With its confidence-inspiring handling, better power delivery and incredible stability, will Yamaha R15 V2.0 re-ignite the passion amongst sportsbike riders?
Millimetres away from scrapping the tarmac and sideslip angles that can boggle a mathematician, nothing comes quite close to the experience of riding the Yamaha R15. This is a treat for all the senses for sportsbike riders. The light, high-tech motorcycle is one mean package, twisting, turning and accelerating like a laser-guided missile. Yamaha's new YZF-R15 version 2.0 feels every bit as good as its predecessor. With its ‘Racing instinct' philosophy firmly in place, powering it around the Madras Motor Sports Track makes one wonder how much better can it possibly be than its elder brother. Can it re-ignite the passion amongst sportsbike riders as the original did?
A few more changes and Yamaha could have called the R15 an all-new bike, that's how extensive the list of changes is. Firstly, look at the twin-headlight units straight in the eye and you won't be able to tell the V2.0 apart from the older one. Now take one step to the side and the changes spring out at you. The mid-fairing is beefier and has nice slotted vents that Yamaha claims improve aerodynamic efficiency by four per cent. There's a stylish new side panel that almost seems a part of the frame. The R15 also boasts a new waspishly high, split-seat.
Go around to the rear and you'll see the new R6-inspired tail-lamp pressed into the higher tail section. This sharper-looking LED unit has shaved 100 grams as well. Below this is a nicely machined frame, holding the number plate and the turn indicators. Like the tail section, the exhaust end has been angled more aggressively. To keep you and the bike from getting dirty in the monsoons, there's an elaborate new hugger for the rear wheel and a sari guard for added safety.
Look closer, and the finer changes become apparent. The R15 looks longer, for its wheelbase has been stretched by 55mm, and that's down to the new aluminium swingarm, a first in this class. Completing the new muscular-looking rear is a bigger tyre. Hidden under the hugger, wrapped around a stylish 10-spoke alloy wheel is a 130/70 x 17-inch radial tyre, while the front also gets meatier 90/80 x 17-inch rubber. Overall gearing is taller, as the final drive ratios are now tweaked. To improve braking efficiency at both ends, the front disc has a bigger carrier to increase cooling, while the rear disc has been upgraded to 220mm.
The ECU stores a modified code that promises to improve throttle response. The cam that operates the throttle has also been altered for more linear response. Yamaha has unfortunately failed to add any power to the new model, and enthusiasts are sure to feel let down with the unchanged power and torque output. To make matters worse, the R15 V2.0 is heavier by 5kg.
Hop onto the YZF-R15 V2.0 and the riding position feels more track-focussed, the rider sitting in a more forward-set stance with more weight pushed to the front. The light buzz from the 149cc liquid-cooled motor is familiar as I head down the pitlane. The first couple of laps are spent familiarising myself with the new motorcycle and the circuit. It's immediately apparent the power delivery is now vastly improved. Unlike the earlier R15 that needed to be really wound up to get going, the V2.0 feels far more responsive, with a healthier bottom and mid-range to the power band. This will surely improve the R15's rideability out on public roads, a sore point on the earlier motorcycle. As speeds increase, it's clear that fears about a performance drop are unfounded. Instead, our test equipment confirms the new Yamaha as faster. Our best time proved the R15 V2.0 to be quicker to 60kph and 100kph from standstill by half a second, quicker than Yamaha's claimed 0.3 seconds.
Yamaha's ultra-stiff, steel fabricated Deltabox frame is the magic wand that grants the R15 rock-solid poise around corners, and a feline ability when changing directions.
It's a case of the best getting better, the longer aluminium swingarm having vastly improved stability. The difference wasn't so startling when blasting down the straights, but a big change was palpable when attacking corners. Sure, there's a small drop in flickability, but it's a sacrifice worth making for so much newfound in-corner stability. The R15 V2.0 oozes confidence, prodding you to ride harder and faster, assuring you there's nothing to worry about. The sportier riding position and greater weight bias towards the front gives the rider a more connected feel, which surely inspires greater confidence among new riders while more experienced riders will use the benefits to extract more pace from the R15.
A large chunk of the R15 V2.0's poise can also be attributed to the new MRF tyres. Grip when leaned over or under hard braking is now nothing short of magnetic. We found nothing but absolute commitment even when expecting rear wheel hop due to patchy, bumpy tarmac. With the speedo reading an indicated 123kph on the back straight, the braking could be left to the 50-metre mark without much drama. The bite from the front brake is hard to fault, always working nice and progressively.
There is no denying that the confidence-inspiring handling, better power delivery and incredible stability make the Yamaha R15 V2.0 a significantly better motorcycle. Those taking this mean machine on the roads are aware of the R15's shortcomings and will have just as much to complain about, save for the better power delivery and muscular new rear section. Having to pay an extra couple of thousands for the upgraded model despite it gaining no additional power might not go down well with the buyers. Yamaha really should have plonked in a more powerful engine to match the extraordinary dynamics of the R15 V2.0.