First Impressions: 2017 KTM RC 390 and RC 200
In 2014, xBhp had ridden the KTM RC 390 and 200, the first proper sportbikes in the country. Bikes which were completely at home on the track. They were a bargain at the price point and gave enthusiasts a very different tool to play with! It was however time for the Austrian manufacturer to up the ante and ensure the new bike is fully loaded for the track, straight out of the factory!
The 2017 bikes are an evolution of the original, a lot has changed in the RC 390, but the base motorcycle is the same at the heart of it. The bike feels familiar, for better or worse. We therefore will concentrate our attention on the differences and not the similarities!
First up is the new paint scheme, the one thing that is in your face. As always, whenever there is a change in the paint scheme of a motorcycle, there will be the critics who feel the older looked better, while others will welcome the change. So is the case with the 2017 RC twins. The important thing though is that the bike looks different from its predecessor. Besides the change in graphics, visually you will notice the substantially larger RVMs. Which is a wonderful practical addition to the bike. The new side-mounted exhaust, this was required to meet Euro IV emission norms, frees up room from the belly, thus allowing the bottom of the fairing to be made narrower. This mitigates the problem of the fairing grinding in the corners, a problem faced by some of the seasoned track riders. The new exhaust also has a better note, pleasantly different from the outgoing model! Another change is an addition of 12mm of foam to the rider’s saddle. This was an addition which I didn’t like, though I assume most riders would be happy to have that extra bit of padding.
Riding Gear: Spartan Pro Gear
The important updates though, are not visible to the eye. Ride-by-wire (RBW) is one of the biggest technology additions to the new RC. What’s that you ask? Basically, the traditional mechanical throttle cable is replaced with an electronic wire. So when you twist that right wrist, a cable isn’t pulling through, instead 1s and 0s are being sent to a little black box, where an IT engineer is sitting with his laptop, giving commands as to how much the valves should open and allow the air to be let in and burnt! So in the real world does this translate to a disconnect between the rider and the engine? Not really, in fact the throttle response only gets crisper and more precise. Technology like RBW, can even change the mind of old-school purists with the many advantages they offer!
The other big ticket update that the bike got was the addition of a slipper clutch. A slipper clutch helps in downshifting, especially on a track. When you downshift at high RPM, there is a difference between the engine speed and the rear tyre speed as the lower gear is engaged. This difference in speed causes the rear wheel to lose traction and skip out. Very unnerving when the rider is focussing on braking for that next corner. The old school method is to blip the throttle while downshifting so as to match the revs of the engine to the speed of the tyre. Now this job is done by the slipper clutch, which does exactly what its name suggests. It slips the clutch if the wheel speed is more than the engine speed, till the speeds are similar, where the clutch once again engages. How useful is this in real world riding conditions? Honestly, you rarely ever will find yourself hammering down through the gears while riding on public roads. The biggest benefit as per me is mid-corner. When you find yourself one gear too high in the corner while leaned over, you can easily downshift and still hold your line. Without the slipper clutch, a downshift would most probably throw you off-line. That itself is worth the extra monies you pay for it!
The other notable change is the downgraded speed rating for the Metzeler rubber that the RC 390 now sports. Though it still is comfortably capable of handling the top speeds that the RC is capable of managing. On the 1 km long straight, I managed to hit 160 kmph on the speedo, well below the 210 kmph that the tyres are rated for. And to bring you back to reality in a hurry, KTM has popped in 20mm larger discs, with the bike now sporting a 320mm disc up front. A very welcome addition, which now gives the bike the same kind of urgency in braking as it possesses in the handling and acceleration department. Other improvements we found on the bike were a super smooth gearbox, and this was at the end of the day after a bunch of media people had already spent the day thrashing the bikes around the Chakan track, and a bike which started on the first touch of the starter button. The KTMs no longer a 3 second bike, a 3 second to start bike, that is!
