Recent Reviews

Hero Xtreme 160R review, road test

29 July 2020

There’s no better way to describe the 160cc motorcycle space in India than by calling it a segment that can get your pulse racing without being too hard on your wallet. Motorcycles in this space walk the fine line between being performance-oriented and frugal, penny-wise  commuters. Hero gave us a taste of its all-new entrant to this segment, the Xtreme 160R back in February and we’ve finally got the chance to spend some time with it in city, out on the highway and on some winding roads. Here’s what we think.

Xtreme-160R-front
The Xtreme 160R is undoubtedly the most eye-catching bike in the 160cc segment.

The 160R is Hero’s first offering to feature all-LED lighting. While the taillight and turn indicators are quite bright, the same can’t be said about the headlight. The throw from the new headlight is adequate, but it could use a stronger beam. 

While the Xtreme 160R does use fully-digital negative LCD instrumentation, it doesn’t really display more than what a typical digi-analogue unit would. All the data you get is from  the speed, tacho, odo, clock, fuel gauge and two trip meters and there is no trip computer information. Hero says they’ve got a  new ECU with 14 sensors in place for its fuel-injection system and it would have been nice if some readings like real-time fuel efficiency and engine temperature could be displayed. Another tiny niggle is that the display can be hard to read when sunlight hits in directly from above.

Hero-Xtreme-160R-2
More information on the LCD would have been nice.

What we missed out on most was a gear position indicator, but the Xtreme makes up in other areas with features like a hazard light switch and a side stand down engine cut off function. There’s also a neat new kill switch that doubles up as a starter button.

 

The Hero Xtreme 160R is priced very competitively at Rs 99,950 (rear drum brake variant) and Rs 1.03 lakh (rear disc brake variant). It is the most affordable motorcycle in its segment and a full Rs 10,000 cheaper than the Suzuki Gixxer which is now the most expensive bike in the space. While the 160R is lacking when it comes to the top-end quotient of the engine, it makes up for it with attractive design, enjoyable handling, comfort and impressive fuel efficiency. That said, the finish in some areas could have been better, as could the feature list, but the latter would have driven the price up. To sum up, the Xtreme 160R is a good looking everyday motorcycle that’s brisk in the city, fun in the corners and light on the pocket. If you want the fastest bike for the money, you will have to look elsewhere.

Xtreme-160R-rear

 

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BS6 TVS Apache RTR 200 4V review, road test

23 July 2020

TVS ensured that our first experience of the BS6 Apache RTR 200 4V was on their test track in Hosur, and the impressions were good. However, for a motorcycle to be successful in a country that has only three racetracks, it is far more important it ticks the right boxes on the road. So, to see how it fares, we’ve given the RTR 200 V4 our full road-test treatment.

One of the biggest new features is the Glide Through Technology (GTT). This uses the fuel-injection system to inject a small amount of fuel to allow the bike to crawl forward in 1st and 2nd gear with no throttle inputs once you let out the clutch. This helps in bumper-to-bumper traffic and makes daily commuting a little less fatiguing.

Screen can now also show lean angle using your phone’s sensors.

As before, the RTR 200 gets TVS’ Smart Xonnect technology that made its debut on the Ntorq. This pairs with your smartphone via Bluetooth to display incoming calls, number of unread messages and even the battery level of your paired phone, all on the bike’s LCD screen. What’s new is that the RTR 200’s system uses the phone's gyro sensors to display your lean angle.

Smartphone connectivity enables navigation readouts on the display.
 

With its BS6 update, the RTR 200 4V has become costlier by Rs 13,000, taking the price to Rs 1.27 lakh, and unlike earlier, only one version is available now. This may seem very expensive, but its nearest rival, the Bajaj Pulsar NS 200 costs an almost identical Rs 1.28 lakh. 

As has become the unfortunate trend, motorcycles are getting more expensive, but TVS is trying to offset this with equipment like a slipper clutch, dual-channel ABS and Bluetooth connectivity. These features are hard to come by at this price point, and that makes the RTR 200 good value for money. The Apache holds on to its identity, and while it’s still not the best high-speed highway cruiser, it makes up for it by being a fun yet fuel-efficient package. 

