Pretty, Petite and Plucky

Nothing but the best will do for today’s new age Indian woman. So does the TVS Scooty Streak deliver? Bunny Punia finds out
Photography Sanjay Raikar

TVS Scooty is a name that has become a synonym for ungeared scooters in India. From the old, peppy two-stroke powered little scooterette, the brand has matured into four different variants now. The little two-stroke Scooty Teenz, the green electric Teenz, the Pep+ and the latest cosmetically changed avatar christened the Scooty Streak. In India, toying around with current products with a few cosmetic upgrades and in turn luring the customer into believing the new variant to be a much improved machine works and that is exactly what the Hosur-based manufacturer has done with this new Scooty. And while Sania Mirza was busy with her tennis practice, we decided to rope in our own model for the shoot, Vartika Pandey who incidentally owns the good old Scooty Pep.

The fairer sex is very picky about details and when it comes to a makeover, girls want a lot more. A majority of Scooty owners are college going damsels or young working women and in order to successfully entice them, TVS made the new Streak wear more than just new graphics. The entire design of the body is different, yet a single look at the scooter will immediately remind you of the Pep+. I must say the new design is clever and distinct yet it carries forward the design of the Scooty family. In short, the Streak carries on the Pep+ cutesy lines but with sharper angles. The speedometer console too is new with a snazzy background.

As compared to the cute smiling front of the Pep+, the Streak gets a savvier design. The combination of a new headlamp layout and a triangular slot for the indicator and pilot lamps in my opinion lends a mature look to the scooter. The colour combination and graphics of course are altered but the highlight here is the rear. Apart from the big twin deck grabrail, the first in India LED tail lamps on a scoot look smashing. With the parking lamps on and the brake depressed, the tail lamps lend a look reminiscent of a peacock with its feathers stretched out. No really! Vartika too shared the same opinion and admitted that the Streak easily overshadows the Pep when it comes to a more feminine look. Also worth a mention are the wider 90mm front and rear anti-skid tyres which are made from wet compound thereby aiding grip during rains.

Vartika, who has a liking for stunts (she has been doing stuff on bikes too!) was eager to have some fun with the Streak, and boy, did she make us eat dust in traffic! While I was aboard the new Honda Activa 110 (read Rohit’s take on the scooter elsewhere in the magazine), she managed to use the amazing handling of the Streak to lose me in the rear view mirror in no time. The Streak’s small 10-inch tyres and a diminutive size means a typical rider will be able to squeeze her way in traffic without a fuss. TVS boffins have left the engine largely untouched, however, there are a few tweaks done to enhance the fuel economy which remains above 50kmpl in a combined city and highway cycle. The 87.8cc LITECH engine develops 5PS of power with 5.8Nm of torque. This scooter always had a peppy throttle response and with a weight of just 96 kilos (one kilo more than the Pep+), the scoot manages a naught to 60km/h dash in a respectable 12 seconds. With a lightweight Vartika on board, the Streak managed to nudge the 80km/h mark on the speedometer thus matching the top speed of its sibling. The brakes work well and are responsive with enough bite. Seat comfort is very good – it’s soft yet has enough padding and doesn’t feel bottomed out with a heavy weight like me. The suspension though starts bouncing all over the road the moment you encounter the smallest of undulations if you have a 90odd kilo rider on board at anything above 65-70km/h.

For just over two big ones more than the Pep+, the Streak is a recommended buy. It looks snazzier and has enough lineaments to keep owners happy. The usual features like a mobile charging point, good underseat storage space and a new external fuel filler cap (located behind the seat, and gets somewhat hindered by the grabrail) are thoughtful details. Retailing at Rs 41,200 (on-road, Pune), this scooter is now a grand more than its direct competitor, the Hero Honda Pleasure. But is it the best set of two-wheels for the ladies? Watch out for our next issue then…

The Streak carries on the same 87.8cc engine from the Pep+. TVS claims to have made a few tweaks for better fuel economy though

Most of us thought that the rear was overdone, but once it gets dark, the Streak’s tail lamps look the best in business

The speedometer console has been designed keeping in mind the overall snazzier look of the Streak


Rohit Paradkar zips around city streets to evaluate the newest avatar of Honda’s trusty urban tool
Photography: Sanjay Raikar and Eshan Shetty


Riding an ungeared scooter can be a pleasant surprise especially after tackling the chaotic traffic on a geared motorcycle and chocking all life out of the poor clutch plates. Having reviewed such geared commuters in the past few BI issues, I was excitedly looking forward to test the latest avatar of the undisputed ruler of the scooter segment, the Honda Activa!

