Perhaps the best part of the Phantom comic series, apart from their immersive storylines, were the old jungle sayings. I’m warning you, you’re in for more than a few of them here, okay?
Most Phantom followers will remember that ‘There are times when the Phantom leaves the jungle and walks the streets of the town as an ordinary man.’ And when he does this, he dresses quite nattily in a trench coat and hat and introduces himself as Kit Walker. Surprisingly, that’s very appropriate for this here motorcycle.
To take the first name on first, the new 180 gets loads of goodies that we first saw on the DTS-Fi preview ride. The most obvious one is the expansive digital dash. The large orange-lit speedo unit is identical to the 220 and only misses out on the check engine light, something only the fuel injection system and its software can work. To recap, you get a large digital speed indication, two trip meters, odometer, digital fuel gauge, no clock (I, for one, would love to have one) and bright idiot lights. Plus, the stepper motor equipped analogue rev counter does the cool tacho sweep and has the over-rev light which doubles as a get-some-fuel-you-idiot indicator. Then there is the ugly brown engine kill switch (what’s with that colour?) and all the backlit, contact-less switches. The speedo drive, incidentally, is also contact-less, using a magnetic pickup, which means the speedo read out is always less than 2 kph off, if at all. The new 180 also gets a sleek, SV1000-ish tail unit, complete with twin vertical LED tail lamps, clear lens indications and new side-panels with faux vents. Plus, the gorgeous matte-black powertrain paint continues. Mulling over the bike, Joshua and I agreed that painting the vertical surfaces of the brake lever, calliper, clutch cable support and the disc carrier in matte black would have made the bike look even meaner.
That said, the orange shade is smashing. Really. Derived off the superb ZX-10R orange, the colour is bright, cheery but not flashy. Bajaj are labelling the colour a limited edition, complete with chrome stickers, but it will come to you at no extra cost, always a good thing.
That’s the Kit. Now for the Walker part. This time round, the 180 has relatively minor tweaks, taking in the new clutch setup from the DTS-Fi and a revamped shift setup. The motor itself has tweaks too, with a re-tuned exhausTEC, new cam timing and a new airbox aiming for a flatter torque curve without an actual jump in peak torque or power.
Phantom moves as silently as a fog. Well, close. The new bike is much quieter and sounds more refined. And they aren’t kidding about that midrange, either. It’s there alright, and at the end of a few laps, I felt that I was doing less work to make comparable progress to the last time I was at Chakan on a 180. But it isn’t perfect. Bajaj has mounted the fairing a titch lower to give the bike a more purposeful stance. Like the skull mark, this works. However, like all criminals with a tell tall engraving on their jaws, it makes you feel distinctly odd. You sort of stick up and out of the bike for a fair while until you get used to it. Or, to return to the skullduggery, the mark fades. The throttle is very light, and crisper than the last 180 by a noticeable margin (and the DTS-Fi is crisper still... can’t wait). All of which adds up to a likeable time in the saddle. Fast progress is more effortless on the 180 than ever, handling is as enjoyable as before and braking remains strong, feedback rich and thrilling.
Finally, we got around to asking about the price of the motorcycle. Bajaj will hand over Kit Walker with all the goodies at no extra charge. Right now. In ProBiking showrooms already, the Phantom awaits its fan-dom with no extra bucks required. Bajaj says there weren’t planning a big launch and the new 180s will just appear in the showrooms as supplies arrive. That means you could have an orange limited edition Phantom in the garage for roughly Rs 64,500 ex-showroom.
If you are still wondering, take a long look at the smashing new fairing, and you’ll instantly see the lovely new pilot lamps, the retouched headlamp, and the reason why the bike is being labelled the Ghost Who Runs (I kid you not).