- About Us
Words: Benjamin Gracias
Photography: Vikrant Date
I read the other day that in that small island they call the United Kingdom, there are close to 30 race circuits; quite pathetic then that our massive country has just three. The simple deduction is that the average British enthusiast is just a stone’s throw away from riding nirvana; the average Indian has at least a day’s hard ride to do the same and this, along with your budget, kind of dictates the bikes you buy. You need something sporty enough to get your knee down on and you need something that’s comfortable enough to do that day’s hard ride to get to the circuit. And assuming you don’t have a fat wallets to truck the bike halfway across the country every other weekend, these are the four bikes on your shortlist.
So, you beg your dad, blackmail your mum (I was going to suggest a kidney-sale but you won’t need to do that with these bikes) and whip up around a lakh and a half greenbacks to indulge in this passion of yours. The only question is, which one of these – the Pulsar RS 200, KTM RC 200, Yamaha R15 or the CBR250 – is worth that cajoling?
The bikes in question are liquid cooled, fuel injected and have most of the bells and whistles you will find on higher capacity machines. And yes, the R15 is outgunned on cubic capacity, but it is here. This was the bike that birthed this segment – that of small-capacity, high-performance motorcycle that would be equally at ease tearing up a track or dawdling through traffic. Time to hit our favourite road then.
Three bikes here have outputs nudging 25bhp but what sets them apart is the way that power is delivered. That’s the reason we are here on our favourite road, in pouring rain no less. We usually pit a car against a bike on our Lap of Mutha stories but this time it’s going to a straight head-to-head: to find out which bike manages the widest grin across the rider’s mug.
First out is the biggest motorcycle here, both in terms of size and engine capacity. When launched, the Honda CBR 250R felt like a large capacity motorcycle scaled down for the Indian market. It still feels like a big bike though it is easy to manoeuvre. The clip-ons are set reasonably high and the riding position is sporty yet not too committed and the flyscreen does a good job of deflecting windblast. The 250cc single delivers a healthy 23Nm delivered in a seamless manner that allows for effortless cruising. In fact the big Honda’s USP lies in its fast, effortless mile munching.
So it’s comfortable but can it hold its own on the twisties? The CBR’s relaxed rake makes hustling the bike around tight corners a conscious effort. Don’t get me wrong, the bike displays exemplary stability around corners, the meaty Continentals providing ample grip but the tubular chassis feels tuned for the highway rather than the mountain roads. It is no slouch – that grunty motor can easily keep up with the rest of the pack$, it’s just that the rider has to work a little harder to get the bike to deliver its goods. The problem partly lies in its weight. At 167kgs, you really need to coax the bike into the line you want to take. Despite the weight, the brakes with the combined ABS system, do a commendable job hauling the bike down double quick.
The KTM RC 200 is the complete opposite to the CBR 250R. Where the big H seems docile, the KTM is edgy, like a nest of angry hornets. Its 200cc high strung motor sounds like one too. It is enclosed in a featherweight trellis frame, the riding position is race-bike committed and the steering is the sharpest here. The RC is the most responsive bike I have ridden and the best way to go around corners on an RC 200 is to hang off the bike, commit fully and keep on the throttle after you kiss the apex. The thing with the RC is that the bike is always in attack mode and you have to be on your toes. Dance with her and she will show you the way, don’t give her enough respect and you might be skydiving off a cliff without a parachute.
Riding the RC 200 in pouring rain on these roads is like having sex on a ledge suspended off a skyscraper. It is exhilarating, but slip up and it will kill you. The lack of ABS and most of the weight concentrated up front means that under hard braking, the rear lightens up considerably and hence the rear wheel locks up easily. All said though the KTM has the most immersive and intense riding experience.
The Bajaj Pulsar RS 200 is the easiest of the lot to ride fast. The riding position is sporty but more relaxed than the others and with cycle parts from the NS 200, it handles extremely well. The RS eels light on its feet and the steering, though not razor sharp like the RC’s, has a sense of urgency to it. The sculpted tank allows you to lock your knee firmly as you lean it into a corner and the MRF Zapper S grips the wet tarmac well. The 200cc motor too is refined and relaxed and the gearbox doesn’t feel as edgy as the KTM’s six-speed unit. The single channel ABS works well in the wet as well. All-in-all carving up the hills in the RS 200 is a fast and comfortable affair, if a little lacking in ultimate focus.
The Yamaha R15 started it all. When launched, a 150cc liquid cooled, fuel-injected bike was unheard of and frankly laughed upon. That was until you rode one and experienced the performance for yourself. The mini-R1 styling had us all hooked and even today, the tail lamp from the updated version 2.0 would easily win the trophy for the best rump around. It has got substance too. It was the bike most of us got our knee down on for the first time. The exemplary handling courtesy the Deltabox frame means the R15, even today, can teach the new lot a thing or two about handling.
Its only downfall is the 150cc mill which is simply out of its league here. It feels a bit slow in this company and riding uphill asks you to wring the motor out for all its worth all the time. It’s more fun downhill where its 17bhp mill gets assistance from gravity.
In the end, the differences are quite clear. The CBR 250R might have been around for a bit but don’t rule it out just yet. Our sources indicate that an updated model will be out soon though it will mostly border around cosmetic enhancements. As is, the CBR 250R is more a capable tourer than an outright sports bike. You’ll have to work quite hard to wear out your knee sliders on this one.
The KTM RC 200 is the hot favourite here and the one that pulls at your heartstrings – minimalistic, raw and edgy. It is the best track weapon here by a fair margin but a bit too hardcore for everyday use. Plus your girlfriend won’t like being perched on its first floor pillion seat.
The R15 is still a sweet handler and it is also the cheapest of this bunch. But, it does get rather breathless – we can barely wait for the R25 to be launched and that brings us to the Pulsar RS 200. Performance-wise, it is very close to the RC 200 but it isn’t as demanding. Sure, the KTM has the edge over the twisty stuff, but the Pulsar gives you good doses of fun and usability. You can ride it to work, ride it cross-country, attend a riding school at the Kari Speedway and be none the worse for wear. The RC put the biggest smile on my face; the RS was the one that kept me smiling for longer.