Chaos-theory

The Pulsar 220 Streetfighter is Bajaj’s latest offering at the altar of speed. Pure, unadulterated speed
Words : Saeed Akhtar   Photography by Sanjay Raikar

Evolution is a wonderful phenomenon. The fastest and the smartest species outrun their friends and foes alike and survive; the slower ones make their way to the extinction bin. In the end, the winners shed the body parts that weigh them down, are too cumbersome or just plain unnecessary.

For many years, the Pulsar was the ultimate bike in the Indian market if you wanted a fair bit of performance without burning a hole in your pocket. But the relentless advent of newer and faster bikes saw the flagship 220 DTS-Fi going back to the drawing board for a much needed revamp. The Bajaj boffins chucked the fuel injection system and inserted one of the biggest carburetors ever fitted on an Indian bike – an UCAL UCD 32 Venturi unit. Agreed, it was a step back in technology terms, but the benefits of this move were multifold. The bike became cheaper, quicker and faster in one fell swoop. Even before most automotive journalists could lay their hands on this new bike, it had created a sensation with its ‘fastest Indian’ ad campaigns that inundated the media. The bike certainly lived up to its tag with a true top speed of 132.5km/h.

And now, Bajaj have launched a lighter and faster version of the same bike. Speculations about this bike kept rising steadily ever since it came to be known that the stylish ‘F’ logo on the faired 220 stood for, well, faired. The biggest change in the new 220 DTS-i is the absence of the half fairing and the projector lamp. In its place comes the same wolf-eyed bikini fairing headlamp that does duty on the rest of the Pulsar range – the 150, the 180 and the now discontinued 200 DTS-i. This single change has lowered the kerb weight of the bike from 152kg to 148kg and that alone is a significant reason for the new bike to deliver better roll-on times than its faired sibling. Since the metallic parts of the bike are done up in black, it now resembles the 180 and the 200 very closely. Other minor visual differences are the clip-ons from the 220. The new Eurogrip tyres at both ends have a deeper tread pattern that closely resembles dual-purpose tyres, but customers can still opt for the Zappers that have been standard on Pulsars so far.

Clip-on handlebars are now standard across the entire Pulsar range wolf-eyed headlamp shaves off weight, but we still wish for a naked version One of the very few indications that this one belongs right there at the top of the food chain

The instrumentation and build quality of the bike remains the same. One little overlooked feature on the new generation Pulsars is the inclusion of a handy air filter cleaning interval indicator on the LCD dash. The stainless steel brake hose at the front reduces the flex and improves the feel braking. The reduced weight meant that we already expected the Pulsar to accelerate faster than its sibling and test runs would surely have showed a marginal improvement. It was also more manoveurable and felt far easier to tip in corners, due to its decreased weight at the front. Sadly, this might not translate into better lap times or better handling in the corners. The massive front forks still have a tendency to dive under hard braking while the new tyres fail to inspire confidence in the rider. It is not quite grippy enough and you can feel the rear squirming uneasily.

However, what makes the new Pulsar an irresistible buy is the discounted price of Rs 76,370 (OTR, Pune) which makes it one hell of a bargain compared to its peers. The faired Pulsar 220 DTSi already boasted a gobsmacking price tag thanks to the exclusion of the fuel injection unit. And now, with the removal of the fairing and the projector headlamps, the 220 has just shattered the price barrier. Heck, there are quite a number of far smaller and slower motorcycles that cost more. For that price, you get a motorcycle that smokes the competition and plasters a grin on your face every time you take it out. Some prospective buyers might be put off by the all too familiar looks of the bike, but that should not be a deterrent to the true-blue enthusiast who wants nothing more than a bike that can squash the competition on the drag strip.

Small-wonder

The smallest Honda motorcycle yet is all set to create the maximum winds of change for the Japanese giant in India reckons
Bunny Punia Photography: Sanjay Raikar

Honda Motorcycle and Scooters India (HMSI) has often played its game differently in the Indian two-wheeler market. For instance, back in 2000, it made its debut in the world’s second largest two-wheeler market with the launch of a 100cc gearless scooter. This move, in a market that was running strongly with geared scooters like the Bajaj Chetak and the LML variants, raised quite a few eyebrows about their plans. However, much to the disappointment of the competition, the Activa went onto become the largest selling scooter in its class. HMSI also took a top-down approach to the motorcycling segment in India. Instead of launching commuter bikes first, in 2005, it rolled out the 150cc Unicorn and a couple of years later, the 125cc Shine. Having established a solid foothold in almost every segment it sells a two-wheeler today, it was time for the Japanese giant to go for a share of the money minting commuter segment, that of the 100-110cc bikes. With a dozen odd offerings (models/variants) from the competition already, it was wise to come up with something different. Plus the fact that recently, the company has often been using words like ‘fun’ and ‘enjoyment’ meant that the new offering would have to play a lot of roles, that of satisfying various demands of a typical commuter as well as the youth perfectly. HMSI also wished to target the college going youth, who often overlooked the commuter bikes while making their purchasing decisions mainly due to their sober and sometimes, low rent looks. With an aim to meet the above mentioned requirements, the CB Twister was born.

The prefix CB has been taken up from Honda’s world trend series symbolizing naked, like the CB1000R, while the word Twister depicts swirling winds with great strength. Like most small capacity Honda bikes, wherein design cues are often taken up from bigger capacity machines, the Indian CB too has enough curves and sharp angles, reminding you Honda’s much bigger bikes. In fact, see the bike from the rear three quarters and the huge tank along with the floating side cowl gives it a big bike look. The sharp small screenless cowl looks sexy for a small bike and houses the headlamp. However, there are no pilot lamps integrated here probably to keep costs low. The floating side cowl, when seen from the front angle, flaunts its insides pretty well again imparting a big bike feel to the Twister. In fact, there is no dearth of a sharp angular treatment to the side and rear cowls. The bike also comes with a CB1000R inspired rear grab rail as well as a meaty short exhaust. The only downside is the huge gap between the engine and the body, but this is expected as the bike houses a small 109cc motor and not a multi cylinder 1000cc one. Complementing the exciting looks are the various shades of colours on offer. The candy palm green seen here, for instance, looks smashing and it goes without saying that the Twister turns out to be the best looking small motorcycle in the country by a huge margin.

The Twister might look very compact but a swing a leg over and it feels incredibly spacious. Even for me, at 6 feet and weighing over a quintal, this little Honda felt mighty comfortable. In fact, it is one of the very few small bikes that didn’t make me look like, well, a circus bear on a toy bike! The footpeg-handlebar-seat geometry is very comfortable and even while riding the bike around Pune city for over 100km nonstop, I didn’t feel very uncomfortable at the end of the day. The instrumentation cluster looks neat though there are visible cost cutting measures around. The console does without a trip meter, for instance, and there is an absence of a pass light switch too. However, all the little shortcomings take a backseat once you thumb the electric starter. I am not really a small bike person, but the CB surprised me from the word go. The exhaust note felt throaty and grunty and the bike felt very eager and enthusiastic to lung forward, especially in the first two gears. In fact while slotted in fourth, the engine picked up well from speeds as low as 25km/h and this makes the CB a joy to ride in congested traffic. If you look closely at the engine, the long inlet manifold is clearly visible. This results in an increase of the gas velocity for better low and midrange punch and this is one of the main strengths of the bike. Even with a pillion, the capability of the bike to ponder through traffic in the third and fourth cogs is unbeatable. The 109cc engine puts out 9bhp of power along with 9Nm of torque. Weighing just 108 kilos, the CB has the best power-to- weight ratio in the commuter class. The engine remains punchy and vibe-free and surprisingly this little 110cc machine feels more refined at 70km/h than the elder 125cc Shine at similar speeds. The CB is also targeted majorly towards the youth and if you thought commuter bikes are slow and lazy, think again. A 6.99 second 0-60km/h timings knocks off the competition completely and the bike furthers goes on to register a true whack of 93 km/h. Honda has often been praised for their fuel efficient engines and this one is no different. Ride the bike carefully and it will end up drinking a litre of fuel every 70km in the city and 78km on the highway.

Notice the long intake manifold? It lends the bike terrific low and midrange – just what you need for daily commutes Sharp design of the console goes well with the overall look of the bike. However, a trip meter is sorely missed The front end looks cool with the sharp lamp and flowing side panels. However, we would have appreciated a full DC set up for the headlamp

Even though the CB comes with non-adjustable shock absorbers (cost cutting again?) at the rear, I never really had a reason to complain. The ride is slightly on the stiffer side but this helps while riding over bad roads. It also comes in handy while with a pillion as the rear hardly ever bottoms out. The diamond type twin pipe chassis feels very stiff and the bike takes on serious pushing around corners and flowing curves positively. In fact the 70mm front and 80mm rear tyres, both tubeless, hold on pretty well and due to the bike’s overall handling prowess even with a relatively small engine, an experienced rider can be fast around a set of twisties. The light weight of the bike along with a short wheelbase of 1262mm further makes it a delight to flick through traffic. The 240mm dia front disc is optional but is highly recommended.

The bike has quite a few firsts for its segment. The mass forward proportion, as Honda calls it, tubeless tyres, a short muffler, et al. The maintenance free battery and the low maintenance viscous air filter help a lot in the long run. I would have also appreciated a full DC set up for the headlamp which would have provided full brightness irrespective of the engine rpm.

The bike is aimed at people who are on the lookout for style and performance without sacrificing on the basic needs of fuel economy and comfort, all in a limited budget. Right then, even with a few visible cost cutting measures, the CB range starts from Rs 47,753 all the way upto Rs 54,357 (on-road, Pune) which doesn’t really make it as cheap as the competition at all. However, times have changed and most Indian buyers are ready to shell a few thousand rupees for added looks, performance and economy. This is where the CB will excel, finding its targeted buyer quite easily. If I was a 20 something guy, looking for an affordable new set of stylish wheels that I wouldn’t mind riding to work or college or a date, the CB Twister, in all probability, would be it. ‘Nuf said!

Globetrotting-triumvirate

Pack your saddlebags and get some sunscreen too. Roland Brown is here to guide you around the world on not one,not two but three German globe tourers
Photography: Paul Bryant and Jason Critchell

BMW R1200GS
It’s a classical GS experience. Half an hour ago I was cruising comfortably along a Spanish motorway; ten minutes ago I was scratching down a twisty, smooth surfaced back road with my boot-toes clipping the Tarmac. And now I’m standing up on the pegs on a gravel covered path through the arid Andalucian countryside, gassing the big boxer motor to send up a satisfying rooster-tail behind me.

This off-road excursion isn’t very ambitious or exciting; just a short dirt detour before it’s time to get back on the road and head back to our hotel. There again, most R1200GS owners’ globe crossing daydreams aren’t matched by reality. And that hasn’t prevented the amazing success of the dual-purpose boxer, which contributes more than half of BMW’s total two-wheeled production and has notched up almost 200,000 sales since being launched six years ago.

Both the GS and its heavy duty Adventure sibling have been updated for 2010 with a new version of the air/oilcooled boxer motor, incorporating twin overhead cams for the first time. The engine, which is developed from that of the HP2 Sport (and is shared with the latest R1200RT) keeps the traditional GS capacity of 1170cc and features four radial valves per cylinder.

Performance is increased to a peak of 110bhp at 7750rpm, 5bhp up on the old unit. The new motor revs 500rpm higher to 8500rpm. It’s stronger by several horsepower almost everywhere from 2500rpm to that limit, especially at 5000rpm and 6500rpm, where it’s about 10bhp more powerful. The exception is a distinct dip between those points, where the old engine (whose own dip is 500rpm earlier) briefly goes ahead.

This GS update is pretty much confined to that new powerplant. The exhaust has a new cable operated valve, plus reworked internals for the single silencer. There are a few other fresh details: restyled instruments plus brake and clutch master cylinders, larger locating screws for the adjustable windscreen and a new fuel gauge sensor.

Styling is unchanged except for four new colour options, and the red bike I chose looked good in its accessory hand protectors. Having always admired the GS’s tall, bird-like profile I was glad about that, but less impressed by the appearance of that new exhaust valve. The valve with its twin cables is fixed to the exhaust pipe low on its left, and the whole thing looks a bit messy and tacked-on.

My negative thoughts were banished as soon as I’d hooked a leg over the BMW’s tall saddle, and fired up the motor to unleash a notably louder exhaust note through the repacked silencer. After the mild mannered old GS, this bike’s harder, thrappier note — still a distinctive flat-twin bark — gave an instantly more aggressive image. The bike’s ability to pass emission tests presumably owes much to that valve, so all credit to it.

The aural accompaniment made me even keener to give the GS some stick as we set off from the launch base near Malaga in southern Spain, with a plan to follow the coast road eastwards to Motril before veering northwards onto the steeper, twistier roads of the Sierra Nevada. Even before we’d got out of town and reached the A7 coast road, it was clear that the new sound was matched by extra straight-line performance.

The improvement is not dramatic and was it not for the exhaust note, you might not even notice it unless you’d just climbed straight off the old model. But I’m sure I wasn’t imagining an extra spring in the boxer’s step as it charged forward in response to a tweak of the throttle. It pulled from 2500rpm without complaint, punched hard through the midrange, and generally felt lively and impressively flexible.

Just occasionally I was conscious of a slightly slow response in the midrange, at about the 5500rpm mark, where that torque dip occurs. But it certainly wasn’t a problem and there was always acceleration at hand even when the Bee-Em was loping along at a lazy 130km/h in top. If anything I was more conscious of the bike pulling with extra enthusiasm as its torque curve headed sharply upwards approaching 6000rpm.

The GS was happy to rev, heading towards that higher 8500rpm redline with only a touch of vibration. But apart from one top-speed blast —it managed 185km/h into a very strong headwind — there was no real incentive to work it that hard. I much preferred to short shift through the six-speed box, which worked very well except on a couple of later occasions when, wearing motocross boots, I struggled to get my foot under the lever.

Fuel economy doesn’t seem to have been hit by the four-valve layout either. The GS was drinking less than 7 litres/100km despite some pretty high cruising speeds (assuming the accessory onboard computer could be believed), giving a range of well over 250km from its 20 litre tank. That computer also shows remaining range, and is a useful accessory. But talking of electrics, I was slightly disappointed to find BMW have retained their old style indicator switches on each handlebar instead of fitting a conventional button on the left as they have with the R1200RT (and S1000RR).

 

Comfort is another aspect of the GS that’s basically unchanged, which is no surprise because it’s outstanding. The one-piece bar (which can be reversed for standing up riding off-road) and thick two-piece seat give plenty of room in conjunction with well-placed and grippy footpegs. And although short riders will struggle slightly with a standard bike whose seat height is adjustable between 850 and 870mm, the accessory lower seat and suspension combine to reduce this to a much more manageable 820mm. Can’t ask more than that, you shorties.

Unfortunately very tall riders aren’t quite so well catered for. The screen is more easily adjustable than ever, thanks to its bigger screws, and at its highest setting gave useful protection. But at 1.93m I had to crouch slightly to get out of the turbulence. BMW don’t recommend using the Adventure’s taller screen, which does fit, because the standard bike’s mounts aren’t as strong. But some riders do fit it and I’d be tempted to do the same.

One adjustment option that I was very glad of was the red bike’s Enduro ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment), the GS’s version of the push-button wizardry. Unlike the R1200RT’s new ESA II system, the GS’s can’t change spring rate. But the ability to substantially alter damping rates without even slowing down is arguably even more valuable on a dual-purpose bike, with its extra suspension travel.

If buying a GS, I’d certainly pay the extra for ESA which allowed me to select a Comfort setting that effortlessly soaked up road surface imperfections in town and on the autopista at the start of the ride. Then, when we reached Adra and swung north into the hills, a quick press of the ESA button firmed up both the front Telelever set-up and the Paralever rear end, making the bike tauter and more stable in the bends.

We had to take a diversion to miss some of the best roads due to landslides that made some of the Alpujarras mountain roads impassable even for the GS (let alone the RTs that we had in tow). But there are so many twisty, generally well-surfaced and almost traffic free roads in this part of Spain, that it was easy to be reminded of just what a sound handling bike the GS is.

