RE introduces their most advanced offering in the Indian market yet, the Thunderbird 500. We ride down from Bengaluru to Ooty to taste first blood [Read more…]
RE introduces their most advanced offering in the Indian market yet, the Thunderbird 500. We ride down from Bengaluru to Ooty to taste first blood [Read more…]
Although affected by rain, the first test of the new Brutale 675 was in a way appropriate, for this is no superbike to be polished and kept for sunny Sundays. First impressions straight from Italy [Read more…]
The 125cc segment has always been one of the most important segments for two-wheeler manufactures in India. With increasing number of manufactures focusing their attention on this segment it was only a matter of time before Bajaj had to radically re-invent the popular Discover series. The good thing is that this time the changes are not only cosmetic but also delves deep under the skin.
The new design is sportier than before, now focusing more on a youthful appearance than the commuter-biased looks of its predecessor. The bike has been christened as 125ST, where the suffix stands for ‘Sport Tourer’. The headlamp is borrowed from the Pulsar 135 LS, and the tail lamps are the now de rigueur LEDs. The instrumentation console houses a large analog speedometre, along with fuel gauge and tell-tale lights. Other small changes include aluminum footpegs, new alloy wheels and split tyre-hugger among others.
Now the mechanical details. The highlight of the new bike is a Nitrox-damped monoshock suspension at the rear. Continuing the family tradition, the ST features a twin spark, 4-valve engine developing an maximum power output of 13PS @ 9,000 rpm and 10.78Nm of turning force at 6,500rpm. Bajaj claims that the new Discover has best in class power to weight ratio and a top speed of 105 kp/h.
The company states that the new ST will be sold alongside the current Discover 125 DTS-i and will be priced slight higher than the latter. So, considering that the DTS-i (disc) retails for Rs 53,380 (OTR, Pune), we expect the ST to go on sale for a premium of a couple of thousand rupees.
As the TVS Apache series gets a facelift, we ride the RTR 180 to see if there are any surprises under the skin
The TVS Apache series has been quite popular in the sub-250-cc performance motorcycle segment. The last time the Apache received a notable design upgrade was in 2009 and three years is long time in the Indian motorcycle market.
The company, therefore, went back to the drawing board and tweaked the Apache’s design to come out with a sharper looking motorcycle. The new design has been adopted by the entire Apache range, which includes the RTR 160, RTR 180 and the RTR 180 ABS.
To start with, the RTR has a new head cowl that gives the bike an aggressive look. It also gets all-time running LED pilot lamps that were the highlight of their teaser campaign and they look stunning. The other most prominent change is the elongation of the tank shrouds. The tank shrouds are just pieces of plastic clinging on to the tank shell and are supposed to give the bike a sporty look as we know it, but, according to TVS, they also improve performance and aerodynamics, which helps in reducing engine heat! Looking at the design, we were baffled: why this otherwise proportionate bike has these sabre teeth when the ones on the earlier model were so much better. Other than those, however, the chiselled, sharper lines of the bodywork, with carbon-fibre finished plastic inserts in a few places look good. The bike also gets new switches that are very ergonomic, decals hailing from the Hyper Edge variant, all metal rear foot-pegs and a better looking seat cover.
Under the new body, however, there are hardly any changes. The RTR 160 is powered by the same 159.7-cc, four-stroke engine producing 15.4 PS of power and 13.1 Nm of torque while the RTR 180’s 177.4-cc engine churns out 17.3 PS of power and 15.5 Nm of torque.
The bike is still plagued by high-frequency vibrations from the seat, handlebar and foot-pegs and, owing to its stiffer suspension, it does not offer a very comfortable ride. However, handling still remains a strong point in case of the Apache.
The colours available in the new series include dual-tone colours for the RTR 160 (green, red, yellow or grey with black base) and single-tone (yellow, grey, white or black) for the RTR 180 while the RTR 180 ABS comes in either white or black. The prices of the 2012 series Apache are Rs 75,493 for the RTR 160, Rs 82,554 for the RTR 180 and Rs 94,447 for the RTR 180 ABS.
The 2012 series Apache hasn’t met the expectations of upgrades in performance, but the new look has given the heave-ho to the dated looking design and will help the bikes hold their own in this heavily fought segment.
