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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

2012 Bajaj Pulsar 200 NS - Ride Review

Bajaj took a major risk, so to speak, to re-invent the wheel 10 years back. I would call it a risk because, 10 years back, Bajaj didn't had the required knowledge base to enter into the performance motorcycle paradigm, which was being ruled by motorcycles like Yamaha RX 100, Yamaha RD 350. Other than the Yamaha duo, newly launched Hero Honda CBZ, Hero Honda Karizma, Suzuki Fiero were some of the other options. The major mass of Indian population was glued to motorcycles like Hero Honda Splendor, and owning a performance motorcycle meant you were a spoilt rich brat with an equally bratish rich dad, because first, anything that was capable of doing a true 70-80 kmph was considered as a rocket and anyone owning such a thing meant was a rich gun who doesn't give a damn about fuel economy. Then one revolutionary mind in the form of Mr. Rajiv Bajaj thought of taking the revolutionary road and things have never been the same hence - the country got the Pulsar siblings, the motorcycles which showed India and the world that the seemingly opposite entities of Performance and Affordability can symbiotically co-exist and flourish.

It's been more than 10 years now since the first Pulsar duo saw the light of the day and really they have come a long long way and it was high time for the next real level for the Pulsars. That next level came in January, 2012, when Bajaj gave the next generation Pulsar, christened as the Pulsar 200NS. A new dawn for the Pulsars was upon us.

With the Pulsar 200NS, Bajaj literally went back to the drawing board and started creating a new Pulsar from ground up while still maintaining the genome. We all know that everything looks fine when things are discussed on the table and on the drawing board over a cup of coffee. The real challenge comes forward when it's time to give form and function to those drawings and discussions and create a functional unit like a motorcycle. So, did Bajaj make an impression to be as profound, as when it launched the first generation Pulsars and does the Pulsar 200NS shoulder the responsibility and fame of it's legacy? Well read on...!!


Engine - Liquid cooled, four stroke, single cylinder, SOHC, 4 valves per cylinder
Capacity - 199.5cc
Bore x Stroke - 72 x 49 mm / 3.15 x 2.53"
Induction - Carburetor, UCD 33
Ignition - Triple Spark Plugs individually controlled through CDI
Exhaust management - Centrally mounted enhanced Exhaust TEC
Clutch - Multiple-plate clutch in oil bath
Max Power - 23.52 PS @ 9500 rpm
Max Torque - 18.3 Nm @ 8000 rpm
Transmission / Drive - 6 Speed  /  O-ring Chain drive

The Pulsar 200NS sports the shortest stroke Indian made engine along with the Duke 200. It's a delight to see the engine spin up so quickly. At the same time, the engine response is very subtle and easy going. If I had to summarize the engine performance of the Pulsar 200NS, then I would say that the engine of the 200NS is an amalgamation of two engines in one. The engine characteristics are way different below and above 7k rpms.

Below 7k rpms, the engine exhibited the regular docile character like most of the Indian made engines have, but yet, it makes it's presence felt with a very very strong statement. The engine definitely lacks the bottom end and mid range pull like the previous generation of Pulsars, and there's a lot of gear shifts around while riding through the city traffic and trying to keep the pace up, but this engine makes up for it's lack of low and mid range performance once you take the revs past 7k rpms.

Play with the right wrist a bit and take the needle past 7k rpms, and a totally different engine characteristic comes to light. Forget about the docile nature I just mentioned about, because now the engine is anything but docile. With an intoxicating engine note, the 200NS just pulverizes anything around and blasts off for a lunar destination. The engine revs up all the way to the red line of 12k rpms in a matter of seconds and 100 kmph seems to be a stupid number to even think about. The engine though screaming, becomes smoother as one is building on revs, which was very surprising for me being a previous Pulsar 200 owner. Just to give a perspective of this seemingly tiny engine's performance in Indian conditions, the 200NS does a 73 kmph @ 5k rpms and a 84 kmph @ 6k rpms in the 6th gear. Still not impressed? Then the next stop would be in the likes of Superbikes at 14 times the cost of the NS.

