The pit garage door opened to reveal two brand new bikes. Prima facie, both looked compact. Moving forward, it was different, much different than what we have come to associate with the word “Pulsar”.
It was at the Bajaj Auto’s Chakan Test Track at Pune. It was early morning at 8:00 AM when the pit garage was opened up to reveal these beauties. The occasion was the official ride review of the new Pulsar 135LS DTS-i where LS stands for "Light Sports" (addressed as LS from here), for xBhp.
The LS is a significant step in the Pulsar series. The Pulsar brand is usually associated with sporty character and is a Bajaj hallmark. Although there are many offerings under the Pulsar brand name, all of them boast a cubic capacity of more than 150. From the executive express, the Pulsar 150 DTS-I to the Torque Monster, the Pulsar 220 DTS-I, all have created a mark for themselves in the minds of fans and critics alike.
The move by Bajaj Auto to release a baby Pulsar might have been seen by many as a downgrade, but in reality, is a stepping stone for people to graduate from small bikes to a tech laden and relatively powerful commuter.
DESIGN AND ENGINEERING
The bikes were in the two colors that are available in showroom; a wine red (almost looks like scarlet red) and midnight black. On visual inspection, the LS, looks smaller than the Pulsar 150.
What is immediately noticeable is the engine. From the Pulsar 150 classic engine to the latest generation Pulsar 220 engine, most have always complained that the engines are all the same. Most of the critics have labeled each new Pulsar as a re-bored smaller sibling. This time round, critics should not have this complaint though. The engine not only looks different, but also feels and sounds different (More on that later). The head is prominently matt black and exudes a very high quality feel. The cooling fins too, don’t look as deep as in some of its bigger siblings. The foot pegs are now aluminium with a soft rubber grip and offer a nice, planted feel. The gear shifter pattern is one down four up and the lever is of the regular toe shift type. A heel toe type would have been much better for the ordinary commuter.
The second thing that strikes you is the absence of the typical twin downtube cradle frame. In place of it, the rectangular section single downtube frame that uses the engine as the stressed member. This as I found out later, helps in reducing the weight. The LS tips the scales at 122 KGs.
Going further, front footwear is via 2.75 X 17 size tube type tyres, mounted on neatly finished matt black 5 spoke alloys. A 240 mm disc brake carries out the retardation duty upfront. The front fender is a two tone component with a very different contoured look.
The front headlamp is neatly encompassed within a bikini fairing that looks pretty well built. A few preliminary reactions prior to our review in flesh, expressed concern over how much gap has been left between the shroud and the headlamp, but on closer inspection, there is no gap; instead it carries a vented look. The headlamp looks good with pilot lamps on top edges. The smallish fairing has a small black screen which in our opinion could have been omitted to give a naked look. Turn indicators are small but bright.
The instrument console is same as the one found in Discover 135 and XCD 135 although the tachometer has been given a fresh appeal. The clip on bars look and feel cool. The controls and switches are not borrowed from its siblings; rather, the switches seem much better in feel. The engine cut off (an absolute must) is now reversed in switch context to its siblings. All the switches are ergonomically placed and operate smoothly. Standard tell tale lights and indicators are clear and are readable even in direct sunlight.
One more area where the critics should have no words is the tank. This time round, the tank is quite different and has very pronounced knee recesses. The knee recesses are not merely aesthetic as I found out later. With my 5’ 11’’ frame, it was easy to hold the tank with my thighs. The knee recesses this time are extremely useful and on the spot. Shorter riders should not have any problems either. A neat shroud on either side of the tank screams “4 Valve” and looks good.
The split seats are wide and comfortable for two. The rider’s seat looked good enough for a day of riding. Thankfully, the tank pad has been retained. The grab rail was comfortable to hold on to when we tested for a pillion ride.
At the rear, what attracts attention is the different tail section; must say that it looks rather beautiful. I could not but help notice it when I was following MG on the track. The lights and the extension mounted number plate look quite trendy. The braking is looked after by the 130 mm drum brakes on 100/90 X 17 tube type tyres, mounted on matt black five spoke alloys. Suspension at the rear is via coaxial hydraulic cum gas filled adjustable shock absorbers. The new exhaust looks quite angular and emits a very different note initially but resembles a Pulsar’s note at high revs.
