Feb 12, 2011

Let's speculate: Yamaha YZF-R15

Three years on, Yamaha is finally readying what appears to be a significant upgrade to the YZF-R15. If you search for 'R15 spy pics' in google, you will be rewarded with a whole bunch of pictures of the blacked-out spy shots doing the rounds. Now, open another tab and look up the Yamaha YZF-R125 and you'll immediately see the similarities in design. And then you will note that the mechanical bits don't match.

First, the R125 will never officially come to India. It simply isn't going to happen. Two-stroke nuts and fellow optimists, give up. The logic is simple. It's a two-stroke. It won't ever meet our norms. And if it did, it. I am given to understand the motorcycle would be too expensive for Indian customers to digest. That's not counting the fact that if it were re-tuned to meet our emission and noise specification that it would turn out so weak and so expensive that of you lot, about two would be willing to buy one. It ain't gonna happen.

What is likely to happen, on the other hand, is that Yamaha will neatly transplant the R125's awesome looks on the new R15. Which, as far as I am concerned, is a good thing. The slim, fit rear-end of the European stroker will fix the weakest link in the R15 package - the rear end. It'll gain both a fat rear tyre and a sleek rear-end in one shot. Nicely done. The R15 looks like an older R1, the R125's package resembles the tightly packed GP bike with an almost vestigial rear, it's a forward move in styling, definitely.

But what is crucial is how the performance and price moves, right? Here's what I think is going to happen. There's only two options. The harder way is to boost the performance. The R15 engine has been a pretty well-used engine in the sense of offered performance and potential performance. You have to remember that Yamaha's option to extract all of the horsepower from this engine is restrained, even strangled , by our pollution and noise norms. Can they bump up the power further? I think they can. Say you add another cam shaft (raise the redline, but lose still more ability to operate effortlessly at street speeds), some clever engineering, bump up the compression (raises sensitivity to fuel quality so you have to be careful) and so forth, and you should be to get say, another 2 horsepower out of this. Is that enough? A 10 per cent rise in power is pretty damn good I have to say. Although if you look at it as the gain over three years of a product's life, it does look weak.

You could also switch to more exotic materials as an option or in addition and lose weight to gain more performance. But there's no getting away from the fact that this is the expensive option. Unless you're willing to up the displacement.

Which is another can of worms because now you have to change the name. A 223cc R15 cannot be called R15. R22 or R22.3 is just weird. If you do an R25, on the other hand, you have to assume that the extra power means more serious chassis upgrades as well - another cost. And what do you do with the R15? Use it as a base model? Kinda lame unless you drop the price. Which in turn impacts the margins - dammit.

And remember that the price and the performance of the CBR250R hangs like the sword of Damocles over all the products in this segment. Rs 1.5 lakh ex-showroom gets you a Honda-badged 250cc single making roughly 25PS of power.

This ain't easy.

The simpler option is actually, perhaps, the smarter one. Bump up the power by half a horsepower. Bring in the slinky new styling. Localise some of the still-imported components to drop costs. And smoothly move the price down to a more acceptable, more accessible level. Yelling boo? Think about it. You get the motorcycle that is almost the automatic choice of the enthusiast - either money-down or aspirational - with updated rubber, some more power and more modern styling at less money. It might sound like the option here with less flair, but it has merit.

It's less complicated. There's no serious technology upgrades to be worked out. Styling is plastic - relatively easily to handle. A lower price point brings you closer to the buyer and makes your nearest competition (P220, Karizma et al) sweat harder. And raises the distance between yourself and the CBR250R so that something else - FZ250? - can be slotted into that space. Heck, you could do a proper R25 later if you chose this method.

It'll bring volumes. Lower price means more buyers. And Yamaha need volumes - every thing they can get - to meet their own target of market share.

It frees up attention. Which you need to focus on other products. Like the scooters Yamaha is supposed to be working on. Taking on the Activa isn't child's play, you know.

Of course, this is all my guess work. And as I write this, it makes sense to me. It may not tomorrow. What I do know is that Yamaha needs new products and that an R15 upgrade is coming. Dates? Hopefully March, but this is unconfirmed.


Julian said...

The way I see it, just adding a fatter rear tyre and a proper modern, sporty tail/fender is a damn more proper upgrade than the super duper pro plus sticker jobs most others do.

There doesn't seem to be much that can be done with the R15 eh? Looks like the aforementioned rear mods and minor tweaking with the engine is all that we can expect.

Oh, and a 10k drop in price would be groovy. Anyone remember the huge (what was it 15k?) slash in the Karizma price shortly after it was launched? Man, there were some sore early buyers then.

More importantly than this R15 mod and almost as important as the upcoming Honda release, is the babyking (that's what i call it). Any thoughts on the GW250 rearset? I've heard rumours of a 1.6lakh price tag! Even ex-showroom that's fantastic for a twin.

Siddharth Soni said...

I am waiting for the new R15. Not sure if I would buy though :).

This is a beautifully pieced article. Thank you :)

Anonymous said...

Why the obsession with a fat rear & rear styling?

I find the R15's styling purr-fect 10/10.

Bring a newer Motorcycle on a new platform and don't make us jump at Motorcycle which increase by 10cc & .2bhp.

Something like the erstwhile CBR-400RR makes immense sense, even the newer CBR-600F is damn impressive. Cut the taxes & we all can enjoy Motorcycling.

Julian said...


Nothing about fat rears like the dude that put 140 sections on P150s. Just that the existing R15 isn't really proportional looking at the rear. A very ugly, old-school fender and a tyre which is virtually lost in there.

Agree with anonymous that the CBR600F is the PERFECT bike. But an on road price of 8lakhs will be a bummer. This country needs to wake up and cut the third-world crap like dry days and 114% import duty.

Rodeobiker said...

Was a very good article indeed, as usual.
Isn't the R125 4-stroke?
How come it's being mentioned as a 2-stroke?

Rodeobiker said...

A very good article indeed, as usual. A no-nonsense speculation done neatly.

Have been an R15 owner for almost 2 years now. Just waiting to see how they are gonna make it better. If they can carry on the R125 styling cues flawlessly, R15 should get closer to being PERFECT on styling stakes, just like the FZ is, in naked segment.

Need a clarification here, however. Why is the R125 shown as a 2-stroker when it's a 4-stroke?

rearset said...

Whoops! My bad.

Killer said...

I expect performance to go down with the fatter rear and a small bump in power (if there is one) is unlikely to offset that (in my opinion). Bottom line, good move for the poser crowd. Bad move for the performance enthusiast.

no_nonsense4857 said...

I've been a fan of your blog since a friend of mine directed me to this page three years back... you were in deep slumber for quite a time but its good to see you back.

Though i would love to see a Yamaha 250CC cruiser, i'm waiting for your take on the awaited ninja 650.

Please please please.... what have you got to say? Some clues... something more than a rumour... common... we all know you have some info!

remanufactured ford engines said...

It should be interesting to see how it looks with the rear.

Anonymous said...

Every now and then I come back to this blog and end up saying this! "YOU SHOULD WRITE MORE OFTEN!"

I second your thoughts on the cost and the performance tweaks...and it makes good business sense in undercutting the CBR for now, and in the process buying out time for a bigger sibling.

There are some vague rumours of a Majesty400 based R4 and a R25 being around, but Yamaha knows how to keep bloody good secrets!

theslayer said...

Let's speculate: Ninja 650R, please? Pretty please?

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Canvas prints said...

Pictures related to R15 are really awesome, i want to create canvas art for them.

Maxxis said...

Wow, nicely written and still fresh to dat. Thanks!