2019 Suzuki Katana Review: Out of the scabbard and sharper than ever!

999CC 150BHP 108NM

With warriors, one thing is certain, their time comes and their time goes. But in case of some legends, their time comes and it never really goes away. They just move aside to give the younger ones a chance. They are away, yes, but by choice. And when the need arises, they make a grand comeback to tell others what made them a legend and to… show others how it’s done. Even if the title did not reveal the warrior we are talking about, the above description might have given the true aficionados a good enough hint. The warrior is a motorcycle which went… and goes by the name Katana.

The original Katana is one of the most iconic and one of the most radical motorcycles ever made. It shook the motorcycling world to the core because of the unconventional design and because of the fact that Suzuki claimed it to be the most powerful and the fastest motorcycle of its time.

It was also a very interesting motorcycle and the reason is that it is a Suzuki motorcycle designed by a team called Target Design (Germany) and the members comprised of Jan Fellstrom, Hans-Georg Kasten, and Hans Muth ex-chief of styling for BMW! The Katana, when launched in 1981, was an instant hit. It broke the conventional norms of motorcycle styling and ushered sportbikes into a new era.

Despite the design, the power and the speed it possessed, the Katana was slowly sidelined by newer motorcycles which were a lot more focussed on the sporty intent. These motorcycles include Suzuki’s own GSX-series of motorcycles. The Katana became, from a sportbike to a comfortable sports-tourer. Time kept progressing and finally, the production was stopped in 2006.

There are many examples of even some of the most legendary vehicles being lost in oblivion with the passage of time. But then, as we mentioned, the Katana was a warrior like no other and while it did go on an exile, it never really vanished. Come 2018, Suzuki took motorcyclists the world over by surprise when they announced that a new Katana was coming.

They unveiled the motorcycle at INTERMOT 2018 and unlike the norm where the revived versions lose out on the original’s appeal, the new Suzuki Katana was a major throwback to the original with enough modern bits to make it match other models in the market blow-for-blow. So, the Katana is out of the scabbard again but is the blade still as sharp as it used to be? We found out as we got to ride it in Australia.

While we were still trying to come to terms with how good a shooter the OnePlus 6T was, we were hit with the OnePlus 7 Pro and it makes us wonder how long till smartphones actually replace conventional cameras… The triple camera unit has a 48 MP main camera, an 8 MP telephoto lens, and a 16 MP Ultra Wide Angle Lens that make for stunning captures. With the fluid AMOLED screen with a refresh rate of 90 Hz and the raw power courtesy of Snapdragon 855 CPU and 12 GB of LPDDR4X RAM, editing photos on the go is a breeze.

The moment you catch the first glimpse of the Suzuki Katana, the shot of nostalgia hits you like a ton of bricks. The motorcycle is such a stark reminder of the original 1981 motorcycle that it almost takes you back in time. This is one of the very few motorcycles in the world for which one can say, “This… is a throwback done right.” It is radical but it is beautiful.

It is not only a throwback though. It has enough modern elements to hang with the latest. The profile, while inspired by the original, is sleeker, sharper, and sporty. The front is kind-of semi-faired and the rear is minimalistic. The headlamp and the front positioning lamps are LED to emphasize the modern touch. The satellite rear fender extends from the swingarm which lends the motorcycle a unique rear. Another aspect of the motorcycle which has been executed very well is the upswept exhaust… sleek, suave and black. The red logo decals are a shout out to the 1981 Katana.

The fully-digital instrument cluster is also an ode to the thought-process behind the Katana where they did not want the bike devoid of modern amenities despite the inspiration from a motorcycle almost 4 decades old. Switch the motorcycle on and that’s when one starts to feel really acquainted with the motorcycle even if they have never met the original Katana.

The reason for that is the engine which is a 999cc unit from the K5 Suzuki GSX-R1000. It powered the Suzuki Superbikes (GSX-R) lineup from 2005-2008. The same engine was used on the Suzuki GSX-S1000 and since it was a part of the xBhp garage for quite some time, the Katana felt really familiar. The mill has been custom-tuned for the Katana and it churns out 150 bhp of power at 10,000 rpm and 108 Nm of torque at 9,500 rpm.

The numbers may not seem enough to go for an all-out battle with some other supernakeds out there, they are certainly enough to keep most people entertained. The Suzuki Katana is a wonderfully executed motorcycle and one starts to appreciate that right from the get-go. The clutch is not hydraulic and even then, the clutch pull is light and does not strain the rider. The throttle is not a ride-by-wire unit and yet, it is not jerky at any point in time and all you get from it is smoothness and responsiveness.

The engine builds revs quickly and the acceleration that comes as a result of that is swift. The progressiveness is noteworthy and despite the 150 horses ready to gallop, it is not intimidating at any point. Moving up or down the gearbox is typical Suzuki magic and one would not feel the need for a quickshifter unless they decide to take it to a racetrack. Traction control is not intrusive at all and it helps the motorcycle retain as much character as it can without compromising on the safety front should the rider feel more spirited than usual.

