Karan has submitted this review in our Ownership Review Contest No 13, ensuring himself an assured prize. The contest also offers a chance to win Riding Jacket, Helmet and more…Here are all the details.
Greetings fellow riders and bike enthusiasts. I am Karan K, writing my first review. Well I am pretty excited and nervous as well. Without further ado, let’s continue with the review.
Well this is a review and my experiences of owning Hero Honda Karizma R, which was delivered on 10 November 2011. Its more than 2 years old now and the journey so far has been pleasurable with a few hiccups along the way as well. As far as my story goes, I have been riding a motorcycle since my school days, I am 27 years old now, so I can say I have sufficient riding experience under my belt.
My first bike was Hero Honda Passion which I had since 2003. Well Passion wasn’t my first choice at that time, I preferred Bajaj’s latest and hottest creation, the Pulsar. It set my heart throbbing. But due to various reasons like suggestion from my father’s mechanic, moms illogical fears etc etc, I ended up owning Passion for the next 8 years or so.
But, Passion is one hell of a bike, comfortable, sturdy and is still going strong, with no retirement in sight. But it was more of a commuter rather than a performance bike, which I always desired to own, and Passion failed to excite me. Which leads our way to the next phase.
Many of my friends used to mention their adventures on a bike trip, which always fascinated me. As you people know, Passion wasn’t built for long journeys, within few hours of riding above 70kmph speeds, the engine sounded exhausted and gave knocking sound.
I remember borrowing my friend’s Unicorn for my first bike trip. By Early 2011, I had started earning, so the idea of getting a new much more capable bike started doing sorties in my head. By mid 2011 I had decided and convinced my parents that it is about time to get myself a new bike. I started my research and zeroed in on a few bikes, each had its pros and cons listed below.
Before looking at the options I had to decide my budget first. Well my budget at that time was around 80-90k including all the other costs/charges. Well, I could have stretched my budget to 1.25 lacs, but would have to wait a bit more longer and I was impatient as hell. In this budget I had many capable options. The major points which played a crucial part in making a choice are listed here.
Let’s have a look at the contenders:-
1) Pulsar 180:- A very capable and potent bike indeed, it was a perfect value for money proposition.
• Sufficient power for highway riding.
• Good fuel economy (40-45 kmpl).
• Nice looks.
• No noticeable distinguishing feature apart from Pulsar 150.
• Cheap quality parts.
• Not so refined gear box.
2) Pulsar 220:- Well, I had almost finalized this bike, it was the most powerful bike available at that time under 1 lac.
• Awesome power.
• Features like, rear disc break, tubeless tires, fat rear wheel, projector headlight, attractive console, oil cooling.
• Good Looks.
• Again gear box issues, not so refined engine.
• Cheap quality parts.
• Fairing and rest of the body looked disproportionate. (Looks are subjective)
3) Apache 180:- Well, I am not a big fan of Apache, but I gave it a thought and researched about this bike, found out this one is also very good value for money proposition.
• Awesome power for 180cc.
• Cool shade of white available for 180 cc.
• Engine made sounds similar to those of probably a 500cc bike.
• Quick, good pickup and great handling.
• ABS available as an additional paid feature.
• Riding posture not suited for long bike trips. (Many people may differ with my opinion)
• Styling, I as an individual, am not a big fan of Apaches styling.
4.Fazer:- Well , I loved its styling , specially the fat rear tire and fairing was just awesome, with perfect colors and graphics.
• Overall design.
• Good Handling.
• Grunty, rev happy engine.
• Not enough power.
• Expensive for a 150cc bike.
• Low fuel economy.
• Rear tire of low quality, needs replacement after 15k kms.
• Low quality alloys. (Bend easily)
5. Royal Enfield Classic 350:- A bit out of budget, but long waiting period set me off and a few other cons as well.
• Perfect cruiser.
• Classic looks.
• Comfortable riding posture.
• Bad power to weight ratio.
• Long waiting period. (over a year)
• High maintenance.
• Running costs.
• Cheap quality parts.
• Made tweeting sounds at low speeds. (very irritating and cannot be solved) .
6. Yamaha R15:- Very capable bike, loved it, was again a bit out of my budget, but could have managed it.
• Superb looks.
• Best handling dynamics in its category.
• Latest technologies used, fuel injection, liquid cooling, advanced frame etc.
• Not suitable for long ride.
• Lacks in power.
• Not suitable to sit an older person on pillion seat.
7. Karizma ZMR: – Advanced twin brother of my ride. Would have loved if they had provided all the goodies present in ZMR, in R type looking avatar as well.
• Features like: – Rear disc, clip on handle bars, fuel injection.
• Upright riding posture, good for long rides.
• Looks horrible.
