Text – Faisal Khan; Pictures – Om Vaikul
Bajaj Pulsar RS 200 Review
Bike Tested: 2015 Bajaj Pulsar RS 200 (ABS)
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 1.31 lakhs (non-ABS), Rs. 1.45 lakhs (ABS)
The Pulsar RS 200 offers commendable handling on the track, is a hell lot of fun too
Bajaj Auto’s Pulsar onslaught has just started with the arrival of the RS 200. The first full faired motorcycle from Bajaj, the Pulsar RS 200 is also the most advanced bike from the company, it’s also the fastest Pulsar yet. We rode the Pulsar RS 200 just after launch and found it to offer good comfort with better refinement than its naked sibling. After having sampled the bike at Bajaj Auto’s own test track in Chakan earlier today, we can’t help but admit how impressed we are with this machine. Sure this isn’t a KTM but that has both its positives and negatives, let’s dive deep.
When we first saw the Pulsar 400 SS Concept at the 2014 Auto Expo, we did not like the rear tail light much and we still don’t but that aside, the design of the rest of the motorcycle does grow on you with time. In our second encounter with the new Pulsar, we quite liked the edgy styling. There is no doubt that the appearance is busy and the graphics are excessive but look at the overall styling and you are sure to start liking it. Even if you don’t like the Pulsar RS 200 right now, you are going to see a lot of them on the road, so the design growing on you with time can’t be ruled out.
Bajaj Auto has spent a lot of time on the design of the Pulsar RS 200 and it shows. To get a rough idea about their efforts, park a 200 NS next to the RS 200 and you won’t find anything in common between these bikes, other than the common cycle parts like the wheels, console, switchgear, etc. They have even gone ahead and given it a proper stubby exhaust instead of underbelly unit found on its street-fighter sibling and all KTM bikes sold in India. The standout elements are of course the lights – LED parking lights which look like DRLs and those twin projectors. This is one Pulsar which will sell on its looks alone even if some of us find the design a bit over the top.
The only part on the whole of the Pulsar RS 200 which immediately gives away its connection to the 200 NS is the instrument cluster. The analogue-digital unit is clear to read and we love the fact that it gets an analogue tachometer which takes centre stage. On start-up, it does the customary swipe to 12,000 RPM while the shift light is placed right on top. The Bajaj logo glows in blue all the time. The console has all the essential bits but misses out on a gear position indicator. Switchgear quality is good and they are backlit for that uber cool look at night.
The Pulsar RS 200 draws power from a 199.5cc single which is the same unit as the NS but gets multiple revisions. For starters, it’s now fuel-injected and uses the same Bosch ECU as the KTM RC 200, obviously it gets its own map and that’s the reason why we managed to hit a top speed of 151 km/hr on the RS 200 while on the same straight, we topped out the RC 200 at 137 km/hr. The Pulsar certainly has a high speedo error but it is still the faster bike of the two, the true top speed being 140.8 km/hr as claimed by the company. Interestingly though, the RS 200 redlines at 11,000 RPM which is 500 RPM higher than than KTMs. There is no doubt that the KTMs use higher quality components than the Pulsars and that’s the reason why they are lighter and cost more.
The Pulsar RS 200 is slower in acceleration than the KTM RC 200 but has a higher top speed
That brings us to the weight, yes the RS 200 weighs 20 kgs more than its street-fighter counterpart and part of that weight goes in the full fairing while the rest is courtesy of the twin projector headlights and the ABS. Does that weight make itself felt? Not much. Once you get used to it, the added weight does come as a benefit for high speed stability and this Pulsar remains glued to the tarmac when you get past the ton. Manoeuvring does require a bit of an effort when you take u-turns but that gets behind you quickly. The mirrors offer a decent view of what’s behind but if you are hefty and with a jacket, you might not find them the best. The bike isn’t quicker to accelerate than the NS due to the added weight, in spite of the increase in output numbers to 24.5 PS at 9750 RPM and 18.6 Nm at 8000 RPM, they along with the aerodynamic fairing do help in the higher top whack (when not crouched, progress slows drastically post 130 km/hr). We haven’t VBOX tested the RS 200 yet but this Race Sport machine should take around 10.25 seconds to do the ton, being marginally slower than the NS and a full 1 second slower than the RC 200.
