Words: Amit Chhangani
Images: Navendu Singh / Amit Chhangani
The Discover 125 ST is not just another refreshed bike from Bajaj as some of you may reckon. It’s a significant overhaul in terms of identifying the essence of a brand and reinventing it without taking its soul away. The Discover in its new 125 ST avatar features some of the most significant changes since the time the brand was incepted. As some of you would remember, the 125cc segment was where it all started – the Discover took birth as a .125 liter machine trying to straddle the bread and butter 100cc and the 150cc ‘performance’ segments. It could deliver a fuel efficiency of more than 50kmpl, while also having the grunt for a genuine 100km/h top whack.
After spawning innumerable variants, and being asked to play every possible role in sub-segments spanning 100 and 150cc, the Discover, in its most comprehensive overhaul yet, arrives again as a 125cc machine. And guess what, I’m elated! For that’s where the essence of this brand lies, and there couldn’t have been a better cubic capacity version to have received such a thorough overhaul.
So what’s new about the Discover 125 ST? Is it substantially different and advanced than its forebears or is it just another marketing gimmick from another two wheeler major trying to cash in on the insurmountable Indian bike bazaar. Well, I’m happy to affirm here that the new Discover 125 in its ST avatar is a genuinely re-engineered product and not just a sticker upgrade. Much thought has gone into the design and development of the vehicle and it can safely be called a ground-up effort in most of the departments. Let’s deconstruct the various aspects of this new machine
The design team at Bajaj Auto has taken great pains to give the Discover a more modern, contemporary and appealing personality without drifting away from the brand’s core design ethos. The Discover 125 ST, in its effort to transition into its next generation version has borrowed some cues from its elder sibling, the Pulsar – the ‘fox-eye’ pilot lamps being one of the more evident giveaways. An attempt to bestow the Discover with a sportier character, somewhat like the Pulsar, is evident across the new bike’s surface.
Novelty abounds on the new Discover, no matter where you position your gaze. The headlamp is a new unit, much bigger in size than the one on the earlier Disco. The entire headlamp unit, now with a bigger crown looks sharper and more aggressive. It’s now extended and lowered, a bit more towards the fender in a bid to add more mass to the front end of the bike. Thanks to the new headlamp, the old number plate would have crashed with the front fender with a fully decompressed front suspension. The problem was overcome with a new design where the license plate now extends ahead of the headlamp. The front fender features a more angular shape and more mass.
All those details put together work wonders to the Discover’s front end. The upgrade is clearly identifiable as a Discover in the first glance, but the moment you compare it with its earlier avatar, you realize how much sharper and more purposeful the front end looks when compared with its earlier iteration.
Ample changes have been made in profile too. The chiseled tank is now looks bigger, with more ergonomically crafted knee recesses. The seat is new as well with a wide and comfortable cushion. The pillion seat is raised higher now, giving it a proper ‘step’ look, lending a more athletic personality to the contraption.
The side panels have been changed, and so have been the graphics. The previous gen Discover was a graphic heavy bike with decals splattered across its length. The new version cuts down on the painting bit. The central side panel is now finished in a contrasting silver with ‘4 Valve’ emblazoned across, with the redesigned fuel knob positioned within. The rear panel and grab rail have also been newly crafted. Along with the more exotic looking ten spoke alloys and the monoshock at the rear the Discover 125 ST looks decidedly sportier, more substantial and more premium than its predecessor.
Apart from these bigger, more evident changes, some other smaller parts have also been redesigned. The instrumentation cluster is now a combo of a big circular speedo and a smaller angular fuel gauge. The tell tale lights sit below the combo in a rectangular housing. The speedo and tell tale light housings have been chrome lined adding a premium feel to the assembly. The front and rear blinkers are a new design and so are the rear view mirrors. Angular, tapering towards the end and with scooped out surfaces on the back – they’re as trendy as they’re functional with their wide positioning.
At the rear, the slanted, straight exhaust has been dumped in favor of a new unit which is raised higher to lend a more front-forward stance to the bike. The tail-lamp has undergone a design overhaul too, and has replaced the chrome inserted unit on the earlier bike which we were never very fond of. The new unit comprises three horizontal illuminated, wavy stepped slats joined by a central, wide spine which is illuminated too. Around the wheels, you witness probably the most ‘hugged’ tyre in the world. The upper half of the rear tyre has literally been obscured by two huggers to prevent the mud from being slung onto the slipstreamers or onto your own ironed shirt on a rainy day. Over and above those two huggers you have the usual mud flap holding the number plate in place. The arrangement would probably be of use in the rains, but it’s still an overdone bit in our opinion.
You’d need to have a good look at the Discover ST 125 to understand and appreciate all the small changes incorporated on the new bike. As we stated earlier, putting the images of the two bikes side-by-side would make you understand the effort that has gone into this redesign, and how beautifully the design guys at Bajaj have managed to make the bike substantially better looking without taking the essence of the Discover away. Impressive job, that!
Engine & transmission
The trusty old 125cc engine of the Discover has received its most rigorous overhaul yet for the 125 ST. The most visible difference is the corrugated fins on the engine block. Increased surface area to dissipate heat means the engine runs cooler, aiding both performance and efficiency. Further increasing the engine breathing and thus the power and efficiency of the engine is the 4 valve head replacing the earlier 2 valve unit. A good amount of engineering effort has gone into overhauling this block and the result shows. Power is up by an impressive 2 units to 13PS at 9000 rpm.
