Adventure Motorcycling: An Indian bikers perspective.

With the launch of the Bajaj Pulsar AS200 and its younger sibling the Bajaj Pulsar AS150 the buzz word of the day is ‘Adventure’, or at least thats what Bajaj intends it to be, after all the ‘AS’ is supposed to stand for ‘Adventure Sport’ or something like that, let me be frank on one front I am no fan of the KTM abominations, period. The 200NS is a decent bike for what its worth, but the bike seriously lacks some oomph! and it is clearly evident when ridden by a heavy rider(ME!@130kgs), the bike simply refuses to pull, and this is when ridden on plain tarmac, I cant even imagine what it would be like to do uphill climbs on it, and not to mention adding some more ‘Adventure’ to the equation by bringing in trails! Now how do you like them apples? Unthinkable right? Yes! I have an experience to prove it; One instance me and a classmate was on a brand new NS with some 2k or so on the ODO, we were riding towards Madiwala from Electronic City, the motor was humming, nearly out of breath and my pillion was like “Hey asshole, why aren’t you up-shifting” and I was like..”BC… There are no more gears to up-shift, we’re already on 6th” Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that the NS lacks performance, if ridden by an adequately weighted rider then its definitely a killer, the acceleration is not that aggressive compared to its KTM twin, but the top end, Man! That top end performance, I’ve had NS’s fly by me on highways ridden by hooligans, every single time they’ve made me jealous, only if I weighed some 50~60kgs lesser, but thats never gonna happen, so moving on, I know..I know! I’ve been yapping about the NS instead of focusing on the AS or ‘Adventure Motorcycling’ for that matter, but let me tell you, I have my reasons for doing so, the NS is the donor motor for the recently launched variations, and it is the only one among the lot which I’ve extensively ridden, so I guess that would settle that. Now moving onto the exciting part, the AS200, whats so special about it? It has a semi-fairing and a projector low beam! Is that worth the effort? Definitely YES! I recently upgraded to a Bajaj Pulsar 220F and let me say, the projector is doing wonders, I never believed in those things until the P220F came into my life, MAN! The spread! Absolutely no distortion at all, and for comparison the high beam also uses a 55W H7 Halogen setup but with an ellipsoidal reflector, thought it is good for blinding oncoming traffic and forcing them to use their low beams for once, it doesn’t do much for the rider, at least compared to the low beams, and if the AS200 comes with a similar setup then I would recommend it over the NS just for its lighting, cause in spite of the NS offering a 55/60 Halogen unit, which is impressive compared to competition as most bikes come from factory with 35/35 Halogen units, it wont come anywhere close to a unit with a projector and I can guarantee that. Speaking about which, I have plans to replace the stock 55W H7 Halogen unit on my P220F to a 55W H7 Xenon HID unit, now this coupled with the projector would really make me a happy tourer, fingers crossed!

My first adventure/touring motorcycle.
My first Sports Tourer. This picture was snapped en-route a 1340 kms one day run.

Now the semi fairing, I have a 2011 model Hero Honda Karizma R and a P220F, so I guess you could say that I’ve had substantial experience with  semi-fairings, but just to bring parity into the equation, I’ve owned and toured on a naked bike as well for a considerable amount, the Bajaj Discover 100 4G for 16,500kms in between these two semi faired monsters. 1458685_537528613035364_4916350049427226243_n So does a semi fairing make a difference? Absolutely YES! Ever ridden through Tamil Nadu? If yes, then you would surely know what and how dangerous cross winds are, the semi fairing does help eliminate its effects to a certain extent, once on the D100 the crosswinds were so extreme that the bike was being pulled to either sides and I was forced to stop for a smoke, the funny part was that the crosswinds were so strong that it bent my already abused cigarette. I’ve done the same route on my ZMA and P220F and have gone through similar crosswinds, but the impact was less, cause both bikes are legendary when it comes to their torque abilities, one being known for its low end the other being known for its mid end, plus the head on resistance was also less, as the air was redirected to go above the rider rather than hit the rider directly on the chest.

Off Roading on the ZMA; Running on proper dual sport tires, Michelin Sirac Street up front and Dunlop Monster Trail at the rear.
Off Roading on the ZMA; Running on proper dual sport tires, Michelin Sirac Street up front and Dunlop Monster Trail at the rear.

Now other than crosswinds, another upside of having a semi fairing is that if you find yourself navigating through trails a lot, then its a life saver, many a times have I been saved from splashing mud and debris while landing on unexpected ditches and potholes at high speeds, imagine some really viscous mud being splashed onto your visor while your’e trailing, your’e totally or partially blind for the next couple of seconds and those few seconds could determine the difference between life and death. Another added advantage of the semi fairing is that it acts as a kind of crush space, which in the event of a mishap would absorb most of the impact and reduce its effect on the rider, now this is just another one of my assumptions, but you have to agree that it does make valid sense to a certain degree. So I’ve kept the best for the last, the most prominent advantage of having a semi fairing: The Confidence! Yup! You heard me right, the confidence it gives you. Not sure if confidence is the exact term for the feeling, but I’ve pulled a lot of crazy shit on the ZMA which I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have the balls to pull on the D100 or any naked bike for that matter(but on an entirely different note, I’ve done some crazy shit on the D100 as well, but thats a whole different story for another day, or maybe in another blog for what thats worth), it might be the false sense of security or the limited view of whats immediately in front of you, but definitely it does make you keep your inhibitions at bay.

