JULY 2016

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The Government of Maharashtra has increased the road tax on all two-wheelers and more than doubled it on CBU (completely built-up unit) two-wheelers. The road tax on a CBU now stands at up to 20 per cent of the value of the motorcycle. We are paying this hefty road tax for the fantastic roads and other infrastructure the government is providing to the ordinary man — the two-wheeler user.

The government should stop collecting road tax at the time of vehicle registration; instead it should be charged on petrol for this would then mean that you are paying tax for the road you are using in that particular area. The road tax you pay in Maharashtra is not valid in other States. When you move from one State to another, you have to pay the road tax once again. Yes, you can reclaim your road tax after furnishing proof that the bike has been re-registered, but getting a refund from the RTO is another story in itself. Normally, road tax is paid on the weight of the vehicle, not its price. For instance, a 10-tonne truck pays less road tax than the Ducati 1299 Panigale S which weighs less than 200 kg.

The transport minister had made a statement some time back, saying that the RTO is worse than the dacoits of Chambal. If that is the case, something should be done about it.

Today if one has to re-register a bike from one State to another it becomes a big ordeal that starts from getting an NOC (no-objection certificate) from the RTO where it is originally registered. This takes over a month as the RTO sends an inquiry to the local police to find if there are any pending traffic offences against that registration number. After procuring the NOC it is time for the second ordeal with the RTO where you want to register your bike. After submitting all the papers there is a 40-day cool-off period for the NOC, then re-inspection of the bike by the RTO inspector and then you pay the road tax once again and apply for a new registration number. This exercise will take at least six months to complete if you have a good agent (tout) in both the RTO offices.

If we had a central registering authority, we could use our bikes anywhere in the country without being stopped by the local police for riding a two-wheeler registered in another State.

Aspi Bhathena
Editor

JUNE 2016

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The other day a politician made a remark in the newspapers to the effect that helmets should not be made compulsory in Pune because the average speed of the vehicles plying on city roads tends to be less than 40 kilometres per hour. Just the opposite happened in front of me the other day. I had stopped at a traffic signal. A three-wheeler transporter was in front of me and an elderly couple on a scooter ahead of the three-wheeler. As the signal turned green, we all started moving and the speed must not have been even 10 km/h. The three-wheeler just touched the elderly couple’s scooter and they both fell down. The lady was sitting side-saddle and as the scooter tipped over to the right, she fell backwards, her head hitting the road and was unconscious. I saw this happen in front of my eyes but I was utterly helpless.

There are some lessons to be learnt from this incident. Yes, the sari is our women’s national dress but sitting side-saddle clad in it is dangerous. In Europe and other developed countries it is against the law. Had the lady been wearing a helmet, she would have escaped injury to her head and consequent hospitalisation. It does not matter at what speed you ride, you can always get hurt; so please wear a helmet and don’t listen to the people who say that you don’t need to wear one.

This month we have tested the V15 from Bajaj and it is clear that this bike has been aimed at the 125-cc commuters but in doing so Bajaj have missed out on the potential of the 150 engine. They have under-geared the bike to such an extent that it loses out on fuel efficiency. Yes, they have made this bike for the top-gear kings who don’t like to change gears. I am sure if the gearing were slightly taller, the V would have returned much better efficiency figures.

Last month another young life was taken in a road accident; this time it was a fellow journalist, Nitin Rose. May his soul rest in peace.

Aspi Bhathena
Editor

MAY 2016

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This month we have a number of interesting stories from the all-new Honda Navi to a comparison between the TVS Victor and Honda Livo, plus an in-depth road test of the TVS Apache 200 and, finally, an exclusive first ride of the Yamaha MT-09. Today anyone who can ride a motorcycle half decently and read up a little bit on the Internet becomes an expert. Pell-mell recourse to the Internet can cause much damage. In order to test and evaluate a two-wheeler one needs to have a certain degree of riding skill, knowledge and the experience of having ridden a variety of motorcycles — from a commuter all the way up to a litre-plus supersport/sports tourer and adventure sport. If one has not ridden a variety of motorcycles, how is one going to pass judgement or evaluate a bike? How does one benchmark it? If you have no previous experience, anything you ride will impress you simply because you don’t know any better.

TVS have finally made a motorcycle with a four-valve engine. The one thing I noticed is that even though the 180 Apache and the 200 have the same stroke, the 200 engine is much taller since it has a longer connecting rod compared to that in the 180 which was short. A short con-rod gives rise to frictional losses and due to this the 180 felt as if it were being held back between 3,000 and 5,000 revolutions per minute. It is good to see that the 200 Apache FI come with Pirelli tyres as standard fitment. The engine feels extremely refined and vibration-free thanks to the counter-balancer shaft.

