It’s green. It’s a tourer. It’s fast. It’s comfy. It’s top-notch. And it’s affordable. Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together for the Kawasaki Ninja 650R.
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Ever since the VFR1200F has landed, certain questions have been raised and tried to be answered. BIKE India’s Adhish Alawani spent some time in the saddle of Honda’s road tourer. Three days, 1,000 km and almost 100 litres of fuel later, he tries to answer the salient among those questions
Ever since the VFR1200F has landed, certain questions have been raised and tried to be answered. BIKE India’s
Adhish Alawani spent some time in the saddle of Honda’s road tourer. Three days, 1,000 km and almost 100 litres of fuel later, he tries to answer the salient among those questions
1. How many miles can one go comfortably on the VFR before the fatigue factor comes into play?
2. How does a track day figure out on the VFR1200F?
3. How is the VFR to live with?
4. Rs 5 lakh more than the world’s most beloved sports tourer. Is it worth it?
5. How cool is the automatic transmission?
6. I have the money, should I buy it?
How many miles can one go comfortably on the VFR before the fatigue factor comes into play?
The VFR1200F is targeted at those who love to spend a considerable part of their lives on the highways. Put on the tank bag, saddlebags, hook on the camelback, tank up and keep riding on the highways until you need to refuel. This is what a tourer astride a VFR is expected to be doing.
The VFR1200F has abilities to do that and how! To start with, the Veefer offers good comfort with an upright seating geometry. The rider’s seat is wide and so is the pillion’s. That ensures either good support for your luggage on the rear seat or to the pillion. A pretty much flat and not so hard seat also makes sure that the tourer can ride for a long distance without complaining of an aching bottom. As for myself, I was ready for hundreds more after clocking close to 600 km in a day without grumbling about the fatigue.
Coming to the performance, there is a lot to be talked of. The 1,247-cc engine has enough power to get you to the triple digit speed figure from standstill in as less as 4.3 seconds. Further, if you keep the throttle wide open, you will attain 200 km/h in 11.7 seconds. Though it is impossible to hold on to those speeds on highways in a country like India, it is no big deal to cruise at 130-140 km/h. The wide screen in the front is undoubtedly a superb aid to aerodynamics and you are not required to slouch to keep yourself from wind blast even at speeds in the region of 200 km/h.
Now that comfort and speed are taken care of, let us take a look at another very important question: how far will I ride before I need to tank up the bike again? Of course, being a 1.2-litre engine, it is not expected to deliver staggering fuel efficiency. However, the range of the fuel tank is something that we need to think about seriously. From my first reserve to next reserve, the bike went for about 200 km. Pretty bad, I’d say! However, this was when I was enthusiastically riding anywhere between 60 km/h and 190 km/h. Later on, I made it a point to observe the bike fuel efficiency while riding at 110 km/h constantly (more or less) and refuelling became necessary after almost 300 km, which is decent enough for a bike of this size.
How does a track day figure out on the VFR1200F?
Honda call the VFR1200F their road tourer and yet they launched it on a racetrack. Rather funny, I thought, when I heard about it. Presumptions can turn wrong and the VFR proved it. Its bulky look with an automatic gearbox and no clutch to play with did leave me wondering about its performance around a track. It’s got a relaxed posture and lacks aggression to a considerable extent. It isn’t a machine that anyone would think of for an outing on the track. What if I own one and want to take it there, around the corners and score my name on the time-sheets?
You can, without disappointment. All you have to do is shift to the sport mode and blast open the throttle. The bulk of the VFR seems to disappear as you get moving. Throwing it round the corners and getting a knee down seems tough at first, but it’s not terrifying. The spot-on handling of the bike doesn’t let you down. All you might need to do at track is stiffen up the suspension. A couple of clicks towards the harder side on the rear suspension spruced up the ride drastically for me. Another thing that might have to be kept in mind is the transmission. Being an automatic one, the D mode is a little lethargic and can feel boring. The S mode lets the engine rev all the way until the red line before shifting into the next cog. A hint of deceleration shifts down a gear or two and makes sure that you stay in the power band all the time. If you want to add more fun to the riding, the manual mode is perfect with gear shifts that can be facilitated through two buttons on the right hand side switchgear on the clip-on handlebar.
