Adhish Alawani finds out if the new RTR 180 packs in the ingredients of an all-rounder
Photography Sanjay Raikar


TVS Motors had the Apache RTR 180 in the pipeline for a long time. The bike’s predecessor, the RTR 160 has already proven to be one of the best bikes in its class. This fact alone had definitely raised my expectations from the new bike and when I first saw the breathtaking promotional video of the RTR 180 shot at one of the MotoGP tracks abroad, my excitement knew no bounds. I could hardly wait to lay my hands on this beast. After innumerable calls to the TVS guys, I finally got the chance to pick up the RTR 180 from the company warehouse on the outskirts of Pune.

The bike’s sparkling white colour with golden front forks and rear shock gas reservoirs plus the big RTR logo running across the tank scoops is a treat for the eyes. In spite of not making too many cosmetic changes to the original RTR, the 180’s refreshed looks make it stand out from its 160cc sibling. The front and rear petal disc brakes come from the fuel injected version of the RTR 160. TVS has retained the instrumentation console of the 160 although it sports a white treatment now. It retains the 0-60km/h timer and the high speed recorder previously featured the older RTR. What comes as an option on the bike is a set of naked footpegs for the track (which otherwise have rubber sleeves over them) and a stylish rear fender. All in all, the RTR 180 is more or less the same as its 160cc version with minor but welcome upgrades.

Without wasting too much time at the warehouse, I hit the road astride one of the most awaited performance bikes in the country. The company claims that the RTR 180 is one of the quickest Indian bikes from zero to 60km/h. I wasn’t quite convinced about this while riding it for the first few minutes. The engine is not as free revving as the smaller RTR. TVS also claims that the 180’s horsepower is considerably higher (17.3PS) at 8500rpm compared to the 160cc bike (15.5PS). Additionally, the new bike’s peak torque has increased to 15.5Nm from 13.1Nm of the RTR 160. It was obvious that all these figures had to reflect in the performance testing results even if they weren’t really being felt while riding normally. And boy was I impressed after the performance runs! The RTR 180 managed to pull off the 60km/h mark from standstill in just 4.64 seconds – a feat as yet unattained even by some of the higher capacity Indian bikes. During testing, the bike took just 18.47 seconds for the quarter mile run. An interesting fact here is that the engine has a very linear power delivery. Wring your wrist at any given rpm and the bike is more than happy to start pulling away comfortably. The Apache 180 also managed to pull off a true top speed close to 124km/h which is slightly more than the RTR 160’s top speed. What is worth mentioning is that the new 180’s engine doesn’t have a rev limiter. The tacho redlines at 9000rpm, however, rev it hard and the engine can go all the way up to 12,000rpm – the last mark on the tachometer. The fact that TVS is developing a race kit for the RTR 180 makes a lot of sense as it will help boost the power in those high revs. Nonetheless, until that happens, we are sure enthusiasts will be more than happy with the stock bike.

The new 177.4cc mill packs in adequate power to plaster a grin on every enthusiast’s face

The golden gas reservoirs are among the few cosmetic upgrades on the 180

The instrumentation console remains more or less the same as the 160’s except for the white treatment

Considering the fact that TVS has created the 180 by keeping performance as a top priority, it goes without saying that the company has made sure that the bike’s chassis can handle power quite ably. The bike’s wheelbase was increased by 26mm as compared to the RTR 160. The longer wheelbase has lent a very stable and planted character to the 180. The way the bike behaves in corners instills a lot of confidence in the rider. Throw the bike around a bend at the maximum possible speed, get your butt off the saddle and point the knee down – you are surely in for a comfortable high speed cornering act. I wonder how many Indian bikes would be able to match this kind of handling. And it is not just about the corners, the RTR 180 feels very stable on bumpy and uneven surfaces as well. The stability of the chassis is phenomenal and the grip lent by the new set of lightweight TVS Shrichakra aids the handling of the bike to a great extent. The manufacturer has switched from the 18-inch rear tyre of the 160 to a wider 17-inch one on the 180 while retaining the 17-inch front.

TVS engineers who have done a lot of work on the racing front for the company’s factory team in India have pooled in their collective experience in creating the RTR 180. The new bike’s amazing power delivery and fantastic handling characteristics is a proof of the fact that a motorcycle can be perfected to a great extent on the racetrack. Yet, in doing all this, they haven’t missed out on other aspects of biking. I had to catch up with a friend in Mumbai the other day and I took this opportunity to ride the RTR on the NH4. Even after riding the bike for two and a half hours continuously, there was no hint of fatigue crept in my body. The new RTR’s handlebar-footpeg geometry is so versatile that apart from the racetrack, it will prove to be highly comfortable even on the highways and in the city. The Pune-Mumbai NH4 ride was a testimony of the high speed stability of the RTR 180. Not to forget, that the Apache RTR is one of the better bikes to ride in traffic with its strong low end grunt. Additionally, the bike’s flickability makes it a fun machine for the city.

Let’s talk about an aspect of biking worshipped in India – stunting. The images of the Apache 180 featured on these pages probably speak more than a thousand words. The bike is a stunter’s delight and is extremely wheelie friendly, ready to pop that front wheel anytime it is required to do so. In fact, even during the performance testing, I had a tough time keeping the front wheel down while managing the perfect launch. The longer wheelbase has made it a bit difficult to execute stoppies easily, however, it’s just a matter of getting the hang of it. So where does the RTR 180 lack? There are hardly any negative aspects of the bike aside from the fact that the engine doesn’t rev smoothly. Also, one wouldn’t call the RTR 180 a very refined machine. But well, refinement is not something that everyone likes. There are people who love to have that slight grunty feel from a motorcycle which adds a big bike flavor to the machine.

At the end of the day, when I look back at all the characteristics of the Apache RTR 180, I am convinced that TVS has successfully introduced a bike in the local market which is ready to take on other contenders in India’s performance bike segment. The RTR 180 is a highly versatile machine that can do almost everything comfortably be it sport riding, city commuting, touring or stunting. There is absolutely no area where the bike refuses to perform. The manufacturer’s claim that the RTR 180 is one of the quickest from zero to 60km/h is absolutely correct and the bike truly lives up to TVS’ racetrack promotion. But there’s a lot more to the bike apart from just its performance and racing gene. It returns a decent fuel efficiency of 42kmpl in the city and 55kmpl on highways. What else do we need from a bike that costs Rs 72,000 (approx OTR, Pune)? Probably nothing! Except, of course, TVS’ performance kit that produces even more power beyond the red line!


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


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

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

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

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

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

Holy ‘Moo’ly! Sanjay finds some cow comfort

Platina: How could Bunny resist sliding the little Bajaj?

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

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

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

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

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



The all-new MotoGP-style R1 outclasses its rivals in the toughest ever track test. Find out how…


‘This is a bike so full of contradictions but it’s so damn good’



Yamaha’s epic new R1 is the unanimous, hands-down winner of our 1000cc superbike track test. It easily beats the competition, but it has to be said from the off that it takes time to appreciate the R1’s brilliance. That’s down to the Yamaha’s unique MotoGP-inspired crossplane crank motor with its irregular firing intervals. It’s so different to anything anyone – except Valentino Rossi and his mates – have ridden before, it takes time for it all to sink in.

When fellow road tester Bruce Dunn rode it briefly for straight-line performance testing at our test strip, he wasn’t jumping for joy. When I rode it against the more familiar Fireblade in France, I was initially convinced it wasn’t as good as the Honda. Already there have been magazine articles saying it’s all hype.

But all these opinions come from lack of quality time in the saddle. The more you ride the R1, the more you’ll fall in love with its unbelievably vibe-free engine, glassy-smooth power delivery, gruff factory YZR-M1 engine note and ability to let you get on the throttle sooner than you ever thought possible. Jump off the R1 and on to any of the other four-cylinder 1000s here, and they lack the Yamaha’s instant burst of acceleration as soon as you pick up the throttle out of a corner. They all feel a bit gutless and vibey.

All of us on this test were bowled over by the R1, including James Haydon, who was almost speechless after riding it.


Inspired by MotoGP

Back in 2004, Yamaha gave Rossi’s M1 a crossplane crank and irregular firing order so he could get in and out of corners as fast as possible. The same applies to the new R1. It’s like there’s an electric motor in the big red Deltabox chassis, not a big inline four-cylinder internal combustion engine.

Unlike the others, the engine won’t try to twist the chassis and pump the tyre under hard acceleration, causing it to be unstable. It just drives you forward with sublime feel for the rear tyre, so you can get on the throttle sooner and harder from the middle of the corner.

