Straight Jacketed Cruiser
Has the Avenger become insanely wild after getting the Pulsar 220’s heart? Or is it still the docile cruiser that makes it so popular?
I have never been a big fan of the sole cruiser from Bajaj. But this low slung bike breed from Chakan has often spent significant time under my butt during the varied iterations in its life. Way back in 2003, when it was difficult to procure spare parts for the newly launched Karizma (more so in Yellow), the original Kawasaki Eliminator used to serve as my back-up bike whenever I would crash my white elephant and send it for the fortnight long repairs. Later when Bajaj skilfully sidelined Kawasaki and came up with the ‘Avenger’ with the Pulsar 180’s heart, one of its examples took refuge in my garage for a month when the owner went out of town. In 2008, when I was working with another two wheeler magazine the Avenger with a 200cc mill was my long-term motorcycle for over four months. Going by the last two generations of the Avenger, it was pretty much evident that Bajaj would upgrade the cruiser to top of the line 220cc capacity mill especially with the Pulsar 200 now dead. So when the Avenger 220 finally came through for the test, I wasn’t too excited – nor was Bajaj I guess, since the Avenger 220 had a soft launch with no grand announcements that you generally notice from a Bajaj product. Why the silence? Has anything really changed in the Avenger at all? Let’s find out…
Give us your opinion about the new Avenger 220 over here!
The bike doesn’t look too different as compared to the three instalments that we have witnessed throughout the last decade. In fact, though it gets the 220cc engine derived from the current Pulsar 220 DTS-i, it doesn’t get the all-black treatment for the engine case either – it still has the grey shade that started off with the Eliminator. The side panels get the ‘220’ tag and if you belong to the eagle-eyed bunch, you’ll notice the extra row of radiator fins on the oil-cooler, a ‘low-battery’ tell-tale light on the tank console and an extra notch on the ignition lock that turns on the parking lights.
I would have loved to see is a different mounting position the ignition lock at least now. You see, cruisers are either preferred by chilled out blokes who are too uninitiated to understand the beauty of sporty motorcycles, or by fat bucks with big beer bellies who can’t get onto the sporty motorcycles anyway. For the latter, it becomes quite difficult to bend all the way down and search for the ignition lock. However, this design element (or flaw?) also doubles up as a safety feature! It becomes mandatory for you to wear your riding gloves to avoid burning your finger tips off the hot engine while searching for that damn keyhole.
Apart from these minor additions, there is nothing visually different about the new Avenger 220. You still get the low slung, long tank, big seat, chrome garnished, grey engined entry level cruiser with a conventional handlebar and an integrated back rest. This design still looks fresh for the segment and even after a decade of existence, it has aged well. With the additional accessories like a huge wind-shield and a few leather bags here and there, the Avenger looks well balanced even for its small engine and should continue to be a favourite amongst the cruiser loving crowd.
Like the bike? Tell us on the Motoroids Forums!
Comfort, convenience and handling
This is one department where this motorcycle absolutely baffles you. The seating posture and the handlebar geometry of a cruiser needs time getting used to, especially if you are coming from street bikes, scooters or even from bicycles for that matter. The heavy steering of the long forks and the front end braking of a cruiser are primary aspects that newbies find unnerving and the Avenger is no different in this regard. But as I said, once you get used to it, the Avenger becomes one of the most easy cruiser bikes to manoeuvre in the urban locales. The handlebar-mounted rear view mirrors are one of the best I have used on any motorcycle – large, well positioned and show relevant reflections – unlike the P220’s units which only show you your biceps no matter how much you try to adjust them. The handlebar, though straight-ish, houses the switchgear ergonomically and hence it doesn’t work up your thumbs all that much. The switchgear controls the bright 55W headlight, and now with a DC connection to the battery, it doesn’t need the engine to be running either. The DC connection also means that the 55W bulb will maintain its luminance even when the bike is trotting at low revs – thus adding to the Avenger 220’s convenience over the older bike.
