Bikes 22 May 2015

Review: 2015 Yamaha YZF-R3 test rides the 2015 Yamaha YZF-R3.

A first choice of motorcycle is harder than ever in Australia. The adoption of the Learner Approved Motorcycle Scheme (LAMS) means you can ride anything from hundreds of second-hand bikes under 660cc to many, many new ones.

With the capacity ceiling higher, the old 250 learner-bike has had a growth spurt to compete with the influx of competition. What used to be a class of 250 machines is now becoming a class of 300s with a couple of models already on the market and more confirmed to come.

The 300s released so far have proved to have some big benefits over 250s through a small capacity increase of about 20 percent. Yamaha has come late to the learner sportsbike party, but has come in pushing the capacity of the class to 321cc. That amounts to a 29 percent increase over the YZF-R25 that the R3 has evolved from.

Australia didn’t get the 250cc YZF-R25 released in 2014. In some markets a 250cc capacity is essential for licencing and registration reasons. In other markets, like Australia, these two factors don’t influence buying choice.

Image: Greg Smith (iKapture).

Image: Greg Smith (iKapture).

An increase in capacity will always benefit performance. Yamaha had to compete, so instead of bringing to Australia the R25 we get the bigger R3 with the best benefits extra capacity brings with it – more power and torque.

The YZF-R3 engine is a new design that takes a few key technologies from the YZF-R1 and MT family. There are light components, forged pistons, strengthed conrods, surface treatment in the cylinder sleeve and cylinders offset to the crank. These are all measures to get the engine spinning up quick, strong in delivery and to achieve its impressive output. And it works.

The R3 pulls away from a standstill off the throttle and there is no need for revs or clutch work to get moving in a hurry. There is good control at low rpm and elsewhere through the rev range the response wont catch you out, but it gains revs through to redline impressively enough.

There’s no urgency to the R3’s response at high rpm, and to be fair there never is on this class of machine on the road. At over 140km/h there isn’t anywhere to find this out except on track. And that’s just where we got to ride the R3 at the national Australian press intro.

Image: Greg Smith (iKapture).

Image: Greg Smith (iKapture).

It was the perfect place to test the limits of a handling package designed for novices and commuters. Set for a rider around the 80kg mark, both front and rear ends are set firm enough for aggressive riding and worked well on the few bumps the test track had.

There’s no flimsiness in this machines design. The steel trellis frame, 41mm KYB forks and rear shock on a long swingarm tye things together. Even with the grippier-than-standard Dunlop rubber, the R3 felt solid on the racetrack. A better rider will find the limitations in its chassis, but it’ll only be a racer that complains and wants more.

Front and rear brakes are 300mm discs with ABS. The brakes provided strong power and good feel on the racetrack. The racetrack and grippy tyres pushed the limitations of the brakes but on the road this wont happen.

The R3 isn’t an intimidating bike to sit on for shorter riders. The seat height is a low and narrow 780mm while at 169kg full of fuel the R3 is light. Taller riders fit on the bike with room to spare. Heavier riders will need to add that extra few clicks of preload as it makes a big difference to the handling dynamic when set right.

Image: Greg Smith (iKapture).

Image: Greg Smith (iKapture).

At just over $6k, there are a lot of reasons why the YZF-R3 is a great machine to start out on. One of them is the fact that the quality of finish is better than it should be for the price. This will pay dividends at resale time.

Another is the 10,000km service intervals with 40,000km on the valves. The most important reasons are the engine and chassis that are great to learn with and a lot of fun when you get experienced.

The styling is modern and so too is the engine – something not every bike in this class can claim. A new engine design also has big advantages in efficiency and performance. There is a list of genuine accessories including Akrapovič exhaust systems, seat cowls, screens, sliders, luggage and covers too.

If you are looking for a race-inspired bike to start out on that oozes street cred, the YZF-R3 has the goods. Better than that, it goes and handles as good as it looks. This bike is just the thing riders starting out need to hone their skills aboard on the road and track right before they step up to bigger capacity machines.

Image: Greg Smith (iKapture).

Image: Greg Smith (iKapture).


Engine type: Liquid-cooled, DOHC, four valve per-cylinder parallel twin
Capacity: 321cc
Bore x stroke: 68 x 44.1mm
Compression ratio: 11.2:1
Claimed power: 31kW @10,750rpm
Claimed torque: 30Nm @9000rpm
Wet weight: 169kg
Seat height: 780mm
Wheelbase: 1380mm
Fuel tank capacity: 14L
Colours: Race Blu, Midnight Black, Racing Red
Price: $6099 + ORC ($6999 rideaway)
Detailed specs: