Jan 14, 2008

Auto Expo 2008: Bajaj Discover 150, Blade & XCD Sprint

As you have already read, Bajaj showed off three new products that it intends to launch this year. Unfortunately, none supersede the 220. So, while Joseph and team have been working on, reportedly and bloggedly, on larger motors, either Bajaj will surprise us at some point this year, or not.
Bajaj Blade DTSi
Bajaj Blade DTSi

Blade DTSi
This is a rather neat looking scooter, but appearances do not suggest that it is mould-breaking in any visible fashion. It is good looking, very European in the lines and promises good performance. The engine, as you've already read is a four-valve DTSi 125cc. Using a four-valve engine would suggest that the Blade is more powerful than its 125cc scooter competition. Expect a 10 bhp-odd power claim, which should give the scooter a fair bit of performance. Also expect the scooter to manage 10-15 per cent greater fuel economy on average. The wheels are 12-inchers, like the new Honda Aviators, which should bring stability and more handling ability to the package. Bajaj return to the telescopic fork on the scooter (last seen briefly on the Saffire) and there is even a disc brake on the front hub. No idea whether the brake would be standard or not. I'd be thrilled if it were, for the record. The show bike was caged off, so don't know about the storage space. Will buy a beer if you can actually stuff a full-face lid under the seat and then close the seat also. I didn't have the time to spot whether the tyres were tubeless or not, but again, if they were, I'd chase that beer down with another one. But again, will the average scooter buyer be willing to shell out for the goodies? Somehow, I don't think so. No launch dates were specified as far as I can tell, but I think the Blade is the first of the Bajaj launches this year.

Bajaj Discover 150 DTSiBajaj Discover 150 DTSi
This is Bajaj, once more, playing the game it's learnt, offer more products and profit from the slight overlap and consequent cannibalisation. This is good thing, mind you. The Discover chassis grows up a little to host the Pulsar 150 DTSi engine, giving rise to a machine that is clearly a stylistic evolution of the Discover school of design. I'm not convinced about the XCD-ish shape of the tank extensions, but I do appreciate the LED tips that will replace the stalk-type indicators. Similarly, I don't know if the ultra-sleek tail design is a production-ready design or not, but it looks good. In terms of positioning, the Pulsar 150 is likely to evolve into a more serious machine, with a clear sporty intent and therefore, a higher price tag, marginally, of course. According to Rajiv Bajaj, the P150 will become more of a sport-tourer (yes, I know the press release says the exact opposite) of sorts, while the Disco 150 will be the commuter. He also mentioned that other companies had tried to engineer this stratified approach to the 150 commuter/specialist, but he hopes that Bajaj is the company that gets it right first.

Bajaj XCD DTSi Sprint
Bajaj XCD DTSi SprintBajaj XCD Sprint
The XCD also evolves. Many people at the show said, 'ALREADY?' Bajaj is ready with the four-valve engines, and I am a bit surprised that it is the Disco and the XCD that appear to be getting them first. Or maybe, the four-valve Pulsars will debut in June, just ahead of the stonkingly-promising Yamaha YZF-R15. Any way, the 125cc four-valve DTSi engine is likely to hike power output almost to the edge of the 150cc segment, and I, for one, would not be surprised to find a sporty, enthusiastic motor that has loads more character than the civil XCD.

So what happens to the Pulsars? I think, now, finally, a serious, almost ground-up renovation of the Pulsar platform is due, and the silence on the Pulsar front points to the fact that this is, in fact, happening and under wraps. The four-valve DTSi engine should, in theory, allow bigger peak power outputs and turn the Pulsar into a more sporty machine. The stuff that remains to be seen is the rest of it. Will the extra power require only oil-cooling, or liquid-cooling as well? How will it mould the chassis? Will tubeless tyres become standard across the range? Will be get stickier tyres in the bargain (The YZF-R15 seemed to have Indian-made sticky ones, so I've got my fingers crossed)? I have a feeling all of this will happen. And this year. The official line, on the other hand, is that Bajaj has enough on its plate this year. Which, again, I find it hard to disagree with.

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Auto Expo 2008: Bajaj-Kawasaki

Bajaj Kawasaki Ninja 250R
Bajaj made the Kawasaki announcement at the Auto Expo. CBUs are coming. After spending the last two years categorically denying any interest in the CBU market, Bajaj are taking the first steps. And they weren't completely wrong either. Bajaj will bring CKDs and assemble them at Chakan for Indian sale, which will give them a massive duty advantage. At the Auto Expo, Bajaj showed a number of models that they are considering for Indian launch, including the Ninja 250, ZX-6R, a Vulcan, the ER-6n etc. The official line, again, is that the response is being judged and by June, we should see the results of the crowd reaction. I get the feeling, though, that the we will definitely see the Ninja 250 in June, followed by a second Kawasaki early 2009. Given that most manufacturers are starting with their flagships – near unobtanium – it would make sense for Bajaj, the essence of affordable performance – to offer the Ninja at a realistic price that you and I can afford without a year of dreaming and scrimping on costs. A 30 bhp, Indian-assembled sports 250 twin for Rs 2.5 lakh? I think it might work really well. Of course, the touring crowd will be interested in the simplicity and versatility of the ER-6n, but I have a feeling Indian enthusiasts are yearning for engines wrapped in glossy plastic first, so you're going to have to wait a little bit. Again, Kawasaki officially says big bikes coming June 2008, no word on which models.
Bajaj Kawasaki Ninja 250R
Bajaj Kawasaki Ninja 250R
Bajaj Kawasaki Ninja 250R
Bajaj Kawasaki Ninja 250R
Here's the press release

