It is that day of the year when the nation’s Who’s Who gather at the supposedly impregnable red bastion to let flow their oratorical skills, inundating us with oft repeated promises which we gullibly hope will be kept. It is that day of the year when failures are castised, feats are awarded. The nation’s achievements are glossed over, and shortcomings are duly swept aside.
Nevertheless, it isn’t expected of us to let flow our thoughts on such matters. What we can otherwise try to accomplish is to help you with your set of wheels. A Set of Wheels….hmm….a set of wheels has undergone unrecognisable transformation over the last decade-and-a-half. We seem to have successfully completed the transition from Fill It, Shut It, Forget It and crossed over to To Know The Unknown. Well, have we?? Or are we still bogged down by kickbacks from a time long past??
It isn’t only the ”To Know The Unknown” that is grabbing eyeballs, and stopping traffic. We have a Bad Hooligan along with another bike that was Defintely Male but appears to be coming with even more masculinity. Then we have a machine that is the almost the japanese equivalent for lightning, and another which has been popping its head up and down since long. Reports spoke of its last known developements coming from the direction of Indonesia. We had focused on all of these sometime back; you can check it out here.
THE DECADE THAT WENT BY:
Indian Motown is huffing and puffing towards motorcycle nirvana. In a country where most of the motorcycling knowledge is handed down from previous generations without the staunch backing of something on the lines of Motorcycle Safety Foundation Course that exists in some other contries, glaring gaps are bound to show up. Toss into the pot the spurious disregard for safety and a lack of a clear policy for licensing, and you will soon realise what cocktail you are staring at. We bring you a lookback into some watershed events that defined the last decade of motorcycling in India.
1. CBZ – IT ALL BEGAN WITH THIS (1999) :
Though there were bigger capacity motorcycles available in Indian before its advent, this bike should be duly credited for heralding the era of performance bikes in India. Featuring a sliding type carburetor for enhanced acceleration, the CBZ whipped up the desire for more speed in us Indians. This model enjoyed a good run for a few years, following which a facelifted version was released to boost sagging sales.
Few years later, a totally new CBZ Xtreme came which seemed to have lost the Mojo of the original CBZ. The bike continues to be sold as the Hero Xtreme now, but has been relegated to the sidelines. All it boasts of nowadays is a tall stance with easy handling character.
The defining acceleration and sporty character have been lost somewhere. A similar model called the Hunk also exists in Hero’s stables. It has a totally different image, being advertised as a tough, good-looking bike. It, however, shares the same powertrain.
A decade back, Definitely Male stormed onto our roads and unleashed Mania. It quickly captured our imagination, and has stayed put at the chart-topping position. Having encountered both biting criticism as well as a cult-style popularity, it has successfully endured an eventful decade. Pulsar can arguably be called the brand that was largely responsible for prodding us to get away from the slow, frugal machines and swing a leg over bigger and faster bikes.
It has undergone many transformations in its lifetime. Over the years, it has shed its chubbiness and has acquired a meaner stance as well as a sharper profile. The horn still remains awe-inspiring, though it has undergone tweaks to sound different. A noticeable change has been the altering of the gear ratios to bid goodbye to the blinding acceleration of the first-gen Pulsars in exchange for better top whack. Engine note has also stayed pretty same, with a waspish tone at low revs to a meaty growl as the needle climbs higher.
The Pulsars have also been referred to as the Wolves, probably because of their pilot lamps. When the Pulsar 200 NS came, it ended up being called Naked Wolf. It has been the medium of resurgence for the brand Pulsar. It has looked to saying goodbye to the wrinkles that lay in the image of earlier Pulsars. The brand continues to soldier on, unabashed. Two new Pulsars are all set to be introduced this year. While one of them could be the much vaunted P375, the other one’s whereabouts remain doubtful.
Fighter Aircrafts have been an inspiration to this bike from one of the well-recognised auto manufacturers from India. The early adverts featured none other than our Greek God Hrithik Roshan chasing a jet (Or was he being chased??).
Nevertheless, the front section of the bike does carry a semblance to that of an aircraft. Though the rear part could have been sharper, and the rear tyre wider. Some of the wishes could be fulfilled though, as Hero is probably testing some mules of their flagship brand near Dharuhera.
It can safely be termed as one of the most successful bikes of India. The old design still sells along with the newer one, albeit with a few niptucks like clear lens indicators. The newer design, the Karizma ZMR, also featured Hrithik. He was seen weathering a storm on the bike supposed to be Above All. Karizma is recognized for its relaxed 223 cc mill that can allow the bike to cruise easily at highway speeds. The fairing does a decent job of staving off the windblast, and the seating position is comfy enough for the bike to be called a tourer. The older design features a quarter-fairing and has a semi-digital console. The ZMR, however, is fully clothed and sports full digital instrumentation.
Though TVS might have had planned to topple the Pulsar with this bike, they probably have missed the mark. Nevertheless, this bike is easily one of the most talked-about bikes, thanks to the oodles of character it possesses. The first ones came with analog readouts, and a proprietary technology called IE SURGE 150. The mill being used was actually an overbore of the one that propelled the Suzuki Fiero forward.