You almost have to ride the R1 like a twin – using the grunt, not the revs – so a lot of the corners at Cartagena can be taken a gear higher than on the Blade, for example, which makes the Yamaha less frantic to ride fast. Ironically, the slower corners have to be taken in first, though, as it has a very tall bottom gear.


Worn tyres don’t faze it

The R1 is also easiest of all the bikes here to ride on worn tyres. You can feel the exact moment the tyre starts to lose grip and you can control it from there. When the ZX-10R goes, it snaps sideways violently. The Blade and the K9 have lots of natural grip thanks to their long swing-

arms, but still don’t offer the sublime feel of the Yamaha. The electronically-aided Ducati just splutters on its traction control when the tyre starts to spin, which is cool, but you have to wait too long for the power to come back in again, by which time the R1 has buggered off along the next straight.

With its lack of crank inertia, when you throttle-off the R1 freewheels, almost silently like a two-stroke. This keeps the R1 stable on the way into corners and gives you the confidence to run in faster with more control. But this lack of engine braking can make the R1 ‘back in’ slightly, especially if you use the back brake, so you have to ride accordingly.


Like three bikes in one

The R1 is three bikes in one: a twin or V4 on the throttle, a two-stroke off it and an inline four at high revs.

This is the key to the R1’s speed around the track or through a set of corners on the road, but none of it shows up on paper, testing it by conventional means. Its power and torque figures aren’t particularly impressive (it’s the least powerful inline four) and the straight-line performance is on a par with the competition. Where you feel it is through the seat of your pants and, of course, on a stop watch around a track.

The ZX-10R has 13bhp more power, but it still laps over a second slower than the R1. And the Yamaha is two and a half seconds faster than the more powerful new K9. It’s nearly a second quicker than the Ducati 1198S – and that has full Ohlins suspension and traction control!

It’s hard to see how the competition is going to catch up in the future. The ZX-10R proves that throwing big bhp at a bike doesn’t make it fast from A to B. The Ducati shows that top-shelf suspension, a big engine and advanced electronics can’t quite close the gap on the R1. It’s going to take some Yamaha-style ‘out of the box’ thinking to catch the R1.

While the engine dominates the R1, it also handles beautifully – once it’s properly set up for the track. Get it on its nose – by taking off front preload, adding more rear and tightening up the damping at each end – and it ‘floats’ around the track.

A fast lap is completely effortless. The suspension is plush, giving lots of feel, and flip-flop chicanes can be taken with ease. The brakes have more feel and power than any R1 I’ve ever ridden and the lack of engine vibes and useable power make riding the R1 as fast and easy as playing a computer game.

That’s not to say the Yamaha isn’t fun and involving. A screaming four-cylinder Blade or ZX-10R certainly gets the juices flowing, but there’s nothing more fun than reducing following riders to a speck in your mirrors as you leave them for dust out of corners and pull a huge gap. Here at Cartagena there must have been a lot of red-faced slick-shod race bike riders wondering ‘what the hell was that growling bike with a numberplate, indicators and mirrors’ flying past them.



Yamaha has shown its crossplane crank engine and irregular firing order works at MotoGP; Ben Spies has proved it works at WSB and it has demolished the competition in our 1000cc superbikes shootout. Here is a bike so full of contradictions and so different to anything out there, but just so damn good. Most impressively, our R1 had only 322km on the clock when we tested it – the motor was still tight and it still whupped ass!


Riders View Turn 10: ‘Midway through this second-gear hairpin you can give the R1 more throttle than usual as there’s a steep camber in your favour.’



62 Laps of the Cartagena circuit completed on this test

234.24 Km/h at the end of the straight

1.03 Seconds quicker than the second placed bike

2.26 Seconds quicker than the bike with slowest lap time


Tester’s second opinions

“It looks like an old French Endurance racer, but what a bike”


Wow, what a bike! What a motor, it’s really impressive. I really love that engine, it sounds amazing. I can’t stop smiling, I so enjoyed riding that. It’s nimble with a lovely front end – I can really feel what the front end is doing.



Braking into the slow speed turn 2, Ben Neeves is about to flick right




Engine and gearbox 100%

Suspension 95%

Cornering 98%

Braking 97%

Overall 98%



Kawasaki ZX-10R

Best lap: 1:48.41, max 238.94km/h



The Kawasaki was our early favourite here. It steers beautifully, holds a line, is agile in the chicanes and has a storming amount of power. If we had left all the bikes on standard suspension settings, there’s a good chance the Kawasaki could have taken the victory in this track test.

All the other bikes here are set up to be stable and reassuring on the road, with relatively soft set-ups and slow steering. It’s not until you adjust them – speed up the steering and stiffen them up – that they become useful on the track.

The ZX-10R needs hardly any tweaking for it to work straight away. That’s why it’s such an unstable, scary monster on the road when you accelerate over bumps at speed. But on a smooth race track there are no such problems. The Kawasaki is razor-sharp, stable and massive fun. It has the perfect riding position for the track – roomy yet

aggressive. It’s a good half-second faster than the Ducati and Honda, and a second and a half quicker than the Suzuki, but for all its power and nimbleness, it can’t match the R1 – it’s nearly a second slower than the Yamaha.

Despite huge reserves of power at the top end to play with, the ZX-10R’s brilliant chassis makes it a pussycat around Cartagena. The brakes on our test bike were strong (though we’ve heard of fading issues before on track).

If the new R1 didn’t exist, you’d think the ZX-10R accelerates out of corners like a guided missile; it certainly has the speed on the straights, and is faster than the R1. But compared to the Yamaha you have to wait too long for the power to chime in when you get on the throttle, so it feels slower coming off a corner. Taking the corner in a lower gear won’t catch the R1, either – the lower gear slows you down too much going into and through the corner.


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This is a spectacular track machine straight out of the crate – and ironically it’s less scary on the circuit than on the road. It’s devilishly quick, but not quick enough to challenge the R1.

Stick a cross plane crank in the ZX-10R, change its firing intervals and Yamaha will have a fight on its hands.



Engine and gearbox 98%

Suspension 97%

Cornering 97%

Braking 94%

Overall feel 97%


On a smooth race track the Kawasaki is razor-sharp, stable and massive fun. It’s a spectacular track machine





Ducati 1198S

Best lap: 1:48.93, max 227.21km/h



Just like the R1, the Ducati takes a lot of setting up to get it to work around the track. You need to get it on its nose so it’ll steer well enough to change direction and hold a line. It also needs lots more damping to control the weaves and wobbles initiated by the instant power delivery of the 1198cc

V-twin engine and provide the stability to control the dive caused by the fierce Brembo Monobloc brakes. Properly

set up it’s a wonderful track bike.

You feel perched up high and it’s a long way down to get your knee down. It’s still slow-steering, too – especially compared to the R1, Blade and ZX-10R.

At first the Ducati feels clumsy and unnatural around such a tight track and the instant power delivery too snatchy, but when you’re hard-charging trying to chase someone, the 1198S changes completely. Ridden by the scruff of its neck the Ducati is amazing.

The 1198s is happiest at full lean, where it’s so stable. It loves high-speed corners and punches out of slow ones in a bass-happy frenzy of mono-wheeling majesty. At full throttle it’s a cacophony of induction roar and hot metallic violence.

With traction control set on the middle level four, it kicks in coming out of slow-speed corners, especially on cold or worn tyres. It lets you get on with it on the faster sections of the track, but because you know your electronic friend is there to help you, you tease the throttle more than you would do normally to run breath-taking corner speeds.



For the first time a road-going Ducati can compete with its Japanese 1000cc rivals on track – although it’s taken advanced electronics, an 1198cc motor, top-shelf suspension, lightweight wheels and a giddy price tag to achieve it. On a more flowing circuit with fewer tighter corners, the Ducati might have beaten the Kawasaki ZX-10R, but would still struggle against the Yamaha, which is 1.5 seconds faster here.


Engine and gearbox 97%

Suspension 94%

Cornering 96%

Braking 98%

Overall feel 96%


1198’s traction control gives you the confidence to hold high corner speeds and then get on the throttle hard




Honda Fireblade

Best lap: 1.48.99, max 242.61km/h


In the scrap for best of the rest after the R1, the Blade loses out to the ZX-10R and the 1198S – but only just. It trails the Ducati by just 0.06s, hitting the fastest top speed on the straight in the process, thanks to its useable grunt out of corners.

All the things which made the Fireblade the fastest around the track and our favourite 1000 superbike last year still ring true. The Honda is still impossibly easy to jump on and ride fast, being smooth, beautifully balanced and predictable, with superb handling.

