It Is light, quick and cheap. But is it a step in the right direction?
Words: Bunny Punia
Photography: Sanjay Raikar
I seldom ride a motorcycle on a test track with the transmission resting in the fifth cog. While riding through numerous tight curves where speeds fall below 50km/h, I was still not using my left hand or the left toe for that matter to downshift. Neither did I shift my body weight while taking turns. Instead, I sat upright like a typical commuter trying to experience the traffic negotiating manoeuvers of Bajaj’s all-new traffic buster machine, the Pulsar 135LS. Even with my weight and a few slightly uphill sections, the bike pulled cleanly from low speeds in the highest gear. I have to admit, I was beginning to enjoy riding the LS in this manner on the track before being flagged down by my colleague Ravi who was waiting patiently for his turn to hit the track.
But why was my riding so different in the first place? Apart from its blistering engine (for the capacity) and eye-catching looks, the LS is also about its ability to weave in and out of traffic effortlessly at low to midrange engine speeds. As our test ride session was scheduled at Bajaj’s racetrack, there was no better way to understand their new product than ride it in the manner explained above.
In the recent few months, Bajaj’s dominance in the premium commuter segment has seen a huge positive growth. The Pulsar model line-up comprising of the 150, the 180 and the 220 models has strengthened its presence in the market. But Bajaj wanted to provide something for young enthusiasts that would combine the best of both worlds – a 125cc machine’s efficiency and sticker price with a typical 150cc bike’s performance and looks. Hence, the birth of the Pulsar 135LS.
At first glance, you might mistake it to be the Hero Honda Hunk, at least I did. But once you notice the side and the rear profile, all similarities end. The front seems to use a FZ style headlamp stacked between sharp plastic panels and a smart little visor on the top. The tank looks like a typical Pulsar one but has neat side plastic shrouds with the four valve sticker – more on that later. The step seats are a welcome addition and the rear panels again remind you of the bigger Pulsar models, though they end very sportily with a twin split grabrail and a striking tail lamp. I particularly loved the fender less treatment at the rear, although to comply with government regulations, Bajaj had to use a tyre hugger – the first mod chop most youngsters will do once they get the bike. Another unique design treatment is the tapering exhaust that might not be to everyone’s liking. At 1995mm, the LS’ wheelbase is even longer than its own elder sibling, the Pulsar 150.
This bike, for the first time in the Pulsar range history, makes use of the engine as a stressed member in the box section chassis. An all-new swingarm was engineered for the rear and the bike sports tubeless tyres which are fast becoming a norm on Indian motorcycles. Though the bike has a longish swingarm, the steep steering angle made sure it behaved well around the test track, being over eager and enthusiastic to lean into corners and scrape the pegs without upsetting the entire balance. Even while gunning down the last straight at triple digit speeds, the bike felt reassuringly stable in spite of early morning crosswinds. I really couldn’t judge the behaviour of the suspension for Indian conditions due to the limited testing environment, though our readers should get that report in the next issue.
|Now isn’t that a familiar console? Yes, the Discover 135 has the same one
||Smooth and punchy – the 135cc mill impressed us|
Coming to one of the main aspects of the LS -its engine. On paper, it might feel average for this segment with a 134.6cc motor, but dig deeper into its technicalities and you are bound to be impressed. To start with, this is India’s first indigenously developed four valve powertrain which enhances the engine’s breathing characteristics. This combined with Bajaj’s patented DTS-i tech gadgetry helps in giving the bike not only a punchy low and midrange, but also class demolishing top end performance. 13.5PS of power might not be tyre shredding, however when you factor in the bike’s impressively low kerb weight of just 122 kilos (which in itself is lower than all the other 125cc bikes from the competitors and hence the tag LS or Light Sports), you are bound to be surprised once the performance test data is revealed. A 0-60km/h timing of 5.18 seconds not only makes the 135LS the quickest in its segment, but it also ends up shaming most 150cc bikes out there. However due to it’s relatively lower engine capacity, as speeds climb in excess of 80km/h, the bike starts losing steam, hitting the ton mark at a shade over 19 seconds. Nonetheless, it still remains quicker than some bigger bikes and further goes onto hit a genuine top whack of 112km/h with the over enthusiastic speedometer registering in excess of 120km/h!
As I mentioned in the opening lines, the LS also impresses in the way it gathers speeds at low revs. The 30-70km/h roll on, for example, takes just 7.31 seconds in the third and 9.51 seconds in the fourth. The engine has the ability to pick up speeds from as low as 25km/h, however, compression knock is very evident especially with a pillion while pulling from low engine speeds. The motor, however, remains smooth and vibration free until you rev it close to the red line. The light weight of the bike also endows it with impressive handling capabilities and an experienced rider won’t find it difficult to indulge in peg scraping antics when the environment allows. The brakes perform well too and stunt junkies will appreciate the bike for its ability to roll on the front one easily.
All said and done, no matter how good a bike is, a lot boils down to its sticker price in India. Most top of the line 125cc bikes in the country retail at around Rs 50,000 (ex-showroom). The Pulsar 135LS, with extra grunt and a bigger bike feel at almost the same price, translates into more bang for your buck. Not to forget that in spite of all that segment shattering performance, ridden sanely, the bike still manages 60km to a litre in the city and close to 80km on the highway. Icing on the cake? You bet!