The new Pulsar really does look quite smashing – a bit too busy in places but as a whole, quite good-looking. The design is bold and bang up to date, fusing together streetfighter cues with typically Pulsar-family design elements. The motorcycle has got some amount of bulk to it and that makes it all the better. There are hints of Honda’s CB1000 at the front and a bit of Pulsar 135LS at the rear but together, the 200 NS looks quite good and importantly, it grabs eyeballs. It will definitely turn heads on the streets.
Unlike the Duke 200’s trellis frame, the Pulsar 200 NS sports a twin-spar frame that forms the backbone of the motorcycle. The split seat is comfortable and the riding position seems like it will accommodate a variety of riders. Get on the bike and it hardly takes any time at all to get comfortable - from the off, it's confidence-inspiring.
The riding position is upright and easy to get used to, while the full-size tank provides well-designed knee-recesses to latch on to while cornering. While the Duke 200 gets high-quality WP upside down forks upfront, the 200 NS makes do with beefy forks of the conventional kind coupled with a gas-charged ‘Nitrox’ monoshock at the rear made by Endurance. Since we rode it exclusively on a smooth test track, we would reserve for judgement on ride quality for later.
Whacking the throttle open out on the track instantly reminded me of the KTM Duke 200’s rev-happy hooligan nature. 6000 RPM and up, power starts to come through in noticeable quantities though its upwards of 8000 RPM that the motor really comes into its own, screaming all the way to the 10,800 RPM revlimiter. The 6-speed gearbox is positively slick and a delight to use – no problems there. We saw close to 140 kph on Bajaj's main straight before braking for the first corner and that’s pretty good, we’d say.
The 199cc liquid cooled single with 23.4 bhp@9500 rpm and 1.86 kgm of torque at 8000 rpm and though the bottom-end is similar to the KTM motor, the head is completely different. It features Bajaj’s new triple-spark ignition system – claiming up to 50% enhanced combustion - and ExhausTec technology that has been seen on the Pulsar line before. The motor is incredibly refined and very tractable. Even from speeds as low as 35 kph, you can pull away snatch free in 6th gear! There is very little by way of vibes too. The gearing, combined with the rev-happy nature of the motor and the sublime handling, makes the new Pulsar a lot of fun to ride.
Equipped with Bybre brakes (A subsidiary of Brembo brakes), the braking is rather excellent. In fact, the brakes easily overpower the tyres at times, leading to squirms and slides under emergency braking. This is just an initial impression so we will have more details on that when we do a proper road test. Shod with a 100/80 tubeless Eurogrip tyre at the front and a 130/70 R17 Eurogrip at the rear, the tyres seemed to provide adequate cornering grip but we'll have to wait to see how they hold up to real-world riding conditions.
In a word, the handling can best be described as sublime. Bajaj has really upped the game in the handling department and it shows when you're going for it around Bajaj's test track. Even though the wheelbase is more than the outgoing Pulsar, it feels extremely agile and eager to turn-in. Riding it is an thoroughly enjoyable experience, so much so that many journalists refused to roll into the pits even after their allotted laps were done!
The best bit is that, given its pricing of under Rs 1 lakh, it holds a lot of promise and you could very well be looking at the best motorcycle on sale in the sub-1 lakh category. Expect the bike to hit showrooms by April, though, interestingly, this won't be flagship Pulsar for long. Better days lie ahead for Bajaj's sportsbike. Indeed, there are good times in store for motorcyclists in India.