An Encounter with Yamaha YZF-R3
Modified On Oct 25, 2018 By Pradeep Shah
Kawasaki Ninja 250R kick started the quarter-litre sportsbike legacy in the country back in 2008. Following that, Honda’s quarter-litre weapon, CBR 250R came into the picture, which commenced its sales in the year 2011. Soon after, Kawasaki thought that was the right time to step-up the game and it introduced a much powerful version of Ninja with a 300cc heart. Ninja 300 replaced the Ninja 250R and just when it started tasting success, the leader arrived wearing an orange costume. Yes, the Austrian auto maker, KTM launched Duke 200 and 390 Duke post that, which resulted in fading out of the CBR 250R. Ninja being on the pricier side, belonged to an altogether different category, so it remained unaffected by this. Seeing the success of the Duke twins, KTM released its faired duo, the RC 200 and RC 390 that went exceptionally well on sales due to their affordable price and availability of features. Yamaha was watching all this very carefully sitting in the stands and just at the right time, stood up, brushed its shoulders and answered all of them with its newest tuning fork, the YZF-R3.
We were invited for the Grand Launch Event held at Buddh International Circuit (BIC) on 11th August, 2015. Entering the heavenly gates of BIC was something that gave pleasant goosebumps and cherished the true motorcyclists present within. The venue was glittering with numerous “Yamaha R - Legacy Continues” banners that conveyed that another YZF machine is on its way to the country. The centerstage was glowing-off in Yamaha’s signature Blue and the R3’s roaring engine sound was playing in background. After waiting for a few moments (that felt so long), the Bollywood superstar and the Brand Ambassador of Yamaha, John Abraham came riding the bike in style and it was officially launched at Rs. 3.25 lac (ex-showroom, Delhi). Pricey though. Thats what each one of us were thinking too. The closest rival, Kawasaki Ninja 300 is pricier than this, but however, features a slipper clutch, which is absent in the R3, even as an option. But good things come at a price. Don’t they!
Or is it just a stupid assumption of ours!
With a healthy price tag and lack of features like ABS and slipper clutch, can the R3 score well over other players in this segment.
Lets find out in this short ride review.
After the bike got officially launched, it was time to check out in real what we were seeing in images over the internet since so many days. The R3 looks even more majestic in reality than in the virtual world. The front profile gets two sharp and aerodynamic headlamps along with a down-arrowed positioning lamp embedded at the centre. The clear aerodynamic visor keeps the wind blasts away from the rider at cruising speeds and looks impressive. The fuel tank is chiselled to perfection and matches well with the overall body flow. The rear end features a fascinating LED tail lamp unit with the tiny red glowing dots arranged in an impressive V-shaped symmetry. The rear fender too follows a sharp pointed fashion and ended in style below the number plate section. In simple words, the aesthetics are really well executed and top-end, making the bike come across as a really handsome and good looking performer.
The multi-functional instrument panel was the first thing I noticed after getting my hands on the bike. It was neatly laid up with a screen to show speed in numbers and revs with a needle. The big tachometer had a small digital portion in it that displays clock and fuel level. Besides that, the cockpit was loaded with several informative entities like shift timing indicator, gear position indicator, water temperature gauge, real time fuel economy, twin trip meters and oil change indicator. When a bike says so much of itself to you, there is hardly a need for a companion in a journey. Right?
As soon as I turned the ignition ON and thumbed the electric starter, the R3 welcomed me with a deep throaty noise before the engine settled to its normal idling. The engine was so refined that I was pretty confident about its buttery-smoothness even before putting the blue machine into gears. I pressed the soft clutch lever and downshifted to first. After I released the clutch lever, the R3 climbed up like a leopard. The assumption went right and yes, the engine turned out to be silky smooth and super refined. At first, I didn't like the idea of going harsh against the throttle, but soon after I realised that’s not what Yamaha machines are made for. I quickly shifted to the second and whacked open the throttle to see the numbers in the speedo going past quite rapidly. The stretch on which I was riding was a pure flat, thickly-coated tarmac that gave enough surface area to do justice with the bike’s seamless power delivery.
After doing one or two rounds in proper elegance and manner, I decided to go a bit harsh and fierce. Taking a U-turn from one end of the stretch, I opened the throttle again and tried to test the limits of the R3. And to my surprise, it behaved exceedingly well, way ahead of my expectations. The Yamaha engineers, indeed have spent a lot of quality time in designing an engine that delivers such a sheer excitement and power, simultaneously. The throttle response was super crispy and the R3 went over 65kmph effortlessly in the second gear without showing any sign of stress of harshness. I picked up speed, shifted to fifth (not the top gear) and used all the aerodynamics techniques I knew till now to see 104kmph on the speedometer and the tachometer needle climbing somewhere around 9,000rpm (please note the stretch on which I was riding was almost a half kilometre long or so). After checking out the engine, I reminded the peak power figures in my mind.
