All these motorcycle pack a serious punch, that you just can’t choose one so easily.
Motorcycles generate an emotional appeal, something which only a rider can truly understand. We Indians have been starved of fast and involving motorcycles since a very long time. There has been the RX 100/135 and the RD350 but post that, there was absolutely nothing which could rock an enthusiast’s boat. Over the past half a decade, a slew of performance machines have been launched from a range of manufacturers, which has given the bikers amongst us a wide variety of options to choose from. But which is the ultimate Indian performance motorcycle today? Time to revv the engines to find out.
We have seven bikes here in this shootout and picking one is certainly not easy. Heck, even comparing them against each other is no menial task, after all, these bikes range from Rs. 97,000/- all the way up to Rs. 3.70 lakhs (all prices on-road, Mumbai). So clearly these bikes are as different as chalk and cheese, but still we will compare them to find out which is the most thrilling machine to ride and own today.
Now all these bikes certainly look good, after all beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. For that very reason we wouldn’t want to pass a judgement on the styling of these motorcycles. Some find the KTM Duke 200 to be the most gorgeous bike on the road, while others find it offensive. Thus it’s not an easy task to decide which is the most stunning machine here. However most people will agree with us that the Yamaha R15 Version 2.0 is the most stunning Indian bike on sale today. The R15 looks splendid in both quality and design alike, more so in racing blue shade.
All these bikes have modern instrument clusters (except the Kawasaki Ninja 250R) with analogue tachometer taking centre stage and a digital speedometer tucked neatly somewhere around it (except the Duke 200, which has a fully digital console). The most tech laden console is undoubtedly that of the Duke 200 but the small fonts and poor anti-glare properties really makes it difficult to read in bright sun light. The Ninja 250R’s bare basic console doesn’t justify its price tag, while the Pulsar 200 NS’ cluster is among the best in terms of design appeal. Rest of them are quite average and not really something which make you skip a beat. The CBR150R uses a cheaper version of the CBR250R’s console. Switchgear quality is good on all these bikes with the exception of the Honda CBR150R, which feels downright cheap. The R15 feels a step up than others in the way the buttons operate but overall, the Duke 200 and Pulsar 200 NS feel the most appealing in overall console design and switchgear quality.
Engine capacity of these motorcycle range from 150cc to 250cc but we are not going to dwell into the specification of each of these machines. Power output is one thing and the way that power is put down on the road is another thing altogether. So without much ado, let’s quickly dive deep into how these motorcycles perform.
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The CBR150R is the slowest motorcycle here but the high revving nature of the Honda motor gives the highest rewarding experience to the rider. The R15 comes second last in performance but the engine feels butter smooth through out. The R15 does have good punch when you pull it hard. One can’t really blame the R15 and CBR150R for being slow, as they are the least powerful bikes here. The Pulsar 220, which was once the fastest Indian bike, is now all the way down to fifth. The 220 is the oldest and cheapest bike here and still has some serious performance on offer. It is the only bike which doesn’t have 4-valves but it’s commendable to see the 220 put up a good fight. The Pulsar 200 NS comes in fourth and is a complete delight to ride, thanks to an eager engine which pulls strongly. Again nothing comes close to the Pulsars in offering value for money performance.
Our top three performers are no surprise. The Ninja 250R had to take the honors as the fastest accelerating bike here, after all, it is the only bike to feature twin-cylinders. This puts the Duke 200 and CBR250R neck and neck. Although the CBR250R is quite heavy compared to the Duke 200, its taller gearing helps it to take second place. The CBR250R also has a higher top speed than the Duke 200. However, the Duke 200 is more thrilling to ride and it feels like a racket right from the word GO. The shorter gearing in the Duke, keeps you on your toes as you try to keep up with the menacing performance of this KTM. For outright acceleration and top speed, the Ninja 250R might take the honors, but if you want to be thrilled and scared (at the same time), the Duke 200 is the bike for you.
When it comes to underpinnings, the KTM Duke 200 is the most advanced machine here. But it’s not the best when it comes to track days. The Duke does handle like a charm and has strong brakes but the R15 is the most surefooted handler, with the telepathic steering and cornering ability which shames bikes of a segment above. The CBR150R puts up a good fight with the R15 but lacks the finesse that the R15 has. The R15 is so good in terms of dynamics, it feels like it has an extra pair of wheels. The 200 NS is also a surprise package with excellent handling and astonishing brakes. However both the Duke 200 and Pulsar 200 NS have stiff ride quality. The CBR siblings are very comfortable and you never feel tired after endless amount of kms on the saddle. They also offer good handling and excellent high speed stability. The Pulsar 220 is no match in dynamics department with a decade old chassis and suspension bits, but it takes sweepers at high speeds with confidence and braking performance is also good with the recent addition of Bybre brakes. Ride quality is excellent on the Pulsar 220. The Ninja 250R is an aggressive motorcycle and the motorcycle is in its own league with no competition whatsoever. Overall, if we had to pick for the best dynamics, we would close our eyes and hop onto the Yamaha R15.
If you are looking for a high revving motorcycle with sharp handling and surefooted brakes, both the Yamaha R15 and Honda CBR150R will leave no stone unturned to put a grin on your face. Looking for outright speed? The Kawasaki Ninja 250R is the clear winner. For the value for money bikers, the Bajaj Pulsar 200 NS is easily the motorcycle to pick, for its good performance, excellent brakes and splendid handling. People looking for a way to commute in style (semi-faired and fully loaded) with comfort and speed a priority over dynamics, Pulsar 220F is there to please. Those looking at a comfortable, reliable motorcycle, good enough to go endless kms on the saddle without breaking into a sweat, the Honda CBR250R is the top choice. But if you want the simple thrills of going berserk every time you twist the throttle, the KTM Duke 200 emerges as the winner and our choice as India’s best performance motorcycle. But these results don’t stay for long as the Duke 390, CBR500R, Pulsar 375 and Ninja 300R are all hiding in some corner of India, ready to pounce upon us soon. Till then, let’s paint the town orange, neon orange.
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