“So, how’s it?” gesticulates Rohan, our tracking car pilot for the day, ambling towards me as I coast to a stop at the pit lane at Bajaj Auto’s test track at Chakan, Pune. Still moving, I lift up the lid of my reflective visor to tell him. Behind him, Kalyani, our new photographer, lowers the Canon and I see the grin on her face. Perhaps it is a reciprocation of the grin on my own face, apparently visible inside even this full face helmet. They already know what I have experienced in the last thirty minutes and a dozen-odd laps. This, the Bajaj Pulsar RS200, is a hoot and a half to thrash hard.
First unveiled at the 2014 Delhi Auto Expo, the Pulsar RS200 has been heavily anticipated and with good reason. This is Bajaj’s first fully-faired bike, and full fairings are a particularly interesting source of fascination in the nation. A lot has changed between then and now, and we are getting the RS200 before its bigger sibling the RS400, but whatevs. We will take what we can get.
Despite the radical bodywork, the RS200 isn’t exactly an all-new machine. It is based on the existing Pulsar 200NS street bike, but Bajaj has put a lot of effort into it to make it go as fast as it looks. Did they succeed? We are about to find out.
Images: Kalyani Potekar
Design and Features
Like we said in our first impressions, the styling of the RS200 is a bit polarizing. Comments by readers on the Motoroids site and the general idea of the assembled journalists also echo the same sentiment.
The first thing that strikes you about the RS is the sheer size of it all. The full fairing is huge, and gives the whole bike a forward-biased sporty look. But it is the body panels and the graphics that accentuates its size. It looks like a busier version of the Energica Ego electric sportsbike, but Bajaj’s design team tells us that the RS200 was penned long before the Ego was revealed.
Upfront, you have twin projector headlamps, which is where the resemblance to the Ego and the previous Yamaha YZF-R1 is the most apparent. The left bulb takes care of low-beam, while the right comes on only if you engage high beam. Just above it, like eyebrows, are the wedge-shaped LED pilot lights, and beside it, the indicator stalks with the same design. It looks a bit overdone, and the black and white stickering only serves to make it look busier. The mirrors are mounted on the fairing, but they do a much better job than the nearly useless ones on the Pulsar 220s.
Instrumentation on the RS is also a carryover from the NS, which is not a bad thing at all, as we are big fans of the latter. It is big, legible, and comes packed with all the info you need on the road, but not so much that it overwhelms you as we have seen on some KTMs and Ducatis. Pride of place goes to the large tachometer, with an integrated digital fuel gauge (and ABS indicators on the ABS-equipped model despite the fact that you can’t switch it off – more on that later). Flanking it is the digital speedometer, clock, twin tripmeters and odometer at the right while the left houses the telltale lights including an always backlit Bajaj logo. Perched on top of it all is a bright orange upshift light, that comes into action once you hit the 11,000 rpm redline despite the tacho being marked red at 9,500 rpm.
It is the fairing that elicits the most mixed reactions. There’s just too much going on here, too many styling cues vying for your attention. It’s a furious mix of scoops and cuts and vents, accentuated to their fullest measure by the liberally applied black and white stickers. The fuel tank is the same as the one on the NS, but it now has a thick rubber scratch guard to protect the paint from leathers and what not.
Pride of place goes to the perimeter frame, also borrowed from the 200NS. The split seats are broad and well padded. The tailpiece has handy grab handles integrated into them made to look like air scoops.
At the rear, you get floating split LED tail lamps, with clear-lens indicators beside them. It definitely is a head-turner, although I’m concerned with how well they will hold up to vandals and other unsavory elements.
One thing is for sure, though. The Pulsar RS200’s Transformers-esque styling and angry insect-like front end looks a lot better in the flesh than in pixels. It also appears better proportioned, so if you have been putting off your buying decision solely because of how it appears in the pictures, we’d suggest you head down to the showroom and take a look before making a call.
Fit and finish on the RS is top notch, and it is without a doubt, the best built Pulsar to date. Bajaj has come a long way in their production qualities and it reflects here. Everything feels solidly built and the entire bike exudes an air of quality.
Performance and Efficiency
The burning question, brought upon by Bajaj themselves with their marketing for the RS200 is, is it the fastest Pulsar yet? And, if so, by how much? Let’s address that first.
