The time has at-last come! It is time for me to look for a new companion as my aging companion was getting really old. 11+ years to say it exactly! My companion on all my road-trips, chugging the uphill’s and cheerfully doing the downhill’s, was Bajaj Caliber. Yes! My Caliber did a wonderful job all these years. When it was a baby back in last quarter of1998, it used to be the king of the road. But now with cut throat competition and plenty of ‘kings’ trying to invade the roads, the time has come to change my workhorse.
One year back, in August 2009, I finally made up my mind to acquire a new kid on the block. Having ridden a no non-sense bike all these years (literally, I did not have to go to service center except for replacement of chain, tyre, clutch/brake cables etc), my mind had a soft corner to the Bajaj stable. So I started visiting the showrooms. It was the time when Bajaj was planning to put in the Pulsar 180 UG IV version. Luckily in my city, Thiruvananthapuram (capital of Kerala), Bajaj, Suzuki, Honda, TVS, Hero Honda and Enfield showrooms were within a circular radius of 1 km. Let me say, I am not a big fan of front fairings, bigger tanks and scoops and such extra showoffs. So, Hunk, Karizma, Pulsar 220, Suzuki GS150R etc was off from my list. And my budget was 65,000 – 75,000. Comfort and better seating was also to be taken into account for my better half.
Enfield Bullet 350, Bajaj Pulsar 180 UG IV, Honda Unicorn, TVS Apache RTR 180, Yamaha FZ 16. Phew! The list that I came up, after scouting the internet user reviews, comments, word of mouth etc. It is time to decide among the above contestants. First I went to the Bajaj showroom to test ride the P180 UG IV version. At a single look, most of its design was taken from the elder P200. It has split seats, good looks etc, but the saree guard is not having foot-rest rods. When I enquired whether it has one or not, the showroom guy said to weld it from a local welder! Also, they did not have a test drive machine. Next I went to Honda showroom. Unicorn has not changed much after their introduction into the market.
When I asked for a test ride the answer was in negative (even though I rode one of my friends Unicorn) and the waiting period is crossing one month time! Next I went to Yamaha and same results repeated as that of Honda. Even though it has everything that I am looking for, it is slightly overpriced for a 150cc bike. Next I went to TVS showroom. I rode one of my friends Apache 160 FI and so did have an idea as to how Apaches are. There was a test drive vehicle for Apache 180! But the showroom guy did not allow me to take it to highway for full testing. I took it to inter connected roads and was happy with the way of its handling. Showroom guy also said that it has a waiting period of more than 3 weeks.
When I asked him if I pay the full amount as ready cash, whether he can deliver it on a date specified by me, he told me that he will call back after consulting with the manager. Next I went to the Enfield showroom and there stand Bullet 350 with all its glory. Even after all these years, it had not lost the appeal. Personally I do have a soft corner to Bullet as my Dad owned one.
Now with all the data that I am having it is time for me to choose. With so many Pulsars seen on the road and need to do some aftermarket modifications, it was the first one to go from my list. Being overpriced for a 150cc (I accept the fact that we need to pay a premium for its style), FZ16 was the second one to go from my list. Taking into account the dry weight of the vehicle and the mileage factor (I was looking for at least a 40+ kmpl vehicle) Bullet 350 was the third one to go from the list. Now left with Unicorn and Apache 180.
I went to both these showrooms again to make up my mind. Honda people were saying that it would take at least a week to get the bike. This time though, they gave me a bike to test ride. TVS people were saying that they will try to get the bike on the date that I specified. After weighing in all the factors in my mind for a couple of days (I was sleepless sometimes, literally), I decided to go for Apache 180. I went to TVS showroom on the second week of August 2009 and booked my RTR 180. I want the bike to be delivered on 17th August 2009, as it was starting of a new year according to calendar followed by Keralites (Any keralite reading this, it was Chingam 1).
