Nov 22, 2007

Bike swap

There's a site called swaptree.com. It facilitates swaping one product for another among its members. Quite cool, isn't it? But it caters only to the western audience.

How about a swapping site for India too? I am not aware if there's anything in that space here. I can understand the apprehensions especially when it concerns the honesty of people who would like to involve themselves in such kind of barters. However, in the category of bikes it can work well. What say?

Anyway, whether there's a site or not, I am ready to swap my Bullet Machismo 350 for, let's say, an Avenger. Anybody game. No, my bike has no problems. Just that I am bored.

Nov 18, 2007

Blue Collar Sunday


To tell you the truth, I decided a couple of months back that I would sell my Bullet Machismo 350. Prospects, all of them, thought I was charging a little higher for this two and a half year cub. Nonetheless, I didn't budge; it's in superb condition, apart from a little rusting.

Before Diwali, I almost sold it to a prospect for the desired price. But novice as he was, he wanted to buy a Bullet without any bike-riding experience. Now that was audacious to say the least. Well, I said 'almost'. But that guy changed his mind and that set me free.

When I went to Ahmedabad for Diwali, I got a saddle-seat made and today, I opened the tool-kit, undid the earlier seat and fixed this one up. A little task but what a pleasure! Mechanical as this bike is, using my hands to actually undo the bolts and nuts and fix them again was quite a different experience.

Now, this is how the bike Bullet looks. Beautiful and mighty! Not selling it any more. Here's one more snap.

Nov 9, 2007

Smooth & Refined - Hero Honda Hunk

Am in Ahmedabad for Diwali celebration (let me coin a new word 'chillaxation'). Bad isn't it? :)

Nonetheless, was out on the streets yesterday with my friend on a Thunderbird. As we neared Nehru Bridge going towards Ashram Road, I happened to see a guy riding a red Hero Honda Hunk. Whoever has seen the pictures of this bike online or in any magazine knows that it's terrific looking bike notwithstanding the dislike for the name. However, I saw it from a distance and wasn't satiated with just a glimpse. As is my habit to test-ride any new performance bike, we starightaway headed to the city's biggest Hero Honda showroom.

Hunk is a stunner. It's styling is brilliant. Matches international standards and Honda's offerings in the international markets. Beats other 150s on that front definitely (taking nothing away from the Pulsars, I think it's just a case of preferring something fresh and new to something that's been around for many years). The tank is huge. The meaty looking fairing nicely hugs the tank even as it fans out to grab the rider's and others' attention.

Instantly, I looked at my friend and said, "This frame can definitely hide a much bigger engine". We decided to explore further. We asked for a test-ride. But the sales exec said that he didn't have any bike at that moment. What a turn-off! We walked out; he came running behind and said he had a test-bike. Litesh rode it first. When done, he said he had a couple of observations.

As soon as I took the bike in my hand, I noticed it felt lighter (though it's a good 145kgs and I ride a Machismo which is 175kgs). The gear-shift is typical 1-down, 4-up. And it's only a toe-shift, which is very typical of sports bikes. The stance is forward-inclining making you balance your weight on the handle. The pick-up's fantastic and the engine is super-refined. Butter-like.

Having driven Machismo day in and day out, it was a very different and exhilarating experience. The effects were more pronounced than otherwise they would be on a person who's already been riding these 150cc bikes for some time.

So if you are thinking of going for a good mid-level sports bike, you must check the Hunk out (forget Achiever, CBZ and the likes). And I like the name too; I am not a gay :). Don't mind saying, "I ride a Hunk." I can sell my Machismo for that kind of performance. Any takers?

Oct 17, 2007

Avenger 200 test-ride

Yes, in one of my previous posts I speculated that Avenger might come with a bigger engine since the launch got delayed by a couple of months. Well I am sure much much more time is required to build bigger engines. Nonetheless, couple of days back, took an Avenger 200 for a test ride.

Nothing has changed as far as styling is concerned. Being a Bullet rider I was a little skeptical about its handling and feel. But I was pleasantly surprised. It does feel lighter and shorter than Bullet but it rides great. It's sturdy (it's heavier than the Pulsars though the engines are almost the same). The exhaust makes a bolder beat than Avenger 180. It's oil-cooled and has got a nice little fuel-meter on the tank, just where it should be. And I am sure, being a new-age product with good cutting edge technology it would be free from many many maintenance hassles.

Bajaj Avenger is a nice little city cruiser. Of course, highway rides would be more pleasurable. But it serves for kinds of environment. Low seating is good for Indians in general and definitely adds to comfort in handling in city conditions. While it's sturdiness and relaxed posture would make it worthwhile on highways too.

If you want to cruise, go for it.

