With a bald look, a bushy beard and a beefy physique, people often confuse me for a cruiser guy. I’m not! Personally, I prefer adventure tourers which can easily take in their stride any kind of surface – smooth stretched-out highways, or the tribulations en route Ladakh. Yet, there has been something about every cruiser motorcycle that I have ridden till date that has made me come back with a feeling of satisfaction.
Images: Chirag Mondal
In theory, cruiser motorcycles are supposed to be those easy-to-ride, relaxed machines which are more about the ride experience than specs and performance. Maybe that’s why, more often than not, you won’t find the power output figures of products on the websites of cruiser motorcycle manufacturers like Indian Motorcycles or Harley Davidson. They mention the torque instead, a factor that helps those mammoths cruise along at lazy speeds effortlessly.
So while I wasn’t very keen on sampling the new Avenger line up, as always, I came back rather satisfied after a day long experience with the cruiser machines. For 2015, Bajaj has expanded its Avenger portfolio with the inclusion of two new models to accompany the classic cruiser. So now, Bajaj’s Avenger line-up comprises three motorcycles – Avenger 220 Cruise, Avenger 220 Street and the Avenger 150 Street. While my colleague will share his experience with the Avenger 150 Street through his detailed review elsewhere on these pages, allow me to take you through my ride experience with the new 220 Avenger duo in this writeup.
2015 Bajaj Avenger 220 Street and 220 Cruise Review
The Bajaj Avenger, that started its journey as the Kawasaki Eliminator, never really saw many visual upgrades. The accessible cruiser, before its latest model overhaul, came dressed in a monotone colour. The labels and graphics on the body were limited to manufacturer and model name, and engine type sticker on the fuel tank and side panels. For 2015, however, Bajaj has dropped the vanilla colour scheme and embellished the motorcycle with new graphics on the fuel tank, along with a newly developed Avenger 3D-logo aimed at creating a fresher appeal for the brand. The engine displacement, along with the variant name is mentioned on the side panel. The brand name can also be spotted on various components such as the handlebar clamp and behind the pillion backrest.
In the Cruise avatar, the econo-cruiser gets a heavy dose of chrome all around. Starting from the new white hue headlight, re-designed crane-neck handlebars, bar-end weights, rear-view mirrors, fuel-gauge & speedo, crash guards, exhaust pipe, oil-cooler cover, horn cover, pillion backrest bracket mount and back plate, rear brake lever, you can witness the sparkling treatment almost everywhere. While generous lashings of chrome are not new to the Avenger, the shiny adornment somehow manages to stand out and dazzle a bit more on the new model. The new graphics on the motorcycle may not be as subtle as its forebear, but will likely appeal to a wider audience.
Other features on the motorcycle include clear lens blinkers, a newly designed handlebar, 15mm taller seat (with a unique, leather mimicking pattern on the rider area), new drive chain, re-tweaked second spring rate in rear suspension and an improved Capacitor discharge ignition (CDI). The position of the tell-tale indicators remains same as the previous model and they continue to sit next to the fuel gauge, right above the fuel filling cap on the massive chrome drenched panel on top of the tank. The positioning of the tell-tale lights within the cluster does not change either and the four lights continue to display the neutral indicator, turn lights, high beam sign and low battery indication.
As mentioned before, the overall treatment on the Avenger Cruise is relatively jazzier, but maybe that’s what Bajaj wants – to make its cruiser dazzle and make its presence felt more conspicuously. The Bajaj Avenger, besides the Yamaha Enticer for a brief period of time, did not really have any threat up until 2014 when the US based motorcycle manufacturer United Motorcycles showcased its India bound products at the Auto Expo in Delhi. While the US based brand is yet to debut in the Indian market, 2016 may see the Avenger sharing the segment with new products. Maybe that’s why Bajaj has buckled up already and, unlike 2011, has had a grand launch for the new Avenger series. Remember that the Indian two-wheeler major might not be participating in the 2016 Auto Expo.
With the 220 Street, Bajaj is targeting the more street oriented, modern and urbane riders, who want their cruiser with a contemporary twist. Now there has been a lot of buzz around the Bajaj Avenger 220 Street being inspired by the Harley-Davidson Street 750. The Avenger 220 Street, with its dark theme, the design of the alloy wheels and the front suspension dust guard does indeed remind one of the Street in terms of the appearance. Heck, it even shares its name with the American cruiser. However, one must remember that Bajaj hasn’t made any radical changes to the original Avenger to mimic the styling of the Street 750. Minor changes like black painted alloy wheels, matte paint colour scheme and the new exhaust outlet apart, the Avenger 220 Street carries on with its classic decade old design – more or less.
