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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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!


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.


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.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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