Triumph Tiger Explorer XC Review
The Triumph Tiger Explorer 1200 XC is a relatively new entrant into a relatively new and booming adventure motorcycle segment in India. The first such bike to be made available in India was the worldwide blockbuster ‘Long Way Round’ bike – BMW R1200. But it was (and still is) prohibitively expensive. We are still waiting for the Ducati Multistrada to come to our shores, while the Suzuki V-Strom might be the most affordable of the high capacity adventure tourers on the shelf right now.
Price: INR 18,75,000 ex-showroom Delhi
The Explorer XC (which essentially means Cross Country) is an all kitted out version of the Explorer 1200 to take it off tarmac. It also comes in a Matt Khakhi Green which is the Military Green, in my opinion, the most purposeful colour for this bike. It looks absolutely delicious in it. I have ridden the Ducati Multistrada and the Suzuki V-Strom extensively and I can vouch for the fact that the Triumph Explorer 1200 XC looks different than most adventure bikes out there at the moment. It is not as sporty or beautiful as the Multistrada (or powerful) but it is much more exciting than the V-Strom 1000 which tends to have frame flex at high speeds on the highway.
The look and feel of the 1200 XC oozes quality and finesse with elements like auxiliary lights and panniers bringing the owner one step closer to a RTW tour ambition! The ride was smooth and the inline three cylinders configuration gives it a unique note at higher revs. With 137 Bhp @ 9300rpm and 121 Nm of torque @ 6400rpm, it is a bit rev hungry but has got enough mettle for the innumerable overtaking manoeuvres required to navigate Indian highways.
But is the bike true to its name of being Cross Country, on paper it might not appear so, what with the 267kg wet weight to be manoeuvred around, compared to the Multistrada at 232kg and V-Strom at 228kg. Though once in motion, the drivability of the chassis and tractability of the engine make those extra 30kg disappear. The much slimmer rear tyre of 150mm also aids in off-road handling as compared to the 190mm of the Ducati. Not to mention the 19” front wheel, which makes going over large obstacles relatively easy. Though when you give the bike gas, it does surge forward at an alarming rate, without giving the rider a ‘heart in mouth’ moment.
With a seat height of 837mm the XC would be easily manageable for most Indian riders; though taking it on a trail would require a bit more skill for the shorter riders. The Ducati has the edge over the other two here with an adjustable saddle going down to 825mm, though Triumph does offer a Low Seat as an accessory which knocks off 30mm, making it usable by almost anyone. Both the rider and pillion get a nice upright seating position, with enough room on the saddle for both. The ergonomics are good and I never had to ‘stretch’ out, everything was always within control. This is good for those occasions when you want to get off the tarmac, the purpose for which this bike is built, to add to its XC capabilities are the Sump Guard, Engine Protection Bars, Hand Guards, Fog Lights, Traction Control and Switchable ABS. A 950W Alternator, 222kg payload, 12v power socket, large screen and an engine immobiliser make it perfect to load up and ride long distances. The bike is also shaft driven, reducing the amount of maintenance required, useful when you are out on extremely long rides!
The V-Strom, Multistrada and Explorer 1200XC all sport 20L fuel tanks, which give them a similar range, as Triumph claims that their 1215cc engine is extremely frugal in its fuel needs. The Suzuki V-Strom retails for Rs 1495000/- Ex-showroom Delhi, while the Ducati Multistrada isn’t launched yet in India, though the Hyperstrada is priced at 1095000/- ex-showroom, giving a good idea that the MTS will be positioned in the same price bracket as the Triumph Tiger Explorer 1200XC, which is Rs 1875000/- Ex-showroom Delhi. The Suzuki is 4 lakhs cheaper, but it is more for the rider on a strict budget, as it doesn’t provide the premium components that you will find on the Tiger. The Ducati is more evenly poised to take on the Triumph, but the Multistrada is more road biased, while the XC is a more off-road focussed bike. What you will pick, depends on what you want your bike to do!
If I get one, it would definitely be the military green!