Which brings us to the younger sibling, the RC 200. The 200 also gets a new livery and a BS IV compliant engine, along with the wider mirrors. But overall, the bike is essentially the same as the 2016 version. As such it sat in a corner of the track moping, since no one was willing to give it any attention! Previously I had held the belief that the only reason to buy the RC 200 was because one couldn’t afford the RC 390! After a couple of laps on the Chakan track, I am not so sure anymore. The 200 is substantially lighter than the 390 and isn’t quite as front heavy, translating into a radically easier bike to navigate around the tighter sections of the track. I was much faster on the 200 as compared to the 390 on the tighter bits. The only negatives I found on the 200 vis-à-vis the 390 was in the braking and tyre department. Slip these two upgrades onto the 200 and I would be seriously tempted to pick David over Goliath!
The 2017 KTM RC 390 is now fully loaded for the track. The playground for which it was built. You can pretty much ride the bike as is on the track and still have a blast. Safely! The 390 does feel like a proper upgrade over its predecessor, with the inclusion of RBW and a slipper clutch, along with the other useful additions like the RVMs and adjustable clutch and brake levers. The 200 would have been even better if better brakes and tyres were provided, at least as an option. Currently it is old wine in a new bottle. But still good wine!
Photos: Vivek Bhandwalkar & Ashish Kulkarni
Riding Gear Courtesy: Spartan Pro Gear. MT Helmets and Orazo Boots
Triumph Bonneville Speedmaster Review: The Hasty Gentleman!
When Triumph first re-launched the Bonneville series in 2001, the bike was meant to teleport you straight back to the late 50s and fill you with nostalgia as you reminisce about the bygone era of motorcycles, or if you were the Gen X – try and recreate the magic that you saw in the movies and photos of that era. Classic motorcycles which were simple, clean cut and most importantly classy! At the same time, the Bonneville has been quite the blank canvas, allowing owners to personalise their bikes, much like in the 60s. The icing on the cake with the latest avatars being the technology like ABS, TC and even dummy carburetors to retain the vintage look.
More than a decade and a half later, the Bonneville range of motorcycles has evolved and matured with one for every kind of rider. And we were in USA, in the lion’s den, if you know what we mean, riding the latest iteration in the Bonneville family, the Speedmaster. A cruiser which retains the core Bonnie philosophy, yet giving the rider a whole different riding experience. Not uncannily though, this avatar seems to be an amalgamation of styles of a typical Bonneville, a Bobber and a cafe racer, the latter drawing reference from it’s explicit emphasis on the word ‘Speed’. In some sense it’s paradoxical to the image of a laid back ‘cruiser’, where Triumph is also trying to position it.
Last year we had ridden the Triumph Bonneville Bobber and the new Speedmaster builds on that very successful motorcycle. You get all the lovely bits and bobs of the Bobber, with the added attraction of practical everyday riding with the Speedmaster.
The new Triumph Bonneville Speedmaster might pull at your heartstrings with its classic appeal, but your head will be enamoured by the amount of new tech which is hidden within. A proper amalgamation of old and new, to give the rider the best of both worlds.
First up, the styling. If you have time at hand, you can spend a few cups of coffee finding intricate details in the motorcycle which you will not notice at first glance. From the presence of the Bonnie family in the sculpted tank, machined engine fins, twin throttle bodies disguised as carburettors, finned exhaust headers and rubber fork gaiters. All these together immediately associate the Speedmaster as a proper Bonneville. Look closer and you see the Bobber features like the hard tail look, minimal bodywork and single clock, rear hub which looks like a drum brake and a metal battery box with a stainless steel strap to keep it in place and keep the looks classy.
Finally, we have the Speedmaster’s uniqueness with the swept back beach bars, forward pegs, larger fuel tank capacity, removable pillion seat and grab rails, different chrome silencers, 16” spoke wheels and topped off with a low saddle height for a proper cruiser feel. And this isn’t even the end of it, there is lot more for the observant eye to ogle!