The Activa has always been on my list of Indian wonder vehicles for the sheer way in which it resurrected the dead scooter market in India. However, with the competition having churned out some funky looking products to counter it, I was afraid that the new Activa would end up being an alien-ish looking sibling of the Aviator. Thankfully, the latest Activa comes across, once again, as a subtly designed city slicker and marks its own individuality not only amongst the entire Honda lineup, but the Indian scooter segment as well. While speaking about the Activa’s new design, the people at Honda told me that front fascia is designed with the philosophy of a man’s V shaped torso in mind. Frankly, I fail to see a significant resemblance, nevertheless, the new face is fresh. The small air vents add a hint of sportiness to the overall frontal appearance. Even with all the newly incorporated elements, something appears to be missing – the design doesn’t exude a feeling of completeness especially at the front. The headlight and turn blinkers have maintained their arrangement on the handlebar cowl. The blinkers, now larger, sport a rakish shape and are sure to be more visible to the oncoming traffic than the older model. The position of the tail elements too hasn’t been altered too much, although the shape of the lamp glasses is slightly different than the ones on the previous model. The side panels aren’t a big departure from the ones on the earlier Activa. Honda, however, has taken a lot of metal off the new scoot’s body in a bid to shave off some kilos. The company has used ABS plastics for the front faceplate, headlight cowl and rear panels. The belly pan remains metallic though to provide the strength required to protect the underbody from pebbles shooting from the front tyre on gravely, broken roads. Overall, the design is fresh but still has clues of the old Activa to highlight the lineage.

Apart from the new body, the big news on the new Activa is the new engine for the ’09 model. The mill is now bored out to displace 109cc as opposed to 102cc of the earlier engine. The engine now puts out 8PS at 7500rpm – 1PS up over its predecessor. But that doesn’t translate into a significantly higher acceleration as suggested by our test figures. But the power figure is not the only stat that has gone up. The magic figure for me was the 9Nm of torque, which is the trump card for the new Activa and puts it ahead of even some 100cc motorcycles in the market. Mate this figure to the seamless variomatic transmission and what you get is a scooter that can zip through the unnerving city traffic with utter ease.

The scooter’s strength lies between the 40-50km/h mark. Within this range, the vehicle will not only return decent fuel efficiency, but will also deliver enough torque to make quick overtaking manoeuver. However, once you cross this mark and proceed to the 70km/h zone, the Honda mill changes its silent tone into an echoing hum. This hum amplifies as you accelerate further and also brings in a slight hint of vibes as you max out close to 89km/h. Though the Activa zips around comfortably, the brakes aren’t really a big improvement over the scoot’s earlier avatar. The 130mm drums front/rear lack the stopping power that you would get from the Aviator’s disc. Yes, I know I’ll sound stupid if I compared the drums to a disc, but then why not have disc brakes on the new Activa in the first place, as an option at least? If Honda could integrate the mechanism on the Aviator and still manage to price the scooter under Rs 50,000 on road, they could have done the same for the new Activa too. There is a mopdel with combined braking coming soon, but I still doubt whether it’ll outperform a full fledged disc brake system.

The new instrumentation console is easy to read. It’s simple and functional, without any flashy graphics

The new headlight sports a halogen bulb which provides better illumination in the dark than its previous version

The new grabrail from the Aviator is very ergonomic

Brakes apart, the Activa continues to impress in the city with improved fuel efficiency figures. Even on a crowded day, Aspi managed to extract 52kmpl in the city and 58kmpl on the highway (though the latter is not of much significance with regards to a scooter). While these figures inspire you to make a buying decision in favour of the new Activa, what may dishearten a few fairer souls is the increase in saddle height by 5mm. However, the front sides of the seat have been slightly scooped off halfway through the length thereby reducing its width at the front. This will help a shorter rider easily reach the ground in spite of the increase in ride height. Under the new seat is some increased luggage space and is achieved by trading in a litre worth of fuel tank capacity. Though Honda claims that the storage space can accommodate a full face helmet, I could hardly fit in my Studds open face in the cavity. Whatever the storage space can hold though, rest assured that it will be safer in the new Activa than the older one. Thugs and victims alike will recall that the wire actuated seat locking mechanism located above the swingarm was easy to access and break into for the trained hand. The new mechanism has a metal covering which restricts access and would in turn prevent thefts – a boon for people who have the habit of leaving valuables in the underseat storage. Another security aspect is the key shutter, but that is not available on the standard model and will be available only on the Deluxe variant.

Coming to ride quality, the Activa has always offered a comfortable ride and the new version is no exception. The front suspension in the new Activa still employs a bottom link, spring loaded hydraulic damper setup, which has been trashed by the competition for telescopic forks long back. After having ridden the Aviator, the front suspension of the Activa leaves a lot to be desired. The handling isn’t as crisp as the Aviator’s. But since I’m stating that the new Activa is no exception to the old one’s comfortable characteristics, I would rather compare the new model with its predecessor than its elder sibling. The rear suspension too is carried over from the old Activa and is made up of a single-sided swingarm with a spring loaded hydraulic damper. The entire suspension setup coupled with the wide and comfortable seats makes for good ride comfort for the rider and the pillion. The pillion comfort is augmented further by virtue of the newly designed footpegs. On the earlier model, the footpegs wouldn’t open easily especially with the panel guards in place. On the new Activa though, there are small notches on the pegs for easy access to open them outward or tuck them back in. Overall the riding position for both the rider as well as the pillion turns out to be more comfortable on the new scooter.

So, are the improvements worth the extra money? The answer is a simple yes. The new Activa is dearer over the ex-showroom price of the outgoing model by only Rs 1,500. In exchange, the scooter returns better fuel efficiency, has a bigger capacity engine, more storage space, offers good ride comfort and comes with Honda reliability. Though a side stand, panel guards and glove box remain optional accessories, the base price is still good value for money. We wish there wasn’t any price increase over the earlier model, but the extra amount quoted isn’t too exorbitant for you to alter your buying decision. Be it the tight city conditions or broken roads on the countryside, the scooter can carry two riders with great comfort. It’s got a new face to match up to the times, but still carries the subtle lineage forward. If an understated, reliable, no-nonsense scooter is what you’re looking for, your search ends here.