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One big difference which is immediately felt is the refinement from the engine, it’s so much better on NVH and sounds sporty too, more so in the top-end of the rev range. The gearing is a bit shorter and throttle response is linear. The 6-speed gearbox offers smooth shifts and supports clutchless operation. When riding on the track, the Pulsar RS 200 showed ample punch to keep one smiling, the motor offering pleasing performance. It is not going to scare you silly, there is no sudden push and the engine doesn’t spin to the redline as quickly as the KTM 200s, thus one doesn’t have to keep an alert eye. Even when ridden fast, bumping into the rev-limiter isn’t unintentional.
Push the Pulsar RS 200 hard around corners and it maintains its composure
The Pulsar RS 200’s prime competitor is the Yamaha R15 and while that bike does come with a displacement disadvantage, it is also a full-faired motorcycle offered at a similar price. The other option to this Pulsar is the KTM RC 200 which just like the YZF machine has a dedicated riding position. The Pulsar RS 200 has a good blend of ergonomics, they are both comfortable with a hint of sportiness, also being welcoming for the pillion. While we didn’t like the clip-on bars much during our first ride, we did get used to it quickly on the track and didn’t have anything to complain about. The bike isn’t super quick with turn-ins but is still quite responsive which is something many buyers will appreciate as the Pulsar also offers a good ride quality.
Riding hard and fast on the test track, the major gripe we found with the Pulsar RS 200 was its footpeg positioning, when you lean aggressively, the pegs scrape much before the bike’s limit has been reached. But it does inspire you to ride fast and the MRF Zapper-S tyres offer very good grip, showing no signs of letting go. This Race Sport Pulsar isn’t as sharp as a KTM RC and it needn’t be as the Austrian bike too comes from the same company and is aimed at a different set of riders but we will get to that in the verdict.
The Pulsar RS 200 is the first Bajaj motorcycle to sport ABS and it’s a single-channel unit that only works on the front wheel. This costs an extra Rs. 12,000/- and for that much money, the company should have offered a dual channel unit. Even if Bajaj had hiked the ABS model’s price by another Rs. 4000/-, it wouldn’t have affected the sales of the bike at all, because ABS is optional so those on a budget and having less priority for safety would opt for the non-ABS model anyway. The front disc is bigger by 20 mm on the RS (compared to the NS) and while braking performance is good, the rear does lock up under hard braking. ABS is usually needed during panic braking and it’s during that time that you tend to jam hard on both levers, front ABS alone not being as effective as a dual-channel unit.
Like we have said it earlier, we will say it again, if you have a budget of buying the KTM RC 200, then close your eyes and get it. But if you are looking for a practical bike which is fast, fun and complete bang for your buck, then the Pulsar RS 200 is simply impossible to beat. Things like a good ride quality, bigger 13-litre fuel tank, comfortable ergonomics, higher redline, slightly higher top speed and more mileage (should return between 35-40 km/l) make the Pulsar RS 200 much more practical than the KTM RC 200. This is where the bike excels, it doesn’t try to be a master of all things but is certainly a jack of all trades.
The Pulsar RS 200 makes for an excellent motorcycle for a first time supersport buyer. It offers a good blend of everything, making it easy to use yet a lot of fun to ride.
Further Reading –
Pulsar RS 200 First Ride Review
Bajaj Pulsar RS 200 Video Review
Yamaha R15 vs Pulsar RS 200 – Video
KTM RC 200 vs Pulsar RS 200 – Video
Bajaj Pulsar RS 200 Test Ride Review
Yamaha R15 vs Pulsar RS 200 vs Honda CBR150R
KTM RC 200 vs Pulsar RS 200