And finally the day has come. I woke up pretty early and was eager to get by baby. When the time struck 11AM, I set out to get my RTR 180. By afternoon, I got my bike! WOW! I am a proud owner of Apache RTR 180. I went to nearby petrol bunk, filled the whole tank and set out to my home.
Warm welcome was waiting for the new baby. My dad did his preliminary inspection on it and was satisfied, my mom & wife did an aarathi pooja, and my sis took a drive! Everybody was happy even though my mom & dad had a concern that I may speed out on this pint sized power-house!
I settled for a matte grey color, as black color is too noticeable and so many black pulsars around. White color? I had to wait for another week! Yellow? A definite no-no choice for me.
Below is the very first shot of RTR, being ridden below 10kms. (Showroom to home – 7.8 kms only)
And that is me with my baby
I first thought of writing up a review after a month, but I hold back, due to the fact that, the review may not be complete if I did not complete all four seasons in my RTR. So now after an year a month, I think it is a good time to write a review.
Style and Build Quality
When I stop at traffic lights all the people who are in their bikes surrounding me stared at me. A couple of times RTR 160 owners spoke with me regarding the performance, mileage and other stuff. Once during the night, a pulsar guy came over and said “wow, you are having blue backlight on your dash board. Cool!”
The styling is not much different from the old Apaches. It could have been given more style other than copying the old ones. The differentiator between the old and the new ones are the racing stripes on the tank and the scoops. I liked this because I can go unnoticed in the crowd. The matte grey finish is also helping me to go unnoticed.
The tank has air scoops, which helps to cool down the engine and increase the aesthetics of the bike. The forward stance also gives an impression of it being a racing-kind of bike. The grab rail/bars on the rear are not just for a show off but a pretty solid grab rail. I was able to move the bike, by picking up from the rear using these bars/rail. The brake levers are forged so that it is lighter in construction but give a point to styling.
The detachable rear fender flap is a good option. During rainy season, the flap can be attached to it, so that the vehicle/person coming behind me are not ‘bathed’ in mud and water, and on other seasons it can be removed so that RTR looks racier. If you plan to, not to attach the flap on rainy season, then be prepared to wash the pillion rider’s shirt/top after a ride!
Also, I found a pretty good problem during rains! Your shoe will be loaded with water even in a slight rain. I think it is due to the foot rest being near to the rear wheel mud guard coupled along with the fact that there is a small opening on the rear-foot rest designer plate!
The other problem which I noticed is rusting of open parts. I noticed it on the front shock absorbers, then weight-end/clips-ons on both sides of the handle bar, then on the saree guard, on the underside clamp of the headlights. For a good bike like this, these must be taken care by TVS.
These rusting happened in a life span of 1 year. I must say that, in my old Bajaj Caliber, the rusting came up only after a couple of years.
The matte black kind of finish on the engine is pretty good, the same goes for the side/rear panels. The exhaust is covered with a silver kind of plate, which helps the beauty of the bike. The six spoke alloy wheels with factory fitted TVS tyres are good, but it could be better if other brands may be used. I did have a slippery grip during the rainy season.
Indicators are good, so do the rear brake lights. Number plates are set in a visible area, just below the headlight on the front and at the rear; it is placed in such a way that, it is easy to add the detachable rear fender easily. The rear shock absorber is painted in light golden colors and having the spring/coils in black, adds to the beauty.
Electrical and Instrumentation
RTR has a pretty neat no non-sense dashboard which houses digital speedometer and an analogue tachometer. The digital speedometer console itself houses the digital clock, the fuel gauge, the speedometer, the odometer, the trip meter A & B, the high speed indicator and the shortest time indicator! Phew, so much in a single console. Having two trip meters has many advantages, like set meter A to get the mileage and meter B to count the distance covered.
