Downtown Sprinters

We find out which is the best alternative to make light work of your daily commute
Story: Mihir Gadre
Photography: Sanjay Raikar


An ideal commuter vehicle is the one that will get you to work and more importantly, back from work fresh as a daisy and that too in a couple of minutes, tops. So that makes a helicopter the most ideal commuter. But most of us are either not rich enough to buy one or not important enough for the government to give us one. Sadly, we have to look at other alternatives that can tackle the ever growing congestion, somehow avoid the smashing (as in actually smashing into other vehicles) public transport system and the grossly expensive taxis/rickshaws. Now it’s a proven fact that apart from things that can fly, two-wheelers are the fastest and the most convenient mode of transport for city commutes. But it’s not that simple. You see, there are around a hundred different two-wheelers available in the market belonging to two distinct categories, namely automatic scooters and manual motorcycles. In a bid to find out the most commutable commuter, we pit the most commuter focused machines from the two categories against each another.

We chose the Zeus and the Access for this shootout because both of them are made by the same manufacturer, i.e. Suzuki. Their pricing too is similar, with the Access retailing at Rs 48,295 while the Zeus, slightly expensive at Rs 51,698 (both prices, OTR-Pune). Both the Suzukis are conservatively styled, extremely well built, have nice comfy perches for the pillion and are slightly more utilitarian compared to their competitors. We even insisted on a drum brake equipped Zeus so that the equipment levels on the two remained similar. Both their engines have a similar cubic capacity and are nicely refined motors with lack of any vibrations even at the top of their rev range. The Zeus’ engine develops its peak torque at just 3500rpm which makes it absolutely effortless to pilot around town. Yours truly was even able to roll off from standstill easily in fifth gear! However, the bike does run out of breath in the upper reaches of the rev band. The Access’ mill feels even more refined than the Zeus’. It has great shove off the line and unlike the Zeus doesn’t lose its gusto even as the revs climb, in spite of the fact that on paper, the scooter is down on power as well as torque compared to the bike.

The pillion gets a wide, comfy seat and doesn’t have to bear the hassle of carrying the shopping bags, thanks to the scoot’s huge underseat storage

The Zeus gets one of the slickest five-speed ‘boxes in the market with the engine in the middle freeing up space for bigger tyres and suspension

That brings us to the first major difference between these two, i.e. the transmission. The Access’ variomatic transmission is able to harness the engine’s power much better than the Zeus’ manual ‘box, however slick and precise the latter may be. The Access is quick off the line and able to poke its nose into the smallest of gaps in traffic. The Zeus’s gearbox employs very tall ratios, especially for the higher cogs, which means that you end up doing most of the commuting in the third and fourth cogs and hardly ever get a chance to shift up to fifth in the city. This hurts the Zeus in the fuel efficiency stakes. A hyper miler, who likes to chug along everywhere at 40km/h in fifth with hardly ever letting the rev needle cross the 4000rpm mark, might be able to extract 65kmpl from the Zeus. But if you ride smoothly and just fast enough to not let the daily commute get boring (like I do), the Zeus’ efficiency does drop sharply to just 50-52kmpl. However, if you try the same hyper miling technique on the Access, going easy on the throttle right from standstill, you will be spending most of your time below the economy band which is usually above 30km/h and the fuel efficiency will actually drop. The variomatic transmissions are better suited to real world riding where you wring the throttle until you reach the speed you want to travel at and then ease it off a little to maintain your speed, i. e. travel like normal people. I used the Access as my long termer for over a month and it returned a fantastic 46.4kmpl, no kidding.

The second big difference between the two is their respective body shape. The Access, being a scooter, gets a big front apron that will protect you from the sprays during the rainy season, a nice flat floorboard that can hold a variety of things like an LPG cylinder that your mom needs immediately, a 15kg pile of newspapers that needs to be taken to the recycler’s or your dog who needs to be taken to the vet. Now try doing that on the Zeus. The scoot even gets a hook to, er, hook your shopping bags. The lockable under-seat storage of the Access is big enough to fit a small helmet or sun coats, scarves and what not in case of the fairer sex. In fact, the scooter is nothing but an iteration of two wheeled transportation that was made just for these specific reasons. The Access appeals to the whole family and everyone can ride it including you, your wife, your mom or even the 16-year-old teenager in the house who is allowed by the weird laws of our land, to ride a 125cc scooter that is easily capable of 90km/h but not a less powerful 100cc motorcycle.

But along with these advantages, the scooter’s shape also has its set of disadvantages. Due to smaller wheels and forks, a scooter like the Access can never be able to match the dynamics of the Zeus. The bike gets bigger wheels, longer suspension and better weight distribution. So even though the bike loses ground to the scooter in the practicality department, it is able to claw its way back into contention in the others.

The Access is a big improvement over the previous generation scooters as it gets telescopic front forks and 3.0 section tyres at both the ends. In terms of ride quality, it is a definite improvement over the Activa, against which it was benchmarked. The Zeus, on the other hand, has completely average road manners. It has an upright stance, with a short wheelbase and is softly sprung which makes it extremely easy to maneuver around town. It soaks up all the bumps but is not good at corner carving compared to most of its rivals like the Yamaha Gladiator. Even with all those commuter oriented traits of the Zeus, the scooter doesn’t even come close to the bike in terms of dynamics. The Access has a tendency to lock up its tyres vey easily under braking and safety in the rains is a big concern for the scooter compared to the bike. All this also makes the Zeus a better bet for weekend getaways.

There is ample space for shopping bags on the flat floor board and the underseat storage compartment

The scoot is a perfect companion for weekly trips to the market

The Zeus is perhaps the easiest bike for negotiating heavy traffic conditions and one of the most effortless commuters in the country. But get aboard the Access and even the Zeus seems like a hassle to ride. A lot of research and development has taken place in automatic transmissions. They no longer impose a heavy penalty in the fuel efficiency stakes. In fact, there isn’t much of a difference in real world fuel efficiency of the two vehicles. The difference of 5kmpl, in this case, translates to a difference of just over a thousand bucks over 10,000km which means that the scooter will actually be cheaper till the 30,000km mark owing to the price difference of around Rs 3000. No wonder then that the gearless scooter segment which had dwindled down to almost extinction has resurrected itself and continues to grow in spite of the recession. The Access has become very popular. It has a waiting period of three to four weeks in spite of Suzuki churning out 9000 units every month. The Zeus, in contrast, hasn’t been able to garner any popularity – evident from its paltry 3 percent market share in the 125cc segment. The verdict is clear, within the city, the scooter wins against the motorcycle.

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