Lack of torque, power and everything in between was evident. A spill while trying to reach the atop Rose Hills.
Lack of torque, power and everything in between was evident. A spill while trying to reach atop Rose Hills.

So having covered the pro’s the AS200 has over the 200NS from a typical Indian adventure riders point of view, I’m going in for the verdict, Does the AS200 cut it? The answer is a big NO! and just to be certain this is as far as my observations with respect to adventure riding goes, you wanna know why? The primary reason is the lack of oomph! the 200NS had, now add to that a 7 kg bump in weight courtesy the semi fairing, and if by chance the rider is someone like myself who carries around 50~100 liters luggage, then be certain that you would have a really hard time with the adventure part, heck! you would even have a really hard time with regular touring on tarmac. That is unless your’e one of those skinny MotoGP aspirants who weigh around 50~60 kgs, then its all fine, have a blast! ‘Cheap Indian’, now don’t tell me you’ve never heard this remark, well during our visit to the US myself and a dear friend of mine ensured that we made our intentions clear the moment we got on-board the flight, and we held that tag with pride. So how does it relate to this article? Well the maintenance cost’s dummy! I used to be under the pretense that performance bikes were expensive to maintain, as my ZMA was a bitch when it came to spare prices, man! with the money I pay for a single overhaul for the ZMA I can do a couple of overhauls for the P220F, and assuming that a complete overhaul is done around 50,000 kms when ridden in poor conditions, it would simply translate that with the price of running the ZMA for 50,000 kms I can run the P220F for over a lakh kms, and for those of you who’ve ever owned a Yamaha R15, don’t even get me started, I might even be able to pull a couple of around the world trips like Bharadwaj Dayala sir if I had that kind of money for my maintenance budget. The next question at hand is the NS, well I’ve not maintained an NS nor taken it for servicing, but from what I’ve come to know from owners is that the NS hold’s its own when it comes to maintenance, though not as expensive as the Yamaha’s it does require considerable effort to perform one of the most basic of maintenance rituals, which is changing the Air Filter, now this is the easiest part of maintaining a bike, no technical knowledge required and its as easy and convenient as maintenance gets, in my P220F I’ve even replaced all the hex bolts with allen key bolts so that the whole process is more simplified as I keep the specific size allen key in my spare pouch under the seat. So what about the NS then? The tank has to be removed to change the Air Filter, Yup! Pfft! You heard me right, now I know most international bikes get it done like that, but c’mon! We’re from India, and under the riding conditions we face on a daily basis, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if things get messier when adventure riding is added to the picture, so imagine an abrupt situation when you’d have to change the Air Filter unexpectedly, bummer! you need to lift the tank! Okay, that might be a bit far fetched if you’re on the paranoid side and replace the filter after every 5,000 kms or so, but another possibility while going on adventures is water entering the air filter box, cleaning up the mess wouldn’t be that much of a hindrance when you’re getting it done with adequate lighting and favorable conditions, but imagine doing it in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of a thunder storm, don’t believe that can happen? Well it can! And it has! at the time I was riding my D100, and I had to cross a section where the water level came up to the speedo console, the obvious happened and water entered the cylinder and air filter box, parked on the side of the road and drained and got the water out of the air filter box and carburetter, removed the spark plug and cranked the motor, letting out the water from the cylinder, a little kicking here and there, and the bike was back in commission, wasn’t that fun? Well then imagine doing the same on the NS under similar conditions.

The ZMA parked at a river bank near Achankovil, had spotted a few snakes en-route and I feared they might crawl inside the ZMA's fairings, hence the precautionary measure.
The ZMA parked at a river bank near Achankovil, had spotted a few snakes en-route and I feared they might crawl inside the ZMA’s fairings, hence the precautionary measure.

Another common maintenance ritual is changing the spark plugs, on all my previous rides it was a walk in the park, including the DTSi’s but what about the NS? I think I’ve seen two of the spark plugs, but what about the third one? Now don’t tell me you have to remove the tank to change that as well? I really have no clue! The next thing to check is the drive chain, I’ve heard that the 200NS doesn’t come with a master link, and the whole swing-arm has to be removed in the event of changing the chain, now I wouldn’t comment on this front as I would just be blowing steam, cause I’m still unsure whether its good or bad, and I know I can just Ctrl+C & Ctrl+V some crap off Google, but then that would defeat my purpose, which is to purely share my thoughts, opinions and experiences, which by the way I believe is the diplomatic terminologies for ranting and bitching. Oh! What did I intend to point out and where did I end! But to my advantage, the third spark plug does add to the maintenance cost with respect to its already established semi faired sibling, the P220F of-course. Now with respect to that the NS is liquid cooled, liquid cooling also does considerably bump the running costs, and not to mention the crap you would have to face in the event of a head gasket leak, and I am definitely certain that if shit happens in the middle of nowhere there wont be any competent mechanics who could be able to help you out, and being an enthusiastic DIY’er thanks to this FB Group I don’t think you would be able to do much, where as with the P220F or the ZMA what I usually do is temporarily stop the leak using Fevibond, the reason why this wont work on the NS is because when the gasket gets weak, the coolant might leak into the head, reducing coolant level considerably and eventually causing the bike to overheat, fouling the spark plug in the process, and not to mention the wear and tear arising from running on contaminated oil. But fear not, the AS150 variant is air cooled, though I doubt its adventure capabilities if its power delivery is similar to the NS, and a 50cc reduction in displacement is just asking for it. Not that I doubt small displacement bikes, as I have toured for over a year on the D100, but the NS’s power delivery is a strict no..no for adventure riding, at least for a heavy rider.