Bajaj and Kawasaki to bring Big bikes into India.

Bikes to be retailed through Bajaj Probiking Showrooms
Ninja 250 among the bikes to be retailed

11th January 2007, New Delhi: Bajaj and Kawasaki today announced an agreement to bring in Kawasaki big bikes into India. This is in continuation of their strong partnership from the mid 80’s when the first technical collaboration for motorcycle development was signed. This technical collaboration which continued since then, went a step further in 2004 when Kawasaki commenced distributing Bajaj bikes in the Philippines.

Now the partners bring Kawasaki big bikes to India.

Amongst the bikes being considered for launch is the recently launched Ninja 250. This product designed by Kawasaki for the United States, Europe and Japan is powered by an eight-valve DOHC liquid cooled 250 cc fuel injection engine developing 30 PS at 10,500 rpm. Combined with the 6-speed transmission the Ninja 250 is a matchless performer. In addition to the Ninja 250, other big Kawasaki bikes that are being considered for the domestic market were on display at the Bajaj Presentation in Hall no 3 at the Auto-Expo in N. Delhi. These include the Sports Roadster the ER-6n, Super Sports bikes the Ninja ZX-6R and the Z1000, and the Vulcan Cruiser.

The Kawasaki bikes would be retailed through the chain of hi-end Bajaj Probiking showrooms. The company had kick-started the Probiking initiative in 2005 with the launch of the Pune showroom. Today ten Probiking showrooms are operational with presence in all major markets with ten more to go on-stream by end of Fiscal 2008. Designed for professional bikers the showrooms house state-of the art interactive terminals and offer prospective “Probikers” a chance to test-ride the bikes on specially designed Indoor Dynamometers.

Kawasaki, Japan will also provide the necessary service training and parts back-up to ensure that the hi-performance bikes are in peak condition and fully live up to the expectations of the Probikers.

Mr. Shinichi Tamba, President of the Kawasaki Consumer Products and Machinery Company comments, “ India is a very important market for KHI and Bajaj Auto is a strong partner. The Indian market is in the cusp of progressing to big bikes and Kawasaki is highly regarded in this segment. Soon the “flying K” and the “Kawasaki Green” will scorch the Indian roads.”

Commenting on this effort, Mr. Rajiv Bajaj, Managing Director, Bajaj Auto said, “ Both Kawasaki and Bajaj have synergized their strengths to widen the portfolio in respective markets. The domestic consumer can now experience the power of big biking while the Kawasaki customers in the Philippines are already experiencing the range of Bajaj products for the past few years. We are in discussions to extend the Philippine business model to other countries as well.”

The Good times are indeed rolling for both Kawasaki and Bajaj.
All images: Kawasaki Heavy Industries

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Auto Expo 2008: Bajaj-KTM

KTM 2008 RC8
Perhaps the most interesting meeting at the Auto Expo was this. No, I've no interest in the Tata Nano. I'll say only this, everyone who moves from a motorcycle to the Nano does me a favour (one day, I'll explain that... remind me). Bajaj, as you know already own 20.5 per cent of KTM, and the plan is to move this up to just past 25 per cent, which will make the Indian company the second largest stake holder in the Austrian bike major. KTM is currently the second largest motorcycle maker in Europe, and its core competence has been off-road bikes. However, they began to seriously work the roadbike arena a few years ago, and I must say the progress and success are admirable. KTM also started making quads (ATVs) and also make one car (the CrossBow). KTM also own WP, the suspension company that almost always supplies KTMs. So, what do they have for us? Well, come June, Pro-Biking showrooms will wear Bajaj's blue, Kawasaki's green as well as KTM orange. I loved seeing the KTM Ready to Race adverts on Delhi bus stops. Yamaha aside, this is the bike maker I root for.

KTM 2008 RC8KTM 2008 RC8KTM will launch the Duke 690 and the RC8 in June in India. The 690 will be homologated and assembled here, while the RC8 will not require homologation since it displaced 1200cc. There seems to be no word on whether the RC8 is assembled or CBU'd. If it is the former, expect the R1 competitor to be a fair bit lower in price tag terms. Something that will force the Japanese to also start assembling their big bikes here.

