In a bid to find the best 100cc commuter bike in the market, BIKE India takes these puny performers on a 350km trip
Words Bunny Punia
Photography Sanjay Raikar


When was the last time we had a discussion about 100cc motorcycles? The fact is that these puny little machines are mass segment bikes and make up for more than half the two-wheelers sold in India today. While bigger capacity machines and Indian performance bikes are generally the talk of automotive forums and the letters that we get from our readers, it struck us that we seem to have forgotten this interesting segment of two-wheelers. Flipping through older issues, the last time we pitted 100cc bikes against each other was way back in 2006! A weekend was coming up and what better (and adventurous) way to spend it than on commuter bikes that are at times used to ferry a whole family from one village to another in a hundred milliliters of petrol! This was also the first time we were heading for an overnight road trip on small capacity machines. This could be fun. Was it? Read on…

Our aim was to take a 100cc bike each from every motorcycle manufacturer. Honda, Royal Enfield and Suzuki don’t have a 100cc yet and hence it all boiled down to the Platina from Bajaj, the CD Dawn from Hero Honda, the Star Sport from TVS and lastly the Crux from Yamaha. The Platina and the Star Sport have a bikini fairing while the other two make do with simple road headlamps. The plan was pretty straight forward: ride to Diveagar (a small town on the west coast) through the Tahmini ghats and back to Pune. A round trip of around 350km would not only give us ample time to judge the bikes, but also prove to be a good break from our usual daily grind. The numerous hill sections along this route meant that we would have to rev these small engines hard till the valves popped out and then upshift to make progress. The riders, apart from yours truly, were Ramnath, Varun and Sawan. Monica took over behind the wheel of our backup car while Sanjay was busy with his lens. We finished work early and left the BI office by 4 pm. About 20km
from the office at our first meeting point, Chandni Chowk, each of the riders seemed to have apprehensions about continuing with the journey. Yes, it seemed we have been spoiled lately by the slew of larger capacity Indian bikes. Nonetheless, there was a task at hand and we decided to continue towards Mulshi lake. The traffic had eased up and we decided to stick to 55-60km/h as all the bikes were relatively brand new.

I had chosen to ride the Platina first and it surprised me its comfortable setup. The wide seat is well padded providing a comfy place to pile on the miles. However, being a tad too soft, the padding can give in quickly if you are a heavy rider (like me) making your bum sore within half an hour. The Platina has always been a great value buy and won our 100cc shootout way back in 2006. It also feels the classiest of the lot. The bike’s fairing, a good use of stickers with the silver colour, the alloy wheels, an all-black exhaust, etc., add up to the Platina’s overall good looks. The engine is quite smooth though it has the characteristic metallic sound that is now quite common on most Bajaj bikes. Being the most powerful and torquiest of the lot here, the Platina is always eager to jump ahead in traffic and its throttle response is good for a bike in this class. Leading the group, I decided to increase the cruising speeds to 70-75km/h and surprisingly the Platina didn’t feel strained at all.

We took a small break once the hill section began. Trading in the Platina for the CD Dawn came as a huge surprise. While the former feels substantial, the Hero Honda is certainly diminutive. Sitting upright with the helmet on, I couldn’t even see the handle bars or the speedometer console. The saddle is harder and so is the suspension with respect to the Bajaj. However, we were riding on bad roads and it didn’t take long for me to realize why the CD Dawn does so well in rural markets. Even with a family of four on board, this 100cc workhorse takes all the battering that owners subject it to without a complaint. The CD Dawn is probably as basic as it gets when it comes to looks, but from practicality point of view, it scores very high. The bike feels very spirited courtesy the short initial three gears and is a boon in rush hour traffic. Since we were riding on deserted twisty roads and going beyond 65-70km/h, the Dawn felt a tad underpowered.

Who gets to drive in the luxury of our back up car?

Holy ‘Moo’ly! Sanjay finds some cow comfort

Platina: How could Bunny resist sliding the little Bajaj?

Cd dawn: Sawan takes the most reliable bike here a little too close to the water

Throughout our trip, we were lucky enough to not have the rains spoil our fun. Stopping for another photo-op near the lake, surprisingly different viewpoints regarding our steeds were discussed among the riders. I was eager to get onto the third bike, the TVS Star Sport. Oh boy, was I blown away! This bike is spot-on whether it is the seating posture, the firm yet comfortable suspension or the quality of the parts. In my opinion, the Star Sport matches the Platina when it comes to appearance. The TVS is a smart looker without being overly flashy. It also handled beautifully over broken tarmac with the only grouse being the bike’s thin and hard compound rear tyre that played spoilsport. The Star Sport might not be the fastest of the lot, but over bad roads and around twisties, it was probably the best performer amongst the quartet.

We exited the ghats and headed towards Mangaon on the Mumbai-Goa highway to halt for the night. However, once we discovered that we were getting good and reasonably priced accommodation at Diveagar beach, we decided to go ahead with a night ride approximately another 50odd km to our new destination. The Crux would be my companion now. The roads from here on were very nice and smooth even over the several ghat sections. The Yamaha is the lightest of the lot but it doesn’t impart this feeling while riding. In fact, it feels quite substantial for a 100cc bike. The engine is soft although the gearbox is clunky. The Crux gave me a tough time locating the neutral (between the first and second gears – the only bike here to have a universal shift pattern). It has the largest capacity motor (106cc) and the tall ratios meant that I could stick around the 75km/h mark with ease on straights. Around corners, the Crux does feel a little nervous and not as assuring as say the TVS. We reached Diveagar by 9 pm and headed to MTDC’s resort that is located right on the beach. Two cottages for 3500 bucks seemed like an excellent deal but the ordeal of the air-con in the room not working after 2 am and a million insects was a different story all together. Add to that, the discourteous behavior of the staff and we would not recommend this resort to our readers. Serious discussions over vodka and whisky lasted late into the night and I was looking forward to another day of riding to decide the winner of this shootout.

Blame it on tiredness or sleeping at dawn, but it was only by 10 am that we dragged ourselves out of bed. The beach was just a hundred meters away and we decided to head to the coastline before searching for a good place to have breakfast. Lightweight and thin tyres translated to us having pure fun playing with the bikes on the sand. Small wheelies, long slides or simply riding in the water saw us spending almost two hours on the beach. It was almost noon when we stopped for brunch. I kept switching between the four bikes from time to time on the return journey in order to clear out a few confusions. The harsh sun was nearly killing us and we wanted to reach home ASAP. The four bikes were now given the stick in contrast to the so far restricted 80km/h mark. At a newly discovered kilometer long tarmac stretch closed to regular traffic, the Yamaha Crux even went on to kiss the magical 100km/h reading on the speedometer with featherweight Varun on board. All of us rode in a convoy back to Pune where we regrouped for the last time at Chandni Chowk. Before announcing the winner of our 100cc comparo, let’s recap a bit:

The aim of this shootout cum adventurous travelogue was to see which 100cc bike offers the best bang for your buck. The difference between the cheapest and the most expensive motorcycle here is Rs 2,000. The CD Dawn offers the best value deal. It’s surprising to see a Hero Honda selling for the least amount of money. The Crux seems to chug along well for Yamaha as the next cheapest bike from the Japanese stable retails for an additional Rs 6,500. However, the 100cc Yam is like a jack of all trades but the master of none. It all boils down to the Bajaj Platina and the TVS Star Sport. Way back in 2006, the Platina was Rs 641 cheaper than the TVS. Today however, the difference is just a few bucks. The Platina’s only serious grouse remains its light front end whereas the TVS’ sole disadvantage is its inefficiency to run on the highways for long. The Bajaj has a fuel gauge whereas the TVS has the longest tank range here. Anyway you look at it, buyers will be more than happy with either of the two bikes. This shootout turned out to be tougher than expected and we have a rare case of having a joint winner.