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Aprilia SR 160 review, road test

29 June 2020

When Aprilia launched the SR 150 in 2016, it made the enthusiasts and the industry sit up and take notice. In a market where scooters are considered as nothing but a frugal means to get from point A to point B, Aprilia dared to tread into unchartered territory. In many ways, the Aprilia SR150 is the antithesis to the relaxed and practical Indian scooter. Its powerful motor, involving handling, and inherent sporty character has seen it being lapped up by enthusiasts. Cut to 2020, and the BS6 regulations have resulted in the SR getting a slightly bigger, more powerful engine. But has the quest for cleaner emissions dulled the fun factor it is known for? Let’s find out.

The Aprilia SR 160 is one of the most exciting scooters in the market and if you’ve always desired to own a dynamically sound scooter with a high fun quotient, this is a no-brainer. That said, what might make you stop and think before drawing out the cheque book is the Rs 1.24 lakh (on-road, Mumbai) price tag, for the base version. That’s roughly Rs 20,000 over the BS4 SR 150 and bang in the territory of some really good 150cc motorcycles. That’s a steep hike for a model that offers a riding experience that’s not very different from before and comes without any additional features. Nevertheless, the SR 160’s BS6 motor is a sign of what we can expect from the upcoming Aprilia SXR 160 maxi-scooter that will use the same engine. With its more spacious ergonomics and expected improvement in comfort, the SXR should be a good match for this motor and is something to look forward to when it launches later this year. 

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KTM 390 Adventure review, road test

12 April 2020

So far, our time with the KTM 390 Adventure had been limited to about an hour on a hardcore off-road trail, and another hour on the roads near Lonavala. That, however, just wasn’t enough time to give you a proper verdict, especially for a bike as potent as this. And that is why, at the first opportunity we got, we put the KTM 390 Adventure through a comprehensive road test.

After our first experience with the 390 Adventure, we said we would hold off on giving our final verdict until we get to spend hundreds of kilometres with it on the open road. Well, we finally did, and the bike definitely impresses. It’s more than what you would ever need on our highways, it’s practical enough to commute on, and is off-road-ready enough to take on most of the trails you would throw at it. And then there’s the fact that it’s got the tech you wouldn’t find on most motorcycles three times its price. That being said, we miss having the international-spec adjustable fork, and the ergonomics and quickshifter could be reworked as well. However, none of these factors are even remotely close to being deal breakers when you look at the mouth-watering Rs 2.99 lakh price tag (ex-showroom Delhi).

390-adv-rear

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Benelli Leoncino 250 review, road test

17 January 2020

Benelli India lists its Leoncino line-up under the Scrambler tab on its website, and the Leoncino 250 is the second bike to be added to this tab after the Leoncino 500, which came in a few months ago. The 500 impressed us a good deal and we were curious as to see what the 250 was like, and whether it could live up to the benchmark set by its older sibling. So we put it through our extensive road test, and here’s what we thought of it.

While the characteristics mentioned above add to the visual presence of the bike, some of them take a toll on the ergonomics. For starters, the seat is a bit too narrow and small. The use of a softer padding and some more space for the pillion would have done a great deal in improving overall comfort. However, what’s really bothersome is the position of the rider foot pegs; they are aggressively rear-set, resulting in a cramped riding position. In fact, the riding ergos and the suspension setup feel more in line with a sporty naked, and that means standing up and riding through broken stretches (as you would on a scrambler) doesn’t feel like a natural process. Having said that, I wouldn’t categorise the Leoncino 250 as particularly uncomfortable. While you could get away with commuting on it every day, the ergonomics and comfort are just not what you’d expect from a motorcycle in the category.

Seat is narrow and firm, very little room for a pillion.

