Your `75K Question,Answered!

While there’s been a deluge of new bikes in this segment in the last couple of years, choosing one out of the pack has become more difficult than ever, what with every manufacturer offering almost the same quality, style and performance ina slightly different package.
Saeed Akhtar and Piyush Sonsale help you narrow down the choices

Design 
Design plays an important factor here, and more so in less expensive models. While being a very subjective factor, racy design cues that hint at sportiness and aggressive aerodynamic enhancement are appreciated the most here.
The FZ-16 is the bad boy of the lot here. With tyres so phat they almost don’t need a centrestand. With over-engineered suspension bits and muscular styling borrowed directly from the FZ1, this is one mean streetfighter. The resemblance to its bigger, much bigger, sibling is uncanny.

Ever since its launch, TVS has continually kept on tweaking the Apache, both cosmetically and mechanically. And it shows. The RTR we have here is a far cry from the original, let’s say a sportbike minus the fairing. The GS 150R borrows styling cues from Suzuki’s global superbikes, especially the shape of the tank, the tail section and the headlamp assembly.

The Dazzler is to the Unicorn what Spiderman is to Peter Parker. Adopting Honda’s new design philosophy has done wonders to the sober Unicorn exoskeleton, and the outcome is refreshingly good. Then you have the Hunk which looks exactly what the name indicates, an otherwise nice guy who just happened to spend too much time in the gym. Lastly, we have the Pulsar, which was the sportiest-looking bike in the market a decade back, but, is now starting to look a bit jaded despite its yearly tweaks. We really wish that Bajaj will come out with something radical very soon.

Build Quality
What good is stylish design without solid build quality to back it up? While it goes without saying that careful maintenance can expand a bike’s lifespan and save you from recurring maintenance headaches, production methods matter too. Honda has rightly earned a reputation for solidly built bikes and it shows in their products here. No unsightly welding points are visible on these, the paintjob is deep and lustrous enough to be a mirror, and the electricals are tucked away neatly in place. Interestingly, the Yammie and the Suzuki has retained the legendary build quality that made them so popular here in their two-stroke heydays and is every bit as good as the Dazzler when it comes to build quality.

Then there’s the Hunk. While its over-the-top styling is not to everybody’s taste, there’s no denying the fact that it is very solidly built and the fit and finish is also very good.  Finally we have the Bajaj and TVS bringing up the rear end in this category.  

Ride
The Pulsar 180 sports clip-on handlebars, a toe-only gear shifter and a stepped two-piece seat to offer a charging stance and does feel sporty. However, the seat tends to be hostile to your rounder side during long rides and the gas charged rear shock absorbers help but little, while the Pulsar 220-derived tail grab rails still lack utility and body vibrations are noticeable. The Hunk gives a tucked- in feeling with its huge, ‘well carved in for the thighs’ tank shell and the scooped seat for the rider which has just the right cushioning and contours for your behind. The footpegs are rear biased and the handlebar is on the shorter side giving a sporty edge ride. The Dazzler is more of a 150-cc commuter with forward set footpegs and an upright riding posture. However, the scooped single piece seat induces seating discomfort in time. The FZ 16 has the streetfighter character. The single piece handle bar is wide and straight and the tank shell provides a good grip  but the 140/60 rear tyre’s low profile makes the ride stiffer than expected. Taking note of the negatives, the FZ has rather small mirrors, a very painful pillion seat and the grab rails come right under your bottom. The RTR 160 scores high on ergonomics when on the track but feels too focused on the streets. The engine revs high and tickles you throughout the ride and the rear gas-charged suspension is stiffer than expected. Also, the bike’s small size doesn’t suit tall riders. For them the king size GS 150R is the answer. It lends an upright but relaxed riding posture with its wide seat, huge tank shell and high handlebars, while the toe-heel ‘rocker’ gear shifter stamps its commuter nature, but as an executive one.



Handling
The Dazzler’s chassis gives it the best handling characteristic. It feels nimble and in control on any road surface, while the rear hydraulic disc brake adds to its stopping power. Similarly, the FZ too handles like a hot knife through butter due to excellent mass centralisation upfront, a wide handle bar and a steep rake angle. But the biggest advantage these two bikes have is the monoshock rear suspension. The other four contenders of our comparison are more-or-less on the same level below these two. The Pulsar is a good city bike but doesn’t feel as sure footed as the rest in corners. The Hunk hugs the road all the time and comes with a rear hydraulic disc brake like the RTR, who’s small wheelbase, stiff suspension and good throttle response makes it a very manoeuvrable bike. The big boy GS is a steady commuter.

Performance  
The Pulsar 180 has the biggest engine in contention and boasts the highest power and torque figures amongst the contenders of this comparo. It is the quickest to attain the 60kmph mark from standstill, in 4.98 seconds, and covers the 30-70kmph transition in 11.77 seconds in the fourth gear and has a top speed of 117.5kmph. When it comes to top speed though, the Apache RTR 160 comes to the forefront of the pack with 118.7kmph, thanks to its  correct gearing and a high power to weight ratio. Its 0-60kmph time is 5.04 seconds while the 30-70kmph in fourth gear requires 8.92 seconds,  the best roll-on figure here. The Dazzler and the Hunk share the same 149-cc Honda engine but the nature of  tune and other vehicle dynamics like chassis, the aerodynamics and the weight differentiates their performance. The Dazzler has a high top speed but isn’t quick through the gears while it’s the opposite for the Hunk. The Dazzler has a true top speed of 118.18kmph, making it the second fastest bike of our comparison and it accelerates from 0-60kmph in 5.45 seconds while the heavy Hunk is the slowest punk with a top speed of 107.16kmph but accelerates from 0-60kmph in 5.08 seconds due to its shorter gearing. The Dazzler achieves the 30-70kmph jump in fourth gear in 11.9 seconds. The Hunk does the same in just 9.52 seconds. Moving on, the FZ 16 develops 14PS of power at a lower engine speed (7,500rpm) than the other five bikes. On the performance chart though, it doesn’t score any stars. It accelerates from 0-60kmph in 5.51 seconds and completes the 30-70kmph run in fourth gear in 9.2 seconds, while the top speed stands at 110.9kmph. The GS 150R has a 149.5-cc power plant which produces a respectable 14 PS of power and 13.4 Nm of torque, but it’s the heaviest bike of the lot, which hampers its performance. It accelerates from 0-60kmph in 5.46 seconds and has a top speed of 108 kmph. The 30-70kmph progress in fourth gear comes after 11.5 long seconds.   

Fuel Efficiency
The Rs 65,000 to 75,000 price bracket defines the affordable performance bike category in the Indian motorcycle market, but who are we kidding — fuel efficiency is always the common denominator for an Indian bike. For this review, we have collected the fuel economy figures of all our previous road tests and have combined them in a no-nonsense percentile format.

And the results are interesting, to say the least. Despite its considerable heft, the Suzuki GS150R is the most fuel efficient bike here thanks to its sixth gear which is essentially a cruising gear, delivering an astonishing figure of 59.75kmpl overall. The Dazzler comes in second with 55.70 kmpl, followed by the Pulsar 180 and HH Hunk, both delivering 51kmpl overall. Just half a step behind the two comes the high revving RTR 160 with an overall fuel efficiency figure of 50kmpl. Completing the roundup is the FZ-160 whose wide tyres and massive suspension bits endow it with an overall figure of 43.5kmpl.

Cost of Spares
The question of ownership doesn’t end after the purchase, it begins there. The overhauling part of the maintenance ritual hardly bothers the pocket, it’s the cost of spare parts to be replaced that affects the maintenance cost.  Hence, it is an important factor to consider. We fetched the Pune prices of the frequently required spares, compared the totals of each and alotted them points according to their percentile with respect to the smallest total. However, do keep in mind the fact that cheaper spare parts don’t directly translate into long-term gains, because the quality of materials determines how reliable a part will eventually be. And that’s where the Honda, Hero Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki (in that order) have an edge over Bajaj and TVS.

Bells and Whistles 
Fitting in with the crowd is not always a good thing. There are perils and pitfalls in being just another innocuous stand-in. To captivate the heart and minds of the consumer, a product needs to have that X-factor, that zing and the killer edge that sets it apart from the breed. And while every contender here has a few tips and tricks up its sleeve, there are some features that do stand out. Like the 6-speed gearbox on the GS150R, the only one here. And the 140mm rear tyre on the FZ. Moving on, the Bajaj and Suzuki offers LED tail lamps while the Honda and Yamaha sports a monoshock suspension at the rear. Apart from the usual console functions and tell-tale lights, the RTR’s unit also has a 0-60 timer and a top speed logger whereas the GS150R is the only one here with a gear indicator, highlighting its unique in-class sixth-speed gearbox. Like most current Hondas, the Dazzler incorporates a viscous air filter and a maintenance-free battery that should helpfully reduce maintenance chores but misses out on an engine kill switch (the Hunk hasn’t got one either).  And, oh, with the exception of the GS150R, every other bike here rides on tubeless tyres.

Resale Value
No matter how much you love your current bike, or the one you’ve set your eyes on right now, there’s no doubt that a few years down the line, a better bike will come along and set your heart of fire. And there’s a high probability that you will have to get rid of your current prized possession in order to accommodate that in your garage. Plus the added cash won’t hurt.

Amongst the bikes that we have lined up here, the Honda has the strongest brand image and it shows in its extremely high resale value. It is the brand that generated the most enthusiastic response amongst the second-hand market. Yamaha’s legendary reliability that manifested itself in its two-stroke era is still visible in its current products and thus it manages to come a close second here. By virtue of association, Hero Hondas come third here, with their products faring especially well in the rural markets thanks, in no small part, to the enormous cult following of its Splendor and CD brands that have rubbed off on their premium products. Then we have the ever-popular Pulsar, which many youth will buy with their eyes closed, followed by TVS and Suzuki in short order.

Dealer Network
Hero Honda ranks number one here hands down. No region in the country lacks a Hero Honda dealership but the ‘distinctly ahead’ Bajaj brand isn’t too far behind. They lack the number of dealerships in a particular area but Bajaj’s dealer network is as exhaustive as that of  Hero Honda’s. The TVS Motor Company ranks third here followed by Honda in fourth place, while the other two Japanese bike makers Yamaha and Suzuki rank fifth and sixth respectively.

Verdict
This is it, judgment time. Just a glance at the final points tally will tell you how close a fight it was and how little there’s to separate one contender from another. The Suzuki GS150R is one of the most comfortable bikes in this segment and is the only one here to offer a six-speed gearbox. Yet its lazy power delivery and innocuous character doesn’t make it an enticing buy and hence, it is relegated to the bottom of the charts here. Then we have the Hunk and FZ16 bringing up the rear end, each with an overall tally of 69 points each. Bajaj really needs to update the Pulsar substantially, and if it does so soon, we won’t be surprised if the new Pulsar 180 comes out on top next year. On the plus side, Bajaj is offering a 180-cc bike at the price of a 150! That brings us to the joint winners of this guide, the Hero Honda CB Dazzler and the TVS Apache RTR 160. While the Dazzler offers buyers the best overall ride, handling and ownership experience in a relaxed and commuter-ish package, the RTR is for the sporty rider who wants absolutely no compromise on the performance front. Either way, you can’t go wrong with one of these.

design

East meets West

Ex-showroom, both cost the same. On the road, however, they are as far apart from each other as Italy and Japan. Adhish Alawani swings his leg first over the Suzuki GSX-R1000 and then over the Ducati 848 to find out which of the two better suits the Indian customer’s tastes
Photography: Sanjay Raikar

Really speaking, it’s not been long since I last rode to my heart’s content. But, I just don’t seem to get enough. So, on what was a typical morning for other mortals, I decided to have some more fun than usual. I had the Suzuki GSX-R1000 standing outside my house and my head abuzz with ideas for an interesting ride since the evening before. Hmmmm… How about asking someone to give me company? No, no, how about asking someone ‘good’ with something ‘better’ for company? A call went through to a commodore and like-minded two-wheel disciple, Yatin. “Lavasa?” Promptly came the reply, “Gimme 15 minutes.”

So the scene was set with the two of us riding two big machines. Both the GSX-R1000 and the 848 cost approximately Rs 15 lakh on road in Pune, but are extremely different entities. While an inline four engine powers the Japanese motorcycle, its Italian companion comes with a 90-degree V-Twin (also called an L-Twin). One is a litre-class race bike while the other is just a hypersport that doesn’t fit in any international race class. The GSX-R1000 signifies evolution over the years while the 848 is a young project. Indeed, the curiosity about the difference in the characteristics of these two machines was greater than the excitement of riding them. How can two sportsbikes priced so closely be so different?