KTM 2008 Duke 690The Duke 690 has a 652cc single cylinder engine making 65 bhp. Which means displacement similar to the F650, but will a big step up in power terms. Being a KTM, expect typically aggressive power delivery, a super-crisp throttle response and total, utter reliability. The big single will play on its torque, actually, rather than power. Peak power is a hefty 67 NM delivered at a middling 5500 rpm. This the European spec, and I don't expect it to change for India by a big margin. Underseat exhaust, upside down forks, trellis frame, Supermoto (690SM) derived WP suspension and all are present. Expect the 690 Duke to be a storming motorcycle that will make a lot of owners very happy. The whole shebang weighs 149 kgs without fuel (but all fluids), which is 6 kgs or so more than the average Indian 150 WITHOUT any fluids in them. What would the cost be? Let me speculate and say, $9500 converts roughly to Rs 4 lakh, plus duties and taxes, hmm.. Rs 6-6.5 lakh.

KTM 2008 Duke 690KTM 2008 RC8The RC8, of course, is KTM's new flagship, which has only just been released. The engine is a 1190cc V-twin making 155 bhp, which is plenty powerful. No one's ridden it yet – but it's a KTM, expect jaw-dropping reviews and ability. No price yet, but again, it should be in the normal superbike price bracket. If the price is in the $12,000 range (normal litre-bike price), then the Indian price could be between Rs 12 lakh (CBU) and Rs 9 lakh (CKD).

The side benefit of this tie-up is that Bajaj, suddenly have a huge source of tech know how that they can tap into. Expect WP suspension, or inspired by WP suspension in next gen bikes and so forth. KTM and Bajaj are also working on a joint set of platforms, starting with a 125-180cc single-based motorcycles as well as a 250-400cc single-based platform. The idea is to create KTM-branded, entry-level machines that the Austrians can use to tap the 125cc motorcycle market (getting huge because of congestion charges in European cities and the ability of car drivers to ride 125cc motorcycle without additional licencing requirements). These platforms should bear fruit in 2010, when they will get launched in India. And be built for export as well.

Finally, Rajiv Bajaj explained why the sportsbike was on everyone's radar as opposed to other formats. His response was simple. The sportsbike is the purest performance motorcycle. In India's case, it's the correct motorcycle to establish what is possible. Once that is done, other formats will follow.

Here's the press release

Bajaj Auto to launch KTM Bikes in 2008

Bikes to be retailed through exclusive Pro-biking Showrooms

KTM bikes for Indian market to be selected from those displayed at the Auto-Expo 2008

New Delhi, January 10, 2008:

Bajaj today presented a range of KTM bikes at its stall in the Auto-Expo 2008 some of which will be progressively introduced in the Indian Market. These models will be retailed through Bajaj’s Probiking showrooms in key markets across the country.

The vehicles that are being considered for the domestic market were on display at the Bajaj Presentation in Hall no 3 at the Auto-Expo in N. Delhi. These were the rally tested 690 Supermoto, the superior street bike the 690 Duke, the powerful 990 Adventure, the light and agile 250 EXC-F and the ultra-precise performer the 990 Superduke.

Bajaj Auto also announced the increase in its stake in “KTM Power Sports AG”, Europe’s second largest sport motorcycle manufacturer to 20.89 %. Earlier Bajaj had taken a 14.5 % stake in KTM through its 100% Netherlands subsidiary-Bajaj Auto International Holdings BV with Rajiv Bajaj, MD, Bajaj Auto Ltd. being inducted on the board of KTM. Bajaj has funded the current stake increase from its internal accruals. The co-operation agreement with KTM covers product development, technology, vendor sourcing and distribution.

Commenting on the occasion, Mr. Stefan Pierer, CEO, KTM said,” We see this as a long-term partnership with Bajaj Auto & we are very positive about it. This cooperation with Bajaj Auto is a great opportunity to strengthen the KTM Group in its sustained growth strategy in a global environment.”

Mr.Rajiv Bajaj, MD, Bajaj Auto Ltd., added” This partnership is also another step in our globalization strategy. KTM’s sharp brand positioning, differentiated designs, and hyper performance have inspired us to increase our stake in this participation. We are delighted with this opportunity to co-develop a range of products for both KTM and Bajaj brands and also excited by the prospect of introducing KTM products to India and South East Asia, as also to access the European market via KTM”

The alliance with KTM covers joint development of street bikes for both Indian & overseas markets. The partnership will also jointly develop a high-performance, water-cooled engine platform for 125 and 250 cc bikes. Bajaj Auto will also take up distribution of KTM products in South Asia.

Through this cooperation with Bajaj, KTM would extend its product portfolio for the future with a 125-ccm street product line, in addition to the present 1190-ccm, 990-ccm and 690-ccm platforms developed and manufactured in Austria.