A few points to note in the design
1. We did not much like the rear tyre hugger in the pictures. We were informed that the hugger has been designed to cover the wheel as specified by the ARAI guidelines. This is more so since it does away with the rear extension mudguard that conventional bikes have. Anyway, this is mounted on a frame with a few bolts and all it would take is a spanner and a few minutes to get this away (till the monsoons start at least).
2. The rectangular box section swing arm could do with a bit better finish. Though we could not find any fault with it, the ungainly weld marks deterred from the over finish of the bike which it top notch.
The overall fit and finish of the bike is exemplary and we did not find any loose ends or improper fitting panels anywhere. The paint quality is high and a true reflection is obtained anywhere you look at it.
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION
Displacing 134.66 CC, the baby Pulsar’s engine produces 13.5 PS at 9000 RPM and a max torque of 11.4 Nm at 7500 RPM. These power and torque figures put it almost in the 150 cc league.
As with all Pulsars, the LS features the patented Digital Twin Spark Ignition with TRICS III and Digital CDI. It also breaths through a 26mm CV carburetor and uses the patented ExhaustTEC technology. Where it differs from its larger siblings is in the employment of 4 valves as against 2 valves. This is the first of its kind where it combines 4 valves with DTS-i. This setup allows this small mill to rev effortlessly up to 10,500 RPM (electronically limited). All this power is transmitted to the rear wheel via a 5 speed gearbox pulling an enclosed chain.
Since this bike is essentially aimed at effortless city travel, we were interested in figuring out the weak spots in torque spread. The samples that were given to us were absolute production pieces. A few of them had been ridden by earlier road testers and had a couple of hundred kilometers on the odometer. We were given an “off the assembly line” sample too (with no more than a few kilometers on the clock).
The ride and test was conducted entirely on the Chakan test track. As such, we took our own sweet time in evaluating this baby Pulsar.
Thumb the starter and a new sound greets you. This is not very much like the regular Pulsar. The tonal quality is quite different thanks to the new exhaust system. Pull the clutch and another surprise awaits you. The clutch is way smoother than what we expected. This was true for all the samples that we tested. Engage first and start off. Once on the move, the engine seems to accelerate briskly; now remember this is not meant to be a fire snorter . This is after all, a sporty commuter.
The gearbox behaved so very well throughout the test. We never missed a single gear. The box’ felt a bit notchy on one of the bikes but I guess that was more because of pulling wheelies and performing other stunt antics during some other test rides done by magazine journos.
The engine seems very tractable and pulls strongly from idle. With me and MG tilting the scales to 150 KG, the LS had enough torque to pull cleanly from idle; even in higher gears. The engine never felt stressed while pulling both of us at around 94 KMPH in 5th gear on the 1.1 KM straight.
After a few slow rides, I turned to performance testing. The engine simply loves to rev and reaches 10,500 RPM on the tachometer with ease. The recorded top speeds in each gear are listed below. Needless to say, I was redlining all the time.
Gear Speed (KMPH)*
(*) – All speeds as indicated on the speedometer.
Another interesting fact is that the engine is highly tractable. It potters down to almost idle without cutting off. Check the table below for what the LS did in 5th gear at various RPM
RPM Speed (KMPH)*
To be honest, I was blown away with what the LS is capable of doing. Before you guys start thinking that I am going overboard and lavishing undue praise on the baby Pulsar, let us get some facts correct.
This bike is intended to be a tool for city commuting, for cutting through the regular stop and go traffic, choked up roads and the everyday chaotic jams. As such, what would be more useful?
a. A quick throttle response
b. Ability to putter around and pick speed when one needs to
c. Properly spaced gear ratios to travel effortlessly in various traffic conditions
d. A good mid range and decent top end for large cities where one needs to reach to the other end of the city
In fact, all of the above and the LS could do just that very easily. On the test track, I tried to simulate all such conditions and found the engine to be a willing partner to chug along when required and play the “fire on my tail” role too. Another fact that impressed me was the feel from the engine. The engine was absolutely new and was not even run in. We subjected the LS to racetrack speeds and kept going that way for almost the entire day. At the end of the day, she felt just like what she felt in the morning. No trace of tiredness and loss of refinement. Admittedly, there was vibration at the top of the rev band. Vibes kicked in at around 9.5 K and remained till 10.5 K. I am sure that a properly run in engine may not possess those.