Though the VFR cannot practically take part in any competitive action and isn’t as spot-on as any supersports offering, it undoubtedly is enough to give you the kicks once in a while on track.
How is the VFR to live with?
The VFR is made for the highways, to munch miles and gallop ahead. Nonetheless, we cannot forget that in a country like India, the wealthy enthusiast buying the bike might hardly find any time from his busy schedule to venture out on, say, a thousand-mile run. He might just end up using the bike around city when he goes out to play tennis in the morning or to catch up with his friends at the club in the evening. The hustle and bustle of the city is where the VFR might spend most of its life in such a case.
This is where the bulk of the Veefer might pose a problem initially. Getting used to it through the chaotic traffic and parking in the tight spots is a matter of concern. However, at the same time, the automatic box of the bike brings a lot of convenience – neither the worry of clutch nor the gearshifts. On this note, I remember someone asking me if the auto box gives a feeling of a scooter to this bike. My simple counter-question is, ‘Does an automatic BMW or Audi give you the feeling of a go-kart?’ No, it doesn’t. Then why would this one feel like a scooter?
The Veefer is extremely convenient to ride once you get used to the size of the machine. The only concern about the auto box in the D mode is that it tries to be in a higher gear all the time. Hence, whenever the throttle is rolled off, the bike keeps coasting and engine braking is hardly achieved. The S mode, which improves the throttle response and always keeps the bike in the power band, feels a little jerky during city riding.
Another feature that Honda boast of is their patented twin fairing technology that offers best airflow management. However, it disappointed me a little as I felt the heat from the engine all the time while riding around the city. One more complaint comes in the form of the switchgear on the left-hand side clip-on. There are four switches stacked one above the other, all of which ask attention from the left thumb. Where you would expect the horn is the button to shift down a gear. Above that are the turn indicator switch, then the horn button and then the beam/dipper toggle that also integrates the pass flash. The place where you might expect the pass flash to be has the upshift button. It all gets confusing with the thumb inevitably hunting for the right button while riding.
How cool is the automatic transmission?
Honda are the first motorcycle manufacturers to have integrated a dual clutch automatic gearbox in a bike and it’s not been an easy task. Unlike cars, in which the dual clutch boxes are becoming common, there is less space available to house this kind of transmission. However, the working of this transmission is similar to what we see in cars. There are two clutches laid out in-line with the transmission, out of which one is for the odd-numbered gears (1st, 3rd, 5th) and the other for the even-numbered gears (2nd, 4th, 6th). The two clutches are operated alternately by a computer to effect gear changes. Since two clutches are doing the job alternately, there is seamless shift between cogs and negligible lag.
The automatic box delivers immense convenience in the city traffic, but, at the same time, takes away a bit of the connection that the rider has with his motorcycle through the clutch and gearshifts.
Rs 5 lakh more than the world’s most beloved sports tourer. Is it worth it?
The VFR1200F is a great motorcycle with its technological advancements. However, at Rs 17.5 lakh (ex-showroom) the bike is straightaway Rs 5 lakh more expensive than the extremely favourite and most established sports tourer of recent times – the Hayabusa. For that kind of price difference, what the bike really offers is nothing more than an automatic gearbox. Plus, if you look at it from the other perspective, you might just miss the clutch during those times when you wish to launch the bike or do a little bit of de-clutching for the added fun. VFR1200F might be the most advanced and alluring product of the day, but we still feel that it is far away from being able to convert a conventional bike owner into a VFR owner unless he is a less enthusiastic person preferring hassle-free transmission at an added cost of a small hatchback.
As reported in BIKE India earlier, the YBR 125 signifies Yamaha’s serious intentions for the commuter class. Piyush Sonsale test-rode this new bike prior to recording his impressions
The YBR 125 is a middle-aged avatar of Yamaha’s SS 125. Realising the potential of the Indian market in this segment, Yamaha have re-established themselves in India as a brand offering world-class two wheelers. YBR is Yamaha’s international series for small-capacity engine commuter bikes. So the use of the name in India is Yamaha’s attempt at fitting the Indian market within its global nomenclature.