Motoware may09

This month we bring you performance accessories for your imports and new safety headgear
to match up to the speed


Pulse & Raptor jackets
Cramster’s 2009 range of jackets includes two new additions: Pulse and Raptor. Both these jackets are constructed using Cordura material and come with protective padding. Some designs are made to look similar to the jackets worn by A. C. Fariyas and his group in the acclaimed Pulsar Mania advert. For more details, visit their website.

The FFR range from KBC is their solution for customers looking to invest in a modular flip face helmet. It employs the company’s patented MagCam mechanism for its flip face operation. This is essentially a protective metal latching system which prevents the helmet from opening up in a crash scenario. Like other helmets in the KBC range, the FFR fits all the safety regulations like DOT, ECE and Snell.

TBR M2 V.A.L.E Slip-on / Full system
The Honda CBR1000RR and Suzuki GSX1300R Hayabusa are already here and their performance accessories are on the way. One of the first in the line of serious upgrades is the new M2 slip-on canister / full system from Two Brothers Racing. The canister is constructed using three choices of materials like carbonfibre, aluminium or titanium. The system as a whole claims to produce up to 2PS more than the stock Fireblade and can reduce the bike’s weight by up to 4 kilos. On the ‘Busa, power is augmented by as much as 4PS while weight is slashed by almost 10 kilos. Refer to the contact information for further details, pricing and availability

Sparx S07
Remember the helmet full of skulls that our BI journo Rohit Paradkar’s been wearing for most photo shoots? The same shell will now don new graphics for 2009. These include simple designs ranging from solid colour combos to whacky graffiti art to suit your taste. Priced a tad above the other brands available in market, the Sparx range boasts of DOT and ECE safety standards compatibility with the KBC brand backing it up.

Canon EOS 500D
The new Canon DSLR camera features a 15.1 MP CMOS sensor with the ability to record video in full HD along with those crisp and sharp images high resolution images. Who needs a handycam and a camera when you can tag along this baby. This new gizmo sets you back by Rs 50,000

Prince of zeal

A crown (the bike’s new visor) not withstanding, Bunny Punia thinks the new FZS is the last word in fun biking in India
Photography: Bunny Punia, Martin Alva, Munish Shekhawat


In India, two-wheeler manufacturers have different ways of promoting their products. While some rely solely on their product virtues or advertisements, others make sure the bonding between the owners and their bikes play an important role. For Yamaha, things are a little different. It is not every day that you see senior management personnel of a two-wheeler manufacturer ride with the media guys during a launch or a ride function – be it aboard the YZF-R15 at the Sriperumbudur racetrack or astride the FZ-16 during its launch in Goa.

The road to success for Yamaha in India has been hard but in the last year or so, a strong upward movement in sales charts has shown that the company’s efforts have begun to yield results. In March 2009, Yamaha sold 14,558 units (with the FZ series making up for more than 50 percent of the sales) which was a whopping 45 percent increase over the same month last year. With volumes on the rise each month, Yamaha has become the fastest growing two-wheeler manufacturer in India. Continuing with the success of the R15 and FZ-16, the Japanese firm decided to pimp up the latter with a few cosmetic touches and hence was born the FZS that you see across these four pages.

A first proper look at the FZS combined with experiencing the fun element that this bike comes attached with was the agenda behind Yamaha taking a few select journos for a trip to North India at a small hill station based around a lake, Nainital, some 300 odd km from Delhi. After an awfully slow and grueling twelve hour bus journey (at the end of it, all of us thought biking up would have been a better option), the setting for the open air, overlooking the lake cocktail-cum-presentation dinner helped combat the fatigue (and frustration). Plus we had the new incarnations of the FZ-16 for company with a couple of FZs with aftermarket add-ons. Nainital was chilly and while we sipped liquor and warmed our hands around the burning coal, the presentation by Sanjay Tripathi gave us a fair idea of what lay in store for us the next day.

The morning session saw us riding around the hill station on sticky tarmac, enjoying the amazing flickable nature of the bike. Though we were on roads between 5000-6500 feet above mean sea level, which meant the slightly thinner air robbed the engine of some power, the bike’s fantastic midrange torque made up for it and the 35km odd loop was covered in just half an hour. Most of us wanted a break from our hectic daily routine and loved riding on such roads. How could we restrain ourselves from making the bike dance on one wheel as well?

The afternoon riding session, however, was longer (and faster) with some of us staying right at the tail of the leading bike ridden by a Yamaha rider. The destination was Corbett National Park around 110km away. Yes we were scarily fast, but the adrenaline rush made sure the right wrist was wrung open, making full use of the bike’s capabilities (and the tyres too). Traffic was sparse and the occasional speed breakers were of course negotiated with ease. The day’s ride saw one media guy taking a spill and well, the incident did bring us back to reality and we backed off a little from the throttle. The evening saw us riding onto the dry riverbed for some fantastic photo opportunities with some of us riding on the pegs, jumping over typical, huge white riverbed stones. This was where I kept the FZ-16 and FZS side by side to compare the differences. The cosmetic changes are few – a sharper headlamp, a new visor, new colour schemes and alloy wheel strips, et al – but they help in giving the bike a completely new character which in my opinion easily makes the FZS the best looking bike in India. The changes do make the bike dearer by a couple of grand but the boffins at Yamaha are confident about the positive sales of their product.