I have ridden the GSX-R enough in the past and I am quite familiar with it. This litre-class bike comes loaded with insane power – as much as 185 PS. It’s not just the power that drives you crazy. The colossal peak torque (117 Nm) is enough to give a greenhorn on a litre bike the fright of his life. Add to this the bulk of the bike and you are in for serious trouble in case you overestimate your abilities. All this made me believe how impracticable a litre-class machine can be for frequent city riding. At least that is what I thought until I got on to the Ducati.


That the 848 is a typical Ducati is what I had read since its launch in late 2007. But what is a typical Ducati? That was still the question. To start with, it’s a beautifully crafted machine, made by designers who know how to translate aggression from concept into production. The fierce look of the motorcycle is enough to tell us that it means business, serious business. Sharp angles, minimal curves, shark-like fairing nose and absolutely no graphics are a testimony to the no-nonsense stuff on offer. An aggressive character goes along with the Italian badging. Getting on to the saddle revealed a lot more. The seat is a thin sheet of high-density foam offering minimum necessary padding. Clip-ons are low and placed far away. The tank is wide on top and narrows down suddenly at the bottom, creating a perfect hollow to protect the rider’s thighs and knees from the wind-blast. Foot pegs are high and the riding posture is extremely racy. From the pilot’s seat, you get to see the dash that Casey Stoner must have looked at on his GP8 and GP9 bikes.

Compared to the Ducati, the Suzuki now felt a little relaxed and less aggressive with its clip-ons not too far away, foot-pegs not too high up, the seat not too hard and the riding position not too extreme.

The Ducati’s L-Twin is much lower on power and torque as compared to the Suzuki’s inline four. At 135 PS peak power and 96 Nm peak torque, I thought that the Ducati was going to be tamer than the Suzuki. With the first gear red-lined, I was not doing more than 104 km/h on the speedo as compared to the scary 145ish km/h on the GSXR. Further, getting to 160 km/h on the Ducati meant shifting into the third cog whereas it meant shifting into just the second one on the Suzuki. Both bikes deliver extremely linear power. However, the bulky GSXR’s front end kept the bike planted even with the throttle whacked open all the way until the red line.

On the Ducati, it was a different case with the lightweight machine’s front end floating as the revs built up and hit the limiter. I shifted into second and pinned the throttle for the second wheelie in running. More fun on the Italian, I must say! Even with less power, the rawness of the 848’s motor makes it feel much more aggressive.

In a country like ours less power is better in view of the limited driveability in terrible traffic. That made me believe that the Ducati would turn out to be more practical. That, however, was not the case. The problem with the 848 is the twin cylinder engine that needs to be kept spinning all the time to avoid snatching. Even in the second gear, at speeds below 40 km/h, the bike will grumble to move without snatching. That was the biggest issue with the 848. As against this, while the litre-class machine has helluva power to be dealt with, it still allows one to ride at low speeds owing to its inline four powerplant. Another problem with the 848 is its hydraulic clutch that needs herculean efforts to operate. As they say, the Italians have never really managed to make clutches that are as easy to operate as the Japanese have.


Coming down to handling, the Ducati is the thing – light, nimble and great chassis-suspension to have fun with. The additional benefit comes from the narrower 5.5-inch alloy with 180-mm section rubber on the 848 as against the six-inch rim with 190-mm section rubber on the Gixxer. It gives the bike better agility that helps a lot while quickly changing direction and the ability to negotiate corners with ease and confidence. The suspension on the Ducati is stiffer, offering more feedback round corners than the slightly softer Gixxer. Overall, the Ducati is definitely more focused round corners with loads of aggression.

At the end of it all, both the bikes were analysed and ridden hard. While one was extreme and aggressive, the other was rideable, smooth and soft.

The question now was, had I been a lot richer, whixh would I buy? Not an easy question to answer considering that each bike has a special something to offer while lacking in some respects. For those who want more of an all-rounder that can do the exciting Sunday rides (though not as aggressively as the Italian) without nit becoming a pain in the city, they can surely go for the much softer Gixxer.

However strange as it may sound, I would go with the Italian for a number of reasons. It’s focused, hardcore, light, nimble, aggressive and without doubt the sexiest looking machine I have seen so far. Sorry, Japs, my loyalties have changed. You might be making more practical bikes, but who cares when I have to ride it just on weekends and get the knee down – I prefer riding something a little less practical yet a hell lot more exotic. Wait, Doc, here I come too!

Rs 50,000 shootout

After countless hours of debate and visits to showrooms, the most eagerly awaited day in your life is here. This is going to be one of the most important purchases of your life and you don’t want to make a mistake. Naturally, because it’s your hard-earned money and post-purchase regrets are expensive.

After countless hours of debate and visits to showrooms, the most eagerly awaited day in your life is here. This is going to be one of the most important purchases of your life and you don’t want to make a mistake. Naturally, because it’s your hard-earned money and post-purchase regrets are expensive.

Do-gooders that we are, we have short-listed the best that the market has to offer within the ` 50,000 bracket and dissembled every nut and bolt to arrive at one conclusion – the best motorcycle in the market. Saeed Akhtar plays judge, jury and executioner


Bajaj Discover 150

Price:    Rs 52,150
Engine Capacity (cc):    144.8
Power (PS):    13@7500rpm
Torque (Nm):    12.75@5500rpm
0-60:    5.79s
Roll-on 30-70kmph (3rd Gear):    6.83s
Top Speed (km/h):    110.2
Fuel Efficiency (kmpl):    63

Hero Honda Passion Pro (KS)

Price:    Rs 49,780 Engine Capacity (cc):    97.20
Power (PS):    7.50@7500rpm
Torque (Nm):    7.50@5000rpm
0-60:    12.30s
Roll-on 30-70kmph (3rd Gear):    12.94s
Top Speed (km/h):    85.3
Fuel Efficiency (kmpl):    71.7

Hero Honda Super Splendor

Price:    Rs 52,717
Engine Capacity (cc):    124.7
Power (PS):    9.13@7000rpm
Torque (Nm):    10.35@4000rpm
0-60:    6.99s
Roll-on 30-70kmph (3rd Gear):    11.18s
Top Speed (km/h):    100.83
Fuel Efficiency (kmpl):  73.25

Honda CB Shine

Price:    Rs 51,218
Engine Capacity (cc): 124.6
Power (PS):  10.4@7500rpm
Torque (Nm): 10.9@5500rpm
0-60:    7.04s
Roll-on 30-70kmph (3rd Gear):    8.37s
Top Speed (km/h):    100.4
Fuel Efficiency (kmpl):  78.75

Honda CB Twister

Price:    Rs 50,100
Engine Capacity (cc):    109
Power (PS):    9.13@8000rpm
Torque (Nm):    9@6500rpm
0-60:    6.99s
Roll-on 30-70kmph (3rd Gear):    9.09s
Top Speed (km/h):    93
Fuel Efficiency (kmpl):    71.25

Suzuki SlingShot

Price:    Rs 49,914
Engine Capacity (cc):    124
Power (PS):    8.60@8500rpm
Torque (Nm):    10@6000rpm
0-60:    7.65s
Roll-on 30-70kmph (3rd Gear):    13.99s
Top Speed (km/h):    96.75
Fuel Efficiency (kmpl):    59

TVS Jive

Price:    Rs 48,955
Engine Capacity (cc):   109.7
Power (PS):    8.5@7500rpm
Torque (Nm):  8.3@5500rpm
0-60:    8.16s
Roll-on 30-70kmph (3rd Gear):    8.81s
Top Speed (km/h):    94
Fuel Efficiency (kmpl):    62

TVS Flame SR 125

Price:    Rs 50,444
Engine Capacity (cc):    124.8
Power (PS):    10.5@7500rpm
Torque (Nm):    10@6000rpm
0-60:    6.77s
Roll-on 30-70kmph (3rd Gear):    8.16s
Top Speed (km/h):    100.8
Fuel Efficiency (kmpl):    69.4

Yamaha YBR 125

Price:    Rs 52,900
Engine Capacity (cc):    123
Power (PS):  10.88@7500rpm
Torque (Nm): 10.4@6500rpm
0-60:    6.41s
Roll-on 30-70kmph (3rd Gear):    9.87s
Top Speed (km/h):    102.7
Fuel Efficiency (kmpl):    57.5


Design, build quality & reliability
Design might not be as much important in this category as fuel economy, price, power and reliability. Nevertheless, it does mean a lot to most buyers. All the bikes mentioned in this article have design characteristics to appeal to a wide variety of customers. The most staid looking bikes here are the Splendor Pro, TVS Jive, Passion Pro, Shine and Discover 150, and for obvious reasons. These bikes are not meant to elicit a ‘Wow!’ at first dekko. They are meant for people who put practicality above everything else. To them design is just a part of the package that comes with the bike. The Yamaha YBR 125 treads the safe line by adopting almost all the tried and tested styling cues from is predecessors – the Fazer and Gladiator – which is not a bad thing in itself. On the other hand, the Twister, Flame and SlingShot have contemporary design elements that may entice the youngsters and the young at heart better than the other six bikes mentioned in this article. Strong and bold lines present on the Flame, Twister and SlingShot are solid and give a rich character to them. Owing to this contemporary design factor these bikes stand out on the road, giving a feel of exclusivity among the horde of other two-wheelers.

Build quality plays a big role while buying a bike as it has to withstand the test of time without bothering its owner much. Various components on the bikes have to prove their reliability from time to time. The Hero Honda and Honda bikes score very well on this count. Our long-termers have shown us that these bikes are least likely to trouble their masters in the long run. The fit and finish of Hero Honda and Honda products have always been considered among the best in the country and there is hardly any other bike that matches them. Next in line are the Yamahas and Suzukis. The fit and finish on the Yamaha and Suzuki products is usually good. However, the two bikes (Yamaha YBR 125 and Suzuki SlingShot) mentioned in this article are fresh products and are yet to withstand the test of time. But we believe they will impress the audience with their build quality just as their predecessors did in the past.

The most important factor in a budget bike is reliability, because a person investing money in any of the products mentioned in this article would want a bike that he/she can trust for a long time. Again, Honda and Hero Honda score high when it comes to reliability. Indeed, many people opt for a Hero Honda or a Honda just because their products offer the customer the desired reliability at a reasonable rate. Their products also command a relatively high price in the second-hand motorcycle market.

Next in the list are Yamaha and Suzuki products, which also impress customers with their reliability. As mentioned earlier, the YBR 125 and SlingShot are comparatively new and are yet to prove their reliability in the long run. Nevertheless, Yamaha and Suzuki products are usually quite reliable.

Lastly, products right from our own backyard – the Discover 150, Flame and
Jive. Although Bajaj and TVS have good products backed by fairly good reliability, we believe that they still have some way to go before they catch up with their counterparts. Many people buy these bikes because of their price and fuel economy. However, there are many others who turn to the other four manufacturers mentioned above if their main criterion is reliability.

Comfort & ergonomics/pillion comfort
Swing a leg over the Bajaj Discover after spending some saddle time on the other bikes and the first thing that you notice is the hard seat. The rest of the ergonomics are a solid package, though, with very little to find fault with. The handlebar-seat-footpegs geometry is flawless and so is the control levers reach.

The Super Splendor and Passion Pro live true to the tried and proven ergonomics that have remained virtually unchanged since the widely popular CD 100. In this day and age, Hero Honda still see it fit not to offer adjustable rear shocks, robbing the bikes of brownies on the comfort count. To be fair, though, both the bikes have their suspension calibrated bang-on, lending them a very supple and  comfortable ride. Even with a pillion astride, the riding dynamics remained unruffled and the bikes were able to power their way through a variegated terrain we rode over without transmitting much feedback to the riders.

Initially offered with 18-inch spoked wheels and drum brakes on both ends, the Honda CB Shine has now grown to offer all the bells and whistles like front disc, electric start and alloy wheels. But this fully loaded version puts the CB Shine’s price beyond our budget and, therefore, we have chosen to stick to the base variant for now. Ditto for the CB Twister. On the CB Shine, the near-upright telescopic fork and rear shock-absorbers (again non-adjustable) offer a neutral riding posture and a slightly firm ride. With the inclusion of a pillion, the ride quality improves substantially.

At first glance, the CB Twister might look very compact, especially considering its superbike-inspired body panels, but that feeling dissipates once you swing a leg over it and revel in its spaciousness. As with its elder sibling, the Unicorn, the handlebar invitingly presents itself to your palms, precluding the need to reach out and make yourself uncomfortable. Pillions, on the other hand, will notice the unique design of the grab rails that are integrated into the rear body panels that offer great grip despite their appearance to the contrary.

