Launch ride: Yamaha YZF-R3

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Developed to fill the gap between the oh-so-popular YZF-R125 and the sporty R6, the brand-new Yamaha YZF-R3 joins the bulging (and every exciting) 300cc class of machines…

Thanks to a number of factors – the 300cc class of machines is booming. Almost all manufacturers are offering a mid-sized machine – Kawasaki Ninja 300, KTM 390 Duke and RC390, Honda CBR300 – and now Yamaha has launched the YZF-R3.

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You may think that Yamaha has simply jumped on the 300cc class bandwagon, when actually it could be said, Yamaha are going back to their roots. Back in the 1960s/70s, Yamaha launched the RD series, showing riders that you didn’t have to be on a big bike to have fun and go fast. Just like the two-stroke RD range was derived from the race track, so is the R3 – just this time it’s the YZF-R1M and maybe the gap from road to race is a tad bigger…


Yamaha decided that the R3 had to have an engine with added ‘spice’ – it needed to be powered by an exciting but friendly engine to appeal to both the experienced rider looking for an affordable alternative to a larger superbike, but at the same time cater for new riders learning the ropes – the liquid-cooled, four-stroke, DOHC, parallel twin 321cc does the job and it does it well.

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It powers out 41bhp @ 10,750rpm – making it A2 compliant – and has 22lb-ft of torque at 9000rpm. It’s fitted with a progressive throttle pulley to ensure the power delivery isn’t scary for new riders. First gear is easy to manage through town and slow riding with the light clutch is a pleasure. The six-speed gear box comes in handy for motorway use – stick it into 6th to cruise and it’s not uncomfortably revvy.

Yamaha have taken steps to make it efficient as well as fun: plating the pistons to reduce weight, carburized con rods – as seen on previous generation R1’s – and offset cylinders to reduce the friction against the cylinder wall. I got an average fuel consumption of 63mpg from the 14 litre fuel tank and can’t say that economy was front of my mind whilst riding up the undulating roads of Barcelona and out on track so the figure could easily be more.


Being a SuperSport bike and being part of the same heritage as the bike which gets Valentino Rossi onto the podium, as you can imagine a lot of emphasis was placed on handling by the development team – a diamond steel frame holds the engine and just like its bigger brothers in the R-series, weight distribution is 50/50. A long swing-arm, which is around the same size as on the R1, helps maintain this. The long swing-arm also adds high speed stability to a chassis that turns quickly too.

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KYB takes care of the sporty but comfortable suspension – forks on the front with 130mm travel and 7-step pre-load adjustable direct link monocross on the rear.

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At 169kg fully fuelled, it weighs 20kg less than the R6 – a bike that is one of the lighter options from the 600 class – and the same as a 2015 Xmax 125. ABS comes as standard and the R3 is fitted with hydraulic disc brakes on the front and rear which work well and bring the bike to a progressive stop.

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The 780mm seat height means it’s accessible to riders with legs on the shorter side. At 5ft 6in, I could easily put my feet down properly on both sides, something which is always a confidence booster.

The dash is dominated by a large RPM indicator, there’s a gear indicator, speedo and an adjustable shift light, clock, fuel gauge, current fuel consumption, average fuel consumption, coolant temperature gauge, two trip meters, fuel trip meter, oil trip meter and oil change indicator.


There are essentially two camps of riders who it could be a dream bike for – young riders who are sports-bike minded who may be restricted to an A2 licence or who are moving up the cc ladder, but also more experienced riders looking for a fun Supersport bike which is more affordable than a bigger machine.

Talking of affordability – it’s worth checking out the PCP deals with your local authorised Yamaha dealer. With a deposit of just over £1100 and monthly payments of £79, you could be riding away on one…

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Colour options include Race Blue and Midnight black and the bikes are in the dealers now.

It’s a ‘Sports bike’ as a result (and understandably) doesn’t have any underseat storage – there’s enough space to put your phone and a small notepad under the rear seat – but if you’re looking at using it as a commuter you might want to add on some of the luggage available or sort yourself out with a rucksack. Other accessories include: Akrapovic slip-on muffler, seat cover, licence plate holder, engine protectors, sports screen, rim stickers, tank pad and LED indicators. It comes with a two year warranty.


Having ridden a number of the machines in the 300cc gang and owning a Yamaha R6 myself, the R3 had a lot to live up to.

Yamaha’s tagline for the R3 is ‘SuperSport bike for everyday use’ and as a result the riding position isn’t too extreme – yes, it’s sporty and there is some weight on your wrists – but not as much as you might think, which would indeed make riding it every day a pleasure rather than a pain. It’s nimble in traffic and the focus on ‘ease of handling’ is evident as you weave in and out of parked cars and traffic. There’s movement in the bars too – 34 degrees both ways to be precise – which combined with the light weight, makes it easy to move around and park up in tight spaces. The clutch was light and easy and it was smooth throughout the revs.

It’s easy to look at a bike like the R3 and think that because of its capacity it’s purely for new riders – it’s not. It’s great fun and for some riders, knowing that they’re using all the engine and power makes it more fun. Likewise for new riders, it will really build your confidence – a combination of things including the ABS, the riding position and the power delivery makes it a friendly machine, but one you can have fun with and experiment with.

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It’s probable that if you were to buy this bike, you wouldn’t use it on track, but to test out the full potential and handling of the machine. We had the opportunity to ride at the Calafat track in Spain; moving around the flat top seat was easy and the Michelin Pilot Street types – 110/70 on the front and 140/70 on the rear – performed well on track, as well as on the street.  It was a chance to really try out the brakes safely and see what it was like up there in the red zone around 12,500rpm. Impressive is the answer.

Yamaha point out that it has wind protection in the form of a slightly-higher-than-normal windshield. Of course it’s not as much as you’d get on a scooter – but it does help buffet some of the wind over the top of you.

On the R3, the ride is what you make of it. It’s happy to be your reliable friend and get you to and from work during the week, but it’s more than happy to get up to mischief if you want to at weekends…

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ENGINE: Liquid-cooled four-stroke four-valve parallel twin 321cc

POWER: 41bhp (30.9kW) @ 10,750rpm

TORQUE: 22lb-ft (29.6Nm) @ 9000rpm

BRAKES: Front: hydraulic single disc – 298mm, Rear: hydraulic single disc – 220mm

TYRES: Front: 110/70-17 M/C 54H tubeless, Rear: 140/70-17 M/C 66H tubeless

SUSPENSION: Front: telescopic forks, Rear: swing arm



TANK CAPACITY: 14 litres


PRICE: £4799


  • Comfortable ride
  • Competitively priced


  • Rear brake lever looks budget
  • Limited storage under the seat


Sporty looks with smooth reliable engine – really a SuperSport bike for every day.

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Words: Carli

Images: Yamaha



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