About KTM Power Sports AG

KTM Power Sports AG is a worldwide leading manufacturer of power sports vehicles. With Products – in Motocross, Supermoto, Enduro classes and with On road bike products like Super Duke KTM is a strong brand in Europe and The United States. KTM has won more than 136 World Championship titles and seven times the Rallye Paris-Dakar. The operationcore company, KTM-Sportmotorcycle AG, develops and manufactures competition off-road and street motorcycles. KTM-Sportcar AG builds the light-weight sports car X-Bow, KTM’s first step into the automotive field.

With more than 1,930 employees, the KTM Group earned revenue of Euro 566.1 Mio. (INR 32 Billion) in fiscal year 2006/07. Over 23 sales subsidiaries distribute KTM products to their 1,400 independent KTM dealerships worldwide.

KTM is a Vienna Stock Exchange listed Company with market capitalisation of Euro 390 million (INR 22 Billion). KTM is a Group Company of Cross Industries AG, indirectly owned by & managed by Messrs Stefan Pierer and Rudolf Knunz. The Cross-group’s other businesses include racing motorsports systems, composites, etc

Further information about the KTM Group is to be found here
All images: H Mitterbauer/KTM Sportmotorcycles AG

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Auto Expo 2008: Hero Honda

For the second Auto Expo in a row, Hero Honda had nothing to show at the show itself. All of the usual range products were there, no chrome Karizma, though. An African Twin was hung from the central display with another old dirtbike keeping it company. Upshot? Hero Honda expects to launch 12 models this year. And... thats it.

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Auto Expo 2008: Honda

Honda Aviator Scooter
Honda Aviator Scooter
Honda Aviator Scooter
Honda Aviator Scooter
Honda Aviator Scooter
Honda Aviator Scooter

The Japanese company showed off three significant products and bunch of promising CBUs. First, the Aviator. The Aviator is Honda's latest scooter, unfortunately, based squarely on the Activa platform, so no new powertrain to compete with all the 125s. Er... oops. Yes, the 102cc engine powers the neat looking Aviator, which claims, falsely, to have the first 12-inch wheels in the country. I think the Blaze already did that. Finally, Honda relent and add telescopic forks and offer an optional disc too. The Aviator still does not offer a front-fuelling option. I, for one, am neither amused, nor enthused.

Moving right along, the CBF race and sports concepts looked very nice. Based on the Unicorn, they were styling exercised aimed to see what you guys think of such styling and bits. I loved the braced swingarm, carbon body panels and stuff, but couldn't swallow the twin shocks. Technically, good suspension tuning is far more important that how the suspension is articulated. But Honda (re-)introduced the monoshock to our country, and seeing the next generation of sporty Unicorns with gas-charged twin shocks will not help Honda's cause. Of course, all of the Japanese companies have both mono- and twin-shock bikes in their worldwide ranges, but that isn't the point. You can't sell a bike for four years harping about the monoshock only to revert to twin shocks a few years later. Someone at Honda needs to realise that Unicorn sales are not a reflection of people liking/not liking the monoshock, its a failure on the value front. So the solution lies in a perceived value correction, not the spring.

Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade
Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade
Honda CBR1000RR FirebladeThe CBUs included the CB600F Hornet, the CBR600RR and the Fireblade. The last one is simpler to deal with, so I'll take that on first. The Fireblade displaces more than 800cc so it could be a direct import. On the other hand, the other two will have to be assembled here, and CKDs look like a great idea on that front. Of the two, the CBR600RR has received some excellent, excellent reviews and I for one, can't wait to ride one. I asked one Honda official about the saree guard and the front number plate requirement. He said that the new rule – European homologation is accepted means that the big bikes won't need saree guards anymore. The front numberplate is an RTO requirement, but shouldn't be too hard to handle, since the Singapore market also requires a front plate and so solutions already exist, ready for transplant.

Honda CB600F Hornet
Honda CB600F Hornet
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Auto Expo 2008: Kinetic

Kinetic was not at the show. Among the reasons being offered were a) the Flyte launch and its popularity is forcing them to look seriously at expanding production and stuff, so the Expo would have diluted that. And b) this is a little known fact, that the Auto Expo is a seriously expensive place to participate in. It is, if not the most expensive, one of the most expensive shows to participate in. Yes, I am told the Milan Motorcycle Show is a whole lot cheaper. Kinetic plans to launch the Euro, the Italjet line Flyte competitor at some point this year. The scooter is production ready, but the rest remains to be worked out. Given the surfeit of CBUs coming, I would like to urge Kinetic to offer a regular CBU/CKD big scooter as well. Sym has a nice to ride 250, that might go down well, methinks.

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Auto Expo 2008: Royal Enfield

The saddest stall of the lot was this. There was a Machismo 500 and the Thunderbird and a couple of tents... and that's it. No unit gearbox engine, no sign of the FI engine they showed at the NEC in Birmingham... nothing. I'm very disappointed with REML's lacklustre stall and attitude. The Brits can see your next line of products, but Indian enthusiasts aren't good enough to see them, is it? I'm sorry to say this, but showing a dirty looking bike (well-used), A-stars boots, two tents and a Camelbak isn't going to cut it. Its a bike show, not Camping Expo 2008. Yes, I'm very cross.

