It should’ve had a fatter rear tyre.’ That’s what most motorcycle ‘enthusiasts’ say/think when you utter the words ‘Yamaha R15’. Now, you can say ‘Version 2.0’ and rub it in their faces till they smell burning rubber... or skin. The R15 has always been a brilliant motorcycle, though there was universal agreement that it needed more power. The new R15, all of us hoped, would remedy that. Sadly, it hasn’t. Yamaha’s upgrade for existing R15 owners makes the same power as their bikes. What, no R25? Or even an R20? Not done.
However, here’s the good thing about good motorcycles – all is never lost. Despite ‘Version 2.0’ falling short of our expectations, the R15 hasn’t stopped being a good motorcycle. In fact, it actually is better in some ways, the most apparent being the tail section. The girl-next-door rear of the older R15 has been replaced by a skin-fit-jeans shape. The R15 is now best seen from the rear three-quarter angle, a fact aided by that 130-section radial tyre.
The new swingarm, the split seat and the numberplate-indicator holder too do their bit in bringing the R15 closer to the international mainstream than ever before. The tail-light is now an LED number, though it isn’t exactly the most fetching one I’ve seen. And that ugly plastic rear wheel shroud and saree guard assembly undo some of the sporty sophistication that the rear displays. I’m sure there will be more than a few customers who will take deliveries of their bikes armed with the appropriate spanner.
Back to the tweaks – the exhaust tip is now more angular as well, while the wheels are better-looking five-spoke design units. The side part of the fairing is also reshaped, while the tank remains the same. No real problem there, because the tank still looks good. What I cannot understand is, after going through all that trouble fixing the entire bike, why didn’t Yamaha sharpen up the face as well? At least to me, the continuing old face looks out of sync with the 2.0’s new-found sharpness. Perhaps it’s just because I’ve spent so much time with the older one.
Get onto the bike and you sit more in it now, and the seat is thin enough to let your backside know that the R15 now takes ‘sporty’ more seriously than before. In fact, thanks to the new swingarm, wheelbase has increased by 55 mm and the weight bias is way more towards the front than the older machine.
On the track, it makes for a brilliant riding position – roomy and sporty – though for a chap my size (six feet, 87 kg), the frontal area continues to feel a bit small. It all ceases to matter though, when you’re neck deep in a corner, effortlessly opening the throttle while being well cranked over – the swingarm and fat tyre combination works. The combination of more front-biased weight and 90/80 front hoop makes the R15 dive into corners better than before. If anything, it is a better corner carver than before, and that’s saying something and then some!
But there is a catch – the longer wheelbase has made the Version 2.0 a bit lazier. On the older bike, chicanes were dismissed with huge handfuls of throttle and almost too easy flicks from side to side. On the 2.0, you either have to roll off the throttle and get the bike turned, or use considerably more muscle to make it through. It’s not a very exaggerated tendency, but you do notice it, especially if you’re used to the older bike. A fat tyre is all very well, but I think a 120-section rear tyre would’ve been better, to eliminate any trace of hesitance in chicanes.
Yamaha have made minute changes to the ECU and the throttle assembly, and though power figures remain the same, they claim the Version 2.0 is 0.3 seconds quicker to 60 kph, faster by 3-4 kph at the top end and fuel consumption remains the same as before. While we’ll wait for a real-world test to verify these claims, even if they turn out to be true, it’s highly unlikely we’ll be jumping with joy. Even so, out on the MMST’s back straight, crouched as low as I can, I saw an indicated 117 kph in sixth gear. On the older bike, you’d never get sixth gear on the same stretch, so I assume that the altered gearing might make it quicker.
Overall, the Version 2.0 is even more stable than the older bike. Until you drop the anchors, that is. The front brake now has redesigned mounting points, so it’s supposed to deliver marginally stronger braking. But it’s difficult to appreciate that aspect when that ‘godsend’ of a rear tyre is sweeping the track and you’re trying to straighten things out with the 2.0, something that the Version 1 was loath to do. Putting a stronger front brake and shifting weight bias to the front without strengthening the front forks is not a very wise idea, eh? However, feathering the rear brake into corners sorted it out. Perhaps that’s why they’ve fitted a larger disc at the back.
Also, thanks to the longer wheelbase, the R15 is even more difficult to wheelie now – and with that, my list of grouses is over. If you ask me whether the Version 2.0 is an improvement, I’d have to say yes. It looks like a real R-bike now, still has quality cycle parts and displays more overall stability. I might prefer the older bike’s handling, but since fat tyres rule the world, the new one will sell even more. The price increase of approximately ` 10,000 is justified – the swingarm, wheels, tyres and tail section deserve the premium. However, I’ll make one thing clear – we’ll make do with the software update this time, Yamaha. Next time, we want more.