Text: Satadal Payeng (Payeng)
Photos: Gourab Das (MG)
The Discover series of bikes has been a runaway success for Bajaj Auto in the “Deluxe Commuter” category (the category above the entry level motorcycles). Well known as an extremely fuel efficient brand, the Discover has found favor among both the young and mature commuter crowd. Launched in 2004, Bajaj has managed to keep the Discover brand fresh with timely upgrades. These upgrades included changes in the engine platform to cosmetic/feature upgrades. But till now the silhouette has always been essentially the same as the one launched in 2004.
The Discover 125ST which represents the next generation Discover and also the flagship variant (older Discover models will be on sale alongside) is an all new model altogether. Everything about the Discover 125ST is brand new including the styling, engine, chassis and the ride experience. I take one for a test ride to “Discover” more about it.
Discover 125ST in a nutshell
USP (Unique Selling Proposition): Discover brand name, handsome big looks for its segment, first in segment monoshock suspension
Good Bits: Surprisingly “fun” handling for a commuter, rev happy 4 valve DTS-I engine
Things that could improve: Features like a digital speedo display, LED tail lamps can be re-introduced
What does the "ST" in Discover 125ST stand for?
According to Bajaj, the “ST” in the name stands for "Sports Tourer". This is not to be confused with the Recreational Touring kind of bikes but more in terms of an Indian commuter who does long distance travel and an endeavor to make his commute less stressful.
Styling, Design, Fit and Finish: “Elevates from Deluxe Commuter to Stylish Commuter”
In flesh the Discover 125ST doesn’t look like a 125 cc and can easily pass of as a 150 cc bike. The bike has handsome and muscular proportions and looks much bigger than the current Discover 125 or the Honda Shine. Resemblance to the current Discover range is there in the form of tail lights which have a similar design theme, the chrome masked headlamp and also the decals remind you of the older/current Discover models. But apart from that the rest of the bike is different.
Personally I would have preferred a simpler design for the alloys and the rear mudguard/hugger. The Discover 125ST is a Déjà vu of a couple of bikes. The headlamp for example reminds that of the Pulsar, from the sides the tank has traces of that of the Suzuki GS150R (accentuated by the scooped rider seat) and the rear panels of the bike has very Honda Unicorn type of lines (the monoshock only adds to it). Before anyone cries copycat, the Discover 125ST somehow clicks visually and after spending some time with it, even starts to appear distinctive.
The design intent of the new model is definitely sportier but at the same time it does not let go of its commuter roots. If the old/current Discover caters to the “Deluxe Commuter” category (with bikes like the Hero Splendor, Honda Shine etc.), the new Discover 125ST now addresses the “Stylish Commuter” category (which has got bikes like the Yamaha SS125, Hero Glamour, Honda CBF Stunner). The fit and finish is at par with the other offerings in this segment. It would have been good to have a digital speedometer display and LED tail lamp (this one actually mimics the design of the LED taillamp of the current Discover) though.
Ergonomics, Riding Stance: “No-nonsense, Good Boy ergonomics”
The new Discover 125ST might have slight sporty intent in its design, but swinging a leg over the scooped rider’s seat will instantly make it obvious that it is basically a no-nonsense commuter. The foot pegs are placed forward and the handlebars are placed at a comfortable height. The handle bar-seat-foot peg relationship makes you feel like an obedient and responsible “good boy”.
My short legs are very sensitive to seat height and let me state that the rider’s seat on the Discover 125ST is one of the best for short guys. The scooped seat makes it possible for short legs to place both feet with confidence on the road. The Discover 125ST might look big in size (compared to other commuter bikes), but the weight is distributed on the bike in such a manner that it has a light front end which results in an easy to maneuver, light and easy handling. The turning radius is also small, resulting in very easy and tight u-turns.
In short the ergonomics on the Discover 125ST is a commuter’s delight with no sporty intent whatsoever.