The newest kid on the block here, Suzuki’s SlingShot, has an ace up its sleeve when it comes to comfort and ergonomics. Or rather, two aces. The first is its incredibly well-padded seat, which is the most comfortable here by a wide margin, and the second is its wide handlebar. Initially, it might feel as if you are perched higher on the bike than normal, but once a few miles are put behind by the wheels, you come to realise the bike’s lack of fatigue. The ace of the cards here.

More than the other bikes in this bunch, the TVS Jive is a motorcycle built with comfort and convenience in mind. The absence of the clutch lever and T-matic transmission do away with the need to think about co-ordinating the clutch-throttle inputs every time you shift the gears. You can simply plonk the bike in any gear, regardless of the rpm and speed, and zip forward. The Flame, on the other hand, has a slightly crouched riding posture, courtesy its slightly lowered handlebar, but is also a pleasure to be on because of its soft seat. The grab rail for the pillion is not only an eye-catcher, it is also highly ergonomic. The bike features a glove box in its fuel tank, which is a convenient place to stow away your small belongings such as the wallet and even the mobile phone, should you so desire.

The YBR 125 carries forward Yamaha’s reputation of solidly built bikes into the commuter segment and, befitting its commuting purposes, it is not as focused as its big brothers. With its higher handlebar and forward set pegs, the bike has a relaxed riding posture that is a pleasure to ride within the city.



Fuel efficiency
The small bike segment has nothing small about it except engine capacity. These are the bikes sold in a large number. This segment is where the manufacturers make money. Money which is then used to develop bigger engines and sporty bikes. Naturally, it is the most intensely competed segment too and the fight for supremacy has compelled manufacturers to be innovative. A larger choice of colours, sporty styling or plastic panels are just shrewd marketing gimmicks. The fact remains that these are budget bikes. The aforesaid frills are a bait, but not the real treat for a buyer with Rs 50,000 in his pocket. The buyer wants a reliable conveyance and one with low maintenance cost and, most important of all, a frugal thirst for fuel. Fuel efficiency is one of the scales the buyer uses to weigh his options while buying a small bike.

The bikes in this segment are best suited for city transport. Though capable of long-distance runs every day, their ergonomics decrease the comfort level with time. So fuel efficiency in city conditions is the paramount consideration.

Among the nine contestants in the field, Honda’s CB Shine boasts of the highest figure of 77 km per litre even with a four-year-old engine while the least fuel-efficient is Suzuki’s latest offering, the SlingShot. Suzuki could have benchmarked the CB Shine while developing their engine, but have failed to do so. The second spot is a tie between Hero Honda’s Passion Pro and Honda’s CB Twister at 70 km per litre. Third again is a Hero Honda with their new 125-cc Super Splendor returning 68 kpl. The fourth place is shared by Bajaj Discover 150 and TVS Jive at 60 kpl. The Discover, in spite of being a 150-cc bike, has an amazing fuel efficiency within city, for which the Bajaj R&D department must be praised. In the sixth spot stands TVS’ second offering, the Flame SR125, with a city fuel efficiency of 59.3 kpl.

Highway figures shuffle the entire group to make the comparison interesting. The Super Splendor earns the highest points here with a fuel efficiency of  89 kpl. Next comes the CB Shine at 84 kpl and its younger sibling, the CB Twister, is third at 78 kpl. The Passion Pro is just off the podium in highway runs with a fuel efficiency of 77 kpl. The Flame SR125 has shot up in the highway comparo to earn the fifth spot at 73.9 kpl. The tail-enders are Discover 150 at 72 kpl followed by the SlingShot and Jive in the seventh spot with 68 kpl. The SlingShot has turned out to be a disappointment even in the highway run.

For overall fuel efficiency, we add 25 per cent of the highway figure to 75 per cent of the city figure, which, in the case of these bikes, is the most apt calculation since they are more city-oriented. Honda have stood the test of time with the CB Shine as, even after four years, it still has the most frugal engine with a overall fuel efficiency of 78.75 kpl. The first overall runner-up is the Super Splendor at 73.25 kpl, while the Passion Pro is the second runner-up with 71.7 kpl. The CB Twister misses the podium by just 0.45 kpl with 71.25 kpl. The Flame SR125 stands a decent fifth thanks to its highway figure. Sixth overall is the Discover 150 at 63 kpl, followed by the Jive in the seventh place at 62 kpl while the SlingShot fills the bottom end with 59 kpl.

Performance & handling
Performance may not be the most important factor in respect of these bikes, but, none the less, it becomes necessary on those occasions when you want to leave the pesky traffic behind or simply sprint down to the city centre for a quick bite.

When it comes to performance, there’s no substitute to cubic capacity and it shows here. The Bajaj Discover 150  manages a 0-60 km/h timing of 5.79 seconds, making it the quickest bike in this comparo. With 13 PS of max power (at 7,500 rpm) and 12.75 Nm of torque (at 5,500 rpm) it is also the most powerful, matched only by the Yamaha YBR 125 as regards torque. It is also the fastest at a heady 114 km/h while the YBR 125 follows a distant second with a top speed of 105 km/h. So, if you are only looking for the most powerful motorcycle within the Rs 50,000 bracket, look no further and get the Discover 150 or the Yamaha YBR 125.

Now that we have established the front-runners in the performance game, let’s move on to the rest. The Passion Pro stays true to its commuting genes with a peak power of 7.5 PS and a peak torque of 7.2 Nm. It is the least powerful of the lot being considered here and it shows in the bike’s acceleration figures. Naught to 60 comes up in a leisurely 12.3 seconds and the bike tops out at 85.3 km/h, making it the proverbial snail in this race from the performance enthusiast’s viewpoint. The Super Splendor does the same in 7.5 seconds. The Flame SR 125 and the CB Twister follow the top runners with a 0-60 timing of 6.77 seconds and 6.99 seconds respectively.

Where in the powerband a bike makes its maximum torque and power also matters. For typical city commuting, the bottom and mid-range torque are more important than a brimming top-end. A case in point: the roll-on figures, which are of particular significance here. We took a gander at the 30-70 km/h roll-on figures for all the bikes here and the results were interesting, to say the least. The bikes with the greatest power and torque were not always the winner here, it was the way their power was spread that decided the final figures. The SlingShot, despite its 124-cc engine, clocked the slowest timing of 13.99 seconds, while the clutchless Jive took 8.81 seconds to accomplish the same. Its 125-cc sibling from the TVS stable, the Flame, did the same in a marginally faster 8.16 seconds. The Discover 150 still rules the roost here with a 30-70 km/h timing of 6.83 seconds, followed closely by, you guessed it, the YBR 125. From the Honda stables the Shine with its bigger engine managed the run in 8.37 seconds while the CB Twister did it in 9.09 seconds.

When it comes to handling, there is not much of a margin to separate the bikes under consideration here with the exception of the Discover 150, Flame and Yamaha YBR 125, the simple reason being that these bikes are equipped with fatter tyres that enhance their handling and give them an edge over others. The TVS Flame is the only bike here to sport a 90/90 tyre at the front.

Availability of spares & resale value
The bike might be a treat for the heart and the mind, but in the absence of spares it’d be like moving about with a broken limb. The after market is blooming with spares, micro and macro, most of which are spurious, which may fail you any time. Quick and hassle-free access without having to visit a service station makes them popular. However, the manufacturers are now making an extra effort to make sure that cheap spares are easily available, an asset which would add to the recall value of the brand in a consumer’s mind. In the segment we’re considering here, the more the number of service stations, the popular the bike. Hero Honda and Bajaj top the charts when it comes to their network and cost of spares. Owing to the uniform popularity of all the Hero Honda models and the fact that most of the spares can be juggled among the models, the owners are least bothered in this regard.

Bajaj and TVS, just like Hero Honda, have been in the Indian two-wheeler industry for quite some time. Whereas finding Probiking stores for the high-end Bajaj bikes might be a little difficult in some parts of the country, spares for the bottom-line commuters have very well been taken care of by the widespread service network. Moreover, like Hero Honda, Bajaj have also adopted the formula of sharing many essential spares among their commuters.

TVS also have a good service network and cheap spares. Honda, on the other hand, is a different story. A common problem which occurs with Honda is sudden panic throughout the distributor network at the first sign of shortage of spares. This Japanese manufacturer expects you to pay for the quality and, therefore, their spares might be a little more expensive than those from the rest. The after-sales service network may not be as wide as the other three camps, but it isn’t very poor either. Models like the CB Shine have been around for quite some time now and though the CB Twister isn’t really very old in the market, the basic spares are available at the snap of a finger. Some others might require a little wait. However, we are well aware that the frequency of spares requirement in a Honda bike is much less and infrequent than that in their competitors.

Likewise, Suzuki have been around with the Heat, Zeus and GS 150R, but the SlingShot is still new and, therefore, yet to prove itself on the spares front.

As for Yamaha, their spares are easily available and are reasonably priced too. The YBR 125, launched recently, is yet to prove its mettle in respect of spares.
The second-hand two-wheeler market has a big bag full of surprises. With options aplenty and fickle tastes, consumers are now increasingly paying attention to a bike’s re-sale value while buying a new bike.

Verdict
So there we have it – the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of the most popular bikes currently on sale in the country. Suzuki seem to have shot themselves in the foot by giving the SlingShot an undistinguished and unassuming character that does nothing to differentiate itself from the rest of the bunch. The bike slides down the rating scale when it comes to performance, owing to its sluggish roll-on figures and top speed. It is, however, one of the most comfortable bikes of this lot.

TVS’ clutchless Jive breaks new ground in terms of convenience and rideability, but is let down badly by its sub-par design language and performance. Hero Honda’s latest iteration of the Passion, the Passion Pro, might be selling as well as ever, but scores badly on performance here and thus misses the mark. The TVS Flame, despite its good looks and a decent, frugal 125-cc mill, does not set a new benchmark here. In terms of sheer performance, the Bajaj Discover 150 outclasses all its peers, but is again let down in other important parameters such as build quality, quality of spare parts and resale value. The Super Splendor, the bigger-engined sibling of the immensely successful Splendor, packs a few nifty aces up its sleeve, like fuel economy, build quality and reliability, not to mention the resale value that comes with the Hero Honda marque. Yamaha’s YBR 125 – essentially the Gladiator in a new garb – improves upon its already impressive predecessor’s hallmark of good design, build quality, resale value coupled with above-average fuel economy, but, sadly, fails to rise head and shoulders above its peers.

That leaves us with the two Hondas – the 125-cc CB Shine and the 100-cc CB Twister. Both these bikes are something of an oxymoron, wherein the bigger sibling is more subdued and subtle whereas the smaller one is brawnier and flashier. What is evident, though, is the way these twins outclass all other bikes in this test on almost every parameter, be it fuel economy or handling, build quality or reliability, spare parts and resale value. In the final tally, both the Hondas tied together with a total of 50 points, making them the outright winners in this test.
We fully appreciate the fact that everyone who enters a motorcycle showroom is different and has different needs and expectations of his steed, but if you are looking for absolutely the best value-for-money bike that can be had for Rs 50,000, you can’t go wrong with either of these two.

Scooting about

Women’s need for a friendly and reliable two-wheeler for daily commuting is as high as men’s and the market may pose the problem of plenty with its plethora of models and variants. We make an attempt to zero in on something that will answer the conveyance needs of an urban college student or a workaday lady
Words: Gasha Aeri  Photography: Sanjay Raikar

No two ways about it. Variomatic scooters allow you the freedom of putting your mind to better things than keeping a track of the gear you’re riding in. There is no question of shifting up or down. Ease of use and practicality in the increasingly maddening Indian traffic are the hallmark. Besides, they look trendy, feel light and offer some decent storage space as well. However, the million-dollar question is which one of the lot would a girl buy? Especially a girl weighing anything between 40 and 60 kg, aged between 16 and 29 years, looking for a daily commuter and footing the fuel bills herself.

We got a clutch from which we selected the best four, namely, the Honda Dio, Suzuki Access 125, Mahindra Rodeo and TVS Wego. I’ve seen my friends ride every single one of these, but there were a few characteristics I wished to look at before making my own choice. So, hit the gong, blow the trumpet and let the tussle begin.

Agreed that, for a girl, looks come foremost in respect of an automobile. As for our contenders, each has a distinguishing point that earns them brownies. Having been there for the past seven to eight years (and proudly so), the Honda Dio still looks chic and trendy. The graphics and that big headlight play a big part in that. A salutary combination of a European design (exported abroad as the Honda Lead 100) and practicality make the Dio a model that one comes across in a large number in the parking space of colleges and shopping malls alike. On the other hand, the Access and Wego, subtly styled, straddle the thin line between a ‘girlie’ and a masculine scooter. The Rodeo manages to overtake the aforesaid two with its petite form, but fails to catch the Dio’s tail. So, the winner here has to be the Dio.

