This is that time of the year when we look back and forth, at the year gone by and the year being ushered in. For bikers, it is the time to re-live, remember, speculate, surmise and discuss everything on two wheels that has got us talking in the last year and everything that we can look forward to this year.
The previous year was rather lacklustre in respect of new motorcycles, with few truly significant launches that had us champing at the bit. The New Year, however, promises to look better already, with a slew of new launches lined up and raring to go. While our annual Bike India Awards will honour the truly great two-wheelers that moved the goalposts forward for Indian motorcycling in the last year, here we take a gander at some of the most significant bikes and scooters that are expected to make their presence felt over the next 12 months.
Story: Saeed Akhtar
KTM 390 Duke
Whazzit:The Austrian off-road specialists took the subcontinent by storm with the 200 Duke and now they are ready with a bigger salvo in the form of this, the 390 Duke. First displayed at the EICMA in Milan late last year, the 390 is powered by a 373-cc, single-cylinder, liquid-cooled engine developing 45 PS of peak power and mated to a six-speed transmission. Couple that to a dry weight of just 139 kg and top-notch WP suspension bits and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a street hooligan par excellence.
Why all the hullabaloo:The 390 Duke promises to be the perfect bridge for enthusiasts seeking to move up from our usual crop of 200s, 220s and 250s, but don’t want to graduate straight away to the fiery 800+ ones.
What’s the likely damage: We guess about Rs 3 lakh, which should make it a serious threat to that other über sportbike from the Bajaj-KTM-Kawasaki triumvirate, the new Ninja 250R/300R
Bajaj Pulsar 375
Whazzit: If there’s a new Indian small-capacity KTM on the anvil, can a similarly-powered Pulsar be far behind? And, lo, we’re gonna have the Pulsar 375! To be powered by the same mill that does duty in the KTM, but possibly in a different state of tune, the Pulsar 375 promises to be an altogether different machine from the current breed, and even the 200
Why all the hullabaloo: The Pulsar brand has attained cult status in the country, propelling Bajaj to unheard of heights of success. This is going to be the biggest and most advanced Pulsar to date and, as such, it will be the cynosure of all eyes right from the outset. There’s just a lot riding on the Pulsar 375’s shoulders.
What’s the likely damage: Anywhere between Rs 1.80 lakh and Rs 2.5 lakh
Anticipation Rating: 8/10
Hyosung GV 250R And GV 650
Whazzit: Utilising the same V-twin engine as in the already launched Hyosung Comet GT 250R, the GV 250R is a full-sized cruiser with dollops of style and in a cost-effective package. The GV 650 has been around for quite some time now in the country, but gets a comprehensive styling and mechanical upgrade, and is already launched.
Why all the hullabaloo:The cruiser market hasn’t really been able to gather momentum in our country, Kawasaki-Bajaj’s best efforts notwithstanding. We hope DSK-Hyosung also upgrade their dealer network and after-sales service, which might see the two cruisers (and the Comets) fare better than during the previous year.
What’s the likely damage:Rs 1.8 lakh and Rs 5 lakh
Anticipation rating: 4/10
Aprilia RS 200 And RS 280
Whazzit: Two compact 200-cc and 280-cc fully faired bikes with top-notch technology such as heated grips, anti-wheelie (and, maybe, even traction control) that borrows styling cues from the RS125 as well as the RSV4. A double-edged killer that will perfectly function as a beginner’s bike in Europe and a performance machine in India and South-East Asia.
Why all the hullabaloo: Aprilia, and owners Piaggio, are already here. With these two, the Italians are aiming to carve a chunk off arch-rival KTM’s pie. If the RS 125 is anything to go by, these will go like stink and look equally fast at standstill.
What’s the likely damage: Approximately Rs 3 lakh
Anticipation rating: 9/10
Kawasaki Ninja 300R
Whazzit:Not content with ruling the quarter-litre roost with the Ninja 250R, Kawasaki have gone one further and upped the cubic capacity by a further 50 cc, making a total of 300.
Why all the hullabaloo:With the increase in cubic capacity comes a lot more fire-power for the smallest Ninja. And, oh, it has got ABS too.
What’s the likely damage:Considering that the Ninja 250R retails for Rs 3.13 lakh (OTR, Pune) right now, expect this bigger sibling to retail for anything around the Rs 3.50 lakh mark. Of course, the ABS version will cost more.
Anticipation rating: 8/10
Mahindra Mojo And Pantero
Whazzit:Despite their best intentions, Mahindra’s first foray into the motorcycle market was more of a whimper than a loud bang. But this year the conglomerate will be back with a revised version of their 300-cc offering, the Mojo, and the all new Pantero, an indigenously developed motorcycle with MCi-5 (Micro Chip ignited – 5 Curve) engine.
Why all the hullabaloo:While the Pantero is an honest attempt at garnering a chunk out of the cut-throat competition in the commuter segment, what we are really excited about is the Mojo. God knows we have waited long enough to see what this liquid-cooled, four-valve, single-cylinder mill can offer Indian enthusiasts.
What’s the likely damage:Rs 50,000 for the Pantero, Rs 1.6 lakh for the Mojo
Whazzit: The Hinkley-based company is already in the process of setting up a plant near Bengaluru and will commence sales soon. They’ve been a major presence at the last two Indian Auto Expos and are dead serious about bringing almost their entire range to this country.
