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BAJAJ PULSAR 200NS 

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
The answer is briefly in the name. The ‘200’ denotes the engine displacement (199.5cc, actually) of the triple-spark-plug equipped single-cylinder engine. The other half of the name, ‘NS’, stands simply for ‘Naked Sports’ — a reference to the bike's styling and performance oriented nature.

HOW IS IT TO RIDE?
The all-new pressed steel perimeter frame on the 200NS is a Bajaj first, and is what you also see on motorcycles like the Yamaha R15 and the Honda CBR 150/250R (apart from bigger, more powerful superbikes). It is this frame that makes the Pulsar 200NS about as friendly as India's handling benchmark — the first-generation Yamaha R15. It’s an effortless handler, the brakes are sharp (although the tyres aren’t very communicative) and all said and done, the 200NS allows you to push your riding limits and never falls short on poise. That’s not all. The 200NS’ handling is well-complemented by its performance. Bajaj has retained a great degree of Pulsar-ness in terms of engine feel despite the bottom half of the engine coming from the KTM Duke 200. The 199.5cc engine is unstressed, free-revving and takes to elevated speeds comfortably. The six-speed gearbox (another Bajaj first) is well spaced out and the bike is as comfortable doing triple-digit speeds as it is cruising at 60 kmph in top gear. A top speed of 136 kmph and a 0-100 kmph timing of 11.9 secs is good, right?

WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE?
Once the novelty of the new components (the chassis, engine) wears off, you are essentially left with a motorcycle that is, in character, a Pulsar. Maybe a little inspiration from the KTM Duke would have added to the bike’s personality. Works for you if you’re a Pulsar fan, doesn’t if you’re not.

WHO SHOULD BUY ONE?
If you are new to the 20+ bhp segment and want fantastic value, the Pulsar is the one you're looking for. It scores high on looks, performance as well as economy (how does 45 kmpl under hard riding sound?). The Pulsar 200NS is, in short, a lot of motorcycle for a lot less money.

KTM DUKE 200 

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
It's a scaled-down version of one of the most enjoyable motorcycles in the world — the KTM 690 Duke. KTMs are tough — if slightly unrefined — powerful, blue-collared motorcycles that are meant to be ridden hard, and the Duke 200 is exactly that. It’s the Pulsar 200NS’ evil twin.

HOW IS IT TO RIDE?
It’s quick, it will wheelie all day and give you thrills you can only ever expect from a two-stroke motorcycle. The Duke 200, at 136 kg (kerb weight), is far lighter than any of its contemporaries and with its 200cc, 25.4 bhp motor, is also the wildest of them all. It is ultra short-geared, which means you end up in top (sixth) gear incredibly quickly, and before you know it, you're on the wrong side of 100 kmph. The Duke’s power is concentrated in the early bits of the powerband and while you can still cruise at high-speeds, that’s not where the Duke is truly in its element. The wide, upright handlebar offers good leverage and is good for both intense street riding as well as comfortable long-distance runs. Handling-wise, the Duke will cater to the seasoned rider’s wants with precision. It’s light, flickable and falls into corners with a sense of immediacy that may intimidate the novice. Be warned, this is a seriously fast motorcycle and the sharp brakes and telepathic chassis do demand a level of experience before you can get anywhere close to its limits.

WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE?
The suspension, despite being adjustable, is too stiff for anything except exceptionally flat road surfaces — something that’s rare in the country. Apart from that, the Duke's engine is fundamentally different in behaviour from Japanese motorcycles. You can either like it, or hate it.

WHO SHOULD BUY ONE?
If you are serious about your riding techniques and have been in the 20 bhp segment for too long, the KTM Duke 200 is what you should be looking at. It’s quicker than everything else in its class, and the trellis frame, upside-down forks and universally appealing looks are absolutely worth the value-for-money price tag.

YAMAHA R15 V2.0

WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
The second generation of Yamaha’s biggest success story in the country (second only to the FZ16) is the R15 V2.0. Year 2011 saw the R15 get some important updates — a redesigned tail section (the first-gen bike got a lot of flak for this) and a lengthened wheelbase for added stability.

HOW IS IT TO RIDE?
The R15 is the most track-focussed bike in its class. Horsepower notwithstanding, it has all the elements of an authentic sports bike — a sophisticated twin-spar frame, soft compound tyres, a disc brake at either end and a motor that, though short on punch (relatively speaking), is very tractable. The R15 is the ideal bike for you if you want a contemporary motorcycle without being intimidated by the power on offer. It’s fast, flickable and sharp, but none of this comes across as too volatile (like on the Duke, for example) at any given point. It is, undoubtedly, the best handling bike in the country and while the first-gen R15 was a neutral handler (very friendly, easy to master), the V2.0 requires some amount of effort if you really want to extract the maximum out of it. Also, while the R15 was never designed to be a commuter, it takes to cruising in sixth gear comfortably and while at it, will return excellent mileage figures too.

WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE?
The riding position is a bit too extreme for everyday usage. On a racetrack, the riding position makes absolute sense but in urban environs, it's unlikely that you will be comfortable on it for longer than an hour. Also, the pillion seat is set a bit too high up, and your pillion will certainly not be very pleased.

WHO SHOULD BUY ONE?
A full-faired motorcycle has always been aspirational for motorcycle lovers and if that is what you want, along with absolute poser value and, of course, value for money, go for the R15 V2.0. It's one of the most enjoyable bikes for a quick weekend ride to the hills, or a day out at the race track and it's still got enough thrills to keep you entertained in the city. Can't go wrong with this one.

HONDA CBR 150R

WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
The Honda CBR 150R is, essentially, a scaled-down version of the CBR 250R. This means it has all the components of a thorough sports bike, without being a scare. Like the 250R, the 150R, too, isn’t a size-zero motorcycle. It’s comfortable, contemporary and caters to a wider audience as opposed to the R15 V2.0 or the Duke.

HOW IS IT TO RIDE?
It’s up to you to decide whether this is a good thing or not, but the CBR 150R feels more like a grown-up Stunner than a CBR 250R gone younger. It's refined, but lacks the focus that the 250R or, for that matter, the other bikes on this page have. The 150R’s 149.4cc mill produces 17.6 bhp at 10,500 rpm, which propels it from 0-100 kmph in 15.08 seconds (the R15 does it in 15.1) and yet, it comes across as not very involving. This is good, in a way, given that a majority of performance motorcycle buyers in the country are still unacquainted with the concept of track days and end up clocking most of their riding time in between traffic lights. The 150R is comfortable, in the city and otherwise, and it's pretty fuel-efficient, too! Given its stance, you won't feel out of place having strapped some luggage onto the pillion seat for a long-distance ride, although you will definitely miss the grunt that its (cheaper) contemporaries have.

WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE?
While the absence of an engine kill switch is unpardonable, that Honda has kept even a headlight flasher out of the picture is truly disappointing. Also, a little bit of character from the motor would bring in some excitement into what is, mechanically, a potent motorcycle.

WHO SHOULD BUY ONE?
If you want a good-looking bike, like to ride long distances in an unhurried fashion and also want to commute on it regularly, you’ll quite like the CBR 150R. Comfort, refinement, fuel-efficiency and big-bike aesthetics — you can have it all on the 150R.

QUICK SPECS
Displacement: 1149.4cc, single-cylinder
Power: 17.6 bhp@10,500 rpm
Torque: 1.29 kg@8500 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed
Price: Rs 1.25 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai)