First Ride Review: Yamaha’s 2019 YZF-R3

Yamaha’s second generation R3 is in a class all it own.

Words: Allan Lane//Images: Brian J. Nelson

The 300cc motorcycle class suffers from an epidemic that I call “300ism”. The first hurdle is the fact that a 300 looks like a 300. Visually, that is hard to shake, regardless of the bike’s performance specifications. Psychologically, it’s over before it began. We have all heard the stories that tell the tale of the new rider that buys a 300 as a beginner or starter bike. Said bike is quickly mastered and the rider, perhaps now considered an intermediate rider is looking for their next challenge which is any biker larger than a 300. This reality is a result of several factors. Boredom sets in as they may be in search of higher speeds or greater performance. However, there is one common dominator. They want something, anything that does not look like a 300. It is rare to see a 300 rolling in the streets, back roads or on the highway. You may see a 300 at your local track bringing the heat, usually by an experienced advanced rider that understands the joys of the 300 through the turns and chicanes. Most often, the tale of the 300 ends when, before long, the starter or beginner bike finds its place in the garage waiting to be passed on to or sold to the next rider that is starting out. 300ism strikes again.

When it first introduced in 2015, the first generation of the Yamaha YZF-R3 looked every bit like a 300, held by the characteristics of its class: raised handlebars, primary data cluster, standard presence with a standard level of appeal. There was nothing special about the R3 that made it stand out among its peers.

Enter the 2019 YZF-R3. Finally, a 321cc machine that looks more like a middle-class sportbike and less like a 300. The 2019 R3 is the second generation of the model with extreme differences in appearance, handling, and performance, compared the first generation.

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The 2019 Yamaha YZF-R3 carving through the canyons of Palomar Mountain.

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