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Jiving in style with Centra

A commuter bike that looks great, rides well and also boasts of clutch-less gear shifts? Now that’s what you call a good idea.

autos Updated: Feb 10, 2010 18:18 IST

TVS Motor Company has an impressive record when it comes to firsts on two- wheelers. The company’s innovative approach was first seen in the Centra, which came with multi-mapped ignition. More recently, it was seen in the Flame, which had a multi-venturi carburettor and a three-valve head.

Now it’s the Jive, a modern commuter bike which is also a clutch-less motorcycle. How handy is that in the real world? Read on.

The Jive follows a black theme for its front forks, smart alloy wheels, engine, silencer, rear suspension and matt-finish grab rail. A sleek, bright headlight and small bikini fairing give the motorcycle a purposeful look. Its twin-pod instruments are clearly legible, even on the move, and include a speedometer, fuel gauge and gear indicator. The handlebar-mounted mirrors offer good rear view vision. While the Jive’s palm grips are adequate, its comprehensive switchgear also includes a pass-light.

The muscular fuel tank provides sufficient support but a staid chrome filler cap looks dated and out of place on this bike. The white stitching on the seat lends a smart touch. TVS has managed to fit in a roomy storage bay under the Jive’s seat. Its silencer’s upswept design seems sporty, but is marred by an unsightly chrome heat shield. The motorcycle gets neatly sculpted side and tail-fairing bits with trendy graphics and also a handsome tail light. Paint sheen, fit and finish and overall quality are all satisfactory.

The Jive comes with a 109.7cc, single-cylinder, four-stroke and air-cooled engine. Operating two valves, this carburetted unit develops peak power of 8.4 bhp at 7500 rpm, with the max torque of 0.8 kgm made at 5500 rpm.

While the Jive’s engine is otherwise similar to those used by most Indian bikes, its piece de resistance is the T-Matic twin-clutch system. Designed around a wet multi-plate clutch and new centrifugal clutch, this transmission — first employed on TVS’s Indonesia-only Neo — does away with the manual clutch.

The centrifugal clutch decouples the crankshaft from the gearbox at really low rpm and proceeds to lock at around 3500 rpm. A mechanical linkage from the gear lever serves to disengage the regular clutch from the engine during gear changing.

The Jive engine starts without hesitation and quickly settles into a smooth idle. With no clutch to depress, all the rider needs to do is tap the foot-operated gear lever into first and open the throttle to get going. While the Jive can start in any gear, it’s advisable to always pull away in first if you want good fuel efficiency and long clutch life.

That missing clutch may have seasoned bikers groping for an imaginary lever initially, but it won’t take them too long to adapt to the system. Novice motorcycle riders who want an upgrade from automatic scooters will find this an easier option than a regular clutch- and gear-equipped motorcycle.

Engine refinement is acceptable with vibrations at bay, except when pushing high engine revs. While upshifting through the T-Matic gearbox is smooth, it carries a slightly heavy feel.

Downshifting takes a little time to master. At a relatively high rpm, it can cause a jerk as the transmission slots into the shorter ratio. This has to be worked around by applying light pressure on the shift lever just before actually shifting. This action causes the clutch to begin slipping, and smoothes out the actual shift. The Jive uses a rotary gearbox that allows riders to shift straight from fourth gear to neutral, and then to first, although this is only possible when completely stationary.

Performance from the Jive engine was adequate and we managed to hustle this clutch-less bike to 60kph in 8.27 seconds, with top speed a true 94 kph.

The latest TVS’s suspension soaks up the rough stuff well, while its plush seat cushions the rider from large bumps efficiently.
Handling is lively for a small and light motorcycle like this, with 17-inch wheels aiding flickability. But push hard around long corners and the TVS tyres start squealing as they run out of grip.

The Jive’s 130 mm front and 110 mm drum rear brakes offer good feel, and allow hauling the bike from 60 kph to rest in 20.49 metres.

Fuel efficiency
We thought the T-Matic technology was likely to sacrifice some fuel efficiency for convenience. Still, the Jive proved capable of 53.4 kpl in the city and 55.2 kpl on a highway — both within the efficient zone for this segment of motorcycle.