After the frills and fancy dresses comes durability. Whereas the Wego, Access 125 and Rodeo have a metal body, the Dio comes with a plastic body. This means that, in case of an unfortunate crash entailing body replacement, the Dio’s repairs will be cheap. Another smiley won. However, unlike in the Dio, washing the foot-board does not require much effort in all the other scooters thanks to the additional rubber mat.


Simple yet handy meter clustre of the
Access goes well with the subtle looks of
the scooter

The backlit meter clustre in the Rodeo
provides it that chic and peppy feeling and
you even have a digital clock which no other contender offers

With a telescopic front, Access takes care
of the rider, the bumps and itself very well

Not like it leaves you with a sore back, but
Rodeo is just a little less comfortable than
Access and Wego

Access has the maximum under-seat
storage on offer

Nothing like the luxury of not getting off the
seat for fuel fills and putting other
knick-knacks, as Rodeo stores them right
in front

Next come manoeuvrability, kerb weight and ease of use on city roads. I struggle for space on the crowded roads of my city and parking space is not easy to come by either. Sometimes I even have to lift up my scooter physically when my neighbour carelessly leaves his bike kissing its tail. I don’t want to pull an elephant to carry me to work and I need to weave through cars at a traffic signal. The Rodeo and Wego score in this respect, while the Dio falls a step or two behind and the Access hides the weighing scale under the table.


Suspension makes a lot of difference when you have to ride over ditches with interstices of tarmac. Everyone else but the Dio score a point here. The Dio needs to take a crash course from big brother Aviator in this respect. Still sticking to the leading link suspension when everyone else has moved on to the telescopic fork, the Dio surely doesn’t want old-age wrinkles to show.

The brakes are yet another important consideration. The Rodeo and Access must surrender their lone point here. The Wego responded quite satisfactorily, but the Dio took the biscuit.

Riding posture was comfortable on all four, but pulling them out of the parking lot was another story. Whereas the Dio and Access kept me on my toes on account of their high saddle, the Wego was a little better and the Rodeo felt the most comfortable, as I could touch the ground with my foot.

The next consideration was good storage space. While all of them offer under-seat storage to accommodate a full-face helmet, the Wego’s front compartment comes as a welcome addition. However, I couldn’t care less to use the key to open it every time I needed to take out the water bottle. The Rodeo walks broad-chested and flaunts a cubby-hole compartment in front, very convenient and handy. This also makes me voice another interesting feature of the scooter – its fuel tank inlet in the front saved me the effort of getting off my perch every time I went to the petrol pump. The Wego’s fuel tank inlet is also not placed under the seat, as is that of the Dio and the Access, but it needs to be opened with a key. The Access offers greater under-seat storage than the Dio, but not as much as the Wego and not as easily accessible as the Rodeo.

Now to fuel efficiency. While the Wego and the Rodeo refuse to account for a little more than 40 km per litre of petrol, the Access is slightly generous and offers two km/l more. However, the knight in shining armour (Honda Dio) won my heart with the figure of 50 km/l.

I simply cannot ignore the fact that if not a great top speed, I most certainly need good overtaking speed on city roads. The Access and Rodeo justify their heavier engines very well and the Wego doesn’t stand very far behind either, but the Dio has to keep pace with just a smile.

Did you say, ‘Any other features?’ How about a tachometer, digital watch, mobile charger, side-stand indicator and colour-changing backlight? Too much, right? But not to Rodeo, whose grin spreads from ear to ear. The Dio asks one to pay extra for a basic accessory like the side stand when the other scooters offer it as a standard feature.


Analog meters, but a little better styled is
what makes for the forheads of wego

CAPTION version of theTypical Honda
meter clustre and nothing more, that’s
Honda Dio for you

CAPTION version of these bikes is better
than their pervious iteration and the
improvements are

Still using the leading link suspension, the
ride on Dio on a bumpy road was far being
comfortable

CAPTION version of these bikes is better
than their pervious iteration and the
improvements are

CAPTION version of these bikes is better
than their pervious iteration and the
improvements are


The last (and by no means the least) point is the price tag. Being the cheapest of the lot, the Dio certainly deserves more than a second thought. A refined engine, Honda’s reliability, swift and nimble handling for city roads…. the list is long, but the other camp is equally well prepared.

The Access wins with its bucketful of torque, good ride quality and punch. But its price tag makes a sizeable dent in my pocket.

The Wego really impressed me with its ride quality. Alloys and a longer seat impressed both myself and my father, as he wanted to win an all-expense-paid lift to his office behind me! However, fuel efficiency doesn’t let the Wego share the podium space with the Access.

The Mahindra warrior might be my wonder machine if I want gazillion gadgets all around me while I care for my ride quality as much as I do for Paris Hilton and her Chihuahua. Too much of everything killed the cat.

So, let’s end the suspense as I decide to buy a Honda Dio in the olive green and black combination for myself. For those who can afford to shell out a little more, the Access can be the next preferred one of the lot. The Wego, for a 110-cc scooter that it is, finds fuel-efficiency and price pitted against it. And the Rodeo can be useful for my little sister, who wouldn’t clock as many kilometres on the odometer, but would be mighty thrilled by all the buttons and twinkling lights.

So, here’s a triple toast. One for me, one for my new Dio and one for the road!

The Congestion Challenge.

Saeed Akhtar pits the Mahindra Rodeo in a race against Mumbai’s famous local trains and BEST buses.
Photography by Sawan S Hembram


One of the nicer things about living in a metro is the plethora of options at your disposal in every aspect of life. From consumer products to dining and entertainment, you are literally flooded with options. And this has fringe benefits too. Like being able to take various modes of transport to work. And when we are talking about a city like Mumbai, the array of choices becomes truly bewildering. On the one hand, you have the usual taxi-cabs, auto-rickshaws and buses and, on the other, you have Mumbai’s famous local trains, the city’s ‘lifeline’. And then there is the slightly better-off class who prefer to commute on their own two and four-wheelers. But which mode of transport really is the best? To settle the matter once and for all, we decided to have an only-one-of-its-kind shootout wherein we will pit the three most popular modes of Mumbai transport against each other in a purely scientific test.

The plan was straightforward. Starting from the same place, three commuters (including myself) would take three different modes of transport – a scooter, a bus and a local train – to reach our destination, an office complex in Nariman Point. The winner? Ah, that’s easy…..whoever takes the shortest time to reach Nariman Point wins. And since commuting is also about convenience and saving money, we factored in those parameters too. After much deliberation it was decided that Ravi would take the train, Minocher would take the bus while I would take the Mahindra Rodeo and document the experiment.

The three musketeers all ready and primed for the race ON FOUR WHEELS:Minocher prepares to board a bus

With the intention of proving each of their chosen means of transport the best, the three of us started from Samatanagar, Kandivali, at exactly 8:30am on a weekday. As expected, I was off to a flying start even though it took me some time to don all the protective gear. A word of advice to our dear readers here. Please don’t underestimate the importance of donning protective gear at all times, no matter whether you are popping down to the shot round the corner or revving your bike’s nuts off on a racetrack.


ON MANY WHEELS:Heading towards Railway Station

A disaster waiting to happen. But this is what drives
the legendary spirit of Mumbai.

SUNNY SIDE UP – Traffic lights in Mumbai double up
as race grids and commercial venues for hawaker’s

As I pulled away on the Rodeo, Ravi and Minocher also took off in their own ways. While Minocher headed straight for the nearest bus stand, Ravi was not so lucky, because the Kandivali railway station was located approximately three kilometres from where he was and, therefore, he had to take an auto-rickshaw to the station. Here he discovered the first flaw of travelling by train the hard way. The train doesn’t come to your doorstep, you have to go to it, just as the thirsty one has to go to the well, not vice-versa. In Ravi’s case, it meant taking an auto-rickshaw to the station and then waiting patiently. And when it arrived, it was so crowded that travelling in a can of sardines would have sounded a better prospect for him. For the uninitiated, just the simple matter of getting onto a train can transform an atheist into believing in the concepts of afterlife and righteous retribution. Also, the number of thefts and pickpockets might make one start believing in vigilante justice. Shudder.
Meanwhile, Minocher was left waiting for the bus that would take him to our common destination. Now, the buses in Mumbai seldom display the route and stops in English, preferring instead to display them in Marathi or Hindi, so the people who don’t know these aforementioned languages have to be especially careful. One also has to be choosy in selecting the right bus stop as buses don’t stop at every stop, choosing instead to stop at their discretion or simply when they see a large crowd. In theory, buses marked with their numbers painted in black commonly stop at all routes while those marked in red stop at specially designated bus stops only. It is also a good idea to have small change in your pocket before boarding one.
As for me and my trusted steed, it was pretty smooth sailing from the word ‘go’. Of the trio, the two-wheeler is the only option here that will take you right from your doorstep to your office parking bay and back. That alone scores enough brownies to make the other two commuting options seem downright pointless. If you are riding something like the Mahindra Rodeo, you can stow away your bag and rain gear under the seat. Heck, the Rodeo will even accommodate a laptop or a full-face helmet.
Call it the superiority of two-wheeled locomotion or sheer luck, I was the first to arrive at our designated meeting point outside the office building at Nariman Point, Mumbai’s premier business hub. In the course of this run, I had travelled past some of Mumbai’s most iconic landmarks like the P D Hinduja National Hospital at Mahim, the Siddhivinayak Temple at Prabhadevi, the Haji Ali durgah and Kemp’s Corner. Having completed the 37-kilometre stretch in one hour and 25 minutes approximately, in rush-hour traffic, it was time to sit back and prepare some scathing epithets for the other two competitors who dared to question the superiority of the two-wheeler. And so, cold drink in hand, I waited. And waited. And waited some more.
At 10.05 am Ravi, our train chap, finally pulled in. In a taxi-cab. Turns out that his preferred mode of transport could get him to only a couple of kilometres from Nariman Point, its route ending at Churchgate. I couldn’t help sniggering a bit, noticing that he could do with a much-needed bath and some sleep, the inevitable effects of a train journey. By the time Minocher turned up it was 10.20 am and we were all left in no doubt as to which one was the winner. In meticulous detail, he proceeded to explain how he had to change routes and buses in order to reach Nariman Point.
After noting down all the pros and cons we encountered during this run, there was only one conclusion. The Mahindra Rodeo beats the local train and the bus fairly and squarely on almost every parameter. Be it speed, comfort or sheer convenience, there is no beating it. While Minocher took an hour and 50 minutes to complete the run, Ravi did the same distance in an hour and thirtyfive minutes. While the Rodeo with me on board did the same run in a mere one hour and 25 minutes. In monetary terms too, the Rodeo made the most sense here. Minocher had to fork out Rs.85 for his bus adventures while the train journey left Ravi poorer by Rs.65. Whereas it took me less than the price of a liter of fuel ( Rs. 55) to accomplish this trip. Even setting aside the price difference, the benefits of commuting two-wheels outweighs being ferried around in a train or bus. Besides, you can’t put a price tag on freedom of mobility, can you?

SlingShot vs Flame vs Shine vs Super Splendour

Commuter Choice Commuter Choice
Ravi Chandnani pits the Suzuki SlingShot, the latest entrant, against its potential rivals to find out which of them has the edge Photography: Sanjay Raikar

The ordinary Indian, who leads his daily life with strict reference to a budget, prefers to own a bike that is inexpensive, easy to maintain and one that has adequate power and good fuel-efficiency as well as decent looks. His search for his first or next bike is guided by these factors. Given these, a 100-cc commuter bike would be the obvious choice. However, the trend is changing rapidly. Today such people want a motorcycle with the power and torque of a 125-cc bike coupled with the fuel-efficiency of a 100-cc one. And to fulfil this yearning to break away from the crowd, a new segment is increasingly becoming popular – the 125-cc segment.

Commuter Choice The 125-cc market has witnessed considerable excitement in the recent past and, realising the potential of this segment, Suzuki decided to re-enter it with a bike called the ‘SlingShot’. The previous 125-cc bikes from Suzuki were good, but were lacking in one important factor – styling. With the SlingShot Suzuki have proved that small can be beautiful. Therefore, to satisfy my everlasting thirst for knowledge, I decided to pit it against three other bikes – the Honda Shine, Hero Honda Super Splendor and TVS Flame. Please read on.

