We take India’s first ABS-equipped motorcycle, the TVS Apache RTR 180, onto the twisties of Mahabaleshwar to see how well it fares in real-world conditions
Ever since Adhish came back from his visit to the Oragadam race-track, near Chennai, where he experienced the stopping prowess of the TVS RTR 180 ABS at its extreme, he couldn’t stop singing paens of praise about it, making the rest of us at Bike India impatient to get a feel of the bike in question. “Even on practically frictionless tarmac the RTR ABS imparted to its riders a confidence that definitely wasn’t there earlier,” was how he summed up his experience astride it. That was nearly a year ago and, as most of you know, the bike had gone on sale since then.
So when a sparkling white RTR 180 ABS made its way to our garage one fine Thursday, I immediately pocketed its ignition key and refused to let it go until the editor assured me that I could have the bike for the ensuing weekend. That decided, I set about searching for a picturesque location that would give me ample space to check out the ABS set-up, one that would also not be too distant to make me miss office on the following Monday.
Only one destination fulfilled this requirement: Mahabaleshwar.
Being only about 120 kilometres from Pune, Mahabaleshwar, the highest hill station in the Western Ghats of Maharashtra, was an easy choice. And since most part of the ride leading up to it would be on the superbly paved National Highway 4, I was confident of an easy and brisk journey. Spread over 150 sq km of pristine nature at an elevation of 4,500 feet above mean sea level, Mahabaleshwar is a tourists’ paradise. It also helps that the zigzag road leading up to it is one of the best paved in this side of the country. As it turned out, however, I was forced to share it with a number of lumbering lorries and overbearing MUVs, which, frankly speaking, took some of the fun away from my ride. There were a number of occasions when I had to rely on the brakes to save myself from getting plastered onto the windscreens of oncoming vehicles and that was when the electronic aid first proved its usefulness. The short-stroke engine of the RTR shone here, letting me sprint in and out of slow-moving traffic without the slightest delay.
The TVS boffins have calibrated the ABS system on the RTR to just the right extent. It is never intrusive, never feels like an electronic nanny cutting you out on a bit of fun, and yet you can feel it doing the utmost to keep your rubber side down. Once you get used to the slightly softer feedback from the control levers – a pleasant departure from the conventional braking systems – it imparts to you a confidence that things won’t get out of hand easily.
Confidence is also something that is imparted in a great measure by the longer wheelbase of the TVS Apache RTR 180. The bike feels much more stable and planted than before not only round corners, but also on the straights.
This being the off-season, I also had the opportunity to take the RTR to the famous Harrison Folly and indulge in a bit of off-roading. On gravel and loose soil, the ABS set-up showed a discernible increase in its functioning, eliminating almost all wheel lock-ups and skids. Even jabbing the front brake in a deliberate effort to unsettle the bike did not result in stoppies. And just in case you are in the mood for some skidding fun, there is a knob above the RTR’s LCD readout that enables you to turn the ABS completely off. Doing this prompts the LED display (with ABS etched on it) on the analogue tachometer to blink orange, which serves as a reminder to turn it on if you had inadvertently turned it off in the first place.
After four hours of revelling in the sights and taking in the scenery, it was time to head back to the hustle and bustle of the city. The sonorous burble from the RTR’s exhaust did a good job of parting the evening traffic and, before long, I was out of the town centre. While riding down the Pasarni Ghat after Panchgani, I had an aerial view of the flatlands that gradually grew dimmer and dimmer as the sun set behind yonder hills.
Things To Do While You Are There
Paragliding at Harrison’s Folly
Boating in the Venna Lake
Buy leather footwear, purses and bags etc
Visit the Sherbaug Theme Park at Panchgani
You May Like To Savour
Strawberry shakes and strawberry jams/jellies
Corncobs around the Venna Lake
Chana and groundnut
How To Get There
From Pune take NH 4 towards Bengaluru
Take a right turn below the flyover bridge at Surur
Go past Wai towards the Pasarni Ghat
You fetch up at Panchgani, also a favourite hill station
Mahabaleshwar is about 19 km from Panchgani
There are a number of hotels (range from Rs 700 to Rs 20,000). We recommend the Saj Resorts (Rs 2,900 per night)