A long, long time ago, a young impressionable lad read the original Pulsar 180’s story in this magazine. And then he had to have one. Over time, he went ahead and got himself two. Both were silver and were interrupted by a bike-less spell to please his family. The lad has since been through a lot of changes and so has the 180. People who saw the lad and the 180 then would be hard pressed to recognise the lad and the 180 today. Both have become more refined in behaviour and meaner to look at, though both are still the friendly mischief-mongers that they always were.
The lad still holds that the first Pulsar looked best in silver, a colour that Bajaj has not used on the subsequent versions of the bike. And that lends a certain exclusivity to the older one which is anyway hard to come by these days. The new Pulsar? Well, you cannot really tell it apart from its 200cc brother or even its latest 150cc version, thanks to the latter getting the all-black treatment. The lad had to look hard to notice the little differences – the rear-set pegs and the clip-on handlebars are the most apparent ones. Apart from these, the rear tyre is now a 120/80 17-incher, while the front one grows to a 90/90 17-inch unit. The eagle-eyed among you will also spot the larger 260 mm front disc and the elliptical section swingarm from the Pulsar 200. While at it, Bajaj has seen it fit to equip the 180 with beefier 37 mm front forks as well. And then of course, there are the tank extensions and 3D Pulsar monograms on the tank to set it apart from the older 180. At first glance, all these changes make the 180 look inexplicably beefy. It was only when he paused to take in the details that the dim bulb in the lad’s head turned on. This is no longer the retro-looking brawler; it has now become a confident and suave head-turner. But has its heart changed?
Well, the cylinder/piston combo has always displaced 178.6 cc in the bike’s various guises and now it makes 16.8 bhp, two bhp more than the original. But the bike also weighs 147 kg now, negating the gain in power to some degree. The exhaust system has been reworked, taking into account the increase in power and the engine itself is less noisy than the earlier DTS-i motors while riding. Gear shifts are much slicker than before and overall build quality has gone up a few notches too. Way more than the lad was used to on his 180s. Now, it was a long time back that the lad rode his silver hooligan, but a few minutes on the new one revealed that the 180 has retained its soul, never mind the polished exterior. Sure, it is much more composed and refined, but wholehearted twisting of the throttle still evokes memories of frantic acceleration; the 180 is still eager to do your bidding. Just that it has learnt better manners and has become more capable by becoming more controllable than it was. No more indigenous ‘steering dampers’ needed to keep it under control. Even when compared to the last-gen ‘fear the black’ 180, the new one scores more in the handling department. Only in the tightest of turns will you realise that the steering has become slightly slower, but on fast flowing roads you will more than enjoy the stable yet flickable nature of the bike. However, I feel that the 120-section rear tyre is a wee bit too much for the bike; a 100 or at the most a 110-section should provide all the grip you need and help the 180 post better acceleration figures, besides making it a bit more flickable too. Something that the lad, being the boy racer type, always liked in the 180.
So the 180 has gone from being an out-and-out hell raiser in torn jeans to being a hell raiser in a tuxedo with gelled-back hair. But there is a problem or rather an opportunity, depending on how you choose to look at it. The 180 is currently somewhat of a no-man’s land between the P150 and the P200 – piggy bankers go for the smaller one, while posers go for the bigger one. And here we see an opportunity to make the 180 truly exclusive, a rebel in the Pulsar clan; it has the potential to be something that its siblings cannot be. After all, what is the point of a 180 when you can get the 200 and be that bit more cool? The lad thinks that the time for a comprehensively upgraded, more powerful 180 is getting near and we too think that for the next upgrade, Bajaj should deem it appropriate to design a lighter, all-new chassis with a rear monoshock and lighter and sharper bodywork. Rings a bell, doesn’t it?
That’s what Yamaha has done with the FZ16 and the sales figures speak for themselves. While the lad was gazing at the 180 and mumbling as if in a trance, he also asked Bajaj to extract more power from the 180 even if maintenance costs increase slightly; he thinks that people who want performance will always be happy to spend on their pocket rockets. So what happened to the lad’s second 180, you might ask. Well, one white M800, T-bone, few seconds of ragdolling and the bike was a write-off. But the lad is still around and he misses his 180s every single day.