Yamaha India’s is a case of the same tide that draws something close, and then pushes it away. The manufacturer who introduced us to the word ‘Performance’ in motor biking terms is now similar to the sportsperson, who has that spark, has the potential, who was once above all and is now just a shadow of his former self, satisfied with mediocrity and mere existence. They did start a fire with the R15, one which looked like it would swallow the jungle, when all it could do was provide some heat to the kettle, keep that tea on the boil.
Yamaha India gave us a jet engine in the form of the RD350, at a time when we were just about learning to fly using a glider. The RD350 was so ahead of its times, it probably caught the people in that generation unawares with so much performance. It was a full blown Kashmiri Tulip garden that could grace anybody’s garage, when the only Tulip we ever saw was in a picture. Some of those examples are still emanating fragrance even after all these years and have become a rare, expensive and priceless species. I know i had one, whose fragrance a lucky thief could not elude, so he decided to pluck the only flower in my garden, and i thought most men were indifferent to flowers.
If the RD350 was ‘Batman’ with his penchant for drama, the RX100 was the ‘Joker’, a little thing injected with craziness. Together these machines from Yamaha challenged convention, stood out from the crowd, developed a lot of smoke with all their fire-power and made the right noises. Both these machines were ahead of the curve, although they never pretended to be anything but a Monster, unlike the ‘Joker’. They had to disappear, as when the chips were down, the civilized society managed to forget their heroes in favour of fuel-efficient machines which came from ‘Gothamgaon’, a town bordering the capital city of India.
Yamaha tried to float it’s boat with the RXG, the RX-135 and the RX-Z, which came with a front disc-brake, a 5-speed gearbox and was styled to appear the civil society, at a time when even ‘Gothamgaon’ wanted to have some fun and gave us the first-gen CBZ.
The Japanese manufacturer then started its fight against a 4-stroke fever with the YBX, it was followed by a bug-eyed Fazer and some more bikes which never could get to the ‘Crux’ of the matter.
One fine day, akin to the man who meets himself in a mirror that tells the truth and then goes on to transform himself and the world, Yamaha gave us the R15. This bike again, was ahead of its competition with a Deltabox frame, a 6-speed gearbox, a 4-valve engine, dual-disc brakes, specially designed sticky compound rubber, a radiator to keep things cool and it handled like nothing else the nation ever experienced on two wheels before. The fully faired styling and those twin headlamps were an instant hit among people who still think that an additional cylinder comes standard with faired bikes.
There was a part of the crowd who swore by the term “Big tyres are the best”, they would find the biggest piece of rubber and made it fit on the bike, even if it made the rear suspension redundant. The FZ-16 with its muscular styling and fat tyres made them owners of a Rubber plantation overnight. Yamaha launched a faired iteration in the form of the Fazer, which combined a fairing and fat rubber. The engine was the same unit doing duty on the FZ-16, as a result, performance on the highway took a beating, although the looks suggested it could cruise all day long at triple digit speeds.
Yamaha has been looking at positive sales figures, courtesy their scooters, which are selling in good numbers. They also recently unveiled a lighter version of the FZ-16, which sports Fuel injection and subtle changes in styling. However, all eyes are on the R25 / R3, which has been launched elsewhere and is rumoured to make its appearance in India sometime next year. Some say it will sport a single cylinder to keep costs down, some say it will be priced at par with the Ninja 300. The new fact is, with an increasing number of bikers in India looking at Motorcycling for leisure and pleasure, the R25 might be a little late to the party, especially when the RC390 is already making a lot of waves with the performance it offers.
We hope Yamaha makes a comeback to performance motorcycling in India with a bang. We’d like to believe there is a Lucius Fox in their India unit, someone who knows what the best tool to go ‘Motorcycle Spelunking’ looks like.