Hero Impulse Review
Bike Tested: 2012 Hero Impulse
Price On-Road Chennai: Rs. 76,086/-
26 years is a long time by any stretch of imagination. That’s precisely how long the joint-venture between Hero and Honda had existed until the latter decided to exit the JV in 2010. A relationship that has been in existence for such a long period of time is sure to leave a major impact when it finally ends. The recently renamed Hero MotoCorp is currently in such a situation. Decades of riding in Honda’s shadow has left the company vulnerable after Honda’s exit. Hero MotoCorp knows this too well and that is why they have entered into a strategic partnership with Erik Buell Racing of USA to get technical and design inputs and bring in next-gen high-end bikes in India.
In the short-term though, Hero plans to maintain its numero-uno position by refreshing the existing model range and by launching niche models that strike a different chord with the public. One such product is the Hero Impulse and here is what we felt after spending a couple of days with this one-of-a-kind motorcycle.
We will not mince words here. The design of the Impulse is not that attractive to leave a lasting impression on you the first time you see it. But, it starts growing on you oh so slowly. When you get to understand the practicality and purpose of each of its design elements, you finally start appreciating it. The Hero Impulse is the first time a two-wheeler manufacturer in India is trying its hand at offering an off-roading motorcycle. Yes, you read that right. It is an hitherto unexplored segment that promises to bring as much fun as going off-road on four wheels. You just have to have the perfect set of two wheels for that to happen and.that is what the Impulse strives to be.
At first glance, the styling and proportions of the Impulse catches you as totally weird. The longer-than-usual front forks, the gaping front mudguard, the short wheelbase, the towering ground clearance and the high-placed exhaust are a far cry from the regular bikes that we have seen and grown with. Nevertheless, the Impulse is a definite head-turner and evoked surprised reactions from most of the people who got a glimpse of it up close and personal. Comments like “Hey, this is the Hero Honda Impulse”, “Look, the exhaust pipe is right next to the seat” and “The bike looks cool” were clearly audible when riding the bike in congested city traffic. The overall reaction wherever we took it was very positive.
The broader Ceat tires with deep treads keeps the Impulse stable on and off the road and we felt them to be a tad better off road. The return of spoke wheels on a motorcycle after a long time is a welcome change, what with even 100cc bikes sporting alloys these days. The LED taillamp could have been designed and shaped better but it works nicely, especially at night. The brushed aluminum grab rails, the scoops in the side fairing and the bright colors that the Hero Impulse comes painted in adds to the coolness quotient of the bike. Though the build quality is good for most parts, certain bits the rubber beading behind the pillion seat that is intended to carry load looked and felt cheap to the eye.
Instrument Cluster and Switchgear:
The Hero Impulse comes with a mundane instrument cluster and switchgear that can hardly be termed eye-catchy. But then, it isn’t bad too and just goes about doing its job as intended. There is no fuzziness in its design and the analog-tacho digital-speedo combo works flawlessly. There are two trip meters and a ‘service due’ indicator on offer but we would have preferred a ‘distance to empty’ figure as part of the options, given the bike’s off-road ambitions, where running out of fuel can become a nightmare. The switchgear is not made of the best quality and are regular run-of-the-mill stuff. The black ‘Mode’ and ‘Reset’ switches in the instrument console are made of shockingly poor quality material and could come off any moment.
Performance and Gearbox:
The Hero Impulse is powered by the same 150-cc, 4-stroke engine that we all have experienced and fallen in love with, in the Unicorn. The engine is extremely smooth with amazing refinement levels that can teach Bajaj and TVS a lesson or two. The muted exhaust note that most of us like in the Unicorn just doesn’t go well with the hardcore nature of the Hero Impulse. A deeper groan and a sportier note would have perfectly suited the bike’s personality. That aside, it is hard to find any fault with this engine except the fact that Hero Moto could have given the Impulse a bigger and more powerful engine to match its ruggedness.
To be honest, 13.2 PS @ 7500 rom and 13.4 Nm @ 5000 rpm isn’t figures that we expect on a motorcycle intended for off-road ambitions. Though the figures look very less on paper, it has to be said that the Impulse did not let us down with lack of power in the few mini off-roading trial runs that we did. The fact that the course included a rough and fairly steep climb over mud and small rocks and the Hero Impulse still did not leave us wanting is a testimony to the fact that off-roading is not just about power but about the way in which it is delivered to those wheels. Having said that, more power would have definitely helped prevent the frequent downshifts. The gear-shifts in the 5-speed constant mesh gearbox are smooth and effortless with the soft clutch being an added advantage.
Ride, Handling and Braking:
Now comes the best part of the Impulse that left us all impressed to the core. This has got to be the best riding bike this side of 1 Lakh Rupees. Period. Meatier tires, Nitrox monoshock rear suspension coupled with tougher shock absorbers up front designed for taking off-roading in its stride, gives the Impulse a plush ride that just trounces the competition. Leave alone the bumps and potholes dotting our roads, the Impulse just glides past small speed-breakers too, totally eliminating the need for constant braking every time we spot an irregularity on the road. When we say ‘impressive’, we mean it and that isn’t only to its on road characteristics, mind you.
The short wheelbase, the huge ground clearance and the gaping front mudguard forms a perfect recipe for those who love taking their bikes off-road for some fun. Be it sand, stone, rock or water, the Hero Impulse just trudges along effortlessly. Conditions that will leave other bikes grounded and damaged are dispatched with such ease and conviction that it leaves you wanting for more. Handling for most parts is pretty nimble and predictable and doesn’t give you much surprises. Having said that, the Hero Impulse is no match for the TVS Apache RTR when it comes to handling though.
The Impulse doesn’t impress you as much in its braking abilities as it is just about adequate. Call us spoilt brats here and we wouldn’t disagree because, when it comes to motorcycles, the Apache RTR 180 ABS has left a major influence on our judgement in braking capabilities. Leave alone ABS, the Impulse should have atleast got discs in both wheels, but sadly, it comes with a disc up front and an internal expanding drum brake at the rear.
You need to have a split-personality to truly judge the Impulse. On one side, see it as a true-blue off-roading motorcycle and the Impulse falls short with restricted power output and a soft build quality that just can’t take those harsh runs day in and day out. But, view the Impulse as an everyday 150cc motorcycle that is capable of giving its owners fun-filled weekends off the beaten track and it suddenly makes tremendous sense. On the road, it will leave the Pulsars and Apaches far behind with its supple ride and smooth engine, while off the road, it just doesn’t have any competition to be compared with. Kudos to Hero for trying out something different with the Impulse and coming out in flying colors.
What’s Not So Cool:
* Limited power output for an off-roader
* Lack of rear disc brake
* Weird styling elements
Hero Impulse Specifications:
* Engine: 149.2 cc, Single Cylinder, 4-stroke, SOHC, Air Cooled
* Maximum Power: 13.2 PS @ 7500 RPM
* Maximum Torque: 13.4 Nm @ 5000 RPM
* Transmission: 5-speed Manual
* Fuel Type: Petrol
* Suspension: Telescopic Hydraulic Shocks (Front), Nitrox Mono Shock (Rear)
* Tires: 90/90/19 (Front), 110/90/17 (Rear)
* Brakes: 240 mm Disc (Front), 110 mm Internal Expanding Drum (Rear)
Hero Impulse Dimensions:
* Wheelbase: 1360 mm
* Ground Clearance: 245 mm
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 11.1 liters