December 2017

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Ushering in a New Era

LAST MONTH I VISITED THE NEW ROYAL ENFIELD TECHNICAL centre in Leicestershire at the Buntingthorpe proving ground. First and foremost, I would like to congratulate Siddhartha Lal for setting up this state-of-the-art research and development facility.

When I was talking to Siddhartha he reminded me about the discussion we had had at Jaisalmer in 2010 when we had discussed the R&D capability of Royal Enfield or the lack thereof. He said that that talk between the two of us was one of the reasons that prompted him to set up the Buntingthorpe R&D facility. The first fruit of this new technical centre is the all-new 650-cc twin.

The two new 650 twins created quite a stir at the recent EICMA . There was a massive representation of journalists at the Royal Enfield stand for the press conference and the unveiling of the 650 Interceptor and the GT650. The new 650s usher in a new era for Royal Enfield; not only because they are the first twin-cylinder motorcycles from the company, but also because of the quality of components, build quality and top-class fit-and-finish. The bikes are nice and compact and have the perfect retro look. Now I am looking forward to swinging my leg over these bikes to take them for a long ride.

The second bike that caught my eye was the new V4 Ducati. It was also voted as the best-looking motorcycle at EICMA . The new V4 motor looks like a work of art and even with V4 configuration the bike is really compact. The trend these days is to make the bike as small and compact as possible.

Aspi Bhathena
Editor

November 2017

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Softail Surprise

LAST MONTH I WAS INVITED BY HARLEY-DAVIDSON TO Barcelona, Spain, to ride the 2018 Softail range. The new range has been completely revamped from the chassis to the engine. The new chassis is much lighter and stiffer than its predecessor. Similarly, the new engine has been reworked and is now fitted with dual balancer shafts to reduce vibrations, for the new powerplant is no longer rubber-mounted. H-D have done away with rubber mounting to reduce flex and make the frame more rigid.

The roads north of Barcelona in the Catalan mountains selected by Harley were full of twists and turns more suited to sports motorcycles. To my surprise, however, the Softails did not disappoint. In fact, I was in for a pleasant surprise as I swung my leg over the Fat Bob. Even though the foot-rests are much higher, they still ground. The lead rider was setting a brisk pace and the ride was anything but a cruise; in fact, we were flat-out from one corner into another. I could not imagine that you could have so much fun on a Harley.

Normally, one associates Harley-Davidson with ‘driving’ a bike rather than riding it, but the new models have changed all that. Now you can go scratching with a Harley. Even after spending the whole day riding flat-out, there was neither fatigue nor were
my hands tingling with vibrations, and that says a lot about the 2018 range.

After Spain I was in Hinckley in the UK for the launch of the Triumph Bonneville Bobber Black, Bonneville Speedmaster and the opening of the visitors’ centre. A week later I was in Munich to meet the officials of BMW Motorrad and a day later it was Berlin calling for a visit to the BMW Motorrad plant. Incidentally, the pricing of the BMW motorcycles is going to be on the high side because they intend to be a premium brand.

Aspi Bhathena
Editor

October 2017

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Electric Two-wheelers: How Feasible?

THIS MONTH WE COMPARE THE NEW BAJAJ PULSAR NS160 WITH the Honda CB Hornet 160. These two motorcycles are more or less identical in the amount of power and torque they deliver, but different in their character: while the Pulsar is on the sporty side, the Hornet is a typical Honda all-rounder. You can read the comprehensive comparison in this issue.

The big news in the MotoGP world was Valentino Rossi breaking his leg during training on a dirt track. Many people say that MotoGP riders should not ride off-road bikes during the season and risk getting injured. I don’t think anybody is qualified enough to give advice to a nine-time world champion.

The honourable transport minister says that he wants to push electric two-wheelers. However, since most of the electric power plants are coal-fired, it means that you are only moving the pollution from the cities to where the power is generated. In fact, there was a power shortage in Maharashtra recently and the reason given for this was shortage of coal. Most of the electric scooters in India use Chinese motors and their performance and range are very limited.

There was news that the Eicher Group was bidding for Ducati, but, according to a German news agency, the labour union was not willing to give the go-ahead to the VW Board to sell Ducati. If Eicher were to buy Ducati, I am sure Siddhartha Lal would do a good job of taking Ducati forward. Incidentally, last year I had asked Claudio Domenicali if they were working on a V4 engine for their superbike, to which he had replied in the negative. However, one year down the line they have launched a V4 engine to power the new Panigale.

Aspi Bhathena
Editor

September 2017

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A Momentous Tie-up

THE BIG NEWS LAST MONTH WAS THE TIE-UP BETWEEN BAJAJ AND
Triumph. Going by the information available as of now, this is a technical tie-up whereby Triumph will supply technology for big motorcycles and Bajaj will help Triumph break into the sub-400-cc market to take on the European manufacturers.

