2020 TVS Apache RTR 200 4V: Earning the badge of ‘Class’ Prefect

199.75CC 20.2BHP 16.8NM

There’s a secret to why I like my job and my workplace a lot. It is the chase of betterment in whatever it is that we do here. Sometimes it makes me hate it too but then, it does not take long for me to wake up. Why am I telling you this? Because that same reason is why I like the Apache series so much. I own an RTR 180 and I love it to death. And the only one that makes me want to cheat on her is another Apache- 2020 TVS Apache RTR 200 4V

Text: Karan Singh Bansatta
Photos: Sunil Gupta

The name’s a mouthful but it is something that can be forgiven. I got to ride one at TVS’ test track in Hosur and I loved it. But then I thought that the time I spent with it was nowhere near enough to get to know it thoroughly. Recently, we got one here at xBhp for a few days and here’s what I feel about the new RTR 200 4V after spending a lot of time with it and also, why I want to cheat on my own little Menace

Firstly, the looks. There are not a lot of motorcycles out there in this segment that convey their intent so eagerly. In the case of 200 4V, it is racing. From the aggressive front fascia, to the graphics, from the split seats to the faux intakes on the rear panels… even the colour scheme screams that TVS has been associated with racing for a while now and they are serious people. 

I won’t talk about looks for too long as everyone has a certain point of view with which they look at a motorcycle. That said, I think we can all agree that the new RTR 200 4V is in the good books of most when it comes to design and execution. About execution, the fit and finish is top notch and there are no unruly wires or bolts that mess with the clean and sharp aesthetics of the bike. 

There are a few gripes that I have though. I don’t like rear mud flaps but if you don’t have them on, the people behind may not like you on rainy days. So it is something that you live with or get rid of depending on how considerate you are as a person. Second is, and it is very personal, I do not like the end can on the RTR 200 4V. But many do and it sounds okay so it works. Lastly, the pilot lamps or positioning lamps or eyes, they feel flimsy when the lights are off because of the plastic. It is a different story when they are on though. 

Moving on, it is the performance that counts and that is what TVS is always most keen to deliver on. And they do… always! I am not too finicky about the performance of a motorcycle, there are a few that I like more than others. And the Apache RTR 200 4V, I like a lot. The reason for that is that the performance is plentiful, the handling is a dream, and it has a dual character, laid back and exciting depending on how you want it. 

Let’s start with the engine. Perhaps the best thing to happen to the Apache series was the arrival of the 4V motorcycles as they dealt with the biggest issue that plagued the OG RTRs- vibrations. I say that because my 180 is quite buzzy… and I say that despite my love for her. So the 4Vs brought with them more refinement, lasting performance, and the same fun-factor that is akin to the Apaches. 

As soon as you saddle up on the 200 4V, it is instantly comfortable. The seat is spacious and comfy, the tank recesses are near perfect and the reach to the clip-ons is very natural. Turn the key and the screen comes alive with an important message- Gear up. You should always do that. Press the starter and the engine comes alive instantaneously. If you have done that, congratulations as you have experienced the Feather Touch Start of the new RTR 200 4V. 

On a serious note, it is nifty. If the motorcycle is cold, the revs stay at around the 2,000-2,500 rpm mark for a bit before settling down. It starts without any hiccups and warms itself up as well. That’s a good way to start a good day’s ride. Anyway, you can test the smoothness of the engine by blipping the throttle before you get a move on. It is really… really smooth. 

Pull in the clutch, engage the clutch and you are on the move without any drama. No grabby clutches or temper tantrums, pure and simple ease. The clutch action is very light and it is a boon in traffic. I used it for my daily commute as well and traffic in some areas of Delhi can really get on your nerves. It is just a little less pronounced on the RTR 200 4V. 

In addition to the light clutch action, it is also because of GTT or Glide Through Technology that the RTR is such a treat in metro cities. What it entails is that you just engage the motorcycle in gear from a standstill, release the clutch slowly and it starts to move with zero throttle input. I tested it extensively and it never stalled… not even once. 

That’s a nifty trick and one that you really appreciate if you deal with a lot of traffic on a daily basis. For those who are numerically inclined, it does 7 km/h in 1st gear, 12 km/h in second, and 17 km/h in 3rd, according to TVS. I did not feel inclined to test that and stuck with GTT’s real-world application- convenience. 

As soon as the traffic fades and there is some space for the RTR 200 4V to stretch its legs, that’s when you realize that it is not a one-trick-pony. The acceleration is smooth, linear, and well, quick. It is a slick darn motorcycle for commutes sprinkled with some fun. Now, throughout the rev range and throughout the 5 gears of the motorcycle, I never felt the motorcycle holding anything back. No choppy throttle and no lag at all. Responsive all around. 

While the engine is a gem, it is the fueling that makes the RTR 200 4V such a smooth operator. I don’t know if the Fi is Race-Tuned or not, but it is very well tuned. The on-off throttle transitions bear adequate response but without making the motorcycle feel jerky. And I have to mention this explicitly- it sounds awesome. You’ll find yourself revving the bike just to listen to the soundtrack. It is a tad quieter than my RTR 180, but even then, it is the best-in-class. Period.

About the gearbox, it is slick. Both upshifts and downshifts are positive and they are engaged with a responsive click. If you find an open road, sometimes you move up through the gearbox (because of spirited acceleration) and no matter how you test the RTR 200 4V’s gearbox, it’ll never fall short on your expectations. But there are two things that I’d like to have here, both my personal opinions. 

First and the most important is a 6th gear. TVS… please do it. It is such a capable motorcycle and during my runs if I ever found myself wishing for something on the highways, it was a 6th gear. Don’t get me wrong. It cruises well in the 5th at around 70-80 km/h, but the engine is so eager and I found myself trying to engage the 6th countless times but guess what, it isn’t there. 

The second thing is a boon for safety and a slight bane in terms of feeling. I use a lot of engine braking with the front brakes. I find it reassuring. On my RTR 180 the retardation is strong but with the 200 4V, it is a little sedate for my taste. But then, rapid downshifts can also lead to some close calls and the Slipper Clutch takes care of that. It’s a trade-off in which I feel inclined to more ‘feeling’ but I think compromising on safety because of that is not for the greater good. 

Since I mentioned highway riding, let’s talk about that. Smoothness and refinement is something you look for when you want to cruise at highway speed. And to TVS’ credit, it is there and that too, all across the rev-range. What sorcery led to this in a single-cylinder engine meant to be revved, I do not know. I am just glad that the motorcycle is virtually vibe free unless you want to blatantly disrespect the shift light (at stock settings. It can be programmed as well).

All said and done, the RTR 200 4V has been blessed with a gem of an engine and with TVS’ track record, we feel like they’ll keep working to make it better. I mean the bike has already gotten multiple revisions and every time, it is better than the previous one. Onwards to handling then… 

RTRs have always been known for their agility and handling prowess (all credits to TVS Racing). In the case of the 200 4V, the split-cradle chassis, KYB suspension, stellar brakes, and the new Eurogrip radial tyres ensure responsive and bankable handling (just some wordplay). Directional changes are quick as always, but what has improved is the straight line stability at speed. The ultra-short wheelbase of the older RTRs ensured very responsive handling but the stability at higher speeds left something to be desired. 

It has all been remedied though and the RTR 200 4V is a complete package. This not only makes the 200 4V a great motorcycle for highways, but a pretty agile one for some tight maneuvering. Once you experience the motorcycle through turns and corners, the highways seem almost boring. 

The suspension is a tad stiff (predictably) but is compliant enough to deal with most undulations. Bigger bumps do transmit some shock to the rider but they also transmit a lot of fun in the corners, don’t they… Then again, TVS’ racing inclination always leads to them being a little biased towards handling against comfort. 

What goes quickly must stop quickly too and the braking system of the RTR 200 4V is more than equipped to do that. The bite is sharp and available on-demand. I cannot tell you how much confidence good brakes can inspire and the 200 4V’s are just what the doctor ordered. Dual-channel ABS with RLP (Rear Wheel Lift-off Protection) inspires even more confidence so all good here. 

Tyres are pretty good as well this time around. There is adequate grip in the dry. I did get to test them in the wet too because it rained on the day I went to return the bike with a long face. And to be honest, wet roads do take a chunk away from the confidence the tyres inspire in the dry. Also, there is a patch of concrete road on my way to the office and that also kind of upsets the tyres just a smidge.

I will also point out that TVS has worked hard to strike a balance between steadiness and agility with the geometry. The adverse effects of a sharp-ish rake are almost neutered by the wheelbase and vice-versa. Ergonomics are spot on and again, the RTR 200 4V is a balance of a comfortable yet commanding riding stance. Taller riders may need to move around a little to find that perfect balance though. Streetfighters and open highways do not gel well together so there’s that. 

We are approaching the end of this review but we still have to talk about the little things. RVMs need a little tinkering to get that elbow-less view of the rear but they are almost always buzz-free. TVS says the all-LED headlamp is warm white to simulate daylight conditions. I won’t say anything about that but the intensity and the resulting illumination is good but on streetlight-less patches, I could have used a slightly better spread. 

The switchgear is nice and the buttons tactile so no qualms there. They are placed ergonomically as well so the reach is natural. Illumination would have just been a bonus. Fuel efficiency is also quite decent for the performance on offer. You can expect around 38-39 km/l in your average commuting with a mix of city and freeway riding. If you ride it hard, expect around 35-36 km/l. Good stuff. 

