Hey guys, Gautam here. I would first of all like to thank Deepak Raj for founding Bike Advice. There are very few people who think about a solution instead of cribbing about the problem, and Deepak Sir, you are among the previous ones.
Secondly, I would like to thank all my friends who encouraged me in all aspects right from making a decision to get a bike uptil writing a long pending review.
Thirdly I would like to thank xBhp and its members for inspiring me to inculcate safe riding practices.
As a kid, I have always been fond of 2 wheelers. I had a moderately good cycling career considering that most of my extended family members think that anything with less than 3 wheels are dangerous. A major motivator for my purchasing a bike was a middle aged uncle who owned a bullet. Every morning he would come out, say a quick 10sec prayer in front of the bike, kickstart it to life and after 3-4 reassuring revs, he would roar away.
This had a deep impact on the way I looked at all vehicles and also made me want a motored 2 wheeler for my growing appetite. Geared/non geared it just didn’t matter; I just wanted to get my hands on one of them. But I was forced to wait till I was 18. So in 2007 october, I started to learn to riding on a HH Splendor with the help of my friend.
The Hunt Begins
As a meticulous planner, I started looking for my first bike in a very organized and well documented manner. The contenders were oh-so-common Bajaj Pulsar 180, the ultra smooth Honda Unicorn and the unsung Hero Honda CBZ X-treme. But wait. How come there is no RTR in the list when the review itself is about a RTR? That’s because in the primary research stages, I got replies like “Apache mat le, baccho ki bike hai”, “Paise zyada ho gaye kya jo RTR pe barbaad karne chala hai?”, “TVS Apache? no man…that’s a complete failure”.
Coming back to my list, even after repeated attempts, my adrenal glands collectively gave their judgement for all the 3 bikes by simply refusing to pump any adrenalin for any of them. With Pulsar, it was the commonness, Unicorn was too middle aged and X-treme didn’t give good mileage. Now? What next?
The First Encounter
It was time for submission of my engineering’s first semester’s term work. One day while going to college, I absent mindedly forgot a carry bag in the bus. After walking 10-15 paces away from the stop, suddenly realizing what I had done, I ran back to the bus stop and immediately started asking for lifts from bikers/car owners.
After 4-5 bikes, finally a black RTR stopped and while getting onto it, I grimaced for a slight moment recalling all the comments heard before. What bad luck! I lost my 6months’ hard work by forgetting that bag and the one bike that stops to help me is an whoooaa. That was the moment when the bike took off! And the next 5 mins and 5-6 kms that passed, made me- for the first time in that panick stricken state- think and consider the possibility of all this being a dream!
Because the way the bike (and the rider) went was totally surreal. That entire day I kept thinking about how everyone’s opinion was so wrong and prejudiced. I came back home, immediately googled Apache, and after 2-3 clicks everything made sense. It was almost everything I had desired. Even its television ads were awesome! Not like the dumb mindless ads that are aired nowadays. No offence.
I was almost ready to book the carb RTR but then one day in November 2007, I saw the a post with leaked pictures of next RTR variant, the RTR Fi. And when I saw those pictures, my adrenals finally started pumping adrenalin. I was simply floored! Man o man, it looked like something from another world esp with the tank extensions and the blue console light.
The Ultra Cool Blue Lcd
I thought really hard and finally decided to wait. But little did I know that TVS would delay it with a good 8 months and release it in early august 2008! That’s 8 whole months of restlessness, jealousy, frustration, anger, punches to pillows/walls/benches/tables/keyboard/, confusion, hope, grit, patience, impatience, arguments, near decision changes, self suggestions, self motivations, speculations, rumours, almost confirmed rumours, announcements, postponements and finally sheer disappointment.
I had almost lost trust in TVS, when in July 1st week, news started pouring in that RTR-Fi had been finally launched. I swear I heard victory tunes playing in my mind. Even though the OTR price was coming to Rs. 75,000 my parents didn’t mind esp after seeing my past 8 months’ ordeal. So finally I booked a matt grey RTR Fi on 5th sept 2008. And within 10 days, finally on 15th sept, I went to the showroom with my friend and brought it home.
First Pic Ever With Me And My Storm
Looking back at the day when I fell in love with the RTR and looking at my bike’s personality, I have named my bike as The Storm.
That’s exactly what it is…a storm. It thunders like a storm, runs like a storm, it’s aggressive like a storm, leaves everything in dust behind just like a storm and to top all that it’s grey like a storm! Now coming to the actual review part.
It is said that if you love something, then you shouldn’t ‘look’ for its good things and bad things instead simply accept it the way it is. But living in the real world, you have to recognize your rivals and face the truths no matter how bitter or sweet they may be.