Photography: Sanjay Raikar
After ruling the 150cc performance bike segment for almost four years, Yamaha YZF-R15 has finally got some competition from none other than the compatriot – Honda. The CBR150R has arrived and we are here with the first impressions of the bike that seems to be determined to dethrone the king that has ruled so far.
The first look at the CBR150R is enough to tell us that this one is almost identical to its elder brother CBR250R. However, a detailed look at the machine will bring out the differences like the two round pilot lights in the headlight cluster have a different treatment than what we see on the 250. The exhaust end can is much smaller; the front visor gets a slightly darkened tint and of course a whole new set of graphics. Look closely and you notice a whole new twin-spar frame on the motorcycle. Once in the saddle, the bike feels a little smaller and shorter than its elder brother and weighs only 138 kg as against the 161 kg (non-ABS version) CBR250R.
The first riding impressions of the bike tell us that this one needs some high revving to get going. With red line at 11,500 rpm, there is no doubt you will be twisting your right wrist harder for more fun. The bike makes 17.8 PS of peak power at 10,500 revs and 12.66 Nm of maximum torque at 8,500 revs. This, for city riding looks like a little on the negative side. However, let the horses lose on a weekend ride to the twisties, rev the engine hard and you won’t be disappointed. Aiding the performance and sporty side of the bike is its chassis and suspension that work perfectly well for hard cornering.
All in all it looks like a good machine for sport riding, touring but an average one for city. However, the final word will come once we have done the performance testing and pitted the bike against the YZF-R15. Stay tuned for further updates!
Price: 1.32 Lakh (Std, OTR Pune)
1.33 Lakh (Dlx, OTR, Pune)
Vespa’s twist-and-go scooter comes with dollops of classic style and modern engineering, but at a premium
It’s time you rummaged through your parents’ closet and pulled out those old 1960s Wayfarers, skin-fit denims and fancy moccasins. They’re back in fashion, in time for Vespa’s second coming to India. After more than 60 years of existence, Vespa has moved on to become a cult internationally. It’s more a style statement than a commuter. Pretty much like Volkswagen’s Beetle or the Mini Cooper among cars. Even the company prefers to position itself as a lifestyle brand than a two-wheeler maker.
This time round, the Italian company is venturing solo, owned cent per cent by parent company, Piaggio. They propose to set up 35 dealerships across the country and have introduced more brands that they own, such as the Aprilia, and who knows, even Moto Guzzi might follow.
Vespa’s first product in India is the LX 125, which was unveiled at the Auto Expo earlier this year, and it does evoke a fair amount of nostalgia with its retro design. It has the cool style quotient of an original Vespa, but now in a modern and more reliable avatar. You can’t miss the classic theme in the curvy design, chrome elements, foot-board rubber strips and three stroke alloy wheels. It is compact in size, comes in a range of adorable, bold colours like red, yellow, black and white and has a great mix of the past and present.
But if you are looking for a no-nonsense practical commuter, then you had better pick one of the run-of-the-mill products, for this Vespa never intends to be one. It’s a fashion scooter. Take the seat, for example. It is flat, wide and squab, just about enough to fit two average Indians. Even the chrome-finish pillion grab-rails are more a matter of style than practical utility. The integrated rear foot-pegs are of little use as the pillion has to keep his feet in a bow-legged position. Yes, there are practical bits like decent under-seat storage, which can contain a shopping bag or an open-face helmet. Even the plastic container can be removed to gain quick access to the engine. There’s also a lockable cubbyhole in the leg shield. The neatly designed instrument cluster has a fuel-gauge and a digital clock/calendar for your convenience.
This twist-and-go scooter has a four-stroke 125-cc motor with three valves for better breathing, a first in this segment. No, it does not have fuel injection and sports the conventional carburettor with a claimed fuel efficiency of 60 kpl under test conditions, which would translate to about 40-45 kpl in real world. The LX 125’s large eight-litre fuel tank will make sure that your trips to the petrol pump are infrequent. The motor produces 10.06 PS of maximum power and 10.60 Nm of torque, which is a couple of notches more than other 125-cc scooters available in the country. Wrench the throttle and the Vespa surges forward smoothly and without fuss until about 40 km/h. The exhaust note is throaty, though power is not delivered that urgently and there are huffs and puffs to maintain higher speed on open roads. This seems all right for a Sunday ride. The brakes feel spongy and hesitate to bring the scooter to standstill.