Honda CB Shine SP Review: Improving upon its Shine!
Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India (HMSI) Ltd. has managed a slew of launches in the past 12 months – 15 including the CB Shine SP launched yesterday. The 16th would be the 160cc Hornet scheduled sometime next month. Quite a feat, not just for the numbers but also for the variety, which if not an increasing complex production and inventory exercise for the company would surely be a knotty problem for the dealers! Too many models, differentiated mainly at times by features, stickering and marketing themes than by any solid technical changes. The Honda Shine has been shining though all through these years of its existence and the shine comes from the solid, reliable and value for money machinery on offer under the name. The CB Shine is the best seller motorcycle for HMSI (currently selling almost 8 lakh units per annum) and so it is not surprising that they wanted to give it an upgrade. This once though it is as much a technical upgrade as a cosmetic one.
The new Shine SP looks good now. And also more purposeful. The plastics look robust, the paint finish nice and clean, the visual proportions more filled up and the bike overall exudes a well built quality. The tech part is well taken care of by two major upgrades – the new 5 speed gearbox replacing the earlier 4 speed one and the Combined Braking System even though the latter is only in the top model. The Honda Eco Technology series 125cc 4 stroke engine puts out a healthy 10.5 bhp at 7500 rpm and a peak torque of 10.3 Nm at a lowish 5500 rpm. Nice promising specs which when combined with a 9.2:1 compression ratio do indicate an engine design that favours longevity as much as it does performance.
We were offered a short (actually very short) spin on the bike around the JW Marriot Hotel near the Delhi T3 terminal. In all honesty we couldn’t even get the bike into 5th gear (something Honda really wanted us to comment upon) before the ‘circuit’ was over but the ride did reveal a nice built to purpose machine that should be a pleasure to own. It is an urban tool, fit for the close quarter work through chaotic rush hour city traffic and has all the prerequisites in place to be that every day for weeks, months and years. The engine is typical Honda – smooth, silent and hopefully as efficient as Honda says it is. A longer review ride will throw more light on the last part. The clutch is light, the gears click into place and the low end torque is pleasantly good. The steering is intuitively light though the lightness could become a trifle problematic with a pillion who is substantially heavier than the pilot. Conjecture only because we only rode the bike solo. The brakes are sharp and the CBS does its job. Push only the rear brake pedal hard and you feel the front dive too. I have no idea of the braking force proportion with the CBS in use but for a rear drum equipped bike, the system displayed good functionality. The front brake alone is as good as it gets in a bike this size with nice feel and feedback. The suspension is plush, the seat really nice and the wide bars provide excellent leverage – both while the bike is rolling and when being pushed around for parking etc.
Our very short first ride didn’t throw up any unpleasant stuff about the bike. Small niggles that came up into awareness was the seemingly flimsy switch gear quality, especially the red starter button, the obtrusive ‘choke’ lever just below the horn button, dated looking round foot rests, RVM’s that were not really effective (the shape is fine but the reach of the stalks could have been more for better coverage) and I can bet that the standard 3 Ah battery on a self start bike with bulbs all around and not LED’s for brake lights and trafficators will turn out inadequate. Try the horn while braking and with the trafficator blinking and the horn will be more of a ‘siren like vee-vaa’ tone rather than a steady one.
All said and done though the Honda Shine SP is a worthy upgrade over the CB Shine and should prove to be a good value for money proposition for its buyer.
HONDA SHINE SP TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
Triumph Thunderbird Storm Review
As a rule, cruisers are not my thing actually however much my present over-grown anatomy and those numbers we call age might make it seem. I like a riding stance that allows all my four limbs to participate in the ride and not just two. And these ‘easy riders’ dictate that the lower pair of appendages are put away at an extreme angle in front of the rest of the body, more of a factor in the style statement than my own perfectly usable pair of legs while I ride whatever best way I can with them arms and that torso. But even rules have exceptions and I had made two quite some years’ back – the Suzuki Intruder (M1800 of course!) and the Harley V-Rod. A third entry made way to the list a short while back in the guise of the Indian Chief Classic but none came closer to almost prompting me to chuck that rule for good than the Triumph Thunderbird Storm. This tempest in question is always raging black, with a few lightning flashes of chrome thrown in here and there. It is big enough to fill the horizon when seen from a low angle, does really sound like thunder and can wrist-roll a tornado a minute if desired. Thor would have found it a fitting chariot if he used one though I have no idea of how good it is at cold starting in really freezing conditions of the God’s kingdom.
