Bajaj Pulsar 135LS – Comprehensive Road Test

After a lot of speculations about the possible launch of XCD Sprint displayed in the previous Auto Expo, Bajaj finally launched it a few days back, albeit with few technical and cosmetic changes along with a totally different name. Countries largest selling premium bike brand, Pulsar, gets its smallest sibling in the form of a smaller 135cc engine and a new segment. After being awed by the bikes prospects, we took it for a spin and boy were we impressed?

Read on for a comprehensive road test and internal review of the brand new offering from Bajaj, the Pulsar 135 LS. Bajaj wanted to create an altogether a new Light Sports segment for the cadre of people who crave for a bike which is fast and agile along with being smart and good looking and the tag ‘LS’ stands just for that.

STYLING, BUILD AND DESIGN:

On the face of it, the bike does resemble Hero Honda Hunk especially from the front. The styling of the bike has many ‘firsts’ and innovations going behind it. Starting from the front, the bike gets an all new FZ reminiscent front headlamp stocked in a Hunk inspired fairing. The headlamp has been stacked between two separate panels which are smartly placed at a slight distance (from the headlamp) and a conical shaped pointed smaller windshield. The headlamp sports a 35 Watt bulb and Pulsar ala twin pilot lamps on either side. And for the first time, a Pulsar would sport a different looking tank since its inception in 2001. The tank is much smaller in shape, size and capacity but probably the only Bajaj in India with a pretty good knee recess. If this is done actually as a result of the constant feedbacks or this is an outcome of a new design, we don’t know, but if it’s the former, Bajaj has come of age! The existing bigger Pulsars tanks are one of the best looking ones along with the worst knee recess among all the bikes in India. Apart from the zipper scratch guard on the tank (borrowed from the bigger siblings) the other design elements include gray colored company logo sticker along with Pulsar written in trademark fashion. The tank also sports smart looking plastic tank shrouds with the USP of the bike, ‘4 valve’ stickers, gleaming on them. The smallest sibling in the Pulsar family also comes loaded with step seats which have become quite a rage among the masses.

The bike gets black cum silver theme (with an all black theme saved for a future upgrade probably!). The engine is silver in color but gets a smart looking black colored head along with black colored alloy wheels, front forks, rear shock absorbers and a smallish leg guard. The exhaust has also gone through a diet and has lost quite a lot of its dimensions! It is a whole lot smaller in size with a chrome plated heat shield with the patented ‘Exhaustec’ embossed on it. Here comes the most eye catching feature for this bike, chopping off of a ‘typical’ rear mud guard. In place the rear has just got a number plate and a reflector. However, in compliance with our government’s rules and regulations, Bajaj has smartly used a tire hugger and an innovative saree guard which does spoil the looks of the bike a little. But sans the hugger, the bike would look sportier. The bike comes loaded with five spoke alloys wheels, conical shaped side indicators from the XCD family, stylishly pointed rear view mirrors and ‘better than bigger Pulsars’ split grab rails which are also functional! It also gets beautifully crafted silver clip on handlebars which again look better and are more comfortable. We expect (or at least wish) this set to replace the age-old looking clip ons on the bigger Pulsars. The side panels have been kept silver in color no matter what colored bike it is and the rear panels get the ‘135 LS’ sticker. In order to give the bike as sporty a look as possible, Bajaj has done almost every possible practical thing which also includes a toe-only gear shifter.

Overall design and styling of the bike is in keeping with the target segment and lest we said it, looks fantastic and fresh! Build quality of the bike is top notch and does exude quality; however there is a slight room for improvement in the engine’s outer skin build quality.

STYLING, BUILD & DESIGN- 8.5/10

ENGINE, TRANSMISSION AND PERFORMANCE:

In this section we will talk about the most important aspect of this bike, its engine. A four stroke air cooled 134.66cc engine does duty on this bike which produces a class leading power output of 13.5 PS which peaks at a high 9000 rpm along with an impressive 11.4 Nm of torque which maxes at 7500 rpm. This bike comes laden with India’s first indigenously developed 4 valve engine! Coupled with the patented DTSi, this bike is the world’s first and only 4 valve DTSi bike. The engine is a newly developed all aluminum unit which propels efficiency standards. The fuel is supplied through a 26mm venturi Ucal Mikuni carburetor. Now comes the question what is this tech-talk all about and what difference does it make to a normal layman? We answer them in true BikeAdvice user friendly language.