Six years after the bike’s launch, I can still vividly recall my first few hundred metres on one, riding down the twisty hotel driveway on the launch in South Africa — and being amazed by how agile the 1200 felt, after BMW had shed 30kg from its R1100GS predecessor. There’s no weight loss this time, but that’s because at 203kg the GS is light enough to be very manoeuvrable, at least on the road. That wide handlebar gives enough leverage to allow easy direction changes despite the bike’s dual-purpose geometry and 19-inch diameter front wheel.


Bridgestone’s road-biased Battlewing tyres gripped well enough to make good use of the GS’s ample ground clearance (and later seemed okay off-road too). The BMW also stopped hard, helped by an optional ABS system that links front and rear wheels. Our testbikes were also fitted with ASC traction control. I can’t say I noticed it on the road, but it’s not a bad thing to have in reserve. Like the ABS system, it’s very simply disconnected for off-road riding (or for wheelies, which it prevents), by pressing a button on the bars.

I’d need more time to experiment with the traction control, but at least it’s one of the less expensive accessories our bikes were carrying. The ABS brakes and ESA suspension adjustment add considerably more; the handy heated grips and sweet little LED indicators add further to an already pretty expensive bike. At least its used values are famously high.

Given more time, it would have been great to have pressed the ESA button again to select off-road suspension mode and headed much further along some of the dusty tracks that criss-cross southern Spain. But it’s really the GS’s road going performance that is boosted by the new motor, and we were short of time. So after a brief play in the dirt, I was back onto the hard stuff, heading to the overnight stop at Mojacar.

We’d been riding pretty much all day on a wide variety of surfaces, but the GS had barely been stretched; its remarkable all-round appeal enhanced just a bit by its extra power and that bonus of a character enhancing soundtrack. The R1200GS will be getting a new rival soon, of course, in Ducati’s comprehensively revamped Multistrada. The Italian V-twin looks very promising, but it will have to be mighty good to match the old master.

R1200 ENGINE TECH

 

 

This new 1170cc motor is closely based on the dohc unit from the HP2 Sport, though it contains some differences including using two spark plugs per cylinder, like the previous GS, instead of a single plug like the Sport. Each pot’s camshafts are chain driven and operate four valves that are arranged radially, operated via rocker-arms and semi-hemispherical shims.

The cams sit horizontally, in line with the bike, giving the unusual arrangement of each cam operating one inlet and one exhaust valve. The cams have a slightly conical profile, to suit the radial layout. Valve lift is increased from the old GS engine, and valves are bigger: inlets up from 36 to 39mm; exhausts from 31 to 33mm. Pistons are redesigned to suit the new combustion chambers, but bottom end parts including crankshaft and conrods are retained.

The intake system is uprated with redesigned trumpets and larger manifolds (50mm diameter from 47mm). The new electrically controlled exhaust valve also helps allow the increased peak output of 110bhp at 7750rpm, 5bhp up on the old high-cam GS unit. Maximum torque is also increased, by 5N.m to 120N.m at 6000rpm. The six-speed, shaft drive transmission is unchanged except for a slightly taller final ratio.

R1200GS Adventure
The Adventure is a brilliant bike; no doubt about that. It’s also undeniably, unmistakably huge. At 890mm, its seat is 40mm higher than the standard GS’s, and there’s no option of lowered suspension. At 223kg dry, it weighs 20kg more than the standard model — and that’s before you start filling that enormous, 33 litre gas tank, let alone adding running lights, aluminium panniers and other globe crossing accessories.

Inevitably, this size sometimes leads to problems. One short guy on the launch loved the lowered stock GS but didn’t even want to ride its giant brother. I’m tall and had no trouble getting both feet on the ground, but still had to concentrate hard at a standstill. Once this bike leans more than a certain angle, you ain’t going to pull it upright again.

This latest Adventure gets an identical upgrade to the standard GS. Same new dohc radial-valve engine and same extra torque, which is arguably even more useful with that extra weight to shift. Like the standard model, it retains its existing chassis, complete with extra suspension travel. It comes with the hand protectors and aluminium cylinder head guards that are an accessory for the standard bike. It wears wire-spoked wheels instead of cast, with the option of knobbly rubber.

Given that the standard GS is an exceptionally tall, well-equipped, rugged machine with a very generous fuel range, you have to wonder whether many riders really need a more expensive, heavier and more unwieldy version with even more of the same attributes. Most people would undoubtedly be better off on the standard GS.

But there was undeniably something very special about sitting on that wide, comfortable seat, sheltering behind the more protective, similarly adjustable screen that allowed me near-silent 150km/h cruising (unlike any pure bred touring bike I can recall riding), and glancing down at a digital display that was showing I had more than 500km ahead before needing to stop for gas.

It was also inspiring to know that I could simply have turned off the road onto a dirt track, and kept on going almost no matter what got in the way – at least until I fell off and had to pick up the great brute, anyway. My short off-road excursion was fun, and for once I actually stayed upright, but the BMW’s size and weight were never far from my mind.

I spent my last blast on the Adventure back on the main road, thinking that it was simply the most complete, do-it-all bike I’d ever ridden; and that if I had to own just one bike for ever, this would be it. But I had to conclude that for me, as for so many others, it would be excessive.

Just as with the standard GS, the Adventure’s new engine makes a very good bike better still. But even if you’re fortunate enough to be able to afford a very substantial basic price that is sure to grow considerably with accessories, it’s important to be sure that this is a bike you really need and can use. The Adventure is up to the challenge. The question is: are you?

BMW R1200RT
The bike is new; the BMW touring experience is timeless. At a steady 130km/h on the motorway, I’m sheltered by a broad, adjustable screen. A relaxed riding position and heated seat add to the comfort. The flat-twin motor beats effortlessly down below. I glance at the digital instrument panel to find that the bike is averaging 15.3Kmpl, and will not require a fuel stop for more than 300km. Bring them on…

BMW has introduced so many totally different models of late, from middleweight parallel twins via mad naked fours to the insanely fast S1000RR, that it almost seems strange to be riding a new German bike of the old school: a fully-faired tourer with big fairing, boxer motor, shaft final drive and panniers; even if this RT has been updated for the iPod era with extra performance as well as a new sound system and numerous other tweaks.

It’s the engine that provides the main news. The air/oilcooled, 1170cc flat twin is developed from the HP2 Sport unit, and is identical to that of the latest R1200GS. That means it has twin overhead cams and four radial valves per cylinder and produces 110bhp at 7750rpm. That maximum output is unchanged from the previous RT’s, but the new motor makes more torque through most of the range and its 8500rpm limit is 500rpm higher.

With its broad fairing, standard fit panniers and those sticking out horizontal cylinders, the new bike looks subtly different but still very much an RT. New headlights and reshaped fairing nose give a sharper look, although the modernising effect is limited by the limited paintwork options. There’s a generous four to choose from, but all are variations of grey, with no colour to be seen. Maybe a bit too traditionally BMW.

The view from the rider’s fairly low seat is bang up-to-date, though, especially on the fully accessorised RT on which I spent most time. Between the two main analogue dials is a digital display that can show everything from average speed to the music selected on the MP3 player (or memory stick) that can be kept in a lockable compartment in the right of the fairing.

The right bar has buttons for heated grips and seat but it’s the left handlebar that gets complicated, at least on a fully loaded RT. As well as a conventional single button (at last!) for the self-cancelling indicators, this BMW has buttons for windscreen height, ABS, traction control, cruise control and ESA electronic suspension adjustment. Oh, and a rotating wheel to control the sound system, which also has an array of buttons on the fairing.

It was all a bit confusing at first inspection, but at least the RT itself is relatively simple. Inevitably the broad fairing makes the bike feel quite bulky, but the air/oilcooled twin-pot motor contributes to a dry weight of 229kg. That’s light by touring standards — in fact it’s 35kg lighter than Yamaha’s FJR1300, the lightest of the touring fours, and an incredible 171kg down on the 400kg figure of Harley’s Ultra Classic Electra Glide.

