Yamaha has always had a talent for building seriously sporty small motorcycles - when I was in matric a classmate had a racy little 100cc two-stroke twin that was the envy of the every rider at our school - so it's not surprising that one of the slickest schoolboy bikes on the market has a Triple Tuning Fork logo on its fuel tank.

What did surprise me, however, was that this pocket rocket isn't Japanese. The R15 (say Arr One Five) is built in India, a country better known for crowded streets than for smooth open roads conducive to riding a sports bike.

Whatever, Yamaha's Indian subsidiary has produced a sleek, beautifully styled and very sporty little single that will stand comparison with anything from Japan. It has a liquid-cooled, fuel-injected 149.8cc four-stroke single that packs four valves and a spark plug into a combustion chamber only 57mm in diameter and revs willingly to 10 000rpm, although Yamaha quotes peak power of 12.5kW at a rather more conservative 8500 with 15Nm available at 7500.

Like any small single, it needs a handful of revs to go anywhere - especially with my 106kg aboard - but pulls smoothly up to 8000rpm, cruising at about 105km/h. Beyond that it begins to vibrate quite strongly with a flat, rather angry, intake roar and you have to work at it to get it above 9000rpm in top.

My best run, at 6am on a cold, still morning, was a true 125km/h at 9400rpm with 131km/h showing on the big digital speedometer - a long way short of the maker's claimed 140 but still creditable for 150cc machine with a 106kg rider and demonstrating a speedometer error of only 4.8 percent.

It drives through a cable-operated clutch that takes up a little softly but seems proof against mild abuse and a distinctly notchy (in time-honoured Yamaha tradition!) six-speed gearbox with a short but very positive lever throw.

Yamaha also quotes consumption of 2.88 litres/100km, a claim I doubted because sports bikes, even little ones, are in my experience thirsty. The R15, however, averaged a remarkable 2.97 litres/100km over a week of commuting and a couple of enjoyable early-morning blasts - there are advantages in going to work before the rest of the nation is out of bed.

This buzzy little fuel-sipper lives in a classic, twin-spar Yamaha deltabox frame, in this case welded up from steel pressings rather than the vacuum-cast aluminium alloy of the R1 and R6. The chassis is very narrow (the cylinder head is no wider than a CD case) and the whole bike weighs only 120kg dry.

The front suspension has a conventional but unadjustable fork, the rear wheel is modulated by a monoshock (adjustable for pre-load) and rising-rate monocross linkage. The setup is firm (all right, it's very firm) but that, together with a compact 1290mm wheelbase, makes the R15 as agile as a ferret with pinpoint steering and good mid-corner stability for its size.

It's still sensitive to bumps and (especially) cracks in the tar in the direction of travel, as is any bike so small and light, but the information is transmitted to the rider's bum as information rather than as a warning of imminent misbehaviour.

It even coped with my bumpy test track, although it was a ride my kidneys would remember for a week.


The brakes are one instance where the budgetary constraints imposed by Yamaha's corporate bean-counters became obvious. The R15 has unsophisticated floating callipers on each disc, a twin-piston unit of adequate power but very limited bite at the front and a completely wooden single-piston calliper at rear that's just about good enough for hill-starts but nothing more.

They work, but they're not up to the high standard of the rest of the cycle parts.

Yamaha's stylists have scaled down the latest-generation R-series design without making the bike look like a toy. As short as the bike is, there's still more than enough space for a 1.8m rider and the fairing is wide enough at handlebar level to give real weather protection.

It's also fully lined and generally well fitted and finished, with an upmarket fascia around the instrument pod that raises the bike's schoolyard cred considerably, although closer inspection revealed a few rough edges.

But it has all the good stuff, from its pointed, crisp-edged full fairing with two headlights to its stubby, rather gruff, tailpipe and, if it has a plastic plank for a seat, the teenagers who will love this bike won't even notice. Come to think of it, neither did I - I was too busy being 16 again.

Price: R29 999.

Bike from: Yamaha SA.



Cylinders: One.

Capacity: 149.8cc.

Bore x stroke: 57 x 58.7mm.

Compression ratio: 10.4:1.

Valvegear: SOHC with four overhead valves per cylinder.

Power/torque: 12.5kW at 8500rpm, 15Nm at 7500.

Induction:Electronic fuel-injection.

Ignition: Digital electronic.

Starting: Electric.


Clutch: Wet cable-operated multiplate.

Transmission: Six-speed constant-mesh gearbox with chain final drive.


Front: Conventional cartridge forks.

Rear: Rising-rate linkage with monoshock adjustable for pre-load.


Front: Disc with twin-piston floating calliper.

Rear: Disc with single-piston floating calliper.


Front: 80/90 - 17 tubeless.

Rear: 100/80 - 17 tubeless.


Wheelbase: 1290mm.

Seat height: 790mm.

Dry weight: 120kg.


12 litres, 2.8 litres/100km (claimed).


140km/h (claimed)


0-100km/h: 10.5sec (claimed).




R29 999.


Honda CBR125 - R30 999.

Kawasaki Ninja 250R - R42 500.

Aprilia RS125 - R57 995.