The Triumph line-up of products suits the Indian market, for it does not concentrate on out and out sport motorcycles. Bikes like the Bonneville are easy to ride on the open highways as well as congested city roads. On the other hand, Bajaj’s expertise in lowcost manufacturing will help Triumph make an advent in the 250-cc market which they are trying to enter after having aborted the previous project. This looks like a win-win for both as Bajaj will be able to make big-capacity cruisers and Triumph affordable entry-level bikes.

There is big news in the motor sport arena for motorcycle riders who want to make it big in road racing. Even today the young talent in India does not get to ride thoroughbred racing bikes for them to be able to compete against the best in Asia. All that is set to change as Honda are going to withdraw the CBR 250R from the one-make championship and replace it with the over-the-counter Moto3 racer, the NS F250R. The NS F250R is a proper racing motorcycle and this will give our boys an equal opportunity along with the other Asian countries.

We, as journalists, are supposed to educate our readers and give them our expert opinion. The big problem today is that anybody who can ride a bike becomes an expert thanks to the internet. You not only need to have the riding capability to take the bike to its limit to see how it performs, but also the knowledge and capability to understand how the bike is performing. The easiest thing to do is criticise, but when you find fault, you should also be able to offer a solution to the problem if you are an expert.

Aspi Bhathena
Editor

August 2017

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Yet Another Milestone

THIS MONTH BIKE INDIA CELEBRATES ITS 12TH ANNIVERSARY.
The magazine has grown from strength to strength over the past 12 years and for this success I would like to thank all our readers and manufacturers for their support in making Bike India the number one bike magazine in the country. This would not have been possible without your unstinting support.

Every month we bring you the latest news, ride stories, first rides, road tests, and a lot more — all this would not be possible without the team at Bike India. You will always read the name of the author of the article in the by-line or see our pictures in the magazine, but what you don’t see is the hard work put in by the unsung heroes — the designers, photographers, and the copy desk editor — along with the marketing team that puts in a lot of hard work to generate the funds so that we can bring out this fantastic magazine for our readers.

From the first of last month the Goods and Services Tax (GST) was introduced in the country and, as expected, most manufacturers have the same ex-showroom price for their bikes, whereas some others have different pricing because of the addition of freight charges. Now the next step should be a uniform vehicle registration fee across the country with the road tax being levied on fuel. Then one will not have to re-register one’s bike when one moves from one state to another.

Learn to respect your own vehicle and, more so, others’ bikes and cars when you try to squeeze your way through that small gap and end up scratching your bike and someone else’s bike or car. Please give other people space on the road they deserve.

This month we have quite a few exclusive rides for you, so enjoy the mega issue and always ride within your capability — ride safe and enjoy your ride.

Aspi Bhathena
Editor

July 2017

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Let’s Have Uniformity in Registration Fee Too

WITH THE GOODS AND SERVICES TAX (GST) COMING INTO force, from now on you will find the same ex-showroom price for all twowheelers across the country; the on-road price, however, will differ from state to state since the RTO of every state has its own rate of taxation. It is high time we had a uniform registration fee and had the road tax charged on fuel.

The big difference between a two-wheeler designed and built in India and an international one, whether a motorcycle or a scooter, is the number of fasteners used. It is more than three times in case of the indigenous products. The service time for our local bikes is twice as much as that for the international products. Ironically, even with so many fasteners, most Indian two-wheelers begin to rattle after a little while. This is due mostly to bad design and poor engineering, or a combination of both. It is high time the service engineers got involved in the project from the drawing board.

The deportment of two-wheeler riders on the road is frightening. You have senior citizens who, not being confident of their balance, ride with their feet dangling instead of resting on the footboard/footrest. Then you have the kamikazes who are completely oblivious to traffic rules; they think going down the wrong way is their birthright. Such people are a hazard not only to others but to themselves too and give the bikers a bad name. When will the police start enforcing the law and stop triple-seat riding?

Aspi Bhathena
Editor

June 2017

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 The Flipside to Number One

LAST MONTH I WAS INVITED TO SINGAPORE TO RIDE THE new Harley-Davidson Street Rod. The very first time I rode the Street 750, I was really surprised because I had read some reviews criticising the bike, starting with the riding position to the engine and handling. In fact, the bike had a lot going for it from the riding position, handling to the extremely user-friendly engine. The Street 750 is a fantastic platform and the Street Rod is the first variant on this platform. Don’t be too surprised if you see a café racer and flat track racer from Harley-Davidson based on the Street platform in the near future.