That lack of weight helped the RT feel reassuringly manageable when I climbed aboard on the launch in southern Spain, midway through a two-day trip shared with the R1200GS. At 820-840mm, the standard seat is low enough to allow most riders to get both feet down (and there’s an optional low seat that’s just 750mm). The new motor fired up with a distinctive boxer throb but sounded less throaty than the new GS, despite also gaining an electronically controlled flap on its exhaust.


 

Straight line performance was pretty similar, though. That 110bhp maximum is nothing special by big tourer standards, but it’s backed up by a broad spread of torque that gave effortlessly strong acceleration. The BMW happily pulled from 3000rpm out of the bends, as we headed west on the generally well-surfaced roads near Almeria, and always seeming to have the right gear in its smooth shifting six-speed ‘box.

There’s slightly more torque all through the range, except for at the very top. Such is the midrange performance that I rarely revved it near that new 8500rpm limit, although vibration levels remained low — perhaps a bit lower than the old pushrod engine’s. With a crisp response from the injection system, and plenty of punch at five or six grand, it was simpler and more satisfying to change up early and enjoy the BMW’s long legged character.

The RT’s new found grunt will be useful when it’s heavily loaded, and was welcome when we hit the A92 motorway. The bike was happy sit at a relaxed 120km/h plus in top gear and then delivered a burst of acceleration when its predecessor might have demanded a downchange. Comfort was as important as performance and predictably, the BMW scored highly, starting with a riding position that is unchanged but now incorporates rubber mounted bars and an adjustable gearlever.

The fairing and screen are both wide enough to give plenty of protection, in conjunction with the big, low set mirrors whose view was slightly obscured by my hands. For my money, an adjustable screen as almost essential on a serious tourer, and the RT’s is among the best. Being very tall I found it wasn’t quite high enough even when fully extended, and generated mild turbulence that disappeared if I crouched slightly, but most riders won’t have that problem.

After a couple of hours, I was enjoying the RT’s effortless distance eating ability, slightly annoyed that I couldn’t find anything worth listening to on the radio (which has 24 presets instead of the previous six) and that I didn’t have the necessary adaptor for an iPod. Having set out with my overjacket in one of the big panniers, and with no chance to stop, I was grateful for the bike’s heated grips and seat. Then we turned off the motorway, and the RT had a further chance to shine.

This bike has an updated, ESA II version of BMW’s electronic suspension system. This allows preload and spring rate, as well as damping, to be set with the press of a button, and also has a broader range of damping adjustment. The ability to adjust the spring, which will be useful when adding or removing a pillion or luggage, wasn’t needed on our trip. But when we reached a twisty road it was great to be able to firm up the RT’s handling by changing damping from Comfort to Sport mode, without even slowing down.

Within seconds, a bike whose suspension had been supple enough to absorb motorway imperfections became a much firmer, more responsive machine that was happy carving through the bends. The RT wasn’t as agile as the lighter, wider-barred GS boxer, but it could be hustled along pretty quickly, with the help of excellent Metzeler Roadtec tyres, ample ground clearance and powerful, ABS assisted brakes.

The RT was certainly taut, light and controllable enough to be fun, and to encourage spirited riding, on a twisty road — which is more than can be said of plenty of its heavier and no better equipped rivals. The ESA system is so easy to use that after a bout of back road scratching it was no problem to switch back to Comfort for pobbling through villages, over road repairs or speed humps. The ESA is not cheap, but I’d pay the extra every time.

The test bikes were also fitted with BMW’s accessory ASC traction control system, which was worth having just in case, although I didn’t notice it working. Back on the motorway heading towards Malaga, I put the screen back up, flicked the cruise control on, and got back to searching for a radio station. It’s tempting to dismiss some of these features as gadgets, but they certainly help make life more pleasant on a long trip.

And the important thing about the RT is that its basics are right too. Both panniers are big and easy to use, with space no longer wasted by a CD player, and the tank is designed to take a tank-bag. The 25 litre fuel capacity combines with the boxer’s efficiency — 7 litres/100km when ridden hard, with under 6 litres/100km possible — to give a typical range of 350km.

A pillion gets a broad seat and plenty of legroom, plus a switch to control their half of the accessory heated seat. There are countless other accessories, of course, from top-boxes and inner bags to chromed parts and additional power sockets. Most buyers will doubtless opt for several although the RT is not cheap, either in its basic form or in the more expensive SE model (which, depending on market, includes ESA, heated grips and seat, computer, cruiser control, extra socket and chromed exhaust).

Perhaps this grey BMW sometimes lacks a little excitement, in its performance as well as its paint schemes. But by the time we reached Malaga, the RT had done enough to suggest that it’s a very worthwhile improvement over its predecessor and a bike that makes that timeless BMW touring experience better than ever.

R1200RT TECH



The RT is powered by the same dohc, air/oilcooled flat twin engine as the updated R1200GS. Developed from the HP2 Sport motor, the radial eight-valve boxer is detuned to give a maximum of 110bhp. That’s an identical peak output to the previous RT (and 20bhp down on the Sport), but torque is increased from 2500rpm to the 7750rpm point at which maximum power is delivered.

Like the HP2 Sport motor, the new unit features chain-driven cams that are conically shaped to suit the radial valves, which are operated via rocker-arms. This engine differs by using two spark plugs per cylinder, like the previous GS, instead of a single plug like the Sport. The cams sit horizontally, in line with the bike, with each cam operating one inlet and one exhaust valve.

Changes from the old RT engine include bigger valves (inlets 36 to 39mm; exhausts 31 to 33mm), new pistons and reshaped combustion chambers. Bottom-end parts including the crankshaft and conrods are unchanged. The intake system is uprated with redesigned trumpets and larger manifolds (50mm diameter from 47mm). The exhaust gains an electronically controlled valve.

The RT’s main chassis change is the adoption of ESA II, an updated version of the Electronic Suspension Adjustment system. This allows adjustment of preload and even spring rate for the first time, to one of three positions intended for riding solo, two-up, or two-up with luggage. In each preload position, there is a choice of three damping settings: Comfort, Normal and Sport. (Only damping can be altered with the bike moving.) The differences between the damping settings are significantly greater than with the previous ESA system.

 

Light-pulsations

It Is light, quick and cheap. But is it a step in the right direction?
Words: Bunny Punia
Photography: Sanjay Raikar

I seldom ride a motorcycle on a test track with the transmission resting in the fifth cog. While riding through numerous tight curves where speeds fall below 50km/h, I was still not using my left hand or the left toe for that matter to downshift. Neither did I shift my body weight while taking turns. Instead, I sat upright like a typical commuter trying to experience the traffic negotiating manoeuvers of Bajaj’s all-new traffic buster machine, the Pulsar 135LS. Even with my weight and a few slightly uphill sections, the bike pulled cleanly from low speeds in the highest gear. I have to admit, I was beginning to enjoy riding the LS in this manner on the track before being flagged down by my colleague Ravi who was waiting patiently for his turn to hit the track.

But why was my riding so different in the first place? Apart from its blistering engine (for the capacity) and eye-catching looks, the LS is also about its ability to weave in and out of traffic effortlessly at low to midrange engine speeds. As our test ride session was scheduled at Bajaj’s racetrack, there was no better way to understand their new product than ride it in the manner explained above.

In the recent few months, Bajaj’s dominance in the premium commuter segment has seen a huge positive growth. The Pulsar model line-up comprising of the 150, the 180 and the 220 models has strengthened its presence in the market. But Bajaj wanted to provide something for young enthusiasts that would combine the best of both worlds – a 125cc machine’s efficiency and sticker price with a typical 150cc bike’s performance and looks. Hence, the birth of the Pulsar 135LS.

At first glance, you might mistake it to be the Hero Honda Hunk, at least I did. But once you notice the side and the rear profile, all similarities end. The front seems to use a FZ style headlamp stacked between sharp plastic panels and a smart little visor on the top. The tank looks like a typical Pulsar one but has neat side plastic shrouds with the four valve sticker – more on that later. The step seats are a welcome addition and the rear panels again remind you of the bigger Pulsar models, though they end very sportily with a twin split grabrail and a striking tail lamp. I particularly loved the fender less treatment at the rear, although to comply with government regulations, Bajaj had to use a tyre hugger – the first mod chop most youngsters will do once they get the bike. Another unique design treatment is the tapering exhaust that might not be to everyone’s liking. At 1995mm, the LS’ wheelbase is even longer than its own elder sibling, the Pulsar 150.