The YBR 125 marks the SS 125’s transition from youth to maturity in motorcycle terms. At heart (engine) it is still the SS, but with a completely different character. It has a new four-speed transmission, a longer wheelbase and a higher ground clearance. A less radical colour scheme and livery have replaced the sporty ones on the SS. The windscreen and pillion footpeg mounts are new. It has shed the plastic underbelly, the sporty exhaust and has gathered colour around its edges (the turn signal indicators have orange plastic).
The YBR’s build quality reflects Yamaha’s attention to detail and strict quality control. It is available in three colour schemes – red, red-black and black – with matching livery that gives a sense of motion. Silver alloy wheels are a standard feature.
Now for the functional features. The front and rear mudguards are longer than on the SS. The tail-mounted grab-rail gels with the design and its simple shape facilitates a comfortable hand grip and support to the pillion. Rear-view mirrors have the right size and good visibility. A metal loop is welded on the rear brake pedal, which is either a heat shield for the rider’s leg or is meant to keep the leg in place on the footpeg. In either case, it looks superfluous. The brake and clutch levers are so designed that in case of a heavy impact, only the end would chip off and the rider would still have functional levers until repairs. Thoughtful. The fuel tank lid could have been hinged for convenience, but Yamaha have stuck to the pull out design. The headlight assembly features a pilot lamp as well. Switches include a headlight flasher, a self-starter and an engine kill switch along with the regular ones. The all-analogue console has two dials with a backlit Yamaha logo in between. The left dial accommodates the speedometer and an odometer. The right one a fuel gauge. Tachometer and trip meter are conspicuous by their absence.
The bike has a large silhouette for a small 125-cc machine. The term ‘small’ is restricted to engine capacity. It doesn’t give the rider a sitting-on-top feeling commonly associated with small bikes. The large tank, high handlebar and long wheelbase ensure that the rider is ‘tucked in’ well. Rider comfort is one of the strongest points of the YBR. The chassis absorbs engine vibrations very efficiently and desists from tickling the rider even at high speeds. The suspension (front telescopic, rear coil sprung swingarm) aided by a well-contoured broad seat with the optimum amount of cushioning and a laid-back riding posture combine to give one a smooth ride, even for hours on end. The bike handles well and the tarmac-hugging MRF Nylogrip Zappers (front 2.75”, rear three-inch) ensure that the bike stays on two wheels even while cornering or braking. Luckily, the recent weather vagaries gave us a chance to test the bike on wet roads, which didn’t affect its performance barring the fact that the drum brakes compromised the bike’s slowing down potential.
Small bikes are generally tuned for chaotic traffic wherein speed variation is frequent. In other words, low-end torque and power are a given. However, the YBR 125 attains its peak torque of 10.4 Nm at 6,500 rpm while its full power of 10.88 PS is unleashed at 7,500 rpm; the reason for its sluggish throttle response at low speeds. With a pillion the low-end performance dips even further. The bike has a four-speed transmission in a unidirectional shift pattern. The gear ratios are well set for low speed commutes but the absence of a fifth gear has brought the top speed down to 102.7 km/h from the SS’ 108.2 km/h. The YBR takes 9.87 seconds for the 30-70 km/h climb in the third gear, which is a very competitive figure in this class, but the top gear takes never-ending 18.9 seconds. In riding terms it means that third is the gear to be in while overtaking or chasing the green light and the fourth should be saved for empty streets.
With eight other options already available in the 125-cc segment, a profitable market share postulates a well-defined product. The YBR 125 leaves much to be desired in that sense. Its acceleration is feeble at low rpm. With an average fuel economy of 57.5 km/l (10 km/l less than the SS’), it has the greatest thirst for fuel in its class. The 13.6-litre fuel tank, however, proves useful during long-distance rides.
At Rs 52,900 (OTR, Pune) the YBR 125 is one of the higher priced bikes in its class. It doesn’t have a disc brake, even as an option. The SS, meanwhile, is just Rs 3,200 away and comes with a front disc and a sporty design. Thinking of the positives though, the YBR does have its own appeal. It is a high-quality product with a comfortable ride. It offers almost every functional feature available in the segment, suits a tall rider and has an upmarket professional look.
