A beginner’s on-off road bike



a motorcycle parked on the side of a lake


© Provided by The Financial Express


After the Hero Xtreme 160R set quite a high bar for all new motorcycles from India’s largest bike maker, now is the time to review the Xpulse BS6. The Hero Xpulse has been one motorcycle that I was always eager to ride but for some strange reason couldn’t get my hands on. The 200T experience the last time was a mixed bag and you will understand why after checking this link. Back when Hero gave us a glimpse of what the 2020 Xpulse will be like, the familiar knot of emotions were back. Could this be the bike that will finally replace my nearly 15-year old Bajaj Pulsar 150? I certainly have high expectations from it and given that Hero was generous enough to loan the bike for around 10 days, a thorough test was possible. Here are a few reasons why you should be looking at the Hero Xpulse 200 BS6.

Hero Xpulse 200 BS6 engine, transmission and performance



a car engine


© Provided by The Financial Express


The engine is the biggest change here, right? After all, it is now BS6 compliant and has got changes including an oil-cooler. Now, honestly, the Hero Xpulse 200T never heated up enough to cause worry in traffic conditions but then a few forums have reported how the bike has shown a tendency to get uncomfortably hot. All this during regular riding conditions.





© Provided by The Financial Express


Nonetheless, the oil-cooler does a fine job as even in the sweltering Noida heat, the engine never heated up. However, this oil-cooler, as well as the nature-friendly BS6 catalytic converter, has dropped the power and torque numbers marginally. The engine now with its relaxed 10:01 compression ratio produces 17.8hp of power and 16.45Nm. The gearbox is still a 5-speed unit. Yes, I am also going to grumble about the lack of a sixth gear here. However, the gearshift action is decently positive and the clutch is reasonably light but could have had a bit more ease of operation.



a motorcycle parked on the grass


© Provided by The Financial Express


The noticeable difference is that the engine has a slightly sportier note. It also settles very quickly into an idle and the engine is smooth till 8,000rpm. Closer to the redline, there can be mild vibrations that seep in through the footpegs but these tend to go away as soon as the engine is properly run-in. In short, around 5,000km in, the engine should be smoother. Just like the Hero Xtreme 160R, the mid-range of this engine is quite strong. In fact you will, for a second, think this is the exact same engine as the 160R. This is amplified when you see that this engine hits the ton at 7,500rpm, the exact same point of the 160R. However, this 200cc engine distinguishes itself by revving a wee bit cleanly towards the top end than the smaller 163cc motor.

Cruising at 90kmph is quite possible on the Hero Xpulse 200 BS6. Anything more and you are asking the engine to work harder. I managed to see a top speed of 120kmph before we ran out of road. During our efficiency test, the Hero Xpulse BS6 did 41kmpl in the city and 45.3kmpl on the highway. These are respectable numbers from a 200cc engine and a tall motorcycle.

Hero Xpulse 200 BS6 design and features



a motorcycle parked in a grassy field


© Provided by The Financial Express


On the look of it, it is hard to distinguish the BS4 and BS6 Xpulse 200 bikes. However, those with a keen eye for details will notice the cat con bulging towards the right side of the exhaust head. There is also the smaller oil-cooler on the left side of the engine. The bash plate has now moved a bit towards the underside of the engine and is an aluminium unit. Hero has also reworked the positioning of the rear disc brake fluid reservoir. The footpegs have a rubber cushion over them but those wanting to do hardcore off-roading can remove these and used the serrated ends. This will ensure maximum grip while standing and riding the bike with MX-style boots.



a close up of a motorcycle


© Provided by The Financial Express


The aforementioned oil-cooler and cat con mean Hero had to route the exhaust pipe in a different pattern. Though it’s an upswept exhaust, the pillion rider doesn’t face any issues with respect to the ergonomics. The grab rail is also quite prominent and easy to hold on to. Features are the same as before and this includes an all-digital dash with parameters like gear position, gear shift indicator, fuel economy indicator, twin trip meters, side stand indicator and more available. The side stand also has got engine inhibiting function meaning which with the stand down, one cannot engage a gear. There is also the navigation feature for which one has to download the Hero RideGuide app. Watch this space for a more elaborate piece on how this app functions.