It was another bike that needed lots of tweaking to get it to behave around the circuit, mainly through controlling the damping at each end to stabilise it under acceleration and braking. The only real limit to its cornering ability is the pegs, which go down easily with these sticky Michelin Power One tyres fitted.

The Fireblade is a very comforting bike to be on, once set up, and will make the perfect trackday bike. It never does anything nasty and is constantly re-assuring you, giving you lots of feedback and confidence. While the Ducati is a serious track tool and feels the most like a proper race machine out of all the bikes here, and the ZX-10R is a precision tool for carving out fast lap times, the Blade is just fun. You feel like riding round and round until the fuel runs out. And remember, it cleaned up in last year’s National

Superstock championship, too.

Fourth position in this test doesn’t really do the Blade justice, but the stop watch is a cruel mistress. Compared to the R1, it’s too slow out of corners to keep up and the engine feels too buzzy and frantic. National Superstock racer Steve Mercer is one or two seconds a lap faster than me around Cartagena, but when we were riding together, him on the Blade and me on the R1 for the on-board camera footage, he was having to scream the Blade a gear lower than me just to keep up with the Yamaha on acceleration.



It’s hard to believe the Honda is way down in fourth place, but by no means does that mean it’s become rubbish overnight, because it hasn’t. It’s still a gem of a motorcycle.


Engine and gearbox 97%

Suspension 95%

Cornering 94%

Braking 95%

Overall feel 95%


The Blade is fun, but lost out to the ZX-10R and 1198S by split seconds

Suzuki GSX-R1000 K9

Best lap: 1:49.63, max 237.74km/h


Suzuki’s new K9 GSX-R1000 struggled on the track. Ride it in isolation and it’s superb; fast, stable and thanks to its new Blade-esque short engine/long swingarm combination, it maximises rear tyre grip too. New Showa Big Piston Forks also work better the harder you push, giving great feel from the front tyre too.

The engine has been totally overhauled for the first time in the GSX-R1000’s eight-year history. It has a shorter stroke than before, so is eager to rev, but still has good grunt off the corners. The power delivery is smoother than the old K7/K8, too, but it’s down on power compard to the old model to the tune of 7bhp.

Unfortunately, although the K9 is lighter and more nimble than the old bike, it’s still not agile enough – and now it’s light years behind the new R1.

Two and a half seconds doesn’t really sound a lot, but every 10 laps around Cartegana, the R1 pulls a massive 25-second gap over the GSX-R1000…

The K9 also needed setting up. Like all GSX-Rs, the new K9 sits very flat compared to the more extreme, ‘nose down/tail up’ set-up of the ZX-10R or R1 and feels more like a big sports tourer in this company. It’s already been proved that in WSB trim it can kick butt around the track and, in testing, superstock K9s have been going really well, too – but as it is out of the crate, even with the suspension dialled in, it’s not as sharp as its rivals.

Its lack of agility means you have to be a bit steadier into the corners and have to wait longer for it to turn before you get on the power. The K9 has good grunt, as it still has the longest stroke of any of the Japanese 1000s, but it still feels flat from the middle of the corner on the throttle compared to the R1.



Every GSX-R1000 from the K1 to the K5 raised the 1000cc superbike bar, but for whatever reason the 2007 K7 lost the plot a bit. It was too heavy and clumsy around the track. That didn’t stop it selling by the bucketload, though, as it’s still a great road bike. The K9 is a big improvement – it’s lighter and friendlier, but still doesn’t capture the GSX-R spirit of old.


Engine and gearbox 97%

Suspension 93%

Cornering 92%

Braking 92%

Overall feel 94%


Despite an overhaul and Haydon riding, the K9 isn’t agile enough on track





Second opinions


‘The GSX-R has a good engine, but the R1’s is better”



The Suzuki handles well; it has a different stance, but does not turn as well as the Yamaha. It’s a great bike, tractable, good engine, smooth but not as good as the Yamaha I’ve just ridden.”





“A few tweaks transformed the Ducati –

what a buzz”




I’m impressed by the Ducati – it’s got loads of grunt. When set up, it holds its line. It’s a little unstable at the end of the straight but a few suspension tweaks has transformed it – what a buzz.





“The ZX-10 still has most power and top-

end rush”



The ZX-10 still has the most power and top-end rush. It won’t stop wheelying and it’s hard work. It feels fast as it’s so lively and you need to wrestle it round, but I still love riding it on track.




“The Blade is easy to ride, but it’s a bit soft for

the track”



The Fireblade is quick down the straight and easy to ride. But it’s on the soft side – you need to play around with the set up, but I can’t get at the rear shock. Throttle response is soft for the track.




“The 1198’s fuelling is on/off compared

to the fours”



I found the Ducati the hardest to ride of all the bikes. The fuelling is on/off compared to the four-cylinder bikes. It’s a pig to ride fast – with the power delivery and brakes, it’s all or nothing .





Last year’s results

1st Honda Fireblade We said: “The Honda’s new shorter stroke engine is an epic powerhouse.”

2nd Kawasaki ZX-10R We said: “The ZX-10R is back to its wild, brutal and aggressive best.”

3rd Yamaha R1 We said: “The R1 lacks the engine to compete with the new ZX-10R and Blade.”

4th Suzuki GSX-R1000 K8 We said: “The GSX-R1000 isn’t the phenomenal track weapon it used to be.”






‘The R1 tears chunks out of the others in corner exits’



he 3.48km Cartagena race track is used for winter testing by WSB and BSB teams and proved the ideal location for our test. The 610m straight is long enough for the bikes to stretch their legs, while the 18 turns enable the bikes to be pushed to their handling limits.

Each bike was set up specifically for the track. We then used a Rs 3.96 lakh (UK) Microsat GPS datalogger to record every lap. Our test rat was Bruce Dunn, legendary bike tester with over 14 years experience. Bruce had all the time he needed to set a fast lap on fresh Michelin race rubber. Set under perfect conditions, the lap times speak volumes – clearly showing the new R1 as the overall winner.




Fast right-hander

Out of the tight chicane in second gear, you scream up to the top of third gear before braking for the tight right The ZX-10 is fastest here and feels the quickest through this section – its top end performance really shows.





Medium right-hander

The Yamaha’s is significantly faster here. Its lack of engine braking means you carry more corner speed. It also steers near-perfectly, with great chassis feedback in mid-corner.





Maximum speed achieved

The Yamaha is down on top end power compared to the other fours and it shows here – when they get the chance to stretch their legs, they start to pull away slightly. On a longer straight we’d expect an even greater gap.





Very fast left-hander

The Honda comes out on top through this section, despite finishing fourth overall. Its power delivery is smooth and it doesn’t wheelie too much over the crest. The Suzuki isn’t too far behind, its road manners shining in this section. The Kawasaki’s vicious power makes it hard to keep under control here. Again the Yamaha features highly, showing its driveability out of corners.





Tight hairpin

As you’d expect in a slow turn, the times are very close, but the Yamaha carries the most corner speed, followed by the ZX-10R and Duke – exactly the same order as the apex speeds on faster corners. The R1 always carries the most corner speed, despite the Ducati’s quality suspension. The Yamaha’s lack of engine braking, the way it allows you to attack corners and the great feedback it gives mean it was always on top.





Maximum acceleration

In this small section, the Yamaha makes almost a second or more on almost all the other bikes. It’s simply so easy to get on the power early and the new engine has the low-down grunt to fire the Yamaha down the straight. The Suzuki also scored well here, allowing the rider to get on the power sooner. The Honda was a real surprise as it has excellent feel from the rear, recording the highest speed at the end of the straight, but in this section it’s over a second slower than the Yamaha.




Overall track verdict: why the R1 wins

Yamaha’s new R1 completely dominated our track test. We’ve given every bike a fair chance to shine here. All our test riders, regardless of experience and ability, fell in love with the R1.

The R1’s brakes are sublime, its handling sharp, its suspension plush and, of course, that growling, electric motor of an engine lets you feel for rear tyre grip and get on the throttle sooner than anything else.

It’s neither the most powerful machine here, nor the fastest along the straights – but ait can get in, through and out the other side of a corner better than anything else.

To be a whole second clear of the next best machine is simply staggering and puts the competition in the shade.