Now the instrument cluster is very comprehensive and most importantly, very legible even in harsh, direct sunlight. The white backlight is pleasing to the eye. The gear position indication is a bit smallish though. I love the fact that it records your best 0-60 km/h and top speed numbers and is a subtle nod to the racing inclination of TVS. 

The SmartXonnect system is instant love. Turn-by-turn navigation, Call/SMS alert, low-fuel warning and navigation to the nearest fuel station, crash alerts and even race telemetry, it is all there. You need to pair your smartphone (with the app) with the Bluetooth-enabled SmartXonnect system and have fun with all the features.

Watch the video of the SmartXonnect Technology in action here.

Doing that, you also gain access to maximum Gs experienced and maximum lean angle achieved, in addition to top speed and 0-60 numbers. Nifty little thing if you don’t mind the outrageous numbers the lean angle indicator shows sometimes. That happens because it uses the phone’s sensor to collect that data. Not always reliable, but a good thing to have nonetheless for some boasting sessions and general fun. 

Is it a reliable motorcycle? Absolutely. Is it a fun motorcycle? Absolutely. Is it everything you need to quench your motorcycle thirst on a daily basis? 99%. Is it priced right? Yes, objectively speaking. Does it offer good value for your money? Maybe even more. Does it make me want to cheat on my RTR 180? Kind of. Will I? Probably not because I cannot afford to at the moment. Those who can? Cheat away!

Check out the full specs here.

2020 Apache RTR 200 4V
2020 TVS Apache RTR 200 4v
Apache RTR 200 4V Long-Term
RTR 200 4V Road Test

BMW R1250GS Adventure Review: Endless explorer

1,254CC 134BHP 143NM

If the adventure motorcycling world is the beautiful jungle from Avatar, the BMW R1250GS Adventure is the goddess Eywa for most people. It is that proverbial spirit of the wild that guides you through the wilderness, acquainting you with it and keeping you safe from it too. We recently got a chance to take one out for a ride and the Bavarian Adventure-Boxer seems like it is the real deal.  

Text: Karan Singh Bansatta
Photos: Sunil Gupta

One look at the R1250GS Adventure invokes two thoughts; it is purposeful and it is massive. It is 2,270mm of length massive and it is 268 kg (wet) of weight massive. It is also 980mm wide massive and 217 kg of payload massive! And yet, the execution of the design is flawless and the motorcycle looks dynamic even with dimensions like that. Even more so in the HP colour scheme. 

BMW has always been known for its radical and quirky motorcycle designs and this one is no exception. Starting with the front, the LED headlight has been designed in the same radical (and very technical) manner. The beak and the high windshield (super sturdy too) continue the I like’em big, I like’em chunky theme. 

The massive shrouded fuel follows the same end with the sturdy engine and frame protectors adding to the visual bulk. GS insignia on the tank, BMW insignia on the tank shroud and the R1250 marking on the beak are there to help you guess the name of the motorcycle… and HP written in addition to the R1250 tells you that it is even more ‘besondere’ than the base model.

The dynamic lines continue towards the rear but the size tapers off a tad bit. Despite that, the chunky exhaust, saddlebag mounts and a beefy carrier ensure that the bike does not look disproportionate from any angle. And if all that was not enough, the spoked wheels and single-side swingarm complete what we refer to as a typical BMW-sexy package. 

Saddle up and… the difficulties kinda start. The motorcycle is tall even on the lowest setting of the adjustable seat height. The suspension is electronically adjustable and you can set the preload to minimum to help the matters. 

Even then, taking it off the stand and backing it out of your parking is a test of your worthiness of this machine. But then, that is typical of most adventure bikes and this is the only time you’ll feel the kerb weight of the R1250GS Adventure. We say that because once on a roll, you’ll witness pure German magic. More on that later. 

The ignition is keyless and welcome to 2020. One push of the button brings on the radiant 6.5” TFT screen. This is not a smartphone review but that screen is so vibrant and the colours are so punchy. With the next sentence, it may seem like a smartphone review yet again but it is a BMW so we cannot help it. The home screen is crowded with a bar-graph style tacho, a digital speedo, and gear selection indicator.

But that was just the home screen and the dash provides a multi-page menu with a plethora of options and genius intuitivity. The latter is a made-up word. With the fun-to-use jog dial, you can navigate through the various options ranging from trip computer to rider aids including suspension adjustment. The pièce de résistance is Bluetooth connectivity with support for smartphones and headsets using the BMW Motorrad Connected App, one of the best in business. 

Since we are on the topic, the R1250GS Adventure, like many other BMW motorcycles, is almost indefinitely customizable. An example is the BMW Premium Package that equips your R1250GS Adventure with IMU-based rider aids such as cornering ABS, lean-sensitive Dynamic Traction Control, incline-sensing Hill Start Control, electronically adjustable suspension, quickshifter, cruise control, heated grips, tyre pressure monitor, and of course, keyless ride. Phew… the motorcycle is big and the catalogue, bigger. 

