This was pretty good fun, the R3 is the smallest of Yamaha’s sportsbike range but it can be “raced up” to something similar to the spec of a Moto3 GP bike, there’s also a GYTR race kit. It’s a twin cylinder engine with a rev red line up at 14,000 rpm. I found it handles like a scooter getting out of the dealer’s lot, the riding position is about the lowest of any sportsbike I can remember riding, including my Ninja Z250SL. It’s not a problem to manoeuvre to fill with petrol or to park, the weight overall is just 169kg and the centre of gravity is low.
Once out of town and revved like a teenage hooligan, the R3 comes alive. It reminded me of my first bike, a KH250 triple that was nothing under 5,000 revs. The R3 in 2023 has much better manners though. I found a little road just outside of Nîmes, learnt its bends and bumps and then had some fun. The R3 handles bumps elegantly, more bouncy than my hard-framed Z250 but not jumpy. It was stable holding a curve, these were complex real road curves, not level, and tightening as you go. I found they worked fine on the R3, flicking over to the second part of an S worked fine too. And just as stable as you would hope on a main road curve where the radius and camber is well-controlled by the roadmakers.
There’s plenty of oomph for overtakes without worries, my little Z250 is a bit marginal on that. The R3 has about 50% more max power than the Z250 for just 20kg more weight. The step-up results in a significant increase in flexibility on the road, rather useful around Nîmes on Friday afternoon where there were lots of sportsbikes rushing their commute home at the end of the week. Incidentally, far more than Marseille and far, far more than London.
But... the engine gives noticeable vibes through the seat, and yes the R3 is a twin. It’s a fast twin but it’s not a four like the new Kawa ZX4-RR that’s another notch heavier too. The R3 had a progressive power / revs characteristic, not a blow-your-mind rush like a near-race bike. I got to over 11,000 revs but not quite 12,000 on an overtake and I had the impression there wasn’t that much left. The magazines say max power is 12,000 revs.
This particular bike was set up very loosely with lots of play on the throttle and clutch cables. The brakes also weren’t that sharp and I really appreciated the better braking back on my CBR600RR.
So would I buy one, the salesman asked. Yes, as a replacement for the Ninja Z250SL in Cumbria; that has turned out to be unexpectedly useful but has its limitations and it’s showing its age. But no way as a replacement for my CBR600RR; the salesman agreed, saying he’d raced more than 500 starts on CBR600RR bikes. Wow!
Merci à Jonathan et Dubois Motos de Nîmes pour l’essai