As promised, here is the Pulsar 200 riding impression. Please remember that since I managed to mooch a ride on the 220 first, all best yet or worst yet comments include the 220.
Overall, I wasn't quite expecting to like the bike this much. I know I've really liked the first gen Pulsar 180 and more or less felt at home on most of the Pulsar series bikes I've ridden, but I truly, geniunely believe that the Pulsar 200 is a new peak for Bajaj. And I have this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that despite being a technological tour-de-force (not to mention a no-show), the 220 DTS-Fi is actually not the superior motorcycle of the two. I think it's that good.
Now to the details, the niggles and the nitty-gritties.
- Slickest Pulsar engine yet. I don't think even the 220 will beat the refinement of the 200. There's this calm, creamy-smooth thing it does that no other Pulsar manages. Whatever little noise the motor makes (it still isn't a Unicorn-smooth sounding motor, mind you), gets quickly drowned out by the wind as the speeds build up
- The gearbox is damn good too. Unless you're in a hurry. If you're to-the-throttle-stop-hard on a charge, the gears don't fall quite as nicely, though. However, I am happy to report that in ever other condition, from lolling about like a drunk rag doll to charging about briskly, gears slot in positively, there's no notchiness in the shifts, no effort is needed and even neutral is easy to find.
- On the open road, more than once I wished Bajaj had put in a six speed gearbox on this bike. The calm but impressive performance gives the bike what journalists like to call long legs. A sixth gear with a highly overdrive-type ratio would have allowed it to cruise at near-110 kph speeds and would have been the perfect cherry on this rather tasty cake.
- I like the fact that Bajaj has finally taken to nixing the kick starter from the bike. This shows that they believe their starter motors are now up to the mark and will not fail on one hand. It also is a step forward and will soon become another of those things that separate commuters from more pleasure oriented motorcycles.
- The panels at the front of the tank are a superb addition to the Pulsar package. The 200 is my favourite looking of the Phantom-ed Pulsars and I have a feeling that if I parked the Pulsar 999 DTS-Fi... er... next to the 200, I would completely forget about the bigger machines looks. The 200, in the flesh looks muscular, feline and most impressive. Especially in the blue with the dark powertrain and chassis bits. Very nice. I like. I like lots.
- The 200 also has the advantage of sharing most of the engine (actual stroke apart) and chassis (thinner front fork spec, rear drum brake, 5mm less wheelbase and 5 kg lighter overall) with the 220. This gives it great poise and strength. Both of which are obvious in corners. Despite the fairly large wheelbase, the 200 turns very quickly, is a stable cornering platform and very neutral in behaviour. It won't bite unless you're plain dumb. I am also happy to have sampled three memorable corner carvers in such a short span on time – the CBZ X-Treme, the P200 and P220.
- Ride quality is exactly the same as the P220. The 200 feels very light on its feet and appears to be able to dance over the road's worst spots. The springs work quickly to damp out the worst of the road and it feels quite plush. Karizmas are still plusher, but the P200, most crucially, returns a wealth of feedback. Which means when the road starts to worsen, you can safely hold on to your pace for longer.
- The brakes are just phenomenal. The front brake, effectively, is the same spec as the P220, but somehow, the set on the bike I rode left a much bigger impression. I usually figure these kind of things easily, but this time, I have no clue why. They felt strong, friendly and utterly trustworthy. As I said, it's just another 260mm rotor with the two-caliper on it. But it's damn good.
- The tubeless tyres are a stellar addition to the package as well. They're practically weightless in feel and I love how they felt in corners and on bad roads. If I could, I retrofit all Pulsars with these babies. Can't wait to see what the P200 will become if I could replace the MRF jobs with proper sticky as gum Pirelli/Michelin/Bridgestones.
- Unfortunately, Bajaj persists in 'equalising' all the Pulsars so as a P200 owner you will have to put up with the fact that all the bikes (150, 180, 200 and 220) have more or less the same features. That sucks. I want my bike to be more individual. The 200 logo is practically hidden under the split grab rail, so chances are, not many people will have the time to notice that my Pulsar (as opposed to theirs) is a 200, before I disappear on them. That also sucks.
- Someone asked about backlit switches in a comment on the blog. Well, the 200 has them. They're a value-add to the novice motorcycle buyer but as all experienced riders know, we never have the need/time to look at the switches. As such, it's a gizmoid of questionable value-add, but certainly a thing that will impress people. Oh well.
- The new indicators switches do not have push-to-cancel. That's stupid and a backward step. I will beg, grovel and plead that Bajaj returns to the push-to-cancel switch set. I don't even care if they can't give me auto-cancel, but push-to-cancel is a must.
- Ergos are great. The P200 has a normal bar as opposed to the clip-ons on the 220. The position, I think, is even more sporty than the 180 and I loved it. On a three-hour ride, I never felt cramped for space, or uncomfortable. Great.
- Price? I am told the P200 is roughly Rs 6500 more than the P180. Which means The Black must fear the P200. I can't see any reason for anyone to buy the P180 anymore. It is also about Rs 15000 less than the P220. Which is a whopping difference. I'm undecided on whether that price differential is justifiable. Please leave me a note in the comments as to whether you think the price diff is something you can justify if you were in the market and buying a 200/220. Appreciate it.