It’s been nearly 3 years with the Pulsar 220F. And 60,000 Kms later I am all set to write down a review of this wonderful bike, that changed the face of performance biking in India.
The 220 was launched in 2007 , This bike with its sporty looks and killer performance easily stole the limelight and redefined performance biking in India. But it came at a Price. So naturally, it wasn’t a commodity that every person could dream off. Nonetheless, It was and still is a wonderful machine, I know a few friends who still use this machine with over 90k clicks on the ODO and the machine is still healthy as a horse, which easily destroys the Taboo, that the pulsar engine lasts only for a maximum of 2 years and nothing above 25k kms. It’s true, there is a taboo that the pulsars don’t last much long.
The Bajaj 220F(DTS-i) which was launched in 2009 with a killer price tag, mainly aimed at increasing sales and bringing the performance biking within reach to the common man. But the steps taken by Bajaj was a unique one, they stepped back in terms of technology, they gave the 220 a carburetor instead of the existing Fuel-injection. But with this change they were able to reduce cost, increase power (21PS),torque and mileage , which made it a instant success within the masses. The aggressive pricing being the main attraction among the youth and growing breed of Serious Performance biking community of India.
Now I got my Bike on March 2010. The parts that attracted me the most, the looks(I was a sucker for the twin projector headlights, the LED console), the touring friendly ergonomics, the power and torque and then the killer price tag. All in all it was the perfect vehicle, Complete Value for Money product and it was still a rare machine in my locality, all the more reason to opt for this bike.
Graduating from a Yamaha CRUX , it was quite the upgrade one could ask for, even though the Pulsar are known for their raw power and hard to tame character, I didn’t face much problem getting used to the bike, The bike’s engine was broken in in a progressive manner, not the text book slow run-in method. It’s more of a mixture of the conventional break in and the Motoman break-in method. Much importance was not given to the speed , but rather the RPM was kept in check during the initial 1000 Kms. The first 500kms were ridden within 4k rpm gear shifts, with occasional riding up-to 5k rpm and this limit was gradually increased as the miles kept building. In the end, what I got is a perfectly broken-in engine , where the parts are set in correctly and a smooth engine functioning is obtained.
Initial review was like that of any excited rider who graduated to a powerful machine. The comparisons were based with the CRUX I had ridden the acceleration was a massive boost, and the throttle had to be handled carefully, more when the bike crossed 6k band on the RPM, that’s when all the horses are being felt being transmitted to the rear wheel. If not handled carefully it will definitely catch you by surprise.
The Mid-range torque is something to crave for, the raw , unrefined power could be really felt there, along with vibrations from the bike, yes, it does have some vibrations that can be felt directly to the rider.
After riding the bike for almost 3 years now, in every possible condition and terrain that Kerala has to offer , I can surely say, this is one reliable and value for money product. I wouldn’t say that the vehicle doesn’t comes with it’s fair share of problems, honestly it does have quite a number of problems, but the thing is , it’s quite manageable and that makes you understand the ride and respect it more. Here I’ll be listing out quite a few segments from my experience and the defects and its simple solutions too.
Design and Build quality:
The bike is a looker, no doubt on that from my side. The quality of the plastic parts are also quite nice. They have lasted me for a long time, although I had changed the rear seat cowl about 5-6k Kms back as the screwing joints had broken and I had no other option but to fix it, as it had started rattling at certain speeds . Then I had a problem of the rubber bushes that was supposed to keep the side panels tight in their position falling off when ever I removed the side panels for regular cleaning of battery terminals and air filter. Apart from that there wasn’t a problem I had faced with the fiber part.
Coming to design, one thing that I felt very irritating was the RVM’s. I feel very uncomfortable if I can’t get a good view of what is happening behind me. They are by far the worst RVM’s on any Indian bike, it’s practically useless, unless one adjust it after numerous number of corrective positions, even then adjusting it is also a tough job , unlike normal RVM’s this has a completely different setup and once the position has been fiddled with, which always happens when parking in public spaces, the whole RVM tends to get loose and start changing position on it’s own while riding, rendering it completely useless. Somewhere along the line I did get used to it, a solution i would like to propose would be to get the RTR RVM’s fitted, its not a direct fit, some welding work is involved, but it definitely gives more rear view than the stock one’s do.