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Auto Expo 2008: Suzuki

Suzuki showed the second saddest of all two-wheeled Auto Expo stalls. If you entered at the centre, the left was all Vietnam. I mean, Access and Zeus and Heat. Urgh. Good bikes, but kind of under-speced, no? In the middle were the Biplane concept and the 2008 Hayabusa (which looks rather nice, I thought). The right side were the DR-Z450 Supermotard, lovely white-silver GSX-R1000, Suzuki B-King (monster), a Bandit and one scooter, the Burgman 400. Nope, nothing to show for it really. Suzuki, of course, have said that big bikes are coming. Fingers crossed. I'd tip the Busa and the GSX-R1000 as the bikes to watch for. Also, Suzuki will launch its 150cc class contender in April 2008. Again, I hope for their sake, its an India-ready bike, not a Vietnamese misunderstanding.

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Auto Expo 2008: TVS Concepts

Another low-key stall. TVS had nothing to show. The aggressive looking Raptor step-through, I was shocked to see had nothing written for it. The company officials simply said, 'Sir, its a concept. No, we don't have a note on it. No, not even on the design. No, you just can see it. No, sir, I don't know anything about it at all.' Hmph. Which destroyed my appetite for appreciating the X-Fossil and the Qube. Both are evidently electric-powered concepts. They probably are not runners, and therefore, mere styling exercises. Translation – TVS wants you to know nothing of what it is working on. Pics coming soon.

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Auto Expo 2008: Yamaha YZF-R15 & FZ

Yamaha YZF-R15Yes, despite all the CBU announcements, this is the stall that was wow-ing the crowds. You see, Yamaha will launch the YZF-R15 in India come June. The mini-R1 styling wraps around a very sexy motorcycle. The frame is a proper spar job, with the present and correct light subframe. The engine is water-cooled 150cc single. As far as I can tell, it has to be a SOHC four-valve job. There seems to be a claim of more than 20 bhp, which would require a fast-flowing four-valve head. Fuel injection is there too. Also present are sticky, thin tyres, which will be a boon. All of those wondering if you need thicker tyres are barking up the wrong tree. Fat rubber is less of a handling asset than is sticky rubber. Fat contact patches only help you lay power down – great when you're fighting you way forward with a 150 bhp engine on song. But the same patch also makes the motorcycle harder to steer and change direction with. Not an asset in our everyday riding situation.

Yamaha YZF-R15All of those of you who will buy one and then upgrade rubber will lose out in the bargain. I'll guarantee that. I'm expecting a 22-odd bhp 150, displacing about 3-5 kgs more than our average 150s (extra weight of plastic and all offset by lighter aggregates throughout; my guess). The parts quality is really high, and I'm expecting to pay Rs 80-85,000 when it comes to showrooms. If the performance promise holds up, Rs 90-95,000 on-road (220 DTS-Fi territory) will be a good price point. Yamaha is clear that it will make high-quality and high-performance products for India, so expect premium pricing as well. Al this happens in June.

Yamaha FZYamaha FZIn November, Yamaha will launch the naked FZ, which uses an air-cooled engine, and lots of styling elements from the international FZ range (naked bikes from Yamaha). The engine, once again, is a 150cc unit, but torque rather than top-end glory is the aim here. So expect an effortless, likeable machine. Once more, the small bits are of a very high quality, high enough to make the RTR 160 look a bit under-designed. This one should be a more normal price, say Rs 65,000 on-road. Both FZ and the YZF-R15 have monoshocks, mind you.

Yamaha FZ and FZ1But first, Yamaha will launch two cosmetic variants of the Gladiator, called the Type SS and the Type RS. Yeah, whatever.

Specifications for YZF-R15
Engine: 150cc, four-valve SOHC,Liquid cooled
Power: 22 bhp (guesstimate)
Gearbox: 6-speed (NC)
Fuelling: Six-hole injectors, FI
Frame: [Steel] Twin-spar frame
Fuel tank: 12 litre
Length: 1995 mm
Width: 670 mm
Height: 1070 mm
Wheelbase: 1290 mm
Ground Clearance: 160 mm
Tyres: 80/90-17 (f), 100/80-17 (r) tubeless
Brakes: Front and rear disc

All images from Yamaha Motor India

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Auto Expo 2008: Electric bikes/Chinese Manufacturers

Nothing exciting at any stall. Sorry.

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Auto Expo 2008: Sparx, KBC Helmets

The other news of interest of us, bikers is that helmet maker KBC in here. They're going to have two ranges of helmets. The lower one is called Sparx. Excellent finish, great designs and neat looking visors make up the entry-level range. Vega is set to be the Indian Sparx distributor, so expect the helmets to go on sale very shortly. Blog reader Shadab says he's already spotted the helmet on sale. The company is still looking for a distributor who can handle the KBC line of premium, expensive helmets.