Almost all Indian bikes are designed with 2 valves, 1 intake and 1 outlet. A general 2 valve engine has only one-third combustion chamber head area covered by valves. However, Pulsar 135 LS’s engine has 2 intake and 2 exhaust valves which improve the overall combustion of fuel inside. A four valve engine increases the chamber head area covered to more than 50 percent and the overall geometry enhances the breathing characteristics of the engine which ensures much better burning of the fuel resulting in better performance, increased mileage and lower harmful gases. Also, 4 valve engines can be revved to higher rpms easily which enhances the pleasure of riding a bike extracting more than a similar 2 valve engine. Cutting it short, the 4 valve arrangement is the best and most optimum layout keeping all the three prime most factors, power, performance and fuel efficiency in mind and the good part is that this is an indigenously developed Indian unit and probably the second only to Yamaha YZF R15 in terms of technicalities it has been born with.

Coming back to the practical world we would talk about the on-road real differences what a 4 valve engine does to the characteristics of a bike. At the very first ride we were clear about the difference. Because of the 4 valve powertrain the overall performance figures for the bike looked better, the lower end and the mid range felt raw and punchy along with a smooth top end. As a matter of fact the bike does 60 kmph from standstill in around 5 and half seconds which put a few 150ccs to shame. The build from naught is impeccable and goes all the way till 75kmph where the smaller cubic capacity parameter starts coming to play and the bike starts losing out. It takes close to 18 seconds for the bike to cross the triple digits on the speedo. The top end which we could achieve was an astounding 119-120 kmph on the speedo which would be close to 110 kmph in the real world (after speedo errors). Rattling the performance figures of some bigger bikes, this bike boasts off a lovely power to weight ratio of 110.6 ps/ton along with its extremely (efficient) low weight of 122 kilograms. These figures are also boosted by the rev limiter which cuts in at higher 10500 rpm. We must acknowledge the fact that Bajaj deserves a pat on the back for keeping weight under control and deriving these sorts of performance figures from such a small engine. Throttle response at any rpm is linear and the bike pulls effortlessly from 25 kmph in the 5th gear without a single fuss with a solo rider. With a heavy pillion, this bike does lose out on these parameters but that’s acceptable considering the small capacity of the engine and the limit of operation it is confined to.

However, we did feel a little harsher engine as compared to the earlier XCD 135, especially at higher RPMs, but this bike has a lot of potential. The overall feel good factor is further enhanced by a slick 5 speed gearbox with 1 down 4 up pattern. Only at a very few instances we were caught stuck else the overall feel was decent, however, the FCC Riko enclosed clutch which does duty on the bigger Pulsar 220 DTSi, would have made a world of good to this bike.

ENGINE TECHNOLOGY & PERFORMANCE – 9.5/10
ENGINE, TRANSMISSION – 7.5/10

CHASSIS, HANDLING AND DYNAMICS:

For the first time, Bajaj has used the engine as the stressed member in the box section chassis on a Pulsar since their advent in 2001. All the other Pulsars use a double cradle frame whereas a single downtube frame does duty on this bike. It also gets a newly engineered rectangular rear swing arm which has made a world of good to this bike. Also, at 1325mm this bike has a longer wheelbase, 5mm more than its elder sibling Pulsar 150 (1320mm). The front suspension is telescopic with antifriction bush which has a max travel of 130mm. The rear suspensions are Hydraulic cum gas filled five step adjustable Nitrox shock absorbers. Pulsar 135LS also sports fat 17 incher 100/90 tire at the rear and 2.75 at the front both of which are tubed type unidirectional MRF Nylogrip Zappers.