The new Avenger 220 Street is targeted for city dwellers who seldom ride out of the town. The 220 Street drops almost all the chrome and comes wrapped in a stealth matte black and brushed silver finish paint job. Apart from the ring that surrounds the headlight and a ring around the speedometer, there aren’t many chrome bits on the motorcycle. In fact, even the engine and the exhaust pipe come finished in a matte black paint job. The former gets a contrasting, silver finished heat guard.
The matte black paint job is accompanied by new graphics. The newly designed 3D Avenger logo on the fuel comes in a brushed finish for the 220 Street unlike the shiny chrome treatment for the Cruise. The fuel tank hood holding the fuel gauge and tell-tale indicators comes finished in matt black here. The rider seat on the Street variant features a very subtle mesh pattern on the surface, to enhance grip and prevent the rider from sliding under braking.
The front fender and the tail cowl of the Street are finished in a glossy paint, unlike the rest of the body which gets a matte treatment. There’s also a thick grey strip running through the length of the motorcycle – starting from the front fender, it continues over the tank hood, and culminates at the rear cowl.
The Street variant doesn’t get a pillion back rest, though the grab bar shares its shape on the sides with the Cruise variant. While the grab bar extends itself as, well, a grab bar on the Street variant, it transforms into a padded backrest in the case of the Cruise. So if you are okay with some chrome on that stealthy black finish, it should not be a problem to install a back rest on the 220 Street too.
Another noticeable update is the new, lower and flatter handlebar for the Street that is aimed to provide better manoeuvrability in city riding – more on that in the ergonomics segment. The handlebar gets the Avenger branding between the clamps albeit in a matte black finish unlike the Cruise’s chrome.
The overall design retains its classic lines and offers some twist in the form of a difference in treatment. The Avenger is a value product, and Bajaj have taken into consideration the taste and sensibilities of the masses while turning it out. It may not be the most tastefully created cruiser out there, but if you really are into fine details, you should really be looking elsewhere, of course with a much bigger wad of cash.
Meet the new Bajaj Avenger 220 Cruise and 220 Street in Detail
For 2015, Bajaj has dropped the vanilla colour scheme and embellished the motorcycle with new graphics
The Avenger 220 Street does indeed remind one of the Street 750 but remember that Bajaj hasn’t made any radical changes to the original Avenger to mimic the styling of the Street 750.
The 220 Street gets a lower and flatter handlebar that is aimed to provide better manoeuvrability in city riding
The 220 Cruise comes equipped with a re-designed crane-neck handlebar that brings noticeable change in ergonomics
The 220 Cruise gets a chrome finished handlebar (top) while the 220 Street gets a matte black unit (bottom). The handlebar clamp with the Avenger brand tag gets a different finish
The crash guards too get different treatment. 220 Cruise (above) gets a chrome finish while the 220 Street (below) gets matte black paint
You can also see the “Usable Range” of your rear brake liner
Both Cruise and Street variants get chrome finished side stand
The mirrors on both the motorcycles provide adequate view of the road behind you and can be used in vertical or horizontal position
A toolbox is neatly placed below the battery, behind the right side panel. The box can hold the papers or a toolkit quite efficiently. Accessing it though is bit of a task
Both motorcycles get a hinged fuel filler cap that is placed on the panel above the fuel tank
The exhaust pipes and heat shields are different too. While the Avenger 220 Cruise gets a chrome finished exhaust and heat shield, the 220 Street gets a matte painted unit
Wires are held in their respective places with steel brackets
The new Bajaj 220 Avenger duo continues to use a carburetor engine and you can see the choke and fuel knob in their usual places
A helmet lock can be found under the rear panel on the new Avenger series
The Avenger started using the Pulsar 220 DTS-i’s 220cc power plant 2011 onwards and it seems like Bajaj didn’t feel the need for updating that motor. So, for 2015, the Avenger duo, in their large hearted avatars continue to draw power from the same 220cc oil-cooled single cylinder motor that is tuned to deliver 19 PS of power @ 8400 RPM and 17.5 Nm of torque at 7000 RPM.