Now getting to the fairing, almost all the 220 users will vouch on this, the dreaded fairing vibration, with increase in use-age the fairing starts to vibrate and create distractions while riding, there was almost no solution to this problem, even I faced this problem for quite sometime, then I head of a solution, a simple ,yet effective solution. Using of Double sided tape while fitting the fairing back. This almost made the fairing vibration to non existence. Costing just about Rs200/- with labor charge , it was a cheap fix. And moreover the newer machines comes with the double taped form so, Bajaj has taken care of this issue.
So , areas of Improvement in this front are : Better RVM’s and maybe a more permanent or standard fix for the fairing vibration problems.
Engine Refinement & Performance :
Bajaj is known for many things ,but engine refinement is not one of those , excluding the 200NS that is,which is a mutant pulsar and is a league apart, in the sense that the older pulsar characteristic is no longer present, in a good way mostly.
The Bajaj 220F has a much more refined engine than the other pulsar’s though, I can say for sure as I have test rode every other pulsar. But it isn’t that re fineness as for a Honda or a Yamaha. My Crux used to run more refined on really old engine oil while the Pulsar would be rough and clunky with just barely 1000 Kms on some bad oil.
So here goes, the engine is a 220 cc mill, churns out 21PS of power.The refinement is quite good and acceptable, not much engine vibrations, but with a new engine you can never be so sure, during the break in period it would be always like an angry teenager, rough, clunky,over heating and all. Once the engine had settled in, it was all good and peaceful, but if the oil is out , then the engine doesn’t work well.
Not exactly a bad thing, but that’s how the Bajaj mill’s behaves. So my point being, the Bajaj engines in comparison might be less refined than a Yamaha or a Honda.
The refinement of the engine is mainly maintained by using the correct grade of oil , draining at the correct time. I have tried on a variety of Engine oil, a mixture of a few different ones too and have reached at a conclusion on what runs best on the Pulsar 220, or any pulsars for that matter.So basically, you change the engine oil religiously according to your usage pattern and drain interval and your engine remains healthy and will last long.
So now, let’s talk engine oil.
I have used the Bajaj Oil 10000, Motul Mineral, Motul SS 5100, Motul FS 7100, Motul 300V, Castrol Activ 4T, and a few other brands, don’t remember the names, they weren’t any good anyway, so that’s lesser work to do.So below is the review on each oil that I have used and can recall.
Bajaj 10,000 – They claim it to be a “Semi Synthetic”(SS) oil, and that it lasts for 10,000 kms. That is just false advertising. It hardly holds together for 2000kms in mixed riding conditions in my case and many other users can vouch for that too. The first 1000 Kms it performs well, then it’s downhill in a jiffy.
Motul Mineral – Just like any other mineral oil. Drain interval of 2000 Kms and your engine won’t complain.
Motul 5100 SS- The best oil for Pulsar 220. The grade 15W50. This is the perfect oil at the perfect price. The reason i say so is that, apart from the fact that, unless you are into racing or full time high revving use, the Motul SS and the Motul FS doesn’t feel any different and the FS costs a lot more than the SS. The Motul SS retails at Rs 495/- per liter.I maintained a drain interval of 4k and the oil had still some life left in it. So my vote goes for Motul 5100 15W40. If you can source 20w50, then it’d be even better..!!
Motul 7100 FS – Great oil, but didn’t find it much different than the 5100. Costs about Rs7xx per liter.
Motul 300V – Great oil, the best for high revving action, the oil holds on for long, but it’s at the costlier side, nearly a 1000rs for one liter of this oil. It can last for well over 5k kms in normal usage But the 300v is known for inducing slight head leakage, not in a significant way, but still its a bother getting the gaskets changed just because of that.
Castrol Activ 4t – Mineral oil, to sum it up, not worth it, the engine gets rough all too soon than you expect and gear shifts are in no way smoother. My opinion would be to stay away from this one.
So choose wisely the blood for your bike’s heart and you have yourself a refined engine right there.
Tip: During winter time, to avoid cold starts, use xW40 grade oil, no cold start issues, but then try to avoid long distance rides at a single stretch, the engine gets hotter much faster with a xW40 grade oil.
All that apart, the engine does hold on pretty good for long enough, it has had the abuse it can go through, almost all conditions, all terrains and all riding patterns, and it’s holding good. The only engine components I have changed as yet are Clutch plate at 47k kms , cam shaft and rocker arms(had to change cause of a busted cam shaft) both at 47k itself. Rest all the engine components are running stock, and not giving any complains as of yet.
A engine de-carbonizing was done at 25k. Most of the service after that was done at home by me, nothing beats working on your own bike on a lazy morning day.