The one gripe that we have with such loaded motorcycles is that the part where you actually talk about the ride is delayed. But just like Thanos, it is inevitable. We would like to start off by saying that flat engines or Boxers are perhaps the sweetest engines out there. Smooth as silk, forever distinguishable from the crowd and with a very likeable soundtrack. 

The one on duty on the R1250GS Adventure is a 1,254cc flat-twin that makes 134 bhp of power and 143 Nm of power. It comes to life with a silken rumble and settles into a steady thrum. The numbers are just as good in the real world as they are on paper. Slot into the first gear and get going, no drama at all. 

The anti-hopping clutch feels great as it is hydraulically operated and so, it is pretty concise too. The action is soft and your hands are spared the pain even on congested roads. As soon as you find an empty stretch, the acceleration and the progression through the gears is very smooth and natural. 

The quality of Boxers where they are almost perfectly balanced makes itself apparent when you reach triple-digit speeds in no time at all. Keep going and it can propel this beastly motorcycle to over 200 km/h. Riding the 1250GS Adventure on open roads is a vibration-free and joyous experience and perhaps that is why the big GS garners praises from long-distance travellers from all over the world. 

We did mention that the heft of the motorcycle is not palpable on the move and that is because of the fantastic tuning, ample torque, and most importantly, BMW ShiftCam. Bavarian speak for variable valve timing, it ensures that you are never out of grunt whether you are cruising along in the lower revs or bruising along in the higher revs. Overtaking other vehicles at a considerable speed is effortless. 

We had no qualms with the gearbox either with only slight abruptness noticed while shifting up from 1st gear without using the clutch. The rider modes work as advertised with Dynamic being the most fun and Rain watching your back in slicker conditions. It is probably down to the immaculate tuning of the throttle response, peak power, traction control and so on. Too much to keep up with… 

Did we say Dynamic was the most fun mode? If we did, it was perhaps because we forgot about the Enduro Mode! While we did not get enough time to utilize it fully, nothing could stop us from getting a taste at least. This mode lets the rear slide safely for those controlled (and pro-like) drifts and with the ABS disengageable on the rear, it is not very hard to show off on the R1250GS Adventure. 

There is also an Enduro Pro mode which allows even more slip of the rear tyre and even lets you lock up the rear fully. But it is meant for off-road tyres and the Michelin Anakee III (120/70-R19 and 170/60-R17) sparsely belong to that category. They work great on the road and just fine on light trails though. We said it before and we’d like to say it again, the engine is what makes the R1250GS Adventure such a fantastic tourer and a thoroughly capable off-roader. 

The handling department of the R1250GS Adventure both, on the road and off it, is a surprising combination of a technological marvel and an organic experience. The way it rides in varying conditions and terrains reminds of a certain… Cullinan. The suspension of the GS is capable of soaking up even the worst of bumps and surface anomalies on the road and yet, it will go through corners almost like a more purpose-built motorcycle. 

Even more surprising is the Dynamic Damping of the ESA. It gauges the conditions and adjusts the suspension according to the need. It almost ensures that you enjoy every bit of the ride the way it is meant to be whether it is a bad patch or smooth and curvy mountain roads. 

Even off the road, it keeps working in the background so provide you with the best possible feedback so that you can ride it to the fullest. It is perhaps one of the most accommodating motorcycles that you can ride standing up in terms of both, the purpose and dimensions. 

With the IMU doing so much in the background, the R1250GS Adventure almost actively tries to keep you safe, protected, and upright. An example could be the cornering ABS which takes care of any nasty surprises that may encounter during the course of negotiating a corner. The well-calibrated ABS just adds to the already stellar braking performance of the GS.

Dynamic Brake Control is another nifty feature added to the already robust safety net of this Beemer. Basically, it closes the throttle regardless of the grip position in case of panic braking, a situation where sometimes riders open the throttle instead of closing it. An honest mistake for the most part taken care of by a nifty trick on BMW’s part. 

For the R1250GS Adventure, I don’t think we need to talk ergonomics. After all, it is a very well thought out motorcycle and a mistake in that department is almost impossible. But still, just for the sake of it let us point out that the motorcycle is exceedingly comfortable. The seat is roomy and comfy, the rider’s triangle is suited for long hauls and the windshield also does its job commendably. And this motorcycle takes long hauls very seriously with a 30L fuel tank. 

A closing statement? There may not be any and even if there is, it may not be a convincing one. Why? Because when you talk about a motorcycle this thorough and this engulfing, you are bound to miss out on something. Did we cover all you need to know? Yes. Is there a chance that something minor was missed out on? Again, yes. If you were to ride a BMW R1250GS Adventure tomorrow will you remember what we missed out on? We don’t think so. And that’s all a good motorcycle is all about. The only thing that you’ll remember and hear long after you have returned the motorcycle is the Call of the wild… which sounds very similar to the peaceful thrum of that Boxer.