Mahindra Two Wheelers are out to capture their share of the huge motorcycle pie in India. Will their Stallio prove its worth in the intense competition among commuter bikes?
Stoty: Adhish Alawani Photography: Sanjay Raikar
As has been reiterated ad nauseam, India is one of the largest motorcycle markets in the world. Not just that, the Indian two-wheeler market is being looked upon as the fastest growing and rapidly emerging one as well. There are an unimaginable number of two-wheelers running on the roads of our country and over a million are being sold each month.
Statistical data tell us that of this gargantuan number of motorcycles, the maximum are commuters. Yes, precisely the ones that the motorcycling enthusiasts tend to term as ‘boring’, ‘undramatic’, ‘unprepossessing’ or ‘bland’. Nevertheless, the ground reality cannot be ignored and every manufacturer has to deal with it.
Hero Honda have established themselves at the top by claiming the largest share in the market. Local players like Bajaj Auto and TVS are doing well and international brands like Honda and Yamaha are quickly catching up with them.
If one analyses the percentage share of each of these brand-names, one will realise that they do not have a cut-throat competition among themselves. However, one cannot deny the fact that everyone is putting in their best efforts to overtake the first rival ahead. And in this huge battle for higher sales and better market shares, we have a new entrant that is attempting everything possible to grow and create its own space in this extremely aggressive bazaar.
Yes, it’s a sapling. Mahindra Two Wheelers came into existence some time back and started out in the market with their scooter options. However, there was no doubt that they had to take up the motorcycle aspect seriously if they wanted to grow. As a result, the company invested a lot of money and brains into the development of a mass machine, the Stallio, which could start earning them respectable sales figures across the country. So then what is this Stallio?
It is a typical commuter bike, one that would grab the attention of the average Indian customer who is willing to shell out not more than Rs 50,000 and, in the bargain, is also expecting modern (read different) looks, good fuel-efficiency and least maintenance cost. Styling has always been a subjective matter and the case is proved very well with the Stallio. Take a look at it in the pictures and you will hardly feel like complaining about anything in its design. It is not radically new and striking, but, then, it is not supposed to be. It is a commuter and it does don the commuterish attitude.
Take a closer look and you might come across bits that might appeal to some in a positive way, while others might just be put off. For instance, the tanpad-ish plastic on the tank with a weird design on it. We were personally not impressed by it. However, when we asked a few people on the streets what they though of it, we were in for a surprise. They appreciated the new bit and insisted on having it. The narrow petrol tank feels a bit too slim in between the thighs. The instrument cluster from the Rodeo (with digital bar-type tacho and digital speedometer) is funky and, thankfully, does not change the backlight colour as it does on the scooter. White pilot lights are stunning, but they come across as a little mismatch with the yellow headlight.
White LEDs for pilot lights look good
The digital console is the same as that on the Rodeo scooter
The 106-cc engine should deliver good fuel efficiency
The tail-lamp looks much better than most of the other design elements
Come down to the engine and we have a 106-cc engine pumping out 7.3 PS of peak power and 8.0 Nm of max torque. The bike doesn’t feel quick under outright acceleration. Once we do the performance testing, we might get an exact idea of its acceleration time, but, taking into consideration an extremely hard-to-twist throttle, we are not really looking at quick pace timings. We can also ascribe this partly to the clutch lever, which is equally hard to operate. The engine feels all right and within its own territory until 6,000 rpm. However, post that mark vibrations can be felt through the seat. Nonetheless, let us not forget that being a commuter, hardly anyone is going to go high on revs like that. The Stallio’s suspension is slightly on the stiffer side, which feels better with a pillion on board than while riding solo.
We know that this a commuter and it is going to be sold in a market where people accord priority to fuel-efficiency over everything else (barring a few sensible ones, who also consider quality of the product as a whole). Mahindra talk of promising fuel-efficiency figures and we sincerely hope that these work out in the bike’s favour. With a tag of Rs 46,000 (approx OTR, Pune, for alloys and kick-starter), the bike is priced at par with some of the old players. How the Stallio proves its mettle in the long run is the million-dollar question for Mahindra, which, only time can answer.