 

The Leoncino 250 is a motorcycle that has its charms, but the price is certainly a deal-breaker. An ex-showroom price of Rs 2.5 lakh puts it a whole Rs 1 lakh above the Suzuki Gixxer 250, a motorcycle with very similar levels of performance. You could also get yourself its fully faired counterpart in the form of the Gixxer SF250, which costs close to Rs 10,000 more than the naked variant. The pricing of the Leoncino 250 puts it in the space of more accomplished machines. For this money, you could get the KTM 390 Duke, or the Honda CB300R, or even the Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 – all motorcycles the little Leoncino would seriously be out of its depth around. If (or rather when) Benelli figures out a way to bring the price down to an appropriate level, the Leoncino 250 will make for a quirky, left of field alternative to the established crowd.

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Ixon RS Genius Replica gloves review

09 December 2019

As far as protective gear goes, I’m always willing to extend my budget if the price justifies the features. When it comes to that, Ixon seems to have an ace up its sleeve, or hand in this case. The Ixon RS Genius Replica is the French company’s answer to those looking for track and fast-road use gloves, without completely destroying the bank, and a quick look at the features tells you why.

The Genius is made of supple goat leather, both on the backhand and palm areas. As far as fit is concerned, the Genius wraps itself around the hand quite snugly, enabled by the pre-curved fingers and the double-strap Velcro cuffs for that added sense of security. More importantly, the gloves only required a couple of hours to break in; that turned out to be crucial as I bought these only a couple of days before hitting an unknown (for me) racetrack in Spain.

But what I really love about the Genius is the all-round protection it offers. The carbon-injected knuckle protector, sliders on the fingers, and TPU slider on the scaphoid area are all protective elements in just the right places. Also, the additional layer of leather on the side wall and the bridged third and fourth fingers are features that I’ve always been particular about while choosing a glove.

I’ve been using these gloves while riding all kinds of bikes, and so far, they’ve proved to be quite comfortable. While the range of motion is adequate, the feel of the bar and the levers is great, allowing one to make the right amount of throttle and brake inputs. The ventilated knuckle and finger sliders are effective and although there are minimal perforations, I’ve never had sweaty palms while riding in Mumbai’s infamous October heat.

However, there are a couple of minor issues that I’ve faced. Firstly, one of the seams in the right glove rubs against my thumb and that gets annoying after a while. Secondly, since India is mostly hot and dusty, the palm area could’ve been dyed in a darker shade instead of white, in the interest of maintenance. Overall, I’m pretty impressed with the quality, fit and feel that these gloves offer, especially after considering the price. Though I ended up spending Rs 5,000 over my initial budget, I think it was money well spent.

Where: Performance Racing Store
Price: Rs 15,000

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2019 Yamaha MT-15 review, road test

04 October 2019

Much has been said about the price of the Yamaha MT-15 since its launch a few months ago. For what is essentially an R15-based motorcycle – minus some of the cost-intensive bits like the aluminium swingarm, fairing and rear-wheel ABS – the MT-15’s Rs 1.36 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) asking price was simply absurd. That’s just Rs 4,000 short of the R15’s price tag.

But, there’s no point in writing off a bike simply on the basis of the sticker price, right? After all, even as our road test reveals, there’s more to the Yamaha MT-15 than meets the eye.

The riding position on the MT-15 is a combination of aggressively set foot pegs and a tall, wide single-piece handlebar that sits closer to the rider. It’s comfortable, yet stays committed and gets you in the mood to attack! The MT-15’s tiny dimensions may lead you to believe that it’s a cramped motorcycle – and that’s true, especially if you’re a tall rider. The knees don’t have a lot of room, but the bigger issue is that the rider’s boots (anything size 8 and above) tend to foul with the pillion foot-rest holders, which is annoying. On the positive side, the rider’s perch is wide and accommodating and the knee recesses around the fuel tank allow one to firmly latch-on to the bike.

Yamaha-MT15-seat
Scooped-out seat doesn’t give the rider much room to move around.

