Yamaha R3: Small-bore with oomph
YAMAHA HAS RE-INTRODUCED AN ENTRY-LEVEL, SPORTY BIKE
It’s been a great year for small capacity motorcycles and Yamaha finally has a sporty small-bore bike to give riders a taste of the R6 and flagship R1.
The 321cc parallel twin has the biggest engine in the current Japanese 300cc class, revving out to produce 30.9kW and 29.6Nm of torque.
This means the learner legal R3 is no slouch, with plenty of oomph to propel you into turns and overtake on demand.
During my week with the R3, riding progressed through heavy traffic commuting, a few fun back-road rides and finished up with a photoshoot at Mt Wellington’s KartSport club track, whichlet us to have some real fun in a safe environment.
Walking up to the R3 the first thing that hits you is the fairing. As it is intended to bring riders into the Yamaha supersport fold, it shares DNA with the larger R6.
And although the fairing definitely has the look, the feel was a bit cheap, using a lot of thin plastic. Following the success in the R1, the $7999 R3 has the latest technology including a feature-filled dash unit plus ABS, something I originally thought was needed for the bike’s skinny tyres.
The bike has 110-section front and 140-section rear tyres to wrap the 17-inch wheels, but although lesser machines may have struggled on tough surfaces, in the R3’s case the smile from ear to ear as I carved through corners said it all. This bike loves the twisties.
The R3 turns in a well-balanced manner and has to be one of the most enjoyable bikes to tear about on at its price point.
It helps that the R3 is light, at only 169kg — so it’s easy to flick from side to side without wearing yourself out — and it has the composure of an expensive bike.
While looping around the KartSport track to get in position for yet another cornering photo I decide on a whim to attempt a wheelie — something I can’t claim to be any good at. To my surprise up came the front wheel with little-to-no effort other than a bit of throttle and a quick tap of the clutch.
The confidence you get from the R3 is astounding and each loop of the track gets faster, the front wheel popping up nearly at will.
The suspension, like the tyres, isn’t attention-grabbing at first glance. You’ve got no adjustment on the conventional front forks and only preload adjustment on the rear, but you don’t miss any of that extra technicality as the bike is well set up out of the factory.
Keeping with the entry level theme of the R3, the brakes are well matched to the bike.
They won’t be pulling you up with stoppy pulling power, but the single front 298 mm disk with twin piston caliper is perfectly adequate at hauling up the light little R3.
Don’t forget the addition of ABS, meaning you won’t be locking up the front and flying over the bars anytime soon.
Yamaha NZ’s national manager, Graeme Leach, says the R3 is the perfect first track bike, and I’d have to agree. I was at a recent Auckland Motorcycle Club Advanced Rider Training course at Hampton Downs (check out driven.co.nz soon for my review), where a couple of R3s were in attendance. To say they were more than holding their own against much larger bikes among the tight bends of the Waikato track wouldn’t be doing them justice.
Just seeing the R3 among its bigger siblings showed it has the personality to back up its looks.
Whether you’re after a commuter bike or a fun bike to rev right out in your best attempt to emulate Rossi on your local track, the R3 is a good starting point if the Yamaha Supersports range has grabbed you by the heartstrings.
■Thanks to Mt Wellington’s KartSport club track for the use of their facilities.
PROS AND CONS YAMAHA R3
|ENGINE:||321cc DOHC Parallel twin|
|PROS:||LAMS approved, ABS standard, superb handling, low price|
|CONS:||Plastics feel cheap|