The Honda Shine
The Humble Man’s Steed

The Shine might not appeal to the youngster on account of its subtle design. However, this very subtlety may attract customers like the average Indian family man running his life on a budget as also people who believe in practicality. The Shine clearly states that it is a no-nonsense bike. Almost every aspect of this motorcycle is enough to satisfy the needs of the aforesaid class of customers. Take power, fuel-efficiency, inexpensive pricing or decent styling, the Shine has them all.

Heavy city traffic is where the Shine would spend its life and so the engine had to be efficient and smooth enough to take one in and out of the hugger-mugger with ease. Appreciating this fact, Honda equipped the Shine with a 124.7-cc engine that has proved its reliability and efficiency over the past four years. Its handling is also class-leading, making the bike one of the best 125-cc commuters. It does not feel nervous on any surface, be it uneven roads, pothole-ridden roads, manhole covers, speed-breakers or any other obstacle that a city can throw at it. The Shine tackles them all with commendable ease.

Fuel-efficiency is one factor that plays a crucial role while buying a commuter and I have to agree that the Shine really outshines others by being the most fuel-efficient of this bunch. It delivers an overall fuel-efficiency of 79 kilometres to a litre of petrol and the tank capacity of 10.5 litres ensures that visits to the petrol pump will far and few between, depending, of course, upon the distances covered every day.

The Shine’s price starts at Rs 51,000 (OTR, Pune) for the base version and goes up to Rs 59,000 (OTR, Pune) for the high-end one with disc brakes. Its price range and the availability of three variants gives the buyers a reasonable variety to choose from. It certainly makes for an attractive purchase.

The TVS Flame
Fighter Jet-inspired?
The TVS Flame made its début in 2009 after TVS took care of all the controversies surrounding the motorcycle. The Flame was a decent product right from inception. Its bold fighter jet-inspired bodywork and sporty stance were enough to attract youngsters as well as those still young at heart. The first thing about the Flame to catch one’s attention has to be the radical design that shows TVS’ ambition to deliver a sporty commuter. At the same time, there are a few factors that have proved negative for the Flame. To start with, the inclusion of a storage box right at the centre of the fuel tank resulted in a smaller tank, which ultimately meant that the bike had a poor range. The engine might have three valves and swirl and tumble tech packed in it. However, it is the least refined unit here. The 124.8-cc motor is powered decently with 10.5 PS and 10 Nm of torque, which is enough to tackle city traffic, but the bike’s vibrations can drive one crazy, especially if one is a stickler for refinement. The Flame’s handling is quite all right, nothing to elaborate upon. It allows you to throttle out of city traffic and bad road conditions without much effort, that is, if you don’t mind the vibrations. Its gearbox and suspension are also quite satisfactory.

Performance-wise, the Flame does not disappoint at all as it accelerates from 0-60 km/h in just 6.77 seconds, making it the quickest sprinter among the bunch. The 30-70 km/h roll-on figures also make the Flame a winner performance-wise. All of this with an impressive fuel-efficiency figure of 69 km per litre overall and a price tag beginning at Rs 50,500 (OTR, Pune, for the base version) make the Flame a strong contender, keeping aside the refinement part.

The Hero Honda Super Splendor
The Trusted Workhorse!
The Hero Honda Splendor was the one that started it all and today its bigger brother, the Super Splendor, is marching on the highway of success. The reason for this lies in the same genes that made the Splendor such a great favourite. Praiseworthy practicality combined with a trustworthy and refined engine make the Super Splendor worth every paisa spent on it.

The bike’s appearance might not be something to please the most demanding, but its subtle design is more than adequate to attract the ordinary man. However, design is not the main feature that makes the Super Splendor one of the hottest selling products. The beauty of this bike lies in its engine, which might look like a throwback on the 1960s, but does the job without a hitch. This 124.7-cc motor is highly fuel-efficient and one of the most refined of the bunch. It delivers an overall fuel-efficiency of 73 km to a litre. The refinement is typically Hero Honda, thanks to the Honda technology.

However, there are places where the Super Splendor sees red compared to its rivals. For instance, the 30-70 km/h roll-on figures in the third gear indicate that the Super Splendor takes 11.18 seconds to reach 70 km/h, whereas the Flame and the Shine do this in lesser time. There are other factors like the 0-60 km/h sprint and top speed where the Super Splendor scores well. It takes only 6.99 seconds to reach 60 km/h from standstill and does a top speed of 100.83 km/h, which makes it the fastest amongst the four bikes compared here. The Super Splendor impresses the crowd with its handling, which, I must admit, is in the same league as the Honda Shine. It is one of the easiest bikes to ride in the country and one of the most reliable too. With a price tag of Rs 52,900 (OTR, Pune) the Super Splendor makes a lot of sense for an a-to-b commute.


BLURB THE BEAUTY OF THIS BIKE LIES IN ITS ENGINE, WHICH MIGHT LOOK LIKE A THROWBACK ON THE 1960S, BUT DOES THE JOB WITHOUT A HITCH
The Suzuki SlingShot
The New Kid on the Block!
Suzuki’s maiden innings in the 125-cc segment were not impressive with two of their offerings not doing well, but the Japanese giant did not lose hope and recently re-entered the segment with a snazzy machine bearing a remarkable name, the SlingShot. The design of this motorcycle is somewhat indicative of its bigger sibling, the GS150R. The funky stance of the SlingShot looks more like an entry-level 150-cc bike rather than what it actually is. However, somehow the bike appears a bit loud to me (no offence to Suzuki).
The SlingShot’s 12-litre fuel tank looks like a scaled down version of the GS150R’s and the headlight looks like a stripped down version of the GSX series bikes. The side panels with SlingShot graphics appear dominating and the rear panel again reminds you of the GSX series.
One feature that I loved most was the comfort that the seat offered. The saddle on the SlingShot is the most comfortable of the bunch under consideration here and one does not feel tired at all zipping through heavy traffic and its snarls.


At first the wide handlebar might create the illusion of a bigger bike, but the tiny console brings one back to the reality of a 125-cc commuter. Overall, the design is good and impressive, but it also has the love-me-or-hate-me strand woven into it.
Once astride the bike, one forgets about the design part as one is soon taken up with the smoothness of the engine. This new Suzuki is equipped with a 124-cc engine that made its first appearance on the Zeus and the Heat. Suzuki engineers have re-worked that engine in order to make it suitable for the SlingShot and apparently it is eight kilograms heavier than that on the aforementioned two bikes. It develops about 8.62 PS and 10 Nm of torque, which is transferred to the rear wheel via a five-speed gearbox. You are right, the rest of the bunch have four-speed gearboxes! The gearshift is also as smooth as the engine and doesn’t let any unwanted feedback come through. The SlingShot’s acceleration within the city is quite good, though it takes a longer time to reach 60 km/h from standstill, because this Suzuki is the least powerful of the bunch.
However, the handling of the SlingShot is quite impressive as the bike is utterly easy to ride and is capable of tackling city traffic with utmost ease. Bad roads, uneven surfaces, potholes or protruding manhole covers, the bike’s suspension takes them in stride without bothering the rider much. As of now, the SlingShot is equipped with drum brakes at both the ends, but it may come with a disc brake option in the near future. The SlingShot disappoints when it comes to fuel-efficiency. It returned 68 kilometres to a litre on the highway and 56 km within the city, which, compared to the rivals, does not warm the cockles of one’s heart. We are sure Suzuki will look into it and try to improve it in the future. Its price, though, is spot-on with the competition. The base spoke wheel SlingShot carries a tag of Rs 49,443 (OTR, Pune) and the alloy wheel version that of Rs 51,434 (OTR, Pune), which make it an interesting proposition.

VERDICT
In my opinion, the Shine scores very well when it comes to refinement and handling, but it does vibrate after crossing 60 km/h. But then one seldom sees that reading on the speedo in the city. The Super Splendor has not many vibrations at high speed and is equally good in handling and refinement, but the ride becomes boring after a while, lacking in the crucial fun factor. The SlingShot, on the other hand, is one machine that is much more fun to ride as compared with the Shine and the Super Splendor. It also has the potential to attract youngsters more than the other three. The Flame is equally sporty looking and has better performance figures than the rest. But this performance comes at the price of refinement, for the Flame is nowhere near the other bikes in respect of refinement.
Each of these four has its pros and cons and it depends entirely on the individual preferences of a person, on what one is looking for in particular. Once clear about that, the final decision is not difficult to arrive at.

Executive bling

Bunny Punia plays judge as Honda’s new Dazzler proves its point in front of the TVS Apache RTR RD and the Yamaha FZ16
Photography Sawan S Hembram

After years of criticizing the Japanese giant for its ignorance towards churning out an upgrade for the 150cc Unicorn, it seems Honda heard us, finally! The Unicorn was always a great product. In fact, it surpassed the expectations of the folks at Honda by doing great numbers on a continuous basis every month. But at the same time, it seemed to lack in a few essential areas, which kept most youngsters away from their showrooms. Better late than never as Honda seems to have taken feedback from prospective buyers as well as the automotive media in a positive manner in the form of the new CB Unicorn Dazzler. It’s sleeker, punchier, loaded with more features and seems all set to snip a major chunk of the market share in the premium 150cc segment. We decided to pit it against the TVS Apache RTR RD (rear disc) and the Yamaha FZ16, two of its direct rivals to see if this new Honda is dazzling enough to challenge and probably beat its competition. Let the sparks fly then…

DESIGN AND LOOKS

I hate to start a segmented review by picking out a winner instantly, but the FZ is so far ahead of its peers here that there is simply no doubt about the Yamaha’s fashionable good looks. Its naked street bike design inspired from its international 1000cc sibling, the FZ1, makes it one of most attractive deals on two wheels in India currently. The minimal front along with a beefy tank spells aggression while the 140mm section rear tyre along with the short and stubby exhaust add heavy doses of sportiness to the FZ’s design. Speak to any owner on the road and eight out of ten will acknowledge its looks as the main factor behind their purchase decision.

The RTR 160, on the other hand, is a pure track inspired tool in the way it looks. Running racing stripes, dual petal discs and rear set footpegs are some of the highlights of the bike’s design angles. We also particularly love the red stripe on the circumference of the alloy wheel, the sharp tank scoops and the small engine fairing. The RTR looks smashing in a quite a few colours including yellow.

The Dazzler doesn’t really set your heart racing when you see it for the first time. However, typical to lot of international Hondas like the Fireblade and the VFR1200, this one too takes time getting used to. Spend a few days with the bike and you will start loving the way it looks. No doubt it is aesthetically better than the Unicorn with changes like wider tyres, a rear disc, a semi digital console, huge floating tank scoops, et al. Worthy of a mention here is the rear half portion of the bike. It looks elevated and adds a touch of sportiness.

COMFORT AND ERGONOMICS
The Unicorn has already won many hearts with its superior monoshock rear suspension. There is simply no denying the fact that even the Dazzler scores supremely high here when it comes to comfort level. Though we would have preferred slightly rear set footpegs, the bike’s riding posture is spot on for the city. This combined with a perfectly well set-up suspension means that the bike soaks up undulations unlike the other two bikes. Honda is known for its smooth engines and this one too goes about performing its duties ably and without any vibrations or harshness. That said, above 5000rpm, there is a pronounced vibration from the knee recesses of the tank. While coming back from our shoot location, a good 65km from Pune, Ramnath and I also felt the Dazzler to be slightly uncomfortable for long stints.

We found ourselves fighting to get hold of the FZ’s keys. The Yamaha might have an upright seating posture, but the soft seat and a wide almost flat handlebar give you a comfortable riding stance even during long stints. The FZ also feels at home in city traffic, being super nimble and easy to manoeuvre through traffic. In fact, the riding posture pesters you into riding the bike in a spirited manner. However, the FZ’s monoshock rear cannot match up to the Dazzler’s, especially when the roads are anything less than smooth. The engine surprisingly remains quite smooth even at high revs while the vibrations are well damped and are hardly noticeable through the bars or the pegs.

This gets us to the third bike, the RTR. Sadly, its racetrack genes mean it is the least comfortable of the lot. In the city, the sporty riding posture puts a lot of weight onto your arms which can be a bother on a daily basis. Further, with a pillion, the RTR becomes quite a handful in congested start-stop traffic conditions. The suspension too is a huge departure from the monos of the other two bikes. Take the bike for a highway ride and the moment you cross 8000 revs, the presence of vibrations from the pegs is alarming.


