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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.
Suzuki launches its flagship GSX-R1000 in India. Just another insane litre class machine or does it really make sense?
The next three corners, left-right-left, are clear and show no sign of traffic. Not a single soul. The speedometer is reading just above 120km/h in the third gear. The first left-hander arrives, downshift, throttle rolled, a bit of counter steer, weight transferred, on the gas again and within no time, the bike is exiting the left and getting ready for the right. By the end of the three-corner complex, something has changed in my life. Though its strictly not recommended, I am reading the speedo at the exit of the second left-hander. It still reads speeds above 120km/h. Images of the speed limit boards flash in my memory. I was not supposed to do what I had just done. It was a temptation very hard to suppress, but it had just created a new memory for me. My first knee scraping act on a litre bike, or rather a supersports/superbike, had been executed. And it meant a lot more than just that, because it had come on a bike that is not exactly regarded as rider friendly or a rather forgiving machine. I had just about put 60 to 70km on the Gixxer so far and I was already pretty comfortable on it. I had not expected the GSX-R to be so fantastic before I first got on to it. Litre bikes are no fun, especially in a country like India. But this one was pure joy for which there are quite a lot of reasons. The GSX-R1000 K10 is an all-new bike. This is the first real all-new upgrade to the bike since its launch in 2001. The all-new implies the engine, chassis, suspension, swingarm, electronics and absolutely everything that would matter in a bike of its class. The cosmetics of the bike have been more or less the same ever since the Gixxer 1000 made it to the market. The one that we had for test here comes from Europe. Clad in white and blue, the GSX-R is nothing less than a seduction. The blue from the body panels flows on to the chassis and swingarm as well, in matte, and looks more than stunning. Sharp edges at the front flow and gel seamlessly with the razor sharp tail. The only curvature that you find on the bike comes in the form of the slightly arched twin exhausts. Special efforts towards attaining superb aerodynamics are clearly visible. Suzuki’s trademark stacked headlamps add to the aggression of the already menacing front end while the LED tail lamps are the final signature of the Gixxer’s new age style statement. The real deal, however, starts with the engine of the GSX-R. The new over-square, short stroke engine ensures free and high revving. Titanium valves for intake and exhaust come with two springs that ensure all the extreme demands from the engine are comfortably taken care of. The 999cc motor powering the Gixxer is not exactly refined. It has a grunt, a growl, which notifies us of its no-nonsense performance. The point to be noted here is that the engine does feel a bit lethargic low down at around 3000 revs. However, don’t mistake this as a negative. The beauty of this behaviour is that it makes the bike pretty rideable in city traffic since the jerky on-off power delivery is absent (a lot of credit for this also goes to the improved fuel injection) and the engine doesn’t ask for continuous toggling between the cogs in slow moving traffic. Nonetheless, past 5000 revs, under heavy wrist wringing action, the front rubber starts repelling the tarmac (yeah, I love that) and the floating front is a complete delight.
