A first look at the R1, and straight away you are reminded of its big brother, the iconic R1. Although the R15 has just one cylinder, the radical styling with twin head-lamps gives it a characteristic look, and it looks quite fast. The five-spoke cast-alloy wheels and the sharp looking front also give it a very belligerent appearance. However, the rear of the R15 is a little disappointing.
The R15 carries Yamaha’s trademark Deltabox frame, although this is somewhat concealed by the stylish fairing. The sporty handlebars and instrument cluster add to the charm and you notice the rear disc brake, also the yellow spring of the rear monoshock.
Climb on the bike and it really feels light, requiring that you reach out for the handlebars. The handlebar grips have excellent feel, as do the switches and other instruments. Yamahas have always had first-class build quality, and this is true on the R15 also.
Turn on the ignition, and the tachometer needle swings across the dial and back to zero, set at six o’clock. Press the starter button, and you are welcomed with a distinctive single cylinder four-stroke beat. Nothing very exciting, not at idle anyway, but more on that after a while.
The R15 comes with a six-speed gearbox, and as you put the bike in first gear and pull away it doesn’t seem overall lively. With 17bhp and 1.5kgm, low end performance isn’t as thrilling as we would have expected. But press the pedal, and the Yamaha springs up a pleseant surprise. Get past 5000rpm and the Yamaha revs easily all the way until close to 10,000rpm. This four-valve head doesn’t sound edgy even when pushed to the limit. It pulls well in higher gears, but sixth feels a bit tall and is probably only for comfortable cruising. Even around the track, coming down the start-finish straight we found fifth the gear to be in; we hit sixth and saw the big and clear digital speedo count backwards. The gears shift accurately, with no fake neutrals or mean shocks. If anything, the gearbox can become a little obstinate while shifting up without the clutch, yet if you learn to adjust the throttle to get around this, it’s a pleasure.
The R15’s top-end rush should prove difficult to explore on the street, but that’s not all. This bike’s chief plus is its handling; it really is on a whole new level when compared to anything else currently on sale in its segment. Corners can be taken at amazingly high speed on the R15 - if something it is the engine which sometimes seems inadequate, never the wonderful chassis. The R15 eggs on riders to carry more corner speed until you’re terrified. Even quick changes of direction are met with without problems, but most notable is this bike’s steadiness under braking. Yamaha admits that the R15’s suspension is tuned for Indian roads, but it is capable on the track too.
The R15 isn’t the first bike in India to have discs at both ends, but the way these work is good. The front does not grasp, and the sensation of restricted bite with growing lever pressure is superb. The R15 has a 100/80-17 rear tyre, with the front 80/90-17, and while these look weak given they did the job.
We still have to test the bike in real world conditions, so certain questions remain unanswered. Yamaha claims the bike will return 40kpl in city riding, which, if ridden slowly, seems likely. Point is, would you want to ride it like that? The riding position isn’t best for a long commute through traffic and only time will answer questions about pillion comfort.
The most important factor is its cost. At Rs 97,425 ex-showroom, all India, the Yamaha R15 is an expensive motorcycle. It fails on the bhp-per-rupee but that is not the point, it is an everyday sportsbike for all and the high price makes sense. It will compliment you if you’re a greenhorn, give you some exciting moments if you are an expert, but most importantly, it puts ‘fun’ back into Indian motorcycling, and that’s important.