Adhish Alawani rides the new Yahama SZ-X from Jaipur to Udaipur to evaluate the Japanese manufacturer’s new commuter. Is it read to take on the vast mass segment?
Photography: Sanjay Raikar
The motorcycle market in India is growing in every sense of the term. This encompasses not just the increasing number of bikes that are being sold, but also the way the consumer is thinking about the product.
Earlier, the customer decided on his budget, the type of motorcycle and then went either to Hero Honda or Bajaj and booked one of the machines that these manufacturers had on offer. Today, however, that is not the case. The market is now driven by requirement. The consumer knows exactly what he expects of his bike and is willing to shell out the money to have those requirements fulfilled. For example, there are some who prefer outright performance. They go and buy bikes such as the R15 or the Pulsar 220. Then there are those who desire nothing but efficiency. They go and pick up the Discover 100 or Hero Honda Splendor. Then there is this new breed of buyers who want a bit of everything – style, efficiency, brand name, a higher cc than their neighbour’s bike and so on.
Yamaha have decided to address the needs of this particular segment. The result is products like the SZ and SZ-X. These bikes also fall in line with the company’s downward pyramid strategy in which they first took care of the niche market of performance and extremely focused motorcycles and are now moving towards utility-based bikes that will help the company achieve higher sales figures. Having launched the SZ and SZ-X last month, the company decided to give us a flavour of their latest offerings on a long tour from Jaipur to Udaipur and around Udaipur.
So what are these bikes exactly? The company claims that these machines are for the masses (unlike the R15 and FZ16, which were focused on the petrolheads). They carry the true genes of Yamaha and yet are affordable and easy on the pocket owing to their high fuel-efficiency. Talking of that, I wondered what the true genes of Yamaha are. When we utter the ‘Y’ name, it’s synonymous with performance, aggression and attitude. We naturally think of the glorious RX100, RD350, R15 and R1. Does the SZ series have these genes? Not really. The motorcycle comes with the same 153-cc powerplant that does duty on the FZ family of bikes. However, this one has been detuned from 14 PS to 12.1 PS. The maximum torque has come down from 13.6 Nm to 12.8 Nm. The result is a much slower acceleration – 0-60 km/h in 6.5 seconds, to be precise – which was 5.5 seconds in the case of the FZ. Also, the top speed that you can achieve on this motorcycle is just over 105 km/h, a bit on the lower side for a 150-cc machine, isn’t it? Well, considering that the bike is not meant for performance and is commute-based and efficiency-driven, we can ignore the fact that it is one whole second slower than its elder sibling and that it doesn’t do impressive top speeds.
However, the problem does not end there. The throttle asks for a little extra effort to wring it, which makes us feel that acceleration is even slower. A true Yamaha fan wouldn’t like that, will he?
Talking of the engine, there is one thing that needs special mention here and that is the smoothness of the motor. There are hardly any vibrations and even if we consider that I was astride a brand-new machine, I cannot ignore the fact that after riding 550 km with the throttle tweaked to the limit almost all the time, I didn’t feel the vibes in the evening. Also, the engine was as smooth at the end of the exploit as it was before the ride. The engine scores some brownie points when it comes to the mid-range as well, making it one of the strengths as regards the motorcycle’s commuter approach.
A true Yamaha carries with it an aggressive attitude and styling. On this count, the SZ-X has some positive points and some negative. Looking at the styling alone, I am convinced that this Yamaha retains its character. The tank looks like a shrunk version of the FZ’s with aggressive graphics and extension scoops. Alloy wheels are standard. The headlamp looks a little small in proportion to the meaty front end created by the tank scoops. The split tail-lamp is simple yet effectively fresh in styling.
If you look at the attitude of the motorcycle, it’s typically commuterish with the absence of features such as a tachometer, pass flash and engine kill switch. Then you get drum brakes, which are a complete disappointment. The company officials say that a disc brake option will be available and that it’s a matter of a few months.
