Twin Saga – Pulsar AS Twins first ride
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The Pros: both the bikes has impressive and sporty looks, AS 150 got slightly better engine. Extremely comfortable bikes, offers good handling and braking characteristics.
The cons: Bikes have low stability and AS150 provides somewhat small amount of torque.
The crux: If you’re looking for a small capacity touring motorcycle, which offers performance and reliability, then yes, it is worth the money.
When was the last time you considered using a 150 cc motorcycle as you primary touring machine? Never? Well, now might just be the time, thanks to Bajaj introducing the Pulsar AS (Adventure Sport) twins, the only dedicated adventure touring motorcycles currently available in the country. Bajaj has been instrumental in massifying motorcycling in the country, with the Pulsar series spanning more than a decade, with different variants being added into the line-up over the years. Pulsars have been synonymous with fun, but never long distance touring; and given how rapidly leisure motorcycle touring has caught up in India in the past few years, it was about time they upped their game by foraying into the adventure touring segment of motorcycles, with their trusted and reliable mills - the result being the AS150 and the AS200. While the AS200 is based on the popular NS 200 platform, the AS 150 is an all new machine and more impressive of the two. We test rode these twins recently at Lavasa and here is our first impression.
Both the AS twins looks the same, with barely any difference besides the stickers to mark them apart. First look and you knew these were designed to impress with the tall fairing which neatly blends into the body offering good wind blast protection. The tank being a typical pulsar provides a snug thigh grip, especially useful when tackling bends and when riding while standing on the bike, a feat most attempt when riding adventure bikes. The riding position is upright and feels far more superior than any other touring motorcycle available in the Indian market. The projector headlamps provide potent illumination of the path ahead and add to the rugged attitude of the motorcycles. Both of them have mesh vents on the side fairings which aid in better engine cooling. One can spot them as Pulsars without a hint of doubt as the styling and design language is typical to the marquee making them easily recognizable.
Both the motorcycles look well proportioned and come with a split saddle seat which provides ample comfort to the rider as well as pillion. Weight reduction has been achieved in both the machines by incorporating the use of alloy components which include the spoke rims which are slimmer, foot rests as well as the sub-frame supporting units. The backlit switches feel nice, and work well; overall grip and feel of the levers is also good. The exhaust on the motorcycles is almost not noticeable as Bajaj has ditched the typical long exhaust for a really short one, without compromising on the typical Pulsar sound note. The design of the motorcycles is contemporary and pretty much true to the adventure styling which is lately gathering a lot of popularity in India, a USP which may work well for the sales of this machine.
Engine and Performance
Out of both the AS twins it’s the AS 150 which is the star because it comes with an all new 150cc mill that churns out 17PS and 13Nm of torque from its air cooled engine, thanks to the long stroke. Both the bikes are fed fuel via a carburetor and what really sets the 150 apart from the 200 is the fact that it is air cooled while the latter is liquid cooled. The AS 150 feels more refined, better than any other Pulsar we’ve ridden, or any which has been produced. The engine is peppy, has a slight grunt and gives a nice punch when needed. It has also dropped a kilo in comparison to the older 150cc mill and produces two PS more in comparison too. The power to weight ratio however differs with the new 150cc engine delivering 118.9PS/ton. Though while riding we did feel the AS150 could do with a tad bit more of torque, it comes into character the moment the needle touches 6000rpm and holds its place well till the 9000rpm mark, all through not feeling stressed at all. Since it does need some more bottom end grunt, it means the rider has to keep the machine in the powerband at all times, which we feel is a good thing as it allows for more rider and machine interaction, keeping the rider alert and engaged at all times. The power delivery is liner and the AS 150 comes mated to a five speed gearbox, as opposed to the six speed one seen on the AS 200.
The AS 200 on the other hand sports the same grunty engine seen on the Pulsar NS 200. It may feel a little less refined compared to the AS 150, but that’s something that can be ignored given the fact that this machine performs more over a wider powerband, producing 23PS and 18Nm of torque. It also has a lower power to weight ratio of 153 PS/ton over the 155PS/ton seen on the NS 200. Power delivery and the feel on the AS 200 is just the same as its NS sibling.
Ride and handling
The upright riding position is a boon on the AS twins, making them extremely comfortable for long distance touring – the precise motive they were designed with. One can grip the tank comfortably allowing for better maneuverability on corners and even while standing and riding. Even during the latter the motorcycles feel comfortable with the foot pegs positioned just right. The ergonomics of the Pulsar AS twins are spot on ensuring minimum strain on the rider. Given that these are adventure touring motorcycles, there will be times when you may have to ride them in a not so nice terrain and at times it may warrant the rider to stand on the pegs to make his way across, that’s when the stability of the bike comes into play, which in the case of the AS twin isn’t what we’d really call stable. Shift your weight on either of the foot pegs and the motorcycles will immediately want to lie on that hemisphere, a trait not much revered on touring machines. If you’re expecting the stability of the Triumph Tiger and the BMW R 1200 GS from the AS twins, do not.
That said, the Pulsar AS 150 is nimble and agile reminding one of the first generation Pulsars, but way better and composed. It is easy to flick around corners and the light weight and peppy engine is hungry to be pushed more. The monoshock suspension absorbs the road undulations pretty well, and the motorcycle performs fairly even when pushed through river beds, craters and horridly uneven surfaces thanks to the telescopic front suspension; the AS 200 gets fatter diameter front suspension which betters its shock absorbing ability.
While both the motorcycles come with roto petal front disc brakes, the rear brake on the AS 150 is a drum, while that on the AS 200 is a disc which offers sharp braking. The drum brake on the AS 150 is not a whiner either as it performs exceptionally well offering good stopping power; both the bikes are being offered without ABS. Ride quality on both the AS 150 and the AS 200 is definitely good and I reiterate that it is one of the best on any motorcycle on sale in the country today. While the AS 150’s USP is its light weight, flickability around corners and hungry for more engine; the AS 200’s USP is its ability to stick to a cornering line and not budge easily, which does wonder to make the rider push harder and brake late.
The AS 150 comes with MRF tyres on the front and rear which offer plenty of grip even at low lean angles, offering good feedback as well. In comparison the Eurogrip tyres on the AS 200 performed well too, but the MRF’s were more impressive.
This is Bajaj’s first step in the adventure motorcycle segment, so while some may not be impressed with that the brand has offered with the AS twins, it is an effort which may translate into a full blown adventure styling series in the near future. Though the AS acronym is for Adventure Sport, the motorcycles are more focused on long distance touring something Bajaj never considered before. Yes, it does have competition, but those bike aren’t touring focused, which the AS twins are. The looks are refreshing, the ergonomics commendable, the performance impressive and it’s a completely new segment which is quickly catching ground in India. So the question - is it worth the money? If you’re looking for a small capacity touring motorcycle, which offers performance and reliability, then yes, it is worth the money. The price of the AS 200 is the pretty much the same as the NS 200 at Rs 91,550 so that will entirely be a personal choice, whether you want to opt for the touring sibling or the sports one. At Rs 79,000 the AS 150 costs Rs 9000 more than the standard Pulsar 150 still on sale in the market, and for that difference you get an all new and a better product.