The Indian bike market has a come a long way right from the days of the Bajaj Chetak up to today’s KTMs and the likes. Earlier bikes were used as fuel efficient and convenient ways of quick transport while today they are bought for long-distance highway trips, pleasure riding, etc.
Let’s have a look at the top 5 bikes that changed the Indian motorbike industry.
1) Yamaha RD350 – RD stands for Racing Development but in India the RD350 was also referred as Rajdoot since Yamaha had a tie-up with them. Yamaha sold it in India between 1983 to 1990. At that time this bike did not find many takers because the asking price was a bit too much and its fuel efficiency was lesser than what competitors claimed to offer. The RD350 came in two versions namely High Torque and Low Torque. The High Torque version churned out 30.5 BHP of power whereas the Low Torque version produced 27 BHP of power. The Yamaha RD350 was the first performance-oriented motorbike that was launched in India. Enthusiasts have now understood the true potential of this bike and hence it commands a premium in the used bike markets and there are even dedicated clubs for owners of this wonderful piece of machinery.
2) Hero Honda CBZ – Super Sprint, that was the tagline first used by Hero Honda when the CBZ was launched. It was an instant hit and was the first performance bike in 1999 (even a 150cc bike wasn’t available in those days and hence the performance adjective). Powered by a 156.8cc engine, there was something about the CBZ which made people go made in love with it at first glance. The oversquare engine offered splendid performance with the CBZ being the first 4-stroke bike in India to use a 5-speed gearbox. Hero Honda discontinued the CBZ in 2005 after the Bajaj Pulsar 150 started to give it a tough time and in 2007, the CBZ Xtreme which was launched, which was an entirely new bike.
3) Bajaj Pulsar – Bajaj originally launched the Pulsar in 2001 with a 150cc engine which gave out 13 BHP of power. The Indian Army also bought a large number of Pulsars and then Bajaj soon launched the 180cc version. This was the first time that the company was selling more bikes than scooters. In 2003, Bajaj launched the Pulsar 180 DTSi and this version came with a redesigned headlamp. The Pulsar got another update in 2005 and the major change in this version were 17-inch wheels. Then the company started selling the 200 DTSi and 220 DTS-Fi versions and in 2009 the manufacturer gave the fourth upgrade to the Pulsar. The DTS-Fi version got discontinued and Bajaj launched the 220cc Pulsar and claimed it to be the fastest Indian bike. Currently, Bajaj sells the following versions of the Pulsar – 135 LS, 150, 180, 220 and 200 NS. The Pulsar 200 SS and 375 are coming soon. The Pulsar has started affordable performance biking in India.
4) Hero Honda Karizma – Hero Honda launched the Karizma more than a decade back (May 2003) and the bike found many lovers at that time owing to the sporty styling. The Karizma is powered by a 223cc air-cooled engine which gives it good fuel efficiency of 40 km/l. Hero Honda launched the Karizma R in 2007 and then the Karizma ZMR in 2009. The bike was also used in the popular TV show “MTV Roadies” and hence its popularity kept on increasing. The Karizma was termed as a very good handler on arrow-straight roads as well as corners. This bike was solely responsible for starting the touring trend amongst bikers in India. Hero MotoCorp has now ended its JV with Honda and it will launch a new version of the Karizma in a few months (the company has already showcased the EBR influenced Karizmas).
5) Yamaha R15 – The Yamaha R15 is one such bike that needs no introduction at all. The first generation of the R15, which Yamaha launched in 2008, sold really well since it packed decent performance, exciting looks and good fuel efficiency, all at a very good price. The R15 kept raking in the numbers for Yamaha and then the company decided to launch the R15 V2 in 2011 with a few changes to the rear styling, tyres, etc, and this version has become even more successful. It is powered by a 149.8cc single-cylinder engine which produces 16.9 BHP of power and the engine is mated to a 6-speed transmission. The R15 is one bike which has helped many learn knee-down cornering, it’s just so sharp around corners.
6) KTM Duke 390 – The latest kid on the block, the Duke 390 was recently launched by KTM following the success of the Duke 200. Buyers wanted more power at an affordable price and KTM has provided just that. The KTM Duke 390 is powered by a 373cc single-cylinder engine that is produced by Bajaj Auto in association with KTM. The Duke 390 has constantly won many awards from reviewers which include the Bike Of The Year recognition. The Duke 390 is a naked bike and many buyers feel that a performance-oriented bike should come with a full fairing and the likes and hence KTM is soon going to launch the RC 390 which is a faired version of the Duke 390. The Duke 390 is the modern RD350, offering unadulterated raw performance at an affordable price point.
What bikes do you think have made a change in the Indian market?