Yamaha’s YZF-R15M Is a Single-Cylinder Sportbike the US Can’t Have
Just like cars, trucks, and SUVs, some bikes just aren’t available in the US. Quite a few of these forbidden-fruit motorcycles hail from Asian and Australian markets, which have different needs than US buyers. Yamaha is no stranger to these kinds of two-wheeled rides. And with the upcoming Yamaha YZF-R15M sportbike, that list is one motorcycle longer.
The R3 isn’t the smallest-capacity sportbike Yamaha offers—at least, outside of the US
Here in the US, Yamaha’s most affordable sportbike is the entry-level YZF-R3, aka ‘R3.’ A rival to the Kawasaki Ninja 400, the YZF-R3 packs a liquid-cooled 321cc inline-twin engine. It delivers 36 hp and 20 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheel, enough to let the 368-lb bike go 0-60 mph in 5.2 seconds, Cycle World says. However, while the YZF-R3 is a small-capacity bike by American standards, Yamaha has sportbikes with smaller engines elsewhere.
Over in Europe, Yamaha has the YZF-R125, which sports a liquid-cooled 125cc single-cylinder engine. It ‘only’ makes 15 bhp and 9 lb-ft of torque, MCN reports, but it also only weighs 313 lbs. And it packs the same kind of features as the YZF-R3, including an inverted fork, an LCD dash, and an aluminum swingarm.
But that’s not the only single-cylinder Yamaha sportbike. In markets like India, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Australia, Yamaha offers the YZF-R15, now in its third-gen V3 form. At 304 lbs, it’s slightly lighter than the R125. But the R15 V3 has a larger engine, a liquid-cooled 155cc single-cylinder rated at 19 hp and 11 lb-ft of torque, Autocar says. And unlike the R3 or the R125, the R15 has a slipper-assist clutch.
However, while the Yamaha YZF-R15 has that particular performance add-on, in some markets the small sportbike gets a slight spec downgrade, RushingLane reports. The new R15M trim, though, might change that.
For those who want a sportier Yamaha YZF-R15 V3, there’s an R15M on the way
Recently, a camouflaged Yamaha YZF-R15 was spotted riding around India. Initial speculation suggested that this was the next-gen R15 V4 model, RushingLane says. However, recent homologation documents state that this new bike is the R15M, a higher-performance version of the regular R15.
Mechanically, the R15M is essentially identical to the standard Yamaha YZF-R15. But instead of the Indian-market model’s conventional forks, the R15M has upside-down ones. And it comes standard with ABS, something the US-market R3 only picked up in 2021. Plus, the R15M has a new look inspired by the just-released YZF-R7 and standard Bluetooth connectivity. That last feature is something the R3 doesn’t offer.
Could we ever get a bike like this in the US?
In India, the standard Yamaha YZF-R15 starts at the equivalent of $2030. Even if the R15M costs double that, it would still be about $1200 cheaper than the base US-market YZF-R3. With its approachable power output and low price, it has the makings of an excellent beginner sportbike.
Unfortunately, Yamaha has no plans to offer its 155cc or 125cc sportbikes in the US. Small-capacity sportbikes, such as the 17,000-RPM Kawasaki ZX-25R, make sense overseas due to taxes based on engine size. And because cars are so expensive in places like India and Vietnam, which have tight urban roads, inexpensive, sporty motorcycles are in high demand. That’s not really the case in the US.
So, for now, American riders interested in high-revving, single-cylinder sportbikes will have to look on in envy at the R15M.
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