The 41mm upright fork and the link-type monoshock setup offer the right balance between ride and handling. Whether it was minor bumps, potholes or undulations, the MT-15 remained composed throughout. However, the defining aspect of this little Yamaha is the way it handles in the city. The sharp steering, tight turning radius and the extra leverage provided by the handlebar, all result in a motorcycle that’s super-reactivate to inputs – even more than the KTM Dukes. It makes light work of negotiating city traffic and really keeps the rider involved.

Yamaha-MT15-tyre
MRFs offer good grip and feedback, even on rain-soaked tarmac.

 

On the flip side, this over-eager steering and light front-end dampens confidence around a set of winding roads. This – along with the fact that you sit so far forward with the handlebar right in your chest – makes hanging off the bike in a corner feel quite awkward. The trick then, is to ride the MT-15 like a supermoto; and that turned out to be quite a lot of fun.

The brakes have good progression, but just like on the R15, there’s a lack of initial bite. Our test revealed that the bike comes to a stop from 60kmph in 17.42m, which is a little longer than the R15 – probably due to the reduced weight over the front end, thanks to the upright riding position.

Yamaha-MT15-brake
The front brake lacks initial bite, but modulation is good.

 

Our first ride of the MT-15 was a bit of a downer, but it turns out that the Buddh International Circuit was a terrible place to experience this machine. Now that we’ve ridden it on the street, it’s clear that this bike is a proper little streetfighter and if majority of your riding is confined to the city, this motorcycle is an enjoyable weapon to spice up your commute. The engine is an absolute gem and so is the deltabox chassis, all of which combine to make the MT-15 an involving motorcycle. Also, the upright riding position makes it a vastly kinder motorcycle to live with than its faired sibling.

But that doesn’t change the fact that there is just no reasoning for the MT-15’s Rs 1.36 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) price. Simple math in relevance to what this bike loses over the R15 – a substantial fairing, a single LED headlamp versus twin LEDs, a basic swingarm and single-channel ABS – reveals that it should have been priced at around Rs 1.2-1.25 lakh. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. So, instead of us excitedly telling you that the MT-15 is seriously worth considering, we’re forced to conclude that you should only consider this machine if buying a value-for-money bike is not high on your list of priorities.

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2019 Suzuki Gixxer SF 250 review, road test

25 September 2019

Our first encounter with the Suzuki Gixxer SF 250 was on an FIA Grade 1 racetrack and as you’d imagine, it was great fun. However, it is not the best place to assess a motorcycle’s real-world characteristics. The short-lived experience on the fully-faired 250cc motorcycle left us impressed to a large extent, but also left many questions unanswered. Which is why we got hold of the bike as soon as we could and put it through a comprehensive road test.

If you were to judge it by its looks, you’d assume the sporty-looking Gixxer SF is a back-breaker, but it’s not the case. I rode it through a nasty pothole-ridden section of road and came out unstirred. The 41mm telescopic fork and the slightly firm monoshock both do a more-than-decent-enough job of absorbing uneven surfaces. The suspension also doesn’t bottom out or feel crashy if you hit bumps at high speeds.

Contrasting silver highlights on the wheels look neat.

As a result, the Gixxer SF is not a KTM, but it’s still a sweet and confident handler that is easy to lean over. The fork feels progressive and is also competent when braking hard and changing direction quickly. Overall, the SF 250 is a very ‘neutral’ handling motorcycle. As for the brakes, the front isn’t the sharpest out there, but it’s powerful, progressive and more than sufficient.

The Gixxer SF gets clip-on handlebars but it actually has you seated in a position that doesn’t put a lot of stress on your palms or shoulders, while bent over enough for a slightly committed and intuitive riding position. Think of it as closer to the Bajaj Pulsar RS200 than the committed position of the KTM RCs or the Yamaha YZF-R15 V3.0. This is something you’ll be thankful for if you are planning to spend a lot of time in the saddle.

The rider’s seat is roomy, while the pillion’s is slightly compact.