Once in those higher revs, the Suzuki turns into a wild beast that is ready to pounce at every goddamn thing that comes in its path. With 180 available horses at crank, it has immense outright power. That, from a bike weighing 205 kilos (kerb), is very close to 0.9:1 power-to-weight ratio. Terrific! The peak power is available at 12000 revs, which is 1800rpm shy of the redline. However, anything beyond 8000 revs is nothing less than violence. The ferociously fast Gixxer is a dream come true for a man who wants more power than what he can imagine of handling. The sheer aggression with which the Suzuki delivers power to the rear wheel is a different story altogether. Beat this: you can read 161km/h on the speedo if you have the balls of pulling the first gear of the Gixxer all the way to the redline. Orgasmic, isn’t it? A superb throttle response and most importantly, a very good feedback to the rider is something that differentiates the Suzuki from most other litre class motorcycles that I have managed to ride till date. Brutal acceleration in the first three gears assures wheelies. It might do so in the fourth as well, however, we didn’t really get the opportunity to try that. I won’t really be surprised if anyone comes up to me and tells me that he/she pulled a wheelie in fourth, cause its damn possible. Talking of gears, the transmission and clutch is worth more than just a mention here. The shifts through the gears are highly precise and I love the cable-operated clutch (hydraulics don’t really give the same feedback like good ol’ cables, do they?). What impresses me the most is the slipper clutch though. It is something that is not completely new, but it was the first time I got an opportunity to try it out thoroughly and without a doubt, it left me awestruck. The way the GSX-R’s rear would stay in line under quick downshifts without losing composure is phenomenal. Okay, so we have a lot of power that is being produced at the crank and we also know that most of it is being delivered to the rear wheel. However, what is the point in having all this power if it cannot be tamed, if it cannot by utilized and if it can be only experienced in straight line acceleration? The Suzuki GSX-R1000 continued to impress further as I tried to find the answers to these questions. Let’s go back to where we started. The knee dragging experience was still very fresh in my mind. This was possible because of two good reasons – impeccable handling and flawless rider-motorcycle connection. Most of the credit for the spot on handling has to be given to the Showa Big Piston Fork (BPF). This new suspension comprises of bigger, lighter forks that have a very simple internal construction. A single internal piston in each fork takes care of rebound and compression damping. The most important and crucial benefit of the Showa BPF front end suspension is that it gives a fantastic feedback to the rider. Under hard braking and turning into a corner, the sudden dive is absent. Instead, a smooth and gradual dive gives you utter confidence to push harder and most importantly, the immaculate handling. Overall, the chassis and suspension of the Gixxer has been completely updated that features a longer swingarm (helps in better traction during exiting corners) yet shorter wheelbase (for sharp and precise handling). Sounds like the perfect compromise? It ought to be. The kind of stability and planted feel of the GSX-R in corners is a complete confidence booster.
So there is immense power and also the ability to utilize it. That should be enough to impress a hardcore biker. But there is more to the Gixxer than just the power and handling. The electronic equipment level is not too high but sufficient for a road bike. The power delivery comes through three modes A, B and C, which can be toggled through with the help of a switch that hides under the switchgear on the left clip-on. Brilliantly tucked in and easily accessible, the modes give you an option of response form the throttle body. A is the default mode which is full blown power delivery. Madness. B reduces the throttle response a bit and the C mode turns the bike into an obedient machine. The foot pegs are three-way adjustable and they manage to give a very good handlebar-footpeg-seat geometry, mind you, for aggressive riding only. Another good thing about the GSX-R1000 is that it comes with a standard steering damper, which really takes care of the insane tankslappers under full throttle acceleration. The sitting posture is radical and can get on your nerves in the city. Talking of that, the stiff suspension (once again, its fantastic in the corners) also becomes a problem on bumpy surfaces, especially cement roads and manages to transfer the slightest of undulations on the road surface to your spine. After spending about 300km with the GSX-R1000, I was actually in a confused state of mind. I hadn’t expected things to be the way they turned out. One, because as I mentioned earlier, it is an established belief that litre bikes are no fun in a country like India and two, because racebred machines are the worst option considering hardly any Indian customer is actually going to ride hard on a racetrack. But I was in for a surprise. The GSX-R is not all that bad in the city (except for the radical sitting posture) and with its good handling and immense amount of power, it makes for a very good bike for the weekend twisties session as well. Moreover, the Gixxer has killer looks. Maximum attention guaranteed! What else can you want? Probably, a cheaper price tag. At Rs 14.03 lakh (on-road, Pune), the GSX-R is more expensive than its elder brother, the Hayabusa. And for those who can’t really take the massive aggression of the Gixxer, Suzuki has also brought in the Bandit 1250S. Jump to page 68 as Bunny takes one out on a rainy ride to Mahabaleshwar and beyond!
Photography: Sanjay Raikar
Suzuki’s big bore, mile munching Bandit sets a new benchmark for value and comfort in the Indian superbike market reckons Bunny Punia
Photography Sanjay Raikar
It was way back during the 1998 (or was it 2000?) Auto Expo in New Delhi when my brother got a brochure of the Suzuki Bandit from Maruti’s hall. The next few days were spent trying to gather as much information as possible on the bike from my utterly slow and unreliable dial-up internet connection. Years passed by and as my secret love for this bike grew, the machine itself got positive upgrades. Carburetion was replaced with fuel injection, the engine got another 98cc and another cog was added to the gearbox. However, what remained the same (well almost) was the Bandit’s sticker price making it one of the best deals on two wheels in the big bike market. Why Suzuki decided to skip this model for India often surprised me to no end. However, some say, the wait is always worth it. Was it?
