Yamaha MT-15 Review: First Impression

Yamaha MT-15 Review: Words: Syed Shiraz Pictures: Nadeem Ashraf

Disclaimer: Dear readers, please treat this Yamaha MT-15 review as just a first impression, like it says in the title, until we get you a comprehensive review sometime next month hopefully.

Why? Because unlike the YZF-R15 Version 3.0 media ride at MMRT last year (where we not only got a decent amount of saddle time, but a good interaction opportunity with Yamaha’s R&D/tech/service guys as well), this event could only allow a real ride time of 15 minutes, and zilch interaction with the behind-the-scenes heroes, other than, of course, a brief Q&A session at the press conference.

What was the reason for such a short ride duration, I hear you ask. Well, Yamaha was one of the few manufacturers that hadn’t fallen for the influencer/YouTuber crap all this while, but now it seems that they have finally taken the bait. So, along with inviting proper reviewers, they did end up extending the invite to a lot of YouTubers as well whose video descriptions mention things like “get my eyeglasses from here”, “buy my underwear from there”, etc., but nothing about the motorcycle. At best, the title/description would read “Don’t buy this bike without watching this video”.

Then there were a few from that variety of YouTubers who have gathered subscribers with videos such as “girls’ reactions on my Hayabusa”. I recently rode the ‘Busa around for a few days, and I will have to check my action cam footage for such reactions so that I can post that kind of a video too.

See, usually a one-day ride event is itself quite a chaotic affair with all of us media guys scrabbling to eke out as much information we can for potential buyers. The addition of more people, especially those who have no idea what they’re doing, further reduces the time allotted to each reviewer, thereby restricting the amount of information we can pass on to a genuine audience.

Still, a pat on Yamaha’s back to have managed an event of such gargantuan proportions. Inviting more than 40 teams (with each team comprising 2-3 people) and ensuring that everyone gets to ride both motorcycles (the MT-15 and the YZF-R15 V3 ABS) in one day was an impossible feat, but they pulled it off!

I would just like to request them to focus more on content quality (knowledge and expertise of a reviewer), than on quantity (the superficial “reach” of a few YouTubers) next time around while sending invites. Please feel free to invite YouTubers to customer events such as the Call of the Blue; their video coverage will extend the event’s reach to many, which in turn would encourage more people to attend the next one. But please keep media rides for proper reviewers.

Anyway, let’s talk about the motorcycle now. But before I do that, it’s important for all of us to understand the manufacturer’s perspective. We may or may not agree to it, but it helps to know the context. Now, one of the presentation slides during the launch conference showed that Yamaha’s R Series motorcycles in India stand for Racing Real Supersport, the FZs provide Masculine Urban Comfort, while the motorcycles donning the MT badge are Agile Hyper Nakeds. The next slide showed the target audience for the MT-15 as “males in their 20s, from a high income group, living in a metro, keen on following the latest global trends, and wanting a high-performance model.”

Displeasing feminists aside, that description tells you why Yamaha India have been optimistic with the MT-15’s pricing. I had told friends in Yamaha’s communication team the same day that the pricing is disappointing. And the response of the masses hasn’t been any different if their feedback (to put it politely) across social media platforms is to be considered. They have written the bike off already because it does not get dual-channel ABS, R15’s aluminium swingarm, and is still priced ‘just three thousand rupees less’ than the R15. I do not know how many of them would have gone cartwheeling to their nearest Yamaha showrooms had the bike carried a lower price tag. But who knows, they might just have! However, amidst all those angry comments, there were also a few from people who are genuinely interested to know more about the motorcycle. Here it is then for you, folks! I am also expecting the disgruntled ones to read it as well. Please do; I promise I won’t tell anyone.

Yamaha MT-15 Review:
Design, Instrumentation, and Build Quality

Yamaha have got the design right, to begin with. It would be a hit with those in their late teens or early 20s, as this demographic loves to buy anything that brings them closer to applying for citizenship as Extra Terrestrials. The MT-15 will indeed match their alien-face helmets, and other such stuff. It reminds me of Megatron, especially when you switch the ignition on and those LED eyes light up. I would not sleep with this bike in my room.

