This is my review after two days of riding my new 2015 Yamaha R3. I'm trying not to gush too much. Honest.
I now have 300 kms on the bike and I just picked it up Saturday afternoon. I have to say - I absolutely love it. You got to ride this bike if you haven't done so already. Of course - you SHOULD love a new bike, right? But this one seems different. It's just so good in so many little ways for the price. Yamaha did their homework and you can see and feel it. Usually, you love a new bike, and then over the next few days start to notice little things that take away a bit of the initial enchantment. You gradually adopt a broader perspective, and a more realistic appraisal of the bike's benefits and drawbacks. With the R3, the more I ride it and increase my familiarity with it - the more impressed I become. I really liked it when I rode it twice at Americade this summer. But living with it for the past couple of days has been a positive eye-opener. It's the little details. Yamaha clearly hit a homerun with it. I just can't figure out how they produced a bike that exudes such quality, power, character, and refinement for $4999. To think that is the price I paid for my CBR250R back in 2011, is telling. The R3 just blows the CBR out of the water in terms of refinement, build quality, power, features, and character. I had friend (Steve) who has owned countless bikes over the years, take it for a spin. After his short ride, he said he couldn't help but wonder how Yamaha produced a bike this good, for so little. He was going to buy one (the one I ended up buying!) before our local dealer convinced me that I really should be the one to purchase it. Steve admitted that it was even better than he thought it would be after his short test ride. I'm still trying to figure out where they cheaped-out on it. It must be the best new small displacement deal going in Canada. Particularly, when it's $4990 in the U.S., and you take a look at our dollar currently.
What strikes me too about the R3 is that it has Honda-like refinement - but with an extra dose of character. I'm not used to Yamaha switchgear feeling so buttery-smooth. Yamaha out-Honda'd, Honda here I think. The refinement makes me feel like I'm riding a Honda product. And there are lots of thoughtful touches (sight-glass oil window, flash to pass button, gear indicator, instantaneous fuel economy readout, and plastic shroud around fuel tank (no more metal tank scratches, I can just replace some cheap shiny plastic when scratches appear) to name just a few. The mirrors still reveal only my elbows, but all my bikes have been the same - so I've learned to just tuck my elbows in when peering behind. Yesterday, I rode a friend's (Ron) Ninja 300. Ron has had more bikes than anyone I know over the years. He feels that his Ninja 300 is the perfect bike for him and uses accolades similar to the ones I've attached to the R3 here, to describe the Ninja. Both the Ninja and R3 resemble each other in many ways, with the Ninja setting the example and establishing the bar, when it first came out. Still, it seems a little unfair to compare them because Yamaha had a clear target to shoot for and considerable time to prepare their assault on the little Ninja. With that said, it was like Yamaha went after the Kawi with a fine-toothed comb and just polished and slightly refined all the little bits that were still so well executed on the little green bike. The R3 has a little more torque, a slightly fattened midrange, is slightly more refined, with a little more power. Ron thought that the throttle felt more responsive than the Ninja. But the Ninja still holds its own too. Both the slipper clutch and firmer suspension work better for spirited riding, and the little Ninja shows character in the upper register, sporting a 500 RPM higher redline. The R3 howls too, especially above 9000 RPM where it begins to snarl angrily. I let Ron ride it and he agreed - it has this infectious growl after 9000 rpm to redline. It's that character high up in the rev range that suddenly makes me feel like I'm riding a Moto GP bike. And everything just seems so tight, solid, and buttoned-down on it too - yet quiet and composed when you're not constantly cranking on it. It turns about 7000 RPM @ 104 km/hr on the highway, and is just very smooth and vibration-free for cruising.
I've heard criticisms about the suspension - and I have to agree that it's a bit soft. If you corner in a very spirited way - the chassis is more likely to be upset - especially when frost heaves and road cracks are present. The Ninja's suspension is noticeably firmer. No criticisms in terms of passing power though. It is effortless for both. I remember Steve saying that he didn't think he would ever need more power than the R3 could dole out. I really like the sound of the engine too. Turbine-like, with character. In terms of handling, It doesn't quite match the ol' girl CBR150R, partly because of the extra weight, slightly larger size, and wider rubber, but it still handles very well, and it's much more composed on the highway. It feels like a much larger, more mature motorcycle in this way. And the seating position is excellent. When I rode it this summer, it just felt like Yamaha used my likeness when they were making ergonomic decisions. This used to be some kind of magic that Honda was good at. It just feels right to my 5', 9" (195 lb) frame when I sit on it. It feels a lot like my CBR150R, only slightly MORE upright. My arms haven't been the least bit tired riding around town. And I rode it for a couple of hours straight yesterday - and my butt wasn't sore either.
One area where I think Yamaha could have improved is with the signals. They just look like a throw-back to the early 2000s, large, bulky and noticeably anachronistic compared to the modern, sporty look of the rest of the bike. Completely out of place on what is otherwise a great looking bike. Like Yamaha picked them out from an old parts bin somewhere. I think Kawi achieved a much more cohesive and better integrated set up with their signals on the Ninja. I'll probably pick up some that are a little more sporty and look higher quality than the stock ones - in keeping with the rest of the bike. With that said - I don't have many goals for farkles. I'll get a rear rack. Maybe a speedo-healer (my bike reads about 8 km/hr faster that I'm actually traveling). A touring windscreen maybe. Though I'm surprised that the buffeting has been so minimal so far.
You know - new riders looking for a new small displacement bike are so spoiled currently. I think that's the bottom line. I can't believe the strides small displacement bikes have made over the last few years. It's hard to imagine what Kawasaki and Honda will do to one-up the R3 in the near future. Yet I'm quite certain they will. Honda is expected to release their 300 series twin likely next year. Online photos of the 250cc version (CBR250RR) recently released in Asian markets, look pretty stunning, and boasts 38 hp (at the crank) - so very competitive horsepower too. Many think it will be a 350 when it arrives in North America. It's about time we started to see some high quality being put in to the low displacement category. If the R3 is any indication of where the manufacturers plan to take small displacement bikes - I'm very excited about the future of motorcycling. You come to expect certain levels of quality, refinement, and performance for a given amount of cash. The R3 just exceeds expectations of what you can now get for $4999 when buying new.
P.S. One notable perk is that my insurance is actually $3 cheaper than with the CBR125R! With TD Insurance, I'm paying $245 per year (no collision/comprehensive).