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Although aimed at the novice rider market, Yamaha’s new R3 is anything but a beginners bike… 

The new Yamaha YZF-R3 has been designed to comply with the UK’s A2 licence regulations, as well as being developed as a lightweight supersport bike for everyday use. IIt also fills the gap between the YZF-R125 and the YZF-R6, making it an ideal step up model for 125cc owners (A1 licence group) who are looking to progress.

Ian Kerr

• Ian Kerr

Taking a wider viewpoint, the R3 is actually a version of the 250cc machine made for riders in the Far East, where there are different licence restrictions to those in Europe. So no surprise then, that it comes from Yamaha’s new factory in Jakarta’s Pulogadung district in Indonesia and is in fact the first geared bike to come from there. Previously it has been twist-and-go scooters.

Despite this fact, a good look around the bike shows the general finish on the R3 is very good with the fit and finish of the bodywork looking as good as if it had come from Japan. It is let down a little with signs of cost saving here and there, like the rear brake lever, but for a bargain retail price of £4,799 plus on-the-road charges, Yamaha has had to make sacrifices somewhere. Although, for me, it beats the direct opposition like the KTM RC390 and the Kawasaki Ninja 300 in the price war, as well as on the road!.

The YZF-R3 is powered by an all-new 321cc inline twin cylinder 4-stroke DOHC 4-valve engine that benefits from much of the advanced technology seen on Yamaha’s larger capacity supersport bikes. It has been designed using cutting-edge technology that has already helped to establish the R1 and R6 as two of the most respected supersport models available today.

Featuring a bore x stroke of 68mm x 44.1mm and running with a compression ratio of 11.2:1, this compact engine develops 30.9kW/42PS @ 10,750 rpm, with maximum torque of 29.6Nm/ 3.0 kg-m @ 9,000rpm.

Yamaha has used the latest combustion analysis technology in the design of the cylinder head along with the fitment of a downdraft throttle body with narrow angle 26mm intake valves and 22.5mm exhaust valves to ensure that the new 321cc engine delivers strong performance where it is needed over a wide operating range.

It is equipped with lightweight forged pistons with a reciprocating weight around ten per cent less than cast pistons to help give instantaneous throttle response. In addition the motor is equipped with a lightweight DiaSil cylinder – the first time that this advanced design has been used on a Yamaha twin cylinder engine, so it has total street credibility as it is allied to the larger racing machines.

The compact 321cc engine acts as a stressed member and features three rigid mounts and one rubber mount to the newly designed steel diamond-type tubular frame that has been developed using the latest structural analysis technology. The YZF-R1 was one of the first Supersport models to feature a long swingarm, and this proven technology has been adopted by the new YZF-R3 as well.

By using a longer swingarm there is less variability in the chassis geometry during acceleration, cornering and deceleration, and this ensures more stable handling. The wheelbase has been set at a relatively compact 1,380mm, while the caster angle is 25.5 degrees, and the seat is also set at a manageable height of 780mm for increased rider confidence, especially for the vertically challenged!

Likewise the front/rear weight balance is almost 50/50, and together with the use of 17-inch wheels and centralisation of the bike’s mass, this design gives predictable and easy handling. Kerbside weight is just 169kg, so those riders stepping up from the 125cc class, will not have a massive increase in any area to deal with when talking about the bike’s physical size.

Suspension consist of a KYB preload adjustable rear shock and non-adjustable conventional forks. In the braking department there is a floating 298mm front disc backed up with a 220mm rear disc and ABS is fitted as standard equipment.

Despite the emphasis on the bike being A2-compliant and an easy machine to step up onto, it is also a bike that will provide a “supersport bike for everyday use,” for those who do not want ride machines with MotoGP performance levels. Having spent some time with one and a lot of miles, I would have to agree that the R3 has a lot to offer for the more experienced rider as well as the beginner too.

The engine is revvy with a red line and rev limiter set at 12,500, but it does not feel particularly buzzy thanks to its good spread of power across the range, and it feels like a bigger bike than it actually is. It pulls strongly from 5,000 rpm and again at 7,000rpm. And there is a further surge at 9,000rpm which keeps going until 11,000rpm when a white light tells you to change gear before the limiter cuts in.

The reality is though unless you are on a track you will be unlikely to experience any of this due to the aforementioned flexibility. Use the gearbox intelligently and the mid-range will provide a brisk ride that will see you keep ahead of most other traffic without having to constantly cog swap.

Should you chose the spirited riding style then certainly the handling is more than up to dealing with even the most undulating surface in a predictable sure-footed way that will not cause alarm. Likewise the brakes, whilst perhaps not one fingered items, work well and are predictable and reassuring.

Although initially the bike feels small when you have just got off something larger, that impression soon fades as it’s got a more upright riding position than is typical of most sports bikes. Likewise the very distinctive sports fairing that show its ‘R’ heritage  manages to provide an acceptable amount of wind protection at speed, or when cruising on a motorway-type road without having to crouch down. Despite being over six foot tall I did not feel that the riding position was cramped and there were no problems after a day in the saddle.

If you venture into town, the bike is relatively manoeuvrable for a sports styled machine and its slim lines make filtering a doddle. Overall you should see 130 plus miles from the 14 litre tank – depending on your riding style, making it quite fuel efficient and economical.

So overall, the R3 may be a bike that is aimed at the newer rider and those restricted to an A2 licence, but it is in fact a perfectly useable fun machine that any full licence holder wanting an unintimidating sports machine will love to bits!

It is affordable, cheaper (and better) than its direct rivals and is also on Yamaha’s Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) scheme. So there is absolutely no reason not to have a serious look and get a test ride!

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