Tiny Crusader

The XCD135 stretches the DTS-Si platform further while still sticking to 125cc segment pricing. But does it really deliver?
Story: Rohit Paradkar, Photography: Sanjay Raikar

When the CBF Stunner was launched, it wasn’t a bike competing with its 125cc (Shine) sibling but was instead a sportier alternative based on the same platform. Yamaha did the same when they made a sporty Gladiator Type SS/RS based on the commuter Gladiator. Along similar lines, the XCD135 joins its sibling, the Bajaj Discover 135 with an intention to capture the market with its 125cc segment pricing. Is the new XCD a sportier variant of the Discover then? Or is it just another commuter? Can it really serve as an alternative to the existing line up of 125cc commuters? With these queries haunting me, I set off to get my answers.

When BI broke the news of the XCD135 being Bajaj’s first model for 2009, we had highlighted the fact that the bike would be based on the XCD Sprint concept that Bajaj showcased at the ninth Auto Expo last year. Unfortunately, the production version shaves off all the radical design elements of the concept like the chiseled side profile of the headlamp, the floating type panels, the visor for emulating a bikini fairing, the chrome spine on the tank extensions, the toe shifter and the swingarm mounted rear fender. What makes it to production though is a conventional trapezoidal headlight that gels well with the edgy design of the bikini fairing, visor and other body panels plus other commuter bits like a toe-heel shifter and a large rear fender with a wheel hugger from the Pulsar 150. The tank extensions, now becoming a regular feature on Bajaj bikes, make the tank appear quite muscular. The inclusion of mesh covered vents on the tank extensions and centre body panels add a streak of sportiness and at the same time highlight the Pulsar (220) lineage. The turn blinkers look stunning with the arrowhead design and are unconventionally mounted on the triple clamp. The tail light looks radical too and the fine weave of reflectors within the unit makes it appear like the compound eyes of a sinister insect when lit. Though the bike’s design carries cues from the original XCD125 like the graphics, paint schemes and body proportion ratios, on the whole, the XCD135 still manages to look different and fresher.

The digital console is well laid out with easy to read letters and an orange backlight. However, the high gloss covers for the tell tale lights appear too reflective during the day making it difficult to see them even when lit

The XCD135 uses gas damped NITROX shock absorbers for rear damping and provide great handling capabilites to the bike. The bike employs a 135cc DTS-Si mill unlike the older DTS-i version on the Discover

Get astride this refreshing new bike and its muscular tank suddenly appears puny and fails to fill in between the rider’s thighs – reminding you of the much smaller 100cc commuters. However, in spite of the tank’s mere 8-litre capacity, you will get a riding range of more than 500kms between consecutive tank ups courtesy the bike’s impressive mileage figures of 68kmpl and 62kmpl on the highway and in the city respectively. However, in order to achieve them, you will need to restrict the revs to approximately 5500rpm translating to 60km/h in the top gear. Above this mark, you will not only lose out on the mileage but will also start feeling the engine vibes. The 135cc engine redlines at 9000rpm, but the XCD takes ages to climb that tall. Nonetheless, between 5000 to 8000 revs, the XCD guarantees a decent punch for quick overtaking maneuvers in Indian traffic conditions. On the highway, the XCD135 will max out at 104km/h (true speed), which is a tad less than its segment sibling, the Discover 135. However, the XCD impresses with an equally good acceleration and significantly quicker roll-ons which can shame even the sporty 125cc bikes like the Stunner and the Gladiator. Our test bike managed a standstill to 60km/h stint in less than 6sec! The suspension setup complements these figures by providing spot on handling capabilities to the bike. The XCD135 uses gas filled Nitrox shockers for rear end damping unlike the S-N-S units on its 125cc sibling. What further aids traction and stability around corners is the Eurogrip footwear that I was already introduced to on the Discover 135. Overall the bike handles very well throughout twisty roads and has a grunty engine to match, but how does it all sum up?

Well, it’s a mixed bag of positive and negative points for the XCD135. The bike, though marketed as a sport commuter, will target the executive working class at the end of the day. It will primarily execute its chores around city environs and that is exactly where its performance needs to shine. The healthy roll-on figures are a boon and translate into quick overtaking maneuvers. Easy flickability was the XCD125’s forte and the 135 not only builds further on this aspect but also impresses with its handling around corners. But in the bid to achieve this capability, the XCD uses a stiffer suspension by default and hence loses out on ride comfort. Though the seat has ample space for two adults to perch, the hard sponge makes it uncomfortable while the 810mm saddle height means it is an awkward task for short riders to get on the bike. There are some positive bits as well, like the ergonomically positioned ultra wide footpegs and a tall handlebar making for a commuter-ish riding posture, but these are not enough to provide the kind of comfort a commuter will look for. This product then is not all that potent as the balance between its performance capabilities and commuter comfort is not up to mark.

But let’s evaluate the deal as a whole. Compared to its segment sibling, the Discover 135 as well as other bikes in the targeted 125cc segment, the XCD is definitely sportier with better styling, roll-ons and a fifth cog. It has the latest gizmos like a digital console, auto choke, LED taillights and a gas damped suspension. Additionally, it comes in an attractive ex-showroom price ranging between Rs 43,000 to Rs 47,000. The XCD135 is definitely a worthy consideration for a buyer looking to put money in the 50-55,000 rupees sport commuter segment. However, for people looking at a more focused product like a hardcore commuter or an outright 125cc sport machine, the Shine and the Stunner/Gladiator still remain worthy alternatives albeit for a few extra bucks.


Just got better

Phenomenally fast, better looking, easier to ride – but that’s simply not enough…

By Michael Neeves

Suzuki’s new GSX-R1000 K9 is a big improvement over the old K7/K8 model, but it’s not the giant leap forward we expected. It’s much more a case of evolution than revolution for the new Gixer, despite it having its most radical overhaul since it was introduced in 2001.

As well as looking similar to the old K7/K8, retaining the two-exhaust design, it’s pretty close in character too. It has the same ‘sit-in’ riding position and the same torrent of power when you twist the throttle. After a day riding it around the twisty Almeria circuit in southern Spain it’s clear it has new- found agility and friendliness the old bike lacked.

Compared to some of its competition, the GSX-R is not as razor-sharp in and out of the corners and it’s still missing that intoxicating mix of grunt and light weight that made the old K5/K6 the sensation it was at the time. With things like extra soundproofing and the ever-bigger catalysts Suzuki have to run nowadays to get through Euro 3 laws, it seems the glory days of the waif-like K5 are gone forever.

Another sign that it’s now 2009 and not 2005, is the price. The new bike is the most expensive GSX-R1000 ever, costing £9800 (Rs. 7 lakh approx) when it hits showrooms at the end of March. Gixxers have always been at the most affordable end of the 1000cc market, but it’s now nearly the dearest, just after the new R1.

Thankfully the new GSX-R1000 motor isn’t as angry as before, thanks to a mass overhaul (see following pages) to smooth out the rough edges. Although power and torque remain the same, a claimed 185bhp isn’t to be sniffed at. It’s still an obscene amount, but it’s easier to use than before.

Power is smoother all the way through the rev range and there’s grunt oozing from every engine bolt, despite having a shorter stroke engine than before. All this gives you the confidence to twist the throttle further. But don’t worry, the GSX-R1000 hasn’t gone all soft. The K9 still retains that spine-tingling, evil bark when you blip the throttle and it wants to wheelie at every opportunity coming out of corners. The K9 isn’t as flabby as the old K7, either. That went a bit ‘90s GSX-R1100’, compared to the lightweight K5 model that went before. With its 5kg reduction in overall weight combined with the smoother power delivery, the K9 is now much easier to muscle around a track.

Last year we did our 1000s group test here at Almeria. The K8 GSX-R1000 finished up
two seconds behind the slightly more powerful ZX-10R and the significantly less powerful FireBlade, the overall winner of our test. It was only a fraction behind the R1, though. The Suzuki’s bulk and lack of agility (you could even feel the weight getting it off the sidestand) compared to the competition was the main reason it lagged behind. This is a technically demanding track dominated by constant throttle, high radius corners and flip-flop chicanes, so you need a bike which is light on its feet. What I do remember is that it flew down the long sixth-gear back straight like a guided missile, as it would with a true 169bhp at the rear wheel.

I’m sure the K9 would make a dent in those two seconds if we were to run the test again. It still has the power and speed and it’s even easier to get that throttle open now, but it still lacks the agility of the Blade and ZX-10R. And of course now it has the grunty new R1 to think about, too.

Except for the straight, the whole of Almeria can be taken in second gear, so you have to ride the big Suzuki like some hyper-speed twist-and-go moped for most of the lap.

For corner after corner, you dive in towards the apex and the K9’s slipper clutch eliminates most of the engine braking, so you get a nice smooth, balanced corner entry as you dial in more and more lean.

Getting settled into a turn, which seems to last forever, at full lean and holding a steady throttle is easy, thanks to the fuel injection’s smooth and predictable response.

