NOVEMBER 2016

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Welcome Signs of Growth

THE TWO-WHEELER MARKET IS SHOWING GOOD SIGNS OF growth as the month of September saw record sales for most two-wheeler manufacturers, with a major surge coming from the rural market. The big worry for the Indian market is what will transpire in the cross-border tension with Pakistan as none of us can afford a full-blown war.

Last month we were invited to Tacoma, USA, to ride the 2017 touring range of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. The 2017 range gets all-new 1,745-cc (107 cubic inches) and 1,868-cc (114 cubic inches) engines. These new engines are OHV single cam with four valves per cylinder instead of the twin cams and two valves in the old ones. The 107 cylinder-heads are oil-cooled and the 114 cylinder-heads are water/coolant cooled. The new family of engines is known as the Milwaukee-Eight because of the eight valves.

The two-wheeler market will see a lot of action before the end of the year as Bajaj Auto are preparing to launch the new 400 as a new brand, called the Kratos. The big news is that BMW Motorrad are all set to enter the Indian market before the end of the year with a complete range of motorcycles starting with the 310 and going all the way up to the 1,600. The only one missing from the line-up will be the GS800 since it requires complete homologation. The entry of BMW Motorrad into India will shake up the premium motorcycle market.

The registration of new two-wheelers was at an all-time high during the Dasara festival; this being the second month in succession that we saw a big rise in two-wheeler sales. With such record sales we are going to see more vehicles on the already crowded city roads.

Aspi Bhathena
Editor

OCTOBER 2016

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Looking Forward to Cross-manufacturer Racing

IN THE 1970S AND ’80S MOTORCYCLE RACING WAS THRIVING even though we did not have a purpose-built racetrack. Most Indian motorcycle manufacturers used to send factory racing teams for the all-India race meet at the Sholavaram circuit. Starting with the Suvega in the moped class, Scooters India had a team, Yezdi Motorcycles used to have a team and Aravind Pangaonkar, head of TVS Racing, was part of the Yezdi racing team at that time. Royal Enfield factory used to be represented by Subhash Chandra Bose and Bhaskar Rao. Even Bajaj Auto had a factory team. The spectator turnout used to be in excess of 30,000.

After a dip in the competition Indian racing is thriving again with all the one-make series and the opportunity for the young talent to take part in the Asia talent series and the Red Bull Rookies Cup. Now I would like to see some cross-manufacturer racing. The one series I would like to see in India is the KTM RC390 Cup. The 390 Cup is held in South America, North America and Europe, but not here in India where the bike is manufactured.

Today MotoGP has become so technical that a wrong choice of tyre compound can make the difference between winning and losing a race. The choice of going with a soft compound gave Dani Pedrosa a clear advantage and victory in the San Marino MotoGP. It was Valentino Rossi who came out on top after passing Lorenzo on lap two, but did not have an answer to Pedrosa’s pace. In the past you had one front and one rear tyre which you had to use. One could not go wrong. None the less, it was great to see Dani on top of the podium.

Aspi Bhathena
Editor

SEPTEMBER 2016

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A Welcome Move

THE LONG-AWAITED GST BILL HAS FINALLY BEEN PASSED BY the Parliament. As to what this will hold for the end-user is still not clear, but it will definitely help the manufacturers because it will simplify the tax structure and, therefore, doing business will become that much easier. The price of twowheelers may come down but one of the biggest problems is the road tax that is levied by the state government which makes a lot of difference to the on-road price from state to state.

A new Bill has been passed for higher fines for traffic offences but will we ever see the day when one can use a bike anywhere in the country without having to re-register it when you move from one state to another? This will reduce a lot of heartburn for two-wheeler owners, besides curbing corruption. The government says ‘one country, one tax’. By the same token, the vehicle registration process should also be centralised. An additional benefit of such a move would be that a two-wheeler could be traced to its owner irrespective of which state it was registered in.

The state governments are likely to argue that they will lose out on the road tax. The solution to this is the charge of a one-time registration fee with inclusion of the road tax in the price of fuel. This way the owner of a big bike will have to pay more as compared to that of a small and fuel-efficient commuter motorcycle. This will also mean that you pay for the maintenance of the roads you use.

Last month I lost a dear friend and fellow biker in a road accident because a two-wheeler rider did not want to travel that one kilometre to take a U-turn and jumped the divider. While trying to avoid him Dr Santosh Tholar clipped the rear of the fellow’s bike and crashed, dying instantaneously in the accident. He lost his life due to somebody else’s mistake. May his soul rest in peace.

Aspi Bhathena
Editor

Anniversary Special AUGUST 2016

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Thank You, One and All!
THIS MONTH BIKE INDIA COMPLETES 11 YEARS AND WHAT A journey it has been! When we started a dedicated magazine for two-wheelers only, most of the people in the media business thought we were crazy. Today, 11 years down the line, we feel vindicated for Bike India has become by far the biggest bike magazine in the country. The core team at Next Gen Publishing made a decision in 2005 that we would not start another auto magazine where two-wheelers did not get their due coverage. As is the case with most other magazines, two-wheeler coverage starts towards the end of the magazine and how often do you see a bike on the cover? The Indian bike industry certainly deserved a focused and dedicated two-wheeler magazine.

Bike India has gone from strength to strength over the last 11 years and for this I would like to thank all the readers and manufacturers for their support. Without the readers we would not have survived and grown, and without the manufacturers’ support we would not get new bikes, month on month, to test and review for you.

The two-wheeler market dynamics have changed drastically over the past 11 years, it being a predominantly commuter bike market back then. Now we have more or less all the top global brands in India and leisure biking has taken off in quite a big way.

A lot of hard work goes into bringing out a magazine every month. The road-test writers get a by-line along with the photographers, but there is a lot of hard work done behind the scenes by the copy desk editor and the designers. The real unsung heroes are the marketing team as they don’t even get a mention but without their hard work it won’t be possible to bring out this magazine.

Once again I would like to thank all the readers and manufacturers for their support for the past 11 years and look forward to it in the future as well. Enjoy this special anniversary issue as much as we enjoyed putting it together.

Please wear your helmets while riding. We wish you happy and safe biking.

Aspi Bhathena
Editor

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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