The monocoque steel construction keeps Vespa’s steel body tradition alive and, at the same time, offers greater rigidity and durability. The single sided trailing arm in the front and coil spring shock-absorber in the rear are on the firmer side. You feel it over pronounced bumps, but overall the scooter is well-balanced, handles surprisingly well and even has a good turning circle. You can spend the entire day trotting around town on it comfortably.
It all boils down to the price now. The Vespa has an on-road price of Rs 74,000 on road Pune which is a fair bit of cash for a 125-cc scooter, specially with the ordinary finish and quality. But then the buying decision for a lifestyle product like this is driven more by the heart than the brain. You don’t really need it, but definitely want one.
Story: Sarmad Kadiri
Photography: Rommel Albuquerque
Bajaj have a crackling winner on its hands, says Saeed Akhtar, after his stint aboard the Pulsar 200NS at the company’s Chakan racetrack
Shift+Delete. Forget everything that you know about Pulsars. Throw all your preconceived notions about how the infusion of KTM chromosomes into the Pulsar DNA ought to turn out, out of the window. Because, and we are glad to report this, the Pulsar 200NS is a completely different breed of beast from its predecessors, and interestingly enough, even from the bike it shares its platform with, the KTM 125 and 200 Duke.
Visually, the 200NS is an arresting machine. The new tank shrouds, exposed twin-spar frame, brutish front end and relatively spartan rear end has moved the visual mass forward, endowing the bike with a proper mean streetfighter look. It also helps that the engine, gearbox (in glorious brushed gold finish), radiator, and underslung exhaust all combine to create the impression of a much fuller and grown-up bike than it really is. Fat tubeless tyres and petal discs moored to ten-spoke alloys at both ends round up the big-bike impression.
With 23.52PS of power on tap at 9500rpm and 18.3Nm of turning force at 8000rpm, the triple spark plugged, four valves SOHC, 200NS is a hoot to ride around the Bajaj test track in Chakan, near Pune. Bajaj’s ExhausTEC technology has lent a discernible edge to its low-down power and it could pull cleanly and progressively from as low as 2000rpm, all the way to the 10,000 rpm redline in 6th gear. Oh yes, there is a sixth gear now. Barrelling down the main straight we saw an indicated 141kmph on the speedo before hitting the anchors. That’s proper fast! Bajaj claims a 0-60kmph timing of 3.61 seconds and sprint to 100 from naught in just 9.83 seconds – which we will confirm once we strap our timing gear onto it – and it certainly felt like the bike was capable of achieving it. Like in the current Pulsars, this one also has a counterbalancer, but here it makes the bike a lot smoother, which, combined with its rev-happy nature and slick transmission, makes it an exhilarating machine. Vibes are practically non-existent, even at the top of its rev range when the orange shift light is blinking madly, begging you to upshift.
Handling is another area where the Pulsar 200NS has dramatically improved. Gone are the archaic twin shock-absorbers at the rear, now replaced by a monoshock with piggyback gas canister which endows the bike with excellent stability and poise in and out of corners. A longer wheelbase and bigger 100/80 and 130/70 tubeless tyres shod on 17 inch rims are the other factors for this newfound prowess. However, as with the Pulsar 220, we still wish the rider’s footpegs were mounted a bit higher, preventing it from grounding and enabling riders to exploit its cornering abilities to the fullest on trackdays. Should not be much of a bother for normal street use though. 280mm and 230mm diameter petal discs at both front and rear does the stopping duties and they look smashing but we will reserve judgment over how efficient they really are until the full road-test next month.