Also Read Hero Ride Guide navigation explained



a car parked on the side of a vehicle


© Provided by The Financial Express


Hero has given all-LED headlights to the Xpulse. They look good but don’t really do a fabulous job of lighting up the road. It is akin to having an LED torch ahead of a bike. This is something Hero can work upon for sure. I quite liked the single switch for the upper-dipper as well as pass light. It takes a bit getting used to but once you are acquainted with its working, you will appreciate the fact that one doesn’t need to pull the switch to dipper before using the pass function.

Ride, handling and ergonomics



a man riding a motorcycle down a dirt road: Hero Xpulse 200 BS6 review, roadtest: A beginner’s on-off road bike


© Provided by The Financial Express
Hero Xpulse 200 BS6 review, roadtest: A beginner’s on-off road bike

I like the way the mirrors have been styled and these offer a good vision as well. Based on my frame, the 823mm seat height doesn’t seem daunting but for someone lower than 5ft 6in, flat-footing the bike could be a problem. A word of caution, due to the even weight distribution of the motorcycle, climbing by placing one foot on the peg will not be ideal. Especially so for healthier individuals. The motorcycle might tip over. For most people, the bike will seat you in a commuter position which is great in the city where with the seat height you get a commanding view of the traffic. Those below 6ft can also stand and ride. However, taller folks might have to get aftermarket handlebar risers.





© Provided by The Financial Express


Hero has provided 220mm ground clearance and this is more than sufficient for travelling on our broken roads and even with two-up riding. At around speeds of 80-90kmph, the Hero Xpulse BS6 remains planted. However, crosswinds do affect this slender motorcycle.





© Provided by The Financial Express




a man riding a motorcycle down a dirt road


© Provided by The Financial Express


Once you get a hang of it, filtering through traffic becomes second nature as well. One should though keep in mind that the front 21-inch spoke wheel juts out a tad more than traditional naked or supersport machines. In the same vein, the rear wheel is an 18-inch unit. Hero provides tube-type CEAT tyres. There is a decent grip both on the road and off-road too. Those looking at serious off-roading might want to invest in knobby pattern tyres, something which CEAT offers. The OEM tyres can handle mild off-roading.



a motorcycle parked on the side of a dirt field


© Provided by The Financial Express




a man riding a motorcycle down a dirt road


© Provided by The Financial Express


The Hero Impulse always had an astonishing ride quality. So, the Xpulse has a lot riding on it to better or at least match it. Unfortunately, the ride quality felt a bit stiff. At slow speeds, one can easily feel the ruts and road imperfections. The situation remains the same with the pillion as well. Perhaps tuning the pre-load adjustable, 10-step monoshock suspension might help. I would have liked a tad more suppleness. It must though be said that the cornering manners of this tall bike are spot on. It is not designed for knee-down action but definitely leans over easily without giving you the jitters.



a man riding a motorcycle down a dirt road


© Provided by The Financial Express


With the BS6 transition, the Xpulse has gained weight – 3kg over the BS4. On the move or at standstill, you will not feel the weight at all. Neither does performance suffer as much as I thought it will. Speaking of performance, the disc brakes at both ends are tuned more to have a progressive bite. I would have liked a bit more feedback but then these brakes seem tuned more for off-road expeditions than on the road. If I were to buy the bike, I will definitely change the seat to a softer unit. It could have been way more comfortable than what it is now. Even the pillion ended up complaining and for a 25km round trip to Greater Noida, we resorted to taking a cab.

Verdict



a close up of a green car


© Provided by The Financial Express


The Hero Xpulse 200 BS6 is the best option for those looking to hone their off-road skills. You get standard knuckle guards, a small visor, and bash plate. I have been told that spare parts don’t cost a bomb and workshops are equipped to handle the regular off-road spills. At Rs 1.11 lakh, the Hero Xpulse 200 BS6 is still the most affordable on-off road bike in India. Yes, it is far from perfect but these niggles are something that some aftermarket love can definitely take care of. The big question. Will I be buying this bike soon? Maybe not. Except for the off-road bit, the 2006 Bajaj Pulsar does nearly everything that the Xpulse does. It is just that the Pulsar didn’t have ABS at that point. May be an apples to oranges comparison this one but in real life, we often relate to things we’ve experienced, and based on that, make a decision. Don’t we?