Thanks to Lutyens Motorrad for the bike

Full Specifications

BMW R1250GS Adventure
R1250GS Adventure Review

Harley-Davidson Low Rider S Review: Milwaukee’s king of cool!

1,868ccCC N/ABHP 155NM

Iconic. Aspirational. Instantly recognisable. Pop Culture King. And unapologetically cool. It is not hard to guess that the one motorcycle manufacturer that can be referred to as any and all of the above is Harley-Davidson. We recently got our hands on a Low Rider S and it really makes us want to talk about it. 

Text: Karan Bansatta
Photos: Sunil Gupta

The Milwaukee marquee has been making motorcycles for around 117 years now and to this day and their motorcycles have been what a lot of motorcycles have aspired to be. While a history lesson on Harley-Davidson is not needed for the most part (we all know that), a little history on the Low Rider S will do one good. 

So, the Low Rider S is the spiritual successor of the Dyna Low Rider, perhaps the most loved Harley-Davidsons of all time. So it was natural for people to cause an uproar when it was axed. Why? We don’t know. But we guess it was to make way for the Low Rider S, the new kid on the Softail block that aims to not only better its predecessor, but to add more riders to the bandwagon. Will it succeed? God only knows. Should it? To that, we give you a ‘H*ll yeah!’ 

One look at the Low Rider S and you can tell what Harley-Davidson was up to. Tall handlebar, mid-mounted pegs, a mini fairing complete with colour matching, and 19”-16” wheel combination. It is meant to make you look like you don’t give two sh*ts about the world when you are out on the Low Rider S. The only thing you care about is the sports-cruiser pedigree of the motorcycle and lyrically accurate recital of Hardwired by Metallica. We aren’t kidding. 

We generally avoid expletives but not on a Harley… Moving on, there are two colour options- Vivid Black and Barracuda Silver. We had the latter. The design has been executed tastefully. ‘S’, in Harley-Davidson speak, is Special. And that means more black and a tad less chrome. Most of the motorcycle is blacked out and there’s chrome garnishing on muffler tips and engine fins. 

The low rear fender with a single seat setup and masked rear suspension are subtle nods to the Softail theme and the offset twin-shotgun mufflers add to the appeal of the Low Rider S. Overall, the design of the Low Rider S sits well with the purists and new riders alike with classic references and modern touches. 

We loved the recessed LED headlight inside the mini fairing, the twin dial instrument cluster and the relatively aggressive general stance of the motorcycle. Though we did expect better-looking RVMs. Also, we believe that most people will get rid of the long-ish rear fender to make the motorcycle even softer on the tail

Sitting on the saddle of the  Harley-Davidson is a sacred feeling. You almost instantly recognize that what you are sitting on is a Milwaukee beast. In the case of the Low Rider S though, you have to reach out a little for that recognition. The motocross-style handlebar sits on 4” risers and requires some reach. The seat is low and the footpegs are mid-mounted. Because of the former, shorter riders have to stretch too hard and because of the latter, taller riders may feel cramped. 

But all of that happens after you have spent a few hours in the saddle and those will be one of the best hours of your life. The 308 kilos of the Low Rider S is felt as soon as you remove the side stand and disappear as soon as you get going. And then, it is all chasing butterflies in the meadows till you run out of all the fuel in the 19L fuel tank. Though we feel like chasing eagles is more appropriate here… 

One of the biggest reasons for that unexplained disappearance of 300+ kilos is the engine- Milwaukee-Eight 114. 1,868 cubic centimetres of displacement shared between two cylinders arranged in a V filling the 2 into 2 shotgun mufflers of the Low Rider S with a familiar Harley-Davidson thump and roar. Blip it once and you exclaim, “This is the Harley life!” 

The engine is good for 155 Nm of peak torque, all of which is delivered around 3,000 rpm. What that means is that despite the smoothness of the throttle, the Low Rider S is ready to pounce so you have to keep some of that brash coolness in your back pocket till you get used to it. 

The motorcycle accelerates feistily and it sounds better and better as the revs climb. It will take you north of the 100 km/h mark swiftly and doesn’t even lose steam long after that. The gearbox is smooth but you don’t engage much because of the abundance of torque almost everywhere in the rev range. 

And now to the fun part, where you unleash all the badassery of the Low Rider S- handling. On the technical front, the rake is steeper, there are USD forks up front, the wheels are light, and the chassis is both stiff and light. In the real world, the Low Rider S is a heck of a handler. Despite the gyroscopic resistance from the large-dia front wheel,  it tips into corners relatively effortlessly and even holds its line through corners. 