All these factors ensure that this bike handles superbly on any type of a terrain. Especially in cities it handles fantastically well and zipping through the traffic is a breeze majorly because of its immensely low weight and beautiful maneuverability despite a long-ish wheelbase. Another worth mentioning point is the bikes handling characteristics while cornering. It feels fairly planted and reassuringly confident even on high speed sharp corners. It helps both for fun and while emergency sharp turns. The bike doesn’t feel as stable and planted on highways at high speeds especially when a heavy truck zips past you at a fiery pace. The bike looses a lot of poise because of its lower weight and more emphasis on the city characteristics while it’s designing. Overall dimensions of the bike are 1995 mm * 765mm * 1045mm (length * width * height) and the ground clearance of this bike is also impressive at 170mm high which keeps the demonic speed breakers longing for kissing this bikes bottom. The way Bajaj has managed to keep the weight of the bike under control is worth an applaud and all the efforts put by the company while designing this bikes frame clearly reap huge dividends and we are set to witness some fine engineering from Bajaj on the whole fleet pretty soon.

CHASIS & HANDLING: 7.5/10

ELECTRICALS AND INSTRUMENTATION:

The bike comes loaded with typical Bajaj digital goodies. To name a few, the speedometer is orange lit digital with big bold digits taking the center stage. The console also displays Fuel gauge, a tripmeter and a round digital type tachometer with analog display which has been marked red from 10k rpm signaling to the rider about the possible engine hazard. The console also has the regular side indicator lights along with the neutral green ‘N’. Switches are top notch and are borrowed directly from the Pulsar 220.

The right side finds place for an engine kill switch, headlights and the self start button. The left side has a pass switch, upper dipper switch, indicator and the horn switch. The fit and finish of the switchgear is top notch with a fantastic feel to all the switches. The rear view mirrors are also mounted on the handlebar which have a big span of the rear and do their job perfectly. The headlamp, as mentioned, is 35 watt and the bike comes with a 12 Volt 5Ah battery. The whole setup is DC which supplies a constant illumination and ensures that the rider doesn’t get dim even when the bike is at low revs. The electric start is standard on this bike and does have an option of kick start for ‘battery-going-kaput’ conditions.

ELECTRICALS & INSTRUMENTATION: 8/10

MILEAGE AND BRAKING:

A lot has been talked about the super performance of this bike and it must have created that sense of feeling in our readers minds by now that this bike would be less frugal. But let us stun you with this bike’s double sided skins. This bike would run anything above 60 kilometers before guzzling down a liter of fuel on typical Indian city riding conditions. These figures would further increase as the road becomes long with lesser gear changes. On the highways this bike would return anything above 70 kmpl. Considering the blistering performance of this bike (and high power figures), these figures surely reveal the advantage of using 4 valves over two! With a fuel tank capacity of 8 liters (which is slightly on the lower side), a full tank fuel would last for a span of close to 500 kms before the bike would thirst for more.

Bajaj has ensured that they give no chance to the buyer to neglect or overlook this bike. The front 240mm diameter discs from the Pulsar 150 find way onto this bike and the rear are regular 130mm mechanical expanding shoe (drum) brakes. This braking setup along with low weight of the bike acts as a boon for its stopping capabilities. Added to it, MRF Zappers ensure that you skid no inch under sudden braking. The feel of the braking is also sweet and doesn’t allow the bikes rear to dance.

MILEAGE & BRAKING: 8.5/10

BIKEADVICE VERDICT:

We have this habit of overestimating the price tag for things which show us all, make us excited and are fantastic products. BUT this bike comes at an on road price of less than 57k on road Pune which makes it one of the best Value for Money prospect in the market. The better proportion lies in the fact that it encompasses bikes ranging from 50k all the way till 70k and dare we say; beat them in most of the better known areas! With the launch of this bike, Bajaj has created a new segment named as Light Sports. Pulsar 135 LS is aimed at two kinds of people. First, young college goers, who want to own something very stylish and powerful but do not have big bangs to spend either on upright purchase or the regular fuel requirements. Second, for commuters who have grown over those 97cc Honda engines and want something powerful, which, at the same time keeps a tab on the per kilometer consumption of money!

This bike is for everyone who spends most of the time on busy streets and wants a light and peppy bike which can take the heavy toll of zipping through congested roads and can be taken for weekend getaways with the closer ones astride. We call it a ‘winner in all departments’ from Bajaj and they specifically named it as Pulsar which would ensure that they get immense response from the crowd. For anyone considering a bike in this range, do give serious thoughts to this gem of a technical marvel from Bajaj which by any standards and measures outperform its rivals in many of the measurable factors.

BIKEADVICE OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10

– Saad Khan

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