Triumph had the entire gamut of premium motorcycling worked out between its product spectrum – right from the entry level Bonneville through the Daytona for the track, the Tiger for hard-core touring, the Street Triple for brutal fun and the Rocket III for two-wheeled insanity. Despite this impressive and extensive list, there was a gaping hole in the product line-up quite like the Ozone one above the poles of Mother Earth. They needed a cruiser that could stand shoulder to shoulder, or preferably taller than the ubiquitous Harleys and the Thunderbird was the answer. Much acclaimed by the Western motorcycling media as the Cruiser of the Year for two years running in its previous avatar, the 2013 onwards model has upped the ante on ‘being the bad-ass’ front. With another 100cc’s added to the 1597cc of its original engine (giving as production version henceforth what was a hot-rod mod done through dealers previously), the newer Thunderbird is quite apt at carrying the Storm moniker on its powerful countenance. The bike looks a strangely oxymoronish (to coin a new term) mix of the compact and the massive. It is big and yet has compact proportions. It feels massive but feels pretty much manageable by an average-sized rider. The substantial tank (22 ltrs) dominates the visual lines viewed from top while the Street Triple ‘bug-eye’ twin-headlamps and the straight bars stare back hard at you face to face. The bike looks all muscle, purposeful, strong and solidly built. The seat height at about 27 inches is good enough for even a 5’8” rider to flat-foot it and the rider seat is plush and comfy for long days on the saddle. The pillion perch is quite literally that – a perch! Not comfortable at all and pretty precarious to boot going by the brutal pull the bike has in any and every gear.
The literal and figurative eye of this Storm is its amazing engine, a 1699cc liquid cooled DOHC parallel twin. A 270 deg firing interval, 4-valves per cylinder and a short-stroke design gives it more than enough stomping power even with a relatively mild 9.7:1 compression ratio. The low compression ratio also means that here in India you can fill ‘er up at pretty well any fueling station and it will still run well. The 270 deg offset firing order does necessitate the need for twin balancer shafts within but the engine response and the aural output is something the V-twin aficionados would die for. The engine starts to a low thrumble (a fusion of thunder and rumble huh!) and awaits that right-handed twist. Do that and the crackle is loud enough to announce your impending departure (or arrival as the case may be) to all and sundry within a quarter-mile radius. The twin pipes sing in sync with the twin big pistons. Shift firmly into gear and get rolling. No, astride this gladiator in black, neither would you prefer a quiet exit nor will you be able to make it. You will blast off on loud thunder, carrying your own storm behind straight into the belly of the horizon. This bike pulls hard, as hard as those 97 horses on tap at 5200 rpm and the massive 155 Nm of torque at a mere 2950 rpm respond to your right wrist. This is a cruiser with the heart of a sportsbike. The pull through the gears is relentless and so very addictive when accompanied by that thumpty-thump from the twin pistons chasing each other down below. The 6-speed gearbox might not be the slickest but you’re too busy to notice such nitty gritty, repeatedly rolling off and rolling on that throttle, just to feel your guts hit your spine and your ears full of that foot-tapping thunder.
Torque spread is blessedly linear and ever roll of the throttle brings about an accompanying addictive rush, a belt final drive notwithstanding with its expected lag in power delivery. Smooth and twisty tarmac somewhere in the hills, especially a gentle climb would just be the road to nirvana on this bike. Ground clearance while leaning in is a lot less than the lean angles the bike seems capable of. But leaning beyond a steady shower of sparks flying from under the footboard is definitely not a good idea on a 400 kilo metal hunk. Powering lustily out of gentle curves though is another matter, the wide grin plastered under the helmet ample testimony to the pleasure it offers. The torque though makes it feel a lot faster than it really is.