There was some regret initially looking at TVS tyres on the bike (especially considering that Yamaha provide the best rubber in the country on the R15 and FZ), but presumptions about the tyres dissipated after riding through the twisties. There is little to technically complain about the rubber when it comes to this commuter.
Another very good thing, and quite important, is riding comfort. Even after clocking 440 kilometres in a day, there was no sign of fatigue. The bike offers a relaxed posture for daily city commute as well as long rides. Good ergonomics complement the posture, making it an extremely comfortable ride for the ordinary man.
All in all, where does the SZ-X stand? For a commuter, it is perfect with a tag of Rs 52,000 (ex-showroom, Mumbai). You also get the SZ (which sheds tank scoops, an extra visor and electric starter) at Rs 49,000. It’s got good looks and the tuning forks logo on its tank. But it has lost the character that Yamaha want to project with it. Low performance and high efficiency are not something that you expect from Yamaha, do you?
Ravi Chandanani meets the Avenger 220 after a heart transplant
Photography: Ravi Chandnani and Sanjay Raikar
Ten years ago, no one in India would have thought that a manufacturer like Bajaj would come up with a bike that defied the typical characteristic of the company, which was making fuel-efficient and small-capacity bikes and scooters. Bajaj pulled a nice trick later and fitted the Pulsar 180 engine into the Eliminator frame. This combo was christened the ‘Avenger’ and Bajaj were able to bring down the price considerably, which proved beneficial to the company. Later still, in 2007, the company decided upon a second heart transplant for the Avenger and gave it a bigger heart, that of the Pulsar 200. The 200 engine worked its charm on the Avenger and once again it attracted a new bunch of customers, who wanted greater power coupled with the already sassy design.
Aesthetically speaking, the bike remains similar to its previous version. The sticker on the side panel now announces that this machine is powered by a bigger motor. Now the company has gone a step further and has re-launched the Avenger with an even bigger heart.
This new power plant has already proved its mettle on the highly successful Pulsar 220, tagged as the fastest Indian bike. The Avenger has now truly become a cruiser meant for the open highways. The power and torque from the 219.89-cc motor are adequate to pull the bike easily even with a heavy rider astride it. Hence I wasn’t able to resist the temptation of a small ride on the beautiful NH4. I must say here that, hitherto, the one thing that had bothered me about the Avenger was its handling within the city. The raked-out front end tends to make one nervous as the front tends to slide a bit under hard braking. Besides, maneuvering the bike in thick traffic is painful due to its long wheelbase. Now, however, though its city handling remains as poor as before, the bike exhibits better handling and straight-line stability on the highway thanks to the long wheelbase and a fat rear tyre.
As I said earlier, the Avenger is meant for the highways and not the city. As I got on to the highway, where the Avenger and its rider feel truly at home, I realised what a comfortable ride it was. All the worries of city riding vanished soon and I was cruising at a constant 90 km/h with great ease.
This was also when I noticed the stability of the cruiser. It was darting through the wind like a bullet and yet was quite stable. The huge 130/90 section rear rubber provides more than ample traction, which really inspires confidence in you. The power and torque delivery are quite linear and the bike does not feel sluggish even in the low revs, thanks to the smooth, five-speed transmission that channels the power from the crank to the rear wheels. Although the 219.89-cc motor is the same unit that does duty on the Pulsar 220, Bajaj have de-tuned it for the Avenger. It now develops 19.03 PS of power and 17.5 Nm of torque. This output is enough to propel the bike from standstill to 60 km/h in just 4.83 seconds, which is just 0.13 seconds longer than the Pulsar 220. Nevertheless, do not expect the Avenger to post a top speed similar to the 220’s. Despite having the same power unit, the output is different, which makes the Avenger’s top speed comparatively lower than that of the 220. The fuel efficiency, on the other hand, has gone down by three km/l to 34 km/l overall, compared to its earlier 200-cc version, which is quite all right considering the increase in performance. The most striking feature of the bike after the engine is its price. The Avenger 220 is priced at Rs. 76,876. In other words, you get a bike that is quicker, punchier and still looks the part and is just Rs. 4,000 costlier than the 200, which makes it a perfect value-for-money cruiser.