Yamaha R15 V3 vs KTM RC 125: Battle for the outstanding entry-level supersports bike
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Yamaha R15 V3 vs KTM RC 125: Battle for the outstanding entry-level supersports bike

Reviews by Team Drivio | Feb 24, 2023

The KTM RC 125 intends to eat into the market of the ever-popular Yamaha R15 V3 with its razor-sharp handling and futuristic looks

  • The Yamaha R15’s 155cc VVA-equipped engine makes substantially more power and torque
  • It also has a more accessible seat, more ground clearance and weighs less
  • The KTM RC 125, meanwhile, packs better hardware like an inverted fork, fatter tyres and bigger disc brakes

Yamaha R15 V3 vs KTM RC 125: Design & Features 

Going quickly is only half the battle. Looking quickly is also essential. When it comes to grabbing attention, the KTM has a stronger pull. It might be the front dual projector scowl, or the sharp fairing with its menacing cuts, or the sleek tail unit, but it all adds up to make the RC 125 look fantastic. Because it's difficult to tell how many cubes it's packing from a distance, you could be mistaken for riding a larger RC machine.

FeaturesYamaha R15 V3KTM RC 125
LED HeadlightYesNo
Digital Instrument ClusterYesYes
LED taillightYesYes
LED indicatorsNoYes
Variable Valve TechYesNo
Bluetooth ConnectivityNoNo
Split SeatsYesYes

Features, is where the Yamaha R15 V3 slowly starts pulling away from the KTM RC 125. The KTM might boast of LED indicators, but the R15 does have more usable bits like an LED headlight and more importantly VVA (Variable Valve Actuation). 

It helps it spread its power all across the rev range, making it a lot easier to potter around in the city. The KTM, on the other hand, is a lot less forgiving and has no drive at low revs, so you'll have to constantly work the gearbox and keep the revs high to keep moving at a reasonable speed.

Yamaha R15 V3 vs KTM RC 125: Engine & Gearbox

SpecsYamaha R15 V3KTM RC 125
Engine Capacity124.7cc single-cylinder liquid-cooled 4-valve DOHC engine155cc single-cylinder liquid-cooled 4-valve DOHC engine equipped with VVA
Power 14.5PS at 9,250rpm19.3PS at 10,000rpm
Torque12Nm at 8,000rpm14.7Nm at 8,500rpm
Gearbox6-speed transmission6-speed transmission

There is no substitute for displacement, but the R15 is more than just a 30cc advantage over the KTM. Yamaha's addition of Variable Valve Actuation transformed the R15 V3.0 into an all-arounder, no longer a peaky motorcycle fit only for spirited riding.  

The KTM RC 125 has the most powerful 125cc engine available on any two-wheeler in India, but performance is in KTM’s DNA. The question is, which one of these is actually the faster one?

The numbers clearly favour the Yamaha, as the R15 is significantly faster to 60kmph, and the gap only widens when you consider the time required to reach 100kmph. The R15 is extremely quick even in in-gear roll-on acceleration. All of this is due to the VVA, which ensures excellent drive throughout the rev range.

This technology is only found on litter-class track weapons or MotoGP racers, so seeing it on such a small motorcycle is a pleasant surprise. Adding to the misery is KTM's heft. The R15 is 12kg lighter, which has a significant impact on acceleration on such small bikes.

The slip and assist clutch on the R15 V3 allows for lighter clutch action and smoother downshifts. KTM, meanwhile, offers this tech only on the RC 390 and 390 Duke. The R15’s smooth six-speed transmission will prepare you well for bigger bikes in the future. The KTM, in this regard, while coming close to its Japanese rival, lacks the finesse of the R15.