Also Read: Triumph Bonneville Review
And yes, it handles as well as it runs. There’s magic in the way a mere crawl at say 10 kmph can make that entire weight (338 kgs) go pouf! and the wide bars let you dance a tango on tarmac with this 7 ½ ft bike. With 1613 mm between the axles and the front wheel raked out at 32 deg, even the longish trail of almost 6 inches induces no lag in the Storm’s maneuverability at both low speeds and high. The beefy 47mm Showa forks up front and the twin shocks at the rear might seem old-school in these modern times of USD forks and mono-shock rear but the set-up does a surprisingly good job of keeping those wheels pressing down hard and yet managing to release a plush ride more or less. Using rider comfort and handling prowess as measures of suspension behavior, Triumph seem to have got their hardware spot on with the Storm. The 120 section 19 inch front and 200 section 17 incher at the rear working to probably the best compromise between good traction reserves and agility in handling.
Braking felt great. Twin 4-piston 310 mm discs up front and a 2-piston similar size disc at the rear do a great job of hauling this half a ton laden motorcycle to a quick halt. Retardation is sure, the low C of G, long wheel base and broad rubber helping the cause of excellent braking componentry. Feedback from the front brake is good even allowing gentle trail braking into turns at moderate speeds. The rear brakes are surprisingly effective but then that’s usually the case with long wheelbase and heavy cruisers. Of course we have ABS here too as in almost every modern performance motorcycle worth a mention.
Reach to the bars is not as extreme as that on, say something like the Harley Fat Bob, and so the body does not have to rotate uncomfortably forward. The foot-boards though could have been a trifle wider and longer to provide more alternate foot movement when the feet are not ready on the pedals. The riding position is fine for the long haul, the 22 liter tank allowing some 250 kms or so between refills. Switch gear is premium quality, the clicks feel and sounding just right. The dog-leg levers fall naturally underhand and lever yawn, both for the clutch and the front brake levers is within range of those with small hands. The flat-faced tank has the instrument cluster mounted on it with a combo-dial of speedometer, a digital odometer/trip meter, a fuel gauge and an analogue tacho. The catch here is that you’d need to take your eyes completely off the road, look down physically to read the instruments.
All said and done, this Storm is real ‘value-for-money’ in the price bracket it belongs. A no-frill all function cruiser that does not need those frills to be attractive. It is plenty so already just by being itself. Ever heard of Stroms being pretentious huh?
Price: 13,95,000 INR (ex-showroom Delhi)
This review was published in the April-May 2014 issue of the xBhp magazine, you can buy the digital copy of this issue for your smartphone/tablet from here
Honda CBR650F Review
Let me tell you what I feel about this Honda CBR650F. It is a sporty 650 no doubt. But neither does it demand my pound of flesh in ergonomic comfort to make me a sport-rider nor does it expect me to have feline reflexes to handle its power. The foot pegs are low enough for my knees not to get tucked up like a trussed up chicken’s on the roast. And yes even the heat is not there to roast them anyways. The bars are not that far that I have to grovel and beg space from my ample midriff to reach them or hold my breath in and die blue-faced of asphyxia before I can shift to third. On this one I could take my 7 and something son for a ride and not feel compelled to keep feeling his legs with my hand just to make sure he’s still there behind me. And above all it doesn’t vibrate either me or itself into a frenzy, in the name of character, each time I wind up the right wrist. Short and sweet – I like the Honda CBR650F.