Media rides like these are vital. An opportunity for a close interaction with the top guys as well as the factory riders helps to shed light on various aspects of the bike and its development. I have ridden the FZ-16 extensively in Pune but the route chosen by Yamaha riders had a lot of variations including superb sticky twisties, dry riverbeds, small stream crossings etc. Riding the FZ-S over all these terrains enlightened us about a lot more aspects as well. For instance, the next day, while riding deep into the Park, we came across numerous 15-20 feet long shallow humps which were entered at close to triple digit speeds and exiting them saw both wheels at least a foot off the road. Landing back didn’t weave the bike at all. Stability, flickability and a torquey engine – I have always loved the FZ and this small interaction with the new FZS impressed me further. Small capacity bikes can be fun too.

The new visor not only looks cool, but also helps deflect some amount of air from the riders chest. Seen in the background is the Ramganga river

A big thanks to the Yamaha factory riders (with Morita San in the center) for all the hard work they put in to plan this ride

Sanjay Tripathi has been the face of Yamaha India for most of us journos, and we have always found him riding enthusia-stically along with us on all the media rides

Vee4 is back

Roland whacks the throttle on the latest generartion of V4 litre class power available for the street. Behold the Aprilia RSV4!
Photography: Milagro


The first session had been horrible, but this was fantastic fun. The rain was coming down quite hard now, and the slippery Misano track had already seen three crashes this morning. But as the RSV4 tipped smoothly into the turns, drove through with a guttural V4 growl, and then catapulted towards the next bend with a stirring howl, the speed and poise of Aprilia’s new challenger was thrilling despite the conditions.

This was the upmarket Factory version of the Italian firm’s new super-sports flagship, and the name was well deserved. The production RSV4 was managing — with its looks, its agility, its suspension control and sheer power — to give a flavour of the works V4 on which Max Biaggi has shaken up the established players in the first weeks of the World Superbike season.

It shouldn’t really have been a surprise to anyone that Aprilia would be so competitive so quickly on the track, or that the 183PS production RSV4 would be mighty good to ride. After all, the Noale firm is part of the Piaggio Group that is Europe’s biggest bike firm. More than three years and 25 million euros have been invested in this project, after starting with a blank sheet of paper.

“Our goal was clear,” Piaggio’s director of motorcycle engineering Romano Albesiano had said last night. “We wanted to build the fastest motorcycle on the racetrack, for use on track and road. There were no limitations; no constraints. We were free to choose the engine layout and the chassis. We wanted to make the most compact super-sports bike ever built, and we did it in a unique way: by combining the work of two teams, the engineers of the R&D department and the race department.”

Aprilia’s history also pointed to the RSV4 making an immediate impact. Back in 1998 the original RSV Mille V-twin, the firm’s first ever superbike, was a fine roadster although it never turned World Superbike race wins into a championship victory. This new bike’s links to the V-twin include its trio of headlights and aluminium beam frame layout. But this all-new V4 is very different; lower and more compact, as well as more stylish.

The dozen RSV4s poking from Misano pit garages had cut through the early morning gloom. Miguel Galluzzi, creator of Ducati’s Monster and now head of Piaggio’s design team, has given the V4 a unique and aggressive look. The sharp lines of the cut-down fairing and sculpted tailpiece are reflected in the upswept black silencer. The aluminium frame spars are smooth and polished. Classy, typical Factory-spec touches include Öhlins suspension, Brembo radial Monoblocs and forged Marchesini wheels.

There’s nothing particularly unusual about the view from the rider’s seat, which is quite low and slim (although luxurious compared to the razor-blade that a pillion gets to sit on). Clip-on bars bolt to 43mm forks whose gold-and-blue tops jut through the cast top yoke. A low screen gives a view of the digital display. But there was definitely something special about the way the motor came to life with a raw, raspy V4 sound through the four-into-one exhaust, revving urgently as I blipped the throttle.

Being tall I was glad to find that despite the bike’s compact dimensions it didn’t feel cramped. But I wasn’t glad about the weather. Aprilia had gambled by holding the launch in north-eastern Italy, and had been rewarded by rain. The standard Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP tyres had been replaced by softer still racing wets, but I still didn’t enjoy relearning the slippery circuit, especially after one guy had crashed on the opening lap.


Miguel Galluzzi,
Director of Piaggio Group Style Centre

“I joined Aprilia in September 2006 and in my first week we started talking about this bike. The engine was already on the test bench. To start such an important project with a clean sheet of paper was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

“But this was also a very difficult project because the RSV4 is very small, which gives extra problems for a designer. Size was the priority: the bike is nimble, the form is the function. Next priority was to make it distinctive — to create the face and the tail. When you see it coming it’s an Aprilia; when it’s going away it’s an Aprilia.

“It was a conscious decision to keep the bodywork to a minimum, to let people see the engine and the frame. We thought there would be a lot of heat coming to the rider but when we tested the bike we found the hot air goes away. We spent quite a lot of time in the wind tunnel, but not too much because you can get confused by it.