 

 SUSPENSION AND HANDLING
Pune is blessed with some amazing set of roads with enough curves and short straights to push a new bike to its limits. While we knew the Dazzler would fare very well due to its suspension set-up and a shortened wheelbase as compared to the Unicorn, the FZ wasn’t far behind. Its flat handlebar, upright posture with an amazing grip from the MRFs meant it easily kept up with the Dazzler and even surpassed it on a few occasions. However, as soon as we encountered a few mid-corner bumps, the Dazzler showed its prowess – this is the still the bike to have if you want to scrape the pegs around bends no matter how smooth or undulated they are. The monoshock suspension easily swallows small bumps and potholes even with the bike leaned into a corner at extreme angles.

Meanwhile the FZ’s suspension feels great on smooth roads, but on anything other than that, its feels a little harsh and stiff. The RTR, with its suspension on the stiffer side, is a fantastic bike around the hills too but the competition is simply miles ahead. The RTR’s forward seating stance also means that within a few kilometres, your forearms start aching. However, with its extra punch and a fantastic midrange, you can outdo the Dazzler and the FZ around the bends easily – more on this later.

PERFORMANCE AND EFFICIENCY
If the Yamaha FZ16 is all about looks and the Honda CB Unicorn Dazzler is about engine refinement and a superior suspension, it’s the TVS Apache RTR that redefines performance in this segment. The way TVS boffins have managed to extract that extra power and punch from the 159.7cc engine is impressive. At 15.4PS of power, the RTR manages to smoke the other two bikes in all areas: a 5.04 second 0-60km/h dash, a 118.69km/h top speed and class beating roll-on figures.

It isn’t the torquiest of the lot but at 136kg, it has the best power-to-weight ratio. Ride this bike back-to-back with the other two and you can’t help but get a grin on your face each time. The RTR’s shortcoming in terms of handling is easily made up for by its extra performance. The icing on the cake comes in the form of its incredible fuel economy. What more can you expect from a bike that boasts of smoking performance?

Next up is the Dazzler. With more power and less weight than the Unicorn, we did expect an increase in performance. It manages to shed the 0-60km/h acceleration timing by over half a second, but most importantly registers an impressive top whack of 118km/h. The Dazzler’s engine is also tuned for a better top end as compared to the Unicorn. This is apparent by an extended redline and power and torque figures that are now generated at higher revs. While the Dazzler takes 5.45 seconds to 60km/h, just 0.06 seconds less than the FZ, the gap builds up as speeds increase. For instance, the Dazzler dismisses the quarter mile mark in 19.72 seconds, 0.68 seconds quicker than the FZ. What impresses further is the efficient nature of the engine. Even with this kind of incredible performance on tap, the Dazzler still manages to outdo the RTR by a huge margin when it comes to fuel economy.

The FZ sadly has to be content with the third spot here but just about. Even with a wide 140mm section rear tyre, it still manages to churn out some impressive numbers. However, at highway speeds, you easily feel the lack of power. Cruising at a 100 kays, the other two bikes have enough in reserve for overtaking fast moving vehicles, but the FZ struggles. A gush of opposite wind and a slight incline is all it takes to bog down the bike. That said, its roll-on figures are just a second or two off the RTR’s mark. However, the engine is not particularly efficient with an overall fuel economy of just 43.5kmpl. 

Verdict
So far, it seems that both the FZ and the Dazzler are neck and neck with the RTR following close behind. However, these bikes are mostly targeted towards the youth and enthusiasts in the 22-30 age bracket. Hence it goes without saying that pricing plays an important role. The RTR RD at Rs 69,782 is the least expensive of the lot. If you are looking for cheap thrills and performance is what you seek, read no further and head to the nearest TVS showroom. But it has its own little flaws. For instance, it isn’t very comfortable for long rides and with the engine spinning hard, vibrations can be bothersome. It is also overshadowed by the other two contenders when it comes to ease of riding in city traffic.

The FZ has secured itself a soft corner in our hearts for the way it looks and the way it rides. How we wish it had some extra punch (Yamaha, are you going to make us happy soon?) and a more efficient engine. What also goes in favour of the FZ are the additional variants on avail, the FZ-S and the Fazer, but of course for some extra dough. The FZ would have been as recommended a bike as the Dazzler if it had an equally appealing sticker price. At Rs 72,649, it is almost three grand more than the RTR RD and Rs 1500 more than the Dazzler. Add to it, the extra running cost over the years due to its lower fuel efficiency and suddenly our focus shifts to the new kid in town, the Dazzler.

For an additional Rs 4000 over the Unicorn, the extra goodies, features and performance you get in the Dazzler are simply put, worthwhile. It looks snazzier, comes with wider tyres, a rear disc and a semi-digital speedometer console. All this without losing out on the essential fuel economy part. It might not be the best looking or the one with the best performance, but like its sibling, the Unicorn, the Dazzler proves to be a perfect all-rounder, capable of playing various roles depending on a customer’s preference. Not really dazzling, but versatile and appealing enough to win this shootout by a whisker.

Who dares wins

They look smashing, perform brilliantly and make up the Indian performance biking segment. Bunny Punia rides the four bikes – the Bajaj Pulsar 220 DTS-i, the Hero Honda ZMR, the TVS Apache RTR 180 and the Yamaha YZF-R15 back-to-back and picks the one that justifies the performance tag completely
Photography Sanjay Raikar

The morning seemed unusual for this time of the year. The air was quite nippy and there was a layer of dew on the grass around the roads we were traversing. As we came up a crest, the view of the fog filled the valley in front of us and took our breath away. We stopped to soak in the scenery and switched off our bikes. Suddenly, there was complete silence around us. There was no traffic on the road and the rising sun was still hiding behind layers of clouds. It almost seemed eerie there and hence we decided to do what we do best – ride on!

Our machines for this morning included four of the quickest and most powerful locally manufactured motorcycles on sale in India. These bikes not only look good, they all perform (almost) equally well too. Needless to say, these models are on the wish list of every youngster today. Of the four, in the recent past, we have pitted three bikes against each other – the Bajaj Pulsar 220 DTS-I, the TVS Apache RTR 180 and the Yamaha YZF-R15. The newest (and the fourth) contender here comes in the form of the fuel injected 223cc Hero Honda ZMR. Are we in for a fierce battle for a performance champion then? Definitely.

The first and the most important feature that matters a lot for customers going in for any Indian performance bike today are its looks. Without a doubt, the little supersport offering from Yamaha easily walks away with the crown for being the best looking bike here. With design lines inspired from its bigger sibling the YZF-R1, the R15 looks gracefully sexy and utterly beautiful, no matter which angle you look at it from. The twin cat eyes type headlamps with in-built parking lamps dominates the front. The full fairing flows in nicely, exposing the engine a bit on either side. The black finished exhaust with a silver cap adds a sporty touch, though I personally think, the tail lamp could have been executed in a better way. On the move or while parked on the side stand, the R15 has the ability to turn heads like no other bike in its class. Some probable customers, however, wish the rear tyre was wider which brings me to the bike with the fattest rear here. The Pulsar 220 comes loaded with good bits and pieces to make it look like a muscular and mean bike. Wide tyres up front and at the rear, wide forks, a beefy looking exhaust, a half fairing with projector lamps, an all-black paint scheme to name a few are some of the visual features that Bajaj has incorporated on the biggest bike in the Pulsar stable. This does work wonders and the bike commands a good road presence. The TVS offering, on the other hand, can fool you into believing it is the smaller 160cc variant due to its similar design. However, changes like wider tyres, a stylish RTR font on the tank scoops and a superbike styled rear fender make it stand apart from its younger sibling. We specially like the model in white with golden finished forks and gas reservoir for the rear shock absorbers. You also can’t help but notice the beautiful looking petal discs – a first in this category of bikes in India. The newest entrant in this segment, the ZMR gets a major visual revamp as compared to the current Karizma. A full body fairing is the talking point here. We got our test bike in white and though the ZMR has massive road presence, not all of us appreciated its new appearance. This is one of those bikes whose looks can take time getting used to. There are exceptionally nice details like the LED rear tail lamp, the faired mounted rear view mirrors, golden finished forks and engine cover, the striking two-piece grab rail and the superb fit and finish levels of body panels. But why couldn’t Hero Honda give us a bike with headlamps inspired from Honda’s numerous twin light higher capacity bikes sold abroad?

The R15 – the place to be in if you love riding hard

The Pulsar 220 – the console looks good at night. So does the backlit switchgear

The RTR – racing strips add a sporty touch

Swinging a leg over the Hero Honda brings back familiar memories. The saddle is an inviting place to be in and the ergonomics are topnotch including the working of the fairing mounted rear view mirrors which serve their purpose very well. This bike does feel substantially big and tall. Heavy riders will prefer the way the ZMR makes you feel comfortable once astride it. What really grabs your attention is the fully digital speedometer console that has a display for various mandatory things including other features like speedometer, tachometer, odometers, two trip meters, fuel gauge, time, tell tale lights as well as a welcome and goodbye message which can be tailored by the rider to include his (or his girl’s) name in it. The bike’s sitting posture is comfortable with a touch of sportiness due to the new clip-on handlebars. In fact, the bike is so accommodating that I for one wouldn’t mind riding it for a cross-country run. The Karizma has always had a good suspension set-up with a bias towards comfort. With GRS equipped shock absorbers finding their way here too, the ride quality has only improved especially over bad roads. Push the bike hard around a set of twisties and the improvements in the suspension show their worth. The front tyre becomes a little wider and both tyres are now of the tubeless variety – thumbs up to Hero Honda for this. The handling of this bike can be best described as neutral. It doesn’t feel nervous when the rider pushes it hard, but at the same time, it cannot be ridden with the knee down in a manner as easy as say the Yamaha through corners. What this bike does best is cruise lazily on the highway, munching away miles at triple digit speeds and taking care of the occasional pothole or bump with utter ease. In city traffic, it is nimble, though the bike’s 159kg kerb weight makes its presence felt easily.

On the other hand the R15, true to its inherited genes, has a sporty riding stance. It begs you into crouching down at high speeds, to make full use of the aerodynamic fairing. And even while doing so, it doesn’t feel uncomfortable unless you are a very tall rider. The ergonomics are very good from a sport biking point of view. The seat is exceptionally comfortable for such a bike, the rear view mirrors give a good view of the traffic behind and the clocks look and perform well. Ride the R15 back-to-back with each of the other three bikes and you can go on and on talking about how different it feels. All the efforts that have been put in behind making this mini Yamaha seem to have paid off. This is the bike to own if you love corners. The R15 will happily teach noobs the art of cornering and at the same time, it will keep the experienced owner happy with its ability to make the rider touch down his knees when the tarmac and road conditions allow. On the highway, the bike excels with the only bother being the windblast hitting your chest until unless you crouch down indefinitely. The monoshock suspension is non-adjustable but surprisingly it works very well through a variety of road conditions. The rear holds well through mid-corner bumps as well as over bad roads while commuting in the city. Speaking of which, of the four, this bike loses out when it comes to negotiating rush hour traffic. Your wrists do take a beating in start-stop traffic, but if a fun city bike is what you desire, it is the RTR 180 that you need to look at.


 

Instant throttle response combined with nimble and agile handling gives the TVS the best characteristics for being a practical yet fun bike for city commuting. Its riding posture might not be to everyone’s liking as it is more on the sportier side. Unlike the ZMR and the R15, you also feel as if you are perched higher on the bike. The speedometer console looks terrific after the sun sets, although the seat feels like it is on the firmer side. This is also a bike that can handle a lot of high speed highway riding. Some of us appreciated the TVS for its ability to be a hoot around corners. It may not be as encouraging to push as the R15 but spend some time with the bike and you soon learn the art of leaning it around curves. You may also be surprised by its abilities to bring grinning from ear to ear moments from time to time. The suspension, however, could have been better we feel.

Jump onto the fourth bike here, the Bajaj Pulsar 220 and you will be surprised. Like the RTR, on this bike too you feel as if you are sitting too high. The seat feels firm and the ergonomics are biased towards sportiness. The console looks great and small features like the back light for the switchgear makes the rider feel that his money has been well spent. This bike too faces issues with the suspension. Lean in hard into a corner with bumps and you can easily feel the rear of the bike giving way. Ride the bike hard over bad roads and again the harsh suspension makes itself felt. This isn’t the best bike here for corners but hit the highways at high speeds and its reassuring solid feel is hard to match in this class. Credit for this goes to the bike’s wide forks and wide tyres as well as its long wheelbase. Inside the city, the 220 feels at home but the wide turning radius can be an issue in tight situations.