The Suzuki Gixxer SF 250 is a motorcycle with a number of qualities. It does a lot really well and it leaves very little to complain about. But aside from its good looks, it doesn’t stand out strongly in anyway.  The feature list is basic and so is the instrument cluster, it doesn’t even display real-time fuel efficiency, and even much more affordable two-wheelers come with Bluetooth-enabled screens. What you’re looking at here is a very good all-rounder; and at Rs 1.71 lakh, the SF 250 makes for a better package than the rather basic Yamaha Fazer 25 (Rs 1.44 lakh) as well as the aged, yet expensive Honda CBR250R (Rs 1.95 lakh). The Bajaj Dominar 400, which costs just Rs 9,000 more puts up a good fight, and it has the Suzuki beaten when it comes to sheer value for money. However, we’d suggest picking the SF 250 over the Dominar 400 if you are a fan of faired motorcycles, better riding dynamics and, of course, better quality.

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2019 Bajaj Dominar 400 review, road test

06 May 2019

The Bajaj Dominar 400 had massive potential but it never quite sold the numbers it should have. Bajaj then gave the bike an update to fix its issues, and as our first ride review revealed, this was done to a large extent. However, a first ride review can only tell so much, which is why we decided to put the Dominar through a comprehensive road test.

Nothing has changed here. The Dominar has the same, well-positioned, wide handlebar that gives the rider an upright riding stance. The pegs are still slightly rear-set but don’t get uncomfortable even over long distances. The seat also remains comfortable and reasonably roomy. On the whole, the riding triangle accommodates most riders, regardless of height and bulk.

Plastic fuel tank won’t help when you have a magnetic tank bag.

 

Bajaj has really outdone itself with the pricing of the Dominar, with all of the new updates coming in at a hike of just Rs 11,000. The motorcycle costs Rs 1.74 lakh now, and this is where things get interesting. At this price, it undercuts similarly powered rivals and specced motorcycles by a huge margin. The closest model to it is the lower-powered KTM 250 Duke (Rs 1.93 lakh), followed by the TVS Apache RR 310 (Rs 2.23 lakh), Honda CB300R (Rs 2.41 lakh), KTM 390 Duke (Rs 2.44 lakh), Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 (Rs 2.50 lakh onwards) and the BMW G 310 R (Rs 2.99 lakh) (all prices, ex-showroom, Delhi). But it’s not just the price. Thanks to the updated motor and suspension, the Dominar is now a more competent motorcycle, so much so that we would say it’s the best highway machine under Rs 2 lakh.

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2019 KTM 125 Duke review, road test

05 March 2019

UPDATE: The KTM 125 Duke has received a price hike of Rs 6,835. It now costs Rs 1.25 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)

It’s been around two decades since we considered a motorcycle in the 125cc space to be genuinely sporty. These bikes in our market start at around 150cc, but KTM has chosen to take a different approach. Its recently launched 125 Duke is essentially a 200 Duke with a 125cc heart, and is the very same one that KTM developed for the light motorcycle license category (A1) in the United Kingdom. We head out to the streets to see how well the new KTM does its job.

Foot peg assembly looks good but offers precious little heel support.

The 125 Duke has identical ergonomics to the current 200 Duke and the previous-generation 390 Duke, both of which have a great reputation of carving corners and acing racetracks. What it means is that you are sat in a sporty riding stance with your feet quite far backwards. However, with the positives of the old design come the negatives, and the 125 Duke does feel cramped for taller riders whose knees come in constant contact with the muscular tank extensions.

Seat offers just about enough room, but larger riders will wish for more.

Rs 1.18 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) now gets you entry into the KTM brand. And you get quite an authentic experience, too, because the 125 Duke feels exactly like its big siblings, except for the fact that it’s pleasantly efficient and the riding experience, in comparison, feels like it’s in slow motion.

 As a first sports bike, the 125 Duke is a great option, especially for someone relatively new to motorcycling. It has the feel-good factor of a sporty motorcycle and offers all the kit you could dream of having on an entry-level machine. But this is not the bike you want if speed is what you are after, and it won’t be a satisfying upgrade for those looking to scale up from their Pulsars, Gixxers and RTRs. If that is where you are coming from, you would be better off buying a more powerful motorcycle for similar money, the choices for which are plenty.

 

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