When I look back to the time when I was growing up to now, it is sad to see how the law and order situation has deteriorated. If your bicycle did not have lights or if you were riding double-seat and the policeman caught you, he would deflate the tyres. Today riding triple-seat or going down the wrong way on a motorcycle is a ‘done’ thing. Last month when a two-wheeler rider was going the wrong way and brushed a pedestrian, and when the pedestrian complained, the rider just turned around, came back and stabbed the pedestrian.

Last but not least is that India has become the biggest two-wheeler market, overtaking China. It is great for the manufacturers to be in the biggest twowheeler market in the world. At the same time, HMSI became the number one in the Honda family of companies as far as the numbers go. There is a flipside to becoming number one; it is that we will have that many more who do not obey traffic rules. We need to make sure that people know all the traffic rules before they get a riding licence.

Aspi Bhathena
Editor

May 2017

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 Odds Never Come Singly

THE TWO-WHEELER INDUSTRY WAS JUST ABOUT
recovering from the effects of demonetisation when the manufacturers suffered another jolt as the Honourable Supreme Court stopped the sale of BS-III two-wheelers from 1 April. The whole thing was a mess for, according to the government, one could manufacture BS-III bikes until 31 March, but the Court stopped the registration from 1 April. Those who took delivery of new bikes on Gudhi Padwa would not think that this day was very auspicious because the very next day the prices of new BS-III-compliant two-wheelers were slashed by up to 50 per cent.

The Lok Sabha passed a Bill containing provisions for hefty fines for breaking traffic rules. It is a move in the right direction but traffic rules need to be enforced as we already have them in place. How many people follow them? Most of them are unaware even of the basic dos and don’ts. Forget the general public, I don’t think many of those who enforce the rules know them for instance, giving way to the traffic coming from the right or giving way to people who are on the main road, and not cutting to the right side of the road when taking a right turn so that the traffic coming from the right can continue to turn left. You should not park on corners and junctions. One thing that will definitely come out of the new Bill is the rate of chai-paani will go up.

After a long wait BMW Motorrad have finally entered India on the 12th with the opening of their first showroom in Mumbai, the second in Bengaluru on the 13th, and in Pune on the 14th.

Aspi Bhathena
Editor

April 2017

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 Limping Back to Normality

The two-wheeler market is limping back in the wake of the effect of the recent demonetisation. Last month I rode three new motorcycles: the Yamaha FZ25 (250-cc), and KTM 250 and 390 Duke. It was at the same venue in Goa in 2008 that the FZ16 was launched and at that time I had suggested that they should have put a 250-cc engine instead of the 160-cc motor.

The KTM 250 Duke has been launched to counter the imminent BMW 310. The 250 runs taller gearing to make it subdued, so it is not as aggressive to ride like its 200 sibling. The 200 and the 390 easily hit the rev limiter in sixth gear whereas the 250 does not manage to do this in fifth or sixth gear. The new 390 has improved tremendously over the outgoing model. Read our first impression in this issue.

British motor sport had suffered a blow on 10 March 2003 when the last British 500-cc world champion Barry Sheene passed away. Now on this very same day this year John Surtees, the only person to have won world championships on two and four wheels, also passed away. I was fortunate enough to have met him at the Isle of Man TT during the centenary year of that great event in 2007. He had brought his world championship winning 500 MV Agusta for the Lap of Honour. May his soul rest in peace.

Over the Holi weekend I rode the beautiful Triumph ThruxtonR and it brought back some really fond memories; when I was growing up it was bikes like this that I used to dream of.

Aspi Bhathena
Editor

March 2017

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Acknowledging Merit

LAST MONTH WE HAD THE BIKE INDIA AWARDS AND TO pick a winner was a tough job, there being a number of strong contenders starting from the 110-cc Hero iSmart all the way up to the big 1,200-cc motorcycles. The standout bike and the overall winner for Bike India Awards was the TVS RTR200 4V.

The fifth Cartier Concours d’Elegance was held last month in Hyderabad and it was a grand event. However, the one thing that intrigues me is the parameters for judging. The Velocette Venom that was given the runner-up prize has quite a few components that are not original to the motorcycle. To start with, it is a 350-cc Viper converted into a 500-cc Venom. The cylinderblock, piston and the cylinder-head are not from the original bike. The standard fitment for this model was Amal monoblock carburettor and not TT carb. The Venom did not come with rear-set foot-rests, clip-on handlebar and the headlamp had a nasal and not an open unit. Even with so many parts having been changed, the bike still manages to win an award at such a prestigious event.

When will the change come to India? It does not matter how good you are or your bike; what does matter is whom you know and that will swing the result in your favour.

Aspi Bhathena
Editor