Yamaha MT-15 Review: Lean Mean Streetfighter
In the motorcycling world, manufacturers do not build a motorcycle per se, they build a platform. Stay with us on this, take a look at the history of motorcycles. An engine is built, then comes a motorcycle. And then another, and then probably another. There’s a multitude of examples and we do not need to ascertain that fact with examples. Today, we have something like that on our hands. The Yamaha R15 was launched in India and it was a home run. After a successful run, it was upgraded. Along came the V2 and sold like hotcakes. And then it was the V3 and it’s still selling like hotcakes. Probably Yamaha took a long time to figure out that they did not only have a motorcycle on their hands, they have a platform. But better late than never and Yamaha MT-15 is clever. That did rhyme but was kind of anticlimactic. Anyway, the MT-15 has been launched in India, and we took a first ride at the Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida and so here’s our Yamaha MT-15 Review.
This motorcycle calls for that word that is probably hated more than the f-word or the n-word. It’s the dreaded S-word i.e. subjective. The motorcycle’s design ideology follows that of the R15. Like the R15 builds on its bigger siblings, MT-15 does the same. The bug eyed headlamp reminds one of the ‘traditional alien face’. The rest of the motorcycle is sleek, slender and very clear in its streetfighter intentions. The international version looks a bit bolder with the USD forks and some exciting color schemes. Whereas the Indian version feels like plain Jane further clear from that box-type swingarm.
The tyres are the same size as the R15 V3 i.e. 100-section on the front and 140-section on the rear. They do lend the motorcycle a pronounced stance. Yamaha has done well to conceal the rear grab rails, which we believe would have looked downright hideous if such was not the case. Rest of the motorcycle, though radically designed, will appeal to a majority of the crowd but we won’t be surprised if we found a few non-believers too.
Insert the key, switch on the motorcycle, and if you focus only on the console, it is an R15. Simply put, the MT designers had a gala time in the R15 V3 design center as the former’s designers left the doors open. The switchgear though is something that has one asking for more since it is a premium motorcycle.
Thumb the starter, close your eyes and it’s an R15 V3 again. Let it warm up and blip it, sound check result: awesome. Saddle up, engage the clutch and you’ll appreciate the light action of the assist and slipper clutch. Disengage the clutch and you are off. Now, it gets the VVA system like the R15 V3 with variable cam profiles for good performance at the low end and the top end stuff. But according to Yamaha, the ECU of the MT-15 is specific to it and so is the final drive. And it shows, the MT-15 is quicker off the line, though some of it is down to its weight too. Now there is a trade-off. The motorcycle accelerates quickly, the revs build up quickly. A bit too quickly for its own good and it loses steam in the top end despite the VVA. Aerodynamics are against it too but with those traits, it shall make for a really good street machine but as much for the highways.
Another plus for the engine is the tractability. It does not hesitate a lot even when you are chugging around at lower speeds in higher gears. The refinement though is on par with the R15 V3, refined all through the rev-range, slightly buzzy near the redline but that is acceptable with the engine being a single cylinder. The 6-speed gearbox with the Assist and Slipper clutch is going to be a boon in the city and a valuable addition on the track as well as it facilitates aggressive downshifting avoiding hopping or locking of the rear wheel.
Handling and Ergonomics
The new MT-15 builds upon the Deltabox frame… that is it. Done. Dusted. Over. But this not a rap battle where we just get to drop the mic. So the handling is the department where the MT-15 shines, predictably. This chassis is a gem. It did a stellar job on the R15 and it does the same for the MT-15. The chassis alone makes this MT-15 shine in this department. Flickable, agile and quick on its feet. But, there’s room for improvement. The rear suspension felt a bit on the softer side. It might help on the bad patches but does take away some of the surefootedness. Also, the tyres reach their limit before the bike does but on regular roads, they will prove to be more than adequate we believe. The brakes, though progressive, can surely use some more bite and feel.
The ergonomics are a picture perfect setup for the streets. The footpegs are rear set for that pang of aggression in rather mellow rider’s triangle with the higher set handlebars. The seat height, though 810mm on paper, may not be a problem since the tank is lean and therefore getting your feet down is not as difficult a task as it might seem with that number. Overall, it is a fairly comfortable setup with just the right mix of aggression should you feel like exploring the dark side of Japan.
