What is common to Kinetic’s premium segment products, and our road tests? The answer is easy, and while it is the subject of a million romantic musings, in our line of work, it is mostly an irritant, throwing numbers, schedules and shoots asunder. The answer is rain. When we rode the first GF 125, it was pouring. When we got our hands on the first Aquila, all hell broke loose and threatened to drown us. And now that we have to test the GF 170 City, the rain has been coming down ever since we got our test bike and has only let up, fortunately, on the very day we scheduled the shoot. I guess we got lucky.
But luck had nothing to do with our initial impression of the new GF 170 City as a nice bike, and the last few hundred kilometres, wet or otherwise, have done little to alter that impression. Like we said, the GF carries the 125’s looks forward and is visually identical save for the gold stripe that runs along the side. The stickers don’t mess with the natural lines of the GF and as you can see, the City looks great.
Yes, had Kinetic endowed the chrome-laden motorcycle with clear-lens multireflector lights all round, it would have looked more contemporary. And the GF’s finish level could be turned up a notch. Details like the finish of the front mudguard and the footpeg mount leave a little finesse to be desired, even though the bike as a whole does just fine.The GF uses the same powder-coated tubing with chromed-muffler exhaust that the 125 used and it still has unsightly, gnarly seams where the pipe meets the muffler. But it does make nice sounds. The GF is one of the louder motorcycles about, and makes a pleasant note that feels half-a-V-twin rather than another-single. Then again, Sac and Sameer both thought the sound reminded them of a Splendor with a cut-up exhaust. Either way, here is motorcycle with a voice, ladies and gentlemen. At the other end of the exhaust is a silver-finished engine, which has seen months of painstaking engineering to sort the flaws that caused the 125’s downfall. In the process, the unit has become practically new, with new parts scattered liberally from bottom to top, most notably a counter-balancer.
The silver finish, in our opinion, destroys the strong engine-chassis colous contrast we liked so much in the 125. But the engine itself is a massive leap forward from its predecessor. The 166 CC, 4-valve engine has a flat torque curve that peaks at 1.45 kgm, while the horses top out at 14.8 bhp, at 8000 rpm. The result is a broad spread of power.
In top gear, just about adequate acceleration for overtaking is available as early as 3500 rpm. The engine gathers momentum as it swings past 5500 rpm, where serious progress begins. The GF will pull hard past 10,000 rpm, by which time you are doing about 105 kph, the bike’s top speed.Lobbing the rev needle past 6000 and launching the GF will see 60 come up in 5.4 seconds, just quicker than the Pulsar 150 and a half-second off the 180. But ridden this hard, the GF’s fuel economy drops to 36 kpl. Normal riding will see the GF return about 42 kpl, though the maximum we recorded was 47 kpl.
Numbers apart, the GF is pleasantly brisk through traffic and quite enjoyable overall. However, some vibes do sneak past the rubber-mounting, counter-balancing and vibe-damping – at idle, between 40 and 50 kph and on a trailing throttle. Not uncomfortable or serious, but annoying in that they are neither constant (you could get used to it) nor consistent (there isn’t a rhythm to the vibe, so you always end up noticing it, even when you are trying not to). A much bigger bother are the grips. They are too fat for comfort and the patterns in the rubber are a nuisance to riders choosing to go glove-less. Like the engine, the chassis too has seen upgrades, primarily to accommodate the now- wider engine. The erstwhile GF’s chassis was exceedingly good, and all we could ask for was wider rubber and a shorter handlebar. Well, your wish is granted by half. The rear is now a full 100/90 jobbie, but you still get the wide handlebar. The result is a chassis with the tyres and the opportunity to come really good. However, the chassis’s huge potential is only partly realised. The GF, you see, has a tendency to wander from the line you choose through the corner. One obvious source is the handlebar, which provides enough leverage to make the steering very sensitive. Nothing a bar swap wouldn’t cure though.The other source lies in the GF’s ride quality. Everyone who rode the GF remarked that the bike was very plush in feel and dealt with road irregularities with amazing grace. However, the GF’s rear end has a problem dealing with smaller bumps and minor irregularities like concrete joints, which makes the bike skittish in bumpy corners. That apart, the chassis is very able, and combines with the wide rubber and power spread to ensure you make excellent time in the twisties.
The GF’s disk brake is pretty good, and braking force and quick stops come easy. The setup is not aggressive though – initial bite is very mild and braking force grows progressively but requires effort from the fingers on the lever. For emergency stops, two digits are usually not enough.
On to the little bits then. The GF has a new upright riding position courtesy new footpegs. The ergos are very comfortable and both you and your pillion can spend long hours in the saddle without significant discomfort. The meters are the same as the 125, but the digital gear indicator is lit too feebly to compete with the sun. Or for that matter an overcast sky.
The GF comes across as a friendly and capable motorcycle, but still needs a little work. There are minor niggles here and there which if sorted would result in a very good premium-segment competitor. The 166 CC engine does develop a nice spread of power, but the laid-back feel of the GF is a world away from the relative urgency (make that adrenaline rush for the 180) of the Pulsars. So if all you need is a big bike (read safer, more comfortable and more stable) for commuting, never mind the traffic light challengers, this would probably be it.
But again, in the similar vein is the Fiero F2 – probably the better handler, frugal and most importantly supremely refined. To swing the decision, Kinetic will sell you a fully loaded City for just Rs 50,120 in Mumbai, all told. Which is a full four thousand rupees cheaper than the Fiero F2. And don’t go away yet, you save Rs 7,000 over the equivalent Pulsar 150.
Kinetic has definitely lowered the bar for those aspiring for a large-engined premium class bike, however. The question that remains is, are you willing to live with the little niggles that will accompany what is unquestionably a lot of motorcycle for your money.