In this review, I would be simultaneously comparing my bike with its main contenders: Bajaj Pulsar 180, Hero Honda CBZ X-treme and Yamaha FZ-16. I mention Pulsar 180 because normal carburettor version of RTR can easily beat P150 and with the Fi only the Pulsar 180 gives it a tough competition.
Some of you may be wondering that how come I didn’t consider FZ-16 in my top 3 list. That’s because FZ-16 was launched near about the same time when RTR Fi happened to launch. Also, in addition to a review, I would like the readers to look at this as a 3 year and 20,000kms durability report. So here it goes
Everyone (even the ones who don’t accept it) wants their bikes to look good. I basically like semi/quarter faired bikes. The trademark centerline of the RTR has been chopped up into forward facing arrows to enhance its appeal and tank extensions are added to give extra muscle to the bike. The rear split grab rails and LED brake lamp cluster are carried over from RTR series which are a defining statement in themselves.
The rear view mirrors, the belly pan and blue backlit LCD console deserve a special mention in this category. RTR Fi was the first bike to offer blue LCD and data logging along with a clock. The entire console consists of the following parts:-
Blue backlit console containing- Digital odometer, 2 digital trip meters, digital fuel indicator bar, 12/24hr clock, digital speedometer, 0-60 shortest time logger and a top speed logger.
Tachometer console containing- Analog tachometer till 12 k RPM, Malfunction indicator, Fuel warning indicator, Service reminder and battery charge indicator lamp.
In addition there is a lamp each for Hi beam indicator, turn indicator and neutral indicator. And for controlling the blue LCD display, there are 2 buttons namely “Set” and “Mode’ which work in various combinations to provide access to anything that you may need.
Durability report: In the 3 years that I have spent with my Storm, the tachometer/speedometer assembly has been changed twice, once because I had a really nasty accident and second time due to poor quality of the replaced assembly. The tachometer needle’s pivot point used to get dislocated at high revs.
Broken Speedo Needle
The solution that I got from the service centre for 4-5 months was gluing the needle to its pivot point with fevistick until finally with the help of my friend and contacting a senior TVS engineer, they agreed to replace the meter under warranty. Another thing I would like TVS to improve on is the paint quality in that the paint gets really flaky after some time and chips off easily.
Keeping in sync with the general aim of making the RTR a race track machine, the posture is made aggressive with low slung handlebars, rearset footrests and forward weight bias. Some people feel that the the already rearset footrests should have been even more rearset for perfect ergonomics. They may be correct in the own rights but for a guy like me who is 5’11”, I think the ergonomics are just right for city riding.
General Body Posture
Not as good as the FZ, but just right. But for long rides, some may want to get down every 1-2 hours or so and stretch your back a bit. I really envy the CBZ Xtreme and the Pulsar in this case. A major drawback for all RTRs in the ergonomics department is the infamous vibration. I have lost a helmet to this problem when my friend had tied it to the saree guard instead of wearing it.
My Previous Helmet
It is said that the cause for this is in the very nature of RTRs, which is that they are rev happy short stroke engines. To worsen this situation, these vibrations appear in the 4-7k RPM range in which the max power and torque is delivered.
Durability Report: In the ergonomics department, although I have learnt to live with them long ago, I only had complaints regarding the vibrations. They have been on a constant rise and make their presence felt in almost the entire RPM range now. They continue to harass pillion riders and I wonder what strategy TVS is playing by not giving rubber dampeners to the pillion footrests in RTR 180 bikes.
The clip-on handlebars are the first things that come to my mind when talking about design. Depending on where and how you are riding, you can adjust the clip-ons angle to suit your needs.
Also if you compare it with other bikes mentioned above, the RTR’s handle bars are really low relative to the rider seat height helping the rider to crouch when needed. Coming to the chassis/frame, the Double cradle synchro Stiff chassis is arguably one of sturdiest frame types. Even the Pulsars have the same construction. The Fz-16 and the Xtreme however consist of diamond frames.
Double Cradle Chassis
In the suspension dept, the RTR shares the same technology upfront ie telescopic front fork setup, with the other three contenders. But in the rear, the Fz-16 goes a step ahead with its superior monoshock suspension compared to the twinshock suspension that exists in Fi, Pulsar and X-treme.
Rear And Front Suspensions
When talking about design, we can’t ignore the dimensions of the bike. RTR is more or less on par (maybe a little compact) with P180 and X-treme in dimensions with FZ being the smallest of all. The RTR proves its ability to take on corners and justifies its handling prowess by having the shortest wheelbase + smallest caster angle/trail length combo among all its competitors.
Durability report: It seems TVS’s R&D dept had to let go of some goodies to make the price compatible, yet they still deserve credit for their work. Apart from the expected rusting, I would only like to question the mounting angle of the rear brake pedal. The angle that your foot makes with the shin bone is so uncomfortably small that you will either end up holding your foot up resulting in muscle pain near shin bone or will end up pressing the rear brake pedal eating up your brake pads. Good thing that it is adjustable.
