“Please don’t rain. Please don’t rain.” I mentally entreated to the weather gods almost before I’d even opened my eyes fully this morning, and even before my feet had touched the floor. I pulled the curtains aside to see if my fervent praying for the last two weeks has had any effect. The missus, disturbed by the morning light, grumbles in her sleep and turns the other way in bed, but I’m too happy to care: the sun is giving all indications of shining brightly for the day. This is shaping up to be a good day.
And it ought to be. Today is the launch of the Yamaha YZF-R3, a not-quite quarter-litre crotch-rocket that can hold the distinction of being the most awaited motorcycle of the last few years in this country. Heavens know we’ve waited long enough for this.
A short history primer first. Yamaha arguably kickstarted the first performance biking era in Indian motorcycling with the legendary RD 350. Then came the RX-100 and 135, bringing a modicum of that wild two-stroke performance to the Indian public at a fraction of the cost.
With tightening emission norms, Yamaha had to let go of its two-strokes and get on to a whole different bandwagon, and that is where the second largest motorcycle manufacturer faltered for the first time in India. The company with the tuning-fork logo, renowned for making fun and exciting motorcycles, went through an era of making econo-commuters, thinking that it was what the Indian consumers wanted from them.
You could see that their heart wasn’t really into it, and they were aching to break free and go back to the drawing boards and make the kind of products that they make best: thrilling, exciting, revvy machines that felt as comfortable on the track as on the road. But it would take Yamaha India more than a decade to come back with all cylinders firing.
Well, one cylinder, to be pedantic, but that was all the R15 needed. The R15 ushered in the second golden age of Yamaha in India, but we, having been deprived of the Yamaha soul for so long, wanted more, much more. 150ccs and 17PS, packaged into no matter how superlative a package, just didn’t cut it for the more experienced riders. We needed something bigger, faster, and more exciting.
Again, Yamaha took their own sweet time to deliver. The quarter litre game had already been conquered by Kawasaki’s superlative Ninja 250, but the Yamaha faithful waited diligently, assured in their belief that whenever Yamaha does introduce their machine, it will come with all the raits and bells and whistles of the triple tuning forks. Cue razor-sharp handling, revvy performance, and styling that is beautiful without being overly pretty.
Entering the hallowed gates of BIC and laying eyes on the first signature blue R3, it seems like Yamaha has succeeded, at least at first glance. I know you aren’t interested in reading about what brand of green tea or how delicious the fruitcakes (very delicious, just in case you were wondering) we were offered at the event, nor how cool John Abraham is in real life (he’s pretty cool for a Bollywood superstar – we have a selfie/twofie to prove it). All you want to know is how the R3 feels to ride, and whether it was worth the long wait.
The lines between different classes of motorcycles that were clearly demarcated before have been demolished now. 600s have become 650s; 1000s have morphed into1100s and 1200s; and 250s are now 280s or 300s. All in the interest of the best bang for your money while staying within roughly the same category and price range. If everyone is doing something, it no longer is cheating, it is the norm, right? Right. The R3 follows that. Sure, there is a “proper” 250cc version, but that’s not what we are getting here. And thank heavens for that, because, again, there simply is no substitute for cubic capacity, 321ccs in this case.
It looks beautiful, this machine. From afar, it resembles a full-blooded superbike and it is only the small bits and bobs like tyres and conventional telescopic forks upfront that give its small heart away. Personally, I would have preferred that they retained more of the R25 concept that they displayed at the Auto Expo two years back, but this will also do nicely. Anyways, bombastic design cues on show models rarely make it into production. We had two colour options on display; the trademark Yamha white and blue, and an all-black affair with red highlights.
Fit and finish felt remarkably well executed on the R3, which is only what we’d expect from any Yamaha, let alone one top-tier Yamaha.
When the specs of the R3 were released at its Indonesian unveiling late last year, the first bone of contention amongst most technically minded fans was: Where did the Deltabox frame go? Yamaha’s trademark perimeter frame design, famed for its rigidity and stiffness, is a big part of why the R15 turned out to be one of the best handlers the country has ever seen, and yet it was missing in its bigger and newer sibling. In its place came a plebeian diamond frame chassis. What gives?
Well, here’s the thing, and this really is what needs to be kept in mind before any comparison of the R15 – or even the European R125 – with the R25/R3: The R3 is a much friendlier, more road-happy, and less track-worthy sibling of the R15. Yeah, despite its larger engine, the R3 is more relaxed and comfortable, a better mile muncher and, dare we say it, everyday commuter than the R15.
The R3’s 321cc twin-cylinder, liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, DOHC motor is all-new from the ground up. It is one of the smoothest units that we have ridden for a very long time, and this is coming from a man who rides a Honda Unicorn on a day to day basis. The motorcycle feels vibe-free and refined throughout the RPM band and you really have to look at the tachometer to realise how high up the rev-band you are actually riding on. What’s more appealing is this engine’s linear power delivery. No sudden bursts or instant pulls, the motorcycle revs up freely from any RPM range evenly. Going high up the speedometer wasn’t that difficult either. The motorcycle was sailing in three digit speeds on the closed circuit with 120 kph on the speedometer with two more gears to spare. Give it the full beans and you will see a speedo-indicated speed of 162 km/h, with a bit more to come given a longer patch of blacktop than the BIC backstraight.
