Ever tried digging a trench with a spoon? Or for that matter, chopping an onion with a sword? Or have an engineer as a shrink? Or gotten a shrink to repair your car? They’re all inappropriate, aren’t they? They all feature tools not suited to the purpose, people not ‘designed’ to handle that task and skill sets not matched to the demand. My own personal submission to that list is the Hero Honda Pleasure riding impression.
If you have just climbed out of your bomb shelter after twenty or more secluded but peaceful subterranean years, the Pleasure (the name gives me the willies, I say), is Hero Honda’s latest new product. Erm... no, that’s not completely accurate. It’s the newest baby in the Hero Honda family and the latest offering from the formidable Honda-Hero Honda combine.
Taking a leaf from the Achiever book of ideas, Honda and Hero Honda did another permutation and combination number to come up with the Pleasure. Obviously, the Pleasure would be wasted if it took on the Activa and the Dio, which are doing rather well. Make that ‘the Activa is doing splendidly.’ So Hero Honda took a different line. A line, I think, that will work for them, if they can get the marketing and messages right. They aimed at women. While a lot of us still associate automatic scooters with women riders, we also know that most of the time we see men riding the Activa. They’re all sorts of men, of course – college boys, office goers, old men out shopping for daily stuff and the odd motoring journalist scraping together another Activa story.
So if it is a scooter for men, why am I riding this thing? Well, actually, we’d lined up a lady tester... no, that didn’t come out right... a lady to test the Pleasure for us. But a last minute logistics issue meant that the Pleasure and the lady never got closer than 230 km of each other. And so, I had to test ride it.
I did, of course, look forward to riding it. I’d seen the bright orange, yellow and lime green bill boards, and the catchy, ‘Why should guys have all the fun?’ line everywhere. I stood on the road and spotted the chap in the Hero Honda service uniform and multi-coloured lid riding it into the parking lot where I was waiting for him. And surprise, the Pleasure defies all manner of physical laws. The closer it got, the tinier it became. It sounds mirthful to imagine a scooter that reduces in size as it nears, but it isn’t that much of a joke. Being designed for women means the manufacturer had to fit the ergos to a much smaller frame, say about five feet tall. They also had to work towards lower physical strength (centre stand use being a big issue). And finally, the scooter had to be really easy to ride. This is not to say that all girls can do is wobble around on two wheels. This is to state the statistical fact that most women (since they’re almost completely devoid of macho bombast) are willing to admit how skilled they really are. And they’d rather have an easy ride and get there, than take on a monster and end up keeling over every six minutes. They’re more practical. Yes, there will be women who will scrape centre stands and male egos in corners, and more power to you... check out the Blaze, heh heh.
But a pushover the Pleasure is not. I thumb started it and heard the familiar note. And it should be. The Pleasure is almost a complete clone of the Activa/Dio under the body work, with a few changes. The engine is de-tuned, trading in top-end for initial and mid-range. The engine has seen minor tweaks over the past two years and if anything is even more refined than the supreme original 102cc four-stroke single that debuted in the Activa.
Roll on the throttle, and the Pleasure makes a fair impression by taking off quite smartly. We’ll confirm this at the test, but I believe the Pleasure is quicker to 40-50 kph than the Activa. And not just because it is about four kg lighter than the Honda. In fact, I weigh in at around seventy kg now, a figure that is rising faster than I’d like to admit. Given that the average female probably weighs a full fifteen or more kg less (yes, even you), the Pleasure should prove to be a nippy steed indeed.
But you already that we’re impressed with the motor, and that isn’t the surprise. You also know now that the thing is small – it needs to be. The big surprise is the improvement in handling, build and ride quality. The underbone chassis has been stretched 5 mm in the wheelbase to give the Pleasure noticeably more stability than the Honda cousins. On potholed and rutted roads, the Pleasure feels quite confident and the improvement in ride quality will leave you quite comfortable post-ride.
I habitually jump all link-type front suspensions off speedbreakers to do a very, very complex build quality test. BSM’s internally developed highly-portable test equipment, the EAR, is taken along on the scooter. EAR, or Enhanced Audio Receptor, is worn inside the helmet on the side of the head. When the scooter lands, the EAR gathers all the sounds the scooters make. The normal results are ‘Thud,’ ‘Thwack,’ ‘Thunk’ and ‘Ka-Boom.’ The Pleasure, surprise, lands with a ‘Whuff.’ The EAR’s automated data interpretation said that the Pleasure shows exceptional build quality from the off. Fit and finish have always been above reproach at Honda and Hero Honda and that trait remains.
Fuel economy should be well in the mid-fifties. Our Activa and Dio test bikes returned around 55 kpl in steady state, gentle acceleration mode, and the Pleasure should eke out a bit more. When I finally got off the scooter, I came upon two interesting things. The first is that while the scooter is designed to fit Indian women, it is quite a spacious place to be in. I never got my knee entangled in the handlebar (think Scooty, Scooty Pep, Zing...) and I never cornered with my knees out, so that the bar end would clear my legs. So, if you’re an amazon – read, tall and good looking – call Shreenand at +91-22-2497-8472... er... we mean, the scooter should still accommodate you without a hitch.
More to the point, the dinky bodywork makes no bones about the Pleasure’s intentions, and neither does the engineering work backing it up. The Pleasure is a solid, enjoyable little scooter which, we believe, Hero Honda has got just right. Here’s the thing. We hear that HH is working towards opening a parallel channel exclusively to cater to women and all, and that’s the part we’re not completely convinced about.BSM