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Prejudice. Prejudice is a strong idea and a massive influencer. And because of our fragile egos, prejudice is rarely replaced by facts, even if on the inside one knows that the facts are different from the preconceptions. We simply don’t want to be proved wrong. Same was the case with me. But sometimes, the facts are just so overwhelming that preconceived thoughts are blown to smithereens. That… was the case with the new TVS Apache RTR 160 4V.
Right from the launch of the bike, despite its relation to the TVS’ racing machine RTR 165, it just put me off. Apache has been a legacy right from its inception. I have been a big fan. The refresh with the DRLs and stuff did not impress me a lot but it retained the engine and thus the character. Somewhat. The RTR 200 4V proved to be worthy of the name Apache and so did the RR 310. But then launch of the RTR 160 4V ‘looked’ like a half-ass attempt at making a sporty small capacity motorcycle with the design carried over from the 200 4V. Prejudice and so much of it that I decided to ignore it completely. The day we got the test bike and I thumbed the starter, the comparatively feeble exhaust note and the comparatively mild demeanor, my first thought; it has lost the character of the Apache. All of those thoughts within the 100 meters ride to the parking—Prejudice. Big time. But boy was I wrong.
I’ll get rid of the rituals first; LOOKS ARE SUBJECTIVE. Done. Now, I will stick to my previous opinion that the design ideology shouts RTR 200 4V in your face. I didn’t like it previously because I would have liked the design to be exclusive to the 200 4V. But it grows on you. It took repeated instances of looking at it to slowly fall in love with it. After all, love, at first sight, is mostly infatuation and wears off quickly. At least that’s what I think. The muscular tank, the cute (does not suit a street fighter) headlamp with the aggressive DRLs, voluminous yet sharp rear, the 3D TVS logo, the wide tyres etc. these all are the bits that pull you towards the bike, slowly. Gently. I won’t say much about the looks but for all of you who feel the same way I felt, just give it a little time and it’ll make you love it. In this department, I’d say the bike scores 4/5.
Note: This is going to be harder to explain than differentiation and integration (chills). I am explaining this here because I have mentioned that the tyre width has a positive effect on the aesthetics of the bike.
So, there are 3 variants of the Apache RTR 160 4V:
We got the 2nd one for the review.
The engine on the 160 4V is a gem. The level of refinement is off the charts. It is so smooth that Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond from Die Another Day or golden eye pales in comparison. The power delivery is very linear and the vibrations only start to creep in after 70-75 kmph and then too they are not a deal-breaker. The 0-60 recorder on our test bike would not show anything less than 9.9s even after multiple attempts and after multiple instances of bruised ego I realized that maybe it does not work on this specimen. The top speed recorder did work fine and I managed to go up to 121 kmph but that will take a lot of empty road and time. 100 kmph, though stresses the engine to some extent, comes up fairly quickly.
All this helped me to deduce that cruising can be done between 70-80 kmph without stressing the mill too much and to keep it relatively vibe free. I have no qualms with the low-end and the top-end of the rev-range (I did not have too many expectations from the top end to begin with), but the mid-range was somewhat disappointing. I rarely had to shift to a lower gear to overtake a vehicle while cruising on the RTR 180 but on this one, I had to do that multiple times and that can be an issue on highway runs where one mostly stays around the upper mid-range. The fueling though on even the carbureted version is pretty good and should be even better in the FI variant. The throttle responds to the inputs with eagerness. It does the same when you close the throttle which makes me want to say that the transition between open/close throttle could have been better. The exhaust note, even with the twin barrel shotgun AK 47 rocket launcher heat seeking missile blah blah design, is kind of lame but that’s just how I feel. Maybe I expected a bit too much.
The gearbox on the other hand was precise, no false neutrals and the clutch action was light, which is a boon in bumper to bumper traffic. The performance is not earth shattering but the bike is no slouch either. What must be taken away from this is that the refinement of the engine has given way to an extremely smooth bike, which also makes you want to thrash it around a bit as well. And that my friends, is a lot of fun on this one. Also, the engine does not heat up a lot which would have been a bother in traffic. All in all the verdict on the engine and performance front is that it is a fun little mill which can handle the city very well and is decent enough on the highways as well. But the somewhat underwhelming mid-range makes the bike score 4/5 in this department.
The RTR 160 4V has got the handling department sorted pretty nicely. RTRs have always been good handlers and this one takes the game a notch higher. The short wheelbase and quite aggressive steering geometry translates into a beautifully agile and confident little motorcycle that is going to keep the corner carvers and highway cruisers happy. The bikes turns in predictably quickly and holds the line like a pro. Getting your knees out and murdering those chicken strips on the tyres after a long straight is pure joy. Straight line stability does not disappoint either. Within the city, filtering through the traffic is quite easy due to the short wheelbase and the punchy low-end.