What has not changed though, is the comfort level of the seat. The large seat looks inviting, but believe me, you can’t spend too much time on it. It’s decent enough for a 100 km ride but after that you can’t think of even touching your butt on it. Ditto for the pillion seat. So if you are thinking of getting one of these machines for a long trip to any of the four ends of the country, look elsewhere or give this seat some Botox injections. I would blame this discomfort to the angle of the saddle’s surface. Though the saddle looks big, its curvature offers very little support for the thighs – especially with the stretched out cruiser geometry of the foot-pegs – thus making your butt the ‘stressed member’. A longer ride will spread the pain to your waist and lower back as well.
Handling wise, this bike has a charm of its own. We coincidently had our Motoroids Motomeet at the ‘Lavasa lake city’ on the same Sunday we began testing the Avenger 220. That gave me chance to ride this cruiser alongside more fabled bikes like the Karizma, the Pulsar 220 and even the R15. Though it would be hard for you to believe, the Avenger 220 CAN actually keep up with most of these sporty bikes when it comes to riding in the twisties. I’m not saying you would look like a Rossi chasing down a Lorenzo – but in spite of being a cruiser the Avenger can keep up, and that is quite a feat. Even with its low-slung nature it doesn’t scrape its parking stand like the P220 does. The rubber offers excellent grip and thankfully Bajaj haven’t found an alternative to the grippy 130-section MRFs with an Eurogrip or IRC – two brands that have considerably hampered the handling of the Pulsars in recent times. The 260-mm diameter disc has phenomenal bite and isn’t spongy like the Karizma or the all-Indian R15, however the front tyre tends to skid off under heavy braking.
You think the bike could’ve been better? Tell us how, on the Motoroids Forums!
While most of the other elements of the Avenger are unchanged, this is the most important upgrade – the new engine. The 220cc mill that powers the new Avenger, is derived from the Pulsar 220 DTS-i’s powerplant. While the ‘fastest Indian’ produces 21PS, the Avenger’s mill is re-tuned for a power and torque output of 19PS and 17.5 Nm. As compared to the Avenger 200, the new engine is quite peaky. What this results in is better cruising speed and a more relaxed engine even above 100 km/h. While the trademark Bajaj vibes kicked in below 100 km/h on the Avenger 200/180, the 220 feels smoother even till a speedo indicated figure of 110 km/h. The peaky nature also lets you accelerate nicely off the traffic light without worrying about half-hearted wheel spins.
Just like the Pulsar 220, the Avenger 220 too is a guzzler. With all the high speed cruising, sport riding and traffic light drags, our cruiser returned 30-odd kilometres to the litre. Be a tad easy with the right wrist and you should be able to extract 36-37 kilometres from a litre of petrol.
We want to hear from you!
To make this Avenger test more realistic, I made sure that I fought with my father before leaving for the ride, browsed through my ex-girlfriend’s marriage album, asked the barber to give me a blade cut and a weird hairdo and gazed at ceased and crashed motorcycles. Still, even with its potent handling characteristics, more powerful engine and a few added mechanicals, the Avenger was far from making me ‘feel like god’ like the promotional activities claim. All it gave me was the same amount of pleasure that I would get from any decent motorcycle on any given Sunday.
But if you are a city dweller who nods his or her head in disgust every time you see a power-ranger on a ‘plastic’ bike and at the same are not willing to put money down for a Royal Enfield because you doubt its reliability, then the Avenger will surely cut the cake for the cruiser-monger in you. At a price tag that is lower than Rs. 80,000 there is pretty much no competition for this bike. With a design established for over a decade and a new engine that is sure to give the other entry level performance bikes a run for their money, the Avenger 220 is definitely the cruiser to buy to enjoy the cityscapes and the occasional weekend ride. But if you wish to travel throughout the length and breadth of the country, then look for a motorcycle elsewhere…