The rest of the design is also quite sharp and you (the bike actually) will get second looks at stoplights, I reckon. The best part is that, in typical Yamaha fashion, there’s no design element here that can be termed excessive or unnecessary. The MT packs in the essentials cleanly and the overall form of the motorcycle comes across as taut and compact, without appearing spartan.

Those never-seen-before grabrails could have been an eyesore, but they too have been neatly integrated and reinforce the feeling of solidity that this bike exudes.

It gets the R15’s instrument cluster, but with one key difference. This one comes with a negative mode LCD display, which means that the digits, letters, and other readouts are light in colour whereas the background is dark, keeping in line with the MT’s “Dark Side of Japan” theme.

The R15’s LCD has a light background with black readouts. You may check the difference in the two video clips below:

Coming to the build quality, I couldn’t find any loose ends in this brief date with the MT-15. I must also add that I was in the last batch (just so you know, I woke up at 6 am for the event and got to ride the bike at 5 pm) so each MT-15 must have seen a minimum of four to five riders before my turn came. But despite living the entire day at the redline, nothing rattled or squeaked in the MTs. On the face of it, this doesn’t mean much as a racetrack is one of the best surfaces you can ride on, so we will have to wait for the MT to prove its mettle in the real world. However, if I know anything about motorcycles, I can tell you that the MT-15 will wheelie its way out in this department in the road test as well. You may take a screenshot of this paragraph.

Yamaha MT-15 Review:
Ergonomics & Comfort

The riding position of the MT-15 is spot on for a street fighter. You sit fairly upright, which would ensure that you do not get tired in city traffic, whereas the rear-set footpegs will continually remind you that you can slice through the clutter whenever you want.

But most importantly, the first thing you realize upon swinging a leg over and straightening the bike is how unbelievably light this motorcycle feels! At 138 kg fully-fuelled, it already is the lightest motorcycle in its segment but feels even lighter, say, like 120 kilos.

To give you a better idea, let me tell you where its three main competitors stand on the weighing scales. The Pulsar 200 NS weighs 154 kg (and feels that way too); RTR 200 4V is 149 kg (but feels at least 10 kilos lighter), and the KTM Duke 125 tips the scales at 148 kg. I have not ridden the Duke yet, so I cannot comment on whether it makes you feel its weight or, like the other Dukes, it too feels lighter. I guess the latter should be true.

Again, the MT-15 is not only the lightest but feels even lighter, and this attribute will allow even shorter riders (5’0″ to 5’4″) to easily manage the bike in congested city traffic, despite the saddle being on the higher side at 810 mm. It has come down by 5 mm when compared to the R15’s, but like I have said many times earlier in almost all reviews, anything over 800 mm can get high enough for us shorties to actually impact our buying decision.

Not this time though, as anyone who is over five feet tall should be able to tiptoe and keep the bike upright like I said. In fact, the MT-15 and the Street Triple S would be the only two bikes across all segments that short people can ride despite what their seemingly high ‘810 mm’ saddle height suggests. Both these bikes have a narrow midsection which is a boon for short-legged riders.

Taller riders as well would face no issues whatsoever, unless they are over six feet tall. These chaps might find the MT-15 a bit small for them. Once I get the bike for our comprehensive road test, I will ask a couple of taller friends to provide their feedback. Riding pillion with them would also help me tell you about pillion comfort, but guess what, I was able to fetch a pillion ride for a short distance, which told me that a thin girlfriend/wife/boyfriend (depending upon your inclination and orientation) will have no complaints riding pillion with you on this one.

I just asked a 5’11” friend from another portal (I had taken the aforementioned pillion ride with him) about the MT’s ergonomics for his height.

“Good” and “upright” were the two words he typed back. So it’s safe to deduce that the bike’s comfortable for anyone between five to six feet tall. That range should take care of almost all. But I will still revisit this section in the road test.

