It was all a matter of commuting from one place to another a few years ago. And then we saw the emergence of two of the most promising companies from India, TVS lead by Venu Srinivasan and Bajaj lead by Rahul Bajaj which changed the whole scenario and the mindset of an average Indian. They changed the very outlook of daily commuting to fun riding. Now what matters more to the enthusiasts is not just the travel from one place to another, but ‘How’ does it takes place. Both the companies have one thing in common; one product brand got them going. Pulsar did it for Bajaj, Apache did it for TVS. And without doubt both the bikes remain trendsetters and the very best in their respective worlds.

Bajaj Pulsar 180 2009

The best part about these companies is, unlike some better known bigger Japanese manufacturers, they believe in giving value to the customer for a single penny spent by them. After strengthening its sales in the 150cc segment with the ohh-so-fast Apache 160 RTR, TVS has launched a direct assault to Bajaj’s long term horse Pulsar 180, in the form of Apache RTR 180. The difference between these two bikes is the fact that Apache 180 is an upgraded version of Apache 160 whereas the Pulsar 180 seems to borrow much of its tidbits from the bigger sibling, the Pulsar 200 DTSi. We compare both of these spearheads, heads-on for our readers to enable them take an informed decision if they are caught in a fix between these two ‘quite similar yet differently character-ed’ machines.

TVS Apache RTR 180

Flash back three four years ago and all we saw was Bajaj ruling the performance roost single handedly with the help of their Pulsar 150 and Pulsar 180 siblings. Enter the Apache and its various iterations and have Bajaj mulling over what to do next? Though, Apache has not been to beat Bajaj in terms of sheer sales, but the least they have done is keep Bajaj at their toes. They have just not let Bajaj relax and sit pretty with the performance king title. Despite a few legal hiccups between these two companies, they have managed to keep their cool and play sportively. Read on for a comprehensive comparo between these two machines.

Engine: Apache now comes loaded with a 177.4cc 4 stroke air cooled single cylinder SOHC 2 valve mill which is a bored out version of the 160cc mill with a longer stroke. The engine remains an oversquare unit, similar to the 160. The bore and stroke of the new bike is 62.5 mm and 57.8 mm. The new bike is now capable of producing a peak power of 17.3 PS of power output, up by 1.9PS and the power comes at the same 8500 RPM of the 160. Peak torque of the bike is now up by 2.4 units to a handsome 15.5 NM and is produced at 500 rpm over the RTR 160 at 6500 rpm. The engine breathes through the big Mikuni BS-29 carburetor.

Coming to the latest Pulsar 180 2009 edition, a lot has changed in it from its earlier version. The bike has the same 178.6cc 4 stroke air cooled single cylinder SOHC 2 Valve mill which produces an enhanced output of 17.02 PS at 8500 rpm. Bore and stroke remains 63.5 mm and 56.4 mm respectively. Maximum torque is reduced by 1 NM to 14.22 NM from 15.2 NM of the earlier version and only Rahul Bajaj knows the reason for this! The reduction is very much feel-able in this bike. The moment you ride this bike, it feels a bit less torquey than its previous iteration. The bike breathes through the UCD 29 carburetor.

But it a worth mentioning point here, that TVS has still not been able to do away with the vibrations issue completely in this bike. The vibrations, though lowered, make the difference between the two engines evident. Pulsar seems a Honda in front of the Apache, it’s so refined. But credit must be given to TVS because of the fact that they have done a good job in reducing the harsh engine vibrations of the earlier Apaches. Moreover, the clutch of Apache feels more progressive in front of the heavy feel induced by Pulsar. In fact, clutches would be one of the factors Bajaj has not been able to improve. Since there launch, Pulsars have sported very bad clutch assemblies which fail to deliver even under slightest of loads. We see not a worth mentioning difference with this bike as well.