As much of a throwback the Speedmaster is in terms of appearance, that up to date the bike is when it comes to technology. The best of it all is probably the brakes. Nothing inspires confidence in a rider as a motorcycle with good braking capability and the Speedmaster comes blessed with two twin piston floating calliper Brembos up front and a single piston floating calliper Nissin at the rear. Together they ensure that you are never left wanting. As with all Triumph motorcycles now, this comes with ABS as well. But it is definitely not like the nakeds (Street and Speed Triple)! With a dry weight of 245 kgs, it is not lightweight by any standards, but then it is the solid feeling that makes it feel well planted as well.
One of the nicest things of most Triumph motorcycles is the neutral handling. This really is a boon for people who are new (or returning) to motorcycling. And for the seasoned hands, it allows one to push the bike around way more than a cruiser should be! The 41mm cartridge front forks and mono-shock with 73.3 mm travel do a good job in terms of comfort and a rather decent job when riding the bike hard. I was mostly scraping the pegs at every corner trying to keep up with the Bonneville Bobber which is better suited for corners thanks to its footpeg position.
The new Speedmaster uses the same engine as the T120 and the Bobber. The tune of the engine though is same as the Bobber, which is 2% more peak torque than the T120 and 10% more torque at 4500 rpm. Similarly, power is also up by 10% at 4500 rpm over the T120. What it doesn’t share with these two motorcycles, is the sound. The exhaust on the Speedmaster is unique to the bike and the aural note is quite different. The 76 bhp and 106 Nm mill ensures that the rider always has sufficient grunt in his right hand to have fun on the open road!
A motorcycle built for 2018 must have all the latest electickery in it, no matter the old school positioning of the product. And this is where Triumph delivers. The Speedmaster is laden with new stuff. A full 5” LED headlight along with LED tail light and indicators. A single button cruise control, which is easily accessible and easy to use. Switchable traction control, torque assist clutch, engine immobiliser, ride-by-wire, road and rain riding modes are some more electronics which help the rider be safer on the road. An added boon is the 16000 km service intervals, which allow you to do really long rides without worrying about visiting a service centre.
The Triumph Bonneville Speedmaster is available in 3 colours and also gets two inspiration kits, the Highway and Maverick kits. We feel that at a price of around 9.5 ex-showroom, this would be a good buy.
Get this bike if you do not want anything too flashy, but still having oodles of presence for you to be able to ride it to a Friday night party. And of course you will look the part if you do like to participate in the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, which is just a bonus really.
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION
Type Liquid cooled, 8 valve, SOHC, 270° crank angle parallel twin
Capacity 1200 cc
Bore Stroke 97.6 / 80mm
Max Power 76 Bhp @ 6,100 rpm
Max Torque 106 Nm @ 4,000 rpm
Exhaust Chromed stainless steel 2 into 2 twin-skin exhaust system with chromed stainless silencers
Clutch Wet, multi-plate assist clutch
Frame Tubular steel cradle
Swingarm Twin-sided, tubular steel
Front Wheels 32-spoke, 16 x 2.5in
Rear Wheels 32-spoke, 16 x 3.5in
Front Tyres 130/90 B16
Rear Tyres 150/80 R16
Suspension KYB 41 mm forks with cartridge damping. 90mm travel.
KYB monoshock with linkage and stepped preload adjuster, 73.3 mm rear wheel travel.
