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Can Bajaj’s fallback claim new territory for itself?

Debabrata Sarkar | Updated on September 13, 2019 Published on September 13, 2019

The Pulsar 125 Neon has a shade of desperation about it. But it does seem like a logical extension for the brand in this market

If you flip back through the years, you will know that Bajaj has had a steady presence in the 125 cc motorcycle segment in the past. It has been the trusted Discover for the most part, and there have been rumours of a Platina that is set to join its ranks as well. However, it is a sizeable chunk of the market and Bajaj has decided it should throw its best into the ring. Step in the Pulsar, a brand that is celebrating 18 years of existence in various shapes and forms, and indeed cubic capacity. This one, the 125 Neon, is the smallest in the range yet. Over the years, the Pulsar has staked its claim with its aggressive design and performance. With the new 125 Neon, Bajaj hopes to offer that same value to a fresh section of the market.

Design

There is little that has changed as far as the Pulsar brand goes, the ones without alphabet suffixes anyway. The erstwhile Pulsar 135, the 150 and the 180 have all carried on the same basic design for nearly two decades.

The bike puts out 12 bhp of power

 

There are some changes like the headlamp design, the introduction of clip-on handlebars and the ‘Neon’ badge. In essence though, the Pulsar 125 Neon today is pretty much the same motorcycle that Bajaj had debuted in the second facelift.

The silhouette, panels, instrument cluster and lamps remain unchanged. While for some of us this may appear to be not such a good thing, Bajaj hopes there will be others who will lap it up. The target audience would have to be those looking for a smaller capacity, cheaper option to become a part of the extended Pulsar family.

 

While all the panels remain the same, the Neon version gets bright accents on the side panels, and the 3D ‘Pulsar’ badge itself has been finished in a rubberised material in bright colour options, rather than the usual chrome.

Engine and performance

With the new Pulsar 125, Bajaj has resisted the temptation of plonking the Discover motor in it. Instead, they have chosen to downsize the existing 150 cc motor, thanks to a shorter stroke.

The 150 cc engine has been given a shorter bore, making it a 125 cc mill   -  Debabrata Sarkar

 

The result is a 124.4 cc, single cylinder, air-cooled engine that makes 12 bhp and 11 Nm of torque.

Turn over the engine using the starter button (you have the option of kick-starting it) and it settles down into a soft idle. Swing a leg over, the 790-mm seat height is easily accessed, and the Pulsar 125 feels as familiar as you could imagine. The clip-on handlebars are within easy reach, while your legs rest with a slight rearward bias.

The long clutch lever travel takes a bit of getting used to, especially off the line as you need to build up a few revs to get moving. As you watch the needle climb the tachometer, the ride just about begins to smoothen out. The motor sounds unrefined till about 4000 revs, although things should improve once the bike has been properly run in. It is in the middle of the rev range that it is the smoothest with enough power on tap too.

Cruise along with the motor around 6000 revs, moving up through the five speed gearbox, and the Pulsar 125 works well.

However, if you want to exploit the entire, rated dozen in its horsepower kitty and keep the throttle pinned till it gets to the redline, a familiar boom will engulf the experience.

Roll back and ease off the throttle, tease the gearbox into action and you can cruise at 70-80 kmph without any hassles.

Yes, you can hurry it along to cross a speed indicated 100 kmph, but that is better left alone.

Ride and handling

Thanks to the Pulsar 125’s dimensions and weight, it feels like a larger motorcycle and remains planted. Whether you tackle broken roads or a quick dash down the highway, it does not feel unsettled. Springs have been set up for a soft, plush ride, which manages to soak up smaller potholes easily. However, given this fact, it may not react as well when it encounters larger potholes. There was a steady drizzle through the length of the test ride and the roads were past being grippy.

The instrument cluster stays the same

 

The EuroGrip tyres weren’t inspiring much confidence and the wooden feel at the front disc made me leave the brake test bit alone.

 

It does use a 240 mm disc, which should provide enough stopping power though. Handling on the Pulsar should be good enough, although you may need to swap tyres for better grip levels.

Bottom Line

While we will need to wait for the new generation of Pulsars a little while longer, thanks to BS VI regulations, Bajaj has tried to maximise the potential of its most popular brand.

It manages to offer something that isn’t readily available in the 125 cc segment, a dash of flair and performance. It is as proven as a motorcycle can be and it continues to work well.

Though there are a couple of niggles; it isn’t the smoothest motor, there is the possibility of finding the odd false neutral and my particular motorcycle had a tendency of increasing idle speed in slow moving traffic.

The fact that they offer an identical product (when compared to the larger capacity sibling) with a slightly smaller tank and a cheaper price tag — ₹66,618 (ex-showroom, Disc) and ₹64,000 (ex-showroom, Drum) — may appeal to some people. Although, with the 150 cc version available at ₹71,200 (ex-showroom), I’d spend the few extra bucks instead.

Published on September 13, 2019
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