Since '02 xBhp is different things to different people. From a close knit national community of bikers to India's only motorcycling lifestyle magazine and a place to make like-minded biker friends. Join us
Monsoon season is in full swing in India and after a recent rain ride in Goa, we were ready for another one. But this time, the venue was going to be Pune, where we had an orange alert because of the heavy rains. More importantly, the motorcycle this time was going to be the Bajaj Pulsar N160. As we reached the venue, there it was; a fleet of more than 20 Pulsar N160s, ready to go and take on the rain!
As we got done with the briefing, I took the chance to look at the N160 in a bit more detail. We are already aware of the new Pulsar platform, introduced with the 250 twins and the N160 is based on the N250, which is clear. I really like the new design language. Especially, the way it stares at you with its Bi-Functional LED projector and LED DRLs. Reminds you of the good old ‘wolf-eyed-headlamp’ days of the older Pulsars.
The keys had already been handed out so I slotted it in and with a twist, the infinity console came to life. The digital console is well-complemented by an analogue tachometer. I could already tell that the console provides some nifty information like battery indication, fuel indication, and also, a side-stand removal warning. Then there is other telltale stuff; neutral indicator, gear position indicator, speed indicator, and very, very crucially, time.
I also liked the way Bajaj went about with the graphics. All black with a dash of red streaks made the already handsome Pulsar N160 look even dapper. The face, the tank, and the lines emphasize the Definitely Male tagline that Bajaj is so fond of. And being a girl, it seemed like a fun thing to do to get to thrash around a motorcycle that is Definitely Male.
Sly digs apart, the Pulsar N160 is a good-looking motorcycle that has been fitted well and finished well. The black one that we rode and the other colours, along with the graphics, do well to emphasize the lines and the contours of the motorcycle. It will grab quite a few eyeballs on the road and so, the looks department has been nailed.
About the colours and variants, the one we had had a dual-tone scheme with dual-channel ABS and this is the top variant. There are Red and Blue colour options available too and the riders can also opt for the single-channel ABS model to either save some money or be a little spirited with the Pulsar N160.
Now, let us move on to how the new Pulsar N160 feels. Getting on the motorcycle is pretty easy thanks to the low seat height (795mm). And it is easy to have both your feet on the ground thanks to the muscular tank that narrows as it tapers towards the seat. The riding triangle felt comfortable, the seat plush and roomy and ergonomics-wise, the Pulsar N160 leaves not a lot to be desired for a variety of riders. So far, this new Pulsar is proving itself to be a streetfighter done right— time to see if it goes as well as it looks.
As soon as you thumb the starter, the oil-cooled DTSi engine comes to life with a soft thrum. I slotted in the first gear, and off it went. Right off the bat, the Pulsar N160 feels torquey. You have 14.65 Nm of it but it feels well spread out through the rev-range. Something that I made full use of riding around in the city. And this is where this motorcycle is going to spend most of its time and it is reassuring that it does well here.
The acceleration feels nice and punchy. The engine felt quite refined and as we trudged around the city tackling rain and traffic, the Pulsar N160 felt right at home. Whenever there was a patch of light traffic, I could open it up a bit with confidence despite the rain because I could rely on the ABS to have my back. The gearbox of the Pulsar N160 felt nice too with reassuring shifts and easy clutch action.
In the city, I majorly rode between 2nd to 5th gear and in no instance did I feel a lack of grunt. The engine is tractable and pulls cleanly even when you are a gear higher, or two. Then coming to the suspension, the Pulsar N160 is well set up to absorb all the undulations, speed breakers, and potholes. Only the really big ones are felt but that is to be expected. Braking also felt on point and so, the N160 seems like a motorcycle that will do very well in the city considering its balance of power, comfort, and practicality.
When we had our fill of testing the new Pulsar in the city, we decided to take it somewhere quiet where we could talk to it a little more. On the highways, the Pulsar N160 feels nice sans the windblast. But that is something you have to live with when you go with a naked motorcycle. Touring on the N160 is surely feasible especially because of the refined engine, more than decent range, and a USB port if you find yourself stranded somewhere with your phone drained.
Seen here is the xBhp Speed of Thought Helmet by Axor, our trusted crown for all our rides.
After a little bit of deliberation and taking the weather into account, we decided to choose a place that would not be too far out but at the same time, give the Pulsar N160 a chance to stretch its legs. We settled on Kasarsai Dam. It is a beautiful place, fairly disconnected from the hustle and bustle of Pune city, and closer to nature. As soon as we hit the open roads, I could tell the Pulsar N160 packs a solid punch given the chance.
When the roads allowed me to do so, I also pushed the Pulsar N160 a bit in the corners. Though I was conservative with my efforts because of the rain, I could tell that the new Pulsar can deal with twisties quite well too. It follows your instinct and inputs like a docile animal and does what you want it to without springing any surprises. It feels planted in both corners and a straight line.
In addition to the geometry of the motorcycle, its fine handling is also down to the low centre of gravity. The underbelly exhaust contributes to that cause greatly. Overall, the balance of the motorcycle is nice and it feels like a more than decent offering for some spirited riding. And since I got to open it up enough, I also realized that the exhaust note is much more pronounced at higher revs and complements the personality of the motorcycle well. That will add to the attention it gets on the road. But then again, me being a girl riding a motorcycle would have served to enhance the effect. Surprisingly but predictably, it is still a novelty in deeper parts of our country.
Upon reaching Kasarsai Dam, we stopped for some sightseeing and in the rain, the place looked simply magical. It was so soothing that we decided to get some rest. But then, staying off of the Pulsar N160 was harder than I thought and I soon found myself playing around on it, off it, and around it. Puddles, mud, slush, and some cute stray dogs and cats; it was all there and it was a good break for us. We had chai, pakoras, and vada pav which made the break a bit more scrumptious.
After a while, it was time for us to head back. Up to this point, we had seen the dual-channel ABS work its magic on the road but even when we had some less than ideal roads, it worked just as well and serves as a good safety net when conditions are unfavourable. Even on slippery slopes, whether climbing up one or going down one, the ABS makes its presence felt and ensures that the wheels don’t lock.
Upon coming back and reflecting on the ride, I could not help but think how far we have come. The Pulsar was the motorcycle that revolutionized the Indian motorcycle market and to some extent, became the reason for xBhp’s journey so far. A Pulsar 150 Classic still stands proudly at the MotoVilla. And nearly two decades later, we have good motorcycles, like the N160 which is more than equipped and well-deserving of taking the Pulsar legacy forward.
In our brief time with the Pulsar N160, we could tell that it is a very good and very practical motorcycle with a sporty side to it. In the city, on the highways, in the twisties, and on broken roads too; the Pulsar N160 feels like a solid motorcycle and well-worth the asking price of around INR 1,27,853/- lacs (Ex-Showroom) for the dual-channel ABS variant. Hopefully, we will get to see more of it in the future and get to test it out for longer, but so far, the Bajaj Pulsar N160 feels like a solid player in the segment.