The engine on the new motorcycle remains untouched, though Bajaj Auto claims to have improved the CDI for better throttle response and lowered NVH characteristics. Now, the Avenger has a likeably throaty engine note which may be somewhat gruff aurally but doesn’t into any vibrations at low to mid revs. Rev the engine harder, though, and some vibes start filtering through the footpegs and can be felt under your posterior as well. While the bar ends on the handlebar do help somewhat in neutralizing the vibrations, the Avenger cannot be termed the most refined cruiser out there.
The engine, by itself, however has the much applauded mid range grunt which gave the Pulsar 220 its addictive surge in mid revs. It may not be the torquiest lower down the barrel, but it’s reasonably tractable and splutters only when you try to make it trundle at very low speeds in higher gears. Vibrations apart, the new Avenger feels reasonably revvy, and with its capable power plant, can handle city streets and open highways with equal aplomb. The gear shifts, during our short stint with the new Avenger series, felt light, crisp and were precise with nothing to complain about.
Braking is satisfactory too but nothing too amazing to write home about. A 260mm disc brake upfront and a 130mm drum unit at the rear provide the stopping power and work adequately well to halt the motorcycle. The 220 Cruise and 220 Street do not get ABS to keep the costs low, though we do believe that the addition of the active safety feature would have been a great inclusion. With the upcoming safety norms, we may see the next upgrade of the Avengers being equipped with ABS’s safety net.
A 90/90×17 tyre upfront and a 130/90×15 tyre at the rear, similar to the outgoing Avenger, come from MRF. The rubber performs reasonably well for day to day use, though it isn’t the grippiest compound out there by a long shot. Grab on to the front brake lever hard and it doesn’t take much for the front to wash away, the rear too, despite its wide cross section would squeal rather quickly if you managed to lock the wheel.
To sum it up, for the price you’re paying, the Avenger 220 offers great performance, with a decent low end and commendable mid-range. There is ample juice higher up the revs, too, but you wouldn’t be too keen on extracting that, as the vibes, especially on this sort of a platform wouldn’t encourage you to do that. The Avenger can take the highways on and carry triple digit speeds without breaking much of a sweat. The engine isn’t among the smoothest units out there, but it most definitely delivers on the acceleration and performance fronts.
Watch the outgoing Avenger 220 and the 220 Cruise individually and you really cannot pin-point many differences though there are quite a few. While most of the motorcycle remains identical to the outgoing Avenger, the added seat height of 15mm and the revised handlebar have brought a noticeable and a commendable change to the rider’s triangle. The riding position on the 220 Cruise is more upright than the outgoing Avenger 220 which offers more cruiser like ergonomics. The seat height which has been extended with added foam further enhances the comfort to the rider.
The switchgear also remains indistinguishable and equally accessible as the previous model.
The 220 Cruise’s new handlebar looks classically stylish, though as is the case with most of those crane-neck handlebars, it isn’t the most comfortable or functional. The high-set bar grips offer an upright riding position, which makes you look good on a cruiser, but transfers most of your weight on the lower back and buttocks, which isn’t the most comfortable seating position for long hauls.
The key-hole continues to stay next to the engine on the right-side of the motorcycle. In our belief, the ignition and handle lock could have been integrated to make it more convenient for the rider.
The Avenger is a cruiser, though in the stock trim it doesn’t offer any protection against windblasts. However, a tall windscreen is available as an option for an additional Rs 2,500. We’d suggest go for it, if you wish to show this cruiser some open highways.
The 220 Street is based on the same chassis as the Avenger but an altered handlebar shape and position lends this version with notably different ergonomics. The 220 Street is designed for city riding with the new lower and flatter handlebar targeted to provide better manoeuvrability and it does manage to do a pretty decent job. The rider’s triangle is completely different, and slightly better than the 220 Cruise as the ergonomics distribute a part of the weight on the wrist and shoulders, reducing the stress on your rear. While one may want to believe that the Cruise variant, complying with the traditional cruiser stance would be a great touring companion, over longer distances, the Street might actually turn out to be a less tiresome motorcycle of the two.
Another small thing that we’d like to point out is the contours of the fuel tank. The big tank on the Avenger is the centrepiece of its muscular presence. It’s wide, too, and for the taller riders, the extended flanks of the reservoir may not allow the most comfortable position for the knees and thighs in the longer run. Better contours with carved recesses for the knees would have been a detail to appreciate here.