Why all the hullabaloo: If Triumph start manufacturing their sub-800-cc offerings here in the country, it would mean nothing less than a paradigm shift in Indian motorcycling. It would upset a lot of established manufacturers, but there’s a lot to gain for the Indian customers, who have been crying out for affordable big bikes for years. If Triumph succeeds here, other foreign manufacturers are also likely to follow suit.
What’s the likely damage:Depends upon the particular model you’re eyeing
Royal Enfield Café Racer
Whazzit: A café racer from Royal Enfield, a beast unlike anything we’ve ever seen before in India. Powered by an advanced 535-cc UCE fuel-injected engine, with styling hitherto not seen from Royal Enfield. Even the sceptics are bound to sit up and take notice when this one thunders by.
Why all the hullabaloo: First displayed at the Auto Expo last year, the Café Racer is an altogether different offering from the Royal Enfield stable. Once launched, it will also be the first and only café racer in the country.
What’s the likely damage: Rs 1.8 lakh to Rs 2.00 lakh
Honda CBR 500R, CB 500F And CB500X
Whazzit: Honda are planning to revive the long-neglected 500 cc segment with not one, not two, but three all-new offerings.
First up is the CBR 500R, a full-faired sportbike that takes its styling cues from the 250R as well as the 600RR. Then there’s the CB 500F, which is essentially the former, without a fairing. Lastly, we have the 500X, a versatile adventure bike geared to munch the miles.
Why all the hullabaloo:Honda’s new 500s are the perfect bridge for bikers looking to upgrade from the current crop of 250s to more potent machines, but, either for monetary or safety reasons, don’t want to splurge on a litre-class motorcycle.
What’s the likely damage:Rs 3.5 lakh to 4.00 lakh
Vespa S150 And Piaggio Typhoon 150
Whazzit: Two stylish offerings from the Italian conglomerate, complete with their trademark fun and pizzazz for the connoisseurs of style.
Why all the hullabaloo: The square-headlight Vespa S150 is a premium offering boasting of goodies like a front disc brake and, maybe, fuel injection. Complementing it will be Piaggio’s Typhoon 150, a fast and performance-oriented scooter that will cost Rs 10,000 more than the current offerings like the Honda Dio and TVS Wego.
What’s the likely damage: Rs 55,000 to Rs 65,000
Anticipation rating: 5/10
Yamaha 125-cc Scooter
Whazzit:Yamaha’s second scooter offering in the country, powered by a 125-cc engine and promising the triple tuning forks’ customary fun and excitement, plus the convenience of clutch-less riding.
Why all the hullabaloo:Yamaha introduced their first-ever scooter in India in the form of the 113-cc Ray, which is targeted primarily at women. This bigger and more powerful scooter will presumably be aimed at men.
What’s the likely damage:About Rs 60,000
TVS 150-cc Commuter
Whazzit: While the Apache series will continue its strong streak as TVS’ performance machines, the Hosur-based manufacturers are also developing a 150-cc exec-commuter that will take on the offerings from Bajaj and Hero MotoCorp
Why all the hullabaloo:It’s been a long time since TVS fired a salvo in the 150-cc segment, barring the Apache. And surveys do tell us that there exists a breed of bikers who are not looking for anything outwardly sporty and brash, but just a frugal and decently powerful 150-cc commuter.
What’s the likely damage:Approximately Rs 65,000
Honda 125-cc Scooter
Whazzit: The Activa and Dio may have taken the Indian scooter market by storm and be still going strong, but Honda are reportedly in the process of developing an all-new 125-cc scooter from the ground up.
Why all the hullabaloo: This will be Honda’s first entry into the 125-cc scooter segment. The company never seems to put a foot wrong when it comes to scooters and, therefore, it will be interesting to see whether they can manage to revive a dormant segment.
What’s the likely damage:About Rs 65,000
Hero EBR 250 cc
Whazzit: Following their split from HMSI, Hero MotoCorp tied up with Erik Buell Racing (EBR) for technological know-how. The first fruit of this new partnership will be a 250-cc offering from the Hero stable utilising technical know-how from EBR.
Why all the hullabaloo: Slowly but steadily, the 250-cc segment is heating up and it would be great to see India’s largest two-wheeler makers take on the segment. It will also be mighty interesting to see what tech inputs EBR comes up with for the Indian – and, maybe, Asian – markets.
What’s the likely damage:We haven’t the foggiest. Depends upon how far Hero MotoCorp go with the concept.
Whazzit: We have received word that Northward Motors Pvt Ltd, a Piaggio dealership in Gurgaon, has opened shop and is taking bookings for certain Moto Guzzi models like the Griso 1200 8V. A service centre is also under construction and will cater to both Moto Guzzi and Aprilia bikes, both of whom are being sold under the same roof.
Why all the hullabaloo:Moto Guzzi have a chequered history and will probably be an alternative brand for the discerning biker, who wants something different from the usual crop of Japanese/Ducati/Harley big bikes. Think of it as the biking equivalent of Radiohead vis-a-vis Coldplay.
What’s the likely damage:Anywhere from Rs 14 lakh onwards