Though it isn’t clear from when exactly did the Beast moniker come upon the Apache, it seems the exhaust grunt is responsible for that impression. Other than that, things don’t reinforce the Beast tag. The front forks look weedy, and the rear tyre skinny. A bit of muscle has been injected into the Apache’s latest iteration in the form of excessively flared out tank flaps and well chiseled out rear-cowl panels.
Even the headlamps look the meanest with the DRL strips, but quite surprisingly the Apache fans are demanding a rollback to the previous edition. We would like to have this in our garage, though. Defining nimbleness and agility make for a good experience, and the overbore mill lets out wild acceleration as the revs build up quickly. It is also one of the few bikes that are offering ABS as standard factory fitment.
John Abraham is often the butt of Bollywood jokes. However, he seems tailormade for what Yamaha wants to project as an image. Tough, uncompromising, powerful and technically advanced are some of the attributes that seem fit for Yamaha.
Their clinical assault began with the introduction of the agile YZF R15. Embodying the qualities of track honed steeds, it was the perfect foil for the performance enthusiast. It was the next level for Indians to move to. Pulsar might have brought power to the masses, but it had its glitches. And so began the pitched battle.
The YZF R15 has often shown the ability to breathe down the necks of bigger Pulsars. Sporting a neat, aerodynamic shell with a fuel-injected mill ensconced in it, this bike is the blend of killer looks with brilliant performance. The price may be high, but is justified. The second iteration of the YZF R15 came with even dashing looks. The inspiration from R6 was quite visible, making it a treat for the eyes. It still remains one of the most desired bikes in India.
Another workhorse for Yamaha has been the muscular FZ series. We get to see changes in paint schemes on this bike more often than not, with the latest being a Battle Green livery. However, it is a looker and plays second fiddle to the YZF R15 impeccably. The first offering came as the FZ-16, and was unlike anything we had seen before on our roads. The design theme has been lapped up generously by other manufacturers ever since. The second offering came in the name of FZ-S, and cost around a few grand more just for the addition of a windshield and few different colour options.
Fazer is the full-faired sibling of the “Street Lord Siblings“, and obviously the priciest. The mills are tuned for low-end grunt, making them a hoot to ride within city limits. More comfort is added due to the inclusion of a monoshock as well as a fat radial at the rear. Of late, Yamaha has been beset by stagnation. They have been busy with the Ray, though.
It could be considered as an attempt by Honda to shore up its image after the proximity to Munjal group (Hero) and its dilly-dallying with scooters and underpowered bikes led to a decline. And it seems to have done exactly that.
Though we had a Very-Green quarter-litre bike resting on the floors of Probiking showrooms, it wasn’t a familiar sight on our roads. Nevertheless, it was considered world over as the best learner bike. Out came the Honda CBR 250R, and began making deep incursions into Ninja’s territory. So much that it forced Kawasaki to bring out a 300 cc version of the Ninja.
The CBR 250R can thus be considered to be the true maverick behind the jump in preferred displacement from 150cc to 200+ cc bikes. Though it bore the CBR tag, it seemed to have more in common with VFR. It is a mile muncher in the true sense, with Honda’s in-house PGM-Fi technology also pitching in for a good fuel efficiency. The bike has garnered up decent attention as well as sales, and also offers ABS as an option. We also have at our disposal a 150 cc,approximate 17 bhp CBR 150R that followed quite some time after the launch of its quarter-litre elder sibling.
It can be termed as the turn of the decade, as the motorcycling arena saw a few major upheavals. Two naked bikes burst into the scene, and have dominated the proceedings so far. Bajaj, along with its Austrian Ally KTM, ushered in two 200 cc bikes which could even give the CBR 250R a run for its money. One of them looked beefy, the other quite eccentric.
Both occupy different ends of the spectrum, though. The Pulsar 200 NS is considered a more en-masse variant in the face of the more exclusive 200 Duke. The mills have shared origins, and churn out power in excess of 20 PS. Frankly, these bikes have taken the motorcycling scene and have turned it on its head.
Bajaj-KTM have been carrying their strikes forward, and this was a much anticipated one. After the brilliant response to the 200 Duke, the 390 Duke was very much on the wishlist of many aficionados. Pure power, sheer adrenaline rush….all these define the KTM 390 Duke.
The nation probably roared in joy when the introductory price of 1.80 lakhs for the KTM 390 Duke was let out. It was the much needed respite for a nation that has been hampered by a lack of choices. True, the nation still lacks a lot in infrastructure (Potholed Roads) and safety culture. Higher capacity bikes may not solve these problems, but they can definitely set the tone for it.
As India moves towards being a motorcycling haven, pitched battles keep being fought in the scenario. The Indian manufacturers have to be given their due, as they have managed to reinvent the wheel and have beld ground even in the face of increasing competition. They are looking to spread their wings, with Hero making inroads into Latin America and African. TVS isn’t far behind, with it carving paths in the African continent.
ARE WE INDEPENDENT ??
The nation still remains cooped up in the image of a developing motorcycle market. On this Independence day, let us ask ourselves : “Are we bikers really independent?? “
Do we have the freedom of choice ?? Are we pushed inward by the limited maneuvering space that we have ?? When looking for lower prices, we are probably forced to bid goodbye to quality. And looking for so-called quality ends up breaking our banks. Don’t we need more instances of KTM 390 Duke/Ford EcoSport to attain true independence in these turbulent times of volatile economic conditions as well as hydrocarbon prices??