While most of the people get rid of the stock exhaust as soon as their bike is delivered, on the Katana, you may not feel the need to do so if you do it just for the note. The K5 mill delivers a soft inline-4 rumble at idle and things get really raspy when you really start to wring it. Character beats decibels any day when it comes to the exhaust note of a motorcycle.

The GoPro Hero 7 Black that we used to shoot videos with turned out to be a heck of a weapon. This little guy was meant to be out exploring with the most seasoned adrenaline junkies. It is tough, it is rugged and it is waterproof (up to 10m). The screen is touch-enabled but more importantly, it can work with voice commands too. With Lice Streaming capabilities, the GoPro Hero 7 Black is one of the best in the business. Needless to say, the video and the sound are both simply phenomenal. Check out the video at the end to see for yourself.

The 2019 Suzuki Katana also boasts of a fantastic handling package. And it is not a surprise at all since the frame and swingarm are derived from the GSX-R1000. The feedback from the chassis is just perfect for road-riding and it does not leave a lot to be desired.

The suspension system comprises of inverted, 43mm KYB forks which are fully adjustable and a monoshock at the rear. The front forks are well set up right out of the factory and on the road, they feel right at home. The balance between the ability to absorb undulations and keeping things in line when riding hard is near perfect. The rear though is just a tad bit stiff for road riding.

What goes up, must come down and what goes fast, must slow down just as quick. Talking about the anchors, the Suzuki Katana is equipped with stellar units from Brembo. The brakes are progressive, offer ample bite and feel at the lever is also quite good. Under hard braking, the chassis shines again as the bike feels quite composed. In addition to that, ABS is present and it is of the non-switchable variety.

Suzuki Katana weighs 215 kg road-ready and fuelled. On paper, the number may seem a tad bit high, but out on the roads, it is more or less insignificant. The motorcycle has a powerful enough engine to alleviate the heft and not let it affect the responsiveness. The chassis and the overall geometry also helps to keep the 215 kg motorcycle composed as you chain corners on an isolated mountainous road.

And while most of the stuff on this motorcycle is pretty darn awesome, the ergonomics just make the deal that much sweeter. The riding stance is very well-balanced between sporty riding and touring purposes. No strain on the knees, no strain on the shoulders, and no strain on the back or wrists despite hours in the saddle.

We spent a lot of time with the 2019 Suzuki Katana and yet, we were left wanting more of it. So you see, sometimes when a motorcycle offers you something unique, it tends to run out of it after a while. But motorcycles like the Katana have their craft mastered and it is to provide the rider with a fun riding experience. To let a rider know what motorcycling is all about and why they started in the first place.

Not the best sports-tourer out there, not the best streetfighter out there, not the most powerful and nor the fastest and yet, it is probably one of the best motorcycles you will ever get to ride. Ah well, the Katana is sure out of the scabbard again and it is sharper than ever. But most importantly, the battles you take up with this one are going to be one of the most engaging kinds that exist.

Here’s a video of our rendezvous with Suzuki’s radical street weapon…

And since we are discussing nostalgia, here are a few pictures of our GSX-S1000… 

tags
2019 Suzuki Katana
Katana
Suzuki Cycles
Suzuki Katana

Hero Lectro EHX20 Review: Where the road ends, the fun begins!

N/ACC N/ABHP N/ANM

“Where the road ends, the fun begins”, an oft-repeated truism by mountain bikers.

Trails even within the city envelope the rider and give you a feeling of being cut off from the mundane world. This feeling of solitude amidst nature requires you to get away from civilisation. A daunting task for even the shortest duration.

Fears compounded for new mountain bikers by fitness levels which are not top-notch. Being stuck in the middle of a forest, exhausted with not a soul in sight stops many riders in their tracks, even before they start!

Enter the new Hero Lectro EHX20. An XC E-MTB (Cross Country Electric Mountain Bike) built to get you to places which you hadn’t thought of before!

Text: Avinash Noronha (The Monk)

Unite and Conquer

The world is changing. Companies in every field are uniting to conquer the market. The Hero Lectro EHX20 is another brick in the unity wall.

A year or so ago, Hero Cycles tied up with Yamaha Motor and Mitsui to galvanise the Indian market. EHX20 is the first product of this marriage. You can read more about the launch and tie-up of the companies here.

Hero will build the cycles, Yamaha will provide the electric motors and Mitsui the distribution and marketing support. The Hero Lectro EHX20 was built in Hero’s Ghaziabad facilities while the motor is imported from Yamaha’s electric drive unit.

The Bike

This Lectro is revolutionary for Hero. It is a major step up from the current line up of the Ludhiana based company.

Let’s first check out the bike without the electric‘kery’ before delving into the meaty details of Yamaha!

This aluminium alloy hardtail has a nice relaxed geometry, which is ideal for new cyclists, even if it isn’t for tight twisty singletracks. Sizing is currently limited to medium, which is great for riders in the 5’5” to 5’9” bracket. Others will hope that Hero comes out with more frame sizes soon!