“The hardest part was the exhaust. Designing something that looks good with the necessary volume is a big problem. We tried maybe 150 different solutions: with one silencer, two, high, low, all over the place. When we got the look we started working on the sound — getting that metallic note when the valve opens up…

“This is a good time at Aprilia. Everyone here has the passion for motorcycling. We have a budget, and the right way of working. This engine will lead to other exciting bikes. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

The bike was not to blame for that. To suit the conditions Aprilia’s technicians had suggested setting the three-way injection map to the S for Sports position, the middle of the three. This is easily done, using the starter button while the motor is running. The T for Track setting gives max power in all gears; S smooths delivery and cuts max output in the lower three ratios; and R for Road flattens the torque curve and limits output to 142PS at all times.

With the Sport setting selected the V4 was fabulously flexible and sweet-revving. The close-ratio box’s first gear is tall, so I was splashing round the tighter bends with the revs dropping below 5000rpm. Yet the Aprilia picked up sweetly as I cautiously opened the ride-by-wire throttle. The engine note was initially gravelly; a touch of vibration briefly came through the footrests… then the sound rose in pitch and the motor smoothed as the bike stormed down the straight, kicking harder at about 8000rpm and hurtling towards the next turn.

On the wet track I was happy to leave the engine in S mode for almost all my three sessions. A brief test of the Road setting was enough to suggest that its gentler delivery might be useful occasionally. There was certainly not enough grip to allow any advantage from the Track setting’s full power in the lower gears, so I left that for another day.

Even in the dry there would have been no room at Misano to get close to the Aprilia’s near-300km/h top speed, but the bike was into fifth in the generally sweet-shifting box, and still pulling hard (no time to glance down at the digital speedo) on the main straight. That’s despite it having to cut through the wind and rain with my unaerodynamic body increasing the bike’s tiny frontal area despite my efforts to hide behind the low screen. The RSV4 certainly felt seriously fast; just how fast it is remains to be seen.

Full analysis of its handling ability will also have to wait, because the track didn’t dry out. It’s ironic that the RSV4 has the most comprehensively adjustable chassis ever seen on a production streetbike — giving the option to change steering geometry, ride height, swing-arm pivot point and even engine position — but the weather meant that I didn’t adjust even its suspension.

Instead I was happy that the front and rear Öhlins units were reasonably soft and very well damped, and gave good feedback in conjunction with the super-soft Pirellis. Misano’s relatively recent change to run anti-clockwise has resulted in a couple of tricky, decreasing-radius right-hand turns that put emphasis on front-end grip. So it was just as well that the RSV4 steered with a light and neutral feel that made direction changes easy.

I hadn’t expected to enjoy splashing round in the wet, even so. But during my second session the bike felt so precise, controllable and sweet-handling that I was having a great time despite the rain. I was cornering faster, leaving my braking later — glad that the Brembo Monoblocs gave plenty of feel, as well as stopping power — and winding on the gas earlier and harder out of the turns.

Then I had a biggish rear-end slide exiting the same second-gear left-hander that had seen a Greek rider high-side in the previous session. Clearly even this most rider-friendly and poised of bikes could easily exceed its limits. By mid-afternoon seven riders had crashed. Our final session was cancelled amid fears that Aprilia would run out of bikes for the following day.

So the RSVR Factory’s debut ended inconclusively, and the V4 still has work to do to show that it can be as competitive a production bike as its works-racer variant has shown it can be in World Superbikes. Perhaps Aprilia will give the Factory traction control, to compete with Ducati’s similarly priced 1198S, after introducing the cheaper RSV4-R model (with Showa springs, cast wheels and probably a simpler, non-adjustable frame) that is expected in about six months’ time.

Despite the weather and the crashes, though, the Factory had done enough to suggest that Aprilia’s second major assault on the open-class superbike market will be even more successful than the first. The competition is hotter than ever this year. But the RSV4 was mighty good in the rain, and will surely be better still in the dry. The superbike world has a very serious new challenger.


The chassis is comprehensively adjustable and allows the rider to change steering geometry, ride height, swingarm pivot point and engine position

The tachometer red lines a notch higher than 14K revs while the large display provides a wealth of information with features like a lap timer, speedo etc. The throttle is mated to a fly-by-wire technology for monstrous performance

The 999.6cc 65° V-four cylinder engine uses a ride-by-wire multimap technology which takes engine management to practically infinite possibilities for further development. A sophisticated electronic injection system with two injectors and adjustable height ducts aid futher performance gain

RSV4 Tech
This bike represents the start of an important new family for Aprilia, who threw huge resources into developing an engine that will eventually power naked and sports-touring models, as well as a base-model R version of the RSV4. The firm’s aim to create the “missing link between track and road” led them to use engineers from both R&D and race teams, and to run sophisticated computer programmes to analyse potential lap times of numerous engine layouts — including V-twin, triple and transverse four — before opting for a dohc V4.

An eight-valve V4 with cylinders at 65 degrees was eventually chosen as the best compromise between engine power — for which a larger angle allows more space for intakes — size and vibration level. “We chose the configuration with optimum performance and mass distribution,” said Piaggio’s bike engineering chief Romano Albesiano. “We wanted to keep the same weight distribution as the RSV V-twin, but make it smaller. The V4 is narrower and produces less vibration than an in-line four, so the higher development and manufacturing costs were worthwhile.”

