TVS has launched the new Apache RTR 160 and it is here to take on the CBZ, Unicorn and Pulsar. Which bike has what it takes? RISHAD COOPERfinds out

The TVS will enchant riders yearning for a sporty feel with low-slung clip- on bars and back-set rider pegs.

India’s economy is growing rapidly and the disposable income is on the rise. The last few years have witnessed an increase in the demand for motorcycles, especially power bikes. To feed this growing demand for 150cc bikes, which was the popular choice, Hero Honda launched the CBZ in 1999. Soon after this, Bajaj Auto introduced the Pulsar, Honda came up with the Unicorn and now, TVS Motor has unveiled the racy Apache RTR 160. All these bikes are great in their own way and every maker claims that their product is the one to choose. So how can you tell which is the real deal? Read on…

Design and engineering

All four bikes in this contest have contemporary looks, are equipped with sporty, well-turned out alloy wheels and use nice alloy fuel-filler lids. However, the RTR is the only bike that lacks a hinge and that can make tank filling cumbersome. The TVS has a petite profile and a Ford GT-inspired bold stripe that bisects the bike length-wise as well as racy pin stripes for the wheel rims are features exclusive to the RTR. This bike would also win the contest for the best levers; it is the only bike that uses a fancy alloy rear brake-lever plus footrests painstakingly moulded from this expensive metal.

The black theme is carried on three bikes: X-treme, Honda Unicorn and RTR 160, the colour is used even on their engines and wheel rims. Riders who use bikes essentially for commuter-oriented purposes would enjoy the Unicorn and Pulsar for their heel-and-toe operation, while enthusiastic riders will love the toe shift levers on the X-treme and RTR. The paint job, sheen and all rubber and plastic parts on each bike is of superior quality though the Unicorn is better than the other three.

Engine and performance

The single-cylinder, four-stroke and air-cooled engines are a common motor used on Indian motorcycles today and this is the same configuration found on these bikes. However, the RTR has a larger 159.7cc engine while the rest are around 149cc. The RTR and Pulsar use short-stroke motors, while the X-treme and Unicorn share engines with identical Honda DNA as well as 57.3mm x 57.8mm dimensions. These Honda engines are almost identical, yet power pumped out at their cranks is separated by quite a margin — the X-treme develops 14.2bhp at 8500rpm while the Unicorn makes do with a lower 13.3bhp at 8000rpm.

The five-speed gearboxes on all four bikes follow a one-down, four-up pattern. The Pulsar gears are the lightest to shift, the Unicorn is a right balance between touch and feel and the X-treme and RTR 160 have a similar positive feel.

While none put out obtrusive vibrations, the RTR 160 rustles up the maximum buzz, followed by the Pulsar 150, X-treme and the Unicorn that feels almost as smooth as an electric bike. The top speed on the RTR 160 is 117kph, 109kph on the Pulsar 150 DTS-i, 112kph on the Unicorn and 113kph on the X-treme.

Ride, handling and braking

The RTR has an advantage here. The TVS will enchant riders yearning for a sporty feel with low-slung clip-on bars and back-seat rider pegs. The seats on all four bikes are comfortable; the Unicorn easily the best. While the RTR 160 and Pulsar 150 use twin spar frames, the X-treme and Unicorn make use of a single downtube using the engine as a stressed member.

All four bikes deliver efficient and potent brake performance. The X-treme and Unicorn send back a very progressive feel to their levers, while the Pulsar and RTR offer different braking character with a fierce bite that is certain to delight experienced riders.

Fuel economy

Unfortunately, in this department, the RTR disappoints as the extra power and need for speed has taken away from its fuel economy. The RTR delivered 40.5kpl in city conditions while the Pulsar 150 DTS-i and Unicorn gave a similar 50.1kpl and the X-treme gave 47.7kpl. On the highway, the TVS delivered 43.7kpl, the Unicorn 54kpl, the X-treme 48.7kpl and the Pulsar scored the best at 54.3kpl.

Verdict

All four bikes in this competition are unique in their own way each has a lot to offer. There are several good reasons to choose the RTR as it is a racy thoroughbred; its sizeable capacity advantage effortlessly makes it the fastest bike here. The CBZ is a good bike for poise and handling, while the Unicorn is known for its comfortable and upright riding stance, admirable handling and top-class all-round quality.

The Pulsar 150 DTS-I is the winner in this four bike shootout even though other bikes have an advantage over it on some levels. The reasons for the Pulsar’s triumph are its good performance, use of break-through technology, great ride quality and good fuel economy.

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