The front suspension on this hardtail is by Suntour. A hydraulic fork with 100 mm of travel with rebound and preload adjustment. At this price point, it would have been nice to have an air suspension fork, but then most new cyclists won’t miss it!

The Hero Lectro EHX20 uses a Shimano Deore groupset. Which is more than capable of getting the job done. The 2×10 drivetrain has short enough gearing to tackle steep climbs which you find on trails.

The flat pedals are alloy units from Wellgo. Simple but sturdy equipment which should hold you in good stead.

Hoops are 27.5 ones, giving you the best of both worlds, better manoeuvrability as well as capability of rolling over obstacles. These wheels are shod with Kenda Honey Badger Sport XC tyres which are 2.2” wide. At no point of time will these tyres be slowing you down! The downside is the wheels aren’t tubeless-ready.

To slow you down, you have Deore hydraulic brakes with 160 mm rotors. More than adequate for the intended usage. The brakes have sufficient bite and feedback, allowing for good modulation, necessary in the dirt.

The touchpoints are made up of a PU saddle, which isn’t too thick and extremely comfortable. New cyclists might want a bit more cushioning, but will get used to it, as do all other cyclists! The grips on the handlebar are extremely comfortable, good looking and unfortunately completely out of place on an XC MTB! These grips would look super nice on a retro city bike.

The very cool looking, but completely out of place handlebar grips!

The Deore groupset coupled with the 11-34 10 speed cassette makes tackling climbs a breeze.

The Yamaha battery pack on the down tube. Notice the internal cable routing for the front derailleur as well.

The surprisingly thin, yet plush saddle.

Electric‘kery’

Now to the Yamaha magic which has taken the Hero Lectro EHX20 to a different league compared to the rest of the Lectro range.

The downtube placed battery and bottom bracket mounted motor are Yamaha products. Both of which are designed and developed in Japan.

The 36V, 400 Wh battery has a charge life indicator on it. Four LEDs show the level of charge remaining in the battery.

Fixing and dismantling the battery is easy enough, but the company recommends taking it to the dealer from where you purchased it. Which wouldn’t be too often as this Yamaha battery is used in a number of E-Bikes globally and generally lasts more than 2 years and 700 charge cycles.

The shape of the battery is unobtrusive and has no sharp edges, important when you factor in the possibility of crashing regularly on dirt roads! The lithium-ion battery weighs under 2.9 kg and is secured with a simple lock and key mechanism. The charging point is just above the motor on the base of the battery pack.

The battery has been developed with integrated protection against harsh vibrations, something you will constantly encounter while riding dirt.

Replacement cost in Europe for a Yamaha battery of similar spec costs roughly 500 Euros.

The Yamaha PW-X motor does duty on this Hero, which is a 250W, 36V centre mounted electric drive unit.

The PW-X is the refined version of its previous generation PW motor. This newer iteration is 13% smaller and weighs just 3.1 kg. A better freewheel and more pawls were employed in the motor so that you get an improved feeling while pedalling. The power delivery is substantially smoother.

The PW-X motor provides support to the rider up to a cadence of 120 rpm. A number which most riders will rarely, if ever, breach.

The biggest advantage of a bottom bracket mounted motor is the significantly lowered Centre of Gravity. A boon when navigating tricky bits on trails.

Top speed of the Hero Lectro EHX20 is limited to 25 km/h as per government norms, maximum power provided to assist the rider is 250W, with a claimed range of 60-80 km and a charge time of 4 hours.

The tidy Yamaha motor helps greatly with lowering the CoG.

Hydraulic forks with 100 mm of travel from Suntour. 160 mm disc rotors.

The battery charge level indicator.

The display sits on the left side of the handlebar. Ergonomics of its positioning and buttons are good. After a few kilometres on the road, I didn’t need to look down to change anything!

The Ride

The Hero Lectro EHX20 is all very impressive on paper, but how does it handle real-world conditions?

An E-MTB is always going to be heavier than a regular MTB, and this does make a difference to the handling of the bike. But the extra weight is negated as much as possible by the centre mounted motor.

Most cycles use a hub motor, which is a constantly rotating mass and is an impediment especially when accelerating. This setup does away with that problem.

The lowered and centralised gravity also helps with faster direction changes, extremely important when dealing with narrow singletrack sections. The 630 mm wide handlebar coupled with 27.5 wheels also aids in this regard.

The motor also has a ‘bash plate’ below, so that you don’t end up damaging it over a rock or root.

Power delivery from this motor is super smooth. You don’t feel it kicking in at all. The PW-X compared to rear hub motors is like driving a petrol engine car as compared to a turbocharger installed diesel! Arguably, the singularly most impressive aspect of this cycle.

The motor is assisted by torque, speed and crank sensors to give you power from the first touch of the pedal stroke.

The Deore derailleurs and shifters work as advertised, giving you smooth shifts without too much lag. Necessary to tackle ever-changing gradients which you encounter on trails. At no point of time, I experienced a dropped chain during shifts.