The 999cc engine’s dimensions of 78 x 52.3mm match those of Yamaha’s latest R1, the most oversquare of Japan’s inline fours. Camshaft drive is by lateral chain to the intake cam, then gear to the exhaust cam, allowing very compact cylinder heads. Titanium is used for the valves; magnesium for the engine covers. A single balancer shaft minimises vibration. The transmission incorporates a six-speed cassette gearbox and wet, mechanical slipper clutch.

Breathing is highly sophisticated, featuring variable length intake ducts and ride-by-wire throttle control. The Weber-Marelli injection system incorporates two injectors per cylinder: one located downstream of the throttle valve for optimum low-rev response; the other in the airbox to boost fuel atomisation for maximum high-rev power. Peak output is a claimed 183PS at 12,500rpm. Pressing the starter button toggles between the maximum output T (Track) mode; S (Sport) which smooths output and limits torque in the first three gears; and R (Road) which gives a 142PS limit in all gears.

Aprilia’s road and race heritage demanded a polished, twin-spar aluminium frame. The RSV4’s is welded from cast and pressed sections, weighs 10.1kg, and is fine-tuned for optimum stiffness, giving 39 per cent more torsional rigidity than the RSV V-twin’s equivalent, but less rigidity elsewhere. The matching aluminium swing-arm weighs 5.1kg and is stiffer than its predecessor in every respect. Most of the 17 litres of fuel lives under the seat, for improved weight distribution.

The RSV4’s key chassis feature is a level of adjustability unprecedented in a production bike. Removable steering head inserts can alter the headstock position and alter rake and trail from the standard settings of 24.5 degrees and 105mm. Rear end height can be adjusted via the swing-arm pivot as well as shock length. Even the engine has alternative mounting points.

This adjustability is largely for the benefit of Aprilia’s Superbike race team, and springs from the race department’s close collaboration in the RSV4’s design. “Some targets such as power, weight and handling were clear to both the R&D department and the racing engineers, but the potential for chassis adjustment was a demand of the racing department,” says veteran RSV engineer Mariano Fioravanzo. “The adjustable frame was more complicated and expensive, and we discussed it a lot. But in the end the racing department got what they wanted.”

The Factory model’s cycle parts match the frame’s quality. The 43mm usd forks, piggy-back shock and steering damper are all by Öhlins. Forged wheels are a kilogramme lighter than those of the Factory V-twin, let alone cast alternatives. Brembo’s radial Monobloc calipers bite purpose-designed 320mm discs. Carbon-fibre mudguards and sidepanels contribute to a claimed weight of 179kg without oil or battery.


Downtown Sprinters

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Is the Stunner version 2.0 an improvement over the older version as it happens with electronic gadgets or does it disappoint like movie sequels?
Words: Mihir Gadre
Photography: Sanjay Raikar


Usually, when Honda launches a new product it leaves the audience gasping for breath. The Stunner FI launch was no different. This time though it was not because Honda had unleashed yet another phenomenal product but because of the bike’s price tag of Rs 72,834 (on-road, Pune). To put this into perspective, let me give you an overview of its competition. Yamaha’s streetfighter par excellence, the FZ16 as well as TVS’ flagship, the Apache RTR EFi cost exactly the same as the Honda. Those looking for affordable performance have options like the Pulsar 180 or the Apache RTR, both of which retail for about rupees five grand less.

Honda’s own 150cc offering, the Unicorn, is rupees nine grand cheaper whereas the Hero Honda Achiever, which sports the same 150cc engine from the Unicorn, costs around Rs 12,000 less. Honda’s other 125cc bike, the Stunner (without the FI), is Rs 15,000 cheaper while the Shine is a whopping rupees 19 grand less. Does the FI tech justify the Stunner FI’s ultra premium price tag or is Honda asking for too much for a couple of alphabets added to the Stunner’s name tag? Well, let’s find out…

Style and ergonomics
The Stunner is a very handsome bike. The body work follows a uniform design language from its sharp, beak-like front to its upswept tail. The ergos are slightly sporty with rear set footpegs but are reasonably comfortable at the same time thanks to the high seat and handlebars. The quarter fairing too has been executed with much more finesse than the abrupt jobs pasted on to some other bikes in the country. I opine that the Stunner is one of the best looking bikes in the country. The FI version gets a new two-tone paint scheme with colours borrowed from the Fireblade which look, well, stunning.

The new shade of deep metallic red especially complements the bike much better than the solid blood red shade of the old bike. Build quality too is top notch perhaps the best you will find in the market. The FI gets red coloured rear springs, a silver heat shield and a golden coloured engine which differentiate it from the carburetor fed variant. However, we have a bone to pick with Honda for ditching the wing graphics on the tank and fairing that we absolutely loved. Nevertheless, on the styling front at least, the new bike fares much better than the competition.

Performance and FE
The Stunner is now the fifth bike on the market to feature fuel injection and the second, after the Glamour FI, to get Honda’s Legendary PGM-FI short for Programmed Fuel Injection. The FI engine feels much more refined than the carbureted version while the gearbox is a typical butter smooth Honda unit. The throttle response has improved and is especially evident while blipping on downshifts. The engine now produces 11.76PS of peak power – half a PS more than the old Stunner – and 11.2Nm of torque at a slightly lower 6250rpm.

