cool. I bought a Thunderace.” Doesn’t matter whose goes from zero to Mach Chicken the quickest anymore. Thunderace … 

Sorry. Got a little sidetracked there. The Thunderace seen here has lived its whole life with one owner, and somehow has only covered 8,000 miles in that time. It has some aftermarket bolt-ons, but all the stock pieces are accounted for and will convey in the sale.

From the eBay listing:

I am the original owner of this 1997 Yamaha YZF1000R Thunderace. There is not a single scratch on the machine, it was never raced, and it only has 8097 miles on it. It won bike of the year in 1997, which is why I bought it. The tires literally have about 100 miles on them. Currently, Heli Bar clips on’s are installed, but the buyer can have the original handlebars also. I have my Corbin saddle on it now, but I have the original seat, and I still have the original exhaust pipe as well. This is an absolutely fantastic motorcycle, but I need to make room in the garage and buy a truck. My loss is your gain. You may come see it in the 18940 zip code or I can ride it or trailer it to you, as long as your distance is reasonable.

With just  a $4,200 buy-it-now price, the bar for entry into a really cool one-year-only sportbike is very, very low. Jump in while you can.


  • I think part of the reason the R1 was so a wow moment was that this was the predecessor. Good bike for someone who isnt concerned with track times but man I hate those undertail license plates. Keep it original folks

  • Gawd I hated these bulbous monstrosities and their silly names Thunderace and the 600 Thundercat (seriously Lion-O Thundercat?). Yamaha seemed completely lost in the mid-90s. Universally acclaimed as too soft from the sporting journos, these bikes were the fat friend to the achingly sexy Ducatis and the Muscular CBR900rrs. Why Yamaha had decided to build a sport touring bike and pretend it was a supersport will never be clear to me.

    Much like the fat friend, just looking at that bodywork reminds me of all of the terrible things I would like to forget from the otherwise stellar 90s. Jean shirts with khakis, the laugh track of Friends, Monica Lewinsky and Yamaha Thundercouches would all be best relegated to the side of nostalgia that is ‘glossed over’. Thankfully, Yamaha finally redeemed themselves with the R1 and R6.

    • Yeah, Yamaha was wise not to call their bikes the “Thundercat/Thunderace” in the USA. I can’t see that name and not hear Lion-O shouting in my head… Although the “Ninja” seemed to go over surprisingly well! I like these in the same way I like the ZX-11: they’re big, comfy, fast, and currently cheap. I also like how relatively restrained the graphics are. But they’re definitely not in the same league as the R1 that followed, by all accounts. Good call on the other stuff best forgotten from the 90s as well: laugh tracks make me cringe… Actually, “Friends” makes me cringe in general.

    • Did the USA not get the FZR1000 in the 90’s? The Thunderthighs was never intended to be a hyper sports bike, It WAS the small sports touring cousin to the FZR for folks who didn’t like the FJ1200.
      That being said, I never liked this bike at all. It is like the confused 90’s Suzuki Katana. It doesn’t really fit in.

    • Perfect description of these gen YZFs! Fat and unremarkable. Great all around streetbikes, but not at the pointy end of the sportbike range. Back in 97 I was debating my next club racer 600. Yamaha was paying big contingency $, way more than Suzuki or Honda. Kaw paid decent but still only about half what Yamaha paid in the WERA and CCS series. Plus a Yamaha dealer a few hundred miles from me was matching the contingency payouts if you bought the bike from them. The problem was the YZF600, like this 1000, was heavy and didn’t have the HP to make up for its weight. I realized I wasn’t going to be the next Kevin Schwantz at that point so rather than get the best bike (SRAD 600 or ZX6R) I decided to make a go of it on the YZF. Not a good year for me, but the funniest thing was a friend and I came together in a race, he was on a ZX6R and me on the “Yamabehemoth” as I called it. I went up the inside and he was coming down into the apex quickly and we got together pretty hard. That Kaw went flying off the track (literally), and it barely even disturbed the Yamabehemoth. I had sheer mass on my side! That was the only good thing about that bike – when you rubbed paint, the flyweight Gixxers and Kaws bounced off you like ping pong balls! My pal always gave me a “wide berth” after that…

  • All open class sportbikes were big back then with the 900RR being the exception. A period GSXR1100 is longer and heavier.

    The FZR 1000 was 20 lbs heavier.

    FYI, the Ducati 916 was not part of the 750 superbike class, not the open class.

    Great bike with a stupid name. “Super Happy Funtime Thunderace”!

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