Ten years ago, the Pulsar brand came out of nowhere and transformed a nondescript ‘scooter-maker’ into the torchbearer for affordable performance biking in the country. Today, with the launch of the Pulsar 200NS, they are attempting to re-revolutionise the segment and the first impression is they they have succeeded resoundingly. Agreed, the competition is much hotter and bigger now, but we still feel that the 200NS will hold its own against everything it is pitted against. The crucial element, like always, will, however, be the pricing but that has always been Bajaj’s ace card, so there. Expect the 200NS to retail for around INR 90,000 to 95,000 (ex-showroom, Pune) when it goes on sale at the end of next month. A stylish, power-packed, feature-filled, fun-to-ride streetfighter for less than a lakh? Take a bow, Bajaj!
Read the full ride report in the March 2012 issue of BIKE India, on stands soon.
Royal Enfield’s new Desert Storm claims to be a tornado. Does it have enough force to sweep you off your feet? Let’s find out
Story: Ravi Chandnani
Photography: Sanjay Raikar
Royal Enfield launched the Classic 500 at the end of 2009. Since then it has been one of the best selling models in the company’s line-up. The bike has the right aesthetics with a nostalgic appeal that attracts customers without much effort even in these times when performance bikes seem to rule the roost. However, since evolution is inevitable, Royal Enfield have launched two new variants of the Classic with a few tweaks, claiming it to be better than ever.
This new bike, called the Desert Storm, incorporates changes to the front end and the ECU along with a new cool paint job to lend the bike a new character. Firstly, the new paint job, which I am sure every Bullet fan will appreciate. The Desert Storm comes clad in a matte-finish shade of khaki, which lends the bike a raw, rugged and minimalistic character. The Royal Enfield lettering in plain white gels well with the whole retro character.
Let’s now move on to the next big change – the ECU. Now, there was nothing wrong with the ECU of the older bike. However, Royal Enfield have re-mapped the ECU of the new Desert Storm for a smoother power delivery, though we were hardly able to notice the difference between the Classic and the Desert Storm.
Another thing that has changed is the front-end, which now has conventional forks instead of the offset forks seen on older models. But in appearance they look very much like the old forks. The front wheel has also been replaced with a 19-inch one, though the tyre profile (90/90) remains the same.
Royal Enfield claim that the handling of the bike has improved considerably. That is not what we found. Looking back in history we can see that the older bike had a neutral handling compared to the Desert Storm/Classic range because of factors like the placement of the engine and the offset front forks. The original bike had a lower centre of gravity as compared to today’s Classic. However, when Royal Enfield decided to replace the old engine with a modern ‘unit construction engine’ (UCE), the handling of the bike suffered seriously. Today’s Royal Enfield bikes have engines mounted higher in the frame to bridge the gap between the cylinder head and the petrol tank.
Another easily evident problem is the heavy front end. Because the new bikes use the compact UCE motor, the weight becomes concentrated in the front. Besides, the front wheel has moved a little inwards because of the conventional forks, thus adding to the already heavy front. The Royal Enfield engineers have also increased the length of the swing-arm in order to fill up the gap created by the compact engine. This has resulted into a slightly increased wheelbase and also the centre of gravity and has made the front of the bike heavy. We reckon that if Royal Enfield address the aforementioned problems, the handling of these new bikes will certainly improve considerably.
Overall, the new Desert Storm, priced at Rs 1.55 lakh (OTR, Pune), is basically the same old Classic with just a new paint job and new front forks.
The street devil is finally let loose. It loses no time in putting an ear-to-ear grin on our face as we hop onto it. The KTM Duke 200 was spotted innumerable times on the NH 4, being tested by Bajaj Auto’s test riders. We saw its pictures too.
The specifications were out last month and they were enough to give us the goose bumps. A 200-cc liquid-cooled engine producing 25 PS of peak power and fitted on a machine that weighs just 136 kg (kerb weight, mind you, not dry) was enough to give one an idea of this machine’s prowess. This month we finally swung a leg over the KTM to figure out what it is all about.
A single look at the motorcycle is enough to give you a highly favourable first impression. The styling is very KTM-ish and the orange-black paint scheme talks proudly of its Austrian genealogy. The edges on its tank, its muscular shoulders, sharp tail and in-the-face headlight show exactly what this KTM is all about – out and out aggressive styling.
Close attention has been paid to the smallest details in the making of this bike, including the belly fairing that gels well with the motorcycle and leaves no room for any design-related complaints. Everything seems to be in the right place and in the correct proportions, making the bike look exceptionally good. The Duke 200 brings with it a motorcycle lingo that is not heard by most Indians – the kind spoken by evil urban naked motorcycles.