Sep 6, 2007

TVS Flame provokes



Aren't we glad? I, for once, am surely. Many reasons:

1. This stunner comes from a company which has been known to launch relatively conservatively and shabbily designed bikes; of course Apache broke trend.

2. It induces Bajaj to file a court case for IPR infringement against TVS. Bajaj claims that the latter has used its patented DTSi technology. I am not happy that the launch of the bike has resulted in legal fights. What thrills me is the fact that these are two totally indigenous companies battling on technological issue while biggies of the world like Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki watch this from the sidelines. To me, it marks the coming of age of Indian auto companies. Certainly, we are in for some thrilling competition to capture the roads, to capture the pulse of biking.

3. TVS doesn't launch just this. It launches 7 products in one go. Certainly there would be many flames, not just among aficianados but also in the boardrooms of many a company in the industry. Bajaj was digging it in, TVS has started drilling in the earnest.

4. TVS surprised not just with the quality of designing but also with its muted pre-launch behaviour. The project, to me, seems more like a stealth project, though of course TVS had announced long time back - at the beginning of this year - that it's gonna launch a slew of products. It's quite unlike some other companies like Yamaha/Suzuki who've announced quite a bit but fall very very short of satisfying the excited Indian biker.

Flame comes fitted with a 125cc CC-VTI engine (well, you can read more on the site) . Generates 10.5bhp at 8250rpm. Don't want to comment about performance unless I ride it for a while. Looking at Apache RTR as a precedent, definitely this one's gonna be neat. Enjoy!

Jun 27, 2007

Bajaj Burst

I relish Bajaj’s approach to biking like I relish Domino’s Cheese Burst Pizza. Bad analogy! Nevertheless, I read about Bajaj’s announcements yesterday in The Economic Times.

The 220cc Pulsar DTS-Fi was officially launched on Monday. Bikers were waiting for the official launch for quite some time now. The bike comes for 81290 (ex-showroom Delhi). Not bad.

Apart from that, Bajaj plans to launch a new 100cc bike developed on a new bike platform by September.

It’s also planning to launch Avenger with a bigger engine very soon. Well, in my earlier posts I had mentioned that Avenger 200 might be launched by June end. Well Pulsar 220 was supposed to be launched by end of May but that got delayed by a month. So, applying the same case to the new Avenger, it might be launched some time in August.

Earlier the newspapers reported that Bajaj would launch Avenger 200. I have other thoughts though. Bajaj might not have taken so much time to launch the 200cc variant. The fact that it’s taking more time and the fact that this latest article mentions only ‘bigger’ engine instead of being specific, I would like to speculate that Avenger’s coming with a bigger engine than 200. So what is ‘bigger’? I really don’t know. I would like to think 220 at least. On the higher side 250 may be. If it goes beyond 250, then… Well hold your breath and control your imagination… On a serious note, my gut feel is it would be bigger than 200cc certainly.

More news. Bajaj is in talks with Yamaha and Kawasaki for bigger bikes (800cc and above). Not sure how many takers are there but if there’s one company which rocks the biking scene in India that’s Bajaj. Hats off! Hope newer bikes keep rolling out.

Jun 17, 2007

Bullet in my dream

I've managed to somehow maintain my sleep hours even through some of the most trying times at workplace. And when I've woken up in the morning I've also managed to remember many of dreams. But just didn't get a chance to note them down.

Here's a bit of what I remember from today's dream. I was a with a newly born baby. It was wrapped tightly in a white cloth; a typical way of protecting little babies, mostly seen in families/communities in Rajasthan and North India (don't know about the customes in other parts of the country). I could feel its little hands. I carried it while I was walking around the place. Some people, friends and relatives, known to me were also around; I can't recall who exactly. I also remember riding my Bullet...

Jun 13, 2007

New Honda Unicorn doesn't impress

As conservative as the earlier Honda Unicorn was, this Grand Prix edition doesn't change much.

Unicorn's body and styling didn't raise too many eyebrows anyway when it was first launched and since these are persisted with, the colours fail to change your perception. Colours are just one aspect of form. And therefore, when I saw this bike standing beside I wasn't too impressed. When I looked intently, the unimpressed feeling stayed - the orange colour on the alloy wheels does not give you a thrilling feeling; may be, your mechanic could've done the same if you were ready to pay him the money.

While the glossy pages of the magazine had to carry these changes for lack of better news or better product launches, this bike, or in fact Honda, is worthy of non-attention.

May 24, 2007

Yamaha V-Ixion in India?



If various blogs and media reports are any indication, Yamaha's gonna launch this 150 cc killer bike in India too though it would be manufactured in Indonesia. Try searching for the specs and you would be thrilled. Just a 114kg 4-valve oil-cooled bike with a power of 14.4bhp. Treat!

May 23, 2007

Function but no form

They say do not comment on her beauty looking at her back... But the new Mahindra Logan's all boxy and dated. Style's gone for a toss. Buyer beware!

