The Comeback Hero

With the Japanese name taken off the brand, Hero MotoCorp aim at conquering one of the largest two-wheeler markets with a bold step. We try to find out if they have the right product for it

Story: Adhish Alawani
Photography: Sanjay Raikar

By now it is common knowledge that what may be regarded as one of the most successful and longest lasting ventures in the history of the Indian motorcycle industry has come to an end. Hero and Honda ruled the Indian market for approximately 27 years before parting ways. Together they revolutionised the way motorcycles were being conceived and perceived in our country. Over these years they made bikes for the masses as well as the enthusiasts – be it the first CD100 that popularised four-stroke and affordable motorcycles in India or the CBZ that gave birth to the current generation biking culture. Let us also not forget that it was Hero Honda who brought in the first fuel-injected commuter to India (the Glamour FI) and also the extremely popular, all-rounder Karizma. Now they have decided to go their own way in this highly competitive market. In other words, former partners are competitors now.

Actually, that’s not completely true, because Hero will continue to receive technological support from Honda until 2014, but will not be marketing their products with Honda included in the brand-name. The first offering from Hero, the Impulse, is such a product. Many thought that this one is the Honda Bros (sold in Brazil), but it isn’t so completely. Superficially, the Impulse’s 149.2-cc engine displaces the same as the Bros’. However, Hero have modified the cylinder head slightly and reduced the compression ratio from 9.5:1 to 9.1:1. Along with that a CV-type carburettor has replaced the fuel-injection system in the Bros. The outcome of this on the power front is a drop in the bike’s peak power from 13.8 PS to 13.2 PS. While the Bros attains its maximum power at 8,000 revs, the Impulse does so at 7,500. Similarly, the peak torque has come down from 13.63 Nm to 13.40 Nm. This too is at 5,000 revolutions per minute instead of at 6,000 RPM. In short, Hero have made sure that their forte – fuel efficiency – remains intact while not forgetting the fact that the Indian customer needs more power and torque in the lower revs. The replacement of FI with carb seems to be a measure to keep the cost down. However, the biggest difference between the Bros and Impulse is that the former can run on ethanol too while the latter is designed to run on petrol only.

The Impulse has been built on a semi-double cradle frame with 180-mm travel suspension forks at the front and 150-mm travel monoshock suspension at the rear. Also, the bike has a ground clearance of 245 mm. That and its long-travel suspension make sure that the Impulse can tackle off-road terrain or rocky paths easily. Hero have equipped this bike with dual-purpose tyres from CEAT as standard. There is a 19-inch wheel at the front and a 17-inch one at the rear to suit the off-roading character of the bike.

The seat of the impulse is a long one; starting from over the tank to let the rider sit as close towards the front as possible. It’s pretty flat and offers a comfortable seating position, slightly biased towards the front, as it would be on a dual-purpose bike. The handlebar is not too short, not too wide. The exhaust has been neatly placed next to the seat on the right side with a heat protective cover on it to save the pillion rider’s thigh.
The instrument console on the Impulse is completely different from that on the Bros. The Impulse gets a digital speedometer and analogue tachometer with tell-tale lights placed around them. The digital display comprises speed, trip meter, odometer, time and fuel level. At the rear is a cluster of LEDs making for a decent tail-light.

The plastic used in the Impulse has a high-quality feel and look to it. Hero have taken good care of quality not only of the plastic parts, also of the paint, especially on the rims, where it tends to chip off more than elsewhere.

Coming to the riding part, there is no doubt that the Impulse is a fun machine. It is meant to be taken to terrain less frequented to experience off-roading – a segment that has been mostly untouched by the Indian bikers. The Impulse will live up to what it is supposed to deliver to a great extent. We didn’t get an opportunity to take it off the tarmac during our first ride, but we can confidently say that the overall geometry of the bike is quite promising. Besides, the low-end torque helps in playing around with the machine. The engine has decent juice to start off with. It delivers power and torque very linearly and in a smooth manner without any peaks. The light front end along with the good bottom-end torque will make the stunters fall in love with the machine, for it is ever ready to do all the wheelies you demand.

All in all, the first impression of the Impulse has left us with a smile on our face. Hero have taken a bold step in coming out with a first product that is not a hardcore commuter (in fact, it’s the first proper dual-purpose motorcycle in the Indian market). Though the company is offering a product meant for the enthusiasts, it still has plans to sell it in a high number and not restrict itself to a niche market. The company plans to achieve this by pricing the Impulse competitively at Rs 66,800 (ex-showroom, New Delhi). The price, quality, reliability of the brand and the established name are factors enough to make the Impulse an instant hit. How it fares on our set of core tests is yet to be discovered. We shall do that soon. Until then get yourself a test ride of the Impulse from a showroom nearby. Good fun is guaranteed!

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