Yamaha MT-15 Review:
Ride Quality, Handling, and Performance

Unless you were in a coma until today, you would know that the MT-15 is essentially a naked YZF-R15 Version 3. So it gets the same sublime Deltabox frame along with that gem of a motor, among other stuff, from the R15.

Here, I must also tell you here that on being asked about the rake and trail figures of the MT-15, the Japanese gent, who’s head of the MT-15 project, repeated three times that the front-end set up is exactly the same as the R15. Despite that, my fellow journo friend, clad in full leathers, kept asking repeatedly whether the trail has come down. I even prompted, “it’s the same, he just said that again“, but my friend was apparently adversely affected by the sudden change in weather, and didn’t listen. The Japanese gent too perhaps realized that my friend has suffered brain damage, and in a considerate move he simply agreed with him to shut him up.

But I fear that it will be mentioned incorrectly by ALL. And since, like Yamaha’s Call of the Blue campaign, I have been running a Call of the True campaign, which compels me to bring nothing but the truth out, it is my duty to tell you what’s right and what’s not. So here it is: Dear all, please be advised that there is absolutely NO CHANGE in the rake and trail figures of the MT-15 as compared to the R15’s; the MT carries exactly the same steering geometry as the R15 V3. Don’t take my word for it; check Yamaha’s website. It shows 88 mm trail for both the motorcycles. Yes, sir!

And you might remember that yours truly was the only one who had asked the rake figure of the R15 at the media ride last year as Yamaha doesn’t mention it on their website. Go check the story; you ain’t getting everything on a platter here. Okay, let me make an exception this once. The rake angle of the both motorcycles is 25.5 degrees.

Now let me burst another bubble. Those rake and trail numbers make the Indian MT-15 sharper than the MT-15 being sold in Thailand! That bike’s figures are 25.7 degrees (rake) and 89 mm (trail). The wheelbase of both the bikes is identical though: 1335 mm. And before you ask, the steering geometry and wheelbase figures of both the R15s are identical. No surprises there.

Naturally then, our MT-15, just like the R15, is also an impeccable handling motorcycle. In fact, since it’s lighter and there’s less weight at the front, turn-ins are even quicker than the already lightning quick YZF! Side to side flicks tell the same story too. Conversely, the R15 feels more planted at all times. Here, it is natural to think that the MT’s handling might get twitchy at some point, but, thankfully, that’s not the case.

The 10 mm increase in wheelbase (over the R15’s) has allowed Yamaha to avoid any compromise on stability. However, this also reiterates the fact that Yamaha used a box section swingarm as a cost cutting measure only, and not for any other reason. Otherwise, they could have still maintained the same wheelbase length keeping the original MT’s steering geometry and its aluminium swingarm. Yes, Yamaha, we would have lived with 0.2 degree increase in rake. It wouldn’t have converted the MT into a chopper.

That said, after riding the R15 and MT-15 back to back (Yamaha had also brought in the R15 ABS for us to sample at the track), I am ready to bet my life’s savings (they aren’t much anyway) that you won’t be able to tell the difference even if you’re someone who drags his elbows regularly in corners. While a discussion on swingarms is a topic for some other day, for now it would suffice to say that if Yamaha’s R&D chaps believe that the MT-15’s box section unit will endure everything that a typical MT-15 owner may subject it to, and when I tell you that the bike’s handling will make you fall in love with it, you really have nothing to worry on that count. Okay, I know that you’re not worried about that; you’re miffed because Yamaha didn’t really pass on the monetary benefit to the customer, and I am with you on that.

So much so that I almost forgot to tell you that the MT-15’s suspension felt a notch or two softer than the R15’s, and that is exactly how it should be on a bike that’s supposed to be a lot more road oriented than an out and out sportbike like the YZF.

But the real cherry on top is that the motor has not seen any drop in horsepower and torque. Thank you, Yamaha. Plus, they also claim to have tweaked the ECU for better initial and midrange response, and that the rear sprocket sees an addition of four more teeth (52 now). However, let me tell you that while the MT did feel a shade more eager than the R15, the difference wasn’t too perceptible. So this is again something that I would be in a better position to evaluate in the road test. For now, you may take a look below at the power and torque curves of both motorcycles.

