Fiero F2

The Fiero F2 gets ready for the battle of the 150's. But does it have the weapons?

I have news, good news and bad news. First the news. The new Fiero F2 isn’t anything like the old Fiero. The bad news is that emissions norms are killing our motorcycles (one can almost see the eco-weenies writing letters of outrage already) and the good news (almost as a corollary) is that the new norms ensure that any manufacturer offering performance motorcycles will have to upgrade the cubic capacity to meet the norms. Whether they like it or not. 

Back to the F2, then. It does not look anything like the old Fiero, but the changes are mostly evolutionary. The integrated light clusters are now more conventional and separate and the tank, sidepanel and tailpiece have been tweaked for a fresher look. The new headlamp is shaped somewhat like the Honda Dios and hosts India’s second factory-fitted halogen bulb. The fairing it’s mounted in is pretty imposing in the flesh and gives the bike a lot of visual mass. The decals can be a sore point, looking good only on the black F2s
in the Karnataka sunshine. And while we are talking of the design, note the neat pillion footpeg/silencer hangers, they look good, if a little over sculpted.

Get in the seat and you will note the tachometer now occupying pride of place in a good-looking console, with the idiot lights clustered together on your bottom right. Our F2s were all kick-start editions, and firing up proved to be an anti-climax. The lovely rorty thump of the old Fiero is gone, strangled by tight noise emissions. What you get is a altogether more civil whirring, that sounds like a more potent Victor than anything else. 

Snag first and roll-off and the same “what happened?” sequence repeats. The old Fiero would rock you in the saddle with a twist,shoving instant thrust and a relative inability to manage weight transfer through the seat of the pants. The new F2 is just a well-behaved little motorcycle, which wants more revs on board before getting a move on. Serious thrust begins at about 4,000 rpm and by then the old Fiero would probably have pulled out a bike length on the F2.

So you would have to wonder why the TVS men hanging around didn’t seem unduly worried at the apprehension. It seems that the 147.5 CC engine still makes 12 bhp, has the benefit of a Victor-style dual-map digital ignition (as well as secondary air injection for cleaner emissions), but comes out feeling worse. Blame emissions – this malaise is likely to affect most other Indian motorcycles in the future. Darn!Let the speed build a bit, close throttle and slam it open again. And surprise, unlike the silky old one, the F2 balks. I tried this on two different motorcycles, both balked, but a different places. A sign of a bike being run slightly on the lean side. But you could probably avoid this test completely and just see how the punchy top-end of the older Fiero’s gone missing.

And I reiterate, the F2 isn’t a poor motor-cycle. Its has a perfectly capable powertrain, one that might surprise a 150 CC bike or two come shoot-out time. However, the old Fiero’s equivalent was such a stalwart that its successor would be hard to find, especially with ever-tigthening standard for the spent
gases. For once and for all, the F2 has a capable engine, but not something you would get all hot and bothered about. 

The one thing that is a clear and large disappointment is TVS’ sticking with a four-speed gearbox, where an extra gear would probably have helped in narrowing the gaps between ratios and ended up making the
F2 feel a bit more perky.The old Fiero’s weak link was the chassis, which suffered the twin effects of flex and rather rearward weight distribution. This was fixed with spring rates adjusted and new tyres along the way but it was clear that the old Fiero required a skilled rider to go fast, especially if the road twisted along the way. The new F2 brushes that aside with an all-new competent chassis that gets most of the elements right. 

The new double-cradle and the box-section swingarm at the rear are perceptibly stronger than the older units and the result is a new found confidence in corners.Use the brilliantly strong braking from the 240 mm twin-calliper disc up front to set up the corner speed and just lightly flick the F2 into a corner. Unlike the old Fiero, here is an experience that feels really nice. The bike takes the required lean angle without fuss, happy to sit upright and power out on the throttle. 

Apart from the chassis, the tyres help out a lot here. TVS’ Fiero Special tyres (2.75 front and 90/90-18s at the rear) prove to be exceptionally grippy, though lacking somewhat in overall feedback. The front can be trusted with almost anything short of trail-braking into bumpy corners, when things will get hoppy and jiggly in a hurry. 

Then, in one of the smoother corners came the welcome sound of something scraping. But it wasn’t the footpeg. Post ride scratches showed a piece of the centrestand had touched down. While that particular centre stand was out of order (the other F2s were okay), a more detailed inspection showed that on the right side, it was the silencer that grinds down first. Why is that even an issue? Well, the touching down of footpegs is a sort of warning signalling maximum lean, and you are approaching the tyre’s and chassis’ limit when that happens. So, when something else touches down first, it robs you of the warning, and could conceivably lever you (and the bike) off the wheels. 

The ride came to an end with TVS promising to raise the silence up and out of the way. But for once, after a good day of riding up and the down Chamundi Hills near Mysore, I was unsure of how I felt about the new Fiero F2. Clearly, the engine/chassic combination is good and miles ahead of the older one. The F2 will prove to be an adept commuter. Yet, somehow, I missed the flaws and the engine of the older Fiero...
Oh well, the F2 will be launched in March 2003, at an expected price between Rs 45 and 47,000 exshowroom with the great 240 mm disc on the options list. And while the Fiero has transformed into a larger version of the Victor, the writing on the wall is clear. The emissions norms have all but guaranteed the demasculation of the small-capacity Indian motorcycle and the 2005 emissons norms will render many a sharp number into blunt, civil, less fun and more capable motorcycles.