In a bid to find the best 100cc commuter bike in the market, BIKE India takes these puny performers on a 350km trip
Words Bunny Punia
Photography Sanjay Raikar
When was the last time we had a discussion about 100cc motorcycles? The fact is that these puny little machines are mass segment bikes and make up for more than half the two-wheelers sold in India today. While bigger capacity machines and Indian performance bikes are generally the talk of automotive forums and the letters that we get from our readers, it struck us that we seem to have forgotten this interesting segment of two-wheelers. Flipping through older issues, the last time we pitted 100cc bikes against each other was way back in 2006! A weekend was coming up and what better (and adventurous) way to spend it than on commuter bikes that are at times used to ferry a whole family from one village to another in a hundred milliliters of petrol! This was also the first time we were heading for an overnight road trip on small capacity machines. This could be fun. Was it? Read on…
Our aim was to take a 100cc bike each from every motorcycle manufacturer. Honda, Royal Enfield and Suzuki don’t have a 100cc yet and hence it all boiled down to the Platina from Bajaj, the CD Dawn from Hero Honda, the Star Sport from TVS and lastly the Crux from Yamaha. The Platina and the Star Sport have a bikini fairing while the other two make do with simple road headlamps. The plan was pretty straight forward: ride to Diveagar (a small town on the west coast) through the Tahmini ghats and back to Pune. A round trip of around 350km would not only give us ample time to judge the bikes, but also prove to be a good break from our usual daily grind. The numerous hill sections along this route meant that we would have to rev these small engines hard till the valves popped out and then upshift to make progress. The riders, apart from yours truly, were Ramnath, Varun and Sawan. Monica took over behind the wheel of our backup car while Sanjay was busy with his lens. We finished work early and left the BI office by 4 pm. About 20km
from the office at our first meeting point, Chandni Chowk, each of the riders seemed to have apprehensions about continuing with the journey. Yes, it seemed we have been spoiled lately by the slew of larger capacity Indian bikes. Nonetheless, there was a task at hand and we decided to continue towards Mulshi lake. The traffic had eased up and we decided to stick to 55-60km/h as all the bikes were relatively brand new.
I had chosen to ride the Platina first and it surprised me its comfortable setup. The wide seat is well padded providing a comfy place to pile on the miles. However, being a tad too soft, the padding can give in quickly if you are a heavy rider (like me) making your bum sore within half an hour. The Platina has always been a great value buy and won our 100cc shootout way back in 2006. It also feels the classiest of the lot. The bike’s fairing, a good use of stickers with the silver colour, the alloy wheels, an all-black exhaust, etc., add up to the Platina’s overall good looks. The engine is quite smooth though it has the characteristic metallic sound that is now quite common on most Bajaj bikes. Being the most powerful and torquiest of the lot here, the Platina is always eager to jump ahead in traffic and its throttle response is good for a bike in this class. Leading the group, I decided to increase the cruising speeds to 70-75km/h and surprisingly the Platina didn’t feel strained at all.
We took a small break once the hill section began. Trading in the Platina for the CD Dawn came as a huge surprise. While the former feels substantial, the Hero Honda is certainly diminutive. Sitting upright with the helmet on, I couldn’t even see the handle bars or the speedometer console. The saddle is harder and so is the suspension with respect to the Bajaj. However, we were riding on bad roads and it didn’t take long for me to realize why the CD Dawn does so well in rural markets. Even with a family of four on board, this 100cc workhorse takes all the battering that owners subject it to without a complaint. The CD Dawn is probably as basic as it gets when it comes to looks, but from practicality point of view, it scores very high. The bike feels very spirited courtesy the short initial three gears and is a boon in rush hour traffic. Since we were riding on deserted twisty roads and going beyond 65-70km/h, the Dawn felt a tad underpowered.
Who gets to drive in the luxury of our back up car?
Holy ‘Moo’ly! Sanjay finds some cow comfort
Platina: How could Bunny resist sliding the little Bajaj?
