"Yes, it looks good”. That’s what I said when I had gotten up close and personal with the previous modeled R15 launched in 2009. It was the first true performance bike for Indian roads and, quite honestly, we had nothing else that was even good looking on a miniscule scale – even the Pulsar looked boring then. After a while, and after we rejoiced for a couple of months, we then started to notice the subtle negatives of the R15. Firstly, the seat was that of a commuter motorcycle, and the petite rear wheel was shocking, and on top of that the exhaust started to look really ugly, and the rear tyre was just too skinny. Okay! So now we were criticising this bike, which we had initially perceived to be brilliantly designed.
Don’t get me wrong, overall the bike looked good and it handled brilliantly and for a 150cc bike it was the best track tool, if not the only track tool, made available to the Indian biking enthusiast. But hey, it’s almost 2012 now and things have changed tremendously. Harley Davidson is here, Aprilia and Ducati are here and Honda has parted ways with its India partner and has offered us the CBR250R. We now frequently see some mean and devilish looking bikes on our crowded city streets which means that the original Yamaha R15 has lost its spark – almost completely.
In a fresh move, Yamaha decided to revamp the R15 and address all the earlier F-ups which they had overlooked. The rear tyre is now fatter and more noticeable, the rear end has been raised giving it sharper looks and the cowling and front fairings have one under the knife to look sportier and buffer with the help of a new race vinyl. The exhaust has become shorter and is made of a more attractive material, while the front visor is of a darker shade and the rims look better – the R15 version 2 looks just as road-peltingly adorable as any other performance bike, but the simple fact remains that it’s not.
As much as I would love to have made this a test-ride Yamaha R15, sadly it is not, mainly because it is almost the same bike as the original R15. So what is the need to test the same bike again? The fact of the matter is that there have been no performance enhancements whatsoever. I mean if you really want to make a statement with a bike that looks as good as this, why in the world would you stick to a 150cc engine, it just doesn’t seem right. Yamaha has been very aggressive in the Indian market, and this move totally puts me off, and I am sure many of you would agree, that the R15 should have been renamed and fitted with a larger capacity engine.
Anyways, let’s move away from my personal sentiments and let me introduce you to our guest rider – Sonia Jain. Sonia has been an avid rider for a couple of years now and it all started when she took part in a cross-country ride organised by none other than Yamaha. plus she looks better on this little racer than I do – a lot actually. At first, just like anyone else, she was excited to help us out, and it was only after just a few minutes later when she said, “The older Yamaha R15 is much better”. Every thing that I had mentioned earlier is exactly what Sonia thought about the bike as well. She was able to tell instantly that the performance had not only not improved, but had reduced quite a bit. She also wasn’t happy with the newer suspension or the throttle response, things that I would never have been able to correctly judge, because my fat ass on any low capacity bike automatically reduces its performance.
But Yamaha will continue to do decent numbers with the Yamaha R15 Version 2.0. It looks brilliant to sell on looks alone. But my whine will remain – the Indian biking enthusiast wants better bikes, not just better looking, but better performing machines as well. It’s apparent that the folks at Yamaha are being too aggressive and concentrating more on market share than market need. The only thing I hope for is that at the 2012 Delhi Auto Expo, the Japanese manufacturer manages to drop my jaw (as it has always done in the past) with some new and more powerful mid range bikes