As the corner opens up, gently feed on the power, stand the bike up, feel for grip through the rear tyre and squirt it. With the taps open the K9 rockets to the next corner, front wheel skimming the tarmac and bum forced back into the seat hump, leaving you hanging on by your fingernails. This is every inch a mad, bad, howling GSX-R1000, make no mistake.

Despite its shorter stroke engine, it’s still packed with enough grunt to let you take corners a gear taller than you need, and it’ll still fly out the other side pretty sharpish.

The only thing that stops us from really uncorking the full fury of the K9 at Almeria is the standard road-going Bridgestone BT-016 rubber. The engine wants to play, but it’s a lot to ask of an all-purpose sports tyre to be ragged senseless all day, with only a break for lunch. They do a great job of hanging on, they warm up fast, grip well and are predictable, but you really have to be careful with your right wrist with all that oomph to play with.

On stickier Michelin Power One rubber I rode the K9 on the following day at Cartagena, it turns sharper and you can explore more of the chassis and engine. The two big things to happen to the chassis are the new longer swingarm and the Showa Big Piston forks (see following pages), which replace the old
Kayaba units. Let’s start with the Blade-esque short engine/long swingarm combo.

Asked for by Suzuki’s racers around the world the new longer ‘banana’ style swingarm improves rear tyre grip and predictability. Given the power on tap and the relative low grip of the road tyres in track conditions, you’ve got to say the idea has worked, because it’s only when the rear tyre gets very worn that it starts to slide. When it does it’s with warning and gradual.

I say slide, move a bit is probably more accurate, compared to what Sylvan Guintoli was doing when he was out on track with us. Suzuki’s new BSB signing and ex-MotoGP god was laying the most obscene, thick black lines around the track, and in places you’d never think you’d be on the throttle, let alone at full powersliding fury! He’s going to be a star this year.

Just like the FireBlade, which runs a similar long swingarm, you have to watch it when pulling a wheelie, something that’s de rigueur for GSX-R1000 owners. The front wheel comes up gradually as normal, then when it’s at about chest height it suddenly goes ‘whoosh’, and tries to loop. If you’re ready for it fine, if you’re not you might wake up with a crowd around you.

So, job done there with the swingarm, then but the new forks take more getting used to. They offer a lot of resistance when you ease off or brake, and they only really seem to work at their best when you’re really pushing hard.

For the first few riding sessions at Almeria I didn’t like them, they felt too stiff and made the bike feel heavy and slow steering. They also made my wrists sore by the end of the day. But after a while you realise that the harder you push the better they feel and the more you can judge what the front tyre is doing.

First impressions of the K9’s handling weren’t good when I first climbed on, it felt clumsy, slow-steering and slightly unstable on the rear going into corners. A lot of this was down to set-up.

Once I’d got up to speed and used to pushing the front end harder to make the forks work and give me feel, it was better. I also added some more preload (on John Reynold’s advice) to the rear shock to speed up the steering. By the end of the day I finally started to have some serious fun. On sticky tyres the K9 is even better.

Brakes are an improvement but they still have the same GSX-R trait of feeling a bit mushy at the lever and liable to fade on hard use.

There’s no denying the K9 is a superb motorcycle. Suzuki have been fanatical about weight saving and balance and all these tweaks to make it lighter and grippier will no doubt pay dividends for the race teams who use the road bike as the basis of their Superbike or Superstock racers. Die hard GSX-R fans will still go all gooey over its evil exhaust note, searing top-end rush and slider-shredding cornering ability.

But there’s something missing and I can’t put my finger on it. I wasn’t left giggling, or open-mouthed after each riding session, like I should have been. It’s exciting, there’s no doubt about that, it’s still a wild 180mph superbike, after all.

But maybe with all the changes I was expecting a lightweight, snarling GSX-R1000 K5 MkII? Maybe it feels and looks too much like the old K7/K8 despite all its changes? Maybe it’s still too bulky? Maybe it’s just that Honda and Yamaha have moved the game on so much with the Fireblade and R1.

This is the best-ever time to buy a superbike. They might be edging towards £10k (Rs. 7-lakh approx), but they’re at such a high level, have so much power and are so packed full of technology it’s insane. The trick nowadays isn’t to find more power, it’s to harness the incredible bhp on offer.

The Suzuki ticks all these boxes, it’s better than the old K7/K8. But for me, it’s not different enough to really get me salivating.

Expert views

John Reynolds,

Ex-BSB champ and Suzuki test rider

“It’s a totally different chassis on the K9 from the K7. We’ve got a setting now where the bike works really well on the race track, and with a couple of turns of preload off the rear shock and a bit off the front end you’ve got a bike that’s wonderful for the road as well.

“Suzuki have taken all the feedback from the riders in WSB and all the people who’ve been riding the K7 and K8 and worked out what’s needed is more grip on the back end. The way the geometry of the chassis is now, it’s really focused towards racing bikes more than anything else.”


Sylvain Guintoli,

Crescent Suzuki BSB Team racer

“It was an interesting experience riding the K9 today because I’ve never tried a road bike before. I was really surprised. I always thought road bikes on the track would be heavy and soft, but the K9 is good fun and fast.

“We tried the K9 in Calafat a few weeks ago, but it didn’t have all the evolution parts on at that point.

“Now we will ride the K9 full-spec superbike in a test this week, so we can find out exactly what it’s like.

“ I’m looking forward to BSB, because we’ve done this test in Calafat and its gone really well and the team are really nice guys to be around and really good fun.”

David Taylor,

Suzuki GB Sales and Marketing Director

“With the K9, we’re trying to maintain Suzuki’s position of producing the top-selling bike over 125cc.

“The racing side of Suzuki has brought the bike to a pinnacle with the front fork design and mass that’s been taken out of the bike.

“We’re critically interested in how this year turns out with all the new stuff that’s going on in WSB and BSB, and all the Japanese manufacturers face an interesting challenge this year. I think we’ve timed it right with what we’ve got.”


Under the skin of the GSX-R1000

1. Engine
More compact and lighter than before, this is Suzuki’s first major-league engine redesign in the GSX-R1000’s history. The K9 has a shorter engine, by 59mm front-to-back, which lets the bike run a 33mm longer swingarm to help rear tyre grip. The overall length of the GSX-R1000 is still 2045mm.

The new motor has a bigger bore and a shorter stroke to give more power at high rpm, but it still has the longest stroke of all the Japanese 1000s. A long stroke equals grunt. This more ‘over-square’ engine layout will give race teams more scope for tuning and raising revs safely. The redline is set at 13,750rpm.

There’s more power up top, but Suzuki claims more low and midrange torque, too, thanks to new camshafts, a reshaped combustion chamber and a hike in compression ratio from 12.5:1 to 12.8:1.

A new two-piece crankcase design and a lightweight crank accounts for most of the engine’s 670g weight loss. The crank has a more efficient lubrication system. Titanium inlet valves are up from 30mm to 31mm and exhaust valves up from 24 to 25mm. Double valve springs replace single ones for better control at high revs. By stacking the primary and secondary gears and moving the clutch and crankshaft forward Suzuki has been able to make the engine shorter. The rear sprocket is down one tooth from 43 to 42.

The throttle bodies are now 10mm shorter, with 12-hole fuel injectors providing a finer spray for improved combustion. Inlet trumpets are now different heights to improve midrange and high rpm efficiency.

There’s still a slipper clutch, but it’s now cable instead of hydraulically operated.

The swoopy exhausts have titanium headers and servo-controlled butterfly valves to maximize power through the rev range. The system is 400g lighter than before.

2. Chassis
The new K9 weighs 5kg less than the old bike. The twin-spar aluminium frame is now shorter (from 645.8mm to 615mm) and comes in five welded-together sections. There’s also a cool ‘banana’ swingarm in cast aluminium, which lets the exhausts tuck in closer to the bike and is 500g lighter than before. The wheelbase is 1405mm – 10mm shorter than the K7/K8. Footrests are three-way adjustable, as is the gearlever. The new, removable cast aluminium subframe is lighter, too.

3. Suspension
Showa replaces Kayaba for the new K9. New 43mm Showa Big Piston Forks (BPF) are now fitted to the GSX-R1000 for the first time. They have just one 39.6mm internal piston per fork leg controlling rebound and compression damping instead of two. They run a lower pressure than conventional forks, so there’s less change of oil cavitation. Springs are at the bottom of the forks and are submerged in oil. This simpler set-up is 720g lighter than conventional forks. Both compression and rebound damping screw adjusters are on the top of each fork leg and preload is at the bottom.

