Yamaha R15 Review & Photos by Harish

When I first planned to go for a new bike, the ones I considered were the Yamaha R15 and the Pulsar 220 DTS-Fi, as at the time there were no bikes seemingly better than these two. I was seriously confused, the price tag didn’t matter to me and all I wanted was a great bike with an acceptable mileage. A friend of mine had bought the R15 earlier and I decided to check it out.

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Off I went onto the highway on the R15 and I remember catching 121 on the speedo in 6th gear with relatively no effort. Being such a powerful bike, I thought that it would have vibrations and similar issues and to my amazement it felt completely void of those elements. It almost felt like the bike would never give up its acceleration at all.

Just one ride and before I knew it, I was in love with the R15 and decided that it was going to be my next machine. By Mar 2009, after an argument with my Dad over the 1 lakh price tag, I had it in my garage. My first impressions were that it was relatively small in terms of dimensions; I also found the seating to be a little bit uncomfortable for my liking during the first week. But soon after, I began to get used to the bike and to this day I have done a total of over 10,000 Kms.

Since I have had the bike for quite a while, I had slowly figured out its strengths and weaknesses first hand, with BikeAdvice, I’d like to share these with the rest of the world. Please do note that these are my personal views which I firmly believe in.

Performance: The R15 is completely different from any other bike that I have owned so far, Like its dual headlamps, I have learned that the engine has dual characters, The first is below 5000rpm, at this RPM, the power of the machine can hardly be felt and you can feel like you are stressing the engine a lot, but when you let the Tachometer head north, you would feel the second character playing its role on the machine. There are really no words to describe this other that a huge WOW, It pulls you away really amazingly and you’d rather be surprised when it suddenly does so. I was stunned myself when I experienced it firsthand.

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The engine remains smooth across the entire rev-range and high RPM’s you would find it hard to just let go of the throttle as the power is just addictive. The engine would never feel stressed out under any conditions and these factors have made riding the R15 more entertaining than anything else for me. Its liquid cooling system was so effective that I rode the bike at a constant 100-110Kmph between Hyderabad and Warrangal, which is approximately 200 Kms apart, without noticing the engine overheat LED or any other signs of heat or stress. Hence I do think that the R15 is a great touring machine.

While touring with my old Apache 150 I used to think after 90Kmph there must be a Sixth Gear to help the machine cross the 100 Kmph mark without stressing out. The R15, with its 6th cog makes things a lot better after the 100 Kmph mark compared to any other machine. Also during drag races, the 6th gear makes the competitors appear in the rear view mirror, slowly turning into a tiny dot. Awesome!

And the best part about all these is that you wouldn’t have to make frequent visits to the petrol station. I fill up my bike at the beginning of every month with a full tank of petrol, from the 1st to the 20th of every month; I keep the speed at over 90kmph in which case it would return about 40-45 Kmpl, on the other hand, during the 21st to the end of the month I would be forced, due to monthly budget restrictions, to keep the bike below 70Kmph In which case, the R15 would return a healthy 50Kmpl. A fact that I have tested and confirmed by putting in just 1 litre during the controlled riding that I do at the end of every month.

Handling: I remember when I bought the bike an engineer at Yamaha spoke about the delta box frame and my Dad told me that he was lying just to sell off the bike and that those were just fancy names they put for everything in order to justify the price tag and misguide the clueless youngsters. He also told that these kinds of gadgets and gizmos are simply of no use in bikes that are going to be used daily.

But unfortunately, after all these months of riding, I am sorry to say that my Dad was wrong. The Delta Box Frame is just the quiet little element of the Bike that gives you loads and loads of confidence at corners; I have done tight corners at over 90Kmph without feeling any sort of fear. Also I have noticed that the bike is really light which makes it a pleasure to control at high speeds. The handle bar really needs no input to turn the bike, once you are going fast. You would really love to turn the bike while leaning on the sides every time.

At speeds of over 125Kmph, it feels like everything is under control, vibrations are absent, you can easily stop in just a few meters, thanks to the brakes which are one of the best stock bike brakes in India. But at those speeds, T-Shirts are not the best thing to be wearing as you would feel a lot of wind turbulence. But that is a lot worse in bikes without a fairing. I would definitely recommend a helmet and a jacket if you are planning to conquer those speeds. The riding posture also adds to the confidence, as it streamlines the airflow around your body.

Design: Nothing really needs to be said about its awesome looks. I’m sure that you all have seen the R15 before. The rear tyre is slim and does make me feel sad the way it ruins the look, but it offers astounding grip which again adds to the confidence.

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The bike is a guaranteed head turner, when I head into a crowded place, I am pretty sure that a lot of heads are going to turn towards me or at least the bike. Anywhere you take it, be it the posh suburbs or the urban slums, people just take notice of this machine, some simply stare, some ask for photos and one person even asked for a test drive when I parked it outside a hotel.