This bike, for the first time in the Pulsar range history, makes use of the engine as a stressed member in the box section chassis. An all-new swingarm was engineered for the rear and the bike sports tubeless tyres which are fast becoming a norm on Indian motorcycles. Though the bike has a longish swingarm, the steep steering angle made sure it behaved well around the test track, being over eager and enthusiastic to lean into corners and scrape the pegs without upsetting the entire balance. Even while gunning down the last straight at triple digit speeds, the bike felt reassuringly stable in spite of early morning crosswinds. I really couldn’t judge the behaviour of the suspension for Indian conditions due to the limited testing environment, though our readers should get that report in the next issue.

Now isn’t that a familiar console? Yes, the Discover 135 has the same one
Smooth and punchy – the 135cc mill impressed us

Coming to one of the main aspects of the LS -its engine. On paper, it might feel average for this segment with a 134.6cc motor, but dig deeper into its technicalities and you are bound to be impressed. To start with, this is India’s first indigenously developed four valve powertrain which enhances the engine’s breathing characteristics. This combined with Bajaj’s patented DTS-i tech gadgetry helps in giving the bike not only a punchy low and midrange, but also class demolishing top end performance. 13.5PS of power might not be tyre shredding, however when you factor in the bike’s impressively low kerb weight of just 122 kilos (which in itself is lower than all the other 125cc bikes from the competitors and hence the tag LS or Light Sports), you are bound to be surprised once the performance test data is revealed. A 0-60km/h timing of 5.18 seconds not only makes the 135LS the quickest in its segment, but it also ends up shaming most 150cc bikes out there. However due to it’s relatively lower engine capacity, as speeds climb in excess of 80km/h, the bike starts losing steam, hitting the ton mark at a shade over 19 seconds. Nonetheless, it still remains quicker than some bigger bikes and further goes onto hit a genuine top whack of 112km/h with the over enthusiastic speedometer registering in excess of 120km/h!

As I mentioned in the opening lines, the LS also impresses in the way it gathers speeds at low revs. The 30-70km/h roll on, for example, takes just 7.31 seconds in the third and 9.51 seconds in the fourth. The engine has the ability to pick up speeds from as low as 25km/h, however, compression knock is very evident especially with a pillion while pulling from low engine speeds. The motor, however, remains smooth and vibration free until you rev it close to the red line. The light weight of the bike also endows it with impressive handling capabilities and an experienced rider won’t find it difficult to indulge in peg scraping antics when the environment allows. The brakes perform well too and stunt junkies will appreciate the bike for its ability to roll on the front one easily.

All said and done, no matter how good a bike is, a lot boils down to its sticker price in India. Most top of the line 125cc bikes in the country retail at around Rs 50,000 (ex-showroom). The Pulsar 135LS, with extra grunt and a bigger bike feel at almost the same price, translates into more bang for your buck. Not to forget that in spite of all that segment shattering performance, ridden sanely, the bike still manages 60km to a litre in the city and close to 80km on the highway. Icing on the cake? You bet!

The-return-of-the-classic

Adhish Alawani takes the Royal Enfield Classic 500 on a 900km ride to the Nilgiris and comes back with mixed impressions
Photography: Adhish Alawani & Sanjay Raikar

I have never been a Royal Enfield guy and have always struggled to digest the fact that people can actually be hardcore fans of the Bullet. I have often wondered why some people have always preferred Bullets as compared to the more advanced machines of the era. However, the Royal Enfield Classic shown at the Intermot show in Germany last year, had such an impact on me that I longed to ride it ever since.

The reason for this was simple – the design and styling of the Classic. True to its name, this bike has a classic, mid-twentieth century character to it. The designers at the Royal Enfield house worked hard on the Classic to give it post-WWII looks. The round headlamp, the small tail lamp mounted on the flat plate at the rear, the big fenders, the typical retro fuel tank, the company’s characteristic triangular airbox, the traditional instrumentation console with classic English font for the readout, the green colour and the minimal graphics on it gives this motorcycle the feel of those immortal ‘50s bikes. The company has, in fact, painted the complete frame of the Classic in the body colour. Royal Enfield, in particular, has tried to replicate their own J2 model that had grabbed the fancy of many in its days. The most evident similarity between the J2 and the Classic, noticed at first glance, has to be the single saddle with springs. The company is providing the pillion seat separately with this bike and those who need it can attach it to the motorcycle easily by themselves. The long, straight pipe exhaust comes as a stock fitment with the bike. A more stylish and louder silencer is available as an option at a premium. Royal Enfield has shifted to 18-inch wheels, which in the case of the Classic, comes in the form of spoke wheels further adding a retro feel to the motorcycle. Look at the new Royal Enfield Classic 500 from any angle and it definitely reminds you of the 1950s machines.

But it was not just the styling and looks of the new Classic 500 that made me yearn for a ride on it. The company claims to have taken a huge leap forward with regard to the technology used in their latest machine; the most important of the lot being UCE (Unit Construction Engine) and EFI (Electronic Fuel Injection). Basically, in the UCE, the clutch and the gearbox are integrated in the crankcase itself making it a compact engine. Use of the UCE has also helped in reducing the weight of the engine by 4kg. However to retain the characteristics of the Classic, they have maintained the bike’s overall weight by compensating for the saved kilos elsewhere – for example, the huge fenders. The EFI optimizes the air-fuel mixture and makes sure that the bike is in a perfect state to operate over a wide range of altitudes and temperatures. UCE and EFI are being used by other manufacturers for years now and finally Royal Enfield has adopted these technologies to make their products better.

My wish to ride the Royal Enfield Classic 500 was fulfilled when the company offered the bike to a few journalists, including me, for a ride from Chennai to Bangaluru via Coonoor – a distance of over 900km in two days. The route was chalked out in such a manner that it covered the smooth and straight national highways, the twisty state highways and almost a 100km of uphill/downhill ghat sections in the Nilgiri mountain ranges. The first leg of the ride from Chennai to Krishnagiri took me on the long straights of the NH46. The first few kilometers before getting out of the city were enough to indicate the humongous amount of torque offered by the 500cc single cylinder engine powering the Classic. A gentle nudge at the throttle made sure that the bike surged ahead most willingly. The 41.3Nm of peak torque starts acting up right at 4000rpm, giving the bike a very strong low and midrange kick. As for the top end, I could manage a speedometer indicated 125km/h on the highway. The motorcycle feels amazingly smooth at 80km/h. In fact, the sweet spot to ride at on the highway would be around 90-95km/h when the vibrations from the engine are yet to creep into the handlebar and the footpegs and you are doing a sufficiently high speed to munch miles at a stretch. However, it is not the easiest bike to ride beyond 100km/h. Being retro styled, you cannot expect it to have any kind of aerodynamics and that is where it suffers. A hint of wind is enough for the Classic to get into weaves at three-digit speeds. A point to be noted about the top speed here is that I was riding the bike with the stock exhaust. Later, I got an opportunity to ride the one with the optional exhaust and to my surprise, I could hit the 140km/h mark on the speedometer. A huge difference, isn’t it? Performance runs on the bike with the optional exhaust revealed that it sprints from standstill to 60km/h in a mere 4.57 seconds and does a top whack of 131 km/h (true). Also, the thump and the looks of the optional exhaust are a lot more alluring than that of the stock one.

After almost 500km, we finally hit the mountain ranges. By now, there were a few things crystal clear to me. Firstly, the Classic 500 has a torquey and powerful engine that will let you cruise comfortably at slightly under 100km/h. Secondly, you can go beyond that speed but it is not recommended. Thirdly, the seat is not comfortable at all. I was trying to find the most relaxed spot on the seat to sit on for almost all the while with no success. At the same time, I would like to mention that the handlebar-seat-footpeg geometry has been perfectly optimized thus making sure that you don’t get exhausted even after hundreds of kilometers on the tarmac. Coming back to the mountain twisties that we hit in the last 70-80km of the ride, I wasn’t expecting a lot from the heavyweight, retro architecture motorcycle around the corners. Boy, was I wrong! The Classic is quite planted and stable around the bends. Partial credit for this goes to the MRF Zappers doing their duty on the Classic which do not give even a hint of low grip when leaned over.