The D100 en-route Bangalore from Kollam.
The D100 en-route Bangalore from Kollam.

So I guess thats all folks, everything I’ve thought to date about the NS and its adventure variants. And just to add I do hope that they don’t discontinue the P220F as its one gem of a bike and in spite of the minor niggles specific to this model and to semi-faired bikes in general, I would still prefer this over many of its alternatives, and what I’ve heard from a brother from Indonesia who rides a P220F(or at least thats what it was before he went all Multistrada on it.) is that not far along adventure mods and add-on kits would be made available for the Indian market.

Bahkuasrhdaen's Pulsar 220F from Indonesia, this is just a minor alteration, now it doesn't even remotely resemble a P220F.
Bahkuasrhdaen’s Pulsar 220F from Indonesia, this is just a minor alteration, now it doesn’t even remotely resemble a P220F.
My stock P220F.
My stock P220F.

And once again, emphasizing my point, a touring/adventure bike should be more torque centric(hold your horses RE bitches!) like the ZMA/P220F rather than power centric like the NS variants.

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2 thoughts on “Adventure Motorcycling: An Indian bikers perspective.

  1. Hi,

    Thats a pretty well explained blog to begin with.I am yet to ride the 200 AS, but I am writng this comment being a 200 Ns owner and having some info on the AS.

    well firstly to begin with, yes you need to remove the tank to change the filter, but again with experience you can find it very easy. for example, most of the guys remove the tank cover, then the tank to get it off, well all you need is to remove the 3 main bolts that connect the tank to the frame and additional 2 bolts up front near the radiator to get the whole thing off.rest is pretty straight forward.

    then the plugs, yes u have to remove tank to access the main plug,but i dont think you would need to change an ns plug upto 50k or so i guess,you can obviously get it changed later but this is a figure iven seen ns plugs run, not they got faulty, the guys didnt push it further.

    next , the chain. oem spares come with full chain kit with no lock, its supposed to prevent break off. you can either get the rolon after market kit which comes with a lock or u can mod the stock kit to have one if you are keen on it.

    i have never heard of a head gasket leak on the ns,however i have seen a lot of ns with the coolant seal leak near the water pump, which again, can be rectified pretty easily.some svcs remove the whole engine to do it, always wondered why, you can easily do it in 30 minutes time.

    now the filter, the filter box and paper filter setup is pretty well designed for filtration i believe and thats a big box! u can try to save the bike from drowning a bit, but again u cant avoid the obvious,the design of the box can save it to a good extent though.

    the gearing and torque delivery.i have to admit, in stock form the NS needs to revved out to make some oomph! like u said it.its geared very tall to my taste. i have toured on my bike extensively without issues though,done 40k+ in a year, m 75 kg mostly travelling light,i never face issues and actually found a liking on the highway cruising ability of the gearing. but if u face an issue with it,sometimes i do, the solution would be to go short on sprocketing.you dont need 150 on the speedo when you are touring, u can get better bottom end pull this way, the sanest short gearing would still give you 140 on speedo and 3-4kmpl drop in mileage which is understandable. again the As is said to have gearing changes, yet to make out details.

    And as a total package, i guess bajaj is targeting the highway mile munchers and not the off roaders which i think people get confused about hearing the name. for highway runs it got everything, a working mudflap in the rear for monsoons, longer wheelbase to aid high speed stability,fairing to reduce handlebar weight and looks? i guess, the visor would do its part and the headlight would be great!

    lastly, about the 220, sorry to tell you this, but what you just reviewed would most probably be the 220 replacement and yes, the old gen pulsars will be phased out.

    Regards, Hari Rajan

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    1. I agree with what you say, with experience most of the rituals become a second habit, the same is the case with removing and installing the ZMA’s fairing, thought I’ve still not cracked it. And yeah the AS does fill in most of what the P220 lacked, but then again I am skeptical about it, lets wait and watch, cause only time and time alone can bring an end to this debate. And just to bring clarity, I wasn’t reviewing the bike, I haven’t even seen on in the flesh, was just sharing my thoughts about it and adventure riding, and I have to admit I’m also a bit excited to see a P220 replacement as long as its a worthy one.

      -Ashwin. 🙂

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