Coupled with the triple spark plug and liquid cooling, the connect between the throttle and the engine is as direct as it can be and one does not feel the absence of Fuel Injection in this unit. Speaking of which I must say that the right wrist does need some getting used to on the 200NS initially because of the direct throttle response, because initially I had some uncomfortable moments where I revved past 5k rpms in 1st cog as I was throttling based on my experience of my previous Pulsar 200NS.

Inclusion of the Triple Spark Plug technology also helps in controlling emission norms in the 200NS and also makes it possible for the inclusion of the smallest Cat Con in any Indian motorcycle bringing down the cost of exhaust unit, along with the other obvious benefit of making the 200NS engine pretty efficient in it's daily running.

The engine is aptly complemented by the 6 speed gear box shared from the KTM Duke 200, which, in short, is another revelation for a Pulsar. The rider can shift through the gear box like a hot knife through a block of butter. Finding neutral is just as easy. I remember in my previous Pulsar 200, I used to blip the clutch a bit to find the neutral, but here, the story is entirely different. When I took the 200NS out of the showroom, the gear box was definitely hard and rough and I was having a hard time finding the neutral. There were false neutrals and the gear went free every now and then between gear shifts. Fault or Quality Issues with the motorcycle? I mean come on for God's sakes, it's a Bajaj, it's a Pulsar it's an issue!! Well NO, sorry to break the heart of the haters!! It was a new motorcycle and the new motorcycle was trying to settle in and these things are bound to happen. Two days into the run-in, and things started falling into place. I was able to easily find the neutral, the occurrences of false neutrals reduced and so did the gear becoming free.Shifting through the cogs is a bliss as a engine is catching on the revs, whether the rider is riding hard or at ease, the smoothness of the gear box is retained through out.

The weight of the clutch is properly balanced, and neither it's feather light nor it's too hard, but yes, as the gear box is properly run in, the clutch becomes more light and smooth, but still it's not feather light as is the clutch of say Honda CBR 250R.

Ride and Handling

Frame - Pressed Steel Perimeter Frame
Front Suspension - Telescopic Front Fork with Anti-Friction Bush Dia 37
Rear Suspension - Nitrox Mono-Shock with piggy back gas canister with five adjustment settings
Front Brakes - 280 mm Petal Disc with floating calliper
Rear Brakes - 230 mm Petal Disc with floating calliper
Front Tyre - 100/80-17, 52 P, Tubeless
Rear Tyre - 130/70 - 17, 61 P, Tubeless
Seat Height - 805 mm
Kerb Weight - 145 kg
FAW/RAW - 72/73 kg
Fuel Capacity - 12 litres

Amongst all the performance numbers Pulsars captured, handling was one lesson which the Pulsars were yet to learn. The double cradle frame just didn't provide enough lateral rigidity and the suspension just didn't provide enough feedback to allow the previous gen Pulsar that handling agility that one would have expected from them. Finally with the 200NS, the Pulsar learnt that lesson and came up in ranks, in it's very first effort. The Pulsar 200NS is such an agile handler that it comes next to the likes of class leaders like the Yamaha R15 and the Kawasaki Ninja 250R. Carving the corners is becoming a habit now. The factory suspension setting is just perfect to set the game on fire.

The riding stance is pretty comfortable and is very well suited for long hauls. At the same time I would say that the riding stance could have been a couple of angles more forward biased to support the handling and give it a more attacking street fighter stance. This is one department of the 200NS which leaves me wanting every time I ride it.

The mass centralization and almost 50-50 front and rear weight distribution gives the NS amazing stability, both while riding in city or while doing highway cruises. The stiff suspension setting needs getting used to, but once the rider is at ease with the setting, it's a plush ride ahead. A couple of things that I noticed is that, when you leave the hands off the handle bar, the NS has a tendency to sway towards the left. Mind you, this behavior in no way affects the handling of the motorcycle, it's spot on anyways. Another thing which I noticed was that, at speeds beyond 120kmph, the NS looks a tad bit unsettled, it might be because of the riding stance, or it might be because of the suspension. Not sure, but the thing to notice here is that, around 90% of the time, the rider won't be doing those speeds and beyond and below which the NS is rock solid.