Tour de force

Rohit Paradkar leads the R15, Pulsar 220 and the Karizma into a battle for sport touring supremacy
Photography: Eshan Shetty

For every genuine biker, it’s the journey that counts more than the destination. Spice the journey up with a race against time, a whole lot of sport riding, higher average speeds, hundreds of kilometers and voila! you have a new riding philosophy of sport touring. After a busy work week, everyone is looking for a reason to break free on the weekend.

For bikers, this freedom comes in the form of riding for various motives – the road, the destination, work, leisure or just a plain craving to ride with buddies! For us though, it was our longing for some authentic sea food and we were eagerly waiting for an opportunity to raid the Konkan strip. The opportunity came in the form of continued queries from our readers asking us if the R15 was a potent sport touring machine. It gave us a reason to convince our Editors for this shootout and at the same time, achieve our ulterior ‘foodie’ motive.

Five of us chose to ride on the trip – our new entrant, Mihir, BI website workaholics Gauri and Pradeb, me and our young friend and guest photographer, Eshan Shetty. Our first challenge for the trip came while choosing the right kind of bags for our sport touring. The saddle bags were reluctant to go onto either of the bikes as the exhausts were burning the cordura material in no time. Tank bags hence became the obvious choice. But since we had only one of them with us, Pradeb had to continue with the saddle bag while Gauri and Mihir opted for backpacks. Since I was to start off with the Karizma first, the tank bag joined me. The large metal tank had absolutely no problems mounting it on. Pradeb took a while getting the saddle bag onto the Pulsar 220 since it hardly had any hooks, notches, slits or conventional grab rails to use the bag’s tie-downs. He somehow managed to get it saddled onto the rear seat after more than half an hour of struggling around. With the bags in place, we finally set off at 5.30 am.

Our itinerary was simple, take the Tamhini ghat route to reach NH17, eat, enter Roha, proceed to Kashid, eat, relax on the beach, eat some more, go to Pen, proceed to NH4, reach Lonavla, eat, reach Chandni Chowk, sip on a couple of cold coffee mugs and then disperse. Following the same, we started riding towards Tamhini. By the time we reached the foothills of the ghats, Pradeb, who was sweeping, had disappeared. On calling him up he told that us that it wasn’t only him who was ‘sweeping’; his saddle bag had already come off and was sweeping the road surface. He was fortunate that it didn’t get entangled in the rear wheel. After about 20 minutes he joined us again, this time with the saddle bag affixed more firmly.

The radiator may need some protection since pebbles may hit the unit and lead to leaks. Liquid cooling, however, is a boon against overheating

The rear footpegs are high and can be uncomfortable. However, the peg frame can come in handy while attaching saddle bag

The 35W bulbs are insufficient inspite of the two headlight units. The mirror mounts are long and offer good visibility even with a pillion

By now the sun had risen and that meant we had a clearer view of the ghat section. Being a sport rider at heart, I immediately whacked the throttle when the ghats began. But the excitement was cut short. The Karizma’s suspension by default was set to the softest and the bike was carrying the load to two hefty people and generous amount of luggage – making the rear end bottom out every time I threw it into a corner. However, the torquey engine ensured that I could effortlessly climb the ghats with minimal gear shifts. The 220 and R15 were on my tail all along, watching the Karizma’s rear end bounce around like a rapper’s hand gestures. After a couple of kilometers into the ghats, we pulled over near the lake for a brief photography session. While Eshan was busy with the shutter, Pradeb and I firmed up the suspension of the Karizma and 220 to negotiate the twisties better. Once the photos were in the bag, we continued towards the peak of Tamhini, where we planned to have breakfast. With the suspension firmed up, the Karizma felt much better and stable through the twisties, but I would still blame laden weight for making the suspension work too hard. Nonetheless, blaming my weight didn’t stop me from relishing our breakfast consisting of authentic missal-pav (legume curry and bread) and potato pakoras along with chai. After which, it was time to proceed, and we decided to swap bikes. Selfish as you may call it, I took the keys of the R15 for the downhill ghat section. Gauri decided to ride the Karizma now and Pradeb became the pillion on the R15, while Mihir and Eshan got onto the Pulsar 220.


The whole idea of sport touring was getting clearer now and the bikes were highlighting their vices and virtues with respect to handling. There is a world of difference between the riding dynamics of the R15 and the Karizma. Even with a pillion, the R15’s suspension showed no hints of bottoming out and the bike held its line without any nervousness, thanks to the rising rate linked monoshock which stiffens the damping as the load increases. The tyres were holding onto all sorts of surfaces, however, I would have liked them to be slightly wider to negotiate the loose gravel better. The 150cc mill was in a tune of its own above 6,000rpm and translated into freakishly fast corner speeds as compared to the others. Even with a stuffed tank bag strapped on, it wasn’t difficult to lean the bike into the corners, thanks to the wonderful riding posture. With the right suspension setup, Gauri was enjoying every bit of the ghat riding she was doing aboard the Karizma. She even agreed that the speeds she was able to carry through the corners even with all those bags, was way higher than what she could imagine on her Thunderbird. The 220, however, couldn’t keep up with her – the gas damped shocks weren’t exactly bottoming out, but the main stand kept digging into the road every time Mihir leaned the bike even a few degrees. While the engine offered enough grunt for the twisties, the main stand kept playing spoilsport. This became really unnerving especially on the downhill and slowed him down significantly. In the meantime, Pradeb was having a hard time on the R15’s pillion seat. Though the cushioning was comfortable, the stiffening suspension was making him feel the rough road as the bike negotiated the downhill ghats. Eshan on the other hand was irritated with the hard cushioning of the 220’s pillion seat. This was a good time to evaluate the pillion comfort of the Karizma then. Pradeb hopped onto the Karizma and the soft, wide pillion seat immediately proved its supremacy over the other two. The Karizma offers an incomparable rider comfort too, thanks to its upright seating and tall handlebars. The 220 has similar rider poise and hence Mihir found the 220 more relaxed than the R15 he was riding before. He especially liked the positioning of the handlebars, which inspite of being clip-ons, are not placed as low as the Yamaha. However, comparing the R15 with the 220 and the Karizma in terms of rider comfort, I strongly believe that it’s just a matter of time getting used to the R15’s riding posture. You can manage to sit upright on the bike once in a while without disturbing the riding dynamics, to prevent pain creeping into your wrists, shoulders and back. Once you get used to it, it can be comparable to the 220 or Karizma, if not better.

The bright console looks great during the day as well as the night. Inclusion of a digital clock is a boon for touring. The fuel guage is accurate

The headlight beam is inadequate. The windscreen offers good wind protection. The mirrors are properly placed

The love it or loathe it red springs do their duty to the fullest and provide great comfort for the pillion as well as the rider

Once the ghats were over, we hit NH17 to enter Roha. While reconfirming the route to Kashid with villagers on the way, we got weird stares from people, especially for the alienish riding boots and for the big girl riding the shiny red Karizma. Instead of basking in the attention she got, Gauri chose to be pillion now on the R15 with Pradeb taking over the Yamaha’s reins. I swapped seats for the 220 and Mihir and Eshan got onto the Karizma. The route to Kashid from Roha was pretty much straight but with a lot of broken patches in between. The Karizma instantly went back to its CRF230 roots and blasted past the rest of us like a true blue off-roader, absorbing each and every bump, pothole and undulation that came its way. The 220 too absorbed the shocks very well, but with a clanking sound of the main stand over every pothole. The R15 broke a sweat on these patches with all the sporty paraphernalia around it, thin tyres and with Gauri’s continuous complaining about the discomfort, Pradeb had to ride significantly slower than the rest of us. After the pothole turmoil was over, a brief section of the ghats commenced again. A few tens of curves and a long left hander hairpin welcomed us with the sight of the vast beach visible through the silhouette of the tall trees. We had reached Kashid.

Mihir and I pulled over into an empty spot next to a shack. After about ten minutes, our Bengali babu arrived with a wide smile inside his helmet. All the pain he and his pillion went through on the rough patch was negated with the exciting roller coaster ride in the twisties that followed. This time it was not only the villagers but also the tourists who were attracted to the sight of the flashy bikes and the armored riders. All these bikes has a distinctive design element that guarantees a second look – be it the big bike stance of the Karizma, the projector headlamp and futuristic design of the 220 or the miniature superbike styling of the R15.

Before long, Eshan engaged himself in shooting some statics while Gauri and I decided to hunt for a good eatery. Since the food in most restaurants in Kashid is made fresh, it takes almost an hour to be served. So with the order placed and the advance paid, we went back to the beach for some more photos.

With over an hour spent in the whole exercise and burning a few calories pushing the bikes in and out of the sand, we went back for the food! The five of us filled into the seats next to the dining table like water fills up empty potholes during heavy rains (a few of us flowing out owing to our massive overtures). The food was served onto the table; the sight and the scent were truly amazing. The succulent slices of surmai fry, the spicy yet tangy authentic flavor of Konkani prawn curry and steamed rice and the solkadhi (chilled drink made from kokam and coconut milk) made every kilometer of the long ride worthwhile. We enjoyed the food so much that we didn’t care for the extra time we spent at the restaurant stuffing our faces. Once done, we realised that we had been devouring the food for over two hours! It was time to devour some miles now. We had to ride back to Pune.

The bags went back onto the bikes and the gear went back onto the riders. The immediate itinerary was to reach Pen and proceed towards the NH4. The way to Pen had fast straights but the bikes had some unexpected behavior in store for us. The Karizma’s smooth engine is a revelation even at speeds in excess of 120km/h but the bike started wavering as head wind hit us. The tyres felt slightly skittish. Astonishingly though, the 220 did not face the same issue in spite of a similar quarter fairing design. The R15 tackled headwind quite well, but the moment we changed the direction a bit and the wind flowed side on, the R15 too started wavering, making us want a wider contact patch again. Once the windy part of the ride was over, we needed to go through a couple of narrow Konkan village roads which also happen to be the only route for State Transport buses thus making overtaking a nightmare. This was where the Karizma and the 220 highlighted their displacement advantage. While the R15’s 150cc motor needed a bit more effort and downshifts to gather speed and overtake, the 220 and the Karizma rolled on in a jiffy even in higher gears. Slowly darkness set in and things got even worse for the R15. In spite of the two R1-inspired headlights, the rider on the bike isn’t able to see far enough. It was a similar case with the Karizma. Pradeb who had moved back to the 220 now, raced ahead of both the bikes with the brilliant illumination provided by the projector headlamp on the Bajaj. Unfortunately, he went ahead so much that he left us far behind and ended up taking a completely different entry onto the NH4. The R15 and the Karizma stuck together for combined illumination till Khopoli. I had left my tank bag on the R15 so I took it back from Mihir since I needed the water bottle. This move came in as a boon since the lowered handlebars of the R15 make it difficult for the rider to see the console when the tank bag is strapped on. The puny range of the fuel tank had already hit reserve and Mihir didn’t notice it because of the tank bag. Fortunately for us, a fuel station was close by. After a refill, we got onto the NH4 and caught up with Pradeb on the expressway. After the reunion, we decided to stop at Lonavla for dinner, where we discussed the good and bad aspects of all the bikes, our experiences as a rider as well as a pillion and other factors that matter for a sport tourer.

The headlights are the best in class but the mirrors fail to reflect anything except the rider’s biceps. Unbreakable blinker mounts a positive feature

The gas damped suspension aids handling and absorbs potholes, but is not too good for pillion comfort even at the softest setting

Fuel injection ensures optimum engine performance even at higher altitudes where the air density is thinner than normal

Sport touring needs you to maintain a high average speed, you enjoy corner carving at a fast pace, blast through straight open highways, and make it to your destination with enough time in hand to indulge in activities you relish. That we were doing it as a group of rider buddies came as an icing on the cake. Fortunately for me, I have owned all the three bikes we rode for a long tenure at some point in time. They have their own strengths and weaknesses due to which each bike tends to gain or lose time. The 220 is a potent tourer. The equipment levels are up to mark and the fuel injection comes in handy while riding at high altitudes. The engine, though noisy, packs in a good punch. This characteristic should attract the riders who take the noise from the engine and the vibes as a communication channel with the machine for feedback. The 220’s headlights are the best in class and make sure you don’t lose time at night. Lose the main stand and the bike is a great handler – capable enough to scrape the exhaust while cornering. The 220 may not be able to house saddle bags well and the pillion seat is too hard for two people to ride but its real strength lies in riding with only a single person onboard for whom a tank bag is enough. All you have to live with is the harshness of the engine and the suspect reliability of the electronics. The R15, on the other hand, hasn’t failed me on the reliability yet. The bike made us all open our mouths in awe with its limitless capabilities. In spite of being an outright sports machine and just 150cc, it tackles highways as well as corners with ease. Liquid cooling and fuel injection help maintain optimum engine performance irrespective of the temperature and altitude. Of course, it doesn;t match the mid-range torque of the bigger capacity singles that let you just whack the throttle open in any gear to pass annoying traffic, but it still manages fairly well on that count. The headlights are a big disappointment though and will make you lose a lot of time during night rides. But with its unrivalled handling and significantly higher top speed, the R15 saves a lot of time during the day. For sport touring though, this Yamaha will ask for good roads, will come at a high price and will still not impress your pillion much – again making you ride solo like the 220.

That leaves us with the Karizma. The six-year old workhorse is still the best in the touring business. It can carry out each and every chore of sport riding with utter ease. The bike can house a tank bag without hiding the console and can even accommodate saddle bags – the smaller variety that is. Pillion comfort is the best in class and the engine will not cough even with the weight of two people and a weekend’s worth of luggage, thus making sure you don’t need to leave your better half behind (which may act like a double edged sword for obvious reasons). The relaxed ride along with the silent and smooth Honda engine may seem boring to many, but induces the least amount of fatigue while on the comeback run – and that really matters a lot. When the Karizma was introduced six years ago, its body design was compared to that of the Honda VFR800 by some. Thankfully, that’s not where the similarity ends. In almost all respects, the Karizma can easily pass as a miniature single cylinder version of the Veefer which is undoubtedly one of the best sport touring bikes in the world. The Karizma still remains our choice, not only for touring, but for sport touring as well!



Adhish Alawani finds out if the new clutchless Jive is ready to take on the highly practical scooters in the Indian market
Photography: Sanjay Raikar

Last month, when I was road testing the Jive (the new clutchless commuter from TVS), I was mighty impressed with the concept and practicality of this machine. Not only does it stand as testimony of a good piece of engineering, but also goes ahead of every other motorcycle in the current market by setting higher standards for modern commuters. The low capacity bikes and scooters have ruled the Indian market. And I personally believe that the Jive is going to create an altogether new segment of practical and easy machines at extremely affordable price tags.

While I was thinking about its novel transmission and ease of use in the traffic, it struck me that this bike is going to take the fight to the automatic scooters which are by far the best option for daily commutes in the chaotic, stop and go Indian traffic. Discussion on this topic with Aspi led me into a comparison test of the Jive against a scooter. We picked the most popular scooter available in the market today, the Honda Activa and decided to pitch it against the Jive to gauge both on various factors like ease of use, utility, cost, efficiency, suspension and last but not the least, styling. Let me take you through my findings on each aspect as I compared the commuters and rated each one of them on a scale of ten points.

Ease of use:
We all know that the Activa with its variomatic gearbox is the easiest thing to ride in traffic. With a twist of your right wrist, you set the scooter in motion and don’t have to worry about gear changes. The clutchless transmission on the Jive is not as convenient as the Activa where there is nothing that you need to do apart from throttle operation. However, the Jive is not as cumbersome to ride as any other motorcycle either as there is no clutch lever and all you have to do is roll back the accelerator and shift it to the next gear. In short, you can use the Jive as a manual or as an automatic bike. While coming to a halt at a traffic signal, you can simply come and stop in whichever gear you are running in and start off in that same gear. The centrifugal clutch keeps slipping until you attain the appropriate engine rpm and prevents the bike from stalling in higher gears at lower speeds. However, while doing so, you are going to end up burning the plates and get moving so slowly that even a kid on a bicycle will overtake you before you attain considerable speeds. Thus, though the centrifugal clutch can manage to keep your bike running in a higher gear at low speeds, it becomes inevitable to shift down the gears before taking off from a standstill. The manual shifts on the Jive come to your help on steep uphill climbs where you can go down to the first gear and keep rolling even with two people on board, which is not possible in case of the variomatic scooter.
Scores: Activa- 9/10 Jive- 7/10


Utility is extremely important when considering a commuter and it comes in the form of carrying luggage and a passenger. The Activa, with a footboard and underseat space, can house a lot of stuff and carry a couple of loaded shopping bags. The Jive is probably the only motorcycle available in the country that comes with underseat space. However, as the company demonstrates, this space can only be used for an umbrella and a bottle of water or at the most, a wallet. The Activa’s wider and shorter seat means that it is also a better companion carrier than the Jive. So who wins the competition here? The Activa without a doubt makes a clean sweep when it comes to utility.
Scores: Activa- 9/10 Jive- 6/10

The Honda Activa and the TVS Jive are priced competitively against each other. With both the machines costing close to Rs 46,000 (OTR, Pune), there is hardly a contest among them considering the tags. However, while discussing cost, it is not just the initial price that should be taken into consideration. The cost of ownership, i.e., maintenance, spares and service should also be given a thought. And in that case too, I believe that the earlier products from both companies have proved to be extremely reliable and cheap to maintain over the period of years they have spent in the market. I don’t think that we can zero in on either one of them while considering the cost factor.
Scores: Activa- 9/10 Jive- 9/10

Commuter motorcycles are mostly bought by consumers because of the high fuel efficiency figures returned by these machines. TVS pounces back on Honda in this regard. With an amazing fuel efficiency of 62kmpl, the Jive beats the Activa, which settles at 53.5 kmpl, by a huge margin. Also the 6 litre fuel tank on the Activa means a lot less range as compared to Jive which comes with a more than double capacity 15 litre fuel tank.
Scores: Activa- 5/10 Jive- 9/10

Styling doesn’t play a major deciding factor when it comes to commuters. They are designed for utility and practicality more than style and fashion. Nonetheless, I believe that the Activa, with its new broad rear styling and typical scooter design is not as popular amongst the consumers as much as a motorcycle. At the same time, I would also like to mention that the younger generation would prefer the scooter over the typical commuter motorcycle looks of the Jive. Thus, the styling factor ultimately boils down to personal opinions. Hence, no scores here.

Suspension and ride:
The telescopic forks upfront and the hydraulic suspension with coil springs on the TVS Jive ensure a comfortable and soft ride. Not only that, the bike’s sleek design and upright, tall seating gives good flickability to the Jive in congested traffic. As against that, the trailing link front suspension of the Activa is not the best on bumpy roads. Even the bigger wheels on the Jive call for a better ride quality than the small ones on the scooter. However, the Activa shod by the MRF tyres provides a far superior grip than the Jive that comes with the TVS tyres.
Scores: Activa- 7/10 Jive- 8/10

Tallying up the points, I was expecting to come up with a clear winner which is not the case here as both, the Activa and the Jive have scored equally. I believe that it is probably going to go down to consumer preference in the end. Someone might want luggage space while another may desire better fuel efficiency. Or maybe, someone like me might just want some fun from my commuter (refer to the opening page of the story)!
Total Scores: Activa- 39 Jive- 39




Does the lightweight Pulsar have the right mix of spices to tingle the commuter’s taste buds? Or will they still prefer the Japanese offerings?
Words: Sarmad Kadiri   Photography: Sanjay Raikar

By now most BIKE India readers would have a fair knowledge about Bajaj’s latest artillery to hit the Indian circuit. Our first issue of this decade featured a detailed report on the Pulsar 135 Light Sport, which promises to deliver class defying performance and fuel efficiency with snazzy styling. And all that, at a very, very competitive price. But the proof of the pudding is the eating. We decided to bring the new challenger from Bajaj’s stable face-to-face with the best bikes from a segment above and below it. Incidentally, both the flag bearers are from the Honda lineup – the Unicorn 150cc and its younger sibling, the CBF Stunner 125 (non fuel injected). In other words, Bajaj’s puny performer intends to gatecrash the Japanese giant’s party. So, let’s find out if it succeeds.

The trendy 125cc city commuter gets a snazzy facelift and looks more ‘stunning’ than ever before

This new kid on the block is tagged as LS (Light Sport) which could well have been ‘Lethally Styled

The most well-sorted 150cc in India that has set the benchmark for refinement across segments


The Pulsar 135 LS has evolved from the XCD Sprint concept first showcased during the 2008 Auto Expo. The naked streetbike inspired headlamps nestled between the razor sharp panels and the floating fairing sitting above reflect the concept’s design cues. The side scoops on the curvy tank, the clip-on handlebar and step seats accentuate the sporty theme of the bike. The dual coloured front mudguard with ridges appears aggressive. At a glance, it looks distinct from its siblings and yet snazzy enough to hold your attention.

Shifting our focus to a segment below, the CBF Stunner 125 has just gone through a quick facelift and now comes with new colour schemes and body graphics. The addition of an engine cowl, sharper rear view mirrors and a black paint job for the engine, exhaust cover and handlebar make it look even more ‘stunning’ than before. The 2010 Stunner gets the much awaited tachometer in a new look console. Giving it competition is the Pulsar 135 LS’s neat instrument console which holds the digital speedometer, odometer, fuel gauge and trip meter as well as the analogue tachometer.

Okay, I’m midway through talking about the appearance of the bikes, but I haven’t even mentioned a thing about the Unicorn. This is simply because there is nothing new to talk about the bike’s design. Honda has been giving minor cosmetic tweaks to their reliable 150cc bike, but the Unicorn desperately needs to visit an A-list stylist real soon. It remains the most understated bike in this shootout and probably in its segment as well. The all-black Unicorn badged with the chrome Honda wing looks neat but dated. Honda did display a concept Unicorn during the Auto Expo 2010, but it didn’t manage to make eyeballs pop and looked more like an oversized CB Twister 110. Hmmm… That’s about it for the Unicorn in this department leaving the fight between the Pulsar 135 LS and the CBF Stunner 125.

The rear panels of the LS keep the Pulsar style DNA intact and the icing on the cake is the superbike type rear without a mudguard. But here’s the anti-climax, the full tyre shroud looks plasticy and rather odd. The designers should have incorporated sleeker shrouds similar to the ones used on the bigger Pulsars. Apart from looking ugly, it will be a pain to clean dirt from under it. The Stunner has a nice looking tiny hugger at the rear that guards the 17-inch tubeless tyres. The same tyres also perform their duty on the Pulsar 135 LS. The radical theme of the LS is also reflected in the sliced exhaust chamber. Personally, a slightly meatier exhaust would have enhanced its looks further. Bajaj has tagged the Pulsar 135 as LS, meaning Light Sport, but a complete metal chain cover is neither light nor does it look sporty. The Stunner, on the other hand, has a plastic half chain cover which does its duty well and looks great too. The LS and the Stunner sport step seats which look great. A minor flaw that our Editor, Aspi pointed out to the Bajaj boffins is that the side stand of the Pulsar 135 LS is located way too close to the gear lever. Even a light impact to the left side of the bike could disrupt the gearshift. Both the Hondas have their side stand perfectly located. The LS manages to balance the sporty theme well without going over the top, which means mass appeal. But the Stunner will still be a hit with the younger lot.

I have a lot to talk about the Unicorn in this section and only good things. It is the only bike equipped with a monoshock and yes, it does make a difference. I feel this 150 has the best ride quality across segments and this is no easy task to achieve. If you enjoy taking your friend or girlfriend (ahem) along for rides on the highway or even through the unruly city lanes, the Unicorn with its superb suspension and 150cc engine is a joy to ride. Shifting to a segment below, the Pulsar 135 LS has conventional shock absorbers with a combination of hydraulic, gas and coil springs. This combination works well when riding alone, but is strictly okay with a pillion rider especially if he weighs even marginally close to our photographer, Sanjay. Though the LS’s suspension is not as soft as the Unicorn, it is subtle and athletic even with two heavyweights onboard. The LS has a new swingarm and a long wheelbase of 1325mm which is even longer than its big brother, the Pulsar 150 although the steep steering angle assures reasonable handling agility. It is roughly based on the XCD’s square section chassis and handling is not the strongest point of the LS.

Its seating position is inclined more towards a sports bike stance with the clip-on handlebars and the low seating position making it fun to zip through traffic but the bike feels comparatively unsettling while taking on long curves. The Stunner with its 1271mm wheelbase and well sorted suspension scores over the LS in this section. It feels more composed and the new MRF rubber boosts confidence as I experienced while negotiating the corners of ghat sections. But the overall winner in the handing and ride quality department has to be Honda’s old legend, the Unicorn. The monoshock combined with the longest wheelbase among the three (1340mm) and the trusted MRF zappers make it nimble, agile and supremely comfortable.

Astride 2010’s new look Stunner for the first time, I kept praying in my heart, “God please, please make this ride like the Stunner Fi. Please, please!” But it didn’t. Let me break this up for those who haven’t used both the Stunner versions. The 125cc has a great Honda engine which is smooth and peppy, but the carburetted version is extremely under geared (for reasons best known to the company) which causes the bike to vibrate way too much as it reaches the 60-70km/h mark. Surprisingly, the fuel injected variant of the Stunner is free of this shortcoming thanks to the taller overall gearing. The Stunner Fi feels extremely refined even at high speeds. Unfortunately, the Stunner that qualified for this particular test was the carburetted version. While riding it in the top gear, my mind kept yelling “Shift the gear! Shift the gear!” but my left foot responded, “There are none here! There are none here!” It manages to touch the 100km/h mark which isn’t bad for a 125cc bike. But the Stunner gets outshined by the light Pulsar as it has minimal vibrations even at high speeds. The LS, as the name suggests, is quite light at just 122kg which is a good 7kg lower than the smaller Stunner, let alone the 146kg weight of the Unicorn. This is a great trend which is also the topic of discussion at automobile research and development departments across the globe. But India has a long way to go as international bikes with 600cc mills weigh just around 170kg! The light weight of the Pulsar coupled with its indigenously developed four-valve powertrain can match up to the performance of 150cc bikes. The four-valve technology helps it breathe better and so improves the fuel efficiency and the performance of the machine. Talking about four-valve technology, here’s some trivia for the petrol heads: the first Indian bike to use this technology (though developed overseas) was the now forgotten, Kinetic GF 125 which was launched about a decade ago. Time to return from the flashback to real time. The LS goes from 0-60km/h in just 5.18 seconds and has a genuine top whack of 112km/h! Several 150cc owners will be reading these figures over and over again. In reality, it’s not just about speed. The Unicorn is still content with its old two-valve technology, and it reflects in the bike’s performance figures. The younger Pulsar manages to outrun it by a whisker in the top speed stakes as well as the 0-60km/h sprint. However, the Unicorn leads when it comes to class leading refinement, smooth power delivery and unparalleled durability. Apart from reaching the top speed, what is really important is coming to a halt in urgency. The older and more experienced Honda scores over the other two in the braking department. The Stunner has good low down power and can even pull from low rpms in a higher gear which makes it a good city commuter. It also is the most fuel efficient among the three bikes here with an average of 66kmpl. The LS is not far behind delivering an amazing 63.75kmpl out of the spirited 135cc mill and the bigger Unicorn manages to stretch a liter for 58.92kmpl.

The Pulsar 135 LS shakes up the competition by delivering class defying efficiency and performance, thanks to its light weight. But I have to give it to the Unicorn for its refinement, smooth power delivery and reliability.

In our country, the big question that follows fuel efficiency is the price. And this is the interesting part in this shootout. Honda retails the Unicorn at Rs 64,082, on the road in Pune and the Stunner at Rs 60,580, but the 2010 model will be dearer by another Rs 2,500 thus bringing its sticker price closer to the Unicorn at around Rs 63,000. (Drum roll) Presenting the party spoiler for the Japanese giant, the all-new Pulsar 135 LS comes with a smashing price tag of Rs 56,500 only. (Silence). It can save you Rs 6,500 of your (or your dad’s) hard earned money. Yes, you can spend it on your girlfriend we mentioned above or donate it to a charity.

If you take the price into consideration, the Honda CBF Stunner is overpriced and if price isn’t a problem, then why not buy a superbike? The Stunner is a great looker and can also make your friend’s fiance go weak in the knees. It also has a strong sales and service backup and not to forget Honda’s quality assurance. A great buy for the yuppie generation.

The other bigger, older and perhaps wiser Honda, the Unicorn amazes me every time I ride it because of its overall performance, solid build quality and unmatched refinement. It has proven to be an extremely reliable commuter bike over the years. But there is a problem with this bike. It looks dated and Honda is not doing anything about it. For those who want to take a plain Jane, soft spoken, non-fussy, docile and low maintenance companion home, look no further.

For those who don’t fancy the plain Jane, Bajaj has the answer for you. The Pulsar is a really good 135cc bike that balances the commuter aspect by giving you over 63km per liter of petrol and at the same time, it will make you overtake the city crawlers by its raw power. The price positioning and value for money aspect gives it an edge over its rivals. It is light weight, looks naughty and wears a bikini fairing. Settled then, don’t take the Pulsar 135 LS home. Take it for a ride, a really long one.


A combined total of 20,000ccs and 2000bhp. Did this send shivers down your spine and goosebumps across your body? We felt the same while riding with the PRS (Performance Racing Store) Boyz Club

Words Adhish Alawani and Bunny Punia
Photography Sanjay Raikar

The empty and wide back roads of Kharghar on the outskirts of India’s dream city, Mumbai was to play host to a dozen two-wheeled fanatics aboard a perfect combination of exotic, naked and powerful superbikes. The brutal summer sun was already casting a mirage on the road ahead while we waited patiently for the men and the machines to arrive. A few canines lazing under the only tree in the vicinity seemed unruffled by my constant whistling in order to play with them. And then, suddenly they showed signs of restlessness. Their ears stood up and with a faint growl, all of them charged towards a particular direction. Seconds later, we heard the glorious sound of forty-four cylinders firing at their peak, their exhaust notes reverberating through the yet to be occupied newly built societies. A grin appeared on our faces as we saw the line-up of twelve superbikes, all ridden by members of PRS (Performance Racing Store) Boyz Club, heading towards us for this special eight page feature. Before some of you readers start calling up your contacts in the DRI (Department of Revenue Intelligence), let me spoil your party by adding that each of these bikes is a legal machine with clean papers and authenticated
registration. Right then, lets get down to the motorcycles, their details and modifications along with the lucky mortals who own them.


2009 HONDA CB1000R

Yezdi K Irani
Age: 46
Occupation: Businessman, Hotelier
When it comes to biking, age is no bar. We often say that motorcycling keeps you young and Yezdi, even at 46 years of age, is the perfect example of the above two lines. He still loves his two wheels more than two legs and a testimony to this fact comes in the form of the long list of modifications done to his CB1000R – from Michelin tyres to Akrapovic’s full titanium exhaust system, this naked street fighter is loaded to the brim. All these modifications show up within the first few hundred meters and Yezdi for sure likes utilizing the new found power to the brim. The bike sounds gorgeous, accelerates like an unleashed greyhound and brakes even better thanks to all those new aftermarket rotors and pads. Almost all the nuts and bolts have been tastefully given a blue treatment and look closely at the side grooves on both the tyres. Beautiful!

2010 HONDA CBR1000RR

Atul Rathod
Age: 33
Occupation: Petroleum engineer
When you own a motorcycle this good, you really don’t need to invest in add-on jobs. Atul, owner of this red CBR, thinks the same way. We have always loved CBRs although the latest iteration’s looks are somewhat subjective. A couple of spins down the long, empty, cordoned off road and then around the roundabouts makes it clear why motorcycle enthusiasts around the world have been hooked onto this bike. This Honda has one of the best power- to-weight ratios ever, evident in the way it pulls once the tachometer needle is close to the 10,000rpm mark. The second thing that was noticeable was the compact nature of the bike that does not make the rider feel uncomfortable – a trait Honda is known for.

1993 HONDA CBR 1000F

Honda CB Twister vs rivals

Five executive entry-level commuter motorcycles fight for supremacy. But which bike offers the best bang for your buck is the question Bunny Punia tries hard to find an answer to

Photography Sanjay Raikar

When Honda launched the 110cc CB Twister in the market recently, quite a few eyebrows were raised about its high sticker price for a commuter bike. However, the CB turned out to be the most involving and fun to ride commuter we had come across in a long time. It looks smashing, has a gem of an engine, is comfortable for the rider and of course, is a Honda. Does that mean it can divert customers away from other manufacturers straight into Honda showrooms? To get the answer, we decided to pit the CB against its rivals – a top of the line commuter bike from each manufacturer. We chose the 100cc Discover from Bajaj, the 100cc Splendor NXG from Hero Honda, TVS’ 109cc Star City and lastly, the 106cc G5 from Yamaha. All the bikes compared here are top end models.

Bajaj Discover 100

Any bike that makes history by selling 5 lakh units within 225 days of its launch ought to be a great performer. The Discover is just that. Aimed as the country’s first small capacity long distance motorcycle, this little Disco has a lot of aces up its sleeve. It looks nice in a sporty way – an angular chopped exhaust, a raised visor, sporty pattern of the tyres, et al. The bike’s trump card is its 94.38cc engine that makes use of both the twin-spark tech gadgetry as well as the swirl induction technology. The power and torque numbers are nothing to rave about, though the riding experience is what brings a smile to your face. The motor feels eager, always willing to propel the bike ahead in traffic, apparent by the roll-on figures. In fact, maneuverability is top notch and the suspension setup too is just right, though overall comfort is hampered due to the hard seat. During this shootout, most of us didn’t want to ride the bike for this one painful grouse. This is also the only bike in its class to feature a five-speed gearbox. Retailing at Rs 46,400 (on-road, Pune), like other Bajaj offerings, the Discover 100 is a good value for money proposition. Its incredible fuel efficiency comes in the form of the icing on the cake. Is this the best bike here?

Hero Honda Splendor NXG

You can never go wrong with a Hero Honda. They are the masters of the commuter segment in India. With six different offerings in the 100cc segment alone, there is a bike for every kind of commuter. We decided to choose the NXG, a sportier, modern and fresh looking avatar of the hugely popular Splendor. Typically Hero Honda, you get to see a lot of sticker work on this bike. The bikini fairing is slightly larger than the company’s other models and along with an all-black colour scheme, it lends the bike a good look. Overall, the proportions are well sorted and the bike makes tall as well as heavy riders feel at home. The NXG turns out to be the lightest bike here and this is evident while encountering rush hour traffic. It is also where the ultra reliable 97.2cc engine comes into its own. It is butter smooth and efficient though the lack of outright punch across the rev range does disappoint, especially when riding with a pillion. However, the gear ratios are tall and the bike even manages the best top speed here at 96.92km/h. For Rs 47,300 (on-road, Pune), the NXG offers a well rounded package with the company’s huge after sales support and best in class resale value. Reasons enough for us to crown it the winner?

TVS Star City

In the July issue, during our 100cc shootout, the Star Sport managed to grab the co-winner’s crown along with the Bajaj Platina. The bigger 110cc Star City shown here only manages to improve on its smaller sibling, proving its credentials strongly. Ergonomics are good, seat comfort is excellent and the bike imparts a solid feel while riding over bad roads. The engine too is strong – 109.7cc belting out 8.3PS of power and 8.1Nm of torque. This is the second most powerful and torquiest bike after the CB and expectedly it is the second quickest of the lot as well. It even manages to be the quickest in the 30-70km/h roll-ons in the fourth gear. The biggest in class fuel tank, a mobile charging point and a five-year warranty for a small amount further gets this bike more brownie points. It also has one of the most comprehensive switchgears among all the bikes here. Rs 45,400 (on-road, Pune) for the top end variant is what it demands, putting itself more or less in the same price bracket as others. Should the competition be worried about this small warrior?

Yamaha Libero G5

If there is a bike here that seems to be perfectly suited for well built riders, it has to be the Libero G5. It feels substantial for a commuter machine and not surprisingly, turns out to be the heaviest of the lot. Everything about the G5 is on the softer side – the well padded seat, the suspension setup and even the way it rides and handles over city roads. In fact, this is a bike that makes you want to go about your daily commuting in a lazy, laid back manner. But this doesn’t mean it lacks outright punch or cruising abilities on the highway. This is the same 106cc engine doing duty on the Crux and the Alba for years now. The G5 also comes with the best switchgear of the lot, offering every possible feature including an engine kill switch. On the looks front, the red and silver colour combination give it a smart look and the bike even sports dummy air scoops under the tank. It won’t be wrong to say that the G5 continues to look good even after five years of launch. Rs 49,000 (on-road Pune) does make the bike dearer by a few grand as compared to the others here. Will this prove to be a
hindrance when it comes to clinching the crown?

Honda CB Twister

A lot has already been discussed about Honda’s first bike for the masses last month. No doubt it is one of the best looking motorcycles in the country, aping its bigger sibling, the CB1000R perfectly. The engine performs brilliantly for a 109cc motor, churning out performance figures that end up shaming quite a few 125cc machines. Like a typical Honda, it doesn’t sacrifice fuel efficiency at all. The motor also feels stress free at highway speeds and unlike the 125cc Hondas, the Twister is pretty smooth and vibe free even at 70-75km/h. The suspension is slightly on the stiffer side, but ride the bike with a pillion and it outshines all the motorcycles here. However, we do miss simple things like a pass switch, an engine kill switch and pilot lamps. Why, Honda why? So, is there a chink in the armour there? Definitely, this is the commuter segment where value for money is the first priority. Consumers want to pay as little as possible and even a difference of a grand can change the final decision. In this case, the CB turns out to be six to nine grand dearer than the other bikes. Agreed, it has a lot of positives as discussed above and also comes with a front disc (absent on the other bikes), but is the price justified?

brothers in arms

Saeed Akhtar pits the new Pulsar 150 against its peers to determine which one gives the biggest bang for your buck
Photography by Sanjay Raikar

The 150cc segment is one of the most hotly contested categories in the Indian motorcycle market. It caters to both the youth looking for performance on a budget as well as the middle-aged executive looking for a reasonably fast mode of commuting to work. For long, Bajaj has ruled the roost in this segment with the rest of the manufacturers playing catch up. For this shootout, we have shortlisted these five bikes that not only fall in the same price bracket but are also targeted squarely at each other. Recently, Yamaha stirred up things in this segment by introducing bikes that were so far ahead of the curve (in terms of price as well as technology) that we decided to give them a miss from this comparison as their target customer is pretty different from these five rivals. Let the game begin. . . . . .