Kawasaki surprised everyone when they introduced slipper clutch on the Ninja 300 two years back. Slipper clutch, while certainly not a necessity in motorcycles of this size, are a great boon during slowing down at a rapid pace, when you are aggressively banging down the gears and enlisting the engine’s aid for maximum retardation. The R3 doesn’t come with a slipper clutch, but we aren’t going to complain about that, even though we would have loved it.
What we are going to complain about, although not much, is the absence of ABS, even as an option. With all the myriad weather and road conditions that Indians have to contend with on a daily basis, ABS really is an indispensable rider aid for any biker. Take into account that a lot of bikers in India rarely use the recommended way of braking (it is 70/30 front/rear by the way) and you will see why we need the safety net of ABS. Sure, one can argue that eschewing this safety feature helped bring the price down, and that would be true, but we reckon the sacrifice isn’t worth it. Although it is sadly true that Indians will rarely pay extra for safety features, there exist a good chunk of bikers who will gladly shell out the extra dough for the added safety.
To its credit, braking on the R3, even in the absence of ABS, is pretty commendable. A 298mm single disc takes care of the stopping duties upfront, with a 220mm single disc in charge of proceedings at the rear. A tap on the brakes and the motorcycle drops speed faster than a Victoria Secret’s model drops calories. Okay, that might not be such a great analogy but you get the gist, right?
Like we said, the R3 is a much more relaxed machine than the R15, and it is nowhere as evident as in the ergonomics department. Unlike the latter, the YZF-R3 gets relaxed ergonomics with relatively high set handlebars, giving a good balance between city and track riding. The wrist will suffer no brunt of the body weight which usually happens with motorcycles with aggressive riding stance hence enabling you to crunch more miles at a stretch. High speed comfort is taken care of by the windshield that diverts the air away from the rider for better aerodynamics and comfort. The riding was done on one of the finest and newest tracks in the world hence we really cannot comment on the suspension but they appeared to be slightly on the softer side. Though the rear setup is adjustable for pre-load and should allow you to tune it to your liking, if you so wish.
Ahh yes, the handling. The R3 handles like a Yamaha, and that really is the highest praise we can bestow this machine. Yamaha has always been renowned for its scalpel-sharp handlers, from the R15 all the way to the YZR-M1 MotoGP bike, and the R3 is a worthy addition to that pantheon. Despite the absence of the Deltabox frame, it responds really well to quick steers and it’s a joy to take it around the corners of BIC. Cornering abilities are further aided by the MRF rubber on the motorcycle. Yes, we do not get the Michelin for India spec models. While the Euro spec YZF-R3 receives a pair of Michelin tyres, the India spec models are equipped with MRF Nylogrip tyres to keep the costs low. But we really don’t think that would have been a concern for most of the buyers.
With the ex-showroom Delhi price tag of Rs 325,000, the Yamaha YZF-R3 isn’t particularly cheap but good things come at a price. The high price is also particularly because the YZF-R3 is not manufactured but brought to India via the CKD route. While this Yamaha undercuts the Kawasaki Ninja 300 by about Rs 40,000, it is still way more expensive that the KTM RC390 which delivers about the same power output and comes equipped with features such as ABS, upside-side down suspension from Swedish off-road specialists WP, projector headlights, LED turn indicators and tail-lights. A little birdie also told us that slipper clutch is on its way to the RC, so that ought to make what is already a stellar motorcycle all the more exciting.
Discount that price and the Yamaha, still has a lot going for it. With those twin headlights, faux ram air scoops, and swoopy tail-piece it is a gorgeous machine, whichever way you look at it. It is slightly more powerful and outclasses the Ninja 300 on almost every parameter, at least on paper. Whether it does so in the real world too, we can only tell when it arrives for our definitive road test and we get an opportunity to strap our test gear onto it. That should be happening soon.
But even before that, if you are itching to lay your hands on the R3 and can’t wait, rest assured that you are getting a small capacity machine with all the true-blue Yamaha YZF genes. At this price, where else can you get a bike that you can claim to your friends, “Rossi helped develop my bike. What about yours?”
That alone is worth the price of admission in our book.
Compiled by Suvil Susvirkar / Edited and Expanded by Saeed Akhtar
Here are the technical specifications of the new Yamaha YZF-R3. Do share your views about the review and the new YZF-R3 with us through the comments section below and social networking websites:
|Engine type||2-cylinder, liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, DOHC, 4-valves|
|Bore x stroke||68.0 mm x 44.1 mm|
|Compression ratio||11.2 : 1|
|Maximum power||30.9 kW (42.0PS) @ 10,750 rpm|
|Maximum torque||29.6 Nm (3.0 kg-m) @ 9,000 rpm|
|Lubrication system||Wet sump|
|Clutch type||Wet, Multiple Disc|
|Fuel system||Fuel Injection|
|Transmission system||Constant Mesh, 6-speed|
|Front suspension system||Telescopic forks|
|Front travel||130 mm|
|Rear suspension system||Swingarm|
|Rear travel||125 mm|
|Front brake||Hydraulic single disc, Ø 298 mm|
|Rear brake||Hydraulic single disc, Ø 220 mm|
|Front tyre||110/70-17M/C 54H (Tubeless)|
|Rear tyre||140/70-17M/C 66H (Tubeless)|
|Overall length||2,090 mm|
|Overall width||720 mm|
|Overall height||1,135 mm|
|Seat height||780 mm|
|Wheel base||1,380 mm|
|Minimum ground clearance||160 mm|
|Wet weight (including full oil and fuel tank)||169 kg|
|Fuel tank capacity||14.0 L|
|Oil tank capacity||2.4 L|