Engine and Gearbox
First let me give you a small introduction to the FI system- The FI (Fuel injection) is a method which directly replaces the standard carburetor and instead electronically controls the flow of fuel and injects the fuel molecules in a fine jet directly into the cylinder. Its main thinking unit is the ECU (Electronic Control Unit) and has other special components like Fuel pump assembly and Fuel filter.
When you start the bike, the ECU takes input signals from various sensors and directs the fuel pump to take appropriate amount of fuel from the fuel tank and pump it with the fuel injector unit into the cylinder through the fuel filter. The amount of fuel to be injected is decided by the ECU on basis of programmed logic. Also the first thing that you will notice in a Fi bike is the absence of fuel knob (or reserve knob).
Basic Sketch of FI Parts
Delphi’s Ecu Located Under the Seat
Now as much as I want to talk about each performance aspect, for the sake of simplicity, I’m leaving out the performance figures for you all to find out and compare. Talking in general terms, RTR Fi has the capability to beat all three bikes that I’m comparing to. It is after all meant to be a race machine. The P180 will no doubt beat the RTR in long stretches but in small stretches, the RTR (and even the FZ) can give a tough time to the P180. But at the crux of it, everything depends on the rider.
Coming to fuel efficiency stats, I have managed to get as high as 52kmpl in highway riding from my bike. Under normal “Stormy” riding, I usually get around 45kmpl in city. The worst I have gotten is 40kmpl which was during the initial stages of running in.
The gearboxes and clutching mechanism in all the four bikes under comparison are the same, universally accepted, inherently simple and space saving Constant mesh 5 speed gearboxes and Multiplate Wet type clutches. RTRs have a particularly clunky gearbox compared to other bikes but this can be bettered by using rev-friendly superior quality engine oils of Xw40 grade.
Durability Report: It is very difficult to achieve a balance of performance and long life and TVS has given a mighty nice attempt to get that. Although there are no troubles with the Fi system yet, but when the time comes it will just conk off without any warnings. That’s scares me a little. I have been able to touch 125kmph but off late, the top end has gone down to 116kmph. Apart from that, there are some oil leaks which are bothering me since past 1000kms and none of the TVS service centres have been able to solve it. Lastly, the tappets tend to get loose over time and need to be adjusted.
Tyres and Brakes
RTR Fi has TVS’s homemade tyres with 90/90-17 up front and 100/80-18 at the rear. Both the tyres are tube type, made of hard compound and cross ply type. The bigger wheel at the rear contributes in raising the rear thus helping in the bike’s forward weight bias. The wet grip really sucks. However the dry grip is satisfactory. It gets really scary when wet roads with dirt and gravel are encountered. In this area, I would rate the RTR lowest in comparison to other three bikes.
As for the brakes, they are superb in their own respect. Being the first bike to introduce rear disc in its class, the Fi really leaves no stone unturned in inspiring confident braking with 200mm and 270mm petal discs on the rear and front wheel respectively. So in the braking section, RTR faces a tough competition from the FZ but without doubt rules the other two.
Front and Rear Disk Brakes
Durability report: I encountered my first puncture, when the odo was just 200kms. Since then I have had total 3puntures in the front tyre and 7punctures in my rear tyre. The rear tube has been changed twice. I recently changed my rear tyre to Dunlop’s Geocruiser 110/90-18. As for the brakes, they have lost their crispness now after 20,000kms. But they do provide with enough stopping power nonetheless.
The RTR Fi comes with 9Ah Exide battery as stock -which is housed in the right side panel of the bike (with 2 spare fuses)- and runs on 12V electrical. The overall electrical are AC/DC ie headlights run on AC while brakes and indicator lights run on DC. The stock headlight comes with 35W halogen bulb and two pilot lamps of 4W each housed inside a reflector dome. While the reflector is excellent, the headlight is pretty dim compared to the light that other vehicles throw. The CBZ in comparison has sturdy electricals while FZ’s all DC electrical each score a point above the RTR in the lights.
Amaron 9Ah Battery
The switches are are arranged in the regular manner with upper/dipper switch, indicator switch, pass light switch and horn on the left handle bar while the engine kill switch, electric starter switch and headlamp ON/pilot lamp/headlamp OFF switches are on the right handle bar.
Left and Right Handle Bar Switches
Low & HI Beams and HI Beam with Car Passing By
Durability report: Headlights are okay. One of the pilot lamp wires have come loose and in my bike and to avoid asymmetry, I just removed the pilot lamps altogether. The switches (esp the pass light switch) develop rust in the inner parts and need to be regularly used to keep them in working condition. The exide battery died after 2.5 years. I replaced it with maintenance free Amaron battery having 2 years replacement + 2 years free repair warranty.