During the first service, Yamaha recommended me to apply an Auto Shine to have the glow for years. I did it and yes, they were right, the bike still has the factory glow even today but it cost a cool Rs.600. Basically it was another tough clear coat of paint. At office the security will stop everyone for ID’s but at the entry of my R15 I can see a smile on his face.

Value For Money: I have already done about 10,000Kms on my Bike and I feel that the Engine has become smoother than before. Unlike the other bikes that I have owned before, there has been no change in the engine sound after all these months, like a Chetak Scooter, the engine sounds exactly the same way I’ve heard when I first turned on the Bike. This bike is absolutely loaded with all kinds of technical advancements, I remember the Yamaha engineer explaining about the DIASIL cylinder and forged pistons, with the help of the internet, I found out that similar materials are lightweight and more resistant to heat and are also used in aircraft engines. The liquid radiator not just cools the engine but also extends engine life by maintaining a constant operating temperature for the mechanical parts, all of these made me wonder at the kind of interest and effort that Yamaha have put into making an awesome machine like this for us in India.

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So far I haven’t incurred any maintenance expenses with any mechanical parts of the bike and firmly believe that I have made the right choice, and for all the people considering the R15, id say that it is worth every penny.

The Downsides: On the first day of ownership, me and my dad went to the temple for performing a pooja and when the poojari asked to put the bike on the centre stand, I realized that there wasn’t any, the guys at the showroom said that it was part of the design. The same night I found that one headlight does not light up when the low beam was turned on, this was also dismissed as a design element.

The tyres on the R15 provide the best grip as I’ve mentioned earlier, but these are soft compound rubbers, which mean that they wear out faster while offering maximum grip. I had a puncture once and soon I took it to MRF where I saw them inserting a huge needle into the puncture spot and attaching a sticky string to the hole. If punctures happened more often, then I’d have to replace the tires due to the holes that are created with the needle.

But a few months later, I noticed that there was a crack in my tyre, so I headed over to MRF and they promptly replaced it with a new one, they also told me how the new Yamaha tyres designed by MRF are best suited for track use. They then showed me that 8mm of my old tyre was worn out, which I thought happened in just over 5 months of moderate usage, however, they did charge me for the used 8mm of rubber before delivering a new one.

Yamaha’s service is good but it’s not up to the mark, they often make silly statements and reasons for any complaints or suggestions that I point out and often feel neglected when I deliver it for servicing. I have never had a piece of mind when I’ve given the bike for service.

The bike is great when you would like to go around by yourself, but when you have a friend on board, it changes its character. The brakes feel weaker and the low end power seems dismal so one would have to be harder on the brakes and also would have to shift more often to compensate the added weight of the pillion. As I weigh in at just around 65 Kgs, I find that the bike is a pretty good all-round performer, but another friend of mine, who weighs around 90 + Kgs thinks that the bike doesn’t have low end power.

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Another issue that you may face is the fact that the rear brakes are a little powerful. Since it’s a disc brake for the rear, the wheels lock up quite easily. This can make the bike fishtail due to its long wheelbase. So it would be wise to use it with caution.

The performance accessories that Yamaha sells seems like a waste for me, because of the simple fact that Yamaha does not offer it at the time of delivery as a replacement for existing parts. They, for some reason want us to pay for and throw away the originals in order to fit the new ones. They could have avoided the wastage by simply offering a factory fitted option.

Also I do think that the accessories and the race Kits are a bit too pricey. I have installed the race ECU, and feel that the stock brakes are not sufficient enough to handle the extra power.

The Racing Kit: The Race ECU that I have purchased simply removes the Rev Limiter which was previously at 9,800 RPM, now the bike can easily rev up to 11,000 RPM. I once took the bike on a lonely highway for about 2 km’s. At 10,500 RPM in top gear, the speedometer indicated an amazing 152 Kmph. The previously dismal low end power has improved a lot with the new ECU.

It really pulls now and has helped in getting rid of frequent gear shifts which would otherwise be required. I never really tested the 0-60 timing as it does not feature the timer as on the new Apache.

My Verdict: Two years back when I bought my Apache; I never thought of Yamaha as a company focussed on performance bikes and used to think that RX 100’s were for bike freaks who don’t mind unrefined machines with low efficiency. But I salute the R15 for the build quality and the thrill that it gives along with the great mileage it delivers of around 40-50 Kmpl.

There is no doubt in the fact the R15 is the most technically advanced bike made in India. Sure, there are other bikes that may be faster at a lower cost but the sheer technical advancement of the R15 is something remarkable. The way it handles, performs, looks, and goes is like no other bike on the streets today. If you were to buy an R15, one thing is for sure, you will never regret it even one bit that you have spent such an amount of money. It would be more than a bike; it would become your personality and your identity.

– Harish

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