Far be it from me to be a big fan of sporty motorcycles for the street, but the Yamaha YZF-R3 has been slowly converting me into one.
My problem with sporty motorcycles for the street has been that some overly aggressive ones become quite a pain to ride in real-world conditions. Or it’s just that sports and public roads don’t logically fall into the same scenario (well, at least they shouldn’t). But with this lovely R3, there are very few things to find fault in, no matter whether it’s a daily commute or a weekend jaunt.
For a person who stands at 5ft 10in, the machine’s ergonomics are surprisingly pleasant. It’s neither too forward biased like its smaller sibling, the R15 V 2.0, nor is it all cramped up like KTM’s Duke and RC models. There’s enough space for a person of my size to comfortably move around on the bike.
Seating geometry is comfortable enough to use the R3 for touring.
For a sport-biased machine, it really isn’t that harrowing an experience to ride in traffic. The engine provides you with more than sufficient bottom- and mid-range juice to weave in and out of traffic with the greatest of ease. And although it does heat up slightly at the red traffic light, it’s nothing close to the searing levels that emanate from KTM’s 390 engine. Even the suspension eats up bumpy stretches perfectly.
Where the inner R3’s star really begins to shine is on the highway. A subtle beauty of this bike is that it’s just so unassuming. It doesn’t scream for attention or yank the eyeballs out of other Indian road users in its direction, until you whack the throttle open, that is. That’s where it really begins to make the onlookers question what just whizzed past them. Of course, while it still doesn’t match up to KTM’s 373cc unit in terms of 0-100kph times, the R3 begins to recover ground beyond 100kph, with buttery-smooth Jap refinement. This is a bike that can handle touring duties brilliantly, with some desire left for its luggage-carrying capacity.
The most beautiful thing about this machine is its ease of ride. Want it to lean in? It does so effortlessly. Want it to stop? It does that too, with composure. Want to be comfortable at the same time? Somehow it manages to do that as well. Some of my weekend jaunts have included much larger displacement machines for company. The R3 manages to keep up with them too, except on the straights (no replacement for displacement, right?). The corners are where the bigger, heavier fellows tend to fall behind.
One place where Yamaha has fallen short is with the YZF-R3’s rubber. Maybe it was a cost-cutting measure, or the potential of this machine was vastly under-estimated; the MRF Zapper tyres just can’t seem to keep up with the R3. Of course, when they do heat up, things improve. But in city conditions, where constant traffic will not allow you to get these tyres up to speed, expect a fair amount of scares.
The MRF Zapper tyres lose traction easily.
So, after clocking some amount of saddle hours on this machine, I can certainly say that I am now a fan. The fit and finish levels on this R3 are superb; even after a fair amount of spirited riding, the panels haven’t developed any rattles and the clutch and gears are still buttery smooth. The power on tap leaves little to be desired (in Indian riding conditions, of course). I’d be quite keen to see how much better it would be to ride with some better rubber thrown in.