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Reclaim, Redeem & Restore – these 3 words were seemingly the motivating force for folks at Yamaha when they woke up from their slumber and decided to finally bring a motorcycle that they are known to make. The occasion was the launch of the R3 and perhaps by then Indian motorcycle enthusiasts had started to believe that Yamaha India had forgotten to make performance motorcycles or they are so busy chasing numbers in the commuter segment that they conveniently chose to ignore the segment that brought them back from the verge of oblivion in the Indian market. And it was clear from the speeches of senior Yamaha folks at the launch that they were aware of this growing perception. Anyways as always it is better late than never. Those who got to ride the Yamaha YZF R3, including yours truly, seemed to forget the past as soon as they sat on the saddle and thumbed the starter.
Styling wise, the Yamaha R3 carries forward the legacy of the R15 in India with its full fairing, sharp lines, and aggressive twin headlamps. The overall design looks stunning, especially in the blue paint scheme. There’s an immediate unrelenting desire to ride it as soon as you set your eyes on it. The riding posture is balanced – it is not as aggressive as the R15 and not too upright either – but perhaps tilted just a little bit towards comfort mode which makes it suitable for long hauls on the highway without breaking your back, but a potent track tool as well. There is enough room even for tall riders to sit comfortably without feeling cramped. The seat height of 780 mm is a bonus for not-so-tall riders. The large analogue + digital instrument cluster is a refreshing yet familiar design that houses an analogue tachometer with a digital screen on the right that displays the speedometer and fuel gauge along with other things like two trip meters, odometer, etc.
The overall fit and finish is top class and worthy of brand Yamaha. Switchgears’ plastic quality leaves nothing to complain about. The seat feels plush and firm.
Powering the R3 is a 321cc inline twin, 4-valve, DOHC motor that pumps out 42 horses at 10,750 RPM and 29.6 Nm of torque at 9000 RPM. This is transmitted to the rear wheel via a 6-speed gearbox. The engine is fed through a fuel injection system with 32mm throttle bodies.
The engine comes to life with a gentle push and feels refined and rev happy. It feels grunty but is subdued and those who prefer loud pipes may want to go for an aftermarket exhaust. The clutch is super smooth and gear shifts reassuring and positive. Open the throttle and the 42 horses working in unison start pushing the bike forward gently without any jerks whatsoever. There is abundance of torque in the low revs but the meat of it comes in the mid rev range, especially as you move past the 4500 rpm mark. And that is when you fall in love with the R3. Very handy when you are fighting city traffic – can get you through without having to resort to too many gearshifts. Also would have enough juice to overtake trucks and buses on the highway without having to build up too many revs. The bike feels firmly planted on straight line speed runs. On the back straight of BIC, we could see the speedometer going north of 174 kmph and still had some juice left. It was equally stable while negotiating the corners. The bike feels eager to lean and maintains its composure through the curves, giving your confidence a solid boost. However, the stock MRF Zapper tyres didn’t feel up to the mark when put under pressure and you could feel them losing grip if you were a little adventurous with the throttle coming out of the corners.
The brakes were equally impressive and the bite felt progressive, though again the tyres didn’t help much. Also you are left longing for an ABS set up as an additional safety measure on the R3 and Yamaha should think of fitting it onto the bike whenever they plan to launch an upgrade. ABS is anyways going to be mandatory for Indian bikes pretty soon.