Time for the little things and like always, mileage first. Though we did not get a chance to test it on the track, we have no reasons to believe it’d be any less than the R15 V3 which returned around 38 kmpl in our road test. The rear-view mirrors are buzz free and offer ample view of the world left in the dust of the MT-15. We did not get to test the headlight for obvious reasons so this will have to wait till a full blown road test. The build quality is pretty solid and here, MT-15 exceeds its suit-clad cousin, the R15 V3. Exhaust note is decent, not very throaty but sounds of smoothness and refinement.
So, the highly anticipated Yamaha MT-15, apart from the R15 engine and chassis, does not really possess any deal breakers. The engine is capable is an already established fact and so is the fact that the Deltabox frame works wonders in the handling department of the MT-15. It may look very cool to most and not so much to a few, so it fares well in this department as well. So all in all, the MT-15 is a great motorcycle and a near perfect streetfighter in the segment… but that isn’t the end of the story. We left out the elephant in the room. With a price tag of INR 1,36,000/- (Ex-showroom Delhi), the MT-15 has managed to score a big negative. The competitors like NS200, Apache RTR 200 4V etc., with a similar performance package are available at a much affordable price tag and the bright side of savings of 20K odd rupees in India might leave the prospective buyers awestruck enough that they might not want to explore the dark side of Japan. But then, we know for a fact that there are people who wouldn’t mind spending that extra mooolah for the Yamaha price tag and much revered exclusivity.
New Bajaj Dominar Review: First (hyper)Ride of 2019
When we first got to ride the Bajaj Dominar after its launch in December 2016, we came out impressed. We were convinced that with this ‘Power Cruiser’ Bajaj has a winner on their hands despite a few niggles. So it is not hard to imagine our surprise when the Dominar did not perform as expected in the market. But Bajaj still has faith in their Dominar and they are still fighting for it. As a result of that, we have the 2019 Bajaj Dominar on our hands and this is not just a ‘cosmetic update’ either. The latest iteration has been given quite a few substantial updates. So when we flew down to Pune for the first ride, we felt that it is going to be something good, made better. But is it?
Text: Karan Singh Bansatta
Photos: Sunil Kumar Gupta
First glance at the Dominar makes one feel like it is pretty much the same as before which is true too, despite a few changes. A few substantial changes. The elephant in the room, 43mm upside-down forks with a machined finish which look beefy and enhance the overall look of the motorcycle. Next thing, a new green colour which is being referred to as ‘Auroral Green’ for the lack of a better name. We were a bit sceptical about the colour but Bajaj has done a wonderful job and the Green and Black colour looks pretty cool. The new twin-barrel exhaust has been designed to amplify the power cruiser look and feel of the new Bajaj Dominar and it succeeds in doing so.
Other notable additions are the new tank pad decal, hot stamping of the ‘D’ logo in the pillion seat and slight changes in the headlight and the taillight making the units look more modern than before. The new Bajaj Dominar also gets a new mirror design with cast aluminium stalks which we feel look really good. The side stand is now forged steel i.e. better visuals and more sturdiness. Last but not the least, the new Bajaj Dominar has 4 nylon straps under the seats which can be pulled out for attaching tail bags and stuff so tourers, rejoice. Overall, the new Bajaj Dominar is not a departure from its basic design theme but an improvement over the previous version.
Switch the motorcycle on and you are treated with the familiar Dominar all-digital display albeit with a few functional changes like the addition of average fuel consumption for both Trip A and B, dynamic and average fuel economy and distance to service. Additionally, there is a secondary display as well which has the gear position indicator, clock etc. The illuminated switchgear is always appreciated has also been retained.
Thumb the starter and the new Bajaj Dominar’s engine comes to life with a throaty rumble as it idles. Slot into the first gear from neutral and it does that with a purposeful clank. Disengage the clutch and you’ll be on your way to a fun ride no matter where you are going. The reworked engine is one of the ‘substantial upgrades’ that we mentioned before. It is now a DOHC (Double Overhead Camshaft) as compared to SOHC (Single Overhead Camshaft) on the previous one. Along with this, the new exhaust, new mapping etc., the new Dominar now makes 40 Ps of power at 8650 rpm as compared to the 35 Ps at 8000 rpm of the previous one. The torque produced though is the same 35 Nm but the peak now arrives at 7000 rpm as compared to the 6500 rpm on the previous one.