Price ranges are as follows:
Sparx full face and motocross helmets should range from Rs 4400-5500
KBC full face helmets should be Rs 3800-12000
KBC motocross helmets should be Rs 5500-7000
KBC half-face helmets should be Rs 1800-4500

All KBC helmets meet ECE22.05 and US DOT standards, and most full face helmets meet Snell standards as well.

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Auto Expo 2008: Triumph

Almost forgot. Triumph showed its Rocket III Classic. Yes, you didn't spot it, did you? Well, the chaps from Triumph are looking for an Indian distributor who will help them enter India. How quickly? As soon as possible mate! The Rocket III is likely to be their pick for the first Indian launch, but this isn't even close to being a final development on any front.

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Jan 8, 2008

Bajaj Discover 150, Blade and more

Well, this is all I have for the moment. In the interest of completeness, I've left the four-wheelers bits in. Pics as soon as I can dig 'em up

Bajaj Auto reveals “Lite” 4-wheeler Range at Auto-Expo 08
  • To launch Premium scooter –‘Blade’ in 2008.
  • To introduce new Discover & XCD DTS-i Sprint in 2008
  • New Lite 4-wheel Commercial Vehicles also unveiled
  • Lite Passenger 4-wheeler unveiled
New Delhi, January 8, 2008: Bajaj Auto today presented the new premium scooter the ‘Blade’, the new XCD 125 DTS-i Sprint and the new Discover DTS-i motorcycles, all slated for introduction in 2008. The company also presented two models of Lite 4-wheel commercial vehicles. The Lite Passenger vehicle to be displayed at the 9th Auto Expo in Delhi was also unveiled today.

The company previewed a Distinctly Ahead Premium Scooter, the Bajaj Blade. Unlike most market offerings in this segment which are targeted either to the Family or the Female segments, the Bajaj Blade is specifically designed for the modern urban male.

The Blade DTS-i
This premium-performance scooter completely supports its sporty styling with a powerful 125cc, 4-valve DTS-i engine to zoom ahead. The large 12-inch alloy wheels, and Disc Brakes make for sporty handling. The “Blade DTS-i” also comes with a Front Fuelling system to offer great convenience to the rider at the Petrol Pump.

This scooter is designed to get excitement back in scooters by offering a combination of performance, convenience, and modern styling.

Bajaj Auto also presented the company’s product strategy designed to shift consumers from basic 100cc commuters to superior products, which offer far better performance and features. This strategy of shifting the market has been highly successful and has gained substantial volumes, market share and delivered best in industry profitability for the company as can be seen from the table below:

Item | 2002-03 | 2006-07
Share of 125cc & higher Market in Total Motorcycle | 10% | 36%
BAL Market Share in 125cc and higher Market | 49% | 59%
Overall BAL motorcycle market share | 23% | 35%

Bajaj Auto would continue to catalyze the market up-gradation that started with the launch of Discover DTS-i in 2004 and is currently spearheaded by the recently launched XCD 125 DTS-Si. This product offered an unprecedented combination of 150cc features, 125cc performance with 100 cc mileage and has sold a record 150,000 numbers since its launch on 9th September 07. It has now become India’s leading premium motorcycle brand overtaking the Bajaj Discover DTS-i.

The company is previewing two new offerings for 2008 as part of its larger product strategy:

The XCD DTS-i Sprint
To continue the up-gradation from 100 cc alternatives, the company is launching the Bajaj XCD DTS-i Sprint. This bike has been designed for enthusiasts amongst 100cc customers who are looking for something more exciting and exclusive.

Powered by a four valve 125cc DTS-i engine, the XCD Sprint will race ahead to leave all other alternatives in the segment well behind. The Nitrox suspension in the rear, 17-inch alloy wheels, and Disc Brakes provide for sporty handling and superior riding comfort.

The New Discover 150 DTS-i
The new Sports Tourer, the Discover 150 is now positioned to upgrade the 125cc consumer and will now deliver more power and punch. It carries a lean, athletic, muscular styling with power packed performance. Fully loaded with a 150cc DTS-i engine, electric start, mag-wheels, embedded blinkers and other features, the Discover 150 DTS-i is a compelling package.

According to Mr. S. Sridhar, CEO-2-wheelers, Bajaj Auto Ltd, ”With the launch of this new bikes we will continue to upgrade customers to superior better performing alternatives. The XCD DTS-i Sprint is aimed at upgrading the biking enthusiasts among 100cc customers, the Discover 150 DTS-i at upgrading the earlier 125cc customers. These two offerings will help further consolidate our stranglehold in the 125cc and above segment.”

