There’s something about a proper sportsbike that never fails to quicken the pulse and make your palms a little sweaty. The promise of speed, agility, and the wind whipping around your helmet, is a call too strong to resist. Few companies know as much about sportbikes than Yamaha. With shelves of constructor’s title trophies to their name, and a lineup of much-admired machines, it’s safe to say they know what they’re doing.
While the term “sportbike” might not immediately bring thoughts of 150cc motorcycles, Yamaha has something that might actually change your mind, and we got to try it out.
The R15 is gorgeous. Taking cues straight from the R1’s playbook, the R15 looks every bit the role of race bike. A highly aggressive face, mass-forward stance, and lines that just scream “lightspeed,” this is a bike that looks like it’s moving fast, even with the side stand down. The styling on the Midnight Black model, which we were fortunate enough to test, made it seem so much larger than the displacement might make you think. The generous fairing gives it some muscle, and seen from a distance, you would be forgiven for thinking this little 150cc single-cylinder was a full-on liter bike.
Its thin waist, raised and pointed rear, and surprisingly wide tires give it a stance that tells you it means business. From the backward-sweeping headlights, down the sharply-angled midsection, all the way out to the back, there is no doubt this bike was made to go fast. Even the thin tank is heavily sculpted, to allow the rider good purchase with their legs during turns. And in black, this bike just looks plain mean.
The R15 is powered by a 150 cc, liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, SOHC, single-cylinder, fuel-injected engine mated to a 6-speed manual transmission. The engine gives 17 ps at 8500 rpm and 15 Nm of torque at 7500 rpm. It has Yamaha’s exclusive DsASil, all-aluminum cylinder for reduced weight, and their wonderfully agile Deltabox frame to make it a dream to ride. Dual headlights make it look like its larger brothers from the front, and LED tail lights are both sporty and functional. Stopping power is all there, thanks to front and rear discs, and the gauge cluster is large, and easy to read, with a digital speedometer and fuel indicator, analog tach, and large indicators for engine status. It has a 12-liter fuel tank, 90/80-17 wheels up front, and 130/70-R17 in the rear. Finally, it has telescopic front, and linked-type monocross rear suspension.
User Experience: 4.5/5
It’s hard to pick a starting point when talking about how this bike rides. Once you hit the ignition, the 150 cc engine sparks to life with its distinct single-cylinder thumping, though it’s just a little more gutteral, thanks to the stubby side exhaust. It’s more than enough to clue you in to just what the little bike wants to do. Though it’s a sportbike at heart, and a small one at that, being in the saddle doesn’t feel cramped. There’s generous seating, and lots of padding to keep the rider comfortable. The footpegs are set back, though not so aggressively, so you can still ride relatively upright, thanks in part to the handlebars being set reasonably close. Your wrists will still be taking a bit on weight on rides, so it’s something to prepare for.
City riding with the R15 is entirely possible, despite its inherent pocket-rocket characteristics. Being able to get, and comfortably remain, upright is a great boon, as is the pleasantly low seat. Someone of my 5’4″ frame will have to tiptoe to get a foot on the road, which is just fine, given that the bike is so light. Riding in this upright position will take its toll on your wrists after some time, so you’re going to want to rest them on the tank, just to ease the pressure off them every once in a while. Stop-and-go riding will also cause some heat to come up from under the fairing, near the rider’s thighs. Depending on how hard you were running the engine beforehand, it’ll range from a minor annoyance, to outright uncomfortable. At speed though, it’s of very little concern.The clutch is light, and easy to work, and the bike shifts positively, so you won’t be left second-guessing your gear.
As capable as the R15 is on city streets, it really shines in the twisties. I was lucky enough to have the time to bring the bike up to Jariel’s Peak in Tanay, where the machine was met with winding roads up to the top. When riding hard, the 150 cc engine likes being pinned at about 7000 rpm. This gives you enough space past it to go quicker, while having enough grunt left to accelerate more if you need it. It’s very responsive, and responds quickly to throttle inputs, so when things got hairy, and I needed to pull away for a quick overtake, I could do so without running out of bike.
While the R15 is so small and light, it feels amazing. You feel glued to the road, with plenty of feedback so you don’t overstep your abilities. It flicks on a whim, so you can really attack corners and make some really tight turns. Braking is sufficient, though it did tend to bite a little abruptly, so if you’re just starting out on it, you’ll want to get used to how
The quick run up Tanay was done with my uncle and his 1000 cc machine, and while I was easily left behind in the straights, I more than made up for it in the turns. Diving into corners was intuitive, and the confidence the bike inspires in the rider is enough to get you to really push. At speed (which went terrifyingly past 100 kph in some stretches), the bike provided superb wind protection, and when you get into a full tuck, you will hardly be able to tell the wind wants to rip you off the saddle.
At about PHP 200,000, it’s quite an expensive bike for the displacement. However, the styling, performance, and enjoyment you get from the little steed is, in my opinion, worth every Peso. While you could get a smaller bike and some cash to spare, you just can’t put a price on the smile you get riding this little guy.
I still mourn the day I had to bring the bike back to the warehouse.
- Surprising agility
- Eye-catching styling
- Fuel Economy
- The vibrations can be hard on the hands
Also published in GADGETS MAGAZINE May 2016 issue.
Words and Photos by Ren Alcantara