As you string together corners on a winding mountain road, the song changes to Brighton Rock by Queen and boy, it is fun. The only limitation here is the lean angle. 30-degrees on either side is too less compared to what the motorcycle can do and the culprits here are the footpegs. But you can’t have it all in one motorcycle now, can you… 

On the straights, the 1,615 mm ensures rock-solid stability and the suspension lets only the gnarliest of bumps to the rider. The brakes are more than decent with ample bite and feel on the lever though we wish the friction zone arrived a little earlier, especially on the rear brake lever. There isn’t much use of it but we’re just sayin’. ABS on both the ends looks out for you under panic braking and keeps the ‘black’ of the motorcycle from unsolicited chroming. 

On the electric front, the Low Rider S is bare. Indicators include high beam, turn signals, neutral, low oil pressure, engine diagnostics, auxiliary lighting, ABS, low battery voltage and of course, low fuel. The information is imparted to the rider via an instrument cluster that consists of a 4” analog speedometer with a digital readout for the selected gear, odometer, fuel level, clock, trip meter, and range with another twin dial serving as the analog tachometer. Pretty basic. Quite functional. 

Now, the Low Rider S starts from INR. 14,69,000/- (Ex-Showroom, Delhi). That is a lot of money which the Low Rider S is most definitely worthy of. Firstly, the Milwaukee-Eight 114 is a beauty and the Low Rider S is the cheapest Harley-Davidson with that mill. It is smooth, vibe-free for the most part, a torque monster, and simply, pure joy to ride hard. And the Low Rider S can be ridden hard with ease. 

Apart from a few visual gripes, the only trouble could be the riding position which can take a toll over long distances. Despite that, our closing statement remains firmly in favour of the motorcycle and it goes like this: The Low Rider S is iconic, aspirational, instantly recognizable as a Harley-Davidson, and unapologetically cool. And with the right playlist, it can easily be your pop culture king too!

Harley-Davidson Low Rider S
Low Rider S

BMW F900R Review: Heady cocktail of complexity and ease

You are out on the road on your motorcycle, in your zone and someone overtakes you aggressively… and you’re okay with it. Someone turns without signalling and you narrowly avoid an accident… and you just deal with it. You are just riding to ride, not riding to reach. That’s you taking it easy. BMW F900R is the right motorcycle to take it easy on. But there’s a lot more going on than just that so let’s dive in. 

Text: Karan Singh Bansatta
Photos: Sundeep Gajjar/MotoGrapher

I started with taking it easy because of a lot of reasons. The persistent horsepower battle, the reliance on spec-sheets, the general mindset of newer riders, and for the most part BMW Motorrad’s own history. Even their design language spoke volumes about their ethos. An example could be the goofy-looking F800R which we got to see most often on one wheel with Chris Pfeiffer onboard. It was a very busy motorcycle which kept the rider busy as well. 

The BMW F900R changes all that. With the state-of-the-art electronics (for a mid range motorcycle), the F900R is still a busy motorcycle but it does not keep the rider too busy. Busy and engaged are different things in motorcycling, mind you. Out of the roadster class of Beemers, the F900R looks like a bulked up (quite a bit) G 310 R. 

The F900 R is like that perpetually shirtless model muscles here, muscles there and all out there for a good show. The high and muscular tank (which is plastic welded, a world’s first), the busy front fascia, and minimalistic tail paint a picture of a well proportioned motorcycle. It is not over-the-top like a few out there but it holds its own.

The problem is that it is a BMW. It is not something special, or quirky or distinct. It is a good looking motorcycle, no doubt about that but it is because of the badge and what it calls for, that it falls a little short. Despite that, if viewed simply as a motorcycle and not a BMW, the F900R is a very handsome and muscular streetfighter. 

There are quite a few talking points when it comes to the BMW F900R but the engine is not on the top of that list. But it is rather important when motorcycles are being discussed so… An 895cc, water-cooled inline-twin powers the F900R and is rated for 105 bhp of power and 92 Nm of torque. There’s a version with around 93 bhp as well which can be further limited to 46.9 bhp for A2 license holders. In India, we scoff at such rules. Got cash? This 200 hp motorcycle is yours. 

Anyway, as the numbers say, the motorcycle is no rocket ship with warp drive, but it can be satisfactorily fast. ‘Can be’ because in lower revs, it does not even feel like it has a 100 horses under the hood. But with the throttle open wide, it suddenly goes from ‘meh’ to ‘whoa… this is fun’. This is both, a good thing and a ‘not-so-good’ thing because the throttle feels jerky. But then, BMW intentionally made it that way to make it less intimidating for newer riders. Fair enough. 

All in all, there is usable power all across the rev range and the motorcycle is capable of keeping the enthusiasts entertained as well. What’s even more entertaining is the exhaust note. The reason for that is the 270/450-degree firing order which helps the inline-twin mimic V-twin. A nice bark on startup, mild rumble at idle and spirited-snarling with blips. So full marks for the exhaust note. 