Stepping out of those numbers on paper and swinging a leg around the comfy seat of the bike would let you realize that the difference has translated from the paper to the tar as well. The Discover 125 ST’s engine feels surprisingly responsive. Tractability is exceptionally good and the bike gathers pace with confidence even at low rpms. There is no tachometer so it’s difficult to tell the exact rev range, but we tried pulling along with two-up from as low as 25km/h and witnessed no signs of spluttering. In fact, we used the third gear to pull from sub 10km/h speeds without bringing the clutch into play with success. Of course, the acceleration from those speeds in high gears is very slow and you have to slot into a smaller gear if you wish to charge ahead. For daily commuters, however, who don’t mind riding in higher gears, the Discover should spell a lot of convenience.
Open up the throttle a bit, hop through gear and you realize that the smooth shifting five speed transmission has the ratios well spread out. The progression is power delivery is maintained, and at no shift, even in moderate revs do you feel the bike getting out of breath while upshifting, or feel a sudden jerk while downshifting. The shift pattern on the new Discover has been changed from the earlier all-down to the new one down four up. It’s a great relief, for you don’t have to learn or unlearn anything anymore having switched to the most popular shift pattern across the world.
Whacking the throttle wide open and accelerating hard through gears makes it evident that the new Discover has some added spunk for a 125cc. Since there was no tacho, we tried to figure the revs based on the engine sound and speed markings, and realized that the engine, and resultantly the foot-pegs and handlebar do get a bit vibey after what should, in our opinion be the 6000-6500 rpm mark. Hitting a ton and going a bit beyond that point shouldn’t be too tough on this baby.
Ergonomics and features
Rest your behind over the wide, comfortable seat, extend your hands, and the handlebars would fall to your hands just right. The new Discover 125 offers a very comfortable riding position. It’s not overly upright, nor sporty. It’s just that wee bit short of a typical commuter position which makes you feel at home no matter whether you are coming to her from a Splendor or a Pulsar. The handlebar grips are done in good quality rubber with dimpled bars ends – a neat detail. The quality of plastics on the switchgear and finishing on the metal joints too doesn’t leave anything to complain about. Plastic quality on the panels and neatness at the places where the panels meet is quite appreciable too.
On the left switchgear set, you have high / low beam toggle, turn indicator switch and a day flasher button. On the right hand side you have headlamp on / off / pilot switch with electric starter button. There is no engine kill switch though. Both these panels flank the central instrument cluster which is home to a speedo marked upto 140km/h and done in a racy yellow / white / red markings with a black dial. The unit also houses the odo and trip meter.
The new design Discover 125 ST key
To the right of the circular speedo you have an angularly shaped fuel gauge. Below that you have your tell tale lights indicating blinker on, low battery, neutral gear, high beam along with a blue backlit Bajaj logo.
The seat, as mentioned earlier is sufficiently wide and comfy, both for the rider and pillion. The nicely styled rear view mirrors are placed wide enough to do a good job of watching your back. The grab rail is a simple yet sleek design and is a practical bit with more than enough space to let you slide your fingers beneath.
The Discover 125ST may not be packed tight to the brim with all the bells and whistles. One may miss a digital speedo – something which is increasingly becoming the norm of the day. However, Bajaj auto have put their effort in things that matter more – the engine, the transmission, the mechanicals and other cycle parts. With cost playing the decisive role in this segment, we can easily understand why Bajaj decided to go modest with some visual eye candy as they had appreciably put in that money in providing a better powertrain.
Ride and handling
Apart from the new 4 valve engine with corrugated fins, another feather in the Discover ST125 ST’s cap is its rear mono shock unit making it the first motorcycle in the segment with the feature. Unlike in most other situations, one is better than two in the case of a bike’s rear suspension. The gas charged monoshock unit, termed ‘Nitrox’ in Bajaj’s marketing lingo seems to have turned out rather well.
The nine-step adjustable mono shock unit lends the bike more poise and stability than its twin suspension predecessors, especially while leaned over. We found the setting to be a slightly on the stiffer side, especially for a commuter machine. With a pillion on, however, the suspension became more pliant and comfortable. Adjusting the rear mono for a setting of your liking should do the trick.
On the move, the Discover feels like an agile little machine even with its rather heavy weight. As mentioned earlier, the handlebars fall easily to hand, offering a very comfortable and easy riding position. It’s delightfully easy to maneuver, effortlessly flickable, and easy to dip or pick back up around bends.
With its grunty engine, strong mid range torque and a balanced chassis-suspension combo, the Discover ST 125 is one of the most accomplished handling packages for its class, let down only by the rather slim footwear. Leaning the bike over into the corners isn’t as confidence-inspiring as it should be for a bike which isn’t entirely meant for a Point A to B commuter. You tend to take a wider line around corners as you don’t quite get convinced by the stickiness of the rubber to lean in further. The theory gets further substantiated as your hear the tyres wail when the 200mm front discs (which by the way have good bite for their size) and the 130mm rear drum brakes swing hard into action. While those tyres are quite manageable for everyday commuters in dry weather, monsoons may be a worrisome time.
Summing it up
The prices have not yet been announced for the new Discover 125 ST variants, but the brand would continue to target the upwardly mobile commuters, which means that the price has to be kept in check. Expect the pricing to range between Rs 50-55k depending on the goodies you choose. That’s still slightly more than what you pay for your regular 100cc commuter. Our gripes include the thin tyres, which Bajaj insist aid fuel efficiency, and the relatively vibey nature of the engine post 6500 rpm. That said none of vices mentioned above are bothersome enough for someone to change his buying decision.
You have to give due credit to the product planning and tech guys at Bajaj. With the Discover 125 ST, they have managed to lift this brand from being yet another 125cc motorcycle to a properly differentiated and significantly better offering. With 13 PS of power, four valves per cylinder, segment-first monoshock suspension and significantly better styling if the ST is offered at a price which doesn’t shift up significantly, the Discover would make an extremely strong case for itself. A gallant effort by Bajaj, and we sincerely hope it pays off!