Fuel gauge/indicator is faulty or not showing the exact amount of fuel left in the tank. The tachometer console houses the tachometer/rpm counter, the fuel warning indicator, the service reminder indicator and the battery charge indicator. It also has the TVS racing logo imprinted on it. Below the digital speedometer lies the high beam indicator, the neutral indicator and the turn signal indicator.
On the left handle bar, it has the horn, turn signal switch, pass by switch, head lamps dim/bright switch and the choke lever. On the right handle bar, it has the electric start switch, head lamp switch and the engine cut off switch. The ignition type is dual mode digital ignition with a bosch twin electrode spark plug. The headlamp is halogen 35/35W and the park/position lamp is 4W. The signal lamp is 10W and number plate lamp (rear) is 4W. Tail/brake lamp is 0.5/3.5W. The quality of switch gears is very good and none of them is having a pointed edge, so it will be smooth on your fingers.
Having a self start option, the battery must be maintained to its optimum. In all these days, I did not have any glitches in starting up the machine in a single press. Be it in the morning, when the engine is cold or be it at the time when the engine is warm after a ride. I usually use the kick start option in the morning and for the rest of the day use the self start option. In that way you can maintain the self starting motor & battery to its optimum and will not forget to kick start the bike, in case battery goes down!
Comfort and Handling
RTR seating position is slightly forward, meaning you cannot ride it in a spine-straight/upward postion (unless your are nearly or more than six feet tall). Having an average height I am comfortable with the forward slanting riding position. It gives you a feeling that you are going to race. The length and width of the seat provide ample space for both the driver and pillion rider. The cushion is not of top notch quality but average. The showroom people put up a seat cover, which adds nothing more to the cushion feeling.
When I removed and inspected the seat cover the showroom guys provided, it was just a leather cover with no cushioning underneat it. So I discarded it althogether.
RTR has telescopic oil damped shocks at the front and gas filled shocks at the rear. The rear shock is of 5 step adjuster, so you can set it to your liking. Riding through the poth ridden road, it absorbs most of the shocks, but if you ever fall into a heavy poth hole or just cut through the point where the new tarring meets the old tarring of the road, the front portion give a loud thud sound! The ground clearance is only 165mm, so be careful while riding with the pillion. The cowl/engine-fairing may kiss the road, on some humps and poth holes.
Having a wheel base of 1326mm, the bike is quite steady at lower as well as higher speeds. Nobody other can match the cornering ability of this one. If you a ride a Pulsar 180 and then a RTR 180, you can definitely feel the difference. The factory fitted TVS Srichackra is not so comfortable when riding in rainy days. On dry surface the grip is really very good, but that feeling goes off, when you ride in the rain/ wet surfaces.
The front tyre is having a size of 90/90 and rear tyre is having a size of 110/80, which translates to great grip and confidence. The wheels are light weight alloys, so it helps in reducing the overall weight of the vehicle (around 140kgs with full tank) without compromising on the safety aspect. TVS did a good job on that front.
Engine and Transmission
RTR 180 is built around the same platform as other Apaches and hence share the same 4 stroke, air cooled, single cylinder OHC with 62.5mm bore and 57.8mm stroke. The piston displacement is 177.4 cc having 2 valves. The compression ratio is 9.5:1. The maximum power is 17.3 bhp @ 8500rpm and the maximum torque is 15.5Nm @ 6500rpm, all enclosed in a Mikuni BS-29 carburetor. Being a carburetor version, we can tune it to our liking unlike the FI machines. Utmost care is to be taken while tuning the carburetor, if something goes wrong, the bike is dead or sluggish in performance.
I rode the RTR very carefully during the run-in period. I did not go more than 50 kmph nor did any sudden acceleration/braking and other such stuff. I rode it normally through the traffic engaging gear changes on long stretches so that engine can set in. Home to Office distance is around 22km and it is pretty near to 50-50 city-highway road. RTR is a rev happy machine, you can open the throttle and overtake or attain speed without any hiccups.
