Evolution has been the keyword for the designers of the Bajaj Pulsar, right from the first 150 and 180cc Pulsar twins eleven years ago, to the new hooligan-on-road, the Pulsar 200NS.

The “definitely male” motorbike had a good run in terms of market monopoly since its inception, by virtue of its different design, good engine performance and raw sports appeal. That is, until the Yamaha FZ-16, Honda CBR and TVS Apache arrived in the market. Consumers could quickly identify the gaping holes in the Pulsar’s performance, in terms of bad braking, stability issues and a design that had become monotonous over all variants. Even its partner KTM’s 200cc Duke’s success proved that while the Naked Sport bike is much in demand, the Pulsar brand is not much desired for.

In what seems to be an attempt to lure the street bikers back to the “male” bike, Bajaj has unveiled the Pulsar 200NS (yes, the NS stands for Naked Sports). The new street-fighting Pulsar has been around with Smartbuy for some time now, and we have been pushing it through it paces, trying to find out one thing – is this really the best Pulsar yet?

It’s a looker

The good folks designing the Pulsar seem to be obsessed with the mean muscles. It shows on each Pulsar design, albeit the first one has been carried forward largely on every Pulsar variant till now (except of course the 200NS). All said and done, the 200NS is a definite head turner on the road. This one is all about straight and sharp lines and cuts all along the body.

The perimeter frame and its twin steel spars, side-cowls and knee-recesses incorporate the same muscular design philosophy, with neat cuts and sharp lines. The rear, sadly, is the same old tapering design with the two LED-strip tail lamps. But what changes the look considerably is the new cast alloy number-plate holder.

The downward tapering and mean-looking ‘street-fighter’ headlamps have a helmet-strap like lining around it, with twin pilot lights attached on either side. The design seems to have been inspired from popular naked sports bikes like the Ducati Streetfighter and even the long line of Dukes.

For the first time, the Pulsar sports a Nitrox Mono Suspension at the rear (with a piggy-back Nitrox canister usually seen on older Pulsars’ rear shocks). The mono-suspension isn’t really a new thing that’s on the market - it’s been around on naked bikes even in India for quite some time. It was just high time Bajaj started incorporating it in the design.

The wide tyres give the Pulsar 200NS a further aggressive look. But, the front registration plate juts out from beneath the headlamp in a very ugly manner. The backlighting on the switches and electricals has been changed from white to blue, and an orange-backlit digital console sits in the middle with an analog tachometer. While the left panel beams the brand logo in blue along regular indicators like side stand, left and right turn and high beam, the right digital panel glows with the speedometer, trip meter, service indicator and a clock.

The exhaust is positioned beneath the chassis, just like the Duke, which led to a few questions, and which got answered during the performance runs.

Fighting on the streets

Bajaj may vehemently deny that the Pulsar’s engine is vaguely similar to the Duke’s but while riding, it felt quite a lot like the Duke. Bajaj has come up with a triple-spark engine, with one spark plug as the master spar-plug and two others as slaves for better fuel efficiency. The Duke’s engine manages with just one plug and sports fuel injection and a DOHC, delivering a bit more power.

It wouldn’t have harmed Bajaj to use fuel-injection instead of the Venturi carburettor on this one, though the target to keep the price of the bike below Rs one lakh might have weighed on the decision. The 4-valve liquid cooled SOHC engine with its 199 cc displacement comes alive without much noise. Twist that wrist and it stirs up a storm.

True to its naked-sports spirit, the P200NS reached 100 kmph from standstill in under 10 seconds during every trial run, and on open stretches, the six-speed gearbox let me reach 120 kmph without breaking a sweat. On one stretch I also hit the company-claimed 130 kmph. All this courtesy its peak power of 23.5 PS at 9,500 rpm and top torque of 18.3 nm at 8,000 rpm.

The 200 NS is fitted with petal disc brakes on both front and rear (280mm front and 230mm rear with floating callipers). The Bybre (Brembo’s proprietary brakes for bikes under 600cc) brakes are extremely efficient and can bring the heavy bike (145kgs at the kerb) to a standstill from higher speeds almost instantly. The rear does not step out while braking on the straights, as the case used to be with older Pulsars.

The Pulsar line has always been notorious for its forward weight bias, which gives it a reputation on the corners. Surprisingly, the 200NS, in spite of its slight front-heavy design, fared well on the corners. Initially I was not confident about leaning deep into the corners, primarily because of the history and also because the tarmac was wet and I wasn’t too confident with the 130/70 rear Eurogrip tyres. But once the Sun dried up the black top, I could easily negotiate tight corners.

The 200cc engine heated up quite fast under the Chennai Sun and our riding conditions, but the liquid cooling system attended to it and heating never became a problem.

What I was really worried about was the under-belly exhaust with Bajaj’s proprietary ExhausTEC chamber, and was really anxious to check out how it fared. It rained during the testing period, and I have never been so glad for a downpour, for it gave me a chance to run the bike through nearly two-feet of standing water on the waterlogged streets and the Pulsar 200NS passed this test with ease.

On the bike

While this new Pulsar may perform well on the streets, it’s far from kind on your back. While riding the bike inside the city might be decently comfortable, long rides can be painful, especially if you are big made. The space between the tank and the hump of the pillion seat is not too accommodating for riders who are of medium-build and above. The reach to the handlebars can get a bit uncomfortable. The suspension is tuned to be rigid and oriented towards performance. They’re good enough to absorb slightly broken tarmac, but big potholes and broken patches can make you feel uncomfortable.

The turning radius too, is quite wide, which defeats the entire purpose of the Pulsar being a ‘street-fighter’. Manoeuvring the heavy bike is difficult as is, the wider turning angles add to the woes.

End of track

For the first time, Bajaj has come out with a Pulsar that can be handled quite decently too. If style and raw power are what you seek, a closer look at the Pulsar 200NS is warranted.

The new Pulsar NS is priced at Rs. 85,000 (ex-show room, Delhi).

(This article was published on August 21, 2012)
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