The display on the handlebar shows speed, power delivery modes, range in kilometres and battery charge level. Relevant information without overdoing it! There are 5 buttons on this console. Power on/off, headlight on/off, and toggle switches for the different modes. The display was easy to read even in bright sunlight.

The negatives I found on the bike is that post 25 km/h, you run out of gears and start spinning up. This isn’t a problem on trails, as you will be crossing those speeds only on descents, but it is a hindrance while cycling on asphalt. A bigger chainring would negate this problem.

The only other thing I didn’t like is a sticker on the top tube of the bike stating, ‘no jumping or stunting’!

Verdict

Hero Lectro EHX20 is an excellent bike. Even for the slightly startling price of 1.35 lakhs. For motorists, this would be a jaw-dropper. Most motorcycle models in the market are priced below this!

But when compared to similarly specced non-electric bikes being sold in India currently, the pricing is as per expectations.

The question is whether dyed in the wool cyclists will look in the direction of E-MTBs and will new cyclists be able to stomach a price north of a lakh for a bicycle!

And while we were at it, we took our Indian FTR 1200 along with the Hero Lectro EHX20 and needless to say, it was a lot of fun. Take a look for yourself! 

Motorcycle riding gear by Rynox.

Motorcycle rider’s helmet by Axor.

tags
EHX20
Hero Lectro
Hero Lectro E-Cycles
Hero Lectro EHX20
Lectro
Lectro EHX20

BMW R nineT Racer: An artistic expression of ‘cafe-racing’

1,170CC 110BHP 116NM

They say ‘The best things in the world are free’. I am acquainted with a lot of things that abide by this adage. But recently, I was made aware of something that is one of the best if not the best but isn’t really free. In fact here in India, it costs north of INR 16 lakhs Ex-Showroom. The ‘thing’ in question here is obviously a motorcycle. A motorcycle from BMW Motorrad. The BMW R nineT Racer.

The R nineT belongs to the heritage class of motorcycles from Bavaria. The original R nineT was introduced back in 2013. With the retro looks and modern amenities, it did not take long for people all around the world to swoon over the bike. Since then it has spawned quite a few variants like the Scrambler, Pure etc. In India, we only have 3 variants though. The regular R nineT, the R nineT Scrambler and the R nineT Racer.

Where and how I got to ride the R nineT Racer? I had to go to World Ducati Week 2018. I HAD to ride there. And I HAD to stand out. So, I went to Milan, went to BMW Motorrad Milano, saw the R nineT Racer, picked it up and headed towards the Word Ducati Week 2018. That is it.

I don’t think it would be easy to describe this particular motorcycle’s looks and design. My personal opinion, this is almost the best looking motorcycle I have ever ridden. Most of the Racer’s old school charm is exuded by the café-racer design theme of the motorcycle. But in addition to that, the real crown jewel here is the paint scheme. 

The white colour with BMW M themed stripes that extend from the fairing to the tail add to the already handsome looks of the R nineT Racer. The tried and tested ‘Boxer’ engine protrudes out of the bike which may seem radical at the moment but makes a lot of sense when one looks at the bike in flesh.

Keeping in line with the café-racer design language, the BMW R nineT Racer is stripped down to bare essentials. So much so that it does not even have a sub-frame for the pillion assembly. The pillion assembly is offered as a part of the optional accessories on offer. 

The minimalistic half-fairing extends from the headlight, just coming up to the muscular tank. The tank also has the BMW logo which earns a lot of attention even before one starts to figure out how good looking the bike is. Bits like the blacked-out alloys and forks, LED taillamp, a BMW logo inside the headlamp just portray the near-obsessive attention to detail.

The fit and finish are top-notch and worthy of the BMW tag. And the price tag as well.

A big ‘Boxer’ like the one featured on the BMW R NineT Racer offers a rewarding experience. But twins, especially the large capacity (1,170cc here) ones, undergo a lot of stress when compared to the smoother inline-4s. The heat generated is substantial and engines like these easily cruise past the safe operating temperature if neglected. That is where the engine oil comes in. Good engine oil, like the ones from our tried and tested Castrol POWER1 range, makes sure that the engine runs cooler and smoother. The wide variety of grades available ensure that you always have an option despite the varying climate and other factors.

The R nineT Racer features a ‘Boxer’ engine like quite a few other BMWs such as the R 1200 GS. Although the R nineT features an air-cooled unit instead of liquid cooling. The 1170cc, air-cooled, flat-twin on the R nineT also has 4 valves per cylinder, a central balancer shaft and electronic fuel injection. It produces 110 bhp of power at 7750 rpm and 116 Nm of torque at 6000 rpm. 

The engine, like a true boxer, delivers enough power to keep you excited and the refinement helps the rider maintain good speeds for longer durations as well. Not that one would prefer that (more on that later) but it is capable of doing so. The real magic is not the power because it isn’t going to rip a hole through time and space continuum like an S 1000 RR. The real magic is the power delivery and accessibility.