The switches are identical to the 220 Cruise and are easily accessible without having to stretch the thumb. Moreover, the optional windscreen which is primarily designed for 220 Cruise, can be directly attached to the 220 Street as well.
With their big, fat seats and a relaxed riding position, both the motorcycles feel supremely comfortable over short to medium distances. As seasoned endurance riders know, though, it’s not really the seat padding, but the distribution of weight that matters for cross country runs, and in that sense, we will rate the Street slightly above the cruise as regards ergonomics and comfort.
Ride and handling
Cruisers inherently don’t allow for a very long suspension travel, owing to the low ride height that lends them their visual character. This was a bit of an issue with the previous generation Avenger, as its customers complained of the rear suspension bottoming out upon passing a sharp bump, especially while riding two-up.
Bajaj have tried to address this issue by introducing a double rated spring setup at the rear. So while the damping characteristics remain the same, the spring rating has been changed for better bump stop and a delay in bottoming in on bad roads. What this essentially means for a layman is that the suspension isn’t as cushy as before, without being overly stiff. So for small to medium bumps, the softer rated spring does most of the absorption, with the stiffer rated springs swinging into action over sharper ridges, offering more resistance and preventing the set-up from crashing in.
Has it worked? Well, at slow to medium speeds, the ride feels slightly stiffer than before, though it evens out at faster speeds. The Avenger feels more composed than before with two-up riding. The suspension feels more compliant with a pillion on than while riding solo, especially at city speeds. Overall, the suspension doesn’t leave anything to complain about, though it is noticeably stiffer than what we have seen on the Avenger before, for the better.
As regards handling, the Avenger, with its long wheelbase and cruiser characteristics, isn’t a motorcycle that’s meant for corner carving. While the reality isn’t much different and you really cannot go knee scraping, the motorcycle can handle a set of twisties when thrown at it. The Street variant, for obvious reasons should be the tool of choice if you wish to include snaking through winding roads over a weekend as an activity to undertake with your motorcycle. The Cruise, with its higher set bar lends itself more to straighter patches of tar, though it isn’t too far behind its straight handled sibling in dealing with windy roads.
As we mentioned before we have our inhibitions about that MRF rubber. Though we fully understand that this motorcycle isn’t meant to do the kind of things we tried doing with it. a bit more bite from the shoes wouldn’t have hurt.
With the tweaked suspension the Avenger does present itself as a slightly better machine at leaning over and sitting back up. This isn’t really the machine you’d like to test the limits of on switchbacks, though. What matters more in this case is straight line stability, and good bite from those brakes. And the Avenger scores favourably well on those two counts.
For Rs 84,000, the new Avenger 220 is a lot of motorcycle. It’s the incarnation of the dreams of a wide majority of audience in our part of the world at a price point which is actually affordable. It may not be the best motorcycle for its specific genre, but it’s one hell of a product from the value perspective.
You see, it only takes a 50cc two-stroke moped to quench an adolescent’s thirst for thrills. On the other hand, not even a 250hp rocket on two wheels satiates a seasoned MotoGP rider. While connoisseurs wouldn’t settle for anything less than the finest single malt from Isla region, an everyday drinker would be happy downing his dram of IMFL. Different blokes, different poisons.
In that context, is the Avenger a true-blue cruiser? The simple answer is no, from the perspective of an erudite man with fine taste in expensive motorcycles and deep pockets. For another everyday guy, who looks at that 12-lakh cruiser and emanates a sigh, the Avenger, in both its Street and Cruise guises, is indeed the most accessible way to Feel Like God. Get the gist?
Here are some more images and technical specifications to know the new Bajaj Avenger 220 Street and 220 Cruise in detail:
|Parameter||Avenger 220 Cruise / 220 Street|
|Power (PS) @ rpm||19@8400|
|Torque (Nm) @ rpm||17.5@7000|
|Overall length (mm)||2177|
|Overall width (mm)||806 / 801|
|Height (mm)||1142 / 1070|
|Ground Clearance (mm)||169|
|Kerb weight (kg)||155 / 150|
|Tyre size – Front]||90/90×17|
|Tyre size – Rear]||130/90×15|
|Fuel tank (lts)||14|
|Brakes: Front (mm)||260 Disc|
|Brakes: Rear (mm)||130 Drum|