Brakes Twin 310 mm disc, Brembo 2-piston floating calipers, ABS
Single 255 mm disc, Nissin single piston floating caliper, ABS
DIMENSIONS AND WEIGHTS
Width 770 mm
Height 1040 mm
Seat Height 705 mm
Wheelbase 1510 mm
Rake 25.3 º
Trail 91.4 mm
Dry Weight 245.5 Kg
Click on the image for a larger version
The Dark Knight – Bajaj Dominar 400 Review
Dominar. In all these years of motorcycling, never have I ridden a name. Though I’ve always ridden motorcycles which had names. What I mean to say is that a name never maketh a machine. Though it can easily be the other way round. The Bajaj Dominar 400 is an interesting name carried proudly by an equally interesting machine but since the proof of the pudding is in the eating, that’s exactly what we did from Akurdi to Panchgani. We rode the Dominar 400 through a wide range of road and traffic conditions to find out what it would be like if you owned and rode one.
Bajaj created a unique market segment in the Indian motorcycle milieu with the Pulsar. And it was a trendsetter too, raising the pulse of the youth and the veteran riders alike. A decade and some years hence, the machine has evolved into something so new, state of the art and functionally advanced that it yet again seeds a new indigenous product class which has the potential of turning the tables in times to come. So much so that it deserves an entirely new identity.
The Dominar 400 is impressive – as much from far as from up close. It is like a large, ready-to-lunge brutish beast that would demand as much from its master as it can give in return. A solidly built bike what with those beefy fork tubes, the stout perimeter frame and that muscular swing arm. The robust theme in fact defines the whole bike and so inspires confidence. The long and low profile, said to have been inspired by the Gir lion, is not just good to look at but also affects the bike’s geometry in just the right manner. Even though there’s a certain edginess to the design, yet it flows into a shape that wraps the entire machine into one sleek and strong element. In a nutshell the Dominar 400 is impressive when introduced. Time to find out what it is like to shake hands with it and get acquainted.
The 373cc single cylinder, SOHC 4 valve, triple spark plug DTS-i engine powering the Dominar 400 is the biggest and the most powerful engine ever built by Bajaj for any of its bikes. Liquid cooled and fuel injected, the engine produces 35 [email protected] 8000 rpm and an equally impressive 35Nm of torque @ 6500 rpm. Good healthy figures for an engine this size that also indicate a bias towards mid-range usability rather than outright peak performance. The Bajaj R&D people are not new to the triple spark plug head having first introduced it with the Pulsar 200 NS. But a higher power output also means more heat rejection from the engine. So it is vital that this heat rejection is contained within tolerable limits and managed well because the bikes will mostly be ridden in our country where temperatures at most places can go upto 45 degree Celsius in peak summer. A lot of work is said to have been done on the thermal management of the engine, with better flow of air through the engine, improved fuel burn and optimal utilisation of the cooling fluid that also cools the engine head. They’ve had the heat rejection issues with the KTM 390 engine as a reference point and did not want the Dominar user to face the same. Fuel injection makes the bike ‘altitude independent’, meaning that one can ride it right up to Khardungla Top in Ladakh and the engine will self adjust the air fuel ratio. The bike’s engine will not miss a beat whatever the altitude above sea level.
Swing a leg over the saddle and settle on to the bike. The low and long stance makes it feels good to sit on. The handlebars and the controls fall naturally underhand. Switch on the ignition and the LCD display goes through the usual full display check. The reverse backlit numerals and graphics are pretty visible even in bright sunlight. The bike starts with a short stab at the start button and idles in a very stable manner. Throttle response in neutral is enticing and clutch pull is light. Shift into gear with a muted thunk and you’re ready to roll. The bike pulls cleanly off idle and the engine builds up RPMs nicely. The engine response is not sharp like with the KTM’s but there’s a steady flow of power and torque that satisfies the experienced rider and doesn’t overwhelm the novice. In fact everything about the bike’s performance has been rounded off, the sharp edginess removed in the interest of allowing the average rider to upgrade or adapt to it without any problems.