8. Karizma R: – Well this was my final choice.
• Upright riding posture, good for long rides.
• Gem of an engine.
• Superb looks.
• Very stable on highways, courtesy long wheel base.
• Lacks features like, rear disc break, clip on handle bars, tubeless tires, fuel injection.
• A bit underpowered for a 225 cc bike.
The booking & Delivery :-
After much thought decided to go with the Karizma R, major factors in its favour were the looks, price, comfort, reliability and relatively less maintenance costs. I purchased the bike for around Rs. 89,900 on road, including RTO registration. At this price, it was worth every penny. I selected white color, mainly because, not many white Karizma’s were around at the time I bought it, mostly were yellow, red or black, but unfortunately that changed soon enough, as white Karizma R’s started to flood the streets of Mumbai.
I got the delivery of the bike after 15 days of waiting period. Even though I had bought the bike after Hero and Honda separation, I received the bike with Hero Honda logo, well at first, I was glad about it, because I doubted the break up will have an adverse effect on quality of parts. It unfortunately had a bad effect, we will discuss on that later.
About showroom, the guys didn’t even bother to wipe or clean the bike before delivering. It had minor smudges everywhere, and only after my request did they cleaned it. Then came the moment I was eagerly waiting for, the actual ride. After riding Passion for so many years, the first things I noticed were the huge fairing, much better pickup, smooth buttery engine and the size of the bike. There were no hiccups or unexpected delays during delivery, thanks to showroom people for smooth delivery.
Breaking In :-
This is the toughest phase and a mental exam for the rider, we have our beast at our disposal, and still we cannot rip it. Well I read many forums regarding breaking in Karizma, many people had different opinions. So I decided to mix them and went my way as well.
Well I kept RPM below 4000, for the first 500km, then I gradually increased the RPM every 500km, also I changed oil every 500km for the first 2000kms. Well I went on my first bike trip in between 500 and 1000km, the bike touched 70kmph below 5000RPM mark quite easily. I didn’t accelerate aggressively unless until I had passed 1000km mark. Well the break in period was tough, but I think I got through it quite well. I am not recommending my method, do study well before breaking in your bike.
The Ride :-
Well as we all know Karizma was launched in India almost a decade back and it is still going strong and giving a tough competition to the latest bikes out there, courtesy its gem of an engine, ageless design and its super reliable nature. Karizma used to give wet dreams to many bike enthusiasts when it was launched. There was nothing more powerful, quite stunning as the Karizma out there at that time. It was in a league of its own. But with the onslaught of the latest bikes and all their gizmos and technologies, it has fallen back a bit, but she surely has an attitude of a warrior.
Well I have driven many latest bikes whose power figures go past 20 bhp, Karizma in comparison produces mere 18bhp. You will not get that sudden acceleration or gush of raw power which you get in a Pulsar 220 with similar displacement. But Karizma delivers its power output with quite grace, she is quite a lady. And can go on for hours at triple digit speeds. The engine is always refined and clutter free even after a long bike trip.
Well we all know Karizma is a looker, it has a huge wheel base, makes it look like a mean machine, not like Pulsar 220 where a powerful engine was just bolted on to a bike which was originally a 150cc bike. Karizma was designed to carry the weight. It has sleek, sharp characteristics. Stand out features include the big wind shield, bronze colored exhaust, tail light assembly with two bulbs, which look really cool and last but not the least the fairing and headlight assembly. It has many people drooling even today, quite a feat for an old lady.
Semi faired front of the bike stands out against fully faired bikes even today.
Well there are a few regrets about the design as well, the rear tire could have been a bit broader it would surely have made it look even hotter. Clip on handle bars should have been made available, as the old school chrome handle bar, doesn’t really suit the bikes sporty nature. Hero’s should have taken this into note long back.
The mirrors provided too are plain, need to be spiced up a bit, the saree guard too is a bit of an eyesore.
Well what I can say about it, engine is smooth not a mean monster but a graceful lady. It generates sweet sound, not a growler, but it surely can roar when it requires. The Gear box is relatively hassle free, but not flawless either, I got many false neutrals , and sometimes even after changing the gear, it got stuck, and after a bit of acceleration it catches the right gear, really frustrating at times. Have told the Hero guys about this problem several times, but to no avail, it still persists.
It can munch hundreds of miles without halting. It doesn’t have oil or liquid cooling, plain old air does pretty good job of cooling this beast of a machine. Once travelled from Pune to Mumbai city nonstop, total of 180 kms in 2hrs 40 mins time. I drove at speeds of 90kms most of the time. Engine was smooth, cool the whole journey.