Yes, this is the fastest Pulsar we’ve ever tested. On Bajaj’s kilometer long straight, I clocked 149 km/h on the speedo, and it felt like there was a little bit more to come given enough road. By comparison, the 200NS clocked 138 km/h on the speedo on the same straight and in same conditions. We weren’t allowed to strap on our VBOX at the track, so accounting for a 10 to 15% speedo error, this means that the RS200 should have a true top speed of at least 140 km/h. We weren’t able to test the roll-on figures either, but the RS should be fractionally faster than the 200NS through the gears.
Remember though, that this is a motorcycle that is 20 kilos heavier than the 200NS. Producing 24.5PS at 9,750rpm, it has a power-to-weight ratio of 148.48 PS/ton compared to 162.2 PS/ton on the 145 kg 200 NS. Torque has also been bumped up slightly to 18.6Nm at 8,000rpm and the RS now redlines 500rpm higher at 11,000rpm.
This new found top speed doesn’t come from the miniscule bump in power though, which is well near nigh. Bajaj has also reworked the gearing on the RS, giving it two more teeth at the rear sprocket. The gearbox is also smoother than before. The 200NS already had a smooth gearbox, but the RS is virtually vibe-free now. Even over 8000rpm, there was little to no vibrations from the handlebars or the footpegs. In fact, during the first couple of laps, I glanced down only to see the orange shift light blinking furiously, signaling me to upshift. Granted, I might have felt it if I weren’t wearing thick leather gloves like most bikers do in the country, but this is a testament to the RS’ smoothness.
Power delivery on the RS is linear, and whatever fuel injection hijinks Bajaj has faced in the past has been resolved with this machine. The Bosch Fi unit is the same as the one on the KTM 200 Duke, but Bajaj says that it employs newer software and is in a different state of tune. The cylinder head has also been reworked to accommodate the Fi unit, and the throttle bodies are bigger. All these small changes has resulted in an immensely refined bike that can hold its own against the best Japanese machines we have on sale in the country today.
Ride and Handling
At first glance, the RS200 might look like an uncomfortable machine. It is fully faired, and motorcycling conventions dictate that they possess more extreme ergonomics and firmer seats than their naked counterparts.
We couldn’t be more wrong here. The three-piece clip-ons on risers have a new design, but they are pulled back slightly towards the rider for a more comfortable reach. The rider’s footpegs are also rear-set, but not so much that they start cramping your legs after a short ride. This endows the RS200 with a slightly leaned forward posture, but not anywhere as extreme as the KTM RC200 or the Yamaha YZF-R15. While that might be a deterrent for some riders who want to be in constant attack mode, it will be welcomed by the vast majority of the Pulsar’s fan base who use it on the street.
The seat on the Pulsar is also much broader and well-padded than the two. It is soft and comfortable, and, with those generous knee-recesses, you can forget about bum ache on long rides.
Bajaj’s test track is one of the most well-paved stretch of tarmac this side of the country, private or otherwise. While it means that you can hustle a sporty bike on it as fast as the tyres and your courage would allow, it also isn’t the most conducive place for testing a bike’s ride quality. The Pulsar RS200 certainly felt like it has benefited from the numerous small changes to the chassis and cycle parts but we can’t really state it with surety until our proper road test.
What we can report is that this is the best handling Pulsar ever. Bajaj has decreased the rake angle by 1 degree for sharper and quicker turn-ins into corners. They have reduced the wheelbase by 5mm and lowered it by 6mm, making it more agile than before. And these changes show up on the track, when you are pushing the RS to its limits. It is easier to tip into tight corners, and maintaining a line is much easier than it was on the 200NS.
Perhaps the biggest influence to the RS’s newfound handling ability comes from the new MRF Nylogrip Zapper S tyres, 100/80-17 at the front and 130/70-17 at the rear, both tubeless. Made from softer compound rubber than before, these tyres impart the RS with excellent grip, even when you’re tipped precariously to one side and the only thing that’s separating you from the road is two slivers of rubber. They aren’t in the same league yet as the super grippy Metzelers that does duty on the KTMs, but the MRFs will last longer in our opinion, and also prove to be lighter on the wallet in the long run.