The new Kayaba rear shock (500g lighter) is fully adjustable, including high and low speed compression damping, and works through a new suspension linkage (200g lighter). The speed-sensitive steering damper is 45g lighter.

4. Brakes and wheels
New forged aluminium Tokico one-piece radial calipers are more rigid and 250g each lighter than the old two-speed items. These are bolted to new-style carriers. Different sized pistons are used on the leading and trailing ends of the calipers for even pad wear. The radial-pump master cylinder diameter is down from 19 to 17mm for better feel through the lever. Cast aluminium wheels are 420g lighter.

5. Bodywork
The new fairing has a narrower lower section for better aerodynamics and a wider top to improve wind protection. SRAD (Suzuki Ram-Air Direct) intakes, which cut into the new headlight, have new internal louvres and are moved closer to the centre of the bike to take advantage of the higher air pressure there. A new slimline tail section has clear lens indicators and comes with a clip-in single seat unit. The new fuel tank retains its capacity of 17.5 litres.

6. Instruments
New clocks feature a gear position and power mode indicator, a bar graph showing how bright the clocks are and a lap timer, triggered by a button on the right bar.

On the road

Michael Neeves rode the K9 from the launch in Almeria to Cartagena, the venue for our upcoming 1000s group test. The route took in twisty mountain roads and motorway.

“If you’re coming from a K7/K8 GSX-R1000, the riding position will be immediately familiar. The seat is comfortable, you sit low and the bars are relatively high, so it’s OK to do distance on.

“There’s still good grunt at low revs, though you can’t be completely lazy. Purr along in high gear at normal speeds and you need to stir the gearbox to overtake cars.

“The Big Piston Forks still feel stiff through the twisties, but on normal roads they suck up the bumps beautifully giving very good ride quality.

“The K9 is more fun on the road than on track. You can clutch up big power wheelies at a ton. There’s an excess of power to play with, making the K9 the dog’s on the road!”


Evolution of the gsx-r1000

K1/K2: 988cc (73 x 59mm)•168kg (dry)

K3/K4: 988cc (73 x 59mm)•168kg (dry)

K5/K6: 998.6cc (73.4 x 59mm)•166kg (dry)

K7/8: 999cc (73.4 x 59mm)•172kg (dry)

K9: 999cc (74.5 x 57.3mm)•203kg (wet)


Honda CBR600RR ABS2009

Honda’s next generation ABS system graces its ‘09 CBR600RR not only as a safety aid but as a performance enhancement as well
Words Roland Brown Photography Honda

Three laps into my first ever test of an ABS-equipped super-sports bike, and it’s a weird feeling to be charging down the Losail circuit’s pit straight at over 230km/h, leaving my braking later… later… later… then grabbing the CBR600RR’s lever far harder than normal without a care in the world. Instead of folding its front wheel and spitting me off, the Honda simply sheds speed at a rate every bit as fierce as I managed on a non ABS-equipped CBR half an hour ago.

The bike feels reassuringly normal as it buries its front Bridgestone into the track, too, with none of the pulsing through the lever generated by conventional ABS systems. Perhaps there’s a little less fork dive than I might have expected. And the Honda stays remarkably stable as I brake and tip it into the tight right-hand bend, gently easing my grip on the lever as I approach the apex. That’s because I’m actually releasing both brakes: the ABS is contributing a touch of rear disc without even being asked.

If that scenario sounds almost like science fiction, I’d have said the same thing before riding the latest CBR600RR on its track launch in Qatar. Even braking hard on sand without a twitch of front tyre or heart rate, during yesterday’s test on the circuit’s car-park, didn’t prepare me for how effective — and how normal — Honda’s new anti-lock system would feel at speed on the track.

Honda is billing its Electronic Combined ABS, available as an option on both the 2009-model CBR600RR and Fireblade, as the world’s first anti-lock brake system for super-sports bikes. It’s certainly that, as well as the first “brake-by-wire” system that operates front and rear brakes electronically rather than mechanically. More importantly, it’s the first anti-lock system that is almost undetectable in use, and which has the ability to be a performance aid, even for fast and experienced riders.

The 2009 CBR600RR ABS now gets Tokico callipers from its elder sibling, the CBR Fireblade

New ECU now decides how these conventional callipers behave when you pull the lever

Essentially this production-ready system is a more refined version of the prototype that Honda unveiled on a CBR600RR in August 2008. It works in a totally different way to conventional ABS set-ups, with their linked hydraulics. Instead, it centres on an ECU that monitors pressure in the brake lines, as well as the deceleration of both wheels. The ABS software decides how much pressure to apply to each brake, in order to maximise both stopping power and stability.

Unlike Honda’s previous Combined ABS, this system does not require special calipers. (The only difference is their gold instead of black finish.) It does add weight, though: 10kg for the CBR600RR and 11kg for the Fireblade, the difference explained by the fact that although the components are almost identical, they were harder to package on the larger-engined bike. Equally inevitably it also adds cost: roughly €1000, so more than conventional systems.


Some of the system’s benefits quickly became clear in the first day’s test at the Losail car-park, where we got to try both bikes’ stopping abilities on dry tarmac, wet tarmac and a thin coating of sand, in a dummy panic-brake from about 80km/h. Even the dry test was an eye-opener, as the Hondas stopped hard and skid-free, with none of the normal lever-pulsing (the software just doesn’t work that way). Both were stable, too, although the Fireblade’s rear end moved around slightly, without ever threatening to develop into a stoppie.

Grabbing a handful of front brake on a wet or sandy surface was even more impressive. The ABS seemed to slow the CBRs — using both brakes, whether the handlebar lever, foot pedal or both were operated — significantly harder than other ABS-equipped bikes I’ve tested in similar circumstances. The Hondas’ relatively light weight was doubtless part of the reason for that. But so too was the system’s sophistication, including a sensor that reacts in six milliseconds — four times faster than the VFR800F’s equivalent.

That test was very promising but it was next day on the circuit that revealed what a leap Honda has made. I began on the CBR600RR, which has gained a few non braking-related tweaks for 2009, as well as having its front calipers upgraded to Fireblade-style monoblocks. Revised pistons, cylinder head and exhaust silencer contribute to a slight torque increase between 8000 and 12,000rpm. Peak output remains 120bhp at 13,500rpm.

The console now includes an ABS malfunction warning light amongst other instrumentation

The Combined ABS system works upto four times faster than the one that was introduced on the VFR800F

The titanium exhaust also has reshaped downpipes and a new Fireblade-style power valve, and is slightly lighter. Along with the new calipers, that helps reduce kerb weight slightly — to a claimed 184kg for the non-ABS model. The reshaped fairing lower is claimed to smooth air flow and thus aid stability, though the change is possibly more to do with hiding ABS parts. Clear, oval indicators and new graphics also freshen up the look.

Those Tokico monoblock calipers are the most significant addition, and helped ensure that even the non ABS-equipped CBR that I rode first was seriously well braked. It was quick and sweet-handling, too, as was to be expected, screaming to its 15,000rpm redline through the gears, and carving through Losail’s succession of fast right-handers with typical poise and control, aided by the grip of Bridgestone’s race-compound BT003 rubber.

It’s hard to know whether its new brake allowed the CBR to stop notably harder than its predecessor, but it certainly shed speed mightily rapidly at the end of that pit straight, and with plenty of feel at the lever. Honda’s new world Supersport champion Andrew Pitt, who’d just finished back-to-back testing with his old bike, thought the new calipers’ main benefit was improved steering response due to theirreduced weight.

Before riding the CBR I’d expected the difference between standard and ABS-equipped bikes to be much more obvious, so I was amazed to find the new system not just working but doing so in a totally unobtrusive way. I could come flying towards a turn, then squeeze the handlebar lever either as hard as I would normally, or purposely hard enough to lock a typical front wheel. In either case, the bike’s response was identical: hard, smooth, controllable stopping.

Andrew Pitt
2008 World Supersport champion
“I’m really impressed with the ABS. I thought riding round a circuit it would feel very different to a normal bike. But it doesn’t.

The ABS makes the bike much more stable into a turn, thanks to the back brake — I’m getting the benefit of braking without actually using it. You can trail brake quite a bit: if you’re going to just miss the apex of a turn, you can touch the brake lever and it adds bit of rear brake to help you turn in.

Before I tried ABS I’d have said there was no need for it, but now I’m quite convinced it has a future in racing. Especially in the rain. It does take away something from the rider; in that way it’s just like traction control. But it’s a clever system that will stop a lot of crashes.”