May 22, 2007

Heavier bikes by Yamaha in India

Well, seems like common sense has prevailed at Yamaha India.



According to an article in today's The Economic Times, Yamaha plans to launch its 998cc superbike YZF R1, perhaps in 2008. There are other heavier bikes and scooters also in the line-up as Yamaha tries to show the Indian consumers how much fun can biking be. Well, weren't we waiting for Yamaha to do just that! In fact, even lighter bikes than that won't be a problem. We are waiting.

May 13, 2007

Yamaha Virago and Yamaha India

A bike aficianado in India could easily mistake this as a twin-cylinder Yamaha Enticer, isn't it? For all practical purposes that's what these pictures suggest. This bike is Yamaha Virago. It's a 250cc bike sold in the US for about $3499 which translates into about Rs145000 in Indian currency. If it costs so much in the US, definitely it would cost at least 25-30% lesser in India which would mean a price of Rs110000. I don't know if the prices could be driven further down since the cost of resources is really really low out here as compared to many other industrialized countries of the world. Would it work in India at that price point? Seeing the equity of Yamaha in India and its expertise in performance bikes and leadership in biking technology, I can claim that people would lap this bike up if launched in India.

When I see this bike, I really wonder what was Yamaha thinking when it launched a pauper cruiser bike like Enticer. After all, the success of Avenger 180 and the eager anticipation of Avenger 200 clearly proves that India has a market for a higher capacity cruiser bikes.

I can't believe that Yamaha believes its future in this country depends on bikes like Yamaha Alba 106. God save Yamaha. Anyway... for all bikers and Yamaha fans, am listing the specifications of this bike with a couple of pictures below. Let's only hope that Yamaha listens to bikers like us.


MSRP*$3,499 (Black Cherry)
Engine
Type249cc, air-cooled, SOHC, 60-degree V-twin
Bore x Stroke49mm x 66mm
Compression Ratio10:1
Carburetion26mm Mikuni
IgnitionDigital TCI
Transmission5-speed
Final DriveChain
Chassis
Suspension/Front33mm telescopic fork; 5.5" travel
Suspension/RearTwin shocks w/adjustable spring preload; 3.9" travel
Brakes/Front282mm disc
Brakes/Rear130mm drum
Tires/Front3.00-18
Tires/Rear130/90-15
Dimensions
Length86.2"
Width32.1"
Height44.9"
Seat Height27"
Wheelbase58.7"
Ground Clearance5.7"
Dry Weight302 lb.
Fuel Capacity2.5 gal.

May 12, 2007

Kinetic's New Bikes & Scooters in India?





A few pictures of scooters that Kinetic promises to launch from mid-2007. I can't believe my eyes but I want to believe what their site displays. Kinetic apparently has tied up with Taiwan-based automobile giant SYM to launch some really cool two-wheelers in India.

Seeing Joy Max, I feel like selling my Bullet Machismo and get back to scootering. :) Hope these promises are kept.

May 5, 2007

In search of fountain pens in Mumbai

And we went dug-dug-dug on streets of Mahanagar Mumbai in search of our favourite fountain pens. Every time, I open the pen-cap to write, my new acquaintainces glance at me with a questioning look: 'What! You still write with an ink pen!' Oh yes, I do.

I rode some 100 kms on Bullet, 40 kms purely in search of fountain pens. So, after we finished our day's work, we headed south and reached fort area (near HSBC Bank) where, out of all the pen sellers and stationers, we made our way to a small shop called Manoj Pen Mart. And I saw some pens which I had never ever seen in life. We ended up buying 4 pens (we had gone with the intention of buying two) totalling Rs 2150.

So, if you are searching for some good fountain pens, Manoj's is the right place for you in Mumbai. It's just behind Dalal Street Building. If you want more details, do write in to me.

May 1, 2007

Bajaj: Understanding the aspirations of Indian bikers

Just read a post on Bajaj's plans to launch bikes with 250+ capacity. Just click any of the links in the previous sentence and check out the articles. It's great news for Indian biking and great challenge for other bike manufacturers to catch up. Alarm bells!

Apr 30, 2007

Yamaha Alba 106

Stretching a product's life by changing its packaging isn't uncommon. Hero Honda has been doing it with its first bike CD 100 when it launched it under various names like CD100 SS, CD Deluxe, Splendor, Splendor Plus, Passion, Passion Plus. A few cosmetic changes apart, all these products were almost the same. But then, Hero Honda started with 'Fill it, Shut it, Forget it' and were the first one to occupy that space. That's one of the reasons why they've been able to stretch the product's saleability for so long. Incidentally, it was tough for Hero Honda to really achieve sales in the other space of performance bikes. CBZ and Karizma might not have succeeded to Hero Honda's satisfaction.

