Why We Picked It:
For those old enough to remember, when the turn of the millennium arrived, the Big Four out of Japan were at war with each other. Not violently, of course, but in the now legendary "Power War" that saw crazier and crazier supersports and superbikes being released, always trying to one up each other with specific output, power to weight, and top speed.
In 1998, Yamaha fired its biggest salvo at the others when it released the YZF-R1. It was stupid fast, hitting 60 MPH in under 3 seconds, 100 MPH in under 6 seconds, topped out near 170 MPH, and howled out just under 150 HP. Over the next decade, it moved from carburetors to fuel injection, had aerodynamic tweaks, and refined its engine to produce more and more power.
However, after a decade of being mostly the same, 2009 saw the arrival of an all-new second generation, and introduced perhaps the most famous of all Yamaha engine technologies to riders: The Crossplane Crankshaft.
It also helped that the body, which was already sharp, angular, and looking like it wanted to attack, was taken back to the drawing board and came out looking like it had attacked and was grinning madly at you with blood dripping from its mouth.
It went from bulbous headlights to "squinting" headlights with air intakes on the outer edges, feeding two cylinders each side. The exhaust was repositioned and angled up more. The clip-ons were lowered, and whole front face of the bike was made wider and more angular to cut through the air better.
To say that the 2009 YZF-R1 was about as perfect looking a superbike as Japan could produce is not understating the facts. It was angular, sharp, attacking, and just perfect down to every millimeter, and to this day, is considered one of the best designed shapes, ever, to emerged from the little island nation in the Western Pacific.