Yamaha USA hosted their press event for the R3 yesterday at Thunderhill Raceway. The early batch of first rides are now live, post them as you find them...
The R3 can cruise easily at 80 mph in sixth gear, with plenty more revs available to overtake slower vehicles. Redline is a lofty 12,500 rpm. For kicks, I lurched down to 25 mph in sixth, opened the throttle, and the engine pulled cleanly up the revs. A progressive throttle pulley means ham-fisted new riders won’t get into as much trouble when they accidentally go WFO, though experienced riders would likely prefer a more direct pulley. That said, fuelling is spot-on. Riders young and old will appreciate the R3’s power – it’s still tame enough for a beginner, yet manages to be entertaining for an older rider who may be stepping down to something more manageable.
MotocyclistWith stickier rubber, you could brake later, accelerate earlier, carry more corner speed and lean further. Then you’d need more compression and rebound damping to cope. With relatively little power in stock form, when pushed to its limits the rear chatters and slides when knee-dragging lean is met with throttle. Luckily, it communicates this early and often, giving the rider plenty of notice to dial it back a notch.
Ultimate MotorcyclingAs we’ve seen with Yamaha’s other bargain bikes (think FZ series), low cost doesn’t mean all of the niceties are left out. The R3 is outfitted generously, with an LED taillight, properly knurled footpegs, and crisp paint that looks as good up close as it does rolling past. Especially well appointed is the dash unit, which uses the correct combination of analog tachometer and digital speedo, as well as including a fuel gauge, shift light, and instant/average fuel economy figures. Picking nits, we always think it’s annoying when a bike has a fuel gauge and offers mileage figures but doesn’t calculate range—come on, all of the data is there!
The R3’s bore and stroke is very similar to the R6, which means it is seriously oversquare and ready to rev with a redline of 12,245 rpm. However, don’t get the idea that you have to wring its neck to get power. The R3 pulls satisfyingly through the rev range, with the oval pulley on the throttle giving the R3 the feel of progressively building power, a nod toward those with less throttle control experience.
You never feel like you drop off the cam, as Yamaha gives the R3 enough low-rpm torque and a low first gear. It can always pull, as long as you’re reasonable about which of the six gears you’re in. Yamaha realized that the R3 will be bought by many newer riders, and it had to be easy to ride — and it is. At the same time, they wanted to build in some growth, as well as make the bike perform well enough that an experienced rider might want to buy it as a low-cost, lower-speed track bike.
Running the R3 up to the redline happens on the street, of course, but on the track you can run into five-digits much more consistently, which means you get the absolute most out of the motor. There’s an adjustable shift light and gear position indicator, and the little twin allows for some overrev from the shift light when I didn’t want to shift up when nearing the redline when the end of the straight wasn’t quite there yet.
When downshifting into a turn, you have to get it right. With no slipper clutch and a light chassis, the back end does chatter under hard downshifting. Most of the intended audience for the bike won’t intentionally downshift too hard and early, but a slipper clutch would help save the day when they do.
The same could be said for the ABS-free disc brakes. They have great feel and you can easily ride without skidding either wheel, but if you make a mistake, as newer riders will do, the ability for technology to bail you out is a good one. It would be nice if one or both were an option.
For my level of riding, the Pilot Street tires were fine. I was able to lean the R3 over confidently until the pegs dragged, so that’s enough for most people. If I rode track days more often on the R3, I’d find some stickier rubber and push the envelope harder.