I also noticed the weird positioning of the odometer between the needle and scale of speedometer. Minor thing, but when you are traveling at speeds between 60km/h to 100km/h, you cannot read all the digits of the odometer. So either you have to raise the speed or reduce it in order to read all the digits of the odometer. How irritating! Secondly, the brake pedal most often scrapes the ground in the tight right handers when leaned over giving you the jitters and disturbing your concentration. The vibrations in a Royal Enfield are its trademark characteristic. And even if the rider is okay with that, there are practical issues. For example, it is hard for you to make out what is in your rear view mirror because of the vibrations. Though a Royal Enfield is mostly used for touring there is no option of luggage carriers on it yet. However, I believe that the boffins at the factory are working on it. Apart from these few minor issues that can be addressed in the future, the Classic 500 will prove to be a success for the company. Royal Enfield has moved ahead in terms of technology, fit-finish and styling. The last but a very important point about the engine is that it did not leak even a drop of oil from anywhere during the 900+ km trip – worth applauding.

 

 

Legend Vivified


The all-new VFR1200F is coming to India in a few months. Bunny Punia sheds more light on this iconic bike

Even before I thumbed the electric starter, I knew this wouldn’t turn out to be a very long test ride that too on a road that this bike will seldom be seen on. Nevertheless, with a chance to experience one of the most awaited motorcycles in the history of Honda, I wasn’t really complaining. A few minutes later, with my left hand free, the big sweet sounding V4 motor was changing through the gears effortlessly on its own, downshifting quickly without abruptions as I slowed down for the tight curves on Honda’s HSR (Honda Safety Riding) track in Kumamoto. What you see on these pages is the all-new VFR1200F that, hold you breathe, is slated for an Indian launch during the third quarter of the 2010 calendar year.

The VFR series from Honda has a long history. First launched in the 1980s, the bike was available in various engine configurations of 400cc, 700cc and 750cc. The model line-up went on to become one of the most iconic models for Honda, but the company was losing market share rapidly to the competition. Hence, the plan of developing an all-new VFR with a more powerful engine and modern tech gadgetry came up. Apart from the 50 percent increase in cubic capacity, the new VFR comes equipped with something that will set the trend in times to come – a dual clutch transmission.

I got a chance to ride both, the conventional manual as well as the DCT variant of the VFR. Needless to say, the latter is a boon for those who will end up using the bike in its natural environment, long distance touring. The rider has one less thing to worry about – shifting gears – and hence can concentrate more on the biking experience as well as enjoying the vistas around. The engine has been updated from the previous 800cc unit to a new 1237cc motor that belts out 170 ponnies along with 129Nm of torque. This was primarily done to rival the likes of BMW’s K1200 range. However, once seated, you don’t really feel the big engine thanks to a 76 degree layout of the cylinders along with a shift to the SOHC instead of the DOHC set-up. These features have allowed for a more compact engine construction.

Even though HSR’s track didn’t have very long straights, exiting the long sweeping left before the back straight hard saw the digital speedometer register close to 190km/h quickly. The DCT, when left in the automatic mode, changed its shifting frequency depending on the rider’s inputs. However, enthusiasts don’t have a reason to complain as the rider can manually shift up or down with a flick of a button on the left yoke. Even when left in the A/T mode, the rider can choose from the D and the S modes. The D mode offers excellent fuel economy and is suited for daily riding whereas the S mode delivers sportier shifting characteristics for enthusiastic riding. Hard braking saw the VFR shed speed with a reassuring force, and occasionally with a bit of pulsing from the handlebar lever or the foot pedal, as the combined ABS system kicked in. Even though the bike weighs in at a porky 267 kilos, it carries itself pretty well. While following Tohru Ukawa’s (ex-MotoGP and Suzuka 8-hour winner for Honda) lines through the tight bends, it wasn’t really difficult to get the VFR down with the pegs millimeters away from the tarmac.

Though my experience aboard the new VFR lasted for less than an hour, it was more than enough to judge Honda’ flagship sports tourer pretty well. The bike has Honda’s typical rider friendly nature, a sweet throttle response, a great sounding engine and very comfortable ergonomics for serious touring. It might boast of controversial styling (I do like it though), but there is a lot more to this bike than just its looks. The production of the bike is already in full swing though commercial sale begins abroad in a few months. A thumbs-up to Honda for their concrete plans of getting the bike to India around July-August this year. Although we don’t know about the DCT variant as of yet, the manual version due to its lower sticker price will debut here for sure. Watch this space for more!

Clever-commuter


TVS introduces the Jive, a clutchless motorcycle. Easy commuting? Finds out Adhish Alawani
Photography: Sanjay Raikar

The two-wheeler market in India is extremely large. There are millions of motorcycles already on the road and lakhs more are sold every month. The number of motorcycle enthusiasts is increasing day by day and the number of consumers for performance machines is on the rise. However, the number of commuter machines contributes the maximum to motorcycle sales in India. This means that there is cutthroat competition between the various manufacturers who sell their products in this segment. While some are banking on the fantastic fuel efficiency and reliability offered over the past many years, others are busy introducing various fancy gizmos in order to grab attention. In this state of close competition, TVS has decided to pitch in their new commuter machine, the Jive to take on the fight as fiercely as possible.

What is so special about the Jive then? It looks like any other plain Jane commuter. In fact, it reminds me of the company’s very own Star. The proportions of the Jive are typically commuter-ish – flat seat, upright posture, high handlebar, moderately sized tank that fits perfectly between the thighs and minimal necessary body panels. The headlamp with a bikini fairing gives a sporty touch and so do the alloy wheels. The broad tailpiece looks quite boxy and is probably the only thing on the Jive that feels dated as compared to the other styling bits. The twin-pod instrumentation console houses the speedometer and the odometer on one side while the fuel gauge, tell-tale lights and most importantly the gear indicator are on the other side. The switchgear is well laid out with the starter button on the right hand side and all the other switches (headlamp, upper/dipper, horn, passing light, indicator switch and choke) on the left hand side.Well, that is all about the looks and styling of the Jive – a factor that a consumer will think of last when he goes out to buy a machine in the commuter segment. So what is it that makes the Jive stand out from the other models available in the market? TVS has introduced the Jive with an 110cc engine. There is nothing novel in that, right? Of course not, but what is exciting and quite interesting about the Jive is the transmission mated with the engine. The clutchless rotary gearbox is seen for the first time on an Indian motorcycle (Hero Honda had introduced the Street, a step-though, with a similar technology). Basically with this T-matic (that is what the engineers at TVS call their new transmission) you can shift gears without an actual lever operated clutch. The company has incorporated an automatic clutch in the Jive that takes care of the gearshifts. Plus the rotary box indicates that after the fourth gear, one more tap on the gear lever and you come back to neutral. For safety reasons, this happens only when the bike is stationary. This is all about the novel automatic clutch geared motorcycle on paper, but on a more practical note, how does it ride on the road? Does it serve its purpose? Is it a sensible machine for the city? All these questions were making me anxious until I got onto one of the Jives that TVS offered us. A couple of kilometers on the motorcycle and the answers to all my questions and doubts were taking shape pretty quickly.

The bikini fairing around the headlamp of the TVS Jive lends the commuter bike a touch of sportiness The wide, boxy tail of the Jive is probably the only thing that works against the modern and sporty feel of the bike. The clear glass indicators and the chic tail light are a welcome feature though

The TVS Jive is a commuter and it does its job in a fairly perfect manner. There is no clutch lever in your left hand so it feels a bit weird to start. Getting used to it takes just a few minutes though. As you ignite the motorcycle and press the shifter lever with your toe, the clutch acts automatically and puts the bike in the first gear. As you release the gear lever, the clutch is released automatically and you feel a slight jerk that indicates you are set to roll. However, you won’t move ahead unless you give the throttle. This happens because there are basically two clutches acting, one is the centrifugal and the other is the normal one. The centrifugal clutch takes care that the bike doesn’t move unless the gas is given. This reduces the hassle of shifting back to neutral or depressing the clutch while waiting at a signal in gear. The bike will start rolling as soon as you give the throttle input, just like any gearless scooter. Once in motion, up shifting through the gears is an easy operation. All you have to do is roll the throttle and shift a gear up. With no clutch, gear shifting becomes damn easy since the throttle-clutch co-ordination is not required. This reduces a lot of stress while riding in city traffic where frequent shifting of gears is necessary. In short, the Jive is a mix of a motorcycle and a gearless scooter – ideal for city commuting.

