Friday, December 7, 2007

the 150cc battlefield

In 2007 alone two new premium bikes have been launched. As competition becomes tougher its hard to find the right products suits for you and more than introspection,comparison shows the true colour. We here compare all the 150cc bikes and dig out the pros and cons of the products. TVS apache RTR 160 included in the ‘battle b/n the beasts’ because of competetive price. Let’s watch the battle!
Design and Styling:
Whether its pulsar or unicorn or X treme or apache rtr or hunk every bike is either evolutionary or revolutionary in design dept. The black theme, aircraft type fuel lid and alloy wheels have become universal and it now features on all bikes. Though the basic design is not altered, pulsar has metmarphosed into a new bike with constant upgradation. Bajaj’s keen care makes the pulsar even to match the new generaton bike like apache rtr. But too much of pulsars in the road has started developing fatigue. Honda has always been conserative. Though unicorn styling is evergreen it cannot conceal the age. Also lack of contemporary features like LED tail lamps,digital speedo and gas charged suspension makes the unicorn outdated. Xtreme’s face(headlamp) inspired from unicorn fails to charm though it has sexiest back of all the bikes. Large LED taillamps, bulleted silencer mouth and horns like supportive split grab rails scores the credit. Racy design with neccessary racing stripes, chiseled tank, stylish engine cowl, petal type disc brake and leaf shaped rear view mirrors makes the RTR one of the best looker. Hero Honda finds a space even in this crowd. The recently launched Hunk blends the design of cruiser and racy. Red dial, analog clock setup adds extra charm to the Hunk’s macho look. Though Hunk has not achieved the best of both worlds it scores a lot. Of these bikes, Apache RTR, Hero Honda Hunk, CBZ X-Treme targets a niche market within the 150cc segment. Honda’s unicorn lures the conservative man. Pulsar 150cc which attracted the youth when it launched, now turns into a family bike.
Engine and Transmission:
This must be easiest section to decide, since three of the competetiors - Hero Honda’s Hunk,CBZ X-Treme and Honda’s unicorn shares the same engine. Unicorn’s 149.2cc was the least power producer yet it scores full points for its refinement. Unicorn’s engine develops 13.3bhp at 8000rpm and 12.75Nm of 6500rpm. Hero Honda offers the same engine with little more power(0.8bhp) for both the Hunk and the CBZ X-treme. Pulsar 150cc engine is one of the best engine made by the bajaj. The twin spark 149cc engine produces 14bhp at 8500rpm.
TVS apache rtr is powered by an 160cc engine which produces 15.2bhp at 8500 rpm and 13.1Nm at 6000 rpm. Clearly, Apache RTR is the best among the traits in terms of performance. Apache RTR has higher power to weight ratio 111.7bhp/ton.Apachian can push the redline even upto 12000rpm. The extra 10cc plays a main role for the RTR and it is the only bike in the segement capable of breaching the 110kmph mark with appreciable control. All the bikes in the 150cc segment breathes through CV carburettor, in India, Fuel Injection (FI) is yet to make a wave. All the bikes Pulsar, Unicorn,CBZ Xtreme,apache RTR and Hunk features 5-speed (1-down 4-up pattern) gearbox. Their way of functioning and design varies. Apache RTR, Hero Honda Hunk and CBZ Xtreme targets young customers and hence gear shifting is through toe levers. In Unicorn and Pulsar 150cc it is through heel and toe levers.
Fuel Efficiency/mileage:
While the Honda’s engineering makes the mill frugal for the Bajaj its twin spark technology and exhausTEC do the difference. Both the Bajaj Pulsar 150cc and Honda’s Unicorn consumes 1 litre to returns around 55kmpl in our combined city and highway drive. Hero Honda Hunk’s 150cc engine is integrated with advance tumble flow induction (ATFI) technology. This kind of induction helps the motor to burn the fuel more efficiently. Hence the Hunk has little edge over its sibling CBZ X-treme but only by a small margin(1-2kms). Hunk returns 51kmpl in our test drive. TVS apache RTR which topped the performance bar flips in the mileage dept as expected. It gives a mileage of 48kmpl.
Ride and Handling:
Power and Torque coming from the mill has to be put on the road intelligently. Considering the Indian infrastructure it is must for Indian bikes to have superior handling characteristics. Few years back Honda surprised everyone with its monoshock suspension,its light steering and single downtube frame with engine as a stressed member. The bike gives a planted feedback to riders. Though Honda’s commuter type seating offers good comfort to the riders, it hampers the Honda in scoring full points in handling section. Unicorn’s biggest loss is the CBZ X-treme’s biggest gain. X-Treme’s sporty riding position with raised footpegs and its diamond type frame helps to negotiate turns and quick directional changes. But X-treme become cumbersome to handle at low speeds espescially when you have to incredible turns in the traffic signal. Xtreme’s 240mm disc brakes offers the neccessary bite when you need it. Pulsar 150cc which rides on 17″ inch tyres is showing its age.But pulsar’s sharp braking makes the pulsar fit for the competition. TVS has equipped the apache RTR with everything to be jesse owen. Yes, it is the most athletic in the segment. Want to flick! apache RTR’s clip on handle bar, shorter wheelbase and lower saddle height will help you like anything. RTR uses different sets of tyres at the front and the rear(17″-front and 18″-rear), this setup really makes the difference for the RTR’s road stance. 270mm petal disc brake holds the bike at the press of the brake lever. Hero Honda’s new hunk inherits most character of the CBZ X-treme but the heaviest bike in the class along with the large claddings tends to intimidate while taking sharp turns.
Recently launched Hunk is the first one to feature Gas charged suspension from Hero Honda’s stable. TVS has been using Rectangular arm suspesion for a long time, other such as Pulsar and Hunk adopts it. Other than Honda’s unicorn and Hero Honda’s CBZ Xtreme, all the bikes in the segment features Gas charged suspension. Unicorn’s 3 way adjustable monoshock and CBZ Xtreme’s ride is on a stiffer side. Both the bikes transfers the vibration to the pillion. TVS MIG(Monotube Inverted Gas filled) offers better ride. Bajaj pulsar 5 way adjustable suspension set up is one of the softest. Hunk’s comfortable seating (with extra lumber support) and GRS makes it easily the winner in the ride quality. 145kg beast controls the vibration and rarely transmits. All these bikes except unicorn have handle bar weights to cushion your hands by reducing the handle bar vibration. But i have seen many of the bikers to remove the weights since it tends to hit while negotiating sharp turns.
Engineering and goodies
the All goodies…these bike have trip meter,standard warning lamps and an analog tachometer in common. While Honda bets on quality, bajaj packs its bike with user friandly features to sell its bikes. Pulsar 150cc is the first bike to feature digital instrumentation and LED tail lights. Pulsar’s instrument panel is neatly laid out. Cable free speedometer is an another useful feature in the pulsar 150cc. TVS followed the bajaj’s way apahe RTR comes with LCD speedo analog tacho and LED tail lamp cluster. Apache RTR’s useful features includes service and battery indicators. The clip on handlebar which facilates varying the handle bar position is a must feature to be in all bikes.While the Xtreme features twin pod instrument, hunk and unicorn features hooded tripod arrangement.
No confusion here! the winners of this test are every bike enthusiast who pushed these makers to come out with bikes of international standard. Though indian market far from being compared to any western market. Our bike standards are growing day-by-day. Though R1 and Hayabusa are not made in india. Apache’s and Xtreme’s feature equally competetive design.
Coming back to our “battle b/n the beasts”, Bajaj pulsar 150cc and Honda Unicorn are already proven winners. Comfort factor and fuel efficiency of both the pulsar and unicorn are unquestionable and still the best in the category. But as new generation bikes like apache RTR, CBZ X-treme and Hunk are ready to take the customers to a new range of excitement, Pulsar and unicorn tends to give way to newbies. RTR’s robust performance, Hunk’s muscular styling and CBZ Xtreme’s exceptional handling characteristics cannot escape from the eyes of bike lovers. CBZ X-treme lacks contemporary styling and its stiffer ride quality leaves the race in the penuultimate lap. Also X treme is too pricey. Hero Honda has set right few of the short comings of CBZ X-treme at the same time inheriting the best of it. Hunks blends cruiser and racy theme nicely.Lack of powerful engine and absence of modern (yet practical) features makes the wrestler to lose against the athelete. Apache RTR with high performance engine, upswept styling and host of features rocks the 150cc class. The dearer price point also adds more value to the RTR.The crown for 150cc kingdom has been most voltaile and with the apache RTR FI, Yamaha’s and Suzuki’s 150cc bike are around the corners, i’m sure that a new(complete) set of bikes will be compared when we do it again in 2008.

