My most embarrassing moment? Taking the first fuel injected motorcycle in the country out for a spin and, soon after, becoming the first Indian to run the bike dry. A chap asks me about the bike. I patiently explain the Glamour FI’s USP to him. He shrugs and says, ‘Still runs out of fuel, eh?’ I shrug back and tell him, ‘That’s not the bike’s fault, it’s Joshua’s.’ He walks away thinking, ‘Wiseass!’
Current situation notwithstanding, I’ve had a good time on the bike. But before I go into that, I’ll just quickly recap the Glamour/Super Splendor story. The Super Splendor and the Glamour were launched with the intention of allowing commuters to upgrade to 125cc motorcycles from their 100cc staples. The 125cc motor was an all-new design, but stuck to the almost standard double-cradle frame and horizontally mounted cylinder configuration. Along with the relatively minor jump in power and torque, the ‘Quantum Core’ motor brought a roughly 5 kpl rise in average fuel economy.
On our tests, both bikes proved to be good motorcycles, if not the most exciting of the 125s out there. The engine felt solid, the gearbox was positive, handling was efficient and the ride quality was eminently acceptable. We did have our cribs of course. We still maintain than the Glamour’s colour and stickers are a bit (Here he is, ladies and gentlemen, the Understater – Joshua) over the top, while the Super Splendor looked simple rather than super. In the showrooms, we’re told that while the Super Splendor did fine, the Glamour found fewer takers than expected, especially since Govinda is a politician now, and no longer a champion of violent colour composition or pelvic artistry.
Since the two launches, Hero Honda had been quiet until Pawan Kant Munjal, the managing director of the company, announced that a fuel injected small capacity motorcycle was due for launch. He revealed this during the company’s 2005-06 financial results release. He also said that counting variants, Hero Honda is planning eight launches within this financial year. The Glamour FI is the first of them. Visually identical to the older Glamour, the FI sports Honda’s trademarked electronic fuel injection system, PGM-FI. If the abbreviation seems familiar, it’s because the system by this very name has already been seen in India, on various Honda cars.
But there is a difference. PGM-FI has largely been a er voluminous system, too heavy to be ported to a small motorcycle directly. In fact, a Honda technology growth path release about fourteen months ago said that Honda would focus on improving the performance (in emissions and efficiency terms) of small motorcycles. The release mentioned two specific directions. One was fuel injection (which has found its first broad application in the Glamour FI) and the other, hold your breath, was twin spark plugs. Did I hear someone giggling in the back just now?
Honda’s engineers worked on the ‘standard’ PGM-FI system to develop what they call an ‘ECU-integrated throttle body module’ for an EFI system for small motorcycles. The goal behind the project was to reduce the total emission of hydrocarbons from new vehicles by roughly one third, while simultaneously raising fuel economy by thirty per cent. The baseline for the changes was taken as 1995 and the project was supposed to deliver the hardware in 2005. The Asaka R&D centre, where the project was orchestrated, realised that small motorcycles are the staple of many countries and therefore success in the project would be very good for a large number of prospective Honda customers, and the countries in the general.
The project was, of course, not dedicated to the Glamour FI, but clearly mentioned that air-cooled 125cc or smaller engines were well within its ambit. The Asaka men successfully downsized the components of a PGM-FI system (its bulk meant that cars and larger capacity motorcycles have been its primary users) to fit a much smaller format.
The Glamour FI is the first of the Indian Honda motorcycles to incorporate the results of that project. Honda has since announced that PGM-FI will become common and it plans to install it on most of its worldwide motorcycles by the end of 2010. The Honda Wave 125i, a Thailand market step-through that boasts the system, has been in the market since July 2003. From what we can tell, the first of the PGM-FI small capacity brigade was the 125/150 Pantheon which was launched in Italy in December 2002.