Price Rs. 67,008(OTR,Pune)
Top speed 111.3km/h
Power 13.5PS
Maintenance free battery, viscous air filter and BS-III norms compliant now
Price Rs. 65,893 (OTR,Pune)
Top speed 107.12km/h
Power 14.4PS
Honda antecedents, but the Hunk is Hero Honda’s take on what a 150 should be
Price Rs. 67,521 (OTR,Pune)
Top speed 118.69km/h
Power 15.4PS
TVS’ Racing DNA has infused this bike with enviable performance figures 
Price Rs. 67,955(OTR,Pune)
Top speed 108.1km/h
Power 14PS
Loaded with gadgets and gives that big bike feel like no other motorcycle here
Price Rs.67,500(OTR,Pune)
Top speed 115km/h
Power 15.06PS
Bajaj’s crowd puller gets clip-on ’bars and a wee bit more power. Is it enough?

Hallowed be thy name

The Pulsar still remains the brawler it was, being outclassed in the performance stakes by only the Apache RTR, a lighter bike that also happens to possess 10ccs more

Enlightened philosophers everywhere tell us that it is even tougher staying at the top than getting there. The fact that the Bajaj Pulsar did exactly this since its launch nine years ago is testimony enough to its timeless appeal and clout. Now in its fifth iteration, India’s most popular performance bike is getting a bit long in the tooth but is still the most popular of the lot here. Recently, Bajaj seems to have stopped going for radical redesigns and opted for a few nips and tucks along with some cosmetic upgrades. The latest Pulsar continues this tradition with clip-on handlebars that are borrowed from its siblings. These lend the bike a slightly sportier riding position than before with the rider leant over to the front a wee bit more. The rest of the bikes here except the RTR make do with regular handlebars. The new bigger carburetor aids the engine in churning out a wee bit more power but the torque figure has taken an adverse hit. The Pulsar has got the lightest throttle feel here. The seat is a trifle hard for long commutes and the pillion seat is a bit on the thinner side.

Clip-on handlebars now a standard on all Pulsars, from 135cc to 220cc The mechanical bits are now done up in black, lending a touch of class to the new Pulsar

Performance wise, the Pulsar remains the same rev happy hooligan that made it such a hit originally. The whining sound from the air intake just makes you want to twist the throttle a bit more. However, the Pulsar lacks some midrange grunt and you have to keep shifting gears to keep it in the power band. If you are comfortable with that, the bike rewards you with oodles of fun and its handling complements spirited riding very well. The suspension dives a bit under braking but it is more than adequate for the kind of fast riding a typical customer would ever put it through. The bike is also pretty vibey at high rpms although it is quite bearable at low rpms. The gearshift quality has been improved by several notches over its earlier versions, however compared to its Honda peers, the Bajaj still has some way to go. In this test, the Pulsar beat its previous top speed record of 114km/h by approximately two more km/h while also being faster in the sprint to 60km/h. The Pulsar still remains the brawler it was, being outclassed in the performance stakes by only the Apache RTR, a lighter bike that also happened to possess 10ccs more.

The generous side of Bunny – lending his phone to an old stranger who had a son far away One of the few ways to differentiate the Pulsar 150 from its siblings

The Pulsar loves being ridden hard and rewards you for it



One more Pulsar 150 upgrade? Yet more power? While you might have to use a magnifying glass to find the changes, the moment you ride the bike, the increase in performance and refinement is noticeable. Clip-ons manage to lend a sportier riding posture as well. However, the hard seat and the bike’s tendency to dive under heavy braking isn’t to my liking.


The Emperor’s new clothes

The Hunk is the third bike into which Hero Honda plonked the Unicorn mill. The first bike, Achiever, did not exactly set the sales charts on fire, but it sure paved the way for the CBZ Xtreme which followed shortly. Maybe it had something to do with the iconic CBZ tag but the Xtreme, in spite of some lackluster styling, was a success for Hero Honda. Or maybe it was the performance and handling. Despite featuring a very conventional suspension arrangement, the bike was so well set-up that it tackled corners like a proper sportsbike and not a commuter.

The Hunk is one of the only two bikes here with a completely analogue instrument console Red accents on the Hunk lend a touch of flair to the bike

The Hunk is practically the CBZ Xtreme in a more stylish and muscular costume. The bulging tank scoops shout for attention from every angle. The front as well as the rear suspension is done up in a dull gold colour, however whether one likes it or not, is entirely a matter of personal taste. The rear also features Hero Honda’s first gas-charged shock absorbers, which the company calls GRS. Our test bike came in the new paint scheme – a splash of red graphics and bull logos that accentuated the muscular profile of the Hunk. We still feel that the bike could have done better with a nice name. And why did they have to spell out ‘Hunk’ in chrome? The bike’s build quality is trademark HH – robust and solid. The paintjob on the Hunk was the best on the test. One little grouse with the Hunk is the placement of the side stand. The slightly rear set pegs come in the way when you try to access the side stand lever with your left foot.

Gas-charged shock absorbers – a first for Hero Honda Ludicrous amount of muscle here. Love the red accents though

Coming to the performance, the Hunk immediately impressed with its brimming midrange torque which meant we could power our way out of tight spots with minimal effort. However, the bike’s short gearing, while helping in acceleration, takes its toll on the top speed, topping out at a mere 107.16km/h. It gets up to the 80km/h mark pretty fast but then the engine starts running out of breath and tapers out. The Hunk’s handling is on par with its peers with the ergonomic riding posture aiding considerably. The suspension is set a tad on the hard side which may be a deterrent for commuters looking for a plush ride. It does come with that Hero Honda cachet which means that the bike will prove to be reliable and enjoy a good resale value even years down the line.

The BIKE India slow race formation


Senior Correspondent

Although the Hunk and the Unicorn share the same engine, they feel like completely different sets of wheels. The Hunk looks muscular and sporty, has the very reliable and proven Honda engine and comes with the best after sales service network in the country. Despite all these features, it has its downside as it may look a bit over the top to some. That is probably the reason it has not managed to soar on the sales charts. Yet the Hunk remains a great overall package and will continue to sell for years to come

Don’t judge a book by its cover

The chromed wing logo on its tank is the Unicorn’s only redeeming style factor but it would be really nice to see some serious changes. And soon

The most understated bike here, the Unicorn has managed to stay near the top of the sales charts solely on the sheer power of its mechanical bits. It may not be a beauty pageant winner by any stretch but the Unicorn oozes solid engineering brilliance and top notch build quality. Honda has chosen not to tinker much with the bike’s looks, giving it some very minor cosmetic upgrades over the last few years and almost nothing else. This time around, the Unicorn gets a viscous air filter, a maintenance free battery and a CB sticker on its rear side panels. The Unicorn is also BS-III norms compliant. These changes to the engine have not resulted in any noticeable alterations in the bike’s performance though. The chromed wing logo on its tank is the Unicorn’s only redeeming style factor but it would be really nice to see some serious changes. And soon.

