It’s almost the beginning of October heat and temperature at the MMST race track near Chennai, clear signs that there is going to be no mercy. The sticky sweat is making it harder to slip into the riding gear as I prepare to get astride the gorgeous looking new Yamaha YZF-R15 2.0, expecting a more thrilling ride on the track than the first time I rode the previous generation R15 during the launch at the same venue back in 2008. The MMST circuit is not exactly silky smooth and has a fair mix of some bumpy corners which truly test the motorcycle’s handling abilities and overall composure. I leave the pits on the new Yamaha YZF-R15, to slowly put in a warm-up lap to build some heat into the tyres and get a feel of the motorcycle. Instantly noticeable is the improved seat with its wider base and harder build for a sportier ride experience. There is huge amount of space to accommodate the tallest of riders and also to swiftly move around the motorcycle on the track.
The saddle is in line with international super-sports machines with its design as well as its feel and its posture aiding track riding, while rider comfort takes a backseat. Bad news for tourers then. But Yamaha has been clear about their ideology behind the R15 as a product – it’s a race track scorcher. The first generation machine showed that to us in more ways than one and went on to win the 2010 FMSCI National Motorcycle Racing Championship too, in the hands of Ten10 Racing’s Sarath Kumar (the only Indian MotoGP entrant), beating the long standing king of the Indian two-wheeler racing arena, the TVS Apache RTR. The new 2.0 version of the YZF-R15 aims to build on its predecessor’s lineage and tries to take it to another level. But does it succeed in doing so?
That depends on how next year’s national road racing championship shapes up and also what the sales of the new R15 indicate as the two-wheeler market matures to super-sports motorcycles. What we can tell you right now is how much a better or worse the new One-Five is over its previous model. And better it is. But only marginally with regards to performance. Take into consideration the styling and design, and the new R15 2.0 is leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessor. While the front end remains totally untouched, the revision on design starts from the side fairings. The newer design is much more in tune with the international standards, flaunting its sharper lines and pronounced cuts and edges adding to its racy appeal in a committed manner, rather than trying to be conservative and compromising like the first generation YZF-R15. The true blue race bike-like split seat configuration presents that much needed international look to the machine along with the gorgeously styled new tail section. Not to forget, the fatter rear tyre makes sure this time that the proportions are maintained and endow the bike with a big bike appeal rather than a puny feel that many complained about in the first generation One-Five. This one is truly for the hardcore race replica lover. The weight bias has been altered from the previous 47/53 front-rear ratio, to 49/51 on the new machine. The seat height too has been increased by 10mm to 800mm, with a slight change in its rake helping the rider to sit in a much more aggressive style suitable for racing.
Clearly it is a front-biased super-sports model engineered for quicker turn-ins as well as improved feel from the front end. It is a smart way to balance out the quick turning deficit thanks to a significantly longer wheelbase on the new bike. The whole 55mm growth in the wheelbase with its all-new aluminium swingarm means the bike is unwavering in mid-corner even at considerable high speeds, but the old hands who regularly race the One-Five will tell you with conviction that the earlier model had no issues with regard to composure and mid-corner stability. But the added stability will certainly help on our streets in the hands of wannabe Rossis. Er… I meant wannabe Lorenzos. Although the feel from the chassis remains unchanged, with it constantly reminding you of its over-engineered dynamics, providing the rider with the smallest of the details on what is going on between the road and the tyres. So much so that despite being a regular visitor to the MMST circuit, I noticed a few bumps that I didn’t know existed, thanks to the new R15 2.0’s feedback capabilities. Such is the might of the frame and it keeps hinting that it can handle more performance. More horsepower. Is Yamaha listening?
Sadly, on paper, there are no significant performance upgrades to the latest iteration of the R15. The engine remains unchanged with identical power figures of 17PS and 15Nm of torque. Yet, the straight-line acceleration has marginally improved with the new YZF-R15, reaching the 60km/h mark from standstill in 4.1 seconds, while for the 100km/h it took 12.6 seconds. There is a fairly long list of small changes to the internals of the engine which has helped in an improved power delivery and better torque spread. The gearing has been altered a bit due to changes in the rear wheel and tyre sizes accounting for a slightly improved drive in 5th and 6th gears as well as marginal top speed gain. The altered UCU mapping has strengthened the mid-range, allowing the machine to gain stronger out-of-corner exits with the improved stability only aiding its on-track performance. Another rather small yet impressive change on the new machine is the adoption of a perfect circular type pulley that connects the throttle wire to the throttle valve instead of the previously employed angular pulley. This change has vastly improved the throttle response and the power delivery too feels crisper. Sadly, the performance buck stops here. There is no denying that the highly competent chassis and suspension of the YZF-R15 2.0 could really do with a solid horsepower increment if not a capacity hike. But then, we are going to have to wait for a R250 or something of that sort to come from Yamaha.
The new Yamaha YZF-R15 is not a significant upgrade over its predecessor with regards to performance. But it is certainly a more faithful super-sports machine than the older model. With its gorgeous new styling, superb turn-in friendly dynamics and out and out racy ergonomics, this one is truly for the MotoGP devotees. All those who wanted the made-for-Europe YZF-R125 to come to India will now rest peacefully after swinging a leg over the new R15. The fatter 130-section radial MRF Revvz rear tyre with the reworked tail section sporting a Yamaha YZF-R6 inspired tail-light assembly and the split seat set-up indicates that this is a no holds barred race machine that can give any of the international entry level small capacity super-sports a good run for their money. It remains to be seen how many trophies the new Yamaha YZF-R15 can amass on the race track next year, but on the road it will certainly attract a huge amount of eyeballs.
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