The R nineT offers a very linear power delivery with loads of torque available right from the lower rev-range. It isn’t a high revving engine which is apparent from the 8500 rpm redline. But it’s a relaxed engine powerful enough to keep boredom miles away from the rider. And the exhaust note of the typical ‘boxer’ is simply a delight. It can keep a lot of people engaged even if revved at a standstill.

The R nineT is a shaft-driven motorcycle and features a 6-speed gearbox which is a joy to go through. Typical BMW smoothness in the gearbox makes a joyous riding experience but then again, this isn’t a motorcycle that would require a lot of gear-changes. One can easily cruise around from anywhere in between 100 km/h and 160 km/h in the top gear leaving the bystanders awestruck as they see a beautiful blue-red blur pass them by.

This is the part where one begins to differentiate between what we discern by Racer and what BMW meant by a racer (read café-racer). Café-racers were meant to provide acceleration, speed, and stability mostly in a straight line. That’s what the R nineT Racer does. The 1491 mm wheelbase ensures optimum stability in a straight line but also robs it of the agility that we usually have in modern-day bikes. 

The 43 mm telescopic forks up-front and central spring strut at the rear take care of the suspension duties. Now the suspension setup is rather stiff. It is capable of taking care of the slight undulations but potholes and broken patches on the road are transmitted directly to the rider to a certain uncomfortable degree. 

The engine is the load-bearing unit in the R nineT Racer’s frame and the chassis seems quite steady while one looks to carve corners in style. But again turning a motorcycle that weighs 220 kgs (wet) and has such a long wheelbase certainly takes some doing. And after spending some time on the saddle, one realizes that maybe this motorcycle is not meant to do that in the first place. 

Not that it cannot do that, but it takes a lot of effort from the rider’s part and the rewards are beautiful photos and a whole lot of attention. The cast-wheels are shod with Metzeler Roadtec tyres which offer a good balance between dry and wet grip. I can attest to the capabilities of the tyres as I encountered heavy rain while coming back to Milan from the World Ducati Week 2018 and the tyres performed satisfactorily be it dry roads or wet roads. Even the twisties seemed tameable on the Roadtecs.

Coming to the ergonomics, the seating position is very Racer-y with low set handlebars, high set rearward footpegs and the rather low-seat. Saddle up on the R nineT Racer and even the taller riders feel like they are lying on the bike rather than sitting on it. This, despite looking uber cool, isn’t the most comfortable position to be in if you plan to ride for long distances. 

The seating position and the half fairing do help in reducing the windblast at higher speeds, but then again, long rides on the R nineT Racer will tire out riders with the strongest of cores quite quickly.

The tank bag from Rynox does its job well even on a rather difficult tank of the R nineT Racer. Big enough to accommodate essentials, resistant enough to keep them safe even in adverse weather… as you can see in the photo.

A motorcycle that costs upwards of INR 16 lakhs here in India and makes around 110 bhp of power with an 1170 cc twin engine might not make sense to a lot of people. And then the rather harsh ride and tiring seating position just add to the hiatus in the decision to buy this motorcycle.

But there are different motorcycles that serve different purposes. The ‘Racer’ tag does not mean that this bike is going to be setting lap-records on a track. It simply aims to portray the legendary superbikes from the 70s that graced the best of riders, from racers to actors.

This is a motorcycle on which you sit donning a classic leather jacket and boots with rugged denims. You put on that classic half-face helmet and go around the town to enjoy the boatload of attention that it is going to get you. 

This is a motorcycle which does not only look good, it makes the rider look so good that they might feel confident enough to ask Penelope Cruz or Ursula Andress out if they encounter them walking around. And that my friends, isn’t an exaggeration. Not to mention the pure old-school charm that the motorcycle possesses.

If you feel like you are someone like Steve Rogers or Bucky Barnes who does not belong to this time, or someone who would like to belong to those beautiful times, then this is the motorcycle for you. I, for one, would gladly go for the BMW R nineT Racer, ride around town in style and go find myself a Peggy.

tags
BMW Motorrad
BMW Motorrad India
BMW R nineT
BMW R nineT Racer
R nineT
R nineT Racer

E-Bike vs The World! Hero Lectro Townmaster Review

N/ACC N/ABHP N/ANM

The electric eel produces up to 860 volts to shock those in its vicinity. The Hero Lectro Townmaster, on the other hand, produces 250 watts to help you breeze past the traffic as you shock them into submission with your bicycle!

The Townmaster, as the name suggests, is built to rule city roads. To make your commute a pleasure as you zip, zap and zoom across on this little e-bike. Be it to your neighbourhood grocery store for fresh veggies or to your office for stale ideas from your boss!

So how does this battery-powered urban warrior stack up against conventional modes of commuting to work?

Text: Avinash Noronha (The Monk)

E-Bike vs The World!

I hopped onto the bike and immediately pitted it against the world I know. The course was familiar, the same route I had navigated from home to work for 3 years. Every pothole and bottleneck on the road are on a first-name basis with me!

A 17 km route from Delhi to Gurgaon during rush hour takes over an hour by car, 50 minutes by metro (including to and fro the station) and 35 minutes by motorcycle. What about the Lectro?