Then there’s the ABS. Unlike standard ABS that works both wheels, the Pulsar RS200 employs a single-channel system, to keep costs down. Although you will see the ABS sensors on both wheels, it works its magic only on the front wheel. So if you hit both brakes hard, the electronics will keep the front wheel from locking up, but the rear wheel will still lock up given enough pressure.
Bajaj’s stance is that it is better to get the still cost-conscious Indians hooked onto the safety benefits of ABS, rather than giving them no ABS at all. A full ABS system would undoubtedly cost a lot more than the ₹12,000 premium that they’re charging right now. And maybe, just maybe, this will also induce more Indians to use the front brake more, as all bikers ought to.
We were a bit skeptical when we first heard of it, but this setup works pretty well in practice. Yes, it is not as foolproof as the real deal, but upsetting the bike’s composure under hard braking is nigh impossible if done right. I normally use a 70/30 to 80/20 brake pressure distribution on the track. Braking this way, the Pulsar never felt threatening, and it never felt like it was going to skid at any point. You do get that slightly spongy feeling that is indicative of all ABS systems, but that is still a small price to pay for the safety net that ABS offers you, especially on our less than perfect roads. With the new soft-compound MRFs, this makes it the safest Pulsar to ride hard.
Our day with the RS200 came to an end all too quickly, such was the fun we had with it. It is still not a thoroughbred track machine, and Bajaj makes no pretensions about it being one either. But it is still commendable how close this Pulsar has come to challenging the high-strung track focused motorcycles we have today.
What the RS200 is, is an immensely fun street bike with the potential to accomplish just about everything you can throw at it. It is fast, comfortable, decently frugal, and loaded with gizmos to the brim. You can take it touring, or you can use it as your daily commuter to office. Even the looks will grow on you with time.
There already has been, and will be, a lot of comparisons of the RS200 with the KTM RC200, seeing as how they are derived from the same platform. But, in execution, these two couldn’t be more different. The KTM is a high-strung performance machine that demands only the most dedicated of fast riders. Its extreme riding posture, high-revving nature, and focused design ensures that it welcomes only those who are willing to sacrifice a modicum of real-world practicality for the sheer thrill and riding pleasure it offers. The same can be said, admittedly to a smaller degree, of other fully-faired machines in its price range like the Yamaha YZF-R15 and the Honda CBR150R.
By contrast, the Pulsar RS200 comes across as a fully faired motorcycle, but with little of the characteristics that are part and parcel of track focused machines. Its riding position isn’t as extreme, its engine, although high-revving, is relatively stress-free, and it is as comfortable doing the college run as gunning down cars on the twisties. Both in pricing as well as marketing, Bajaj is positioning as the friendlier, more approachable alternative to the KTM.
Bajaj is selling the Pulsar RS200 in two versions, non-ABS and ABS. The former costs Rs 1.18 lakh, while the latter will set you back by Rs 1.30 lakh, both ex-showroom, Delhi. There are two colour options on offer, yellow and black, and red and black. Both the models come with the black and red stickering that you see in these pictures.
The Pulsar name comes with a lot of street cred in the country, and we can see the RS200 taking that forward, and even branching out into a slightly different direction. Versatility is its calling card, and its styling will ensure that it attracts eyeballs wherever you go. That should make it an instant hit with its target base. The evidence is already there: Bajaj revealed to us that they have already garnered 1000 bookings in the first week, and that too only from Tier-I cities in India. When bookings open in Tier II and III cities later this month, we can see the floodgates being opened wide, and the RS selling in droves.
Here are the technical specifications:
|Type||199.5cc Liquid Cooled four valve DTS-i Triple Spark Engine with Fuel Injection|
|Maximum Power (PS @ RPM)||24.5 @ 9750|
|Maximum Torque (Nm @ RPM)||18.6 @ 8000|
|Claimed Top Speed||141 km/h|
|Ground Clearance (mm)||157|
|Kerb Weight (kg)||165|
|Fuel Tank Capacity||13 litre|
Tyres and Brakes
|Front Tyre||100/80-17 52 P Tubeless|
|Rear Tyre||130/70-17 62 P Tubeless|
|Front Brake||300mm disc brake with Single channel ABS|
|Rear Brake||230mm disc brake|
|Price: Standard/ABS (Ex-showroom Maharashtra)||Rs 118,500/Rs 130,268|