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Yamaha R15: Gone, but not forgotten

For many, including your correspondent, theYamaha R15 will always hold a special place, being the first bike on which we got our knee down

Damn you, Facebook! Everyday there’s some nonsense anniversary that pops up but the really important one, of that there’s no notification and – worse – no picture. The new Yamaha-R15 is here and that should be the cue to barf out pictures of the first Yamaha R15 track test ten years ago – a ride at which we discovered what real handling was all about.

“The Yamaha R15 was the first bike that we could get our knee down on without the pegs grounding and throwing us off.”

Except social media didn’t exist back then and neither did the Selfie epidemic. Instead of frequently pulling into the pits to Tweet, ’Gram and do walk around videos, ten years ago we could keep riding, lap after lap, hanging off more and more, and focused on one goal – to get our knee down. For most, in fact all journalists of my generation that weren’t racer boys, the Yamaha R15 was the first bike that we could get our knee down on without the pegs grounding and throwing us off. My knee down didn’t happen at that media ride though – as you can see from the picture I managed to dig out, complete with the Che Guevara helmet and pre-California Superbike School riding posture, I wasn’t kitted out appropriately. A few months later at the jury round of the IMOTY, now armed with my first full riding suit, I hogged the Yamaha R15, positioned my photographer at C2 of the MMRT and banged in lap after lap until finally my slider kissed tarmac. I was no longer a knee down virgin. And, like the first girlfriend, the Yamaha R15 would forever be seared in my memory.

Read our review of the new R15 here.

The Yamaha R15 really was miles ahead of whatever there was back then; miles ahead of all the shockingly ugly econo-commuters (remember the Libero?) Yamaha had pinned their hopes on after emission norms killed off their sporty bikes. It was the result of a new management who sat down with all the magazines and asked us what we really wanted. The unanimous chorus? A baby R1! End result was R1-aping styling wrapped around a tiny 150 single with cross-ply tyres. But the chassis was a Deltabox, the riding position was committed, we didn’t have paunches, and the way it went round corners saw us throw every award at the R15. Yamaha were back and how! It didn’t have any rivals – and weirdly enough even today it doesn’t have a natural rival. Yamaha followed up that original R15 with the FZ, then the 2.0 version of the R15 and then went to sleep.

“The Yamaha R15 really was miles ahead of whatever there was back then; miles ahead of all the shockingly ugly econo-commuters”

Ten years from the original, the R15 is back and Yamaha is again the flavour of the season. While expectations and benchmarks have moved on what hasn’t changed are young guns banking their first knee down pictures. And fortunately for them Facebook will now have a worthwhile memory to throw up on their feeds amid all the other nonsense.

 

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