The Delhi Metro trains hit 80 km/h as you hurtle homewards, the Lectro can just manage 25 km/h. That is the speed it is limited to by Indian regulations for a low-speed electric two-wheeler.

You can listen to music and enjoy the AC in your car, but you are going to be cooped up in there for what feels like years. The Townmaster, on the other hand, will find plenty of gaps to penetrate.

Which motorcyclist hasn’t sat in frustration at a traffic signal, sweat dripping down, the engine heat making it a blast furnace and the riding gear giving you the feel of a sauna! On an E-Bike, you enjoy the wind in your shorts and tee!

To Pedal or Not to Pedal!

As I sat astride the Townmaster, I was foxed whether I should pedal or not!

There are three modes for use. Pedal it like a regular cycle. Pedalec mode, in which you pedal and get power assist from the inbuilt motor. The third is the ‘twist & go’ mode, where you twist the throttle and don’t pedal. What I call the Activa mode because it feels exactly like that!
The pedal mode is a no go. At roughly 20 kg, the Lectro isn’t a svelte cycle to power solely on leg strength. Especially as it employs a 7-speed Tourney derailleur at the rear, not one of the slickest gearboxes around!

The ‘Activa’ mode allows you to do absolutely nothing. Other than twist the throttle and brake when required. It gets boring after 30 seconds and hits 25 km/h on a flat road with no headwind! Good if you are completely exhausted, else it can be given a pass.

The Pedalec mode is where E-Bikes thrive.

You pedal a bit and the battery provides the rest. There are three power settings on this mode, low, medium and high. The high power setting takes up to 80% of your pedalling load. So you can happily spin the pedals whilst accelerating at a decent clip.

Here again, the power from the motor cuts off as soon as you cross 25 km/h, which is perfectly fine. Your legs don’t need to produce power to accelerate, only to maintain the momentum. This is the fastest way to get around on the Lectro.

After toggling around and checking out the various ways of riding the Townmaster, my default setting was ‘high power’ in Pedalec mode. The answer to the Shakespearean question is pedal, but with a little help from your electric friends!

Wallet Damage

So how much does it cost to whizz around town on an E-Bike!

Going back to my previous commute example, with a 34 km roundtrip to work and back in traffic.

A car with a fuel efficiency of 12 kmpl will cost roughly 200 rupees per day, that excludes parking charges daily and the harrowing experience of searching for a parking spot!

Second on the list is the metro. For this same commute, the cost of the metro is 80 rupees, and another 60 rupees to get to the metro station.

A motorcycle works out rather economical in comparison. At 30 kmpl, you will end up spending around 90 rupees for your daily commute.

At this point of time dear reader, prepare to have your mind blown!

On the Townmaster, your daily commute will cost you 1 rupee 50 paise! A full charge of the Lectro battery uses 0.25 units of electricity. At 6 rupees a unit of electricity, that is the ridiculous price you are going to pay for your commute!

And this is just your savings. Not the savings to the environment, air and the country’s economy. Once you factor in the bigger picture, an E-Bike is automatically a no brainer!

Though your annual maintenance and service cost on public transport is nil, it does add up to a tidy amount on cars and motorcycles. The Townmaster has barely any cost associated with it. The only cost being the replacement of the lithium-ion battery. A battery lasts 12 to 15 months and has a replacement cost of approximately 6000 rupees.

Construction Equipment

The Hero Lectro Townmaster uses a 6061 aluminium alloy frame and is currently available only in medium size, 18 inches. A bit too big for someone 5’3” or less and too small for someone 5’11” or more. It would be great to see Hero bring in more frame sizes as they do with their regular bicycles!

The 36 volts lithium-ion battery produces 250 watts and has a range of 25 to 30 km, depending on the mode you choose. The battery itself takes around 4 hours to charge with the company provided charger. The battery is stored within the downtube and the charging port is at the bottom of the tube on the left.

The electric power stored in the battery is transferred to the road through a high-speed brushless DC electric motor which sits in the hub. BLDC motors do not spoil easily and are the same sort of motor used in household fans. When was the last time you had to repair the motor in your fan?

Brakes on the Townmaster are 160 mm cable-actuated discs which have a decent bite but are a bit short on feedback. For the intended usage, it is more than enough!

A 1×7 drivetrain is used on the bike, with the rear derailleur being a 7-speed Shimano Tourney. 38 mm tyres have been used which are ideal for commuting in urban areas. There is also a tiny LED headlight, which does a better job of making the cyclist visible to others, rather than illuminating city roads.

The one thing I found missing and would like added in future models are mudguards. With this E-Bike being positioned entirely as a commuter, fenders would make life so much better. Mounting points are present of the Townmaster’s frame, so you can add them yourself if you choose.

The console on the cockpit. The red button is to switch the motor on/ off. The L to H indicators show the battery charge remaining. The green mode button allows you to toggle between the power provided in the Pedalec mode.