Swing a leg over the 200 and you discover the compactness of this machine. The handlebar is fairly wide and the saddle is high. A small, squarish instrument console sits in the front and displays an incredible amount of information, ranging from basic stuff like speed and revs per minute to fuel-efficiency and the kilometre range possible with the remaining fuel. There is also a text display (instead of only LED) for warning messages such as when the side-stand is down. All in all, the multi-info instrument console is definitely something that we haven’t seen on an Indian bike thus far. The mandatory rear wheel hugger and sari-guard are in place and don’t look too odd on this bike. The carved swing-arm with the cross pattern on it has killer looks too.
Turn the ignition key, press the starter button and the engine comes to life with a mild grunt, something much quieter than what we had expected. But this relative quiescence lasted only until the throttle was not opened.
I started from the pit lane of Bajaj Auto’s test track, taking the bike easy round the first few corners, judging its handling and grip levels before deciding to tax the engine with the throttle wide open. The first impression was that of a small, lightweight machine with a throttle that seemed to be sufficiently responsive to the twist of the wrist.
Once I got accustomed to the levers and the bike’s ergonomics in general, I decided to go for it. Boy, was I stunned by the acceleration! The Duke 200 is a serious machine and it was evident as soon as I opened the throttle. Outright acceleration is good enough to compete with higher capacity motorcycles. After all 25 PS is a lot of power. And not only is it good in outright acceleration, but also in roll-on acceleration. Thanks to the overall low gearing, the bike pulls superbly from slow speeds in higher gears too. Believe it or not, the Duke 200 doesn’t knock even at 35 km/h in the sixth gear and has a much stronger pull than even a certain higher cc motorcycle. No doubt this kind of rideability will make the Duke one of the best bikes to ride in urban traffic conditions. Just slot it into the fourth or fifth gear and you are well set to roam about the city with no hassles.
However, if this is the story of acceleration, the bike’s top speed is an aspect that did not impress us much. The speedometer showed 140 km/h in the top gear before hitting the limiter and cutting off. Even while cruising at 110 km/h the engine felt a little busy rather than smooth and easy. Nevertheless, the way the bike attains that speed is phenomenal.
The Duke 200 is built on a trellis frame and equipped with WP suspension both at the front and the rear. Upside down (USD) forks in the front and monoshock suspension at the rear have been set up well for Indian conditions – neither too soft, nor too stiff.
As mentioned earlier, we were out testing this motorcycle on the Bajaj Auto test track, which offers a lot of corners with various radii. Every time and round each corner there was enough confidence to push the bike. Though the Duke 200 is not really a supersports bike designed to attack corners, the way it tackled the bends was laudable indeed. No hint of nervousness. The rear tyre is a very wide, 150-mm section one, yet surprisingly offers good flickability, thanks to the narrow rims. MRF has done a good job on the grip front too. The Duke 200 uses Bybre brakes, which function pretty well.
With over an hour well spent astride the Duke 200, it was time to leave and there were some pleasant revelations as well as some questions yet to be answered. For sure, the Duke 200 is a well-engineered bike. It has a lot of power, nice handling, great rideability and fabulous styling. However, there are a few bits, such as its switches and levers, that do not match up to the quality of the other parts of the bike. I happened to be in Tokyo last month where I saw the Duke 200 and Duke 690 side by side and the difference in quality was evident at once.
Another important question is how this bike will be priced. The company has not disclosed anything yet, but they indicate a “competitive” price that will surprise us if we are comparing it with the Honda CBR 250R. That makes us conjecture that this KTM Duke will be priced at around Rs 1.3 lakh (ex-showroom, Pune).
If KTM are able to price the Duke well, it will indeed be the next big thing in the Indian market of performance bikes.
