It’s a fairly well-trod observation that the R15 makes for an excellent learner bike. Especially if you’re learning the fundamentals of track riding. Its light weight, steep rake angle and taut chassis made it agile, flickable and perfectly composed on the road. So the notion of a motorcycle from Yamaha that’s over twice as powerful, was obviously going to be a welcome one.
With the new Yamaha R3, the marque returns to a territory it’s most familiar with – performance biking. The R3 gets a 321cc, liquid-cooled, parallel-twin engine which puts out 41.3bhp and a satisfactory 3 kgm of torque. It competes directly with the likes of the KTM RC390 and the Kawasaki Ninja 300 – the latter being more similar in make-up, while being a little less powerful and a little more expensive, so in that sense, advantage: Yamaha.
The R3 is a sensational looking motorcycle. Its well-cut, dual-headlamp cowl, fully faired bodywork look striking from several angles. As an entry-level performer it manages to strike a balance between a sleek, functional design with a wholesome, robust looking exterior – not too slender, but not overly plastic-clad to create the illusion of muscle. Yamaha seldom pulls any punches when it comes to quality – it’s possibly why their 80’s models still continue to remain visible in a densely populated motorcycling space. I’m personally partial to the bike being draped in Yamaha’s official blue and silver form, along with the blue alloys, but honestly, this bike would look good in any colour.
It also manages to have a less extreme riding position than the R15 – which, while being an extremely capable handler, could make your neck and shoulders feel a bit cramped after continous, long-distance riding. The R3 however, doesn’t suffer from that particular issue. It’s got a more upright seating position that renders it suitable for long distances.
Over 41bhp on a motorcycle with a kerb weight of 169kg would make any bike feel quick.What stands out is that classic parallel-twin smoothness, and the refinement with which it displaces power. Power delivery comes in a smooth, gradual manner, but the curve rises quickly enough, giving you a much needed rush in short bursts. It’s urgency combined with its light weight and ease of manouevrablity makes this bike incredibly approachable. Even as you mount the bike it feels no heavier than an average 150cc motorcycle and this makes it deliciously appealing for fledgeling motorcyclists who’re working their way up the displacement chain. At lower revs the bike feels just like any other small displacement bike, and the urgency in acceleration only set in after about 5000 rpm. But the transition to 100 kph is smooth yet swift.
Not having ridden the R3 on a racetrack yet, it’s hard to assess just how comfortable it is on a track. The MRF tyres on the bike are pretty decent, but they’re no match against the sticky Metzelers found on the RC390 or the Pirellis found on the Mahindra Mojo. What makes this extremely friendly motorcycle even more endearing is its splendid suspension setup, there’s absolutely no harshness that’s found in puritanically track-oriented motorcycles. And yet, it manages to feel quite composed around cornes – it’s surefooted and can be rendered moreso with a sticker set of tyres. It’s a patient motorcycle, one that forgives inexperience and rewards skill
We’ve extolled the virtues of the R3 for a while now, so we should deal with the fact that it’s frightfully expensive with a price tag of Rs 3.25 lakh (Ex-showroom, Mumbai) Considering that you don’t get ABS as standard on such a machine, it does beg the question whether your money (and much less of it) is best spent elsewhere. That said the bike is a hoot to ride. It’s perfectly balanced, very comfortable and acutely fast once the throttle is properly open. The R3 will keep you happy for a long time.