The one-two-five Conundrum

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125s are the new 100s, they say. Well I don’t think so. The problem with the current 125s is that the manufacturers are never satisfied with just 25% improvement over a 100 cc bike. They are always hunting for something extra and in doing so they tend to just lose the plot, entirely. The Super Splendor and Glamour FI go all out for fuel efficiency. But apart from that, they don’t offer any significant upgrade over the 100s and retail for at least 10 grand more. The Yamaha Gladiator tries to deliver a good top-end whack but loses out big-time in terms of drivability. The Stunner goes for low-end grunt and drivability is no better than the 150s in terms of fuel-efficiency and has a top speed only marginally better than the 100s. The Stunner FI does manage to do all things right but what were Honda smoking when they came up with a price tag of 73 thousand bucks?

Maybe today’s manufacturers need to take a leaf out of the history books. The only 125 that didn’t try to be anything more than a 125 was the first 4-stroke 125 to be introduced into the market. Launched in 1998 the YBX 125 was actually a nice machine without any pretentious figures on its spec sheet, but it didn’t sell. Sadly, the bike was too far ahead of its time and it list price of Rs. 52,000 was same as today’s 125s.

The fact that there are a couple of excellent 100cc bikes in the market makes life even more difficult for 125s. Especially the HH CD-Deluxe and the TVS Star-Sport are excellent products available at fantastic prices. These bikes have been honed for decades compared to 125s which are more or less experimental products. It will take bloody perfection from any rival to beat them. Moreover these 100 cc bikes never feel lacking in the engine department anyway. It’s the chassis, suspension, tyres and brakes which feel vastly more inadequate than the engine. I personally think that the only 125 worth buying today is the Suzuki Heat. At Rs. 41,000 (On-Road, Pune) it matches the 100cc bikes in terms of price and is actually better than the 100s in terms of drivability, refinement and performance and build quality. Thanks to the great low-end torque, it also delivers great fuel efficiency in real world riding conditions.

After years of trying and failing to dethrone the CD100/Splendor/Passion from its top spot , Bajaj famously announced that it will no longer have a presence in the 100cc segment. I cheered their words. I envisioned that soon Bajaj would come out with a simple product with more sense than style, say a CT-125 for around 35 grand. Sadly, the vision never materialized. Times changed and Bajaj had to back-track on their own words. Nothing wrong with that, I say. Even Porsche announced that they would never make a diesel car but they did, while BMW’s M division swore that they would never touch their SUVs and but even they did. It is okay at times to roll with the punches. Who’s had the last laugh? Porsche and BMW are doing pretty well for themselves, in these recessionary times while other big-guns have gone bankrupt. Words don’t matter; it’s the products that matter. It seems that Bajaj are finally getting it right, at least in theory, by launching the Discover 100 with a stiff chassis, wide tyres, meaty suspension, electric-start and a 5-speed gearbox for a killer price-tag of Rs 44,400 (On-road, Pune).

In India the only thing people brag about is not top speed, not bhp but ‘average’, even the ones buying premium bikes. So if you want to be one of those confused souls, you are better off with a 100cc bike. But if you are one of those enlightened souls who looking for the perfect balance between performance, fuel-efficiency and value, do yourself a favour and go for a 150, because with a 125, you will end up getting neither.

MOTOMUSINGS by Mihir Gadre.

The one-two-five Conundrum…

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