With all the heavy bits down below, including the exhaust chamber, the seat height of the NS is a little more than the comfort of the average Indian rider height. I would say that if the seat height had been just a little bit lower, it would have not only been more comfortable to the rider, but also would have affected the handling in a much more positive way. But then again, from a design perspective, the designers had to protect the under slung exhaust and knowing the Indian conditions, this was required. 

Even though the stock Eurogrips are not of the stickiest types, but once broke in, they are suitable for most Indian road conditions, but at the same time I would say that in order to fully exploit that amazing chassis of this motorcycle, a sticker compound tire is definitely suggested, but that's not an absolute requirement.

On the braking department, the ByBre setup provides amazing braking performance both front and rear and one has to get used to this kind of braking in this kind of motorcycle. The motorcycle comes with the regular rubber pipe brake hose, which does the job absolutely perfectly, but I've personally upgraded mine to steel braided brake lines which gives that extra strong bite when the need be. I'm a believer of the philosophy that you should have your resources at your disposal and might not use them, rather than not have them when the need be.

Equipment and Quality

The new instrumentation cluster looks quite modern and is a delight and gives all the information one might need. The information that the instrumentation console provides are -
  1. Analog Tachometer. I personally belong to the old school and love to see the needle dancing to the tune of the throttle.
  2. Digital Speedometer.
  3. Trip 1 and Trip 2 logs.
  4. Engine Temperature indicator.
  5. Low oil indicator.
  6. Service indicator.
  7. Clock. This for me is the most helpful addition to the instrumentation cluster.
Adjustments to some of the settings can be done using the Mode and Set buttons, which is another helpful addition.

The switches gives a premium feel to touch, but at the same time indicator switch needs some getting used to as the operation is a bit different. The operation of the Engine Kill switch is exactly opposite to what it used to be in my previous Pulsar 200, so that also needed some sinking in too.

As opposed to the current generation of Pulsars, the starter magnet of the 200NS is wet sum, so not only the  starter sound is soft, but also operation is absolutely butter smooth.

The quality of the plastic panels and the paint is also good and gives a very premium feel and is no less than top notch. The only little bit sour taste comes in the form of some buzzing panels, which only make their presence felt only till 5k rpms. On having a chat with Bajaj officials I was assured some damping gourmets are being designed and would be properly released amongst the users which should take care of the buzzing. I would leave the horn on the NS out of discussion because it's pretty much non-existent :)

Value for Money

Well Pulsars have always been Value for Money in their category, be it the current crop of Pulsars or the NS. There's no qualms of the fact that the Pulsar 200NS is a lot of motorcycle for that price. The Pulsar 200NS not only shoulders the name, responsibility and legacy of the Pulsars, the 200NS is all set to become a legend in itself, because it's not just enough to have a genes of a legend, it's equally important to have the act of a legend, and act is what the 200NS delivers.

Ergonomics diagrams courtesy - cycle-ergo.com
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  1. Sajal da, wow! I can't believe I missed your blog all these days!

    I am totally in love with the 200NS! Thanks for letting me ride it! For a first timer, with very little experience on powerful bikes, this handled like a dream!

  2. Sajal da, I can't believe I missed your blog for so long! Anyway, no making the same mistake again!

    For someone like me with very little experience on powerful bikes, this one did not feel like a runway horse, and handled beautifully! I'm in love!

    Thanks for letting me ride!

    1. Thanks for coming by Anirban!! The pleasure was all mine man :)

  3. Me too equally glad with the bike.
    Hope Bajaj continues same growth for coming generations...


  4. This bike is juz way ahead of pulsar 220 it gives 48 kmpl in street where as 220 gives 35kmpl ....200ns has better pick than 220 and brakes are better than 220 and 200ns is a first triple spark bike

  5. any shorter handle bar available for 200ns? coz i want more aggressive riding position plz help..


Item Reviewed: 2012 Bajaj Pulsar 200 NS - Ride Review Description: Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Sajal
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