Handling / Rideability:-
As far as handling characteristics goes, this bike surely did surprise me, it is quite manoeuvrable in city traffic despite its length. And it inspires the riders to lean into tight curves as well. The Karizma features a standard frame, nothing extra ordinary like the one R15 features.
In terms of handling it beats the Pulsars hands down, but is not as graceful as the R15, which is the ultimate track bike on a budget. The bikes weight is evenly distributed, and the rider is planted in the perfect spot, for both cruising and performance riding, it gladly offers the best of both worlds.
As far as tires are concerned, the stock ones were good but not the best. Well I had them replaced for fatter CEAT vertigo sports, 120/80 tubeless. They look meatier and sexy and enhance the eye candiness of the bike. Didn’t replace the front tire as it is doing a pretty good job. Hero should have provided tubeless tires as standard, coz it’s a must for a touring bike, and good safety feature.
As far as breaking characteristic goes, the front disc does its job very well. The rear break is also good, but would have loved a disc at rear as well.
As far as rider comfort goes, Karizma is well suited for long touring missions. Well it cannot compete with pure breed cruisers like the Enfields, Avengers etc, but it does a pretty good job. The body posture is upright and you don’t have to lean much to grab the handle, just a bit. It was made this way to enhance the sporty appeal of the bike. Well I have faced mild back pains on long journeys, nothing major. The rear view mirrors are very helpful and do their job perfectly.
When I bought my bike I thought I will keep it as it is, but with time, I experimented with a few minor things.
Rear Tire :- The stock Karizma rear wheel is just too skinny, and makes the bike look a bit disproportionate. Also the tire are of hard compound which makes them long lasting , but don’t go hand in hand with the bikes sole purpose that is performance and touring capability.
Well I had a few close calls when the rear tire skidded a bit. So, fitted a 120/80 softer compound tire as mentioned earlier. Looks and tubeless feature being other important factors which helped me make the decision. The new ones are dual purpose, best for pothole filled Mumbai roads, they cost me around Rs 2000.
Horn: – The stock horn was the plain one used in splendor and other Hero’s commuter bikes, Hero didn’t treat Karizma as a premium bike in quite a few factors including this. They were too puny to be heard on highways. So replaced stock ones with cheap Chinese one which I got for 200rs, they were loud, but lasted only till monsoons. I replaced those with Hella ones, which are quite loud and reliable and are going strong.
HID kit: – The stock headlights of Karizma are quite capable for city roads, but they are of no use while touring or highway riding at night. So, replaced them with Chinese HID kit, well it was bad decision, they cost me around 900rs. But I faced lots of problems with them, sometimes they just won’t illuminate, most of the times either only upper or dipper beam is functional which causes problems, coz you cannot switch between them as the need be. Thinking about replacing those with a genuine hid kit. Will do it before my next major bike trip.
Apart from these I am planning to fit clip on handlebars. Also planning to fit a new air filter, but I am quite apprehensive about its performance benefits, and also don’t want to meddle with the current exhaust sound, I think its just too sweet, so I am in two minds as of now. Have planned about painting the bike matte black, well it is in the pipeline as of now.
Build quality / Issues :-
Overall build quality of Karizma is not bad, actually was a bit disappointed, coz I kept running into minor problems every now and then. It had high expectations, coz I had set, my experience with Passion as the benchmark. Passions tenure was flawless to say the least, the bike never troubled me, it just kept going. She was one hard working lady, Love her for that. Karizma on the other hand had many tantrums.
Suspension of the Karizma also is quite good, not as good as mono shocks on Unicorn, but still good enough, does a pretty decent job of coping with bumpy roads of Mumbai.
Will list all the parts which created problems.
Bearings: – Just after 5 months, on a bike trip to Pune, the rear wheel started making all sorts of noises. Had it checked and found the ball bearings were worn already. Got them replaced. No problem since then.
Main stand: – In pothole filled streets of Mumbai, it’s quite common to scrape your main stand with ground. Well my main stand bent within a year, got it replaced. Soon the new one too bent, which I got welded, instead of replacing it.
Fuse: – While returning from a movie, suddenly the lights went out, I stopped the bike and found that now electric start is not working. After inspection it was found that fuse had gone. So got it replaced. Even after replacement, the issue kept on haunting me. After few more incidents, got it checked from a local expert. Who sorted it out, thank him for that.
Odometer cable: – This cable has been replaced twice, during consecutive monsoon seasons, don’t know the exact reason why it broke. Not a major fault, but still frustrating, 100rs wasted twice.
T plate: – Some bastard banged into my bike when it was parked below my apartment building, the crash was so severe that it bent my handle bar and broke the t plate, which is an inch thick iron plate. Got it replaced, though the mechanic suggested, it shouldn’t have broken so easily, another testimony to quality of Hero’s part supplier.