The engines on all these bikes are as different as chalk and cheese. The smallest of the four here is the R15 but size doesn’t always matter. It might sport a tiny 149.8cc mill but this one gets liquid cooling, four valves and a host of other technologies that make sure it performs like a much bigger engine. The maximum power output of 17PS might not be tyre shredding but when you have a bike that weighs just 136kg with a nicely worked six-speed gearbox, outright performance does turn out to be nice. A 0-60km/h timing of 4.95seconds and a 0-100km/h timing of 13.85seconds is praiseworthy for a 150cc bike. The beauty of the engine, however, comes alive once you get past the 6000rpm mark. It must be noted that the R15’s engine is imported into India and the level of engineering that has gone into the motor is tremendous. It begs to be revved hard – keep the rpm needle near the red zone and the R15 is hard to catch. The six-speed gearbox also helps when it comes to extracting a good top end. Given the road, the bike achieves a true whack of 130.2km/h. The only downside I see here is the lack of low end punch. This is reflected in the roll-on timings too with the bike being the slowest in the 30-70km/h run in the third and fourth cogs.

The next biggest engine comes fitted on the RTR. The 177.4cc mill is derived from the younger RTR 160 and traces its roots back to the days of the old Apache 150. In this form, it develops 17.3PS of power along with 15.5Nm of torque – almost identical to what the R15 manages. However true to the saying ‘there is no replacement for displacement’, the RTR performs very well managing to fly past the 60km/h mark in under 4.7seconds and taking just 13.2seconds for the 0-100km/h sprint. This bike also boasts a strong midrange that is reflected in its best in class roll-on timings. The only grouse I have with this TVS is the level of vibrations that creep in via the handlebars and the footpegs when you give it the stick. The five-speed gearbox could also do with a better (smoother) gearshift.

The Pulsar 220 has always been the performance king of small capacity bikes in India. With the new carb variant, its power went up to a claimed 21.04PS with 19.12Nm of torque. It does weigh more than the previous two bikes discussed above, but nevertheless, performs impressively when the right wrist is wringed. With a 0-100km/h timing of 13.1seconds, this bike remains the quickest accelerating motorcycle in India. It also registers a good top whack of a genuine 132.5km/h or 140+ on its digital speedometer. The punchy low and midrange reflect in the roll-on figures which are second only to the RTR. This is due to its maximum torque coming at 7000rpm – the highest here. Vibrations and harshness are well controlled on this bike, being significantly noticeable only when you cross the 6500-7000rpm mark.

The ZMR has the same 223cc motor like the original Karizma. It now gets Honda’s well known PGM-Fi unit and along with other minor changes, the maximum power jumps slightly to 17.84PS at a low 7000rpm. The torque, however, remains the same at 18.35Nm. This engine has always been appreciated for its fuss-free nature as well as punchy midrange and this version only betters it. The throttle response is very good without being jerky and the motor feels eager to build up speeds. The speedometer is the most accurate here with no error whatsoever. So while your friends on the other three bikes might end up flaunting videos of themselves doing 130km/h or more on the speedometer, the ZMR will top out at a true 127km/h with a similar display on the console too. The bike’s acceleration has improved but only marginally. This was expected as the kerb weight has been pushed to a porky 159kg. Hero Honda isn’t boasting about any figures in their promotions either. For the record, we managed a 4.7second 0-60km/h dash and a 13.8second 0-100km/h sprint. But this bike has never been about out and out performance. The Karizma has earned a reputation for being a tourer’s delight and this one takes this appreciation to a new level. The bike will happily do Delhi to Mumbai or Chennai to Vizag high speed runs with ease. One thing I noticed was the bike’s increased vibrations at high revs – we reckon this is probably due to improper tightening of engine mountings.

All bikes here fare decently in fuel efficiency runs and there isn’t much of a difference. Yes, the R15 is made for a purpose and hence you do lose out a bit on the efficiency front. The ZMR with added benefits of the FI and a softly tuned engine turns out to be most efficient here.

Downtown Sprinters

We find out which is the best alternative to make light work of your daily commute
Story: Mihir Gadre
Photography: Sanjay Raikar

 

An ideal commuter vehicle is the one that will get you to work and more importantly, back from work fresh as a daisy and that too in a couple of minutes, tops. So that makes a helicopter the most ideal commuter. But most of us are either not rich enough to buy one or not important enough for the government to give us one. Sadly, we have to look at other alternatives that can tackle the ever growing congestion, somehow avoid the smashing (as in actually smashing into other vehicles) public transport system and the grossly expensive taxis/rickshaws. Now it’s a proven fact that apart from things that can fly, two-wheelers are the fastest and the most convenient mode of transport for city commutes. But it’s not that simple. You see, there are around a hundred different two-wheelers available in the market belonging to two distinct categories, namely automatic scooters and manual motorcycles. In a bid to find out the most commutable commuter, we pit the most commuter focused machines from the two categories against each another.

We chose the Zeus and the Access for this shootout because both of them are made by the same manufacturer, i.e. Suzuki. Their pricing too is similar, with the Access retailing at Rs 48,295 while the Zeus, slightly expensive at Rs 51,698 (both prices, OTR-Pune). Both the Suzukis are conservatively styled, extremely well built, have nice comfy perches for the pillion and are slightly more utilitarian compared to their competitors. We even insisted on a drum brake equipped Zeus so that the equipment levels on the two remained similar. Both their engines have a similar cubic capacity and are nicely refined motors with lack of any vibrations even at the top of their rev range. The Zeus’ engine develops its peak torque at just 3500rpm which makes it absolutely effortless to pilot around town. Yours truly was even able to roll off from standstill easily in fifth gear! However, the bike does run out of breath in the upper reaches of the rev band. The Access’ mill feels even more refined than the Zeus’. It has great shove off the line and unlike the Zeus doesn’t lose its gusto even as the revs climb, in spite of the fact that on paper, the scooter is down on power as well as torque compared to the bike.

The pillion gets a wide, comfy seat and doesn’t have to bear the hassle of carrying the shopping bags, thanks to the scoot’s huge underseat storage

The Zeus gets one of the slickest five-speed ‘boxes in the market with the engine in the middle freeing up space for bigger tyres and suspension

That brings us to the first major difference between these two, i.e. the transmission. The Access’ variomatic transmission is able to harness the engine’s power much better than the Zeus’ manual ‘box, however slick and precise the latter may be. The Access is quick off the line and able to poke its nose into the smallest of gaps in traffic. The Zeus’s gearbox employs very tall ratios, especially for the higher cogs, which means that you end up doing most of the commuting in the third and fourth cogs and hardly ever get a chance to shift up to fifth in the city. This hurts the Zeus in the fuel efficiency stakes. A hyper miler, who likes to chug along everywhere at 40km/h in fifth with hardly ever letting the rev needle cross the 4000rpm mark, might be able to extract 65kmpl from the Zeus. But if you ride smoothly and just fast enough to not let the daily commute get boring (like I do), the Zeus’ efficiency does drop sharply to just 50-52kmpl. However, if you try the same hyper miling technique on the Access, going easy on the throttle right from standstill, you will be spending most of your time below the economy band which is usually above 30km/h and the fuel efficiency will actually drop. The variomatic transmissions are better suited to real world riding where you wring the throttle until you reach the speed you want to travel at and then ease it off a little to maintain your speed, i. e. travel like normal people. I used the Access as my long termer for over a month and it returned a fantastic 46.4kmpl, no kidding.

The second big difference between the two is their respective body shape. The Access, being a scooter, gets a big front apron that will protect you from the sprays during the rainy season, a nice flat floorboard that can hold a variety of things like an LPG cylinder that your mom needs immediately, a 15kg pile of newspapers that needs to be taken to the recycler’s or your dog who needs to be taken to the vet. Now try doing that on the Zeus. The scoot even gets a hook to, er, hook your shopping bags. The lockable under-seat storage of the Access is big enough to fit a small helmet or sun coats, scarves and what not in case of the fairer sex. In fact, the scooter is nothing but an iteration of two wheeled transportation that was made just for these specific reasons. The Access appeals to the whole family and everyone can ride it including you, your wife, your mom or even the 16-year-old teenager in the house who is allowed by the weird laws of our land, to ride a 125cc scooter that is easily capable of 90km/h but not a less powerful 100cc motorcycle.

But along with these advantages, the scooter’s shape also has its set of disadvantages. Due to smaller wheels and forks, a scooter like the Access can never be able to match the dynamics of the Zeus. The bike gets bigger wheels, longer suspension and better weight distribution. So even though the bike loses ground to the scooter in the practicality department, it is able to claw its way back into contention in the others.

The Access is a big improvement over the previous generation scooters as it gets telescopic front forks and 3.0 section tyres at both the ends. In terms of ride quality, it is a definite improvement over the Activa, against which it was benchmarked. The Zeus, on the other hand, has completely average road manners. It has an upright stance, with a short wheelbase and is softly sprung which makes it extremely easy to maneuver around town. It soaks up all the bumps but is not good at corner carving compared to most of its rivals like the Yamaha Gladiator. Even with all those commuter oriented traits of the Zeus, the scooter doesn’t even come close to the bike in terms of dynamics. The Access has a tendency to lock up its tyres vey easily under braking and safety in the rains is a big concern for the scooter compared to the bike. All this also makes the Zeus a better bet for weekend getaways.

There is ample space for shopping bags on the flat floor board and the underseat storage compartment

The scoot is a perfect companion for weekly trips to the market

Verdict
The Zeus is perhaps the easiest bike for negotiating heavy traffic conditions and one of the most effortless commuters in the country. But get aboard the Access and even the Zeus seems like a hassle to ride. A lot of research and development has taken place in automatic transmissions. They no longer impose a heavy penalty in the fuel efficiency stakes. In fact, there isn’t much of a difference in real world fuel efficiency of the two vehicles. The difference of 5kmpl, in this case, translates to a difference of just over a thousand bucks over 10,000km which means that the scooter will actually be cheaper till the 30,000km mark owing to the price difference of around Rs 3000. No wonder then that the gearless scooter segment which had dwindled down to almost extinction has resurrected itself and continues to grow in spite of the recession. The Access has become very popular. It has a waiting period of three to four weeks in spite of Suzuki churning out 9000 units every month. The Zeus, in contrast, hasn’t been able to garner any popularity – evident from its paltry 3 percent market share in the 125cc segment. The verdict is clear, within the city, the scooter wins against the motorcycle.

World Exclusive -rsv4-v-the-rest!

Aprilia’s WSB bike with a tax disc takes on all 2009 test winners to find the UK’s ultimate sports machine By Adam Child

 

Our UK introduction to the RSV4 Factory is typically British: rain, wind and cold. With 320km up the A1 and M62 to Heysham for the ferry ahead of us, I’m chomping at the bit to get on the new Aprilia despite having already ridden 90 miles to the office on my R1.

The immediate impression is of its supermodel looks, closely followed by its physical dimensions – the RSV4 Factory is tiny, almost 600-like. Even for me, at 5’7”, it feels small.

On board, the pegs are high, the seat firm and there’s very little suspension travel; however, after 130km of the A1 I’m not complaining – it’s not that bad.

Yeah, the screen is low and taller riders may have a problem but it is, after all, a sports bike and not a Goldwing. Even the mirrors are just about acceptable, while the multi-functional clocks are the best in their class – like most Aprilias there’s a mode button on the left-hand bar which lets you scroll through them.

In fact, nobody really complains about its comfort – the small tank range of just over 160km being the only real criticism. That said, over long distance all the others are better, even the 675.

By comparison the RC8R is a sofa – its pegs are low, the screen is acceptable, its mirrors are good and even the seat is plush for a sports bike; as fellow tester Kev Smith put it: ‘I could ride this all day’. Shame the clocks are poor and it’s a little vibey compared to the rest.

By the M62, with the Steam Packet ferry not too far away, I’m back on the R1. Having done 4800km in the last month, I know how good it is for covering distance. The fairing is wide at the front and offers good wind protection, the mirrors are fine and the engine is hardly working at 160km/h and 7000rpm.

KTM is the cool, comfort king

To my surprise I’m wishing I was on the 675. During MCN’s 600 group test earlier this year it was the bike everyone fought to ride for long journeys, and even in this company it excels – only the RC8R gets more comfort votes.

OK, so the 675’s motor is revving higher, but there is little or no vibration – unlike the RC8R. Later on I do a 320km stint on the Triumph two-up with a tankbag fitted and it’s fine. The 675 could well be the dark horse here.

Despite the cold weather, we’re like excitable children hopped up on Ribena as we ride onto the famous ferry, and even more excitable riding off. This is it: the toughest road test environment in the world – and it doesn’t start well for the KTM.


 

We head up to the top of Bray Hill for a gentle lap to let the Isle of Man virgins savour their first Mountain experience and the RC8R stalls twice at the lights at the top near the petrol station. The fuelling at low revs is far from perfect – it’s really snatchy, and every one of us stalls it at some stage. As such, Ramsey Hairpin and Parliament Square is a pain on the RC8 in the busy traffic.