The console gets the pgm-fi logo below the fuel gauge and a malfunction indication lamp next to the neutral indicator


The bike gets an open chain guard and red rear springs which differentiate it from the carb version. honda have employed a smaller rear sprocket in order to make the overall gearing taller


The stunner fi gets a silver finish heat shield instead of the chrome unit seen on the older bike

The FI manages much higher speeds in every gear compared to the carbureted Stunner which used to be totally out of breath at the 80km/h mark. However, the difference is not so much due to FI technology as Honda would like you to believe but because of the revised gearing. Honda technicians have given the bike a taller gearing by going one tooth down on the rear sprocket. BIKE India had suggested a similar gearing change to Honda way back in June 2006. We had even carried out the sprocket modification on the Shine and had done a comparo with the stock Shine in our magazine. However, it took Honda three long years to implement the changes. Honda must have hoped that nobody would find out about the revised gearing and assume that the difference in performance was all because of the PGM-FI.

The bike clocked a 0-60km/h time of 6.32sec and a top speed of 108.2km/h. Its performance is good for a 125cc but it is not good enough for the bikes it is trying to compete with. More than outright performance, it’s the new bike’s deficiency in midrange torque that takes it out of the performance game. However, Stunner FI does make up for it by returning fantastic fuel efficiency figures. The bike managed to stretch a litre to 64km on city roads and 72km on the highway. That gives it an overall fuel efficiency of 66kmpl which is 5kmpl more than the carbureted version in addition to being on par with other 125s.

Ride and handling

There are no changes on the chassis-suspension front. The bike is stiffly sprung to complement its sporty pretensions. This gives it a slightly harsh ride especially when riding solo. The ride gets much more compliant with a pillion on board. However, the stiff set-up also has its own advantages. It gives the bike good handling characteristics. The Stunner FI has a good grip and plenty of feedback through the tyres. The short wheelbase makes it a doodle to swerve in and out of the traffic. So in terms of dynamics, it does manage to outclass most of its competition. Many Stunner owners complain about the problem of vibes creeping up through the footpegs and handlebars at the top end of its rev range. Thankfully, as the FI variant runs lower revs due to its taller gearing in addition to the bike’s new bar ends, this problem has been alleviated to a great extent.

What the Stunner FI sets out to achieve is to give the customer the performance of a 150 and the fuel efficiency of a 125 and it has almost achieved this goal. At the same time, it feels much more of a premium product compared to its competitors and has that all important big bike feel. It would have been a great product for people looking for a premium bike with great fuel efficiency to boot had it been priced a bit more realistically. A maximum premium of Rs 5,000 over the carbureted Stunner would have been justifiable. But a price tag of Rs 73,000 is just too optimistic on Honda’s part.

To reiterate a bit, the bike is certainly head and shoulders above the rest in its segment but is so darn expensive that prospective buyers are forced to consider other alternatives. The fact that Honda itself offers a fantastic bike like the Unicorn at a reasonable price makes the case for the Stunner F1 a bit weaker. The Unicorn is a well established benchmark in its segment with its legendary reliability, refinement, performance and dynamics. It also has a monoshock rear suspension and a tachometer which is absent on the Stunner FI.
If you compare the Stunner FI with the Unicorn, it is 7kmpl more fuel efficient than the Unicorn but then there’s a difference of Rs 9,000 in their price tag. So if you do the math it will take you at least 75,000km of riding to recover the price difference in your fuel bills. As such, the big question is whether the Stunner FI will be flying out of showrooms like all the other Hondas.



More power. More fun. More bang for your buck. The P220 returns with a vengeance
Words Bunny Punia
Photography Sanjay Raikar


While exiting the last left oval before the straight started, I ducked down as much as my large frame allowed. Gunning the bike, I upshifted to fourth and could see the digital speedometer climb towards the 120km/h mark rapidly. At close to 130km/h, I shifted to fifth and by the time I was forced to brake hard for a left curve, the speedometer had registered 135km/h! For a rider weighing in at a quintal, these speeds are phenomenal on a short straight. Can the new Bajaj Pulsar 220 easily clinch back the crown for being the fastest Indian bike?

When launched two years ago, the P220 redefined the rules of performance biking in India. It also marked the debut of technologies and features never before seen on any domestic motorcycle. As an overall package, true to Bajaj’s traits, the 220 was also a fantastic value for money proposition. However, once Yamaha entered the Indian performance biking segment, they stole the crown from the Pulsar 220. Later, with TVS confirming the launch of the 180cc RTR, Bajaj had to act fast to reclaim its lost glory.

Starting on the outside, the firm’s design boffins have followed an all-black treatment seen on the bike’s new smaller capacity siblings too. The engine, the alloy wheels, the suspension and the chassis – everything is painted the colour of midnight. In our opinion this treatment goes a long way in adding more muscle and poise to the bike. The inclusion of a braided brake hose not only looks good, but also improves the feel under hard braking as there is next to no flexing of the steel hose. There is a slight change in the sticker work as well but we are left wondering what the big ‘F’ logo behind the front indicator means? The tyres remain the same, however, Bajaj officials claim they are now made of softer compound in order to aid grip around corners.

A major alteration, however, is between the bike’s wheels. The engine does away with the fuel injection system and in its place comes the biggest carburetor seen on any current Indian production bike – a UCAL UCD 32 Venturi unit. This is a major departure but Bajaj claims that the overall benefits in terms of getting more power and better fuel economy at a lesser cost compared to the FI unit made them incorporate this change. Other modifications like graphite coating of the piston’s skirt for reducing the friction between the block and the piston, a modified intake port, high lift cams, a larger resonator and a bigger catalytic converter aid in generating more power which is up by a PS to 21. These figures give the Pulsar 220 the best power-to-weight ratio in India. Bajaj also claims to have made the final gearing longer for a better top end.

Right then, with our test equipment strapped on, it wasn’t long before we realized that the carbureted Pulsar 220 managed better timings than its predecessor. Most importantly, the new bike bettered its previous iteration’s top speed by a fair margin. Naught to sixty comes up in 4.7 seconds and the ’09 220 flies past the 100km/h mark in just 13.1 seconds. With Aspi on board and a relatively short straight, that didn’t do full justice to the bike’s top end, our test equipment still showed a true 132.5km/h with the bike’s digital speedometer registering 142km/h! Needless to say, these numbers make the new Bajaj Pulsar 220 the quickest and the fastest production bike in the country today. Performance aside, the company also claims an improvement in the bike’s fuel efficiency by approximately five percent over the FI model, however, we couldn’t test the fuel economy due to a lack of time.

Even the grab rail and clip-ons match the all-black treatment of this colour option

Just like the chiselled logo on the tank, the numericals of the tacho too get same effect with a grey background

The latest 220 employs the biggest carb on an Indian bike. K&N lovers rejoice! The engine also gets temperature based ignition mapping and an auto choke function

Time and again, we have highlighted the 220’s weakness around the track. Although there hasn’t been a significant change in the bike’s chassis and suspension setup, some retuning, especially at the front has been done. We rode the bike for an hour around Bajaj’s test track at Chakan and could feel the softer compound tyres doing their duties well. However, the main stand played spoilsport and was done away with for the photo shoot. The tendency of the earlier 220’s front suspension to dive while braking hard has been somewhat reduced in the new version. However, we would like to reserve our judgment about the bike’s handling prowess compared to its main rivals until we pit it against the competition soon.

Saving the best for last, the biggest improvement, rather the reason I would recommend this machine to bike fanatics, is its discounted price. We knew the 220’s sticker price would be reduced, considering the bike is now minus an expensive FI unit, but what we heard is simply outrageous. The 2009 Pulsar 220 will retail for approximately ten big ones less than the current bike which, simply put, makes it a shattering value for money deal! This price makes the 220 almost rupees thirty grand cheaper than its main rival – more than enough reason for bikers to head to a Bajaj showroom and book one right away. The 220 was once the benchmark for performance bikes in India and unlike other manufacturers, Bajaj didn’t want to sit and relax on their laurels. Instead, they have decided to raise the bar higher and challenge themselves by delivering a product that is not only better looking and faster but economical to run as well as to own. So, does that mean the competition has been smoked already? Let’s wait and watch!



The most sought after yet functional and fashionable biking gear available in the country



Alpinestars Paddock
A part of Astar’s Nero collection, the Paddock leather jacket for the fairer sex is the latest style statement in biking sisterhood. The jacket’s classic styling and contemporary finishing highlights its urban culture couture. It also incorporates lightweight safety padding in the shoulder and elbow sections to provide impact protection.

Sidi B2 Boots
Sidi’s base line race boots are now available in the country. The boots combine the trademark safety elements of the Sidi range but are priced economically courtesy a less radical design. With a variety of colours to choose from, safety and comfort at its best, an Italian design and a well known brand in the world of motorsports, the B2 are one of the best entry level boots money can buy.


Alpinestars Stella Octane
Here’s one suit that needs to be in the kitty of female bikers who look up to Alisha Abdullah and want to get their knees scraping on the racetrack. The Octane two-piece suit is designed to suit the female body form and is constructed using high grain leather for optimum protection. The two-piece assembly means that you can use just the jacket during your regular bike rides too.

Sidi Streetburner
Made from top grain leather, the Streetburner shoes from Sidi are what every fashion freak biker would want to wear each day. Designed for regular use, these shoes incorporate some of the necessary safety elements from Sidi’s race boots and at the same time they are comfortable enough for city commutes. In spite of being street shoes, the Streetburners come with toe sliders if you decide to scrape your toes while turning at intersections.

Ed Hardy Helmets
Top fashion designer Christian Audigier’s latest designs use imagery from tattoo god Ed Hardy’s collection. However, the designer has gone a step ahead from apparels and for a change has included helmets as a part of his 2009 line-up. The base shell choice for these designs comes in the form of the VR-2R helmet model from KBC. The helmets featured here are the Pirates and the Tiger models in white and black base colours respectively. For further details on pricing and availability, check out the website.

World Exclusive -rsv4-v-the-rest!

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KTM is the cool, comfort king

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

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

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


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

RC8R is best on smoother sections

Respect to the King of the Mountain

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

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

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

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

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

Every motorcyclist should do the Isle of Man at least once

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


1ST Yamaha R1

2nd Aprilia RSV4 Factory

3rd Triumph 675 Daytona
4th KTM RC8R

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


1st Yamaha

2nd Triumph

3rd Aprilia

4th KTM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


This is difficult, so let’s start with the easiest bit. The KTM is outclassed here, despite having the most powerful V-twin engine ever bolted into a road-going bike and being absurdly comfy for something so competent on track.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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