Cd dawn: Sawan takes the most reliable bike here a little too close to the water
Throughout our trip, we were lucky enough to not have the rains spoil our fun. Stopping for another photo-op near the lake, surprisingly different viewpoints regarding our steeds were discussed among the riders. I was eager to get onto the third bike, the TVS Star Sport. Oh boy, was I blown away! This bike is spot-on whether it is the seating posture, the firm yet comfortable suspension or the quality of the parts. In my opinion, the Star Sport matches the Platina when it comes to appearance. The TVS is a smart looker without being overly flashy. It also handled beautifully over broken tarmac with the only grouse being the bike’s thin and hard compound rear tyre that played spoilsport. The Star Sport might not be the fastest of the lot, but over bad roads and around twisties, it was probably the best performer amongst the quartet.
We exited the ghats and headed towards Mangaon on the Mumbai-Goa highway to halt for the night. However, once we discovered that we were getting good and reasonably priced accommodation at Diveagar beach, we decided to go ahead with a night ride approximately another 50odd km to our new destination. The Crux would be my companion now. The roads from here on were very nice and smooth even over the several ghat sections. The Yamaha is the lightest of the lot but it doesn’t impart this feeling while riding. In fact, it feels quite substantial for a 100cc bike. The engine is soft although the gearbox is clunky. The Crux gave me a tough time locating the neutral (between the first and second gears – the only bike here to have a universal shift pattern). It has the largest capacity motor (106cc) and the tall ratios meant that I could stick around the 75km/h mark with ease on straights. Around corners, the Crux does feel a little nervous and not as assuring as say the TVS. We reached Diveagar by 9 pm and headed to MTDC’s resort that is located right on the beach. Two cottages for 3500 bucks seemed like an excellent deal but the ordeal of the air-con in the room not working after 2 am and a million insects was a different story all together. Add to that, the discourteous behavior of the staff and we would not recommend this resort to our readers. Serious discussions over vodka and whisky lasted late into the night and I was looking forward to another day of riding to decide the winner of this shootout.
Blame it on tiredness or sleeping at dawn, but it was only by 10 am that we dragged ourselves out of bed. The beach was just a hundred meters away and we decided to head to the coastline before searching for a good place to have breakfast. Lightweight and thin tyres translated to us having pure fun playing with the bikes on the sand. Small wheelies, long slides or simply riding in the water saw us spending almost two hours on the beach. It was almost noon when we stopped for brunch. I kept switching between the four bikes from time to time on the return journey in order to clear out a few confusions. The harsh sun was nearly killing us and we wanted to reach home ASAP. The four bikes were now given the stick in contrast to the so far restricted 80km/h mark. At a newly discovered kilometer long tarmac stretch closed to regular traffic, the Yamaha Crux even went on to kiss the magical 100km/h reading on the speedometer with featherweight Varun on board. All of us rode in a convoy back to Pune where we regrouped for the last time at Chandni Chowk. Before announcing the winner of our 100cc comparo, let’s recap a bit:
The aim of this shootout cum adventurous travelogue was to see which 100cc bike offers the best bang for your buck. The difference between the cheapest and the most expensive motorcycle here is Rs 2,000. The CD Dawn offers the best value deal. It’s surprising to see a Hero Honda selling for the least amount of money. The Crux seems to chug along well for Yamaha as the next cheapest bike from the Japanese stable retails for an additional Rs 6,500. However, the 100cc Yam is like a jack of all trades but the master of none. It all boils down to the Bajaj Platina and the TVS Star Sport. Way back in 2006, the Platina was Rs 641 cheaper than the TVS. Today however, the difference is just a few bucks. The Platina’s only serious grouse remains its light front end whereas the TVS’ sole disadvantage is its inefficiency to run on the highways for long. The Bajaj has a fuel gauge whereas the TVS has the longest tank range here. Anyway you look at it, buyers will be more than happy with either of the two bikes. This shootout turned out to be tougher than expected and we have a rare case of having a joint winner.