Engine Performance: “4 Valve head makes for an unstressed top end”
Commuter motorcycles are usually about low and mid range performance. Most commuters hardly take their bikes above 60-70 kmph. Therefore every commuter bike out there including the old/current Discover models are tuned to perform at low-mid engine speeds. The new Discover 125ST becomes the first bike in the “commuter” category to feature a 4 valve head. This lets the engine breathe easily at higher engine revs and the light valve train ensures a stress free power delivery of 13PS from the 125 cc DTS-i (Digital Twin Spark Ignition) engine. The power/torque delivery is linear and the gearing on the bike ensures that the bike has enough poke at low speeds. One can easily potter around at speeds as low as 35 kmph in top gear (5’th) and yet pick up cleanly without any snatching.
The Discover 125ST does around 70 kmph quite cleanly. It is the performance post 70 kmph which comes as a surprise for a commuter. The engine feels unstressed and eager to rev even when the speedometer needle goes past the 90 kmph and breaches a speedo indicated 100 kmph plus speeds. The 4 valves per cylinder does its job well here. The engine and exhaust note remains quite civil and quiet till the 70 kmph mark, but as the speedo needle goes past that mark, the exhaust note makes a pronounced sporty grunt. The engine might feel unstressed doing 90-100 kmph but then at those speeds you do get to experience “sporty vibes” (pun intended). Nothing disturbing but just a mild tingling sensation at the foot pegs and handle bars.
The older Bajaj built engines had a snatchy feel to it. But of late the new generation of Bajaj built engines like the XCD 135, Pulsar 135LS and the current Discover models has got a well built and built to last feel to it. The Discover 125ST is built on the same platform of new generation engines and has got similar well built feel to it. One noteworthy feature of this new 125 cc, 4 valve engine air cooled engine is the cooling fins which have a corrugated design. This reportedly helps in increasing the cooling rate of the engine.
Clutch & Gearbox: “All izz well”
The clutch is delightfully light for a commuter and the 5 speed (one down - four up) gearbox does its duty well. The gears ratios are spaced in such a manner that it makes for an effortless ride for a city commute.
Ride and Handling: “The ghost of Karizma”
Commuter bikes are not meant to attack corners or play “Rossi” on the streets. Also barring the Pulsar 135LS, Bajaj bikes are never spoken for their handling prowess. But the handling of the Discover 125ST made my jaw drop. The Discover 125ST takes corners in a manner which is eerily reminiscent of the Hero Karizma.
Like the Discover 125ST, the Karizma has got a light front end. Around corners the Karizma feels like it’s got over steering tendency (getting into a corner too fast) which puts the heart in the mouth of the first time rider but as the bike enters into the corner, the chassis somehow keeps the bike in a straight and stable line and the corner is taken smoothly. This makes even dumb novices feel like “Wow.. I can corner too..!!”
Bajaj seems to have somehow cloned the handling characteristic of the Karizma on the Discover 125ST..!! The Discover 125ST handles almost exactly like how it feels on the Karizma. i.e. enters into a corner bit too eagerly, but somehow maintains its line and makes a clean exit. Leaving a “Main bhi Rossi” impression on the rider.
I hope you noticed that the Discover 125ST is the first sub 150 cc commuter bike in India to feature a monoshock suspension (its got Gas Filled “Nitrox” can as well). Even at max speed the Discover 125ST retains its composure and its very stable on the road. The ride is slightly on the sporty/firmer side but nevertheless is comfortable.
Brakes: “Decent for a commuter but can be better”
The 200 mm front disc brake offers better stopping than drum brakes would but it needs a bit more effort from someone who is used to modulating the front brakes of bikes with 1 or 2 fingers. Considering most Indian commuters still apply the rear brakes more than the front brakes, I guess the current set up would do just fine with them.
Conclusion: “Stylish looks and features but with strong commuter values. The handling zapped me”
The Discover 125ST looks big and handsome, has got features to showoff like the first in class monoshock and 4 valve engine and got an extremely agile and sporty handling with comfortable ergonomics. Fuel efficiency has never been an issue with Discover (and Bajaj) bikes and we can safely expect a decent fuel efficiency figure from this new Discover as well.
The bike might not attract the “Sporty Commuter” crowd (the market for Pulsar, Apache, FZ etc.) but at an on road price of around Rs. 60,000, it seems like a fair deal and the bike has the makings of a best seller. Most importantly for Bajaj despite the sporty intent in its styling, the Discover 125ST still retains its “Mass Appeal”.