The advantage of the Short Stroke Engine of the RTR

TVS recently launched it's newest version of Apache,(with the bore stroke reduced and the displacement scaled up by 13 CC, ie., to 160 CC) named "Racing Throttle Response 160". Should we take that title seriously? Or is it only a joke.? I hope to answer most questions about short stroke engines in this article. TVS claims a top speed of 121 KMPH for this bike - slightly higher than a Bajaj Pulsar 180 (Top Speed: 118 KMPH). Here is a small analysis that some guys at IIT Madras did of the engines.

First, let us understand the response of a short stroke engine. Take a look at the graph above. The Blue line and the black line represent engines of the same displacement, 150 CC. The Black line represents a short stroke engine. (The engine displaces 150 CC in volume but the cylindrical volume of displacement has a lower height and a larger surface area to account for 150 CC.). The vertical axis represents output power at the engine and the horizontal axis represents RPM.
Take a close look at the blue line and the black line. The 150 CC Short stroke engine has a significantly lower power output than its normal 150 CC counterpart until about 4000 RPM. But after 4000 RPM, the power output starts increasing rapidly - much more rapidly than the normal engine- check out the slope of the black line. Also, the short stroke engine has a higher peak power output and it saturates at about 8000 RPM. The normal engine gains power steadily and saturates at about 8300 RPM. What does this mean?
Well, a bike fitted with a short stroke engine will tend to have a significantly lower starting torque than a bike fitted with a normal engine!!! Believe it!! But the bike with a short stroke engine accelerates much faster than it's counterpart after the first 2 seconds or so - It does catch up and overtake the normal engine.. ie. after crossing the 4000 RPM mark. Infact, it leaves the normal engine bike in the dust (just check out the rapid increase of power represented by the black line in the graph.).
Why 160 CC ??
So now, why did TVS put a 160 CC short stroke engine on the RTR if a 150 CC short stroke was sufficient to increase the power of the normal 150 CC?? The reason could well be this for a layman: They may have decided to stay comfortably ahead of the other bikes in the segment. But, I would say the reason is this: I mentioned about the significantly lower starting torque of the short stroke engine in the previous paragraph didn't I ? That could well be the reason. Observe the red line and the blue line now. The red line represents a short stroke engine similar to the one represented by the black line - but one that has been scaled up to displace 10 CC higher, ie., 160 CC. In this case, the redline does not take too long to catch up with the normal 150 CC engine. The output powers of both engines meet at a much lower, 2000 - 2500 RPM now. Once this mark is breached, the short stroke engine justs spits out power rapidly, need i mention the fact that the normal 150 CC can't keep up ?
The Big Question ..
So, the Pulsar 180 CC has a peak power output of 16.2 BHP. The RTR has 15.2 BHP. Looks like the RTR would lose in a drag, doesn't it ? The answer is NO !! I have seen discussions on popular forums where some idiots say "The RTR can keep up and give a good fight to the Pulsar 180 upto 65 KMPH, may be after that the Pulsar 180 will beat the Apache!". This is utter rubbish!!. It is actually the other way round. The RTR gains RPM and the associated gain in power very very rapidly compared to a bike with a normal engine (of a larger size, say 180 CC) only after crossing 5000 RPM mark. The Pulsar should technically be off the mark first. RTR will do the catching up. (Not the other way around!!) With a shorter drive chain, lighter body and a more aerodynamic design, the RTR could very well negate the 1 BHP advantage of the P180.
It is not only the top power output that counts. What counts here is how quickly the engine can get there. The RTR 160 peaks at about 7500 RPM - it can definitely keep up with bikes that have a significantly higher displacement.
If you're starting from rest on an RTR alongside say a Pulsar 180, the Pulsar 180 will get ahead initially, the RTR will catch up. If you're riding alongside a Pulsar 180 at about 70KMPH, and you suddenly decide to race the Pulsar 180, squeeze the throttle and you'll get ahead with ease - Believe me.!

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