The engine is mated with a 5 speed gearbox which is smooth, the only problem being the shifter having only the toe option. So be careful while wearing a shoe which is light especially made of leather. As the bike is designed from Racing Throttle Response (RTR), no matter which gear you are in, you can turn the accelerator and fly. Once on a level road, I was able to come down to as low as 24 kmph in top gear and was able to climb back to 70kmph in a matter of seconds! The engine note said that it was not complaining but demanding more! The top speed that I was able to achieve is 121 kmph and the manual/spec says it is 124 kmph! So I was just short of 3kmph in touching what the manual said.
At night time, the headlights are powerful enough both in the dim and bright modes. One interesting factor that I noticed when I use bright light is, whenever I am passing through smoke/fog like conditions, two rays which seems to originate from the parking light bulb position, goes straight up into the open sky! The light falling area is also pretty good; you can avoid the potholes and humps.
Performance and Braking
17.3 bhp of raw power is more than enough for our city road conditions. To use the full power you have to ride in the highways or ride at mid-night (I am not mentioning cities like Mumbai or Delhi, but my own city which starts sleeping by the time clock stuck 11PM). When you are starting from a standstill and raring to go, the bike keeps up to your expectation. If your open up the throttle, it responds without a glitch and before you think that you have reached the maximum, the bike still gives a feeling like it can be pushed more.
But if you have a pillion rider, be warned, it will not perform like it used to be. That is because of high power to weight ratio. Now coming to the most often discussed part – vibrations. Yes, there is indeed vibrations creeping in, when speed hit above 50 and dies out when it reaches 70 kmph. But think about the bhp it packs, think about the performance it packs, think about the brakes it packs, then these vibration will not come to your mind. If TVS is able to tackle this issue, then I must say RTR 180 will become more desirable.
RTR 180 employs roto petal disc brakes for both front and the rear. Having 270mm at the front and 200mm at therear, the pint-sized work-horse is put to a full stop without any slippage. Be warned that if you apply brakes so hard, the bike may stop at the place, but the driver may be thrown off! Just kidding . But that is the way in which brakes are designed. If the tyres are Zapper ones, the braking may be improved and be of more precision. I am not sure about that aspect, but I am still using the stock tyres. But all these accuracy and full stops go away once you are in the rain or on wet conditions. But I think that is expected of disc brakes, in general.
Mileage and This & That
As I ride the bike through the city and through the highway, on my daily commute to office, I must say the fuel consumption figures are justified. If you ride the bike in a careful manner, like keeping the speed below 60 kmph and not changing the gears too often, not having a sudden acceleration/braking etc, it returned an average of 44-46 kmpl.
If ridden like a racing maniac (yes, I did so, to test the full capability of the bike), it returned an average of 38-40 kmpl. But I am riding somewhere between being sane and insane. The last time I check for an average, it returned me 43 kmpl. Phew! That is a good average figure for this racing horse. The tank capacity is 16 liters with 2.5 liters marked for reserve.
Some other minor things that I would like to point out are:
- RTR 180 has open chain, means, you have to maintain the chain in good condition. Clean it every two weeks and adjust it once in a month, to give a better performance.
- Make sure you are using the rear fender flap on a rainy season.
- Park the bike under the shades, if possible, on sunny days, as it may leave an after effect on your digital dashboard console.
- Service it once in two months, after you run out of service periods mentioned in the user manual.
I must say, TVS put in all the effort to bring out a good performance bike which an average user can depend, be it buying it or maintaining it. Despite having some shortfalls, my baby did not disappoint me even once. It is a cool bike to have a city commuting and weekend get aways. If you are a tall guy, look for other options, but if you are an average guy go for it.
- Style and Build Quality – 8/10
- Electrical and Instrumentation – 8/10
- Comfort and Handling – 8.5/10
- Engine and Transmission – 8/10
- Performance and Braking – 8.5 /10
- Mileage – 8/10
- Overall – 8/10