Toolkit and First Aid Kit
For those who like me to fiddle with their bikes or for emergency situations, TVS has provided a well equipped toolkit and first aid kit.
Toolkit Spread Out
Durability Report: The first aid kit got drenched in rain cone day so I had to throw it and I lost the original toolkit. But still I got a replacement toolkit.
Pros and Cons
- Firstly, due to precision ignition and measured fuel injection, the air fuel ratio (AFR) can now be more accurately tuned to needs which results in better performance and better fuel efficiency.
- Fantastic pick up thanks to RTR (Racing Throttle Response) technology.
- The RTR FI gives lower emissions and hence doesn’t have any catalytic converter (CatCon) in its exhaust. This results in an awesome firing sound without any modifications.
- Great handling and cornering ability due to low slung handlebars and sporty frame design.
- The fuel flow is completely controlled by ECU driven fuel pump which means no need of fuel lock.
- Excellent mileage figures in its class due to Fi system.
- Well equipped console esp with clock and malfunction indicator.
- Precise braking with front and rear petal discs.
- Ordinary mechanics can’t solve problems if something goes wrong with FI system.
- Vibrations, lots of it.
- Extraordinary carelessness may lead to FI components blowing up leading to damages running into thousands.
- Slightly steep pricing at Rs 75,000/-.
- Poor tyre quality.
- Tight throttle grip compared to Pulsars.
- No real spot to stuff the cleaning cloth.
Experience with TVS dealers and service centres: Ever since I bought my bike in sept 2008, the dealer has been constantly trying to escape from his after sales responsibility by acting unconcerned. Every time I go to the service centre with problem(s), the guys there either refuse to accept the problem, give some lame excuse or try to fix it in the easiest (not necessarily the right) way possible. The best way to solve an issue is to contact regional head engineers and managers and ask them to intervene.
Either way it is not n easy task to get things done in a TVS service centre, atleast in Mumbai. Since this is my first bike, I can’t comment on other service centre response but I sincerely hope that they are better than these dimwits.
Touring with the Storm: As a child, I always dreamt of owning a bulky cruiser bike and going for long rides. Well the cruiser has taken a back seat for now, but still the touring bug was something I could not get rid of. So as a part of xBhp biking community, I have made many likeminded friends and have gone on many group rides. I have prepared a short list below along with the distance travelled, month and year-
- First highway ride (1 day)- Ride to Karnala fort – 100kms round trip – June 2009
- Overnight ride to Kashid beach – 250kms round trip – August 2009
@ Kashid Beach
- Malshej ghat (1 day) – 350kms round trip – July 2010
- Mahabaleshwar ride via Pune and Panchwad (3 days) – 600kms round trip – July 2010
- Bhandardhara + Malshej ghat ride (1day) – 420kms round trip – October 2010
@ Bhandardhara Dam
- Trimbakeshwar (1 day ride) – 370kms round trip – October 2010
@ Backwaters of Upper Vaitarna Enroute Trimbakeshwar
On Kasara Ghats Coming Towards Mumbai
- Dudhani, Silvassa ride (1 day) – 400kms round trip – Jan 2011
- Ride to raigad fort, pavana lake and mulshi dam(1 day) – 400kms round trip – (October 2011)
After all these rides, I have little qualms about RTR’s touring ability. It does get heated quite soon but that doesn’t deter it from eating up miles on the highway. Not once did my Storm give up or let me down except for a couple of punctures. I have ridden it in the worst conditions imaginable (both on and off road) and it still goes on without any worries.
Value for Money: The definition of ‘value’ can differ from person to person. For me, it is a sturdy machine that I can identify with, offers me both performance and practicality in terms of fuel efficiency and lets me unleash the devil in me whenever I want to. And in that respect, I would say RTR Fi is a total VFM package offering me not only superb performance levels but also awesome fuel efficiency figures. After 2 mediocre and 1 major accidents, no matter how hard I try, I just can’t imagine my life without my Storm.
After the Accident
Me With My Storm Last Week
A word to the other riders: Before ending this long review, I would just like to appeal to each and every biker out there to respect your machine. Care for it as you would care for your loved ones. Even though it is just a machine, it has some limits and don’t exceed that for both you and your bike’s safety. Please think twice, thrice or as many times as it takes before fiddling with your bike.
This is for both you and your bike’s safety. I see people going for modifications just for show purposes without caring to even know about the consequences that it will have on their bikes. Take time out to know more about your bike and try to do small jobs by yourselves. The internet is there for whatever you need. Try it. It feels really good. Ride safe. Happy biking.
P.S. Comments and criticisms are always welcome. After all, without criticisms, growth is impossible. Do let me know what you think giving comments below.