Feel through the lever was normal, as was the bike’s response as I eased off the brake into the turn. (Braking too hard into the bend would cause a crash in the normal way.) But the Honda’s advantage was not simply that it prevented the wheels from locking, because the ABS system’s ECU also works to keep the bike as stable as possible by distributing braking force through both front and rear wheels, when either the handlebar lever or foot pedal is operated.

Like many riders (including some professional racers) I never use the rear brake on a racetrack, due its relatively small benefit compared to the front, the risk of locking the rear wheel, and the difficulty of dividing my concentration between front and rear. But when I squeezed the Honda’s handlebar lever, the ABS computer sneakily and efficiently added a small but significant (and lock-free, of course) bit of rear brake that reduced the bike’s fork dive, and helped keep it notably stable on the way into the turns.

Less welcome was the fact that because the CBR didn’t dip at the front as much as normal under braking, it needed a touch more steering input to make it change direction into the turns. Reducing the forks’ compression damping slightly could probably have sorted this, given a bit more time for fine-tuning. The system’s other disadvantage, apart from cost, is the 10kg weight penalty. But the extra kilos are located very centrally, and I couldn’t detect any detrimental effect on the handling.

In case this all sounds too positive, the test did have one flaw: the ABS we all tested in Qatar wasn’t the standard system, but had been modified slightly to allow for the soft-compound Bridgestone BT003 tyres. Like some other sticky tyres, these are slightly wider than the BT015s (or Dunlop Qualifiers) with which the CBRs will come as standard. This effects the way the ABS works.


Honda therefore fitted the testbikes with slightly modified ABS ECUs, similar to the programmable ECU that will be available as an accessory. “It is possible to use the standard ECU with race-compound tyres, but the ABS performance is not 100 per cent,” said engineer and test rider Tetsuya Kudoh. “It’s maybe 95 per cent — the ABS might activate slightly earlier.”

Given that most riders serious enough to use these bikes on a racetrack will want to fit sticky rubber, that is surely a distinct disadvantage. After all, someone who has just paid extra for ABS won’t be happy about having to spend more on a kit ECU. Honda doesn’t offer the option of disconnecting the ABS, either, although simply unplugging one of its wires would disable it and leave the standard brake system in place. (Some riders might prefer to do this for track days anyway.)

That is presumably what Honda had done to the Fireblades we rode immediately after lunch, though they wouldn’t confirm this. The format was the same as with the 600RR, so before riding the ABS-equipped Blade we had a session on a bike with the anti-lock deactivated. The Fireblade is unchanged for 2009 apart from new, clear oval-shaped rear indicators and minor bodywork revisions to cover the ABS parts. Predictably enough, the Repsol-liveried bike ripped round the circuit with the blend of smooth power, grunt, agility and stopping power that won so many comparison tests last year.

Back out for the second session with ABS reconnected, the system was every bit as impressive as it had been on the smaller CBR. The Fireblade still braked eye-poppingly hard, and it was an eerie feeling to sit up at the end of the straights and squeeze the lever, knowing that there was no chance of locking up the front wheel. Once again the stability provided by the ECU-triggered rear disc was useful, though the Blade’s rear tyre still waved around slightly under very hard braking. There was a bit more weight transfer with the Fireblade than with the lighter 600RR. Although the ABS-equipped Blade needed slightly more steering input than the normal model, this was less pronounced than with the smaller CBR.

By the end of my second session I was leaving my braking slightly later than I had been on the non-ABS Blade, though this was possibly because I’d had more laps in which to fine-tune my markers as the bike catapulted down the Losail straights. Honda racers Andrew Pitt, Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam reckoned they were braking at almost exactly the same place as on the standard bike. So did Martin Bauer, who won last year’s German Superbike championship on a Fireblade, and will defend his title on an ABS-equipped model this season if the regulations allow it.

“I think it will be possible to use the ABS, although the other manufacturers will be against it,” says Bauer. “Its performance will be very close to a non ABS bike, maybe half a second per lap slower in ideal conditions. But it would be very good in the wet, and you could find the limit very fast on the first lap. Over a whole race distance it might be faster because you would be less likely to make mistakes.”

Whether it’s a good idea to allow ABS in racing is another matter, and one that rule-makers in Germany and elsewhere will soon be discussing. Like traction control, anti-lock brakes remove a significant element of skill, and are likely to be resisted by many who prefer to see the rider in full control. The reduced opportunity for outbraking, once everyone is using similar ABS systems, could make for dull racing — though riding the ABS-equipped CBRs round Losail certainly wasn’t boring.

There are also those who won’t want ABS on the road, either because they prefer to be in full control, or because they believe the system will be a disadvantage in some circumstances. That was certainly true of previous ABS systems — but not, I think, of this one. Honda admits that a good rider can narrowly outbrake even this system after two or three attempts, on a dry surface. But an average rider’s braking distance is longer, even after several tries. And even the best riders take longer when the road is wet or gritty.

More importantly, on the road you don’t get a second chance. Honda’s technically brilliant invention worked better than I thought possible on the Losail circuit, without detracting from the thrill of caning the firm’s fastest super-sports bikes. But it’s on motorways, high streets and twisty back-roads that the system will show its worth, when it prevents a skid or allows a rider to avoid a hazard they would otherwise have hit. Whether or not you like the idea of anti-lock brakes, the verdict is clear: with the arrival of electronic Combined ABS, superbike safety has taken a significant step forward.


Tour de force

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



From boots to helmets and eyewear to jackets, we ensure you are all togged up for the ride



Marushin Helmets
Marushin, the parent manufacturer of Daijya helmets, has arrived in India with a huge range of their exclusive helmets for the enthusiast bikers. The 2009 range of Marushin helmets includes the RS-1 Carbon helmet which weighs just over a kilo and also ensures high safety standards. With other helmets in exciting graphics and eye-catching colours, you are definitely going to be the best looking biker around with utmost safety for your head with these Marushins. For more details and options for Marushin Helmets, log onto the website mentioned above.

Joe rocket big bang jacket
A timeless racer styling with a bold logo and design accents make for one killer looking jacket. The Joe Rocket Big Bang jacket has heavy duty Hitena® nylon outer fabric with CE rated protectors for the shoulders and elbows. The jacket has a removable insulated vest liner, a variable flow™ ventilation system and is priced at Rs 10,000.


Harley-Davidson’s official eyewear is now in India. Their Low Rider range of sunglasses weigh just 27 grams and are available in various shades for the frame and lens with the H-D name engraved on them. H-D sunglasses have a scratch and impact resistant lens with a hard coat and a sturdy built glass. 99.9 percent UV resistant, they are currently being sold through ebay India for Rs 2,799.

Joe rocket speedmaster and sonic boot
The Speedmaster boots were developed with the input of Joe Rocket’s factory riders with the goal of creating the ultimate professional race boot. These have a leather construction with injection molded protectors on the heel, shin, calf and ankle areas. The Sonic boots, on the other hand, are for the sole purpose of touring and utilize an adjustable ankle strap and a reinforced padded shin flap with hook and loop fastener for convenience. They are 100 percent waterproof and breathable with a DRY-TECH moisture wicking interior for all day comfort. The Speedmaster boots are available for Rs 15,000 and the Sonic boots are priced at Rs 8,500


Lazy sunday rides, weekend trips or serious track days, we have something for everyone this month





Fastrack eye wear
The new range of Fastrack shades compliment both half face as well as full face helmets. Available in various designs and colours, Fastrack’s range of sunglasses start from Rs 895 and go upto Rs 2,295. The products featured here are for Rs 1,595 each.

Cramster touring boots
Water resistant with a non-absorbing outer shell, Cramster touring boots are made from PVC based heavy duty synthetic leather. They also have a torsion cup for ankle bone protection. Other features include padded shin protection, toe shift protection strips, toe and calf sliders and anti allergic inner lining. Priced at Rs 4,800 the boots are available in one colour only and are suitable for street riding and touring.

Joe rocket ufo and lucky jackets
Joe Rocket’s UFO jacket combines bold racer styling and breezy free-air poly/mesh shell with all the obligatory impact protection. The Lucky jacket, on the other hand, has a Vegas themed graphic treatment adding to the allure of its stylish yet practical appeal. Aside from the typical assortment of impact protectors and comfort features, it also has something hiding up its sleeves. The Rocktex 600 outer shell has zip off sleeves to reveal mesh lower sleeves for summer riding. The jackets are priced at Rs 11,000 and Rs 7,500 respectively.

Cramster velocity riding pants
Specially designed for Indian weather conditions, Cramster Velocity riding pants feature an outer shell made of MaxTex Cordura while the inner shell has a perforated breathing liner. The pants are waterproof with CE approved armour for the knees and foam padding for the hip area. They are available in one colour only and are priced at Rs 4,300.

