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Big Little Brother

August 21, 2019

With a proven race history, the revised 2019 R3 should be a great bike on the track or the street

Story by: Costa Mouzouris

Photos by: Ben Quinn

Not that long ago, if you were just getting into motorcycling and were looking for the affordability and easy operation of a small-displacement motorcycle, you had to settle for diminutive cruisers such as the Honda Rebel 250 or the Yamaha V-Star 250. Those were tiny bikes, and if you were looking for a sportier option of more adult-sized proportions, there really wasn’t much out there. Fortunately, there is a renewed interest in small-
displacement bikes these days (notice we’re not calling them small bikes), and now a much wider selection of normal-sized sport bikes displacing less than 400 cc is available. 

The 2019 Yamaha R3Honda has the CBR300R; Kawasaki, the Ninja 400; KTM, the RC390; Yamaha, the R3; and Suzuki – at least, for 2018 – had the GSX250R (which isn’t in the 2019 lineup). Even BMW jumped into the mix with its G310 series singles, as did Husqvarna with its Svartpilen and Vitpilen 401. These are all normal-sized motorcycles that offer respectable performance, even when measured by an experienced rider’s standards. Aside from easy, confidence-inspiring handling, bikes undercutting the 400 cc threshold are also insurance-friendly in most provinces. There’s even a bona fide national racing series, the Amateur Lightweight Sport Bike series that showcases most of these bikes. Jake LeClair won the inaugural championship last year aboard a Yamaha R3. 

Yamaha mildly refreshed the R3 for 2019, then sent out invitations to ride it on the roads in Ontario’s Bay of Quinte area and on the track at Shannonville Motorsport Park. We also got a chance to ride a race-prepped 2019 R3, which will be competing in this year’s Amateur Lightweight Sport Bike championship. (See Prepped To Win Races.)

Changes – Some Small, Some Big

2019 Yamaha R3 Near A WallThe list of changes for 2019 is rather small, but a couple of those changes are significant. The most obvious changes were made to the bike’s styling. The fairing is styled more like Yamaha’s bigger R models, and includes an air intake between the headlights. Unlike the bigger R models’ air intakes, which force air into the airbox, the R3’s air intake “ducts” cooling air to the radiator. The headlights flanking the air intake are LEDs, and they are much brighter and draw less current than the 55-watt halogen bulbs they replace. The restyled bodywork is more aerodynamic and is said to have increased top speed by 8 km/h from whatever it was, as Yamaha hasn’t divulged the previous number. Ergonomically, the clip-ons have been lowered by 22 mm. 

Replacing the previous model’s large, round analog tachometer and smaller LCD screen is a large, rectangular LCD screen. The new screen offers all of the same information as its predecessor instrument panel, so the change is mostly aesthetic. The new dash is functional and easy to read when you are tucked in and the throttle is pinned, although I prefer the previous setup with its large, round tachometer. 

The biggest change beneath the bodywork is the use of a 37 mm inverted fork, a change from the 41 mm conventional fork on the previous model. While the diameter of the R3’s fork tubes is smaller than those on its…

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