Sarmad Kadiri leaves his performance bike behind and rides the new TVS Max4R to get a feel of the other end of the two-wheeler spectrum
Photography: Sawan Hembram
It was 5.30 am and the board overhead read: Ahilyabai Holkar Vegetable Wholesale Market, Indore. Soon three men wobbled in astride their new bikes, balancing a mountain of gunny bags filled with vegetables, all tied to their pillion seats. I thought to myself, ‘Are they crazy?’ The riders parked their bikes and I could sense their feeling of bewilderment as they looked at me with my riding gear on. I suppose they must have concluded that I was either an alien or a mad man, because no one wears a helmet in the entire district, let alone full-fledged riding gear. So, the feeling of bewilderment was mutual.
The new bike in question was the TVS Max4R, designed specifically for traders and farmers, who carry their goods or agricultural produce on bikes. We’re talking about milkmen, greengrocers, vegetables growers and farmers, all of whom form a very large yet untapped buyer segment in India. Based on the Star City, the Max features a 109.7cc engine, but with some modifications, such as a bigger oil pump for better lubrication, chrome-plated piston rings and improved crankshaft bearing. Plus the clutch comes with heavy-duty springs. All this, combined with the new sprockets, gives the bike a solid mid-range, which is what the target audience of the Max4R needs.
Obviously, the top speed is of no consequence for them, especially with three jute sacks loaded on the rear. The tank is similar to that of the Star City, but it sheds the front fairing to sport a round headlight and matching indicators and also a mobile charger. The sturdy metal front mudguard comes straight from the Max 100 and the split seats’ rear portion can be detached, thus making the bike ideal for carrying assorted goods. Interestingly, the main stand has a much wider base to keep the bike stable even with a heavy load on it. Even the rear tyre is specially made to endure excess weight. It has two pairs of rear shock-absorbers. While the first pair does the regular job of a suspension, the second set acts like helper shock-absorbers that come into play only when the bike is overloaded.
I rode the new TVS with a load of over 150 kg of vegetables and then with large milk cans attached to the sides. It is insane to ride with this kind of weight. However, compared with an average commuter bike crudely modified to handle excess weight, the Max4R wins hands down. It has a good low-end power and a crisp mid-range, which is ideal for this bike.
Riding on the narrow, chaotic roads near the vegetable market, I managed to reach 70 km/h on the speedo without any load on the rear, which is decent for this segment. However, when I trod on the brake in an emergency, the whole load of vegetables slid forward, its weight on my back, forcing me to slide onto the tank. The bike came to a halt a couple of meters farther than it would normally do. Offering a disc brake is out of the question for a price tag of Rs 37,590 (ex-showroom, Indore). To be honest, TVS is walking on a very thin line here. On the one hand, it is their corporate responsibility to provide a more secure, well engineered and affordable bike that can be used as a goods carrier. On the other, the fact remains that bikes in general have not been designed to lug loads around, even though it is a common practice in our country. Actually, it remains a grey area, for the Indian law does not specify whether carrying goods on bikes is legal or not.
Overall, the TVS Max4R is a good package, keeping in view its niche market. It is not designed for a beauty pageant or to win a drag race, but what you get is a sturdy, affordable and practical workhorse in every sense.