Yamaha Motors India has had a long and illustrious connection with the performance motorcycling scene in the country. From the Legendary RD350 to the RX100 and its subsequent 2Stroke Iterations, were the go-to motorcycles of choice for anyone seeking to light up the streets. The dawn of the 4-Strokes ushered in a relatively quiet period for the marque with that distinctive Tuning Forks Logo. While other manufacturers took on the performance motorcycling mantle and made it their own, Yamaha Motors India appeared to have had lost the plot a bit, or so it seemed.
In 2008, the sleeping giant woke up with all cylinders firing and announced the launch of the R15 – the legend was re-born! With a single master-stroke, Yamaha Motors India had managed to recover its former glory. The first gen R15 or V1 as it is now called, featured a liquid cooled, free-revving, 150cc motor that was paired off with a chassis that allowed the rider to literally dance around the track. With quality parts all round and a styling package that were a tribute to the bigger R6/R1 cousins, the sales charts simply took off.
As the quarters rolled by, the bike became the darling of corner carvers all across the country. With time, the existing 150cc mill began to feel a wee bit inadequate and unable to do justice to the capable chassis that the R15 came shod with. Aftermarket tuners began to offer several performance mods, ranging from exhaust upgrades to big-bore packages featuring custom engine maps and the works. Yamaha Motors India themselves offered upgrade kits through their dealers. The existing package however, had its limitations, particularly when it came to the compact dimensions & the inadequate looking tires.
Yamaha Motors India had been listening to the voices on the ground though and responded in typical form, with the R15 V2, in 2011. It was the same styling DNA, only thoroughly refined & even more committed to its elder siblings. The front end now featured a slightly wider look thanks to the upgraded 90/80 rubber. From the side-on, the V2 looked like it had spent some time pumping weights in the gym. The side fairing had these partitions built within, to divert the air-flow around the engine with Yamaha Motors India calling it the ‘Layered Structure’ styling. The view at the rear on the other hand gives it that scaled-down R6 look which is rather fetching, if I must say. But from the game changer in 2008 (nobody had launched a 150cc liquid cooled sports bike before), to flying the 150cc performance motorcycling flag when the competition has long moved away to 200cc + motors, does the Yamaha R15 V2 still stay relevant in view of shifting preferences of buyers?
Swing into the saddle and the R15V2 immediately sends waves of information your way, and this is even before you’ve turned the key. The riding position is reminiscent of a track machine & you know your wrists are in for a proper workout. The split-seat, with the pillion sitting slightly higher, behind the rider is both, a boon as well as a curse. A boon, for, if you’re riding solo, then the step of the pillion seat can be used as a back-rest. With a pillion on board, it feels like they’re sitting on the first floor while you’re at ground level. So if you regularly ride two-up, then you’d be better off with another bike.
Thumb the starter and, as the tell-tale lights go out, the engine settles to a steady thrum. Pull in that light action clutch and snick the shifter into first. Release gently and off you go. But, for all the purported changes that Yamaha has made to this V2 (read ECM calibration, throttle mechanism tweaks & revised ignition mapping) the engine response isn’t all that different. Yamaha could easily have chosen to go in for a power and torque bump, either through increased engine capacity or by means of better tweaks to the existing one.
Get moving and it is the all-familiar Yamaha feel, with a high revving engine coupled with handling that gives the rider the confidence to put their knees down at every corner they can find. However, that revised swing arm and the fatter tyre has had some trade-offs. The bike now feels that wee bit reluctant to change direction, not unwilling, mind you, but just hesitating for a moment, before leaning over gloriously. The steering too has become a tad heavier and this means that life on the street is a mite difficult. This won’t be obvious to the first time R15 rider, but those that have spent some time with the first generation R15 will know exactly what we’re talking about here.
In the braking department too, the R15 V2 has begun to show its age. The 270mm stopper at the front had sufficient bite and feel to scrub speed, but the 220mm rear end was rather wooden in feel. Adding to that experience was the positioning of the rear brake pedal. The placement means that the foot is angled awkwardly over the pedal, thereby adding another pain point to the riding position. Apart from the pain, this becomes a critical fatigue inducing factor, that comes into play over longer rides. Also, the lack of ABS means that the rider is without this critical safety net. It puzzles us no end, to see Yamaha not offering this crucial bit of safety kit, especially on a model that’s their performance flagship!
The R15 V2 has an efficiency that’s on par with the segment. She’s not exactly a miserly sipper, but doesn’t gulp down the yellow nectar with every handful of the throttle either. Expect to get anything between 40 to 50 kilometres to the litre, which coupled with a 10 litre tank (+2 Litres in reserve), gives an operational range of about 400 odd kilometres.
The R15 V2 is a motorcycle that appeals greatly to the youth. It’s sporty styling, mini-superbike looks and a reasonably good price, mean that buyers flock to it, even in the face of newer competition. The Yamaha pedigree too plays its role and all in all, the R15 V2 does look good in the parking lot filled with newer, more powerful motorcycles. So, if you too have fallen for the sporty looks and the decent package on offer, then go ahead and make her yours. Just make sure that you change those unforgiving seat cushions though. And, be prepared to pamper your wrists and back, after every ride!