To conclude on a sad note, Indian roads and chaotic traffic have claimed another fellow biker, Veenu Paliwal. May her soul rest in peace.
Aspi Bhathena
Editor

APRIL 2016

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THE RIGHT LINE

After the Auto Expo in early February I attended two biking events: the California Superbike School (CSS) and the country’s biggest biking festival, India Bike Week (IBW). Indian motorcycle enthusiasts have to thank the father and son duo of T T Varadarajan and Siddharth for bringing the CSS to Chennai, India. I would like to thank T T Varadarajan and Siddharth for their hospitality and for letting me do a few laps. I really enjoyed myself on Vardu’s Honda CBR 600RR as it was the first time that I rode a quick motorcycle on the Chennai track since my last race on the Yamaha TZ250 in 1999.

It was nice to see superbike riders bring their bikes to the racetrack and learn how to ride them in a safe and controlled environment. What also felt good was that people were spending money on good quality riding gear. The CSS is well-organised and teaches riders how to control the motorcycle using just the throttle on day one, and thereafter with gears and brakes. Siddharth and Vicky Jaising are now closer to being qualified CSS instructors.

The fourth edition of the IBW was held on the 19th and 20th of February. There were a few negatives, the first being the dates — it was a little too late and this made it much warmer. Secondly, the new venue was narrow and long, which made it crowded. Furthermore, parking and traffic were major issues since the new venue was on the main road as compared to the one at Vagator which was not on the main road and where being close to the sea helped in keeping the temperature down.

The event has grown over the years and more and more manufacturers are taking part. Some people were not happy and criticised the event. If, however, you ask the same people to do something constructive, they would say they do not have the time but would still be the first to criticise. Every motorcycle rider does not want to tear down a racetrack, some people like to just cruise along and enjoy their ride. I look forward to next year’s IBW which, I hope, will be even bigger and better.

Aspi Bhathena
Editor

MARCH 2016

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THE RIGHT LINE

This month we bring you an in-depth report on the 13th Auto Expo. The Auto Expo has grown over the years with manufacturers’ participation going up and new brands coming to India every year. During the BMW press conference, BMW Group India President Philipp von Sahr announced that BMW Motorrad, the motorcycle wing of BMW, was finally set to enter the Indian market by the end of the year. With BMW entering India, all the major motorcycle manufacturers are now present in the country.

Not only has Auto Expo grown in size, even the quality of the two-wheelers displayed has improved drastically. The quality of concepts displayed by international manufacturers was always good; now even local manufacturers have upped their game. The concepts from Hero MotoCorp and TVS were good. The show-stoppers for me were the two cousins: BMW G 310 R and TVS Akula 310 Racespec. The quality of the BMW 310 is very good and the riding position is nice and relaxed. The NAVI from Honda is something that I have been wanting to build for a long time but Honda beat me to it.

One day before the Auto Expo Royal Enfield unveiled their all-new motorcycle, the Himalayan. There is not a single fastener or a pin being carried forward from their previous models. Siddhartha Lal and his team have gone all out and not left a stone unturned in the making of the Himalayan. This is the first time Royal Enfield have made an overhead camshaft engine and long-travel monoshock rear suspension. The front forks are also long-travel and even with long-travel suspension they have managed to keep the saddle height low. The build quality is very good. The boys at Royal Enfield have done a fantastic job.

Aspi Bhathena
Editor

February 2016

BI_Feb16THE RIGHT LINE

The two-wheeler industry didn’t show any growth last year; in fact, it was more or less flat. Let’s hope 2016 proves much better for the two-wheeler manufacturers. Some of them have already begun launching new bikes, the first one out of the starting blocks being the Mahindra Gusto 125 scooter and the next in line being two motorcycles from TVS: the born-again Victor and Apache 200.

The two-wheeler industry has been lagging behind its four-wheeler counterpart where technology is concerned. The car manufacturers have been pushing the envelope further and further to stay ahead of the competition, whereas the two-wheeler manufacturers have been raking it in without having to improve their products. The high-end motorcycles are loaded with state-of-the-art technology whereas the entry-level commuter bikes are at least 25 to 30 years behind in terms of technology as compared to the entry-level cars.

When international manufacturers launch a new product, they try to set a new benchmark in the segment. The same can’t be said about our local manufacturers as they try to match what is already available in the market and most of the time fail to match up to the bikes that are already on sale.

The way R&D departments work has changed globally. Now they have a special head of chassis design, suspension and handling, bike designer, brake and a separate engine specialist and all of them work under a project leader, whereas in India it is still a one-man show under the head of R&D. Today Honda have a separate company, called Honda R&D, which develops bikes in accordance with the requirements of individual markets. How can the local manufacturers compete with a company that employs more than 3,000 engineers in its R&D department itself?

Aspi Bhathena
Editor

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January 2016

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Bike India wishes all its readers and supporters a happy new year as well as a safe and enjoyable riding year ahead!

Another year has gone by and it is award time once again. A number of very good motorcycles were launched in 2015, most of them priced on the higher side. Last year it was easy as the Harley-Davidson Street 750, priced at Rs 4.5 lakh, was good value for money, but this year 300-cc twin-cylinder motorcycles were priced in excess of Rs 3 lakh. The CBR 650F is an excellent motorcycle, but at a price of more than Rs 8 lakh on- road is quite steep for most people.