These kind of 650’s are considered ‘entry level’ sports bikes in the mature markets of the West. The Indian market however is not that mature yet, neither financially nor in riding skills. But Honda have made this 650 as user friendly a 600+ cc in-line four with 85 strong horses on the leash as can be possible while keeping it eminently controllable even at 200+ kph. Of course this ‘user friendliness’ is seen as ‘boring’ by the more excitable of the species amongst us two-wheel aficionados. But nevertheless it is a trait that will go a long way in ensuring sales for Honda. Globally Honda apparently wants to plug all holes in its motorcycle line-up and the 650F is probably the last such plug in a lineup that starts with the CBR150R, rides the CBR250R, the 300, the 500 and through to the VFR800 Interceptor. The 650F betrays its strategic placement also as a bridge between the more performance oriented and expensive super-sports 600RR and the Fireblade further up by the visible choice of a sport-bike fairing, the sporty ergonomics and finally the in-line 4 engine choice that wraps it up. India however will consider it a ‘big’ bike in any case and by far going by the ride experience, it is not at all a misfit when being viewed as one.
I have always considered looks as subjective and not really all that important to get spot on,, compared to other functional aspects of the motorcycle. It is a fit case for function over form. A pretty bike with a bad engine and evil handling is not a good bike at all while an ugly one that goes like stink and handles great still holds loads of universal good in it. The 650F is not a stunning sight but pretty neat and dapper in appearance. A slick suited urban dweller who also knows what the wind feels like beyond the ‘ton’. There’s a bit more of the engine and mechanicals visible beneath the full fairing that would be on a full-dress sports bike but then the fairing does give it a dynamic visual impression. It looks built both with the solidity of utility as well as the finesse of speed in mind. The tech specs tell us that the frame is steel, the engine a stressed member and the whole arrangement pretty stiff which promises good predictable handling even though the non-adjustable right-side up front forks are unexpected and the ‘only adjustable for pre-load’ mono-shock rear looks advance-tech compared to the front as a result. The bike however is not a variation, development or iteration of any of the older existing Honda models. It is totally new from the ground up and built to specific inputs arising from exhaustive market research aimed towards making it an affordable and reliable motorcycle. So no leading edge tech there – just tried and tested fully functional technology meant to work while costing less and to keep working for years.
The engine, a 649cc in-line four (liquid cooled 16 Valve DOHC PGM-FI fuelled) develops a healthy 86 BHP at 11k RPM and about 62 Nm of torque at 8000 RPM. A relatively low 11.4:1 compression ratio allows it to run on normal fuel without issues. The engine has been canted forward at a 30 degree angle to lower the C of G and aid mass centralisation. While at it, the forward cant also helps shorten the intake path and so improves flow through the engine. Which translates to smoother and quicker RPM build up and a definite improvement in both performance and fuel efficiency. The engine has been placed so that the static weight distribution over both the axles is 50-50. The PGM FI feeding through 32mm throttle bodies provide faultless fuelling with no flat spot whatsoever across the entire RPM band. The engine is smooth and hiccup free right from idling to redline. The 6 speed gear box is ‘Honda’ slick and the cable operated wet clutch is light and has good feel.
The bike idles softly and getting it underway holds no drama. Easy to use. The engine, a derivative of the well-tried 600cc (with added cc’s by an increase in stroke length) makes good useable power even at around 4000 RPM. Take it past 7000 and it starts sounding and feeling serious right till 10,500 which is some 500 RPM below its 11,000 red-line. Three digit speeds come up surprisingly quickly and there’s a slight tingle in the bars when the revs hit 8000+ and the bike starts pulling ever stronger. Work through the gears and you’ll get past the second 100 quickly enough to light up the helmet insides with that silly grin. The fairing does a fairly good job of keeping most of the wind out of the way of your head and chest. Buffeting however does happen past 150 kmph or so. The bike sits smooth and quiet though at 120 kmph in top gear and gives you the feeling of it being able to do that from here to Timbuktu. And then you’ll take a short break either to refuel or to rest. The 650F has no desire for rest though it’s 17.3 ltr will begin needing a refill in some 300 kms odd.