Ultimately, what would I give the LS out of 10? I would say a solid 9 for all that she delivers. You have to ride it to believe it.
RIDE, HANDLING AND DYNAMIC BEHAVIOUR
This happens to be my favorite part to write about. The LS was subjected to the test track with speeds that one would normally associate with the race tracks. Hard pulling in each gear and faster entry speeds in corners seemed like the correct recipe for the LS.
I just need to emphasize the fun factor involved here. The suspension is extremely well sorted; not too hard nor softly sprung, just right for me. I weigh around 78 kilos and the LS seemed perfectly balanced for me. Not to mention the weight savings (almost 21 kilos lighter than the Pulsar 150 DTS-i). The LS with its light weight and well sorted out suspension is absolute fun to spot corners and makes you think that you are the next Casey Stoner. The new chassis is spot on and it is difficult to induce any misbehavior. Mid corner line corrections are a breeze and the feedback from both the ends is excellent.
There are a few areas that need a mention though; for starters, the front end is extremely light and nimble, thanks to the new chassis, steering geometry and seating position. The seating position is a bit biased towards the commuter mode and hence the footpegs are forward biased. With the kind of handlebar-seat-footpeg relation, the resultant seating position takes off all the weight off the front end. This is not very concerning to the average, everyday commuter but for serious cornering, I would love to see the footpegs being a bit rearset and the handlebar a bit low.
The handling is so inspiring that I found myself taking some of the slower corners at progressively higher speeds. The front brake provides a lot of feedback although the rear did not inspire a lot of confidence. Another thing that I noticed is how less the turning radius is, the bike being extremely small turns comfortably in a tight circle. Again, this is a boon for stranded motorcyclists.
Summing it up for this section, I would rate the LS a hefty 9 out of 10 for handling. At the expense of sounding insane, please Bajaj, provide some optional rearsets for this bike. This is so much fun to ride; a fact shared by other auto journalists there as well.
Some of the other points that I scribbled during the review
1. The kick starter is extremely effortless.
2. Footpegs need to be folded like on a CBZ to allow the bike to be kick started
3. Two up, a cruising speed of anything between 70-90 is comfortable
4. Mirrors are clear at all speeds but seem to be placed a bit closer to the body resulting in a more than usual movement for the eye.
5. Weld marks on the swingarm and the hugger bracket can be a visual turn off to an otherwise beautifully finished bike.
6. Rear brake is adequate while the front is more than average.
7. The paint and the matt black surfaces are of a high quality.
8. Panel gaps are consistent and there are no vibes from any panel
9. Clutch is super light and will be a boon in the traffic.
10. Engine is a lot more refined and vibe free.
11. Placement of the starter motor is behind the cylinder; a first time for a Pulsar
12. The LS exhibits typical Pulsar characteristics in terms of power and sound at high revs, although, it feels and sounds a lot more refined.
13. Fuel tank capacity is 8 liters with a 2.5 liter reserve. A fuel tap has been provided on the left.
14. The rear tyre hugger does not look that offensive in flesh and one gets used to it.
15. Tubeless tyres would have been a great offering
16. We could not measure the fuel efficiency but going by the fuel indicator after our test for the entire day, it looks like it will meet the committed figures.
17. Keeping into mind the commuter pitch, a heel toe shifter would be better.
18. At 51K Ex Showroom Delhi, this looks a good deal.
To sum up, the new Bajaj Pulsar 135 DTS-i LS is a great city tool as it promises. It combines spirited performance with agile handling, impressive tractability and small size. It is adequately powered to take that odd excursion on weekends and all this at a very decent price.
Would I buy it? Let’s put it this way, anyone who is looking at an upgrade from his scooter, first bike, seeking independence from public transport and is interested in reaching his destination that bit faster without wearing himself out on underpowered mopeds; does not want to spend a lot on large bikes, wishes to spend less on fuel and wants to buy something that makes him look good? The Bajaj Pulsar 135 LS DTS-i is the answer.
More pictures and one more review by me will be posted very soon...