The TVS Apache RTR 200 and Bajaj Pulsar RS 200 sit at the creamy edge of the single-cylinder sports bike range, where sportiness and everyday practicality do still go hand-in-hand.
The Pulsar has been out for some time, and the fuel-injected RTR 200 must inevitably square-off against it, though the two offer different pitches to the rider. The RTR boasts track-bred TVS genes, while the RS is proud of its Bajaj street focus. Picking one winner may mean plenty of head scratching and close scrutiny.
They look nothing like each other. The Pulsar glowers, its deep-set projector lamps glaring balefully out of a heavily sculpted fairing, and an unconventional tail-lamp cluster. The RTR 200 is no pushover either. The headlamp and the day-time running lights (DRLs) scream for attention, while the bike’s massive tank gives a swarthy feel. The RTR’s white back-lit instrument cluster has modes to record acceleration times, top speed and even your lap times.
The 200cc segment is where you get into performance bike space, so acceleration and top speed are key, but buyers also expect a measure of mileage and seating posture. Both these bikes tick all the boxes, so which does it better?
The RTR 200 exhaust emits a sportier tone compared to the softer purring RS 200. The TVS runs a 197.8cc air and oil-cooled motor that is good for 20.5hp at 8,500rpm, definitely behind the liquid-cooled 199.5cc Pulsar’s 24.4hp at 9,750rpm. Fuel injection, which is stock on the Bajaj, is an option in the RTR. The Pulsar also has triple spark-plug technology.
Smooth-shifting gearboxes, flawless clutch action, well-spaced gears... there is not much to choose here, though the RTR has one gear less than the six-speed RS.
On refinement, the RS does have an edge, with a noticeably smoother feel and less vibes and more potent acceleration, getting to 100kph from rest in 9.71 seconds against the RTR’s 10.73 seconds. Top speed brings a similar story -- the RTR 200 peaks out at 128kph, while the Pulsar hits 137kph. At full clip, you appreciate the full fairing on the RS, as the RTR leaves you exposed to wind blast.
Seating position is reasonably upright on both bikes, and saddles well-padded so you’re good for daily commuting. Suspension is constant, with telescopic forks up front and monoshocks at the rear (non-adjustable on the TVS).
In terms ride quality, the lighter and nippier RTR feels good when attacking corners, while the RS feels plusher covering rough tarmac at low speed.
The top-of-the-line RTR 200 offers grippy Pirelli tyres, and the RS 200 tailor-made MRF soft compound rubber. There is nothing to choose in terms of braking, with 17-inch rims and single-rotor, petal-type disc brakes front and rear. TVS plans to provide an ABS option.
The Apache comes with a safety feature called RLP (rear lift-off protection) that relieves front brake pressure if the rear wheel starts lifting under hard braking.
Pushed to the wire, with only one bike to choose from this tight contest, one would reluctantly go for the Bajaj, purely because of the added value of a fairing and greater engine refinement and significantly quicker performance.