The 110cc motor pumps out a maximum power of 8.5PS at 7500rpm and a peak torque of 8.3Nm at 5500rpm, both of which are perfect for a commuter motorcycle. The bike sprints from standstill to 60km/h in 8.16 seconds – quite impressive for a 110cc commuter  – and runs out of breath at 94.7km/h (speedometer indicated 102km/h). The Jive’s suspension and chassis are good enough for city riding. Zipping through the traffic is no big deal thanks to the good flickability of the bike.

Hassle free gear shifts, a quick engine and good handling – does that mean there are no downsides to the Jive? No. There are some minor issues with the bike. To start with, let’s have a look at the tyres. The TVS tyres on the Jive lend poor grip. Not that one needs the grip of slicks for city commuting, but the bike fails to instill confidence especially when there is a bit of gravel or wet patch on the road. Plus, while the T-matic is an amazing transmission, there is a slight problem with it when it comes to downshifting gears. While slowing down, one has to let the engine revs fall considerably before shifting to a lower gear. If this is not done, the downshift locks up the wheel momentarily and gives an unwelcome jerk to the rider. Apart from these trifling issues, the Jive is a fantastic commuter bike when ridden sensibly in the traffic. The fuel efficiency of the gearless motorcycle is sufficiently high at 62kmpl (overall). And at Rs 41,000 (ex-showroom), the Jive is quite competitively priced and will surely give its rivals a run for their money.


Who says you need a clutch lever to pop a wheelie on a commuter bike?

Legal-thrills


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

Words Adhish Alawani and Bunny Punia
Photography Sanjay Raikar

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

HONDA

2009 HONDA CB1000R

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

2010 HONDA CBR1000RR

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

1993 HONDA CBR 1000F

Honda CB Twister vs rivals


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

Photography Sanjay Raikar

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

Bajaj Discover 100

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

Hero Honda Splendor NXG

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


TVS Star City

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

Yamaha Libero G5

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

Honda CB Twister

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

The hog way round

Harley-Davidson announced their formal entry into India with the launch of a dozen models at the Auto Expo at Delhi
early this year in January. A couple of months down the line, I finally managed to get hold of almost the entire H-D range for a ride, an experience and much more.

Words Bunny Punia   
Photography Sanjay Raikar

XL 883R Roadster (Sportster family)
The Sportster family is considered as the first step into the world of Harley- Davidson motorcycles. This family in India consists of the XL 883L Sportster, the XL 883R Roadster, the XL 1200N Nightster and the XR 1200X. The 883s without a doubt are the most important bikes for the country due to their relatively low sticker prices. In fact, the 883L with a sub Rs 7 lakh tag has already lured thousand of enthusiasts around the country including me. This is also the reason why I decided to ride this little machine for a longer period of time. We had the 883R variant for the ride which comes with a few more features and goodies as compared to the L model and of course a slightly higher price tag. Nevertheless, its genes are pure Harley and this American icon is a modern motorcycle that proudly boasts of its heritage. The company’s 883 lineup is legendary, having turned the motorcycling world upside down when they were first introduced way back in 1957.

The 883 has a narrow frame and a raw sporty styling which looks classic and timeless. Its ergonomics are spot on for lazy laid back cruising. In fact, even at slow speeds, you don’t feel its 251kg dry weight at all. The 883, like most Harleys, comes with a 45degree V-twin motor displacing 883cc. The company doesn’t like to disclose its maximum rated power, however, international websites claim it to be anywhere between 40-50horses. Even though the 883 is not about performance, it will still do the 0-100km/h sprint in seven seconds. The bike’s true character lies in lazing around on open highways, munching up miles with your arms and legs stretched out a little. The talking point here is its 70Nm of torque. Slotted in fifth with the needle at 100km/h, there is enough juice left for overtaking maneuvers as well as playing around with fast moving cars. 150km/h is what I saw at one point of time with probably another 10-15km/h to come. However, the 883 feels at home at around the 100-110km/h. The tank holds 12.5 litres of fuel, good for around 300km of highway riding. It might be the smallest bike in the company’s portfolio, but the 883 range is unmistakably Harley including the way it rides with the characteristic vibrations and engine noise. Yours for Rs 7.50 lakh (the 883L is even cheaper at Rs 6.95 lakh), the 883R is your ticket into the world of iconic motorcycles.

XR1200X (Sportster family)

This is a sportier variant of the XR1200R which was the first Harley tuned for European riding and styling tastes. With the X, what you get is a blacked out engine casing and a matte black tail, tank and mudguards to create a more aggressive look and of course brilliant Showas (suspension). The XR1200X looks like no other Harley; it has a charm of its own. It takes time getting used to the high seating position but that in combination with the comfortable upright posture helps in giving you a commanding view of the road ahead. The bike is powered by the same 1202cc motor doing the honours on the 1200 Nightster, though with a different level of tuning. Maximum power is believed to be around 90 horses, but as is the case with most Harleys, the torque does the talking, all 100Nm of it. The bike felt pretty comfortably though the seat could have been softer. Power delivery was great. In fact, with the upright posture, I had to hang on tight during flat out acceleration in the top three cogs. The XR1200X sells for Rs 11.95 lakh – a good deal for a sporty 1200cc V-twin bike.

Super Glide Custom (Dyna family)

This is the first ever factory custom Harley. Though termed as a cruiser, the versatility of this bike surprised me no ends. It might weigh in at 310 kilos (kerb), but the ease with which the Custom handled slow moving traffic and even inside our big resort campus left me impressed. Without any kind of wind protection, the Custom managed to chew up miles easily while sitting at an indicated 110km/h with me saddled up comfortably in the broad seat, holding on the wide pulled back handlerbars. The 1584cc engine belts out 123Nm (gulp!) of torque and is pretty smooth at cruising speeds with that typical Harley twin-cylinder music from the engine.

On the design front, the simplicity of the overall composition will be appreciated by many – the twin flush caps for the tank, the simply laid out speedometer, the upside down indicators upfront, et al. In fact, the true beauty of this bike’s understated charm is its blank slate appeal. The Custom offers a great platform for anyone who likes to leap into the sea of personalizing their bike with Harley’s accessories catalog.

Fat Boy (Softail family)

This is the quintessential tough guy motorcycle and without a doubt, one of the best selling Harley-Davidson bikes ever. Arnie too rode one in The Terminator and if you are in Yankee land, chances are you will end up seeing more of these solid disc wheeled motorcycles than other models on the road. As the company’s Indian MD puts it, the Fat Boy is a timeless combination of power and style. True to its name, it weighs in at 330 kilos, but feels lighter on the move due to its low mass centralization. The 1584cc engine is mated to a six-speed ‘box and is a real pleasure. It hasn’t lost its typical Harley charm with the inclusion of the compulsory fuel injection. Like most Harleys, the well padded generous seat, pulled back bars and footboards allow for a comfortable riding posture but for serious touring, a windshield is recommend. This is where another thing comes up – the list of aftermarket add-ons for the Fat Boy requires a book of its own! If I am in the market for the most outrageous road ready custom, then this bike would sit at the top of the motorcycle chain.


Heritage Softail Classic (Softail family)

The Heritage Softail Classic remains as retro styled as it was when launched two decades ago. With only subtle changes on the design front over the years, this bike retains its old world charm, so loved by a huge chunk of Harley riders. The 21-inch spoke wheels with the white walled rubber, the retro styled leather saddles and the leather extension to the rider’s seat – this is the bike to have for those who love old schools. Beneath all that metal and leather is a modern 1584cc motor putting out an impressive 117Nm of torque at a low 3200rpm. This translates into effortless low speed cruising (so typical of a Harley, isn’t it?). Aboard this bike, you feel you are back in time and yet you get modern touches like ABS. The king sized windshield can be removed, however, I like it this way. Some may think this bike is a bit much of a throwback, but I have to admit that it’s a good looking bike all in all. It’s true what some say about the classics never going out of style, I guess. Rs 19.45 lakh is a lot of money, but certain things just seem better with age, don’t they?

