After months of speculation, spy photographs and rumours, Yamaha finally launched their R15 V2.0 early this month. Now that the dust has settled, we can analyse in detail about this launch from Yamaha.
Even though R15 has been in the market for some years now, there is nothing wrong in Yamaha calling the V2.0 as a new bike. It has got a totally redesigned rear, an all new ECU and new alloys, to talk about some of the changes. Compare this with some other bikes that are garnished with a new sticker and rechristened “New”, and we can come to the conclusion that there is a lot new about the V2.0.
The changes in the V2.0 should have delighted some and disappointed others. And both the groups of people would have ample reasons to support their claim. Let’s look at some of the reasons for delight and some for despair.
The R15 is one of the best bikes in India. There is no other way to put down this fact. Yamaha, which as a manufacturer, was down in the doldrums, rose from its ashes with this bike and the FZ. It was a slap in the face of the Indian two wheeler industry. When makers were extremely cautious with their new designs, Yamaha had the guts to bring out two stunning bikes. Yamaha fans rejoiced and felt they were vindicated. Their favourite manufacturer has shown what it was truly capable of. At that time, the Japanese bike makers were criticised of being too cautious and being bothered about volumes when they were capable of bigger bikes. Yamaha took the steps to bring India’s first sports bike for the masses, something which was expected for a very long time.
The bike was an instant hit. It was the first affordable sports bike in India which had the looks that were in line with the legendary R family of bikes from Yamaha. The fact that it had a 150cc engine, in spite of it being liquid cooled and fuel injected, didn’t go down well with those who had expected more power. But Yamaha wanted to keep it to a budget and was very sure of its plans. And anyways, the looks of the bike made sure that the engine capacity was not much of a dampener.
One of the few sore points that were brought up was the rear of the bike. The bike seemed to have true R style front but the rear seemed a compromise. The tail lights looked ordinary and the bulky nature of the bike meant that the 100mm tyres looked thin on the rear. Yamaha seemed to have tried to find the balance between practicality and being radical with the rear of the bike.
This brings us to a primary reason for delight on the V2.0. The rear has been redesigned and now the bike looks totally revamped. The compromising design of the rear seats on the earlier bike has given way to step up seats and the tyre sizes have been increased to 130mm. And the tail lights have now gone the LED way. Yamaha, just like a good manufacturer should, has gone ahead and incorporated the user feedback while designing the new bike.
The V2.0 also receives 10 spoke alloy wheels. Not that this was a problem with the earlier bike, but the new look gives it a feeling of lightness. The design of the exhaust, with the R15 logo on it, also has a look of class. With the combined effect of all these changes, the bike is now sportier than ever, menacing and ready to pounce from all angles.
So far, we have discussed about all the happy and positive things about the V2.0. But there were some factors before the launch of this bike which lead the expecting public to think that the V2.0 would be a different bike than what it is now. We can try to understand some of these factors.
When Yamaha launched the R15, they were appreciated for being brave. For trying to believe that India was ready for such a bike. It was only normal then, that Yamaha was expected to continue doing this and keeping pushing the envelopes of bike segments in India. These expectations lead to hyper rumours and speculations whenever a supposed Yamaha was to be launched.
After the R15, Yamaha kept updating their products and introducing new ones. But the updated products were different colour schemes and minor tweaks, and new products were bikes based on their existing 150cc engine. When the different colour schemes and tweaks are required to keep the volumes coming, the original expectations which were for bigger, trendsetter bikes, remained unfulfilled with Yamaha refusing to go beyond 150cc.
This is when Honda comes into the picture. Here is one manufacturer which is known for its ultra sensible and slow mannerisms. They had made it obvious that most of their new launches would be in the volumes segment. The talks about a bigger bike were rare and it was evident that with their super cautious approach, there wouldn’t be such a bike till they had covered all their bases with the right market surveys, studies and analysis. It was almost a given that Honda would be the last manufacturer to give India the next trend setting bike.
And out of the blue, late last year, we get confirmed reports that Honda’s newly developed CBR 250R, with prices within 2 lakh INR is destined for India too. This news single handedly changed the equation for the R15 in India. There was going to be a challenger to the leader of ‘wallet friendly performance bike’ category in India. The sleeping, dormant Japanese giant had shocked us all with their new offering.
This brings us to the primary reason for despair with the launch of the V2.0. With impending rumours about the testing of a new Yamaha bike, Yamaha aficionados and Indian motorcycling enthusiasts alike looked upon this opportunity as a chance for Yamaha to make a fitting reply. A thrilling competition among two Japanese majors was expected. When the spy shots of the new bike from Yamaha were doing the rounds, there were speculations galore that this might not be just a new R15 but it might be Yamaha’s bigger engined answer to the CBR. But all this was not to be.
Looking at it, there is a lot of sense in what Yamaha did. In terms of real world performance, the R15 will not lose sight of the CBR on the road. And considering the fact that the R15 is a dedicated track tool whereas the CBR is more for the road than the race track and that the R15 is still a good 30-40K INR lesser than the CBR, the Yamaha still has a lot of points going for it. But in our country which is fixated about the engine capacity (we had 150, 160, 180 etc.); a CBR 250 meant that Honda had already won the first battle. If, like the rumours regarding the bike being a CBR 150 had been true, the plane would have been much more even and with the V2.0, Yamaha would have had a more than worthy competitor on their hands. For now, round 1 of this battle does go to the CBR.Yamaha fans and Indian motorcycle enthusiasts will be keenly looking forward to a round 2 of the battle and Yamaha’s fitting reply.