The bump in the power does not make itself apparent as soon as you are off. But it sure does when the revs start to build-up and ‘nutty rider’ comes out of the ‘sane shell’. The new Bajaj Dominar feels quicker, accelerates harder and the power now does not fade off till the very end of the rev range where the shift light subtly reminds one to take it easy. The gearbox also gives a good feeling as you fly through the gears with positive shifts and a light clutch action. One can pull from high 40s in the 5th gear and high 60s in the 6th gear with a twist of the throttle without tangible lugging so +1 for tractability. That said, the hesitation in the lower range has been improved when compared to the previous version, but we’d say that the On/Off throttle transition could have been a tad bit better.
The new engine also feels more refined as compared to the old one but this is one department where we would have loved to have bit more. The handlebars and footpegs are slightly buzzy from the midrange and the vibes are there to stay till the end of the rev range. Not enough to discourage a buying decision since the engine was new and we believe it will settle down a bit more after the odo sees another few hundred kms .
Handling and Ergonomics
The new Bajaj Dominar continues to be built upon the Perimeter Frame and the dimensions are all the same except the width which goes up from 813mm to 836mm. Also, the bike has gained 2 Kgs with this new iteration, probably because of the USDs but Bajaj has done some weight-saving as well in order to keep the weight gain in check. The increase in power has made the power to weight ratio go up from 192.3 to 217.4 PS/ton so the adverse effects of the weight again are more than taken care of. The geometry, ergonomics and such are also the same as the previous iteration which we feel were pretty good to start with. The most notable change comes in the handling department courtesy the USDs at the front.
The feeling from the front end has improved a lot and that’s saying something because the previous iteration was also not bad in this department. Where the long-ish wheelbase provides it the stability needed in a straight line at higher speeds, the USDs when added to this robust frame make for a very good handler in the corners too. The weight (added) of the bike is only apparent at low-speed manoeuvring but as soon as one gains speed, the bike deals with corners almost effortlessly considering it is a power cruiser. The tyres also help the matters by proving enough grip in the dry conditions but we did not get to check the performance in wet conditions. The 320mm front and 230mm disc brakes at the rear do their job well to provide the stopping power needed. A good feeling at the lever and progressive braking provides one with the confidence to play around a bit but we would have liked a tad bit more initial bite, just a tiny bit.
Coming to the relatively smaller things, mileage is not something that we can comment upon without spending more time and kms with the new Bajaj Dominar, but an ever so slight decrease might be there because of the increase in power when compared to the previous iteration. The rear-view mirrors not only look good but are functionally sound too. They giving the rider a clear view of what’s going on behind and they are almost buzz-free too. The headlight of the Dominar was always deserving of all the praises hurled at it. Since there aren’t a lot of changes, we expect the new one to excel in that department too. The build quality too is solid except one or two uneven panel gaps here and there, nothing serious though, it’s just OCD. And the exhaust note, it deserves a special mention because the new Bajaj Dominar sounds like a million bucks for a single-cylinder. Deeper, throatier and more suited the power cruiser image of the motorcycle. Try not to read the previous line too fast!
For the verdict, we’d like to go back to what we said in the start, something good made better. Is it? Yes and for more than one reason as we have stated above. The ergonomics are good, the geometry is good, the handling is good, the engine is good and all that with some niggles here and there which are pretty easy to ignore once you let yourself be engrossed by the riding experience that the new Bajaj Dominar offers. One thing that might miff a few is that it is now available in only two colours, the green in the pictures and a black-grey one that we didn’t see.
So, is the new Bajaj Dominar a good bike? More than that if you can deal with the inherent windblast with an aftermarket windshield. Is it a value-for-money prospect like the old one? We would only be able to comment on that once the bike is officially launched and the price is unveiled. All in all, the previous iteration left us impressed and this one continues to do that with emotions, a little more intense than before.