Motorcycle earplugs are made and recommended for a reason. Cruising towards Belgaum a day after the photo-shoot at an indicated 120km/h on the digital speedometer, the Bandit’s 1255cc motor lazed at just 4000rpm. However even with a relatively high visor, the wind buffeting and the inadequacy of my helmet to stop air from getting in meant all I could hear was the wind roar hitting my face and the occasional horn that I had to use. I had covered the last 90km from Kolhapur in under an hour including slowing down for two toll booths without having to push either the bike or myself. In all, these 330km from Pune were banished with utter ease in four hours including grabbing a quick bite enroute. The last time I covered such a long distance on a big bike was yet another Suzuki – the mighty Hayabusa. The difference here was that neither did I have aching forearms nor a broken back. If time permitted, my destination for the night would have been Bangalore, another 500 odd kilometres away.
The history of the Bandit goes back to the ‘90s. When launched, it came with a detuned 1100cc engine from the Suzuki GSX-R1100 in a simple tubular-steel frame, bargain-bin suspension and brakes. It still proved to be a hit and a hooligan. Most people who bought one, often rode on one wheel – blame the torque for that. However over the years, the Bandit, if I may say, matured. Today, it sells in both the naked and the faired (the ‘S’) version and is regarded as a purchase as good as stealing.
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the Bandit will fare at the bottom of the current breed of superbikes in India when it comes to looks. However, the half-fairing exposes the huge lump of metal nestling below the fuel tank and this, along with the chunky and fat exhaust are what lend the Bandit its character. Further, the four huge exhaust pipes exiting from the cylinder heads look mean. Up front, the half-fairing is neatly mounted, fully-lined and is no wider than the tank. It does its job of keeping the elements off an average built rider’s torso with no fuss or flapping. The rear of the Bandit again does with subtle styling, though I personally loved the short ending mudguard, exposing the wide 180mm section tyre. India gets two colour options – black and grey. The twin-pod speedometer console is chrome-bezeled in the 1970’s style and as expected, the design is nothing to rave about. That said, it is simple and quite legible. The left has an analogue tachometer with the right one housing a small digital display for speed, fuel, distance and time.
Undoubtedly, in the case of the Bandit, the real beauty lies below the skin and it is the refinement that runs through and through the motorcycle. Apart from the engine’s known ageless reliability, what really impressed me was the absence of vibrations and harshness across the rev range. Be it commuting in city traffic or scaring the living daylights out of fast moving cars on the highway, the liquid-cooled four cylinder engine feels remarkably smooth. Suzuki claims the reason for this is due to various features like a central cam chain, staggered transmission shafts, tighter spacing between the pairs of cylinders and a secondary balancer shaft.
With motorcycles close to 200 horsepower already on sale in India, the Bandit’s 96bhp motor seems pale in comparison. However, as the age- old saying goes, there is no replacement for displacement and of course for torque. The engine churns out an impressive 107Nm of torque and the beauty lies in the way it is developed – at just 3700rpm. Compare this to say 100Nm of the Honda CB1000R at 8000rpm and you realize just how punchy this motor is. The roll-on figures in the fourth, fifth and sixth cogs speak the same story, bettering even the 186PS GSX-R1000’s timings for the 40-60km/h and 60-80km/h sprint. Beat that! The strong low and midrange also mean that puttering in slow moving traffic is easy for this 250 kilo machine. Once past crawling speeds, the Bandit manages to hide its porky weight rather well and with the humongous amount of torque on avail right from idling, it’s rather easy to zip past traffic by making full use of small openings between vehicles.