The Shimano Tourney 7 speed rear derailleur with a protective cage. Notice the cable which runs along the chainstay from the battery to the hub mounted motor.

The charging port at the base of the downtube. Sealed with a rubber cap to protect from rain and water.

160 mm Promax cable actuated disc. Kenda 38 mm tyres.

Rear disc and rear hub in which the BLDC motor is housed.

The Ride

The Townmaster is a pleasure to ride. Once you remind yourself it isn’t a motorcycle or a regular bicycle!

In the Pedalec mode, at half a turn of the crank, the motor kicks in and thrusts you forward at warp speed. Okay, maybe that is an exaggeration. But anyone who has ridden an electric two wheeler will understand the joy of full torque from zero rpm!

As you stop pedalling, the motor also stops, which allows you to safely pull to a halt, without the fear of rear ending someone!

The riding stance is neutral, allowing a good view of the road and at the same time be comfortable.

The biggest advantage of commuting on an E-Bike vis-a-vis a regular cycle in traffic is acceleration. On a normal cycle, you need to downshift and power ahead to pick up speed. On the Lectro, the acceleration is taken care of, so you never strain your knees. Once you are up to speed, it is easy enough to keep spinning the pedals.

For riders who aren’t extremely fit, the Lectro also helps climb those flyovers, which otherwise can be a nightmare.

As I rode the Townmaster, an epiphany hit. This bike isn’t meant for cyclists who want to make their commute easier, it is made for those thousands of motorists who would love to commute in the greenest way imaginable. But were afraid to do so on a regular cycle because of poor fitness levels.

These E-Bikes allow you to get out and get riding!

Verdict

At 31000 rupees, the bike is a good deal from Hero, especially when you take into account the two-year warranty.

The savings in commute costs, doctors bills because of better health and cost to the environment is phenomenal. Enough to start a global green revolution!

Oh! And for those of you wondering, the Townmaster zipped my commute route in 40 minutes, significantly faster than a car or metro and a tad bit slower than a motorcycle. Go figure…

Commuting on an E-Bike

In India, people have been cycling forever. With an increase in income, people have moved towards motorised transport and shun the humble bicycle. Even though this humble machine is a solution to some of the world’s greatest problems!

There are many who would like to leave their automobiles at home and commute to work on a cycle. Their reasons could be environmental, health, convenience or just the pleasure of cycling!

Many are apprehensive for the sake of safety and comfort. So here’s what you need to start commuting safely in India?

The Must-Haves

The two basic requirements for cycling are a cycle and the motivation to pedal! The third important ingredient is a helmet. With these three in hand, you can ride anywhere you want.

To make life a little safer and more comfortable on the E-Bike, you can add these to your basket:

● A proper fitting helmet

● Hi-Vis Vest

● Pollution mask, since most big cities are extremely polluted

● Bell for the bike

● Headlight and tail light

● Mudguards

● Lock for securing your precious Townmaster

Plan your route

Search for the least congested and most scenic route from home to work. It will make the commute all the more pleasurable.

Ride the route on a weekend, a dry run of sorts, so you have an idea of the amount of time it takes. This also gives you an opportunity to get comfortable with the E-Bike, if you haven’t ridden one before.

Learn

● Learn to repair a puncture

● Learn to notice sounds from your bike which shouldn’t be there

● Learn basic repairs which you will need on the road

Office time!

● Find a secure parking spot for your E-Bike, preferably close to a CCTV or security guard!

● Don’t leave easily removable objects on your bike, like lights

● Lock your cycle to an immovable object

● Use the shower at your workplace if required. If you do not have shower facilities, wet wipes and deodorant do a good job of keeping you clean and fresh!

● Keep a change of work clothes in the office.

● Keep 10 minutes in hand for all these odd jobs.

● Keep some healthy snacks in your desk. In the first few days of commuting, hunger might hit hard and you don’t want to binge on fattening foods!

In the initial euphoria of cycling, many go overboard. Don’t! Instead, take it slow. Build up the cycling distance gradually. Start with commuting once or twice a week before increasing the distance and duration as you get more comfortable. On the days you aren’t feeling like cycling, take a break, don’t make it another ‘task’ that needs to be completed.

Do all of this and chances are high that you will have a safe enjoyable experience of commuting to work on your Hero Lectro Townmaster!

tags
E-Bike
E-Cycle
Hero Cycles
Hero Lectro E-Cycles
Hero Lectro Townmaster
Lectro Townmaster
Townmaster

Bajaj Pulsar 125 Review: The wolf in sheep’s territory!

124.4CC 11.8BHP 11NM

If a list is made of motorcycles that ushered the Indian motorcyclist from the commuter era to the performance era, Bajaj Pulsar would surely make the list. It has been around for almost 2 decades now and right from its arrival in 2001, the motorcycle hit all the right notes with the Indian motorcyclist and the numbers are a testament to that. All these years we have seen many different iterations of the Pulsar. From Definitely male to Fear the black, from the round headlamp to the wolf eyes, and from 135cc to 220cc, the Pulsar has seen it all. Fast forward to 2019, Bajaj has launched the Pulsar 125 Neon, the smallest capacity and the most affordable Pulsar ever. Does it have what it takes to live up to the image of the phenom that the Pulsar brand is? 