Joe rocket speedmaster 7.0 and gpx 2.0 gloves
Speedmaster gloves are the brainchild of Joe Rocket’s factory riders. It has molded knuckle, finger and thumb protectors with high density padding for fingers, cuffs and wrists. The GPX series are professional racing gloves with a drum dyed leather construction and high end pittards ceramix infused leather armour tan for the palm. They are priced at Rs 9,000 and Rs 6,500 respectively.

Intruder Alert

Warning: The muscular and mighty M1800R has attacked. We hear its making heads turn and eye balls pop. Observe caution on the road
Story Gauri Lokare
Photography Sanjay Raikar

For some, the Suzuki M1800R or the Intruder is just a big heavy cruiser boasting of colossal torque figures. One look at this massive beast and you can’t help but be awed. But for someone like me who uses a rather puny (not in India though) Royal Enfield 350cc motorcycle for daily commuting, the monstrous cruiser with the biggest capacity Suzuki engine seemed like a scaled down version of God.

The night before the day I was supposed to ride this monster, I was behaving like a silly teenager getting ready for her first date. I felt butterflies in my tummy the whole night and anxiety just wouldn’t let me be. My colleagues at Bike India too were quite apprehensive about their decision to let me swing a leg over the beast. As was evident looking at their faces, they hoped they didn’t have to regret the big decision. I wouldn’t have been surprised if an ambulance or a fire brigade was called on standby while I went for the ride. The few hours that I managed to spend in bed that night felt like an agonizing, endless nightmare. I was all geared up and raring to go much before the sun had risen.

As we reached the shoot location, I turned the key, switched on the ignition and the display lit up for the self-check. Just before I was about to press the starter switch, I whispered to the bike, “be good to me”. A gentle dab of the right thumb and the 125PS engine roared to life with a deep pulse. It may sound like exaggeration, but to me, it sounded like the birth of the Universe itself.

I literally had to sit down, take a moment and let the sight of this torquey behemoth sink in. The design works towards emphasizing the big 1800 odd cc V-twin engine rather than overshadowing it. Suzuki has taken the word ‘big’ quite seriously for the Intruder. The bike is fitted with one of the fattest rear tyre (240mm wide) available on a production bike. The fuel tank with a capacity of 19.5 liters is wide enough to hold a violin and merges seamlessly into a comfortable saddle. The tail cover, shaped like a rare diamond, easily stands apart. The frowning hooded headlight expresses a ‘don’t mess with me’ attitude. The chrome side stand which looks rather delicate is strong enough to hold the 8 feet long beast weighing a mammoth 319kg. The dual exhaust takes a seductive U-turn near the engine to point towards the 240 section rear tyre. Ending as a pair of bedazzling slashed mufflers, the chromed exhaust pipes exhibit raw oomph. This cruiser expresses aesthetic coherence brilliantly. Needless to say, the Intruder is all about road presence and attracts attention wherever you ride it. Bystanders and other commuters are dazed by the sheer sight of this monster cruising on the road.

The M1800R looks every bit a bespoke cruiser machine, but make no mistake, it draws heavily from the flagship Suzuki sportster, the GSX-R. Suzuki has always honed its technology on racetracks and they have made good use of the advancements made on the GSX-R in this cruiser. The borrowed technology bits include the dual throttle valve system, radially mounted disc brakes and dual spark plug ignition. The perky performance of the Intruder reflects the debt.

The wide handlebar is a good reach away. Get the bike rolling, take your feet up and the far stretched footpegs make the seating position feel rather awkward. It may sound as if I’m exaggerating, but the riding posture actually made me feel like an orangutan clinging from a zoo cage. I at 5 feet 8 inches and yet struggled with this rather awkward position. I can only imagine the plight of riders shorter than me. This design seems strange as compared to true blue cruisers, including the Indian ones, which are equipped with conventional laid back handlebars.

SHINE ‘EM: The frowning hooded headlight expresses a ‘dont mess with me attitude’ and makes generous use of chrome

THE CONSOLE: The speedometer firmly rests on the fuel tank while the tachometer lies in the conventional position


THE POWERPLANT: The large 1783cc V-twin fits in perfectly with the rest of the body elements with no visible see through gaps. The asymmetric layout of the header pipes gel with the bike’s curvaceous styling and recieves a similar plush chrome treatment as the engine

The Intruder, boasting impressive figures in terms of power (125PS) and torque (160Nm), is equipped with brakes to match. Ripped from GSX-R1000 Superbike, the Intruder sports two radially mounted 310mm discs with four piston front brake calipers which work exceptionally well. Instead of using the more conventional chain/belt drive system, the Bavarian-inspired, shaft drive mechanism is used on the Intruder. Suzuki adopted its first shaft drive system way back in the year 1979 with the GS1000GT. With advancements in technology, however, the state of the art unit on the Intruder not only imparts a long lasting drive but also contributes towards a cleaner rear end design.

The sheer mass of the bike coupled with the prodigious power, would make one wonder about its handling and balance. Gettingthe 315kg bike off the side stand for the first time, proved to be physically demanding. Although by using the right technique, it was hardly a task. The initial few minutes of riding were very difficult as I tired to maintain a steady pace and find the right balance. As I got used to this machine, the giant horse broke in. The bike lurched forward each time I twisted the throttle. This was most noticeable while the shorter ratios were selected. Thankfully, there were no unnerving wheelspins like the other ‘big’ bikes. Yes, this is a cruiser and one doesn’t expect it to wheelspin. But it has enough torque to shred the rear tyre within a few hundred kilometers of riding – precisely the reason why Suzuki has fitted a torque limiter to restrict low end torque. Gear shifting was jerky early on as the shaft drive needed precise timing of the clutch release and throttle input to have a smooth shift. Failure to do so resulted in a loud clanking sound emanating from the ‘box. As my day progressed with the cruiser, shifting of gears smoothened out. I learnt to master the right technique of gear shifting eradicating the clunks between shifts. The fourth and fifth gear felt far less abrupt. Once at ease with the bike, I was cruising way above the 120km/h mark – the fastest I had ever gone before this. The headlight housing is designed to deflect the wind blast from the head and torso that occurs at high speeds, but its function proved to be very limited at speeds above 100km/h.

The more I rode the Intruder the more I began to understand it. This is precisely when fears and reservations left my mind and I truly connected with the Intruder. Feet up turns which were like a nightmare earlier, got easier. After a while, the ride became so smooth, I felt as confident on the Intruder as I feel on my Royal Enfield Thunderbird.

One point of irritation is the speedometer. While the somewhat trapezoidal digital tachometer firmly rests where you have the instrumentation cluster on regulation bikes, the speedometer is mounted on the fuel tank. This means that the rider has to dip his/her head every time he/she wants to check the speed. The huge wheelbase and the enormous bulk of the rear tyre means you need more rider input while changing directions. This can get a little demanding in case you have a pillion rider with you. The exclusion of a pillion back rest from the design needs the pillion to lean onto the rider. While parking the bike, its best to park it with its nose facing the road or else you’ll need at least a dozen people to pull the bike back when you are ready to go.

So, now the question which haunts me is, do we have the roads for such monstrous cruisers in India? In the city, hell no! The Intruder with its torquey 1783cc of V-twin power craves for long wide highways where one can open the throttle and justify the very purpose of its existence. Our ridiculous traffic situation seems like a huge concern regarding the practicality of the bike. In a country where you have to find roads amidst potholes, handling the cruiser does become tricky. Because of the ultra low profile (40 section) rear tyre, you can feel every grain on the road surface being transmitted to your back side. The Intruder which is priced at Rs 13.63 lakh in India was developed keeping in mind the butter smooth open highways of the US and Europe. So if, touring is in your mind and you are looking for those perfect set of wheels to leave behind city roads and embark upon lost highways, the Suzuki M1800R would be a great choice.

As the sun began to set, it was time to wrap up the shoot which brought the curtains down on the most wonderful ride. I am not sure if I ever would be able to own the M1800R. I might not be that lucky. But I was lucky enough to have earned the experience to ride it for a day. The memory will last a lifetime. As I got the mighty Intruder back to its parking slot and alighted, I realized that this wasn’t just a road test for the M1800R. In a way it was a test for me too – as a rider, tourer and an automobile journalist. I just hope I managed to cruise as effortlessly as the big tourer. After having ridden the bike, overwhelming feelings began to erupt. I wanted to sing, dance, shout and cry at the same time. Not in that order but all at the same time.