Other parts changed are regular consumable parts like
1.Chain & Sprocket set, each set lasted me about 20-25k kms with not so regular maintenance.
2.Brake Pads set, front and rear, front pads lasted more than rear, though I use rear break very less, something to do with quality of the spare I guess.Note: Mine is the first gen KBX unit.Which can be upgraded to Bybre one’s which are said to be giving better feedback, but honestly, I find the KBX on mine to be working upto my satisfaction, having saved my skin more often than I would like to remember.
Let’s move on here, the next part I would like to focus on is Rideability.
The 220 is almost a complete package, an all-rounder to put it subtly. On the broader scheme of things, you can take this bike and go anywhere. But just for the sake of the review let’s break it up.
City:A good city ride, but on the heavier side, make maneuverability a bit of a concern if you are on the shorter side in height, the front end is much heavier than you would like it to be, so in some cases you will find yourself hauling it with all your strength to make it go where you want it to go, but a little getting used to it all you need and you can flick it pretty much in a controllable manner. Though truth be said, the massive torque that can be used makes the heavy weight kinda not a problem at all, though the lighter 150 cc’s might be more flickable, it’s just not as much fun as the 220, I’m sure many would agree.
Highway:Mile cruncher it is, it’s been born for the highway roads, the comfort is just surprisingly good, find a sweet spot and your set for a full day of nonstop riding, and with a properly maintained engine, it’s just pure bliss. The seating position is very much comfortable for any kind of riding, it has ample cushion on the seat, not very stiff, not too spongy too, just the right amount. For the serious tourer’s out there, a little more padding on the seat can be a great boon.
Now a bit of the mildly technical stuff behind it being so good on the highway,the fairing does a great job taking the wind blast off the chest, the heavy weight gives more stability in crosswinds, the powerful mill makes long distance rides fun, and night riding is just too plain easy, visibility is not a concern at all, the best headlights any Indian manufacturer has to offer, both low and high beam are 55w bulbs, the high beam comes with projector setup, so it gets even better.
Off-roading: Surprisingly enough, hold very good too, though the suspension is a big let down, the rear one’s specially, but standing on the foot-pegs can give a considerable difference there too. Considering the state of conditions in some places at Kerala, the off-road motocross roads are even better laid, and having ridden through these above mentioned roads, i can say, the bike managed pretty well, had only one case of busted fork oil seals, that too well after 50k on the ODO, so it’s safe to conclude , the 220 can handle off-road pretty well too.But a bit of tweak on the out dated rear shocks and frame is a welcome change any day.
One part that must be mentioned are the rims, the 17″ rims are very strong, it has not had any bends even in occasions of having fallen into potholes with a pillion too at speeds above 60 kmph and came out without any problems, and no damage to the tires too.
Now , let’s talk how good it is around a corner. Well, not so good. The tube type chassis has been outdated decades ago, and is not suited for cornering action. And add the heavy front to the equation it gets worse, a small calculation error and the front slides away and spits you out, the bike is merciless and unforgiving at that point, takes a leap of faith to really lean her out on the corner, though with proper technique and lots of guts, it can be done, trust me, have achieved quite good lean angles, and know a few who manage even more insane lean angle. Another thing that weighs it down in this area is the suspension, the front is stiff enough and good to go, but the rear is a big let down, its just not good enough, be it for touring or taking corners, still does without much problem for touring, but I could definitely do with a better set. But when it comes to corners, the rear shocks give a big scare, the rear end is all over the place , something you don’t want while leaning in. Making it a stiffer setting also doesn’t help much, it just isn’t made for it, some say the Karizma or the RTR shocks are a good replacement for it, but have to test it to conform it.
So I guess, it’s safe to say that, the 220′s or the older gen Pulsar are not meant for cornering action, though they do take it with a great bit of skill and technique. The 200NS comes as a revelation here from the Bajaj stable, it’s just mind blowing in the handling department.
Now, let’s quickly talk about maneuverability in city spaces and tight spots, in city traffic, initially the weight or big bike feel might raise doubts on it’s flickability , but once you get a hang of it, it becomes almost too easy to cut it out through heavy traffic. Handling that weight was never a big problem for me, unless I had to push the bike with my legs, as I am a bit short for the bike, both my legs are not completely planted to the ground, when the bike is standstill. That gives me a disadvantage on the weight part, but once i get moving , that problem vanishes. So I can safely say that city flickability is quite ok , and too easy for me with this bike, but that is not the case with U turns or tight spots, the larger turning radius is the reason here, that and the weight for short riders can be a problem while taking U-turns.Next , let’s talk Tires.