Lite 4-Wheelers
The company shared the “Lite” vehicle concept, which will be the foundation on which future 4-wheelers will be launched. This Lite range, in two basic forms -- one as a Lite Passenger carrier and the other as Lite Commercial vehicles would provide economical and environment friendly transportation solutions for personal as well as goods movement. The Lite vehicle concept would first offer low running costs & affordable monthly outflows coupled with a reasonable cost of acquisition. This would lead to an unbeatable “total cost of operation”.

The Lite Passenger vehicle to be displayed at the expo has been entirely conceptualized and designed by the Bajaj team at Akurdi. Bajaj Auto would be spearheading the project while Renault-Nissan will give valuable inputs for development. This vehicle will be manufactured in the new Chakan plant near Pune.

The company will also be launching two Lite Commercial vehicles in 2009. Two base models with short and longer wheelbases were presented. These two base models could then have varying body frames for various application i.e. open bodied pick-up van, close bodied delivery van, soft drink, gas cylinder carriers etc. These vehicles will powered by a multi-cylinder diesel engine.

According to Mr. R.C. Maheshwari, CEO-CV, Bajaj Auto, “We have frozen the key performance parameters for the new commercial vehicles. The values that will drive the business will be those of innovation and offering the highest value for our customers. The Lite Commercial vehicles will also be rolled out from the new Chakan plant.”

This “Distinctly Ahead” product line-up undeniably reaffirms Bajaj Product leadership by offering consumers innovative technology, unique features, outstanding performance and landmark styling.
Related links:

Jan 5, 2008

We're Noobs 3: Chris Pfeiffer

See if you can spot why this stunt video is S P E C T A C U L A R!
If you didn't spot it already, that performance was in the wet!

Need a laugh?

Absolutely hilarious. Don't miss the captioned photos, either.
Click here and then click on Biker Yoga on the left navi bar
Heads up: bikernewsonline.com

Hidden riding tips

2008 Yamaha YZF-R6I was reading an article about the new Yamaha YZF-R6, when I noticed that there are riding tips hidden in the articles. the specific passage was talking about the new electronics. It said that the systems helped settle the bike into corners by controlling the engine braking. To be precise, the computers don't completely close the throttle when you brake. This reduces the suddenness and intensity of the fork dive. (I'll post the exact quote in a bit, can't find that Cycle World). The whole intention is to ease and smooth the transition from an extended suspension state to a compressed one. the point is that it tells you what you could be doing to ride better. Freddy Spencer was known for closing the throttle fully AFTER he had begun to brake. or was it Eddie Lawson. He was doing manually, then, what the new R6 does electronically, now.

The next time you read about the latest in motorcycle electronics, remember to think about whether there is a thought in there that might help you go faster.

Image: Yamaha

Vote only!

I'd like to know a little bit more about you guys, demographics wise. So please, if you haven't voted already, please scroll down a bit and click the poll. The poll closed in the middle, but I've reopened it. Thanks!

How old are you?

Yamaha YZ-R150 : Check out this blog!

I was just pointed to this (seems like that blog has been taken off air. The Google Cached version is here) blog. And it sounds right. I've met a few, um, I guess you could call them people who know about the bike, but are bound by contract (or otherwise... if you say one clear, un-obfuscated word, we shall tie you to an R1 saree guard and drag you around the Nurburgring until your a** shines like fresh armco) to say nothing more than adjectives. These persons uniformly said that the market leader's bikes were, in fact, slow. And that their new bike would change the way we looked at performance motorcycles. They alluded to that fact that what we are buying are mere motorcycles, and we're only adding the word performance as a prefix because we've nowhere else to put it.

In that light, the suggestions that the blog makes do seem to be accurate, give or take a few percentage points. The cosmetics, on the lines of the R125 would be wonderful, although in that department, that V-Ixion is likely to be a greater influence. The monoshock, stepped seat (will not be a single seat, no way. If it was, I'd buy myself a celebratory beer) are a no-brainer. The 150cc displacement isn't. As of yesterday, the FMSCI two-wheeler racing regs allow motorcycles up to 165cc. Yamaha will surely want to show off the R150's prowess in racing. So I'm not sure that the motorcycle will actually be a 150. If I were Yamaha, I'd give myself an R1. No, no, that's not what I was saying. I'd definitely push the limits, and make a 164cc motorcycle.

The blog also quotes some performance numbers, which again, seem to be on target. A 22 bhp, 120 kg motorcycle should manage in the region of 150 kph, with the right gearing. Again, if I were Yamaha, I'd gear it for about 140 kph too. In which case, economy would roughly be 35 kpl (hard) and yes, about 40 kpl (civil). For all this to happen, and to meet the emissions norms, fuel injection is definitely on. Four valves are actually 70s tech that are yet to make in impact in India. Fingers crossed. Maybe our engine heads will finally cross over into the 70s. But seriously, that kind of top end power will requires lots of fuel and air flow, so four valves, still SOHC though, I'd fall out of my chair if the engine head turned out to be DOHC.