Now, the riding modes, well, rain is a bit disappointing really. The throttle feels almost bland in this one. Road is decent but the real fun lies in the Dynamic and Dynamic Pro mode. Throttle is much more crisp and that jerkiness is more or less gone. You may want to appreciate the rain mode in, well, rains but the choppy response makes it more a liability than help. 

The gearbox is a tad clunky in the lower revs but it supports spirited riding thoroughly with crisp gear changes when you are really wringing it. So overall, the BMW F900R is a motorcycle that wants to be ridden hard to be enjoyed but for the most part, it remains in the zone where it doesn’t take life too seriously. 

Handling is the department where the F900R surprised me the most. With the 211 kg of weight (wet) and the 1,518 mm of wheelbase, we were assured of the highway surefootedness, but the F900R can handle corners too. A big shout out to BMW for being able to incorporate sharp handling with the kind of geometry the motorcycle sports. 

The chassis and suspension work in tandem to make the motorcycle feel steady through a corner and the Bridgestone Battlax S21 tyres offer more than adequate grip. They feel almost overkill for the F900R but we’re not complaining. The turn-in and the quick direction changes is where this Beemer requires some effort. Not too much though. 

The brakes are from Brembo and therefore, really good. Steel braided brake lines are a novelty at this price point. But it is the consistency of BMW that is to be commended here. Even the brakes aren’t immediately sharp which may catch someone off-guard. The bite comes a hair later than usual and even then, it is gradual. ABS is almost completely unobtrusive except for the worst of panic braking situations… which kinda happened. Even then, it just pulsated gently without spooking me too much.

The suspension setup is well balanced for bad roads and good handling but it is tad biased towards the latter. The Dynamic ESA (electronic suspension adjustment) works well for the most part but it is not a big fan of less than ideal roads. Add to that a rather stiff saddle and things can get difficult but as always, you can work on your own padding to alleviate this issue.

The overall setup of the motorcycle with the kind of performance and handling on offer, make for a very strong case of a capable tourer. The 220 kg of payload capacity is an added bonus because there is no such thing as too much luggage. The 13-litre fuel tank may be a limiting factor though because the warning light will come on after around 170 kms on a full tank. 

Touring (or almost any discipline of motorcycling) is incomplete without talking about the ergonomics. We had ridden the F800R before and it was a tad too relaxed for a roadster. The F900R remedies that with a slightly forward handlebar and slightly higher foot pegs that make for a fairly aggressive stance that is worthy of a roadster. That said, it is not too uncomfortable for long distances and also has loads of room even for taller riders. Seat height is no trouble either with options for both higher and lower seat options available from the factory. 

Chris Pfeiffer doing what he does best on the BMW F800R
Some sweet memories of the F800R when we took for a spin alongside the BMW Z4 in the Alps.

The biggest talking point of the BMW F900R are the add-ons. BMW’s have always been famous for that. The list is rather… comprehensive. Adaptive cornering headlights, Cruise control, Cornering ABS, Quickshifter, Semi-active rear suspension, dynamic modes, and so on. The best part though is the 6.5” colour TFT screen which with the familiar Jog Dial, helps one control all the aspects of the motorcycle. 

Despite all the stellar add-ons to a really good motorcycle, it is the BMW Motorrad Connected app that takes the cake. In our opinion, it is the best app that is available today. It is intuitive, criminally detailed, and a whole lot of fun too. Fun because there is nothing like competing for the max lean angle achieved or maybe max braking gs experienced. And these are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the app and the features it has. 

In conclusion, I think I have proved my point that the BMW F900R is a very busy motorcycle but it does not keep the rider too busy. It is a motorcycle that takes it easy and in turn, makes it easier for beginners to learn to explore the 100 horses that the motorcycle has on offer. And veterans can also have quite a bit of fun if they really ride it hard. Despite the minor shortcomings, the BMW F900R is a surprisingly ‘do anything’ motorcycle. City rides, long rides, just rides, and even the occasional not-so-serious trackdays… it can do it all. 

So for the asking price, you get a lot of motorcycle in the F900R and that too, with the illustrious BMW badge.

BMW Motorrad

Triumph Tiger 800 XRx: Predator on the prowl

800CC 95BHP 79NM

Tiger has been a name associated with Triumph Motorcycles for a long time now. In fact, the first one can be traced back to the 30s! So a name that has been around for 80+ years brandishes a lot of pedigree and heritage. And the one in discussion here is a worthy candidate for that name- the Triumph Tiger 800 XRx. 

Text: Shahnawaz Karim
Photos: Sunil Gupta

Know more about the Tiger of the 30s: Triumph Tiger 70

Without diving too much into the history of the Tiger (which is a lot!), we’ll just like to mention that the initial Tiger models were ‘standard motorcycles’ and the first one that set the stage for the modern day Tiger was perhaps the Tiger Trail that came out in 1981. That was perhaps the model that introduced the Tiger as a dual-sport model. 

