Honda’s power pint

K Hari Warrier, Hindustan Times
New Delhi
First Published: 21:10 IST(20/12/2012)
Last Updated: 02:33 IST(21/12/2012)
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Last month, Honda Motorcycles and Scooters India recalled some CBR 250R bikes for a minor repair job. That was India’s first major recall in motorcycles. But what startled the average reader even more was the numbers — 11,500 bikes were recalled. Some of our colleagues could not believe that so many Indians could have bought such an expensive two-wheeler!

The numbers bear testimony to the popularity of the CBR 250R, built faithfully in the CBR style — as does the reportedly long waiting period. We are a bit late in getting our hands on what is arguably the most popular small sports bike in the country, but better late than never!

Looks

There is little to say in this department. The mini CBR is a fully functional street bike, semi faired with engine cowl and a lovely sporty stance. The front end is truly aggressive, tapering off towards the rear with the flared exhaust pipe lending a muscular look to the otherwise slim rear-end.

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The rear mudguard and number plate arrangement are the only sore points, but there is really no way around that without going ‘completely naked’ at the rear. The instrument console is part analog part digital, and does the job effectively without being overly exotic.

Performance

The 250-cc engine should be able deliver a bit of grunt, right? Start it up, and the bike has a very understated and smooth note. Not the “look at me, I am IT” attitude at all. But put it in gear and take off, and the story is rather different. This is the only single-cylinder 250 in India at present (there are talks of a Yamaha quarter-litre  in the works, while the bigger KTM 390 is set to pep up the scene with reportedly aggressive pricing next year, but that is a different story). The other 250s — Kawasaki Ninja and the Korean Hyosung — are twin-cylinders, necessarily costlier and making any comparison necessarily unfair.

The CBR is an out-and-out sports bike. Rev-happy, with short gears that call for stepping down and up as you dally around the speedometer, it can get taxing in city traffic.

Having said that, the bike takes off so well that there is hardly any traffic to worry about! It hits the 80s in a jiffy and steadies out nicely, with the option of pushing till about 130-140 kph before power starts to taper off. From 130 to 150 is a struggle, but the high end of the speed band is usually a struggle with single-cylinders, so this is hardly surprising.

Interestingly, despite the short-stroke engine (55mm, compared to the bore of 76 mm), it really doesn’t die on you if you get off the throttle briefly. Only significant speed loss calls for gear shifting, which is ideal for city conditions.

 Handling

This department is sheer joy. Cornering, braking, taking off again, literally getting thrown around — there is nothing that this bike cannot do. We rode the ABS model, which has twin ABS (discreetly hidden away) and it was very light on the brake. The spongy feeling that one got while stepping on the pedal did not reflect the braking, it is just the communication.

Of course, if you really want to do it, you can step on the brake while cornering and make a hash of things, but that just bears out the adage that “with great power comes great responsibility.”

This bike, folks, can do great things. But folks, do remember, the roads are not race tracks. If you mess it up, it can do great damage as well! The rest is in your hands.

Will the Phoenix lift TVS’s fortunes?

The 125-cc bike segment seems to be getting crowded. Is it an indication that the Indian market is looking for a smattering of extra power? Maybe. Anyway, the latest to join the train is TVS, which launched its perhaps aptly named Phoenix a couple of weeks ago. We got to take a look at it, and here is what we found.

The bike is touted as having features that only a car has. Essentially, that seems to be an all-digital instrument cluster, and perhaps the LED pilot lamps. Anyway, at first look it does not look radically different from any of the half-a-dozen 125-cc bikes dashing around the Indian roads.

But scratch the surface, and it is a different story. Front petal disc brakes, cool graphics, very noire-looking LED pilot lights… and of course the digital console. Not a bad package. What one likes the most about it, compared to its peers, is the finish quality. Top notch, really. But how does it ride?

Surprise, surprise! It is very nippy off the blocks, and can stand up to quite a lot of punishment in terms of cornering, throttling and braking. Till about 60 kph it is completely vibe-free, but after that the engine rattle starts to communicate. Top speed is in the range of 110, though we recommend staying below 80 kph.

The seats are VERY comfortable, and the overall feeling is rock-steady. It made one wonder if TVS is looking to this as a sort of pilot test for bigger things to come. Would not be a bad idea.

What does one miss on this bike? A side-stand alarm would have wbeen welcome. And an engine-kill switch. It has hazard blinkers — something of a novelty (though welcome) in a two-wheeler. The horn: for pity’s sake, get something more muscular! Even pedestrians will not step aside for this one.

Overall, the Phoenix is a GOOD bike, no pushover. TVS, which is lagging in the market and does not have an offering in this segment, has pinned a lot of hope on it. Looks like it will deliver.


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