Infact, the Bandit pulls cleanly without any hiccups from the chain or the engine from as low as 1000rpm in the sixth cog, at which point the speedometer reads just around 30km/h! This is one of very few motorcycles that can boast of going from 30km/h, all the way upto an indicated 250km/h in its topmost gear. The fantastic throttle response is also due to the optimized dual throttle valve fuel injection system which features 36mm throttle bodies. Give the bike some stick and it will fly past the 60km/h mark from naught in a shade over 2 seconds. The 0-100km/h sprint is achieved in just 4.35 seconds, remarkable for a bike with less than a hundred ponnies and quarter of a ton to lug around.
The strong midrange also comes in handy while touring – another forte of the Bandit. At 120km/h, the engine is spinning at just 4000 revs with oodles of punch in reserve for keeping up or making other fast moving sedans eat dust. You hardly ever need to downshift and the tall sixth gear makes the bike guzzle less gas at highway speeds. The 19-litre tank is good for over 250km with ease.
If you are the kind of biker who doesn’t like the knees-in-the-mouth riding posture, the Bandit is the bike to have for sure. I don’t remember the
last time I felt so comfortable on a large capacity motorcycle (Harley-Davidson bikes are a different breed) over a long distance. At the same time, if your height is less than 5’6”, stop reading further as the saddle literally gives you the feeling of riding on top of the world. The seat is adjustable by 20mm but even then, some of my colleagues who stand at 5’10” had a tough time keeping both their feet firmly on the ground. There is enough room for two large sized adults and the huge grabrail is a handy addition.
The upright seating position combined with a supple suspension makes the Bandit quite comfortable over undulations. True, this is a no-frills basic superbike with basic suspension and braking components, but for daily usage, the bike shines and how! Small speedbreakers and potholes, even at speeds, are dismissed off with ease. In fact, so confident was the bike off the road that I couldn’t stop myself from indulging in a few riding-on-the-pegs antics. The only hindrance was its weight, giving my thighs and forearms a good workout. The Bandit was never meant to be a track bike, and it isn’t. That said, you can easily throw it into flowing corners with the grip from the tyres never giving you a reason to feel insecure and back off.
With our unfair government policies trying to protect the non-existent locally manufactured big bike market with ridiculously high import duties, imported superbikes are never going to be pocket friendly in our country. However, with the Bandit, Suzuki has managed to set a benchmark for performance per rupee – Rs 8.5 lakh (ex-showroom) for a 1255cc CBU import is a fantastic sticker price. It even undercuts the only other in-line four cylinder street superbike on offer in India, the Honda CB1000R by a good fifty grand. The Bandit is a very practical no-nonsense superbike, capable of playing multiple roles. It’s one of those rare motorcycles that has the ability to do everything well, or at least well enough to satisfy you and justify its price tag. I’ve lost count of the amount of times over
the past week that I’ve looked at the Bandit and felt underwhelmed, only to take it for a spin and remember what a really great all-rounder it is. Don’t buy this bike if you expecting to set lap records, scrape knees or smoke your buddy’s Hayabusa at the traffic lights. Buy this bike if you want a really truly, good and honest, all-round capable machine that will provide you with all the motorcycling fun you can handle.
Bajaj is getting things right with the Discover brand.
Is the new Discover 150 ready to live up to its brand image?
Adhish Alawani finds out
Photography: Sanjay Raikar
Bajaj is on a roll to capture the two-wheeler market. The company has decided to go about achieving this target by introducing sensible machines in an organized segment wise classification of motorcycles. Instead of introducing a machine randomly, the company has defined certain segments of customers and is launching bikes that are targeted to specific consumers. They started doing this sometime last year with the Discover DTS-Si, the one with a 100cc motor purely for the efficiency seeking soul. They reformed the Pulsar brand as well by introducing the streetfighter class within the Pulsar imagery. The Pulsar 135LS opened the avenues of low capacity-high performance bikes. Continuing their philosophy of targeting these specific needs of the consumers, Bajaj has come up with their latest iteration of the Discover – the Discover 150.
