CNET First Look
Yamaha's R3 sportbike proves that track riding on a basic bike doesn't have to be boringYamaha's positioning its little 320cc R3 as an easy-to-ride beginners motorcycle. But, as it turns out, it's a pretty fun and capable track toy, too.
[MUSIC] Sales of the small sport bike category have more than doubled over the past five years, thanks largely to the successes of bikes like Kawasaki's Ninja 250 and Ninja 300. Yamaha's finally getting in the game with the release of this, the Yamaha R3. Built around a brand new, 320 c.c. engine, that gives it a slight displacement advantage over the competition. Yamaha's not quoting a power figure for the bike, but figure it's going to be a little bit higher than that of the Kawasaki or the Honda competition. Somewhere around 30 horsepower. No. That's not a lot of power. But certainly, it's more fun to ride a slow bike fast. And a fast bike slow. The most impressive thing about this motor is how smooth it is. It doesn't bog when it's down low, and it doesn't get all buzzy up high. And with a 12,500 RPM rev limit, that's an important thing. Yamaha rates it at 56 miles per gallon. We saw 52 in some spirited track riding. Ultimately you can probably do considerably better than that if you're a little bit more judicious with your right wrist. And we had a lot of fun out in the street. Let's take it on the track, and see how it does. All right, let's take you for a lap around the west course here at Thunderhill Raceway Park. Really tight twisty circuit, which is perfect for this little Yamaha R3. We're just breaking through 80 miles an hour on the front straight. About all you can expect out of a bike this size. Not very quick. Not very quick but this course is not about top speeds, it's all about handling. Despite the budget suspension on this thing, it actually does a pretty good job. The brakes are also budget units just a two piston caliper with a single disk up front. The feel is not very good but the performance is more than adequate. I haven't noticed any brake fade on this, and I have been riding on this guy for a while now. Very nimble as we go through these S's. Very quick to change direction. In fact, coming from a bigger bike, it feels almost too quick. It took me a while to get used to how quickly this thing drops into the turn. It wants to turn fighter and tighter, you almost have to stand it back up again. But it's a lot of fun. Alright, tricky part of this course, you think you want to go straight, but you actually have to go right and then two more hairpins. Knee down and the second one and we're back on the front straight. Now I gotta say, while you won't be breaking any lap records with this thing, it's a pretty good track toy. The suspension is non-adjustable and pretty basic, but it does an all right job out there, and it's pretty compliant on the street, too. The dashboard's quite comprehensive. It's even got a fuel gauge on there. In there. Overall, it's not as quick as its big brother the, R one, of course. But at $4,990 it's a pretty good value for money. I'm Tim Stevens with C-Net, and this is the brand new Yamaha three.