Staying on the topic of power and torque, it’s surprising to see that none of us noticed that Yamaha are now quoting 14.7 Nm of peak torque for both motorcycles as opposed to the figure of 15 Nm when we first rode the YZF-R15 Version 3. In fact, we all had mentioned that there is no change in the peak torque figure from the R15 V2 and the new bike continues to produce 15 Nm, that too a full 1,000 revs later at 8,500 rpm. The power output remains the same as what was mentioned by Yamaha last year, i.e., 19.3 PS at 10,000 rpm. Also, the fueling remains as perfect as ever, and so does the gearbox. Moreover, I could feel zero vibrations in this short ride.

Please also note that Yamaha had divided the track into two sections: one for the R15 and the other for the MT-15.

Now while the R15 got the loop that included both the straights of the BIC, the MT’s trajectory did not comprise any of them.

I do not know whether Yamaha did so to replicate the environment in which the MT would be majorly ridden (read: “city streets” where you seldom reach the top two gears of a high-strung six-speeder) or it was done due to the paucity of time, the end result was that we could not explore the MT’s 5th and 6th gears. So that’s one more thing to look forward to in the road test. In the interim, just know that you would love redlining this bike in the first four cogs.

The MT-15 gets the brakes and rubber from the R15 as well and, as expected, there are no complaints in either department. Okay, there is one, and it’s big. Yamaha have gone ahead and equipped this motorcycle with a single-channel ABS under the pretext of making it sportier!

Really, Yamaha? If you do mean what you say, give this bike a dual-channel ABS with a provision to disable it at the rear wheel. I mean, come on, at this price, you should not only be providing a dual-channel ABS system, but a carton of DOT4 brake fluid as well. And a couple of Red Bulls. A day’s track-riding training by your national championship winning racers would be the best thing though.

Yamaha MT-15 Review:

I think there are two kinds of people who would contemplate to buy the MT-15. One would be the bloke who loves the R15 for its engine and handling, but can’t tackle its committed riding position on a daily basis. This chap won’t give a damn about the price; in fact, he would rather feel good that he’s getting exactly the bike he wanted, that too for three thousand rupees less. This is not a Utopian thought, I am talking about a friend who has two 2-stroke Yamahas, a Hero Impulse, and wants to buy the MT-15 as well. He does not come from a “high income group”, or I guess the bikes do not let him stay there. But it’s good to see that he has got his priorities right.

The second kind would be closer to what Yamaha have profiled the target customer as. This type generally convinces his parents to buy the NS 200 for him. The ones with a few more grey cells go for the RTR 200 or the FZ 250, while the richest of the lot must be dragging their parents to the KTM showroom lately, I think. These buyers do not have money constraints; it’s just it’s their parents money, which means that the amount of convincing required by your parents will always be directly proportional to bike’s sticker price. The higher the price, the tougher it gets. That’s what the kids tell me.

So if your parents call me for advice, I’ll start with telling them that they can’t really go wrong with any of the five choices here, so they must go ahead with the one you have your heart on. However, if they’re interested to hear, I would also tell them a few pros and cons of each. I would tell them that at INR 1.11 lakh, it’s the RTR 200 4V 2.0 that’s the most bike per rupee, and the only minor drawbacks are that it looks like the 160 4V and being a 200, its fuel efficiency will force them to increase your monthly allowance permanently. The latter would hold true for the FZ 250 and NS 200 as well. Otherwise, the FZ 250 is all the bike you need for the next five years, at least.

The Pulsar though is the most value when one considers bhp per rupee. Issue is, your parents might need to buy it twice for you in the next five years. Okay, I am exaggerating but Pulsars, especially in this company, are the first ones to rattle. I would highly recommend the Duke to them, but only if they are from Kashmir or some other cold part of the country. Or I would just tell them to pay a bit more and get the MT-15.

Okay, the road test will tell me whether I can say that.