The Unicorn loses out on gadgets like a digital instrument console Refinement and reliability are the engine’s hallmarks

It is the only bike here to sport a monoshock suspension and we must say it is a superlatively engineered piece of technology. As Aspi said, the first time he took the Unicorn out onto the not too well surfaced Chennai racetrack, it was as if the bumps had practically disappeared. The Unicorn outclasses all the other bikes here when it comes to ride and handling. Along with the GS150R, the Unicorn has got the most relaxed riding position of this bunch. It is also the most composed with a pillion on board. It might have a narrower seat than the GS but the Unicorn pampers its rider and pillion equally well. Refinement is another strong point with the Unicorn. There is negligible vibration even when the bike is revved all the way to the redline and the butter smooth gearbox complements it beautifully. Performance wise, the Unicorn is no slouch but it is no sprinting cheetah either. The Honda manages to complete the 0-60km/h run in 6.10sec and tops out at 111.3km/h.

Beautifully calibrated monoshock is key to the Unicorn’s ride quality The CB Unicorn still doesn’t have a pilot lamp. How shocking is that?

The Unicorn and the Hunk are the only two bikes here to feature completely analogue instrumentation and that makes them incongruous in this crowd which is rapidly going digital. Older Unicorns had some niggles with build quality but the new lot of bikes feature much improved build quality and paintjobs. At Rs 67,000 (OTR, Pune), the Unicorn is the second cheapest bike in this shootout and that makes it an irresistible buy.

It is the best handler of the lot and by a fair margin



Is it Honda’s remarkable technology or the inability of the competition to catch up? Either way, the Unicorn, err the CB Unicorn, even after being in the market for almost five years, still manages to be in a different world all together when it comes to engine refinement, ride and of course handling. Ergonomics are also up there with the best. However, it badly needs a major Botox treatment now.

Loaded to the brim

The GS150r is the only bike in this bunch to feature a six-speed transmission, a positive throttle response and a gear indicator on the instrument console

The GS is Suzuki’s first 150cc offering in their second outing here. When the bike’s pictures were first revealed, the Suzuki was criticized for bearing too close a resemblance to the Pulsar. But when you set eyes on the GS for the first time or its spec sheet for that matter, all of that changes. This is a much larger bike, far more muscular and beefier than your average 150cc bike. Take the fuel tank for instance. It rises from the seat in a manner similar to bigger superbikes and there are also the trademark Gixxer stripes on it just to drive the point home. There is a splash of chrome on the side panel covering the air filter/battery that adds some style quotient to its side profile. There are two air vents beneath the bikini fairing that serve no purpose whatsoever but definitely look good. The rear end has its own attraction with snazzy LED taillights and integrated blinkers, making it one of the best in the country. The alloy wheels feature a swirl pattern that differentiates them from the rest with their straight spokes.

The GS’ expansive console features a gear position indicator and a shifter LED light Integrated turn signals and LEDs turn heads everywhere

Did we mention the spec sheet? Ah yes, the kind folks at Suzuki have loaded the GS to the brim with a host of gizmos. It is the only bike in this bunch to feature a six-speed transmission, a positive throttle response (it features dual throttle cables) and a gear indicator on the instrument console. The instrument console incorporates an analogue tachometer (with extra large fonts) while everything else is digital. There is also a LED warning light on the bottom left corner of the console that works in conjunction with the ECU to tell you how exactly you are burning up your hard earned fuel depending on the mode you choose to ride in. There is also a ‘God mode’ which tells the ECU that you are in full control of your riding and switches the warning light off forever.

The sixth gear is meant for cruising duties mostly Swirl type spokes differentiate the GS’ alloys from the competition

The GS features the widest seat of the bunch. Although it appears too sportily contoured, the superior padding and relaxed riding position make the GS one of the most comfortable bikes in this shootout. Performance figures are impressive with a 0-60km/h timing of 5.46sec and a top speed of 108.1km/h. Incidentally the bike attains its top speed in the fifth gear instead of the sixth cog which is basically meant for relaxed cruising.

This Suzuki is the biggest bike of the lot


Senior Correspondent

The Suzuki is definitely one of my favourites in this segment and size. The ride can appear to be too soft for some but it is perfect for in-city commuting and probably that’s where it’ll spend most of its life. Moreover, the GS150R is the only bike in this shootout that sports a six-speed gearbox that makes it a breeze to ride on highways too. I know it’s not the fastest but it is supremely comfortable and dependable. I just hope Suzuki does something about the service network.

Catch me if you can

If performance and only performance is what you seek, look no further, here’s your Holy Grail

The TVS Apache RTR took the term ‘affordable performance’ and made mincemeat of it when it was first unleashed on the unsuspecting public in mid-2007. Adding an extra 10ccs to the already potent Apache mill did wonders for the motorcycle. In this shootout, this is the bike that comes closest to the ‘no-holds barred performance’ tag. The riding position is uncompromising; it throws you over the clip-on ‘bars and pulls your legs quite a good distance backwards so that Mother aerodynamics doesn’t complain. The racing stripes on the panels and the tacho face endow the bike with just the right amount of sportiness. There is even a 0-60km/h timer and a top speed recorder on the LCD display. The short wheelbase makes the bike as flickable and agile as a cat on amphetamines. However, some bigger riders might find the Apache a bit cramped.

A 0-60km/h timer and top speed recorder underlines just how hardcore this bike is Split grab rails and LED lamps – this baby is loaded

If performance and only performance is what you seek, look no further, here’s your Holy Grail. The bike does the quarter mile sprint in just 19.82sec and goes on all the way to a top speed of 118.7km/h. This top speed figure makes the Apache the fastest of the lot by some margin. Because of its short wheelbase, the RTR may initially feel just that bit nervous while entering corners, but once you get used to it, it proves itself a very capable corner carver. The biggest grouse we had with the RTR was the lack of refinement from the engine and transmission.

The five contenders lock horns in a churchyard. Talk about irony Apache has the highest revving (upto 11,000rpm) engine here

There were vibes emanating from the ‘bars as well as the footpegs, spoiling much of the fun provided by the screamer engine. This vibey nature also took its toll on the visibility from the rear view mirrors, rendering them virtually useless at high speeds. All of us loved the throaty exhaust note though. The RTR is the only bike here to sport split grab rails for the pillion and also to feature an open chain, thus underlining its sporty leanings. At Rs 67, 521(OTR, Pune), the Apache RTR is a bargain for a bike that offers oodles of fun and excitement every time you wheel it out for a swift sprint. Just don’t relegate it to the confines of the city.

The short wheelbase of the Apache endows it with the nimblest handling of the lot


Deputy Editor

If you are one of those who regularly indulge in traffic light MotoGPs, the RTR should be your choice. If you like heading out to the nearest set of twisties on a Sunday morning, look no further. But (make it BUT), there are a few downfalls. Ergonomics for one. Second, the vibrations will irritate you no end on a long ride. However, the racing stripes and petal disc cannot be ignored, can they?


All the bikes featured here are competent in their own right and it is a tough call to zero in on one particular winner. At one end of the spectrum you have the TVS Apache RTR, a no-compromise performance bike for the enthusiast. If you are looking for outright performance, look no further. It is the fastest, the quickest and the most powerful of the lot here. It may be a bit too sporty for daily city rides, but take it out of the confines once and let the bike do its own talking. The Hero Honda Hunk inherits the UnicornÕs peerless mill but in a more stylish, flashy set of clothes. It is the perfect bike for the Hero Honda fan who desires a modicum of style in a solid and efficient package.

The Pulsar 150 is the oldest bike in here and although it is as competent as ever, it needs a serious upgrade soon. That leaves us with the Unicorn and the GS150R. The Unicorn, despite being dated and bland, manages to stay near the top solely because it scores points in the most crucial parameters – reliability, refinement, handling and ride quality. It manages to give a tough fight to the GS for the top spot and we have no hesitation in saying that with a proper upgrade, it just might clinch the crown. But for now, it is the Suzuki GS150R that claims the title of the best 150cc power commuter. It offers the right mix of efficiency, style, performance and comes loaded with gizmos that enhance the ownership experience – just what most of the 150cc buyers look out for.