KTM RC200 vs Yamaha R15 V4
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In 2021, which one of the two is the best sportbike for beginners?
When it comes to beginner-friendly sport bikes, the Yamaha R15 has been at the top of the food chain ever since it was first launched back in 2008. Sure, KTM tried to take a stab at the R15’s position with the RC125, but the sheer performance and equipment advantage that the Yamaha has accrued over the last four generations is unbeatable. And that makes it equally appealing for experienced riders. But as versatile as the R15 has been, we’re slowly coming to the opinion that riders these days might wish for a little more oomph than what it can provide. So that’s where the new KTM RC200 comes in. Sure, it’s more expensive. But we believe that with its own set of updates for this year, it’s become just as versatile a package as the Yamaha and it can make an equally compelling case for those who wish to begin their sportbike journeys.
Since either of these will be the only bikes in their respective owners’ garages for some time to come, they need to deliver not just thrills, but a wholesome riding experience in a variety of environments.
Ergonomics & Comfort
- The R15’s low seat height of 815mm along with its slender bodywork under the seat is something that shorter riders will appreciate. It really makes it easy to get your feet down in traffic.
- The rider’s seat is rather spacious as well.
- But the clip-ons are set rather low and close to the rider, making it comfortable only for shorter and thinner riders.
- The pillion seat is not only a little small but very slippery as well. Plus there are no grab rails, so staying in place becomes really difficult.
- While the seat height is set higher than the R15’s and you end up sitting in a “bums up” position, the RC200 feels more spacious than the R15.
- That’s thanks to the new, higher-set handlebar position. Plus, the bars are set a little away from the rider, giving the impression that you’re sitting atop a larger bike.
- The pillion seat also sees a significant improvement over the last-gen bike. It’s flat, spacious and has a great, grippy texture. And the grab rails are actually properly usable.
- The R15’s suspension rides much flatter than the RC200s, especially over long undulations.
- But at the same time, it feels firmer, almost like a proper sportbike and over sharp bumps, tends to send a shock up to the rider and bounce him or her off the seat.
- The RC’s suspension setup feels squishier than the R15’s and over longer undulations, you do get a bit of wallowing.
- But the overall softness of the setup means that it feels plusher over sharper bumps.
- So the RC actually feels more usable over a larger variety of road surfaces compared to the R15.
- The R15’s 155cc motor offers incredible tractability at city speeds. You can carry really low speeds in high gears and the bike manages without any issues.
- This is thanks to VVA, or Variable Valve Actuation, that ensures that there’s enough torque low down and at high revs as well.
- Couple that with the slick shifter and the slipper clutch, and you’ll find that even changing gears in the city feels really easy.
- The Quickshifter, too, works surprisingly well at city speeds.
- Thanks to a larger airbox, the RC200’s motor has become much more tractable than before.
- Gone is that clatteriness that the earlier motor used to have at low speeds in high gears.
- This new setup pulls very easily even in 3rd and 4th gears in the city.
- So the new RC200 is as versatile in the city as the R15.
- Out on the highway, the RC’s larger engine really comes into play. Its advantage of over six horsepower is obvious.
- Not only is it almost two seconds quicker than the R15 v4 in the run to 100kmph, it’s also over a second quicker in both our 3rd and 4th gear roll-on acceleration tests.
- So overtakes on the highway are much easier compared to the R15.
- But its shorter gearing means at 100kmph in 6th gear, the engine is doing 8000rpm.
- And at this rpm, the motor is far from refined, with a continuous buzz felt on the handlebar, foot pegs and tank. Plus, you can hear a constant plastic buzz as well.
- The R15’s real advantage on the highway is its engine refinement.
- It’s perfectly smooth at 100kmph and beyond, and its taller gearing means that it does just 7000rpm at 100kmph in 6th.
- So spending long durations at highway speeds will actually be easier on the Yamaha than the KTM.
- The biggest advantage that the R15 will offer on the highway though is its fuel efficiency.
- Even though its tank is 2.7 litres smaller than the RC200’s, the fact that it delivers almost 20kmpl more per litre means you’ll need far fewer fuel stops while touring.
- Sharp handling has always been the R15’s forte and the v4 is no different.
- In fact, with the new upside down fork, the front-end feel on this new R15 is much better than before.
- The bike turns in really sharply and feels very planted too.
- That said, thanks to its bias-ply front tyre, under hard braking, the R15 won’t feel as stable as the RC200
- And thanks to its firmer suspension setup, it feels more reactive over mid-corner bumps.
- Thanks to a lighter subframe, wheels and brake rotors, the RC200’s handling has become even sharper than before.
- It feels almost as light as the R15 to steer, despite being 18kg heavier.
- The softer suspension absorbs mid-corner bumps really well and even when cornering on bad roads, the RC200 will give the rider far more confidence to push harder.
- And then thanks to radial tyres at both ends, there’s plenty of stability as well.
- But these MRF tyres on the RC200 struggle with feel when at higher lean angles, holding back the KTM from truly epic handling.
Design and Features
- This is where the RC200 falls a little behind the R15.
- It’s got a fully digital instrument cluster that’s very informative and now a lot more readable than before.
- But it doesn’t offer any connectivity functions.
- In terms of other features, apart from the quick shifter, the R15 offers a traction control system as standard, which although not crucial in this class of bike, is good to have nonetheless.
- On top of that, the RC’s build quality, although vastly improved, still falls behind the R15.
- Its racer-boy inspired design too, although more eye-catching, might not appeal to everyone.
- The Yamaha’s digital instrumentation not only offers more information such as a lap timer, but also has Bluetooth connectivity.
- Along with call and message alerts on the instrument cluster, the Y-connect mobile app offers a fuel consumption tracker, last parked location, engine RPM display, malfunction notification and maintenance notification.
- Build quality wise too, the R15 feels much better put together, and the quality of the plastics and switchgear feels great.
- And when it comes to design, the R15 looks like a proper Superbike - classy and mature in its lines. Almost like a baby R7.
The new KTM RC200 has come a long way in terms of its performance and dynamics, and offers a truly compelling package for those who want to hone their sport riding skills. It’s also become a lot more comfortable and easier to use in the urban environment than before. But at Rs 2,08,717, it’s almost Rs 30,000 more expensive than the R15.
The Yamaha, although not offering the same level of comfort and performance as the KTM, still remains probably the most well-rounded sportbike package you can buy today. Even the top-spec R15M comes in at Rs 1,80,800 to Rs 1,82,800, depending on the colour option you choose. And when you factor in all the features on offer, it offers great value for money as well.
So while we would recommend the new RC200 for a lot more aspiring sport riders now, for more people, we’d still recommend the R15.