The Bajaj Pulsar has easily been one of the most defining bikes ever launched in this country. For its sheer trend setting abilities, it falls right in the category of milestone bikes, which have been few and far between in India. When Bajaj made numerous iterations and engine modifications of the Pulsar series of bikes, they decided to leave a certain factor relatively untouched. The design of the bikes, though had slight modifications, largely remained similar. Which was understandable because a major factor for the success of the Pulsar was its look which was meant to be brute and macho.
If you are wondering what am I trying to imply talking about the Pulsar lineage, even though the success story is known to almost anyone who has been following the Indian bike industry for the past few years, let me introduce you to the reason for this short description of mine – the latest entrant to the Pulsar series, the Pulsar 135 LS.
Yes, it has to be agreed that it is not exactly latest. It’s been around for quite some time now. But when I did get my hands on a new specimen recently and had the pleasure of spending some time with it, I wanted to write about it. Not just a review of it but on a certain special aspect of it which I hope to convey to you by the time this piece of writing ends.
The Pulsar brand is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. And enough has been written about each bike’s handling, characteristics, speed, design etc. But realising that a review is not what it is without me touching upon at least some of these points let me get on with it. Before we start please allow me to use the word ‘Pulsar-ish’ which I would want to refer to anything Pulsar like. I am taking this liberty assuming that almost all of us would have experienced the Pulsar at some point of time. Hence the term Pulsar-ish. Please consider it as gibberish the moment you are done reading this. Now, let’s get started.
The bike I got the chance of riding was a very new one. Three days old, in fact. The finish on it was very Pulsar-ish. It all looks very promising and striking. But you don’t know how long they will look the same and last. The analogue tacho dial and the digital display had an air of inexpensiveness. The build seemed pretty consistent and you can be assured that things are bolted on fine.
The first time I fired her up, the Pulsar-ish engine note was evident. But this time it was more refined. A bit freer flowing perhaps. The twitch of the accelerator using the right thumb and index finger sounded smooth and relaxed. I wondered if the 4 valve configuration which is a non Pulsar-ish characteristic had anything to do with this new refinement.
Engaging the first gear was a smooth experience. The refinement is still not there and I doubt if Bajaj will ever get to the levels achieved by the Japs but the improvement is definitely commendable. I still remember the first time I rode my friend’s Pulsar 150 and the knocking sound and jerk that used to come every time a gear was engaged. It felt crude and mechanical. Fortunately or unfortunately, this characteristic of the Pulsar had beefed up its masculine image. I have found it very strange that when glitches in other bike models were prominently lambasted among potential new bike buyers, issues like this in the Pulsars were easily side-stepped or accepted that it could be lived with. The image of the Pulsar made up for its shortcomings.
Talking about the image, a lot of the fan following that the bike had was due to its road presence, the rider posture enhancing the macho look and feel. The same has been kept unadulterated in the younger 135 too. The clip on handle bars are wide enough for the typical Pulsar-ish ride posture.
And it is not the posture alone that is macho, the bike in spite of its comparatively quieter engine does have the zip that you normally associate with the Pulsars. If the elder Pulsars have the sound and the go to go with the sound, this younger one is slightly deceiving with more go for the corresponding sound. The 135 generates 13.5 PS of power. That is almost the same as generated by the 150 cc Honda Unicorn. And at 122 KG it is much lighter than the Unicorn. The zip then is very much understandable and gives the bike its younger, quicker feel.
But give this bike the beans a little more and you can feel the decibel level increasing exponentially. When I say feel, I literally mean that you can ‘feel’ it. The vibes and the sound increase linearly but it is nowhere close to what I would say uncomfortable. In fact the vibrations add to the overall quickening feel and change this bike’s character from being deceiving to butch. But I would like to reiterate here that these vibrations are in no way bone jittery or joints loosening. The vibrations like the gearbox quoted earlier have always been a part of the Pulsar experience.
So there I was, tearing down in a new Pulsar 135 feeling very much macho and sporty. That brings my attention to the complete name of this bike – Pulsar 135 LS. The LS incidentally means ‘Light Sport’. I would definitely say that is true. This bike is light and it is sporty. But being light does not mean that it was unstable at high speeds. Admirably, it maintained decent decorum at speeds around 80 kmph. I didn’t want to push it any further as it was my friend’s new bike.
I didn’t get too much time with this bike but wherever I got the chance to ride it, it handled pretty well. Corner craving is not exactly my cup of tea but whatever cornering angles I tried on this bike, it was able to pull it off without losing its composure. The lightness meant that it was much more agile and flickable which would mean that much easier city riding.
I did not get enough time to measure the fuel efficiency of this bike over a range of riding conditions but from my calculations, I feel it would definitely be in the high fifties. It might even touch sixty if you are sane with it. But Pulsars are not bought for being sane, are they?
Apart from the fit and finish, there were minor glitches here and there like the positioning of the foot peg and the side-stand. While trying to push the side stand back after sitting on the bike, there is a high possibility that you might feel the hindrance of the foot peg. Take a look at the picture and you might understand what I am trying to say here. But then this is one of those things that you can definitely live with.
If you are wondering why I still haven’t touched upon the biggest difference this bike has over its elder brothers, it is because I wanted to keep the most important part towards the end. So, let’s look at it now, the design of the Pulsar 135. Keeping in mind how the 150, 180, 200 and the 220 looked, it was only obvious for people to imagine how the 135 would look.
But this was where Bajaj threw in a big surprise. This looks like a Pulsar like no other. If they had given it an entirely different name, it would have been easier for people to digest. The headlights were angular and looked thinner. The bike had a lot more chiselled edges which made it look leaner and fitter than any other Pulsar. So, what was the reason for Bajaj to overhaul the design of the new Pulsar? Or should I ask, what was the reason for Bajaj to design a new bike and call it with an existing name.
Thinking in these lines leads us to one main possibility. Bajaj wanted to overhaul its Pulsar brand and it used the new 135 segment as testing waters to determine how people would react to a new design philosophy for its iconic brand. We are getting reports that Bajaj would be releasing their next gen Pulsars by the end of this year at their tenth anniversary. It wouldn’t be very surprising if the elder overhauled Pulsars followed the younger one’s styling cues.
All in all it looks like an attempt to sharpen a few blunt edges of the Pulsar, literally and figuritatively. A leaner, meaner and fitter Pulsar might be more in sync with today’s physique conscious generation and I wouldn’t blame them for thinking on these lines. After all, the design of the bikes and cars in a country reflect the tastes and preferences of the people who populate the country.
This does not mean that the 135 was an experiment. It was meant to be an all new motorbike and a full fledged one at that. And it definitely is. It is a very able bike which does things exactly the way its brothers does but with a bit more finesse. But when the necessity comes to show off its pedigree it does that with aplomb reminding us that there is still a bit of the beast deep inside. If the bigger Pulsars were like the heavily set, bellowing, gut wrenching action heroes of our movies, this new younger one is also an action hero. But just that it is of the latest type – Younger, sleeker, slimmer and more into martial arts finesse than into door barging and over the wall walloping.