Fueling in general is clean and the throttle progressive. There’s this slight tendency to surge or hesitate when one tries to hold throttle at low rpm and in low gear. Try riding at a steady crawl in second gear and the slight engine instability becomes apparent. Nothing as troublesome as in the KTM 390, at least it’s initial lots. That the bike we rode was spanking new having done time only on the dyno probably also contributed to this. Things should improve as they do when the engine has run through a couple of thousand kilometres. NVH is also pretty well contained, the slight bit of vibration we felt when accelerating through the RPM range was not intrusive but will be good if it sorts itself out as the bike gathers miles on the road. The claimed mileage is in the 30 to 35 kmpl bracket, giving the 13 litre tank adequate but not exceptional range. Remember Bajaj only spoiled us with the 18 litre tanks in the early Pulsars! Of course the throttle hand usually decides the actual mileage and range more than anything else.
The Dominar 400 is a 70 to 100 kmph bike. My saying that doesn’t mean it cannot go faster than a hundred or that there’s some problem at higher speeds. It just that the engine and the bike feels that happiest cruising at those speeds. And on the fringe of triple digit speeds, you have the option of dropping down a gear or even two for that burst of acceleration. Through the gears acceleration is good and without drama. The bike should be able to attain its claimed top indicated speed of 148 kph with an average weight rider in the saddle. The gearbox and the clutch are impeccable. Bajaj is finally there with the clutch with the best in the trade. The 6 speed gearbox and the slipper clutch make for the perfect transmission setup. And yes the slipper clutch works. We deliberately downshifted without any attempt at rev-matching to see that it does do its job. Glad to see such goodies that not just improve performance but also add to safety percolating down the model range in our country now.
The suspension on the Dominar 400 is quite sorted. Compliant enough to make it comfortable and yet stiff enough to make the bike handle well. The robust perimeter frame, principally the same as that on the NS except for strength imparting reinforcements and both the steering head and swingarm ends, in tandem with the pressed steel swingarm gives the bike great torsional rigidity contributing largely to its composed and predictable handling. The wide 150 section rear and the 110 section front radial tyres compliment the bike’s good road manners. As do the solid 43mm Dia front forks and the 77mm Dia dual spring mono shock with its Nitrox damper. The front fork ideally should have been a tad stiffer though for better braking and handling road imperfections when cranked over in a turn. Braking is good though the front with its massive 320mm disc could have been sharper in response. Bajaj has intentionally softened the front brake response to make it less intimidating and more user friendly for those upgrading from lower capacity bikes.The twin channel ABS both up front and at the rear doors it’s job well adding decisively to the safety equation on the Dominar.
The full LED lights on the Dominar 400 are as much a novelty as they are functional. Brightness and focus are both good, the inherently low power demands of the LED’s add further to the advantages. Built to ‘dominate the night’ as is depicted in the Dominar tvc, it is not just the lights but the entire bike as a package that allows the rider that vital extra bit of security and performance for peace of mind even while riding after dark. The horn sadly is puny and almost apologises for the bike’s presence! We wish Bajaj brings back the standard dual horns from the Pulsars. Switchgear is what is now standard backlit Bajaj stuff and does it’s job well. The split LCD display with kick-stand and hi-beam indicator and the Bajaj logo in blue on the fuel tank. Touch of the Diavel? Maybe, but Bajaj says not really.
The seat is well upholstered and well contoured allowing almost every rider with a range of body height to find a comfortable stance. The foam felt a little soft when considered in context with long 8 to 10 hour days on the saddle. The pillion perch is also nice, though no motorcycle seat anywhere is really comfortable for everyone. Even Goldwing owners go about customizing their seats for comfort on long days.
We finally have an alternative to the Enfield in the 350cc plus category. Targeted as a Power Cruiser, the Dominar 400 is pretty capable for the role it has been built to perform. This is a truly utilitarian bike that will be as much at home being ridden to the market for one’s daily shopping chores or doing 400 kilometre days out on the open road. Wherever be that road. If there was one word to describe the bike it would be that it is a very sensible bike. Yes, exciting and sensible.
Bajaj Dominar 400 Review Comparison
Comparison Data provided by Bajaj