Review Motoring

Bajaj explores new territory with Pulsar NS125

Bajaj surprised us all by recently launching the Pulsar NS125. It downsized the engine from the Pulsar NS160 and gave it more appropriate brakes, wheels and tyres. Everything else has been left almost exactly the same, so the NS125 sits somewhere between the true-blue commuters, and the sporty KTMs of the 125cc world, both in terms of specs as well as price. Can it amalgamate the riding thrills of the latter with the value-for-money of the former?

Design

The Pulsar NS125 looks almost like a twin to its elder siblings, the NS160 and NS200, save for a smaller engine, skinnier tyres, a more slender (but still box-section) swingarm and different graphics.

Perhaps the biggest praise of this design is the fact that it remains pleasing to the eye. The youthful face created by the single headlight and twin pilot lamps is still fresh, as are the Pulsar-typical twin vertical brake lamps. Overall, the NS125 gets a handsome streetfighter look, without being overly muscular or flamboyant.

For what it is worth, the updated graphics schemes have done their part in helping the NS series mask its age. If we had to nit-pick, the skinnier tyres do look slightly disproportionate to the rest of the motorcycle, but it is certainly no deal-breaker.

Quality levels are a marked step-up over something like the Pulsar 125, with decent fit and finish, and tight panel gaps across the NS125. That being said, the one area of the bike that really feels dated after all these years is instrumentation. Like its design, the NS125 borrows its semi-digital instrumentation from the NS200, meaning an analogue tachometer (which is nice) and digital speedometer, but no information about gear position or fuel consumption (which is not so nice).

Performance

The engine is a rather basic unit on paper — single-cylinder, air-cooled motor. It does not feature fuel-injection; instead, it employs Bajaj’s unique e-carb technology. The final result is output figures of 12hp at 8,500rpm and 11Nm at 7,000rpm. This is slightly higher than the regular Pulsar 125’s figures of 11.8hp and 10.8Nm, but still slightly off the KTM 125cc pair’s output of 15hp and 12Nm. In the real world, though, the NS125 feels sprightly enough.

The motor is tractable right off idle, making it rather usable in the city. From there on, power builds nicely up to around 9,000rpm, beyond which it neither pulls very hard nor sounds very pleasant. Nevertheless, up to that point, there is a fair amount of pulling power available. It is only once you approach the triple-digit mark that the NS begins to feel stretched. The data backs this up, because the bike gets to 80kph in a respectable 10.52sec, but then requires another 13 seconds to make it to 100kph!

Gear ratios are well chosen, but there is no getting around the fact that there are only five of them available. They are tall enough that gear changes are not frustratingly frequent in the city, yet short enough that the NS accelerates well and feels nicely tractable at urban speeds. But they can not provide a relaxed highway cruising experience. The motor’s harsh top-end, combined with the absence of a sixth cog, means that you will want to cap your cruising speeds at about 80 to 85kph.

Having to sit at high RPMs on the highway means the motor returns only just over 50kpl. Things are a lot better in the city, where the NS125 delivers a near-60kpl efficiency figure. With a 12-litre fuel tank, you are still looking at a good 500km of highway use before alarm bells start going off, and the NS should comfortably have you covered for a week of commuting on each fill-up. As for that e-carb technology, its biggest praise is that you can barely feel it is there. For all intents and purposes, the NS125 feels like a fuel-injected motorcycle.

Ride and handling

The Pulsar NS125 comes with competent underpinnings. At under ₹1 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), Bajaj offers respectable hardware like a perimeter frame and a preload-adjustable monoshock, just like on the larger NS models. As a result, handling is rather sweet, and the NS is a fun bike to throw around corners. The skinny tyres might not do much for the looks, but they make the NS125 feel light on its feet. The bike feels steady enough and inspires a fair amount of confidence.

That is the sportiness side taken care of. The sensibility aspect comes from the good ride quality and large dimensions. The telescopic fork does a great job of isolating you from our less-than-perfect roads, though the monoshock can feel a little on the firmer side, even at its lower preload settings. Nevertheless, ride quality overall is quite comfortable, as is the seating position.

Sharing its underpinnings with the NS200 gives the 125 generous proportions that are well suited to larger riders. The 1,353mm wheelbase is longer than even the Pulsar 150’s, and taller riders will find the rider’s triangle pleasantly roomy. The only shortfall in the comfort department is a seat that can become slightly uncomfortable over longer durations — an issue that is amplified by the slightly stiff rear shock absorber.

The NS’ braking performance is similar to its engine performance. On paper, it only gets a small 240mm front disc brake, and a 130mm rear drum brake. Nevertheless, the real-world performance is up to the mark, and the setup does a decent job of bringing the bike to a stop. The only room for improvement is a little more feel at the lever, and the addition of an ABS system — although Bajaj would point out that that would take the price well above the ₹1 lakh mark.

Conclusion

The final piece of the puzzle is the price tag. The exact amount is ₹98,234 (ex-showroom, Delhi), which places it almost on par with the Pulsar 150 Neon. It is about ₹20,000 more expensive than the regular Pulsar 125, while the KTM 125 Duke costs a whole ₹72,000 more than the NS125. With this context in mind, the Pulsar NS125 certainly carries a premium price, but it also delivers a distinct and unique experience in the 125cc segment, one with a strong Pulsar flavour to it.

It has superior dynamics to both, the Pulsar 125 and the Pulsar 150 Neon and it also looks and feels a whole lot more modern, all the while remaining considerably more affordable than its Austrian counterparts. It seems that Bajaj has found an enticing middle ground, and by doing so, the company is further exploring uncharted territory in the 125cc segment.


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Printable version | Sep 19, 2021 11:12:27 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/motoring/bajaj-explores-new-territory-with-pulsar-ns125/article35509149.ece

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