When it comes to the rubber, we have a few option here, which can make the bike more grippy , responsive and more fun to lean in to a corner.
The stock bike comes with stock MRF Zapper FS tire at front and similar one(forgot the model name) of zapper at the rear. Those are somewhat of a hard compound, they give good grip in dry conditions and Ok-ish grip in wet conditions, had used that one only until the stock tires gave in, then i shifted to the MRF Zapper Vyde (120/80/17) at rear as compared to the stock option(120/90/17). The front tire was retained as it is at 90/90/17.
And with this change the bike just turned out to be more fun, the Zapper Vyde, is a softer compound rubber, so grips more, and has a more rounder profile than the stock tire, so in appearance looks not as beefy as the stock tires, though the cross section size is the same, and the ride height is lowered a tad bit.But the grip of this tire is just marvelous in both wet and dry conditions, amazing traction have lost the rear only 2-3 time till now with this tire(been using the same one for last 2 changes, so totally i’m running on my 3rd set of Zapper Vyde) and those were very much controllable slides, making it kinda fun.
Though it is a softer compound it is not prone to much punctures, in my time of 60,000 kms on this bike, i had only a single puncture till date, and trust me , the bike has seen the worst possible terrains and filthy littered roads that one can find here in Kerala. But it does come with a small disadvantage, it wears off faster than the stock rubber, understandable since it uses a more softer compound of rubber than the stock, but when comparing with the kind of grip and fun this tire provides, it’s totally worth it.
P.S: The Zapper Vyde costs about 200-300 more than the stock option.
So my advice for MRF users would be, get the Zapper Vyde for the rear when going in for a change, keep the front stock as it serves pretty good, there are other options for the front tire too, feel free to experiment and if possible do leave a feedback here, so that perhaps i can try a change too.
Now, let me get to a part on which a lot of people ask me about, when they see the mileage i have put up with this bike. “Have I done any kind of Engine rebuilds / works to keep it running this far ?”
Engine Works History :
As of till date, the engine head has been opened only 3 times, First time was at 25,000 kms to get the de-carbonizing done, then next was to replace the rockers, but the mechanic had failed to realize that the cam-shaft was damaged , that in-turn gave rise to the rockers failing again and head had to be opened for another change of rockers and cam-shaft. The cam shaft gave way at about 45k kms and the clutch plates at about 47k kms. So the only time the head was opened was when there was a need of change in parts at the right time. Apart from that the engine is untouched and not modded in any other way, it speaks in great volumes about the reliability of this Bajaj product. And also proves if maintained properly, a bike as “less” refined as a Bajaj can last this long considering the abuse it has taken in a short span of time. Now at 60,000 kms the bike is going to go for another de-carbonizing and possibly a timing chain replacement.
Now, another small topic, after riding the bike for quite some time, it’s natural to feel bored with the bike’s stock performance and some might wan’t to mod the bike to make things a bit more interesting. For which there are quite some options, but modding comes with it’s risk. After much searching I changed my exhaust to a Race concepts Free Flow Exhaust provided by Race Concepts. Have been using it for nearly the last 30,000 kms and riding the bike with it has become much more fun, have also done a detailed review of the same, if you wish to know more on that respect, click here.
After almost 3 years of ownership with this beautiful machine, I can say that, Bajaj has done a great job with the 220, a leader in it’s class for quite a few years, before it got outdated, but still packs enough punch to kick some serious ass out there..!! It’s a great bike, great power, great comfort, apt for long rides, but also could do with some better shocks, a better frame , but hey, no bike is perfect. Yet still, many of the short comings have been rectified with the new flagship model 200NS, but of-course which is a naked bike.
In all fairness, I would love to see a new bike from Bajaj which carries the 220 DNA with more attention to a few aspects like Suspension, Better Chassis, a 6th cog for cruising mode and a more powerful mill would be icing on the cake.Then Bajaj being Bajaj , a Kickass pricing and there you have an almost perfect bike for Indian roads. Hope the time is not too far away for this wish to be full filled.
So, I guess it’s time to wind up the review here, I am certain I might have missed some aspect here and there, after-all clearing all grounds is a rather tough and time consuming job. So if you find some aspect that i have missed here and want to know about it , do leave me a feedback in the comments section and i will surely get back to you with the answer.