Words by Aninda Sardar
Photography by Rohit G Mane
The year was 2008. The idea of a fully faired super sport motorcycle with an engine capacity of 150cc seemed far fetched. Yamaha did make it happen however when it launched the YZF R15. And in doing so, it set people’s expectations of a relatively affordable small capacity sportsbike with genuine capabilities. That after ten years Yamaha continues to be the king in that domain says something about the legacy of the original R15. A legacy that the new R15 will have to live up to. But, does it?
Nearly everything. Many would believe that the 155cc liquid cooled single is a bored out version of the old 149. They’d be wrong. While the architecture is based on the old engine there are a whole bunch of changes. The aluminium cylinder head has been worked on and the crankcase is new. The fuel injector is new too and the throttle body is larger. Most significantly, the engine now features variable valve actuation (VVA) that helps provide top end performance without sacrificing the bottom and mid-range grunt. There’s also a slipper clutch to prevent wheel hop during aggressive downshifts.
There have been changes to the chassis as well. For starters, while the Deltabox frame has been carried over from the old bike, it’s now wider at the bottom. The die cast aluminiumswingarm is wider too, to accommodate the wider than before rear tyre. It’s also shorter, in effect shortening the wheelbase. Up front the fork is now thicker at 41mm dia instead of the earlier 33mm. The front disc too has been updated from the earlier 263mm dia unit to a 282mm dia rotor.
Styling and ergonomics
While you can form your own opinion on that count, in the flesh this generation of the R15 seems more proportionate than the previous two. The twin headlamp config with the ram air intake between them, what Yamaha calls glaring eyes, has been utilized to connect the R15’s DNA with that of the much larger R1 and R6. The single all digital instrumentation looks good and does its job of providing all the necessary info on the go quite well.
Ergonomically, the relation between the handlebar, seat and foot pegs is brilliant even though it is aggressive. As a result you won’t be particularly uncomfortable perched on it. At the same time, tucking into a race crouch is ridiculously easy. Quality however isn’t what you’d expect in a motorcycle of this kind and there are definite signs of cost cutting.
On the go
There’s only one word for it, brilliant. That engine feels smooth and tractability is vastly improved. Even when I had botched up a gear change approaching C10 at the Madras Motor Race Track (MMRT) and found myself in a cog too high there was enough grunt left to pull through and then on to the bridge. Not something that the old bike would have managed without an unsettling mid-corner shift or unsavory engine knock and loss of pace. The engine is quite rev Happy too and builds pace quickly and with the linearity in the way in which she develops power, things are as sweet as you’d ever expect on a bike like theR15. Shifts through that six-speed gearbox feel slick and positive.
Handling is sublime. Turn in is instinctive and thanks to that shorter wheelbase and a rake that is sharper by 0.5 degrees, the new R15 attacks corners quite a bit harder than before. Mid corner stability is superb and it gives you the confidence to push harder every lap. On the track our test bikes were fitted with Metzeler rubber while the stock bike, which we didn’t get to ride, gets MRFs. We were told that these are the same spec MRFs as on the old R3. We would recommend that if you’re buying this bike then you should switch to the Metzelers.
Yamaha has priced the product well enough at ₹1.25 lakh, ex-showroom, and barring signs of cost optimization the product is excellent and there is no reason not to buy it. Except, I’m not sure if there is still as big a market for a 150cc super sport motorcycle as there used to be a decade ago. Aft all, a lot changes in ten years.