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There is only one way to settle a debate between bikers rooting for different machines, pit the motorcycles against each other. With TVS’s brand new Apache RR 310 straddling the gap between the powerful KTM RC 390 and the popular RC 200, we decided to settle the debate once and for all.
TVS Apache RR 310
Bright, red and flashy, the Apache RR 310 is TVS Motors’ current flagship. That fairing has been sculpted in a wind tunnel, the only bike by an Indian manufacturer to lay claim to this, and it shows. Even a six-footer like me can tuck completely out of the windblast and ergonomics are great for everyday use. Not ideal for racing but you won’t dislike it on your way to work or on that road trip. What really stands out though is the quality and attention to detail. We’re willing to stick our necks out and say that build quality and fit and finish on the Apache sets the benchmark in this class of bikes.
Fins in the Apache’s fairing help channel air betterPower comes from BMW’s 312cc liquid-cooled single in a BMW trellis. It revs effortlessly and feels smooth despite naysayers crying foul about vibrations. But the real party trick is tractability. She picks up cleanly from an unbelieveable 45kmph in sixth! Instead of the KTMs’ manic urgency you get a relentless arc of power. This makes life very cushy in the real world where you don’t find yourself working that slick six-speeder all the time. This will also lend the bike great cruising abilities. And for those of you dying for trackdays, the tractability will will prevent her from stalling when you find yourself in a gear too high.
“What is surprising is how well TVS has managed to make the ride quality supple without sacrificing handling prowess.”
Race spec chassis is actually from BMW MotorradLike the engine, the chassis is great too. Thanks to the reverse inclined engine layout, the swingarm is long. Which is great for mid-corner stability with the bike cranked over on its side. On straights too, there is hardly any headshake as you would expect from a motorcycle with a sharp rake and a short wheelbase. What is surprising is how well TVS has managed to make the ride quality supple without sacrificing handling prowess. It doesn’t become stiff and bouncy over torn tarmac. The fact that the seat is well-cushioned, helps too. The pillion seat unfortunately is woefully inadequate. And there are no holders to mount luggage. This one shortcoming aside, the Apache RR 310 is a well-rounded product that you’ll be able to live with every day of the week and then get your grin back by thrashing it around a race track on a weekend.
KTM RC 390
Ask any random biker about an affordable sportsbike you can buy in the country and this is the name that you will hear 95 times out of 100. The KTM RC 390 is the benchmark that the Apache will have to beat but it won’t be easy. Even though the updated KTM RC 390 has put on some weight compared to its predecessor and has also matured a bit more with the addition of ride-by-wire having smoothened out power delivery and the side slung exhaust in place of the earlier underbelly unit having removed some of the roughness from the exhaust note. Its racing DNA becomes all too evident. High rearsets, tall saddle height (820mm) and low clip-ons. The riding posture is aggressive.
“The RC 390 wants to be ridden hard or not at all. And that, perhaps is its biggest limitation.”
With 43.4bhp on twist from that 373.2cc liquid-cooled single, she shoots ahead. And that is the only way she’ll ever go. It’s virtually impossible to potter around on the RC 390. You’re either on the verge of explosion or totally dormant. There simply isn’t any middle ground. This is a bike that wants its throttle pinned to the stop. At all times. The chassis and suspension is set up only for handling, and boy does she feel instinctive. The turn in is so intuitive that you’ll find yourself in the turn by the time you’ve finished thinking about it. The only thing is, whatever the RC 390 does, it does without any thought to finesse. It has a raw quality to it that KTM fans are totally in love with. But this bike requires experience for it isn’t particularly forgiving. Nor is it particularly suited to the rigours of a daily commute or touring, which is India’s foremost form of leisure riding. The RC 390 wants to be ridden hard or not at all. And that, perhaps is its biggest limitation.
KTM RC 200
Except for the engine, tyres, brakes, handlebar and that underbelly exhaust, the RC 200 shares everything with its bigger sibling. It has the same frame and the same suspension. Head on, you won’t be able to tell them apart. Start the 199.5cc liquid-cooled single and your ears are greeted by the unmistakable staccato bark of a KTM engine but this one sounds raspier.
“Start the 199.5cc liquid-cooled single and your ears are greeted by the unmistakable staccato bark of a KTM engine but this one sounds raspier.”
The 25.6bhp is a world away from the Apache’s 33.5 and a galaxy away from the RC 390’s 43.5 but as you approach corners, the RC 200 shows the same instinctiveness as the RC 390. Only, with less weight to lug and minus the RC 390’s raw power, it feels more manageable on tight, narrow roads. Which makes it a great stepping stone for those climbing up the sportsbike ladder. Back in the real world of potholes, traffic and broken roads however, it’s just as unsuitable as the bigger KTM.
The KTM RC 390 then is still the bike to buy for trackday junkies. Its performance is matchless. If you want a bike to learn on then you’re way better off with the RC 200. Just remember not to ask these to take you to office or on your ride to Goa or Chandigarh, unless you have the ortho’s number on speed dial. The Apache however is one bike for all seasons and reasons. Want to ride fast around a track? She’s up to it. Need to get to work? She’ll put up with the trafficky chaos. Touring? Not a problem. A genuine all rounder, the TVS Apache RR 310 therefore is the winner of our debate. That’s settled then.