Yamaha R15 V3 vs KTM RC 125: Suspension, Tyres & Brakes

DetailsYamaha R15 V3KTM RC 125
Front Suspension43mm USD fork41mm conventional telescopic fork
Rear SuspensionDie-cast aluminium swingarm with 10-step preload adjustable mono-shockDie-cast aluminium swingarm with 7-step preload adjustable mono-shock
Tyre Sizes

Front: 110/70 - R17

 

Rear: 150/60 - R17

Front: 100/80 – 17

 

Rear: 140/70 - 17 (Optional Metzeler radial tyre available)

Brakes

Front: 300mm disc, four-piston radial caliper

 

Rear: 230mm disc, single-piston caliper

Front: 282mm disc, dual-piston caliper

 

Rear: 220mm disc, single-piston caliper

In India, there is no avoiding road imperfections. When the unexpected sharp bump catches you, you'll appreciate the sophisticated suspension found on the KTM, as the rebound damping is slightly slower than the R15’s. This means that the RC does not easily unsettle over bumps. 

The R15, on the other hand, feels more unsettling over road imperfections. The narrow bars further amplify the twitchiness caused by the R15's sharp steering geometry, making you stand up and take notice.

KTM India did not adopt cost-cutting measures for the baby RC and equipped it with the same equipment as the RC 200. The sporty setup, combined with racy ergos, results in a fun bike in the corners. It is not as agile or easy to switch sides as the R15, but it is extremely stable. 

The longer wheelbase, relatively relaxed steering geometry, and wider radial tyres contribute to this. It is more than capable of handling the might of the 125cc engine because the underpinnings are designed to be able to harness nearly three times the power of the RC 125. 

The R15 stops quicker than the RC is something we observed in our tests. However, the R15's brakes provide very little feedback to the rider. Despite its superior equipment, the KTM requires more time to stop. Its higher weight results in longer braking distances. The RC could have used a little more initial bite as well as more lever feedback too. Meanwhile, its single-channel ABS is a little too intrusive for our liking.

Yamaha R15 V3 vs KTM RC 125: Dimensions

DimensionsYamaha R15 V3KTM RC 125
Length1990mm1977mm
Wheelbase1,325mm1341mm
Ground Clearance170mm160mm
Kerb Weight142kg154kg
Fuel Tank Capacity9.5-litres11-litres
Seat Height815mm835mm

The RC 125 has a higher saddle height, which makes it difficult for shorter riders to flat-foot the bike. The rider's footpegs are also elevated. It will take a little more effort to get your feet on the ground when you arrive at traffic stops. Also, taller riders might find the higher-set footpegs a bit cramped. So, no, the KTM isn't exactly plush. However, neither is the Yamaha. 

The clip-ons are narrower and lower. This extreme forward-arching aggressive stance is ideal for weekend thrills but not for daily commuting. While you may not notice it at first, the R15 will cause severe wrist, back, and neck pains over time. The RC 125 just edges it in this category, as it is less taxing.

The R15’s, meanwhile, tips the scales at a featherweight 142kg. Better fuel efficiency and a bigger fuel tank for the Japanese super sport means lesser stops when you’re going touring with your buddies. 

Yamaha R15 V3 vs KTM RC 125: Price

PriceYamaha R15 V3KTM RC 125
Ex-showroom, DelhiRs 1,40,000Rs 1,47,000

The KTM RC 125 is an undeniably enjoyable motorcycle with clear learner aspirations. However, and this is a big however, its starting price is Rs 1.47 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi). Spending Rs 7000 more than R15 is a difficult pill to swallow.

Especially since you'll outgrow the RC 125 fairly quickly. As one who’s just beginning to get into motorcycles, the conversation with your parents about an upgrade a year later will not be a pleasant one for you. You'd have a better chance of convincing your parents to buy you the 125 Duke in the first place, saving them some money.

Conclusion

The Yamaha R15 V3 is far from perfect. It's harder on your body, has a more difficult ride setup, and the learning curve is definitely steeper. It may take some time to outgrow the R15 in size, but as a daily runner, you will undoubtedly want something less demanding. If your goal is to learn the fundamentals of sport riding, the brilliant engine (which is more powerful, tractable, and efficient than the KTM RC 125) and sharp riding dynamics provide a solid foundation.