It was followed by Tiger 900 and Tiger 1050 that further solidified the Adv-Touring image of the range. The 900 and 1050 were succeeded by the 800 range and the Explorer or 1200 range. And for 2020, Triumph has introduced the new Tiger 900 which is set to replace the 800. But before we bid adieu to the 800, we took one out for a… farewell ride of sorts. 

Despite being a middleweight which can be intimidating for newer riders, the Triumph Tiger 800 XRx is the proverbial good kid. A sweet engine, comfortable ergonomics, road bias with a hint of off-roading rowdiness, and the rugged looks- it is a machine you fall in love with instantly. The dual characteristics really grow on you and evoke that ‘Explorer’ in you. 

Talking about the engine first, it is an 800cc, liquid-cooled, triple-cylinder engine good for 95 bhp and 79 Nm of torque. Talking about what that feels like out on the road, it is buttery smooth, torquey from the get-go and sounds like a symphony. 

When you are on the road, it pulls effortlessly and the power seems adequate for a leisurely pace and to some extent, some spirited riding. Take it off the road and the engine feels just as good there. Just a tad more grunt at the bottom could have made it stellar, but it is still just as good. Just look for some loose surface and let those power slides guide you. 

The handling department is also very well sorted. The 19” front and 17” rear combination along with the long wheelbase assure you of a steady and planted ride even at triple digit speeds. Off the road, the size of the wheels and the kinda dual-purpose tyres ensure that tackling the trails is a joy. But since it is a road-biased model, do not expect to go MX-ing on it. 

The brakes are stellar both on and off the road but you have to take it easy when riding it like a sportsbike on the road. And that’s saying something because despite the obvious difference, it can still be ridden like one. While the lack of stiffness in the suspension comes into play only when you attack corners like you are not supposed to on this kind of a machine, it also makes for a very comfortable ride… and it’s all day comfort even on bad roads. 

All the praises that we can shower on the Tiger 800 XRx fade in comparison to the facts. After all, there is a reason why it is one of the bestselling Adv-Tourers in India. There are a few reasons for that, in addition to the ones we have already pointed out. 

The first and the most prominent one is that it is not as intimidating as the Tiger 1200 and yet, it has enough to ensure that you do not outgrow it in a year or two i.e. it is very approachable. The second one is the balance it strikes between its on-road and off-road characteristics. It is one of those motorcycles that will take you almost anywhere you’d hope to go and that too, with a lot of comfort and relatively less demands. 

The Tiger 800 XRx is also a very modular motorcycle, thanks to the multitude of optional add-ons available from Triumph. Get the stock motorcycle and you are ready to not only tour, but have fun like a sportsbike. Get some add-ons and you will be more than ready for some light off-roading and chasing some trails. And then we have the generous seat-height which is one of the most prominent dissuading factors when it comes to Adv motorcycles in India. And let us not forget the ~19L fuel capacity. 

The Tiger 800 XRx is not technologically challenged either. With the multifunctional TFT which has: with digital speedometer, trip computer, digital tachometer, gear position indicator, fuel gage, service indicator, ambient temperature, clock, and the 4 riding modes- Road, Off­road, Sport, and Track, you have all that you could ask for in a modern Tiger. It goes as far as to let you go deeper and tinker around with the settings if the preset modes don’t do it for you. 

The new Tiger 900 is already out and it seems like a heck of a motorcycle and it was bound to be since a manufacturer like Triumph Motorcycles with so much of history associated with it will always work to make good things better. 

The 900 may be better, but the 800 XRx is a fantastic motorcycle in its own right. And then there’s the nostalgia. And we are sure that it will have a lot of respect in the pre-owned market because its glory will forever live vicariously through the rider who appreciated its beauty along with its versatility and power. 

Ulka Gear Hakkit Forever

Hakkit Forever from Ulka Gear is one of the latest motorcycle riding jackets in India. The USP of this recently launched jacket is the multipurpose usage that it offers. It can be worn as a protective jacket when you are on your motorcycle and can be used as a backpack when you are off it. 

People who buy proper motorcycle riding gear understand the importance of keeping it safe. And they are at their most vulnerable when you take a break from the ride. That very need of safeguarding your gear is taken care of by the Hakkit Forever jacket which can be easily converted into a backpack for carrying your helmet, gloves, goggles etc which protects them from prying eyes and unwanted falls. 

The Jacket is priced at INR 10,999/- and is available for purchase from www.ulkagear.com along with other designs of the Hakkit. 

Ulka Gear was conceptualized by Shahnawaz Karim who is a certified adventure riding trainer and a national champion in circuit racing. The company has been granted many patents to safeguard its conversion process across the globe.