Bajaj have a crackling winner on its hands, says Saeed Akhtar, after his stint aboard the Pulsar 200NS at the company’s Chakan racetrack
Shift+Delete. Forget everything that you know about Pulsars. Throw all your preconceived notions about how the infusion of KTM chromosomes into the Pulsar DNA ought to turn out, out of the window. Because, and we are glad to report this, the Pulsar 200NS is a completely different breed of beast from its predecessors, and interestingly enough, even from the bike it shares its platform with, the KTM 125 and 200 Duke.
Visually, the 200NS is an arresting machine. The new tank shrouds, exposed twin-spar frame, brutish front end and relatively spartan rear end has moved the visual mass forward, endowing the bike with a proper mean streetfighter look. It also helps that the engine, gearbox (in glorious brushed gold finish), radiator, and underslung exhaust all combine to create the impression of a much fuller and grown-up bike than it really is. Fat tubeless tyres and petal discs moored to ten-spoke alloys at both ends round up the big-bike impression.
With 23.52PS of power on tap at 9500rpm and 18.3Nm of turning force at 8000rpm, the triple spark plugged, four valves SOHC, 200NS is a hoot to ride around the Bajaj test track in Chakan, near Pune. Bajaj’s ExhausTEC technology has lent a discernible edge to its low-down power and it could pull cleanly and progressively from as low as 2000rpm, all the way to the 10,000 rpm redline in 6th gear. Oh yes, there is a sixth gear now. Barrelling down the main straight we saw an indicated 141kmph on the speedo before hitting the anchors. That’s proper fast! Bajaj claims a 0-60kmph timing of 3.61 seconds and sprint to 100 from naught in just 9.83 seconds – which we will confirm once we strap our timing gear onto it – and it certainly felt like the bike was capable of achieving it. Like in the current Pulsars, this one also has a counterbalancer, but here it makes the bike a lot smoother, which, combined with its rev-happy nature and slick transmission, makes it an exhilarating machine. Vibes are practically non-existent, even at the top of its rev range when the orange shift light is blinking madly, begging you to upshift.
Handling is another area where the Pulsar 200NS has dramatically improved. Gone are the archaic twin shock-absorbers at the rear, now replaced by a monoshock with piggyback gas canister which endows the bike with excellent stability and poise in and out of corners. A longer wheelbase and bigger 100/80 and 130/70 tubeless tyres shod on 17 inch rims are the other factors for this newfound prowess. However, as with the Pulsar 220, we still wish the rider’s footpegs were mounted a bit higher, preventing it from grounding and enabling riders to exploit its cornering abilities to the fullest on trackdays. Should not be much of a bother for normal street use though. 280mm and 230mm diameter petal discs at both front and rear does the stopping duties and they look smashing but we will reserve judgment over how efficient they really are until the full road-test next month.
Ten years ago, the Pulsar brand came out of nowhere and transformed a nondescript ‘scooter-maker’ into the torchbearer for affordable performance biking in the country. Today, with the launch of the Pulsar 200NS, they are attempting to re-revolutionise the segment and the first impression is they they have succeeded resoundingly. Agreed, the competition is much hotter and bigger now, but we still feel that the 200NS will hold its own against everything it is pitted against. The crucial element, like always, will, however, be the pricing but that has always been Bajaj’s ace card, so there. Expect the 200NS to retail for around INR 90,000 to 95,000 (ex-showroom, Pune) when it goes on sale at the end of next month. A stylish, power-packed, feature-filled, fun-to-ride streetfighter for less than a lakh? Take a bow, Bajaj!
Read the full ride report in the March 2012 issue of BIKE India, on stands soon.