The Indian Motorcycle of the Year (IMOTY) jury had a clear mandate and voted the Yamaha R3 as the winner. This is the second time Yamaha have won the award after the R15 won it in 2009. As the chairman of IMOTY, I would like to thank JK Tyres for sponsoring the IMOTY awards for the last nine years even though they do not make motorcycle tyres.

This month we have the exclusive first ride of the KTM 690 Duke and the Triumph Street Twin plus some of the new motorcycles that were shown at the Milan motorcycle show and which will make their way to India.

This year is going to witness a lot of activity in the twowheeler industry. First, it will be the Auto Expo where manufacturers will show some concepts and all-new two-wheelers that they will launch during the year. Two weeks later, the biggest bike festival, IBW, will take place in Goa on 19 and 20 February. Fellow two-wheeler enthusiasts, there is lot to look forward to and Bike India will keep you up to date with all the latest news.

Aspi Bhathena
Editor

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December 2015

BI_Dec2015THE RIGHT LINE

The MotoGP world championship has been settled in Lorenzo’s favour and a lot has been said about the championship as to how it was won off the track then on the track. A lot of people are of the opinion that Lorenzo won the championship fair and square. One needs to go back to the year 2013 when the rules were changed to allow Marc Marquez to ride the factory Repsol Honda instead of riding for a satellite team. At that time it was mandatory for a rookie to ride for a satellite team for one year before getting a factory ride; but that rule was changed to accommodate Marc Marquez.

At Phillip Island, MM made sure that Rossi could not attack Lorenzo before making his move to win the race. He had so much in hand that he could drop his lap-time by one second. One second is a very big margin in terms of time in MotoGP; if Marc wanted, he could have won the Australian GP by a big margin but instead he decided to mess around with Rossi and the rest of the group so they could not attack Lorenzo.

In Malaysia Marc had a good start but did not follow Dani Pedrosa; instead he let Lorenzo also go through before he started dicing with Rossi. What Rossi did in Malaysia was not right but he was forced to do what he did. The penalty he received ended his championship hopes.

What Marquez did in Valencia was very evident — that he was protecting Lorenzo as he rode shotgun to Lorenzo and did not even make one attempt to overtake during the 30 laps, and when Dani passed Marc, he attacked Dani immediately so that Dani could not pass Lorenzo. Marc has to look within himself to see if he has done the right thing. HRC should take action against Marc as he has deprived Honda of a race win. Had the race been according to form, the result would have been Marc Marquez, Dani Pedrosa, Lorenzo and Rossi. This would have made Rossi the champion.

Aspi Bhathena
Editor

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November 2015

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For the last eight years I have been writing about how the traffic situation in our country is getting from bad to worse. The total disregard for traffic rules finally caught up with me. This is the first time I am writing my editorial from my bed at home. On 28 September 2015, I was riding a motorcycle and going through a crossroads with a traffic signal, which was green for my side of the traffic when I arrived at the junction. As I carried on, a car coming from the right jumped the signal. After hard braking and swerving to the right I hit the rear of the Swift. At the time of impact my speed must not have been more than 10 km/h as I did not have a single scratch or a burn mark apart from a broken tibia and fibula.

Things got even more interesting in the evening when I was lying in the hospital bed waiting for the surgery the next day when a policeman came to take my statement. The first thing he said was that it was my fault because I had hit the rear of the car regardless of the traffic signal. Once you hit the rear of a vehicle, it is your fault. According to him, I should have stopped. Then he also went on to say that you should not stop on red as somebody might hit you from the back. During the time the statement was being taken by the policeman, a friend of mine, Meher Pudumjee, who is the chairperson of Thermax, was present and was in a state of shock on hearing what the policeman had to say.

Aspi Bhathena
Editor

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October 2015

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The motorcycle industry is abuzz with activity what with new motorcycles being launched every month. Last month Yamaha launched the all-new R3 and now Honda have launched the CBR 650F this month. We have the first-ride impressions for you in this issue.

On the 23rd of August Indian motorcycle racing suffered a big loss with the sad demise of M R Raj Kumar (Raju). For me Raju was not only one of the best riders India has produced but also one of the best tuners. I had the highest regard for his riding capability and also for him as a human being. He was a thorough gentleman to the core. On the racetrack we used to fight tooth and nail but off the track we were good friends with mutual respect for each other. With the passing away of Raju the motorcycle fraternity has lost a true supporter of the sport. May his soul rest in peace. I offer my sincere condolences to the bereaved family.

Every time the government wants to introduce safety norms such as the anti-lock braking system (ABS), the manufacturers start complaining, saying that the cost of motorcycles will escalate and that there will be a drop in demand. Over the years, however, the cost of motorcycles has gone up by more than five times and yet we witness all-time high sales figures month after month. If the buyers don’t have a choice, they have to pay since a twowheeler is a necessity for most Indians.

Aspi Bhathena
Editor

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