Bajaj has realized two things. Firstly, the brands Pulsar and Discover work for them. And secondly, nothing else really succeeds well. The Discover 150 is thus an attempt to carry on the ‘Discover’ brand and get rid of the ‘XCD’ name that didn’t bring the much-needed success to the company when it came to the sales figures. So what does the Discover 150 do? It practically wipes out two models from the Bajaj line-up (XCD135 and Discover 135) and promises to deliver more single-handedly than what these two could do collectively. Let us get the facts straight here – the XCD wasn’t exceptionally great and failed to generate enough sales. However, the Discover 135 was a good machine. For the price and the job it did, there wasn’t an issue with it. But surprisingly, it didn’t do well for Bajaj. Reasons? It neither had the punch that a 150cc would boast of nor did it have the efficiency of a 100cc commuter or for that matter even a 125cc. Bajaj says that it has packed in the right mix of power and fuel efficiency in the new Discover 150. Thus, it is expected to do the job of a commuter in a punchy manner. Sounds too promising? Well then, let’s see if it actually manages to pull out what it promises to do.
To start off with, this Discover looks exactly like the Discover DTS-Si (the 100cc model). No tank scoops like the ones on the 135cc version and the rear fender is broad and commuter-esque, like the one seen on the 100cc Discover. Bajaj continues to maintain its all-black treatment to the engine, alloys, frame, forks, etc. The bike that we got for the test even had its body panels painted in black along with blue graphics. We like the black and blue combination, but find the bike way too monotonous as a complete package. The seat continues to be rock solid (and it isn’t a good thing for God’s sake. It starts troubling your bum within a few minutes of riding). Bajaj has been the pioneer of featuring gizmos on every new product and of course, the Discover 150 is no exception. Alloy wheels, electric starter, auto choke, ride control, Nitrox suspension, ExhausTEC, disc brake, LED taillights, digital console and a wide rear tyre are all standard fitments. These are the things that matter to the Indian customer (though I don’t think they make any difference to the real potential of a motorcycle) and Bajaj knows how to deliver them perfectly. Full marks to the Discover 150 when it comes to the features’ list! But what about its ‘punchy’ 150cc motor?
Yes, it does deliver more punch than a 125cc or a 135cc motor. With a 0-60km/h timing of 5.78 seconds, it is marginally (0.15sec) quicker than the Discover 135 and about 0.27 seconds slower than the Pulsar 150. These minute differences anyways don’t really matter in real world riding, do they? Plus if you see the power output figures, the Discover 150 is rated at 13PS of peak power while the Discover 135 is at 13.1PS of max output. However, the 150 accelerates quicker than the 135. Credit for this goes to the 121 kilo kerb weight of the Disco 150 as against the 133 kilo kerb weight of its 135cc sibling. Also, the max torque on offer is much higher at 12.75Nm in the Discover 150 as against 11.8Nm in the 135 model. Agreed that the 150 is better than the Discover 135, but how does it fare against the other 150cc competitors? On paper, the Discover 150 doesn’t really outshine its rival 150cc bikes on the power and torque front, though it surely manages to keep up as far as acceleration and top speed figures go. Well almost! However, on that note, we would like to mention that it doesn’t even qualify for the streetlight GPs (as per the press release). Nonetheless, the roll-on figures have a fantastic story to tell. The strong torque in low revs delivers a great commuting characteristic to the Discover 150 and makes overtaking maneuvers much more comfortable.
The other and the most important thing that Bajaj promises from the Discover 150, apart from better performance, is the fuel efficiency. With 60kmpl in the city and 72kmpl on the highway, the overall real world efficiency translates to 63kmpl. That is a fantastic efficiency figure from a 150cc motorcycle. And it also proves the motive behind the detuned state of the engine in order to produce lesser power output than the Discover 135 – better fuel efficiency. In fact, going through the efficiency figures of all the 150cc motorcycles available in India, the Discover leads the way by a good margin. Mission accomplished! The icing on the cake comes in the form of the price tag of the Discover 150 – Rs 46,000 (ex-Delhi). Whoa! Does that put this 150cc motorcycle in competition with the price of a 125cc bike? Or maybe even cheaper than that? Yes. In fact, the Discover 150 is almost Rs 5000 shy of the Discover 135’s price tag. For this price and the amazing fuel efficiency, the Discover 150 is the best bet. Though its 150cc motor is something that you can’t boast of for street racing, it at least saves you from being looked down upon for using a meager commuter.