Chasis & Suspension: The Apache 180 has a Double Cradle synchrostiff chasis which aids to the overall dynamics of the bike. Front suspensions of the bike are the telescopic forks with a 105 mm stroke and the rear are the Mono tube Inverted Gas filled shocks with spring aid which TVS calls as MIG. The suspension set up has been reworked on this bike to compensate for the increased wheelbase and to aid in the overall drive-ability and stability. The best part about these is that they do not bottom out at any time and feel confident under high speeding.

On the other hand, Pulsar 180s chasis is a Double Downtube frame borrowed from the bigger sibling Pulsar 200. The front suspension is now meaty 37 mm inner diameter telescopic forks which has a 130 mm stroke straight from the Pulsar 220 and the rear remains triple rated spring, 5 way adjustable Hydraulic, Gas filled Nitrox shock absorbers with 101 mm travel. The overall look of the front suspension gives the bike a masculine look and also does the job pretty well.

The overall dimensions of Apache are 2085 mm x 730 mm x 1100 mm whereas Pulsars remain 2035 mm x 760 mm x1115 mm (L *B * H).

Handling: This is area where Apache seems to score comfortably over the Pulsar. Even the earlier iterations of Apaches have always been nimble, to the point and flick at corners. With this bike TVS has just taken the game ahead. The wheelbase is now increased by a good 40 mm to 1326 mm which makes it even more confidence inducing, more stable, especially during cornering than the previous Apaches. Even if we talk about the straight line ability, it has improved substantially over the previous iteration and makes it a lovely high speed handling machine. The precision and conviction with which this bike tackles the steepest of turns makes the rider lust for more. Add to this the higher ground clearance of 180 mm makes sure you have ample amount of space under the body for the earthen potholes to pass by easily. In fact, ride it and it crosses smaller potholes with ease.

Its not that Pulsars are way behind; actually, between these two machines it’s very less to distinguish the better one so small points like these look big. The case with Pulsars is that, they have improved drastically on this front but sadly, they still remain at the last in this league. But all accolades to Bajaj for making this bike one of the best handling Pulsars around (probably only after the new Pulsar 220 DTSi). The wheelbase has been increased by a healthy 25 mm to 1345 mm (from 1320 mm) which aids to the straight line ability of this bike to a great extent. Bajaj has also done away with the rectangular swingarm of the earlier Pulsar and this bike now comes loaded with an Oval section swingarm straight from the Pulsar 200 /220. As a result, the bike is easily one of the best cornering Pulsar 180 till date. Although, a point worth mentioning is that with the inclusion of all these features the bike feels a bit stiff and less nimble comparing it with the earlier iteration during city riding. Add to this, the bike also has a little longer turning radius. The ground clearance of this bike is 165 mm which makes it a tad more vulnerable to the ever so deadly Indian potholes. But all said and done, it’s a commendable effort from Bajaj, which makes this bike stand in the league of the best handling machines in India.

Under extreme braking Pulsar stands tall and feel more planted majorly because of the quality of tyres. Apache sports TVS Srichakra tyres which have now been fattened to 110 from 100 (in Apache 160) but fail to maintain grip on road especially in panicky situations. One more point to be noted is the change of rear tyre size from 18 inch of the earlier generation Apaches, this bike has a 17 inch rear tyre. We felt that, had Apache sported MRP nylogrip zappers of the Pulsar, it would have been quite a different story then. On the other hand, Pulsar 180 gets more meaty 120 rear section MRF nylogrip zappers which earlier did duty on the bigger Pulsars and as always, are so precise that we failed to pin-point any flaw in them. Front tyres of both the bikes are 90/90 * 17 inch in size and the good part about both the bikes is that both of them sport tubeless tyres which prevent us from the hassles of the traditional tubed tyres.

This is the end of Part One of  this article. Since this article is a big one, Part Two of this article will be published tomorrow. Stay Tuned. Part 2 will contain information about Performance, Mileage, Braking, Instrumentation and the most important stuff: The BikeAdvice Verdict.