The Duke 200 brings with it a motorcycle lingo that is not heard by most Indians – the kind spoken by evil urban naked motorcycles
Story: Adhish Alawani
Photography: Sanjay Raikar
The GT650N, a naked version of the impressive Hyosung GT650R, is out in the market. We swing a leg over it to see in what ways it differs from the earlier fully faired supersport
Story: Sarmad Kadiri
Photography: Sanjay Raikar
Just because this is the naked version of the impressive Hyosung GT650R, please don’t expect any sexually laced anecdotes, or, maybe, you should. Look at the pictures around these pages and you will admit that after disrobing this supersport has taken the sexual quotient to the max level. The tank curves now get highlighted more than in the full-faired ‘R’. The naked GT650N retains the old instrument console with its digital speedo and analogue tachometer, but now gets a neat shroud. Unlike the GT650R, this one has clearly marked ‘GT650’ decals on the rear panels. Like a glamour model’s recurring dream these cosmetic changes have made the GT seven kg lighter and now it weighs just 208 kg. Well, that’ll be like half-a-dozen super-models on a weighing scale, but this gives the bike a good power-to-weight ratio.
The GT650N seems to have borrowed several styling cues from various popular motorcycles. The new headlight seems to be inspired by the Yamaha FZ and the LED tail-light resemble the Suzuki GSXR’s. Having said that, one must also add that the bike’s overall design is quite appealing. It does not look disproportionate from any angle.
The fairings on most superbikes look great, but once they get ridden on our country’s badly surfaced or broken roads, the plastic cowls often tend to rattle and squeak. Introducing a no-nonsense and no-fairing 650-cc bike is an intelligent move by Garware Motors. Firstly, 650s make better sense as we don’t have adequate roads or highways in India where we can squeeze the fun out of bigger, litre-class bikes. Moreover, the smaller the bike, the easier it is to manoeuvre in our bustling cities and towns. These 650-cc bikes seem to have the best mix of good performance and adequate size, which are ideal for our conditions.
The GT650R, like most sportsbikes, has an aggressive riding position that makes the rider lean on the fuel tank, which is not a very popular posture in India and has a limited appeal. Now the naked GT replaces the clip-ons with a new, wide handlebar that adds to its streetfighter looks and gives the bike a more upright and comfortable riding position. All this makes cruising on the highway and weaving through the city convenient and fun.
Like the GT650R, a strong 90-degree V-twin motor also powers the GT650N, with peak power at 73.68 PS and a staggering mid-range, as the 67 Nm of torque is served right from 7,250 RPM. Unlike the performance-oriented ‘R’, the streetfighter has been designed to be more apt for city riding. Due to time restraints during this exclusive ride we could not test the naked GT, but we did feel the bike’s ECU has been retuned and there is a definite change in the torque curve. The V-twin offers ample torque throughout the powerband, due to which it is not necessary to shift down while overtaking. Just a twist of the throttle is enough to let you surge ahead. Another highlight is the free revving engine that comfortably goes beyond 10,000 RPM and has a stunning top-end. The first gear went up to 81 km/h and the second can run up to 135 km/h at red line. Using the six-speed transmission I managed to reach 160 km/h on the speedo without much struggle, but ran out of road. The company claims a figure of 210 km/h.
One of the prime reasons why I got the confidence to reach such a high speed was the bike’s on road mannerism and good riding position. Its short wheelbase, tall seat and wide handlebar give it a dynamic stance. The GT650N also runs on Bridgestone Battlax BT56 160/60-ZR17 at the rear and 120/60-ZR17 at the front. The Battlax rubber grips well on dry surfaces and is well rooted even on wet ones. The trellis-type twin spar frame is now more prominently visible and adds to the bike’s streetfighter character. More importantly, the chassis feels neutral, agile yet spurs the rider to speed at will. The fully adjustable front suspension and pre-load adjustable rear monoshock have also been tweaked to better suit the naked bike’s character. The suspension setting is another highlight of this bike and it makes the bike very stable at high speed, although the rear mono-shock felt a bit on the firmer side.
This is a good opportunity for Garware Motors to make a mark. The bike is great for long rides and effortlessly fits into the role of a daily commuter due to its riding position and fairing-free design. It all comes down to price now. At Rs 5 lakh (OTR, Pune) it’s neck-to-neck with the Kawasaki Ninja 650R. Since Bajaj currently have a limited number of Ninja 650Rs to offer, Garware can cash in on the demand for this price bracket if they can manage smooth deliveries. Something which only time can tell.