The suspension may be basic but the 650F handles anything and everything thrown at it with aplomb. Sprung a trifle soft, the bias towards rider comfort being understandable since this is not an outright sports bike, both the front (41mm dia 4.2 inch travel forks) and the rear (4 inch travel mono-shock) do a good job of smoothing out the road irregularities and providing good road-holding. If your weight is closer to the ‘mildly obese’ as yours truly is, just click up a couple of notches on the rear mono-shock 7-step preload and all will be good with the rear too. The rider seat is comfy though the pillion will need a tiny tidy rear end to find any comfort on its perch. Seat height at 810 mm is as much as the KTM Duke’s but since it tapers towards the tank. Those who find the Duke too tall will be comfortable with this one.
The 650F’s geometry (rake at 25.3 deg and trail a shade below 4 inches) all point towards straight line stability and that’s what the bike does. But then these figures coupled with a 1440mm wheelbase make the bike a lazy turner. Counter-steer positively and it does respond but there’s no sharpness as would be in a sports-bike. 180 rear and 120 front tyres on 17 inch rims provide ample rubber though the 17 inch rims do add to the reluctance shown in directional changes at speed due to the greater gyroscopic rotating mass. At the same time it need be pointed that low speed control is great. The laziness at speed though is not by far a drawback but a consequence of the choice of geometry to make this bike the versatile tool that it has turned out to be. Brakes are good with two 320mm discs with twin-pot callipers up front and a single 240 mm disc with a single piston calliper at the rear, enough to get the 212 kilo bike to shed speed quickly. ABS, if opted for, is amazingly unobtrusive. So good and smooth is the transition that you don’t even feel it cutting in.
The instrument console is a mix of LED’s LCD and split digital displays. The LCD based ‘analogue’ tacho is nice as is the 6-segment fuel gauge. It comes with 2 trips, a ‘mileage’ gauge, clock and all the usual tell-tale lights. The horn button is the most awkwardly placed on any bike I have ever ridden this side of a Harley or a BMW. Even after a couple of hours in the saddle I would almost feel compelled to look down to locate it. I doubt if anyone has eyes in their left thumb. At least I don’t. The whole touch and feel though of the bars, controls and switchgear is typical Honda top notch quality. Lights are adequate as they are on almost all bikes, big or small. There’s no bike to my knowledge that cannot outride its own stock lights. The Hayabusa for example is scary to ride at even 150 kmph, half its top speed, on stock lights!
To wrap up, the Honda 650F is an unpretentious ride to town or head for the horizon kind of a bike. Cribbing has no end and it stands as a fact that even though most riders would likely never approach this newest CBR’s real-world limits, it might still get bashed for being a “boringly perfect, no-personality Honda.” But a quick reminder to such brethren is a three word description of what constitutes high quality in anything – fitness for use. Once we stop comparing spec sheets on paper and think in terms of real world performance and utility of motorcycles, the Honda 650F makes tons of sense. So go get it if you have the thought, the inclination and the moolah.
Honda CBR650F Review – Technical Specifications
Length x Width x Height 2107mm x 753mm x 1149mm
Wheel Base 1449mm
Ground Clearance 133mm
Seat Height 810mm
Kerb Weight 215kg
Fuel Tank Capacity 17.3 L
Type Liquid Cooled Inline Four Cylinder DOHC
Fuel System PGM-FI Program Automatic Enrichment Circuit
Max Net Power 63.6 kW @ 11000 rpm
Max Net Torque 62.9 Nm @ 8000 rpm
Compression Ratio 11.4 : 1
No. of Gears: 6 Speed
Tyres & brakes
Tyre size (front) 5 Spoke Aluminium Cast 120/70-17 (Tubeless)
Tyre Size (Rear) 5 Spoke Aluminium Cast 180/55-17 (Tubeless)
Brake Type & Size (Front) 2 x 320mm Disc (ABS)
Brake Type & Size (Rear) 1 x 240mm Disc (ABS)
Frame & Suspension
Frame type Steel Diamond
Front 41mm Telescopic Fork
Rear Monoshock with 7-stage spring preload adjustment