Liner: – On one pleasant day, my bike simply refused to budge from its place, had to call a mechanic, coz I wasn’t even able to push the bike to the nearest mechanic. Eventually found that liners had worn out completely and had locked the wheels. I haven’t replaced the liners of my 10 yr old Passion yet.
Disc-break pads: – Well the Hero service centre suggested that break pads are in their last stages, and may harm the disc, which may escalate the costs even further. The pads will cost another 2500 as per service center guys. Haven’t replaced them yet, but will do that in near future, once I get them checked from a trust worthy mechanic.
Alloys: – Again the Hero service guys suggested that the alignment of the alloy wheels is out of shape and needs to be corrected, which will cost me around 1500, as per their estimate. New pair costs 3000, so will get a new pair when the need be.
Front fairing: – After first monsoon, riding on pothole filled roads, the fairing started making cluttering noises, nothing is broken, but everything has loosened up a bit. My friend’s Pulsar 220 is in much better condition in this department.
Fibre parts: – Rear fibre part is broken at one joint, which made it jiggle a bit and makes a noise in bumps.
Another very important factor, taking into account current soaring prices of fuel. Well I knew Karizma will be a weekend bike for me, as my job location is 40kms away from my place, so daily commute by bike will be hectic and tiresome. So mileage wasn’t a big deal for me.
She gives me 30 – 35kmpl in city and 35-40kmpl on highways, It is less that what I had expected. My friends Pulsar 220 gives 4-5kms more in city and on highway respectively. On Mahabaleshwar bike trip, Karizma ended up guzzling around 300rs worth of fuel more than my friends Avenger 220.
I am not impressed with Karizma’s fuel economy, but its fine with me, as long as I don’t use it for daily commute, then it will start pinching my wallet for sure.
Another very important aspect, use the correct one and your bike will reward you with ample of power and driving pleasure. As far as oil goes, I was afraid of voiding the engine warranty, as Hero states that any other engine oil will void the warranty. After lot of thinking finally decide to replace the engine oil for good at 14,000 kms, a bit late I think.
About Hero’s engine oil, the Hero guys have no clue why they are using this oil, they use the same oil on all their bikes. Earlier they suggested 10w30 grade and as their supplier changed they simply changed the specification to 20w40. Well the Hero engine oil is below average to say the least.
In Karizma it requires to be changed every 1200-1500kms. Very short drain interval, check your engine oil level regularly. Once I exceeded 2500, I thought it will be fine, as the engine oil suggested 2500km drain period, but found that only half litre oil was remaining, and that too was burnt and become blackish.
Guys, my advice will be use engine oil of your choice, don’t worry about engine warranty. If you keep using Hero oil, you will require warranty for sure.
I changed to Motul 300V 15w50, and experience so far is just excellent, engine is simply purring these days. It’s very smooth & refined, gear shifts have improved and mileage also has improved by 2-3kms . I have heard 300V vaporises, will check it after sometime to be sure, as of now I am loving the experience.
I will keep it short, focusing on important points. I had done quite a few bike trips on my bike, the longest being to Mahabaleshwar, which is around 270kms from Mumbai via Pune route, I was a pleasurable experience.
Another experience was when I rode Karizma 500kms in a day once, when we went for one day Raigad Bike trip, 250kms from Mumbai. The return journey was hectic and we had to ride in the darkness of night, it was my first time night riding on a highway, It was Mumbai-Goa highway and many people know it’s a very risky one.
The headlights of Karizma are not at all equipped to handle highway riding at night time. I managed to drive at 50kmph max speed, couldn’t exceed that limit due to very low visibility. Apart from that, since, Karizma doesn’t provide leg guard, we cannot mount additional lights, for such trips. To be clear this trip was before I installed HID kit (cheap Chinese, unreliable) which would have helped somewhat with visibility issues.
Overall Karizma is a good touring bike, just needs some capable lighting, for tours. I am searching for various other capable options. Apart from that, suspension, riding posture, braking and reliability are very good for touring.
Well, what more can I say, Karizma is one hell of a bike for the price. Superb looks, engine can last for decades of harsh riding, if maintained properly, comfortable enough for long rides, mileage wise it’s just ok, build quality is also just ok. It is more of a touring bike than an out and out sports bike. If you are looking for razor sharp acceleration and tremendous performance, give this bike a miss.
If you are rider who loves long rides, and in need of a mile muncher, which can do it at triple digit speeds for hours, then Karizma is just what the doctor ordered.
I am satisfied with my bike, even after having a few hiccups, the overall experience made me forget all the small issues I faced over time. Well each and every bike has its own share of issues. Maintenance is pretty cheap, not much to fuzz about. Love it or hate it you cannot ignore it.
For now, Adios Amigos!!!