RC8R is best on smoother sections

Respect to the King of the Mountain

For all you TT visitors, be warned – speed camera and CCTV live here

Yet again it’s the Triumph which surprises – I’d forgotten just what a great bike it is. Perfect fuelling, easy and light around town and simple to ride, yet with such proven sporting potential. The next day our brave pillion Frankie – who had never ridden anything bigger than a 400 – takes the Triumph for a spin and can’t believe how smooth and easy it is to ride.

Though she draws the line at trying the R1, she would have had no problem. Considering how much bhp there is available to your right wrist, it’s a pussycat around town. At low speeds the riding position forces a lot of weight on your wrists and when the ambient air temperatute is high the frame and engine give off tremendous heat. But those are our only real complaints.

RSV4 lacks the R1’s reactions
In previous tests we’ve had fuelling issues with RSV4 Factorys at low speeds, but this bike was fine. The fuelling isn’t as slick as the Triumph’s or R1’s but it feels far better than the KTM.

However, when we take it over the Mountain part of the circuit later on we discover there’s a noticeable glitch in the power curve higher up in the rev range. At 6500rpm it seems hesitant, then it takes off and at 10,000rpm it goes beserk – it makes the Aprilia feel aggressive and hard to ride compared to the others. There also appears to be a slight hesitation when you wind on full throttle, as if the fly-by-wire system takes too long to react to the throttle position (Aprilia is investigating). But once you unleash the V4, boy does it want to party.

ISLE OF MAN
Every motorcyclist should do the Isle of Man at least once

If you’ve never been to the Isle of Man you are missing one of the greatest motorcycling experiences anywhere on the planet.

The island is a motorcycling paradise, both on and off road, at any time of year with the only unrestricted roads in the UK. But during TT fortnight it’s much more. Not only do the road racing gods take over, there’s also masses of activity and entertainment – from stunt shows to classic jamborees – to suit every taste. There’s nothing else like it for any motorcycle racing fan and there’s even still time to get there to make your pilgrimage this year… Go to www.iomtt.com

 

Flying over the Mountain, tucked into the bike like I’m on a 250, it gives me one of those moments I’ll remember forever – the V4 singing its intoxicating tune, 240km/h on the clocks, fenceposts passing sideways in a blur and the TT course unwinding ahead of me.

The R1 and KTM aren’t far behind – in fact in terms of outright speed there’s very little in it – but the Aprilia feels the quickest. Its aggression, tiny dimensions and firm set-up give it a phenomenal sensation of speed. The Ohlins multi-adjustable steering damper controlling the odd shake from the bars over bumps just adds to the pure racing feel. As we found out later the RSV4 Factory is actually significantly quicker than its rivals, clocking a mind-bending 303km/h – 10km/h faster than the R1 and nearly 50km/h more than the 675!

This is where the 675 suffers
When the going gets this fast, the Triumph obviously suffers. It’s quick, but on the run up to Hailwoods Rise after the tram lines the poor 675 just can’t keep up with the brutally fast litre bikes. I thrash it mercilessly, and its blue change-up gear indicator lights seem to flash constantly, but there’s no hope: the others just pull away up the hill.

But it’s not all about outright speed. On the fast run down from Kate’s Cottage to Creg-Ny-Baa you need some serious brakes and a quality suspension set-up to get around the lovely right-hander quickly. The Triumph’s lightness is its advantage here, easily matching the bigger bikes for cornering speed.


 

All the bikes here are good on the brakes, but the Brembo radial set-up on the Aprilia is simply outstanding. These are race bike quality brakes. The KTM’s Brembos are powerful too, but the combination of grippy Diablo Supercorsa tyres and

factory-feeling Ohlins forks mean the Aprilia gives the most confidence under hard braking.

 

TT RACER’S ROAD VERDICT
Up-and-coming road racer Connor Cummins is among the hot favourites for a podium at this year’s TT. The 23-year-old from Ramsey is the fastest Manxman around the island and this year is racing for the McAdoo Kawasaki team who’ve had great success on the roads previously. Here are his impressions of the four bikes:

TRIUMPH 675 DAYTONA
“I’m really impressed. It’s not like any other 600 I’ve ridden; it’s really soft at the bottom, not sharp and aggressive, then just loves to rev, you can play with the over-rev. It handles well, too; I’m really surprised how good it is. For a small bike it’s not uncomfortable either, it’s actually good even for someone as big as me.”

YAMAHA R1
“It’s just awesome isn’t it? I race one in British Superstock so I know how good they are. The engine is amazing, – so smooth – it makes its power so precisely and it really uses the tyres well – we’ve noticed how much tyre is left even after a long Superstock race. The brakes are great, so is the handling. The standard settings are a bit soft, but that can be sorted and I know it’s not the best looking, but who cares when it’s this good?”

APRILIA RSV4 FACTORY
“Wow! That’s awesome. I didn’t think it would be that good. It’s the first time I’ve ridden a V4 and boy it has some grunt – it just wants to take off! The mid-range has a nice feel to it, it’s really impressive. When I first looked at it I thought it would be way too small for me at 6’4” but it’s not that bad. It’s aggressive, handles like a race bike and looks gorgeous. But how much did you say it was again?”

KTM RC8R
“It feels like a comfortable sofa compared to the others – the bars are high and the pegs are low. You get going and you’re easily above a ton and above – it really feels quick. The V-twin engine has some real kick, too; I didn’t think it would be that quick. It’s easy to ride and would be perfect for someone who isn’t that quick or skilled but wants to ride fast. I’d have one. It’s fun, quick and easy-going.”

CONNOR’S VERDICT – IF HE HAD TO RACE ONE AT THE TT:

1ST Yamaha R1

2nd Aprilia RSV4 Factory

3rd Triumph 675 Daytona
4th KTM RC8R

“The Yamaha is easier to ride than the Aprilia, a little quicker, stable and would save its tyres. The Triumph would be so much fun around the TT course however. The KTM is still a great bike, it’s just that the others are that bit more fun.”

CONNOR’S VERDICT – IF HE HAD TO BUY ONE:

1st Yamaha

2nd Triumph

3rd Aprilia

4th KTM

“I’d still fork out that little extra and buy the Yamaha, but not the Aprilia. It’s too expensive, even though it is really good. The Triumph is a bargain.”

The RSV4 Factory also scores highly on the turn-in to corners. Again, it’s like a race bike in the way it flicks aggressively onto its side. The testers who haven’t raced lately take a while to get used to it, and the Aprilia makes the 675’s steering feel beautifully natural – it also makes the KTM feel long and lazy. The Yamaha turns fast, but after the twitchy Italian it feels planted.

As our confidence rises and speeds pick up, limits are approached – mostly ours, but also those of the Yamaha’s tyres. Why did Yamaha choose only average rubber for its flagship sports bike? The standard Dunlops aren’t as good as the Pirelli Supercorsas fitted to the other three bikes and if you push hard it’s noticeable – both Kev and I have front- end slides at the Gooseneck. The Dunlops are fine once warm – and 95% of the time you won’t have a problem – but such an amazing bike deserves equally amazing tyres. Grumble over.

Yamaha’s ideal road-focus
The R1 is set-up slightly softer than the Aprilia out of the dealership and this is a good thing – it was far more comfortable and easier to ride most of the time, and fine in the wet. But when we really pushed, the rear would squat under power and would give a little wallow. With time you can tweak this out to make the R1 a formidable track tool, but out of the crate the R1 is significantly more road-focused than the Aprilia.

At the end of the day there’s excited chatter about the outrageous performance of the litre-bikes. On the Isle of Man’s unrestricted roads they are truly astonishing, and it’s humbling to think how hard TT racers ride them. We went fast, but still felt as though we had only scraped the surface of the bikes’ potential.

The surprise is that instead of feeling short-changed by the Triumph because of its lower power and more ‘ordinary’ performance, we all end up raving about it. Its ease of use and screaming engine make it a joy to thrash, and it’s far less intimidating than the others. Howling across the mountain I feel like I’m really riding the 675, bouncing the gutsy triple off the rev limiter in fourth and fifth. The others are all so ‘oh-my-god’ quick that, frankly, I’m slightly scared by them.

When we get to the ferry for the return trip, the arguments are still raging. By this stage no-one is fighting the RC8’s corner – in isolation it’s a great bike, but it’s out-gunned in this company. The RSV4 Factory has won over our hearts and minds with its race-focussed aggression, and the R1 is possibly the most phenomenally-competent sports bike yet devised, but to everyone’s surprise the 675 is still there – a middleweight slugging it out with heavyweights.

We roll off the ferry and head home still undecided. Plenty of motorway time to ponder this one…

PILLION VIEW
Frankie Lister, 26, is the proud owner of a Honda NC30 and MCN’s brave pillion for this test.

TRIUMPH DAYTONA 675
“The Triumph is the best by some way. As a pillion on a sports bike, comfort is nice but a secure seated position is an essential – the Triumph has both. The peg position and the height of the pillion pad relative to the rider and the tank combine to give a safe feeling through fast corners and comfort for the motorway.”

YAMAHA R1
“The peg position and the pillion pad are fine, the problem is the exhausts which push your legs right out leaving the pillion with sore knees and an insecure seating position. A change of exhausts does alleviate this problem, making it a reasonable albeit not particularly comfortable ride.”

KTM RC8R
“The pillion seat is very high on the RC8R, making you feel very insecure under hard braking and fast cornering. The KTM is also the only bike that had peg vibration.”

APRILIA RSV4 FACTORY
“The RSV4 has a quintessential sports bike position with your knees tucked and a fairly high seat. It is, however, not a terrible pillion option if you are used to sports bikes, just don’t swap from a Goldwing to one!”

AND TESTER SAYS…
“Considering the Triumph’s racing potential it’s not bad two-up, but its lack of power when compared to the competition is really noticeable when two-up and riding hard over the Mountain course.

“The Aprilia wasn’t half bad, but its vicious power delivery makes it very flighty. It might be painful for the pillion but a light pillion doesn’t really affect the R1. It’s a similar situation with the KTM, but that is a nightmare for the pillion, bordering on dangerous at high speeds.

 


IT’S THE RSV4 WE WANT MOST, YET IT DOESN’T WIN THE DAY…’
This is difficult, so let’s start with the easiest bit. The KTM is outclassed here, despite having the most powerful V-twin engine ever bolted into a road-going bike and being absurdly comfy for something so competent on track.

 

Yes, it’s dripping with quality components from the likes of Brembo, WP, and Marchesini but at Rs 11.7 lakh it’s seriously pricey, too. So if you want a V-twin that’s comfortable, easy to ride (apart from that fuelling glitch) and live with, but can still cut it on track, you’re not going to be disappointed with the RC8. If you want the best sports bike full stop, read on.

In many ways the Aprilia is the one we want most. For me, it’s head and shoulders above the others on looks, and the multi-adjustable chassis and engine just add to its exotic allure. If you were lucky enough to have one of these in your shed there’s a good chance you’d spend more time in there than in the house.

Then there’s the distinctive, howling V4 engine itself which goes berserk at 10,000rpm. If the looks fail to get your heart racing, that certainly will. The fact that it handles like a race bike on the road is a less clear advantage. It adds excitement, but does become wearing. And how much?! At Rs 11.7 lakh you have to look at it as a cheap Ducati Desmosedici rather than a competitor to standard sports bikes.

When pushed, none of our testers could say they’d actually spend their own money on an RSV4 Factory.

And so to the R1. Its standard tyres and looks are a disappointment, but those are the only negatives. Though nowhere near as exotic as the Aprilia, its mixture of astonishing performance and ability as everyday transport makes it incredibly appealing to those of us who can only justify owning one bike. The R1 came so, so close to winning this test.

But it didn’t. While the litre bikes were bludgeoning our brains out with their ludicrous amounts of power, the Triumph Daytona 675 charmed us with its mix of real-world ability, brilliant chassis, characterful engine and slick looks. It’s reasonably comfortable – you can tour with luggage two-up if needed – and it’s easy to ride. Yet at the same time it’s fun, exciting and can easily cut it on track. It only lagged behind the others when speeds passed the 210 km/h mark, but in reality how many times does this happen in your average month?

You could argue there’s not the pride of ownership you’d get from the KTM or Aprilia, and you certainly won’t have flocks of people around it like seagulls on spilled chips. But the Triumph is just over half the price of the RSV4 Factory, and was the bike that our testers would actually buy. In that regard it’s a deserving victor and so takes the title of MCN sports bike of the year.