321 cubic centimetres, 42 horsepower at 10,750rpm and 29.6 Newton metres of torque at 9,000rpm, all this configured inside a super-refined parallel twin, DOHC motor. And needless to say, the Yamaha R3 performs way ahead of these figures and at some points, it is quite difficult to believe that it is just a quarter-litre machine. The transmission setup is six-speed with well spaced gear ratios and comes from the house of one of the finest gearbox manufacturers, Yamaha. The gear shifting operation was smooth as well that added some more ecstasy to the riding experience.
Enough of the engine. Now talking about other elements. The auto nerds have been debating of why the R3 arrived with a diamond frame. While its younger sibling, R15 has been built on a race-inspired deltabox frame, then why not the R3. The answer might be that Yamaha was busy making the R3 more of a practical bike, instead of a track-focussed one. Even with the diamond frame, the bike feels God-like around the corners and handles with agility. It steers magnificently while entering those sharp edgy turns and finally lets you go off the idea that Yamaha must have chosen any other frame for it.
If a bike has got enough power, then it needs to have a proper stopping kit too. And Yamaha has taken care of that quite impressively. The R3 has been equipped with a powerful disc brake set up to bring it to a halt as and when required. The front wheel locks up by a 298mm hydraulic single disc while the rear has been looked after by a 220mm one. However, Yamaha has disappointed all of us by not integrating the bike with an ABS unit (not even as an option). The brakes offer a better bite undoubtedly and deliver a commendable stopping power but in a country like India (you know why I said that), ABS should come with the package, at least as an option.
The YZF-R3 progresses gracefully over 110/70-17M/C-54H front and 140/70-17M/C-66H rear tubeless tyres. The MRF Zapper-S soft rubber provides an exceptional grip, making the bike cruise along the surface with enough adhesion and stability. The tyres are made keeping in mind the practical nature of the bike and hence, could withstand some harshness of the surface as well.
The bike has a good seating and features a sporty split step up seat, which is a signature styling in almost all performance motorcycles and sportbikes today. The thickly cushioned and well-padded seat has been equipped to offer a top notch comfort even on longer journeys. The riding position was a bit upright that made daily riding easy and stress-free. Comparing the ergonomics of R3 with its closest competitor, Kawasaki Ninja 300, you will find that the R3 has been build with a more practical approach and comes with a comparative upright riding position than the Ninja, which gives a forward leaned riding posture. The baby YZF has a well-padded seating and this is the reason why you can take it out for longer journeys or use it for daily purpose without worrying about anything, especially comfort. Hence, the 321cc Yamaha takes the lead here and pleases the rider with its better ergonomics.
The suspension setup comprises of telescopic forks at the front along with an adjustable mono shock absorber at the rear end. Yes, you are right. Upside down forks should have been used upfront but nevertheless, the conventional ones work fine too. Since, the bike was running on a flat surface, we can’t say exactly about the working and tuning of the shock absorbers. However, they seemed on the softer side and were tuned as per daily riding. Yamaha has not stiffened the suspension in order to keep the practicality of the bike alive.
Finally, we came across the fact that R3 is a good all-round performer and has been built more practically in comparison to rest of the YZF members. You can take it to touring, street racings, commuting and everywhere it will perform like a true all-rounder. The terrific engine performance and the cosy ergonomics are its two best-in-class features. However, the absence of some necessary elements makes it a bit disappointing.
Considering the features, Rs. 3.25 lac (ex-showroom) price tag for this Yamaha is high indeed, that neither has an ABS, nor a slipper clutch and comes via CKD (Completely Knocked Down) route. On the other hand, its biggest rival, the Ninja 300 features slipper clutch and is much logically priced at Rs. 3.5 lac (ex-showroom price). The second Indian competitor of R3 - KTM RC 390 comes at a straight Rs. 1 lac cheaper price (Rs. 2.2 lac, ex-showroom) and has been equipped with numerous technical benefits like Upside down front forks, projector headlights and Anti-Lock Braking System. For this reason, the R3 will remain a choice of only a true blue Yamaha fan or a biker who understands the basic biking needs very well and intelligently.
Whats your take on this newly unveiled Yamaha machine. Is it a delight or a disappointment for you? Do let us know your opinion in the comments section below.