The first thing I would like to state is that northern Thailand is a motorist’s paradise. As far as the joy of riding or driving on superb roads, against scenic backdrops, with fellow motorists being as courteous as possible, and not a speed-breaker in sight, I think it checks all the boxes in my list. The people there seem to actually follow the rules, are extremely considerate, and are in no tearing hurry to get anywhere, unlike the many fine specimens in our dear country. After spending a few days without hearing a single vehicle honking, coming back to India, the first thing I heard was the cacophony of jarring beeps and honks — home sweet home, eh?
Now getting to the point, Yamaha had invited us to experience the new YZF-R3 and MT-03, before the India launch scheduled in mid-December. Heavily anticipated for quite a while, the launch of these two motorcycles would signify the reopening of a door to Yamaha’s bigger bikes in India, if you will. How long that door stays open is totally on how Yamaha plays its cards, considering how hesitant it has been all this while. The bikes will be coming to India as CBU imports initially, although Yamaha intends to localise these bikes to some extent in the future.
India did get a taste of what the YZF-R3 was capable of in the short timeline from 2015 to 2019 when Yamaha first introduced it. Being the rev-happy bridge to bigger motorcycles for all beginner-level riders, it was taken out in one fell sweep by emission norms, and it is finally back to thrill some more. Talking about the changes to the motorcycle, it gets a totally new front fascia, similar to the R1, with LED lighting, a central air duct and seamless lines everywhere, not to mention, new golden USD forks.
The MT-03 though is something entirely new for India, and going by the response from my fellow journos, it has the potential to do well, alongside the R3 of course. In line with the naked streetfighter image maintained by the MT lineage, the MT-03 comes off as a motorcycle with a mischievous streak. Wonderful, I say! Riding it through the streets of northern Thailand, it tends to egg you on to go a bit wild and trying to stay civil is tough. Both bikes have a pretty throaty growl from the pipes which opens up as the revs climb, so that gives an additional incentive to push it now and then.
The 321cc parallel-twin engine shared by both the R3 and the MT-03 is still as tractable as ever, and it still feels so compliant revving it out all the way to its 12,000 rpm redline. Power delivery is smooth and linear all through, and though the clutch did feel a bit harder than we would have liked, it all pulls together pretty well on the whole. With the upgrades in the suspension as well as the braking setup, handling as well as braking are on point, at least for the R3, because the MT-03 still felt a bit rough around the edges. Of course, this also depends on the kind of riding one is doing, and the corner carving that we were extensively carrying out is best done with the R3.
As I had mentioned, the roads in Thailand are one of the best I have experienced to date, and with respect to that, both the R3 and the MT-03 were right at home. This being the case, we seemed to be able to push the bikes to a point where it could be seen that the Dunlops that the bikes were shod with felt lacking to an extent. But since we can’t bring those roads to India along with the bikes, it remains to be seen how these tyres fare on our local tarmac. Both motorcycles are identical at the rear from the seat onwards, with the same 780mm seat height, but the R3 feels more comfortable and accommodating in terms of seating ergonomics.
With regard to features, both bikes miss out on a TFT display, traction control, quickshifter, and slip-assist clutch, and there are no adjustable levers either. But what the bikes do give you is a pure feeling of being one with the machine. In the three days of riding, I never felt the need for anything more and the smile plastered on my face every time I am reminded of the ride is a testament to that. Still, in the interest of the common public who would be looking at the motorcycle as a pricey investment, it would have been nice to have all these included, but one can’t have everything I guess.
The route from Chiang Mai, to Nan, followed by Phayao, before returning to Chiang Mai was one of the best routes I have ridden on to date, especially since it offered us the chance to keep the throttle pinned for long stretches, clocking 150-165 kph on an average showcasing just how much the bikes could endure without breaking a sweat. The exquisite backdrops added to the overall experience as we caught glimpses of breathtaking sceneries as we whizzed by on the motorcycles. Something I would want everyone to experience at least once in their lifetime.
All in all, both the Yamaha YZF-R3 and the MT-03 are really fun bikes, and, not to mention, the environment that we rode them in was immaculate. Considering the projected price range of Rs 4-4.5 lakh (ex-showroom) that they sit at as CBUs, Yamaha will run into heavy competition from a few other manufacturers that have already localised production. But for those who do decide to go ahead and acquire the bikes, I can be sure that they will not be disappointed in the least.
MOTODATA2024 Yamaha YZF-R3 / MT-03
41.4 bhp@10,750 rpm
3 kgm@9,000 rpm
Type: Diamond Frame
F/R: 298 mm disc/220 mm disc
F/R: 110/70-R17 / 140/70-R17