I used the bike to commute from home to work which throws almost everything within the 35 kms commute. City traffic, straights and satisfactory twisties. The motorcycle feels home in all the three scenarios and kudos to TVS as this is the department where the race connection with the RTR 165 race machine is most evident. Brakes, both the front and rear and solid and progressive. They offer ample bite and make the rider confident enough to push the bike a little more with the promise of ample stopping power. The suspension sits somewhere in between sporty and plush. The front, though a bit soft, takes care of uneven roads and corners alike although I’d have liked just a tad bit stiffer to avoid those slight nosedives in the corners or under deceleration. I found the rear monoshock perfectly balanced for corner carving and handling bad patches of road as well.
But, yes, even after so many praises, there is a ‘but’. The tyres are the ‘but’. The tires do not justify a motorcycle that is such a lovely handler. On the dry tarmac the tyres are okay but brake hard and you’ll hear them squeal louder than the heroines from the Ramsay flavored horror movies. Okay, not that loud but they are vocal. I’ll keep mum about the wet grip and just say that one must be careful if they love monsoon. So, the tyres sneak away a point from the otherwise wonderful handling package of the RTR 160 4V and it scores 4/5 in this department.
Another department that the RTR 160 4V excels in. The older RTRs did not score very well on the comfort scale but this one is a game changer in this regard. The foot-pegs are fairly forward set and the handlebars are set higher than the previous generation RTRs. This results in a comfortable riding posture. The contours on the tank also make sure that the rider is able to grip the tank well. The seat is plush and roomy and does not cramp the rider for space although it’s not roomy enough to move around a lot. The rider’s triangle formed as a result of the position of the handlebars and the foot-pegs is very comfortable and long rides pose no issues at all. The lack of windscreen though takes a chunk out of the comfort department as long highway runs result in the rider facing a lot of headwind which can cause some discomfort in the neck. The throttle and clutch are light and therefore do not stress the wrists in any way. All in all the RTR 160 4V is quite a comfortable motorcycle.
All that does not apply to me. How and why? Whatever I wrote is above is after the inputs of someone who is 5’9. I on the other hand am 6’3 and adjusting myself on the new RTR did take some time and even after that I was not completely comfortable. Firstly, my knees could not grip the tank well as they extended beyond the contours of the tank. If I adjusted for that, I sat further back and had to reach for the handlebars which was not much of an issue but the major flaw if I moved backwards on the seat was the my feet (10.5 UK) felt awkwardly placed on the pegs and I felt kind of stuck. If I compare it with any other bike the distance between the lever contact piece and the left foot-peg seems to be the same but it just felt awkward to me. So, if you are over 6 or 6’1, please test the bike out first and if you are able to find a comfortable posture, then make a decision. So, with this problem that I faced, I’ll selfishly take away half a point from the score and give the otherwise brilliant ergos of the RTR 160 4V 4.5/5.
Mileage: The Apache 160 4V is a frugal little thing and it returned about 45-47 kmpl in mixed riding conditions majority of which was city riding with a lot of traffic and a lot of thrashing on the open roads. If the expectations are set around 45 kmpl, the RTR 160 will keep one happy and with its performance, the mileage is certainly a plus.
Rear-view mirror visibility: The rear-views offer a good view of the world you are leaving behind as you put the performance of the new RTR to test. No vibrations in the mirrors is also a plus.
Headlight performance: The headlight was okay. I didn’t expect much in the first place. It has an okay spread and okay illumination. So it’s just okay altogether. Even good headlights are rendered helpless by the High-Beam heroes in our country. In the dark patches of the road where there isn’t much traffic, the headlight is satisfactory.
Build Quality: The overall build quality was nice. The panels, the fit, the paint etc. everything is pretty nice. Nothing to complain about here. So the new RTR scores quite well in the fit and finish department. The same goes for the switchgear as well. The buttons are ergonomically placed, offer good tactile feedback and look solid.
Instrument Cluster: The fully-digital instrument cluster is way ahead of the bike itself which is certainly not a bad thing. Orange backlight, lap time recorder, top speed recorder, 0-60 recorder are a few features in addition to the standard information. It misses out on a gear position indicator though.
Overall, except the tyres and the somewhat bleak mid-range, I’d say that the new TVS Apache RTR 160 4V is a beautiful little motorcycle which offers a lot of fun for its size and the price is seriously justifiable only by the refinement of the engine. The rest of the good things are just freebies. It is certainly a major improvement on the previous models and betters them in almost every regard.
It has got quite a few competitors in the market like the Suzuki Gixxer, Yamaha FZ and the Bajaj Pulsar NS160. With the kind of a motorcycle the new TVS Apache RTR 160 4V is, the competition has surely heated up and the new Apache is more than up to the challenge.