In any case, I hope what the blog is saying is true. Including the price. Rs 80,000 for something like that, might cause a real (as opposed to virtual) dent in my household budget, even.

Oh, speculating is lovely, innit

Related links:

Jan 3, 2008

Motorcycles: Happy New Year

Now that the awards are given (posts below), it is time to wish you a Happy New Year. I would love to do a wishlist 2008 like I did last year, but if you guys don't mind, I'd like to hold that till the Auto Expo has blown right over, leaving us clues scattering in the cold Delhi wind.

What steps forward did we take last year, then? Um, lets see. Bajaj showed that it is rapidly understanding how bikes become one cohesive, emotive units. Yes, I mean the 220 and the 200. Now, if the quality were to go up one notch and the KTMs would start going on sale... In the process, we now have hi-po headlamps, fuel injection and tubeless tyres. From other Pulsars, we have LED tail lamps, digital dashes. All small steps to be sure. But the big step, Bajaj wise, was just how good the 220 felt in motion. That, was the big step forward. The same is true of the TVS Apache 160. One more motorcycle that came together. Especially the aluminium bits in the package, the crafted levers and stuff. Plus the quick handling and the raging motor. From the Flyte, we learnt that with the right guiding hand, even perpetual 'errors' can be erased.

From the Karizma, we learnt that cosmetic jobs may not always work. From the Unicorn, we learnt, they sometimes, though, they do work.

From the Access, we figured out that packaging is important. From the Machismo 500, we figured out that that's not always obvious.

From the Discover 135, we learnt that a little more displacement can be nice. From the Shine upgrade, we learnt that more displacement, sometimes, is not the end-all and be-all.

And more or less, that would be about it. 2007's biggest achievement is that India's first CBU motorcycles are now on sale. The problem is that, more or less, is the only really big step forward.

2008, on the other hand, is glowing with a lot more promise. All the best to you. And may your fingers hurt from being crossed in anticipation and before you get drunk on 31 December 2008, may you have lots to celebrate.

And if you're wondering, Asahi is now available in India. Another beer that I happen to love.

Oh crap: read this

I wrote this one year ago.... Time flies. Nothing changes. Sigh.
In the new year...

Rearset's Annual Motorcycle Awards: List One

Design of the year
One more year has passed, and nope, the design of the year award, once more, swings over the motorcycles' collective heads and lands squarely in Apple's lap. What a lovely, lovely, looking instrument.

Performance motorcycle of the year (tie)
Pulsar 220 DTS-Fi & ...
I whole-heartedly, totally without cheek confer this rather prestigious award on the Pulsar 220 DTS-Fi. I think the Pulsar 220 is a stormingly good motorcycle. From the Bajaj family, all told, I don't think there has been a single motorcycle that could be accused of being more at ease with itself, and of being more than the sum of its parts. Super job.

Now, why is this a tie? Because, I don't think the P220 has as much performance as it should have – both for the money, and for the displacement. It'd be easy to say 25 bhp is better than 20 bhp, but what I mean is that I would have been happier if the motorcycle felt more muscular on the power delivery front. Powerful enough to justify the Rs 15,000 over the P200.

You want muscular feel? My second pick for the award, and I'm sharing the goodies on this is the TVS Apache RTR 160, the first barely-legal motorcycle in the country. May there be more. A more aggressive motorcycle than the RTR we have not had in quite a while and that alone is deserving of an award. Hey... there's an idea.

Naked Aggression of the year
TVS Apache RTR 160
Well, I've already said most of the it. The TVS Apache is easily the most aggressive of all Indian motorcycles and you've got to love it for that. The engine's very-much race bred and feels it. The chassis is a rabbit being chased by a predator but with far more ability. Direction changes are lightning quick, almost borderline unstable when you string them together. But it looks great, goes really well and personally, I think it's the right size for a 150cc single. The competition's a bit large, no?

Deserving bike of the year
Suzuki Access 125
This is the scooter that should have stolen all the twist-go thunder. It had a nice engine, superb build quality and all of that. But that Activa-clone style...

Scooter of the year
Kinetic-Sym Flyte
I want Kinetic to drink more of whatever the chaps from Sym are drinking. After the promising, but ultimately flimsy Blaze, comes the normal, but for a Kinetic, stonkingly good scooter. Japanese build quality, a solid quality feel, superb handling and ride quality... I love that scooter. Wish it had 10 more bhp

Bike of the year
Bajaj Pulsar 200 DTSi
This is the sole serious award I hand out. And this year, my Bike Of The Year is the Bajaj Pulsar 200. In my book, this is easily the most sorted of all of the Pulsars, and feels absolutely great to ride at any pace you choose. Stunningly good looks – especially given the ultra-insistent family resemblance – complete a very muscular, modern, fresh looking package. And for the performance, the price is hard to argue against as well. More like this, please.

Read about last year's winners