On the other hand, when Hero Honda was tom-tomming 'Fill it, Shut it, Forget it', Yamaha was busy riding on performance. And appropriately, people always expected good performance machines from Yamaha. Now at a time when biking category and interest in performance biking is surging in India, Yamaha is ignoring its long-trodden path and trying to tread the path that Hero Honda has always owned. Even Bajaj has lately had a considerable run on the latter path. Alba 106 and its predecessors - Crux and Libero - are a result of this foolhardiness of Yamaha. Not to say that there's much harm to be present in this segment of the market. But it's not the greatest ploy to stick only to this economy segment and not do anything in the performance segment where it has always had a great name.

Yamaha will also find it tough to find takers of its economy focussed bikes since these bikes are usually bought by those who are just graduating (either monetarily or age-wise) to biking. The ones who are graduating monetarily would go by the tried and tested - Hero Honda or Bajaj. And the ones who are graduating age-wise have neither had the Yamaha experience earlier or even seen them on the roads. Even if these guys talk to Yamaha aficionados or ones who've experienced the Yamaha in their biking days will always opine that Yamaha had great performance bikes during their time but now the bikes aren't the same. In such a case, Yamaha Alba has very little chance to succeed. Word-of-mouth wouldn't corroborate what Yamaha would say in its ads. And the evidence on the roads is totally to the contrary.

If Yamaha India were doing well in the performance segment, its claims in the other segments would have some believability. Unfortunately, it hasn't done much to strengthen itself in the former. In the latter, there are heavy weights who have proved themselves and therefore are difficult to shake.

Apr 28, 2007

Bajaj Avenger 200 and more

Just read in The Hindu that Bajaj is launching Avenger 200 in the month of June. It's a welcome news. However, it not the only thing that Bajaj could do.

I've often wondered why Avenger is only available in some standard colours and fitments? Why is it being sold as any other bike? Avenger is considered a cruiser and therefore, as most other cruiser bikes, should lend itself to modifications. Though, unlike in the case of Bullets, it should not be left upon users to modify their Avengers. Bajaj should pro-actively offer options to customize/modify the Avenger. Am sure the biking fraternity in India would embrace the Avenger with more eagerness and catapult Bajaj into the superbike-maker of the country sooner.

Apr 16, 2007

Heavier bikes in India

On rare occasions, out of curiosity I flip the pages of The Economic Times. And when I did today, I read Heavyweight bikes queuing up as Indian Roads get wider. The headline was big and bold. Perhaps it isn't a conincidence that just yesterday I was wondering that time can't be better for bigger bikes to launch in India.

So, the news is that government has allowed the import of bigger bikes with engine specifications of 800-cc and above. And these motor-bikes might carry tags of no less than Rs 9 lakh.

As with every thing, there are two sides to this coin. That these bikes are being allowed in the Indian market implies that there's been a latent demand for heavier bikes in India. However, the size of the market is hard to predict. It's possible that there isn't such a big market after all for bikes with capacity greater than 800-cc. That takes us another important point - there could be a good market for bikes with engine capacity between 200cc and 500cc. And there's no bike other than the Bullet in this segment.

Market observers have always believed there isn't a market for such bikes and that the dismal sales of Bullet is an evidence. However, I must remind all the enthusiasts that Bullet, in spite of whatever cult-status it has, is a sub-standard product. And therefore, perhaps this segment never could grow. And even if we accept that there was little growth in this segment in the past, right now the time is just ripe for this segment to grow.

So, where do we (bike-makers) go from here. Get into the 800-cc plus market? Nope. Get into the 200-cc to 500-cc market. I predicted that the scooter would grow if better and heavier scooters (cruiser scooters) are launched. Launch of Eterno and Kinetic Blaze and their reasonable success proves me right.

Assuming that 200-cc to 500-cc market really holds potential, which Indian company can take advantage? Who has the headstart? I think it is invariably Bajaj. They've experimented with their Pulsar range and have been successful. After a not so successful debut of Eliminator they got it right with Avenger. And Avenger can now be fitted with higher capacity engines. In fact, it's surprising that while Bajaj has made Pulsar 220, they didn't do much in the cruiser segment where Avenger has really made a mark. It's about time for Bajaj for another great move; don't let this opportunity go.

Apr 7, 2007

Rajasthan

A typical cactus plant found in this part of the state.

Rajasthan

Well near the temple...

Rajasthan

The 'Sati' goddess at the temple and the pujaris. It's said that long time back when the Thakur of the area died, this is the place where his wife became a Sati.


Rajasthan

At the lake beside our temple. Simmering and pristine...





Rajasthan

That's the compound outside our house. Seems barren. And hotly silent. But I stood there hearing many sounds - parrots, cuckoo, sparrows, cows, buffaloes, pigeons...