The new Avenger 200 DTS-i is the result of Bajaj’s attempt at refreshing the cruiser experience, by endowing the bike with a more refined and powerful mill and add-ons that enhance its looks.

S. Muralidhar

The image that your mind conjures up about a cruiser bike and its rider may be predictable. But it is still exciting. And in the corner of every tie-clad, claustrophobic, cubicle-bound commuter’s mind, the cruiser will be the bike to own…some day.

Desire to own

A big, performance muscle bike has that air of impossibility about it. Bikers who are cash-strapped drool over such bikes, but they would also be subconsciously telling themselves that they would never own one. With a cruiser, it is different; most of us want to believe that one-day it could be us sitting astride that low-slung bike, ridding away into the horizon with the wind in our hair. And the older we are, the more plausible it would seem that we are the ghost riders stretched out and enjoying the cruiser experience.

That is the inexorable allure of the cruiser and every feature that is added to further its image goes on to urge the potential buyer to advance his purchase decision. The Royal Enfield Thunderbird may be a bit pricey and tall for the average commuter bike owner, but currently the only other option that would be easier on their pocket and take them close to the cruiser experience is the Bajaj Avenger.

Bajaj engineers have been working on improving the appeal of the Avenger, adding new features and refining the cruiser bike as a whole. The Avenger is based on the original Kawasaki Bajaj Eliminator, the cruiser that captured the imagination of bikers when it was launched in 2001.

The Eliminator’s 175cc engine was replaced with the Pulsar’s 180cc engine and Bajaj also managed to cut costs and localise more parts to make the bike much more affordable that the Japanese version’s Rs 90,000-plus on-road price tag. Of course, the Eliminator name was also dumped and the bike was re-christened Avenger.

Another makeover

And now, a little over two years after the launch of the Avenger with the 180cc Pulsar engine, this bike has been given another makeover and has also had a heart transplant.

The new Avenger 200 DTS-i is the result of Bajaj’s attempt at refreshing the cruiser experience by endowing the bike with a more refined and powerful mill and by making a few changes, add-ons that will enhance its looks. The bike essentially remains the same on the outside. The same extra-long wheelbase of 1,475mm, tubular double cradle frame with box-section swing arm, disc brake in the front, cut-away silencer and the same suspension set-up.

All of these, and the low-slung, wide-set seat and the single pod instrument cluster have endeared the Avenger to cruiser fans.

The most visible changes in the Avenger 200 are on the fuel tank. First, the earlier set of three indicator lights for turn and neutral have been replaced now with a neat, round fuel gauge, surrounded by twin, triangular warning lights area.

The new feature goes well with the overall cruiser image and the glossy chrome finish to the unit as a whole, which runs like an oversized spine on the fuel tank, adds a lot of charm to the Avenger. Another change visible on the fuel tank is the Avenger logo, which has been moved from its position on the side panels in the earlier version.

The single pod speedo, odometer and trip meter are at the same spot. In addition to the other standard feature, the round headlamp with halogen bulb, Bajaj is now offering as an optional addition, a stylish, plexi-glass windshield that almost immediately boosts the cruiser character of this bike. One transparent oversized vertically positioned visor and everybody on the road turned around to watch the bike on our test rides around town.

Free-revving engine

Of course, apart from all these changes in the Avenger 200, the most important one is the new engine. Pulling out the old 180 DTS-i, Bajaj has now plonked the new 200 DTS-i engine of the Pulsar family. The 198.8cc, oil-cooled DTS-i engine has been marginally re-rated to suit the character of the Avenger.

While the engine generates a peak power of about 18 PS in the Pulsar, the mill in the Avenger puts out 17.5 PS at 8,000 rpm. The peak torque has also been marginally stepped down to 16.78 Nm at 6,000 rpm, instead of the Pulsar’s 17.17 Nm.

The new mill definitely feels more refined and seems to offer the right amount of torque and power right through from the first to the fifth gear slot. The free-revving nature of the engine and the improved gearbox in the new Avenger 200 is truly enjoyable. Shifting up is just a blip in the five-speed gearbox and finding neutral in this one down, rest up gearbox was never easier.

Along with the performance characteristics of the new engine, the overall refinement levels have also helped improve the ride feel of the Avenger 200. Noise and vibration levels are lower and the bike feels more planted and confident now. Chrome finished rear-view mirrors have been carried forward as have all the sturdy electricals.

A new, low maintenance battery has been incorporated in the Avenger 200 to provide a more hassle-free ownership experience. The new battery has a unique vent mechanism that allows gas, vapours, etc., to escape.

But, at the same time, the vent does not allow loss of electrolyte. As a result, electrolyte spillage and/or evaporation are considerably reduced, and there is no drainpipe. A once-a-year level check is enough to ensure that the cells are always immersed in electrolyte.

The could-have-beens

What we would have liked to see in the Avenger in addition to the current changes are self-cancelling turn indicators that Bajaj offers in the top-end Pulsars. These would have added to the Avenger’s lazy-boy rider image. We would have also liked a more pronounced, thumping exhaust note instead of the current raspy one, though it does look like Bajaj’s R&D has had to work within limits. Bajaj could also attempt marketing genuine cruiser accessories, co-branded apparel, and so on,, to boost the Avenger’s appeal and make the rider truly feel like God.

The Bajaj Avenger 200 is the closest we can get to the cruiser experience and at about Rs 65,000 (ex-showroom) is very affordable too. If you are looking to fit in with the Avenger’s persona, go get a shoulder tattoo, let your hair down to your shoulders and shop for a pair of leather pants.

http://WheelWheel.blogspot.com

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated October 14, 2007)
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