Kinetic's new 250cc Aquila is the toast of the town
Sling a bag and the girlfriend on a bike and go somewhere far away for a Sunday lunch. Return home as the moon rises, eat a dinner packed with meat and chased down with a chilled beer. A perfect Sunday has remained a dream for some time now, for a bike that would handle the job has been hard to come by, though both the Pulsar 180 and the Freedom have tried.
For the last 700-odd km, however, life has been good. Kinetic sent us our test Aquila for a four day stay, and the obvious way to get a decent amount of mileage on the bike was to take bike, bag, girlfriend and the intervening Sunday and head out. But more on the experience itself later, let us talk about the Aquila first.
STYLING, BUILD & FINISH
This is a large motorcycle – not quite in the Honda Valkyrie league, but enough to make an Enfield Bullet feel small. However, the impression of size (not bulk) never becomes too big for comfort, and fifteen minutes of acclimatisation will ensure that you know just how much space is needed to overtake swiftly.
More importantly, the Aquila is a guaranteed head-turner, with styling cues that come from the H-D Fat-Boy and the Indian Chief. The latter supplies the valanced fenders, while the stance, the abundant chrome and
the ergos are scaled-down versions of the former’s. The tank looks massive but only holds 14 litres (four less than the Pulsar!). The panels look good together, barring the rear mudguard which seems slightly oversize when seen side-on. The twin silencers add a classy touch to the package, stacked on the right (and more photogenic) side.
Build and finish levels are pretty high, so no worries; the only thing we found to crib about is that the chrome borders on the excessive.But we’ve seen craning necks, dropped jaws, forgotten lunches and loud conversations liberally employing dismissive references to the Enticer and the Eliminator – and how much better the Aquila looks than them.
POWERTRAIN & PERFORMANCE
The Aquila’s engine scores many firsts for an Indian motorcycle (see box). Technology aside, the eight-valve, DOHC, 249 CC, 75 DEGREE V-Twin makes a huge 26 bhp at 9,000 rpm. This might sound like just four more than a Bullet 500, but it’s the difference between a tidal wave and a meandering river in real life. The torque peaks high in the revs, and while the Aquila is quicker than anything else at any revs, serious thrust lies north of 6000 revs. Our test bike sported a notchy gearbox with a hard-to-find neutral, but the first Aquila we rode and reviews from all over the world confirm that the Aquila comes with a sweet gearbox, with five well-spread out ratios.
As much as 125 kph is readily available, though the rest of the run to an indicated 153 kph needs a lot more space. At any rate, at any pace, the acceleration is eye-opening, bringing back sweet memories of glorious rides on the RD350 and the Yamaha’s brand of eye-watering performance. For a cruiser, it’s pretty darn quick, clocking 60 kph in 4.2 seconds without fuss. The Aquila hovers at about 7000 rpm at 120 kph. which is pretty comfortable and vibe-free. More importantly, it lies bang in middle of the 6500-8000 rpm range when the V-twin responds to the throttle with alacrity and a glorious induction roar that drowns out everything else. Even the urbane twin-cylinder thrum.
RIDE & HANDLING
The Sunday route included a bit of bad road and as it turns out, the plush ride quality is a boon. The pillion pad and the rider’s saddle do throw a bit of a spanner into the works all the same. The pillion pad is too soft and too narrow – the baseplate-gluteus relationship unravels in 15 minutes and the pad edges cut in about 50 kilometres later. The sissy bar does not help. The unpadded chromed tube touches just above the lower back, where the spine is closest to the skin. That means a 300 km spin will leave a bruise, unless the tube is padded, or removed. Kinetic says a pad will be added to the Aquilas when they are ready for delivery.Kinetic is also reconsidering the Rib tyre on front-end duty on our Aquila. The Aquila we rode in June for the riding impression was still wearing Korean tyres and that one could corner – as much as the yawning 1500 mm wheelbase and cruiser-spec chassis geometry would allow. Now, the rear tyre (130/90-15 MRF Nylogrip Zapper-Y) acquits itself admirably, but the front 3.25x16 Rib is as outclassed as an underage coolie at a weight-lifting contest.
And it’s a sore loser. Shimmying and repeatedly threatening to wash out at anything above 80 kph and almost perfect tarmac, it revealed that it not only lacks cornering grip, but it isn’t hot in a straight line either. The Aquila comes with a mildly-tuned 280 mm disc with a twin-piston calliper to scrub speed. But brush the lever and the front tyre squeals in fear, locking up multiple times for nothing more than outright lack of grip. Very frustrating when you have to hold 75 kph through an empty 130 kph sweeper for no other reason. We suggest that Kinetic should have get a 3.25-16 tyre with the compound derived from the MRF Zapper
family and with regular block tread. (As we go to press, we have received word from Kinetic that the Aquila will be fitted with Zappers up front.)
While the engine steals the honours in the topic-of-discussion stakes, the Aquila does have other firsts. These are the first pair of alloys on sale since the Enfield Fury and Explorer. Other likes included the quality switchgear and bright lights (though our headlamp was not focused very well). But there are niggles – the dayflasher is missing, the fuel petcock looks like it came off a moped and the rear-view blurs at three-digit speeds. Minor ones as you can see, but irritants, nevertheless.
Back to my Sunday, then. Well, it went like clockwork. Bike, rider and girlfriend put in a cool 350-km day and didn’t feel the strain. We returned feeling fresh (riding a small bike will usually tire you out a lot) and while she nursed a bruised back, I chased down the meat with a perfectly chilled pint. As close to perfection as it can get if the motorcycle in question isn’t a dedicated sportsbike.
At Rs 1,45,000 on-road in the metros (and another Rs 4,000 for Bangaloreans) is the Aquila worth the money? The answer is a resounding yes! It’s not perfect but that’s just fine. The straight-line performance is
marvellous, the cornering performance would be too, if it weren’t for the front tyre and the ergonomics pose only the smallest of problems.
On a bike that will cruise at 120 kph, 25-odd kpl isn’t bad at all. Kinetic has promised backup in the selected metros and the bike should prove reliable enough to handle relatively long highway jaunts.
We asked them about finance options, and Kinetic says dealers may be organising some at their level, but the company officially does not have any plans.
Then again, there are only 100 units on sale, so exclusivity is guaranteed.