Night Rod Special (V-Rod family)

This is the rock star of the entire H-D gang. It looks mean and menacing and even made me look cool while riding it. Well almost. I did have my arms and legs stretched out, but leaning ahead made me feel more comfortable as well cut through the air properly. At times, all it took were a few seconds to get from an indicated 100 to an indicated 150, thanks to the new generation sophisticated and smooth 1250cc engine that belts out 125 ponnies along with 111Nm of torque. Going from zero to hundred in fewer than four seconds with a top whack of around 225km/h, the Night Rod is unlike any other Harley. In fact, the intoxicating V-twin growl and that linear acceleration are courtesy engine design help from Porsche. For most, the Night Rod might be a difficult bike to handle around curves or in city traffic, but for me it rules the roost and for reasons. Show up on one and people don’t stop staring. For Rs 18.95 lakh you also get custom quality construction, inimitable Harley cachet and a set of wheels that is as much fun to look at as it is to ride. Period.

Road King (Touring family)

When first launched in 1994, its styling was the biggest asset for the Road King – one of the two bikes from the touring family. The bike carries a mix of retro design elements like spoke wheels, three big chrome lamps upfront, inverted indicators, et al. along with modern touches like hard panniers, technological advances for the engine, plus cruise control and ABS! Even the chassis is all-new and it shows its true colours in case you push the bike hard. It has the same 1584cc engine seen on the Softail family, though this one pumps out 127Nm of torque. In fact, I rode the Road King after riding
the XR1200 and was immensely surprised with its smoothness. I could comfortably ride this bike to its full tank range (300km+) between stops and the only snag would be the wind turbulence created by the screen for my tall height. If the likes of Elvis Presley were still alive, they would have one of these gorgeous machines parked in their Graceland garages. Like most say, it’s good to be King, though at an expensive sticker price of Rs 20.45 lakh.

Street Glide (Touring family)

The chunkier and modern of the two touring bikes, the Street Glide had me hooked the moment I swung a leg over. It might look like a Road King with an add-on bat wing type fairing, but there is a lot more to this bike. The Street Glide is the original stripped and slammed (lowered rear suspension) bagger from Harley-Davidson and is powered by the same twin cam 96 V-twin engine as on some of the other models, though it is in its torquiest form here. It performs more than well and during our early morning shoot, getting the rear to spin out was pretty easy. In fact, with the fairing, high speed cruising is better than some of the other machines here. The lowered ride height, however, limits the suspension travel and two-up, bad roads can rattle your insides pretty easily. The six pods in the speedometer console finished in white look sporty with the music system and various buttons under it increasing the functionality. The system, a Harman Kardon unit, was kept near its top volume most of the times much to other motorists’ surprise but this is the way a Harley is to be enjoyed on open Indian roads.

Ultra Classic Electra Glide (CVO family)

Prepare to be coddled. The most powerful, heaviest and comfiest bike of the whole range is the Ultra Classic Electra Glide, a bike born out of the CVO or the Custom Vehicle Operations’ family of Harley-Davidson. Harley’s entire bag of techno tricks are featured on the CVO Ultra, including a 160Watt CD/AM/FM/WB/MP3 Advanced Audio System by Harman Kardon, CB and intercom, passenger audio with controls, cruise control and standard XM Radio to name a few. If size matters with money no bar, this is the machine to have. Both the rider and the passenger sit in the plushest of accommodations and once on the move, its massive 430 kilo weight seems to vanish. In fact, while riding up to the Amer fort, I was effortlessly scraping away expensive metal from the footboards. The engine sounds sweet with an intoxicating intake growl at low revs with a surge of locomotive like torque available throughout. The CVO sits lazily at an indicated 150km/h with much in reserve to tease other smaller models of the family easily. If your idea of a road trip means ditching your business class ticket and riding to Mumbai from Delhi, the CVO is the answer even at its staggering Rs 34.95 lakh sticker price. Who says inspiring dreams is always cheap?

John McEnaney
Harley-Davidson Service Operations Area Representative, India


Age:
50
Favourite H-D bike in India: FXDC Dyna Super Glide Custom
Why? “It’s a no BS bike”

How different will be the maintenance of Harley-Davidson bikes in the Indian riding environment vis-à-vis the US?
Harley-Davidson motorcycles have been ridden for decades in over 70 countries spanning various terrains and weather conditions. In the U.S. itself, we have experienced and tested our motorcycles in every riding condition. To give you an instance from India, the first Founders Ride we did in the country was through torrential rain in New Delhi. Furthermore, our ride through Jaipur presented us with a different set of riding conditions – heat, varied roads and some long stops in traffic. The fantastic thing about India is that the variations and unique riding terrain make it an incredible riding destination. Our vision for our dealerships in the country will be to provide world class after sales maintenance and servicing at par with a Harley-Davidson dealership anywhere. The service teams across our dealerships in India will be trained to ensure customers enjoy every minute of ownership and have an optimum experience.

What about the performance of Harley-Davidson motorcycles in India’s harsh, i.e., hot summer months?
We’ve ridden through the pouring rain in Delhi, the summer heat in Jaipur and the stop-go traffic of Mumbai and Bangalore. Every ride has been a new experience. Over the next few months, we plan to ride across different regions in India and enjoy the thrill of riding through varying terrain and weather conditions which you cannot experience anywhere else in the world.

Anoop Prakash
Managing Director
Age: 37
Favourite H-D bike in India: FLSTF Fat Boy
Why? “A timeless combination of power and style.”

When do we see the first H-D showroom up and running and in which cities?

Bookings for Harley-Davidson motorcycles will open across India on the 20th of April, 2010 and will be taken by our dealers in Mumbai, Hyderabad, New Delhi, Bangalore and Chandigarh. We will announce dealer locations by the first week of April with all five showrooms scheduled to open by the end of summer. This year all 12 motorcycles from our Indian model line-up will be available on sale in addition to a broad selection of accessories, merchandise and apparel.

Which models have been the most popular among prospective Indian buyers till now?
We realized from the start that bringing in one or two models would not come close to meeting the craving and demand for the full Harley-Davidson experience here. Through our website, www.harley-davidson.in, prospective owners from all corners of the country have staked their claim to be among the first to own a 2010 Harley-Davidson motorcycle and we have seen demand across all model
families. For the city riders appreciating our heritage and classic cruiser styling, the Sportsters and Dynas seem to be on the top. For speed enthusiasts, the Night Rod Special has captured their hearts. For executives wanting the classic originals to explore greater India, the Softtails and Touring bikes reign supreme. Additionally, since we have partnered with ICICI Bank to provide loans at 11 percent interest, all riders can find their ride!

Sanjay Tripathi
Director, Marketing
Age: 37
Favourite H-D bike in India: VRSCDX Night Rod Special.
Why? “Speed, torque, stability and of course its hotrod styling!”

Harley-Davidson is an iconic brand and markets itself pretty well. Is this working in your favour in India already?
The stature Harley-Davidson enjoys is because our riders have built a bond not only with their motorcycles but with each other. The inclusiveness of the brand, the enthusiasm of the owners and the camaraderie built between the riders transcends geographical boundaries and binds them into a global HOG (Harley Owners Group) family. We have brought the pure Harley-Davidson experience to India with a range of 12 models from all five of our motorcycle families to give riders here the true look, sound and feel of our heritage, our culture and the Harley-Davidson lifestyle. Our range of MotorClothes will only add more authenticity to the complete Harley-Davidson experience in the country.

Do we see special made in India, for India ad campaigns on the Idiot box soon?
We are in the process of finalizing the right mix for our marketing campaigns and will soon roll them out to bring Harley-Davidson motorcycles closer to our riders. Our campaigns will certainly reflect the Harley-Davidson ethos and from a marketing standpoint we will continue to hold experiential events, so that riders and enthusiasts get the opportunity to really understand the lifestyle and experience.