The other day I saw the Yamaha R-3 Super Sport sitting on the showroom floor at Berkeley Honda, Yamaha. While I admired the bike because of its affordability (about $4,990.00), it was still a little too expensive for my limited budget. At that point Scott, the salesman, informed me that they had a used one for sale with only about 3,000 miles on it for under $4,000.00. I was intrigued and bought it that very day because I know that they would give me a good deal (they always have in the past) and I had fallen in love with the unassuming little bike with a super sport soul.
The R-3 is generally sold as a woman’s bike or a beginner’s bike because of its the modest sized engine (321cc) and low seat height (30.4 inches). It is a fully modern motorcycle with a liquid-cooled 2-cylinder power plant with double overhead cams, and 4 valves per cylinder. The R3 is superbly smooth and handles like a dream. It is listed as a super sport bike and has a full fairing. It looks very fast but looks can be a bit deceiving with its small engine meaning that it runs our of steam at higher, nonlegal freeway speeds.
It is related to its big brother the R1 (980cc) with a list price of $16,990.00 but don’t confuse them because the R1 is a Moto GP inspired race bike, with 167 horsepower and with the accessory race ECU 172 horsepower. Its seat height is a towering 33.7 inches, and the four cylinder engine packs a real wallop especially in the upper rpms. It has completely adjustable suspension and a rock solid, light chassis and oversized brakes to match. It not only looks the part, but is a real race bike capable of putting the hurt on other big bore super sports anywhere, and especially on the track.
The R3 is a bit of a poser with 42 horsepower at 10,750 rpm, it is tuned more for ride-ability rather than for high end horsepower. None-the-less, it does most of its work in the mid-range and makes its best power on top. But it does not have the high quality adjustable suspension, the exotic parts or super stable chassis of the R1. For all that, it is a fun bike even for an experienced rider like myself, although the non adjustable stock suspension is a bit soft.
The R-1 is a race bike that can be ridden on the street while the R-3 is a street bike that can be ridden on the track but only if you forget everything you know about racing. You don’t suddenly shut off the power and brake hard coming into corners because doing that will upset the chassis and slow you down. Using the engine to power out of the the corner will cause the bike to wallow. You have to maintain your corner speed. Again the trick is developing a rhythm and maintaining corner speed.
The thing to remember about this bike is that you have to get into a rhythm and sweep through the the turns. It is light and maneuverable but the non adjustable (except pre-load), and soft suspension means you will have to pick your speed with with care and slow down if things get sketchy. The chassis can get lively speeding through uneven pavement and it will throw you off if you aren’t paying attention. It is a very fancy looking go anywhere bike with hidden potential if you know how to use it.
I am an off road rider who has owned two street bikes in the past forty years. They were both relatively small bore two strokes; a 1976 Yamaha RD-125 and a 1984 Yamaha RZ-350 (now classics). Those bikes were a blast to own and ride but tame compared to this new two cylinder four stroke with fuel injection, super-sport styling, forged aluminum pistons, and cast aluminum wheels. It has all the modern amenities and it feels like a million bucks on the pavement.
The R-3 powers up to 70 miles an hour in fifth or six gear if you rev the engine, and it maintains freeway speed without having to take it above 7000 rpm. It is responsive at seventy miles and hour and picks up pretty quickly for passing on the freeway. You can duck down behind the fairing and get out of the wind. It is heavy enough (368 lbs) to not get blown around on the freeway and light enough to be very maneuverable on city streets.
The m0re I ride this bike the more I appreciate how cool the R-3 is for such a low cost, low maintenance machine. In dirt terms, it is comparable to the inexpensive Honda CRF 110F and CRF 15oF made for beginners with low horsepower, air cooled engines and a low seat height. They don’t have adjustable suspension either, but they are not in the same league off road as the R3 is on the road. The R-3 for all its shortcomings as a pavement blaster, is no play bike. It has real potential.
The R-3 makes me feel like a hero. If I pick my corners carefully, it can speed through them smoothly and predictably. The shape and feel of the chassis (you sit in it rather than on top) makes it easy and natural to hang off in turns. It won’t keep up with the bigger bikes but it is a great bike for just plain having fun on pavement.
Also it is a wonderful go anywhere bike that gets a lot of admiring looks from the uninitiated. It gets a average of 57 miles per gallon and if looks could kill, this bike would commit mass murder. In addition, the big tires makes it easy to keep up speed in the in corners. I haven’t touched down with the peg extensions yet, but the large diameter tires are getting worn down almost to the edges as I take it out on the deserted, twisty roads in the hills. Big fun…
My husband, bless his soul, would have been happy that I did not get a more powerful and dangerous bike like the R-1. It is enough that I ride full fledged motocross bikes in the dirt without endangering my life on the street with over one hundred and sixty horsepower.