Bajaj Pulsar 125 Review

Looks

What’s the best strategy to avoid the risk of messing something up? Do not try to fix something that is not broken. Bajaj has been doing that for a long time with the Pulsars. Major overhauls have been rare… at least when it comes to the design. 

The same philosophy has been used in the design of the Bajaj Pulsar 125. And by no means is that a bad thing. In fact, it is pretty smart since the design has become something of an object of endearment for motorcyclists. 

The bottom line is that it looks just like the Pulsar 150 sans the tank shrouds and the belly-pan, and it gets neon accents on the wheels, side-panel, headlight, grabrail, and the tank. Out of the two colours, we prefer the Black one with the orange-ish accents. Though the matte-grey with blue accents does not look bad either. 

Performance

The engine of the Pulsar 125 has been derived from the Pulsar 150 mill via the means of shortening the stroke. The bore remains the same. The motorcycle makes 12 PS of power and 11 Nm of torque. It is the most powerful 125cc motorcycle in the market if the 125 Duke is kept out of the equation… which we will because the Duke retails for almost double the price of the Pulsar 125 Neon. 

Out on the road, there’s not a lot differentiating the Bajaj Pulsar 125 from the Pulsar 150 unless they were ridden back-to-back or like in our case, side by side. While we were out on the test ride, another dude on a Pulsar 150 was riding right beside us. Don’t get all excited and start playing Teriyaki Boyz. There’s no street racing here, just good old gentleman style side-by-side run and that too for purposes strictly scientific. 

What the Bajaj Pulsar 125 lacks in when compared to the Pulsar 150 is the top end, of course, and tractability and roll-on acceleration. But it was nothing we did not expect with the displacement drop. Other than that, the engine is smooth and vibrations only creep in at the very top of the rev-range. 

The gearbox is smooth, the clutch pull is effortless (though the friction zone is a bit far off), the fuelling is good, and so, we were a bit hard-pressed to find any particularly bothersome flaws in the bike. Bajaj has emphasized that this is not a commuter… It is not. It is a Pulsar. A Pulsar for commuters who do not like their spirits getting dampened by lack of power or refinement or… panache! 

Handling and Ergonomics

The ergonomics are similar to the Pulsar 150 as well. The rider’s triangle of the Bajaj Pulsar 125 makes for an upright position with just a hint of sportiness. Most of it is derived from the presence of the clip-ons and most of it is visual. Overall, it is a comfortable motorcycle on which you can go on munching miles without wanting to throw it off a cliff after a 100 kms or so. 

Handling is pretty neutral. The motorcycle follows the commands imparted to it by the rider religiously like a loyal dog. Try to be too spirited and it reminds you that it is not a Mastiff. The long wheelbase and the weight of the motorcycle provide it with high-speed straight-line stability.

The suspension is supple and soaks up the undulations and even some harmless potholes like a pro. If you brake hard though, the front end dives a bit and god forbid if you do it while a corner approaches. If dealt with calmly, a little corner-carving can be done aboard the baby Pulsar as well… it doesn’t mind. 

Brakes do their job well. The variant we rode was the one equipped with a disc-brake at the front and that is the only variant we’d like to ride. Yes, there exists a Pulsar sans the front disc-brake! The world may very well come to an end. Cranky exaggeration aside, the combined-braking system (Bajaj employs a mechanical unit) works well and provides you with the confidence to stomp the rear brake if you feel a little off. 

Little Things

Mileage: According to Bajaj, ARAI figures state 57.5 km/l. According to Bajaj, one can expect around 45-50 km/l in mixed riding conditions. According to us, we need more time with it. 

Rear-view mirror visibility: Wide, and placed well. Meaning? Good visibility of what’s going on behind your back. 

Headlight performance: We rode it in the day but it should be right up there with the Pulsar 150 since its the same unit. 

Build Quality: No niggles here either and the bike is generally very well-built. Touches like a carbon-fibre like texture around the console and the tank pad just add to it.

Switchgear: The same old cluster carried over from the Pulsar 150… which makes it the best switchgear in the class. Smart… 

Verdict

It should be apparent from the review. It is a no-nonsense motorcycle and does everything that it is intended to do and even a bit more. The engine is smooth, power and torque are good when compared to others in the class, the suspension, the brakes, the overall handling and whatnot are all just… good. 

The best thing though is that despite being the best-in-class in almost everything, the pricing is fantastic. At INR 64,000 (Ex-Showroom) for the drum brake variant and INR 66,612 (Ex-Showroom) for the disc brake variant, the Bajaj Pulsar 125 is a steal. So, if you are looking for a motorcycle that’ll do more kms to the litre when compared to 150cc players and has more oomph than the 125cc boys, go right ahead! 

tags
Bajaj Pulsar 125
Bajaj Pulsar 125 Neon
Pulsar 125
Pulsar 125 Neon