Having successfully mooched a nearly new 220, I was off like a shot. Or would have if I hadn't been worried about needing to keep the revs low for purposes of running in. Anyhoo, the motorcycle brought back memories of why I happen to like it a lot, and hate some parts of it. Given that I've been making top ten lists like problogger recommends, I thought I'd make another one.
The bits I love
- Ride quality
The ride quality of the 220 is superb. Among my personal favourites on this front in the country right now is the Karizma, and I have a feeling that over time, I'll end up liking the 220 more. It hasn't lost the light, springy feel, but I was surprised at how much the 220 will absorb both riding solo and two-up. After pussyfooting about for a few kilometers, I found myself bashing the bike through potholes with nary a care. And guess what, The Wife did not complain even once... it's good.
These are seriously impressive headlamps. I love the spread and brightness of the low beam and the cutting lance of the high beam. In all my years of riding in Mumbai, I haven't seen the wet-black Mumbai roads lit up this good ever. Also like the way the electronics cut the dayflash off if the engine isn't running. Stops fidgety friends from draining the battery it does
Bajaj have never been shy of providing good brakes and the 220 takes that aspect a whole bunch forward. The front brake is powerful and offers enough feedback to get the front wheel squirming in the wet with no loss of confidence or traction. There aren't any bikes I can say the same about, including the even more powerful (feeling) disc on the Apache RTR 160, which lacks this kind of feel. Initially, the rear disc pads were holding the rear rotor a bit tight. But one circlip and pin removed, pads ejected, ground down a bit to improve pad-rotor clearance (I don't use the rear brake for anything apart from generating a little stability, so pad wear is no issue) and re-inserted have cured the problem in the space of ten minutes. The rear wheel rotates free-ish now. I still don't like the minimal travel on the rear brake pedal, but I'll fix it one way or another shortly
Unlike the other Pulsars (including the 200, which I deeply like), the 220 has a distinct intake growl that is lovely. Even my earplugs fail entirely to suppress the gruff note, which I've come to like a lot. A small single can only make so much of an evocative note, the airbox, on the other hand, has a lot of vocal abilities... this one's well on its way to releasing the good bits. I also like the performance, although I sometimes wish it had more punch. The Pulsar 220 will knock the bad guy out, no question, I wish instead of a resounding slap, it KO'd using a more dramatic punch
I know it's fifth on the list, but I love the stable feel of the 220 as well. It's very, very classy in feel and initially, the rear brake was dragging enough to make the bike want to run on a bit, a trait that's settled down after I ground down the rear pads a bit. It's capability in the corners almost makes me want me to summon up all my supernatural powers and just block out the rain while I have the bike
A funny thing happened today. I got my feet wet and while I was standing on the pegs while bobbing gently through a potholed stretch, my foot actually slipped clean off the peg. I felt it going and sat down quickly enough to only graze the toe of my trusty DMS for a half-sec on the road, but it could have been worse. In the dry, I have to say, the footpegs work just great. The ergos (rearset pegs and low-ish bars) are good too
Yes, I know a lot of you like the bike's looks, but I've never been a fan of the almost identical looks of the Pulsar family. I'm not a marketing whiz, but it does not make sense to me. The styling of the P220, especially the rear-on congruence with the others is mildly disappointing. I think the rest of the 220 is special enough to deserve a more evolved look, don't you? It does have one benefit though. I was worried about someone scratching the bike in the parking lot, but then I realised that if I parked the bike with the headlight to the wall and tail light sticking out, most people didn't even notice that the bike was a 220. In fact, when you're riding, only those who can see the front of the bike do the expected double take
- Rear mudflap
I know you cannot see this from the saddle, but the way the this plastic thing vibrates gives me the shivers (as with the entire rear end, this is common to all the new Pulsars). I know it's silly, but I keep thinking the whole black plastic thing is going to fall right off the bike. It also makes me think the bike isn't well built. I know otherwise, but there it is... I think a couple of reinforcing ribs on the underside of the mudflap would have taken care of this
- Seat release
This is the most confounding of the lot. I like to clip my bumbag to the seat and strap it down. Works like an ultra secure tail pack. On most bikes that have a helmet lock/seat release under the tail light area, I will usually unlock the seat, strap the thing on and go. I cannot do this on any Pulsar. Because the seat release is a loop of wire under a fairly fidgety side panel (grommets fall off and panels rattle, lock almost never sits right in the first go). The P220 has a split seat, so I was expecting a seat release with the key. Instead, I find that there are TWO loops of wire instead. Aargh! So while I know that there is a precious little bit of space under the pillion seat (could take a rain suit easily), I've no way of using it in any convenient fashion.
The Pulsar 220's digi-meters are a great step forward, but I think they're all right, not gobsmacking. I wish they'd included a clock. I wish they'd sorted the electronics a bit more – I don't like the fact the engine check light comes on when you stall the bike in gear, and that the ignition system has a spot of bother re-starting the bike unless you switch the ignition off and then on, in which case it fires up at a half-touch.
I believe I've already ranted about the ugly-brown engine kill switch. If I haven't, please insert an appropriate rant here. Why does it have to be that ugly Microsoft Zune-type colour? Why can it not be red like all important things usually are?
And who the hell turned it upside down? Yesterday, on my way home, I spotted someone I know and waved with the throttle hand. When putting my hand back on the throttle grip, I hit a pothole and ended up killing the engine. It would not have happened if the EKS was the other way round. I know it's a minor gripe, but when you're aiming for perfection and getting close, it's the details that will leave you standing out in the cold
- Mirrors: mostly you see elbows and shoulders in them, but they look classy. I say all right, because not many sportsbikes (which the 220 aims to be) offer life-changing mirrors anyway. Love the fact that fold in.
- Gearbox: no missed shifts, but sometimes I think a shift shouldn't be this light. Similarly you always find neutral, but the delicate movement needed is a bit to classy for a monkey like me.
- Backlit switches: add little value, really. Look neat, though. Grips: Never been an outright fan, I think softer rubber (Think Progrip Superbike grips) would have felt classier.
- Tank : Still the same shape, so I do think it should have evolved a bit. Plastic fairing is perpetually rubbing against my knees... which I can live with. But it interferes with the (Cramster Turtle) tankbag's front magnetic flaps... so I can only use four of the six magnets to keep it steady. Also, I find riding with a filled up tankbag makes it easy on the wrists in heavy traffic. Maybe Cramster should make a double-price super-duper special 220-edition bag with only four magnets...
- Top triple tree: Is all metal, looks nice if a little, I dunno, 'empty.' Will get scratched eventually if your keychain has lots of metal, though.
- No kick lever: I'm not gonna miss it.
- Oil cooler: It's there... wish the plumbing wasn't so out there.