First introduced to Yamaha’s Supersport lineup in 2015, the YZF-R3 returns for 2019 with suspension updates, and new bodywork with MotoGP styling.As a motorcycle meant to draw new riders into the family, the R3 delivers a welcoming and accessible ride in a slick, race-inspired package.
1. The 2019 Yamaha YZF-R3 gets inverted KYB forks and a 20 percent firmer spring rate, while the KYB shock has all-new settings. The aggressive rider will notice a more secure feeling at the front end when attacking canyon corners with the inverted forks, and the stiffer spring rate reduces diving under hard braking. Concurrently, settings for the KYB shock were adjusted to work with the changes up front, with increases to the spring rate, preload and rebound damping, and a modest reduction in compression damping.2. Suspension still favors real-world riding. Overall, the non-adjustable suspension (save spring-preload), while a tad firmer, is still compliant enough for urban and suburban conditions. Switching from last year’s bias-ply rubber to Dunlop Sportmax GPR-300 radial tires contributes to a bit more absorption of the everyday road indignities.3. A redesigned front cowling gives a decided nod to Rossi and Viñales’ YZR-M1. While the largest percentage of R3 buyers will use the motorcycle mostly for commuting and local jaunts, referencing the MotoGP machines with the aggressive air intake should appeal to just about anybody buying a supersport-styled motorcycle. Who doesn’t like to think they’re riding their qualy laps instead of simply heading to work?4. Lower handlebars and reshaped tank allow a more aggressive riding position on the 2019 Yamaha YZF-R3. For those who want to eke the most out of the R3 at the track, the clip-on handlebars have been dropped almost an inch, while the fuel tank height has been lowered a similar distance, as well as widened about an inch. This enables the rider to tuck in lower and grip the tank securely with his knees. The stepped passenger pillion works as a secure berm for this committed posture.5. Enhanced aerodynamics send more wind over the rider’s helmet, improving comfort and top speed. While you would have to be tucked tight on the track to benefit from the increased top-end speed, every little bit helps in the highly competitive lightweight sportbike class. Yamaha claims a reduced aerodynamic drag area of seven percent from the redesigned front fairing and windscreen. Freeway commuters will notice much of the windblast passes over them with the moderately forward-leaning riding position.6. Despite the sportier ergonomics and clip-ons, the 2019 Yamaha YZF-R3 is a comfortable (almost) upright ride. One doesn’t have to assume a Moto3 stance on the R3; scoot closer toward the tank and sit up straighter for a more relaxed ride and greater visibility around town. The chassis is compact enough that you can still reach the clip-ons and operate the controls.7. Compact, but not cramped, the R3 fits a reasonable range of potential riders. With a 30.7-inch seat height, the R3 will accommodate shorter inseams, while those with longer legs can push back in the roomy seat. Unlike other smaller motorcycles, the muffler is well-placed and does not come into contact with the rider’s heel even when riding on the balls of your feet.8. The friendly 321cc parallel-twin engine is perfectly tuned for beginning riders. The same high-revving, fuel injected DOHC motor returns for 2019 with its amenable personality and flat torque curve. Inexperienced throttle hands should not get spooked by the R3; it takes full-on throttle twisting to access the engine’s sporty top-end power.9. A vigorous ride can be had on the 2019 YZF-R3, but you have to work for it. The decidedly oversquare engine has a 12,500 redline, so you’ll need to twist the throttle hard right up into five-digits to find the fastest acceleration. Horsepower peaks at about 11k and torque around 9k, so it makes sense to shift well before the soft rev limiter kicks in.10. Quick, and often, shifting will get the most out of the R3, and that’s perfectly fine. While supersport-inspired, there is no engine mapping, traction control, quickshifter, or other electronic theatrics to confuse the issue; you’ll have to earn your way up to an R6. Having said that, I wouldn’t turn down any of those aids on a future R3.11. Handling on the 2019 YZF-R3 is light, nimble, and neutral. The R3 is responsive to rider input without being nervous. The 368-pound motorcycle is easy to handle, and nothing happens too fast. Although the R3 is small, with a 54.3-inch wheelbase, it is stable at full freeway speeds.12. The 2019 YZF-R3’s brakes are well-matched for the motorcycle’s capabilities and audience. With a linear feel at the right hand and absolutely no hint of grabbiness, the single 298mm disc up front is appropriate for all but the most aggressive riders. For the heavy-handed rider pushing the R3 at a very face pace, a similarly solid grip will be required to slow the 368-pound package down. Track riders will find the brakes ‘soft,’ but they can upgrade to steel braided lines. The rear 220mm disc has a good feel at the pedal and is useful.13. $300 buys the optional ABS, but not in Team Yamaha Blue trim. In 2017, Yamaha began offering ABS as an add-on for $300, and we absolutely encourage this option, especially for a beginner motorcycle. The ABS isn’t intrusive, though I did feel through the pedal during heavy use. Unfortunately, ABS is tied to two of the three colors, and neither of them is blue.14. New LED headlights and taillights look cool, and we like the M1-influenced top triple clamp. The YZF-R3 got new triple clamps as a result of the inverted forks, and the clip-ons mount below it. The now-visible cast aluminum top clamp echoes the YZR-M1’s triple clamp, and that is not a bad thing. Modern LED lighting also adds to the overall good looks, as well as puts out plenty of light.15. The YZF-R3 shines as a thrifty commuter. Although the tank was reshaped for 2019, it still holds 3.7 gallons of fuel; around town riding should yield 200 miles between fill-ups. If your commute includes longer stretches on the freeway or hard riding in twisties, expect that figure to be lower. You can keep track of average and real-time fuel economy via the R3’s LCD dash, which also includes a programmable shift light.16. In addition to the 29 existing accessories for the YZF-R3, Yamaha offers three new add-ons for 2019. You can now slip on a Yoshimura Y-Series muffler for a legally authoritative bark, frame sliders to reduce damage in a tip over, and for serious freeway commuters, the Endurance windscreen is almost two inches taller than the stock unit.17. The R3 has been a popular sport bike for new riders since its inception, and remains so. With its easy power delivery, neutral handling, and race-inspired good looks, the 2019 YZF-R3 continues to be a stepping stone into the supersport world, while not losing its capabilities as a practical motorcycle for commuting or urban riding.Photography by Brian J. NelsonRiding Style
This week we ride two genre-departing motorcycles from the established American manufacturers. Jess McKinley gives us his thoughts on the all new Harley-Davidson Pan America Special, and Ron Lieback gives his on Indian’s latest version of the FTR 1200 S.