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New Star in the sports bike universe?

S. Muralidhar | Updated on November 05, 2021

Bajaj’s new Pulsar 250 twins could well be the entry performance motorcycles you’ve been waiting for

 

The Bajaj Pulsar has been a staple amongst a whole generation of bikers. Often providing the first taste of performance biking to young, aspiring motorcyclists, the Pulsar also gave its maker — Bajaj Auto — the first taste of success after a long break. The Pulsar has had a two decade long journey since the first generation 150 was launched in 2001 and its importance to the company and the biking community can’t be overemphasised.

It has had its faults but that didn’t stop riders from dreaming of doing those wheelies and stoppies. Speaking of which, I hope those early days of hyper-aggressive, sexist advertising and taglines like “it is definitely male” are over.

It's been a fairly long time coming, but to commemorate the milestone birthday of this iconic motorcycle, Bajaj has launched the new Pulsar 250 - the biggest Pulsar yet.

The first quarter-litre Pulsar seems like an exciting prospect even before I head for the test ride at Bajaj’s plant in Pune. After the NS200 and the 220, an organic, evolutionary upgrade to the quarter-litre class feels like the right move. Pulsar’s fans, many loyalists, will certainly approve.

Design

Bajaj engineers have tried to keep things simple with the new bike. The Pulsar 250 gets a naked version and a faired version, both with only two body colour options (for now). The Pulsar’s unique design is important and too iconic to meddle with, say Bajaj officials. So, if you thought some of the design features are recognisable, it is because they are meant to hark back to the original. But, unlike the bulky front and weak rear designs of the first few generations of the Pulsar, the new N250 and F250 (naked and faired), look more proportionate.

 

They possess this crouched, ready for action, yet balanced stance. There is still a lot of Pulsar in the key design elements like the fuel tank, the fairing, the front cowls, the bolt-on handlebars, the twin tail-lamps and even the engine covers. But they’ve all been carefully redesigned to reinterpret and continue to remind.

The design is also more sinuous, rather more aerodynamic with a sleeker mid-section and a proportionate rear. Fit and finish quality has improved significantly and every panel seems to have been designed to aid airflow, a facet that was all too evident while gunning the Pulsar 250 down the long straights at Bajaj Auto’s test track in the Pune plant. Bajaj designers have used the interplay of colours and finishes to further highlight the design. There is matt and polished, dual-tone and dual colour panels and decals that catch the eye in both the N250 and F250. Some of those choices give a floating effect to features such as the front fender, the belly pan and the fairing.

 

Equipment

The new Pulsars should feel like a genuine upgrade with a bunch of features that have become standard in the sports/ performance segment. So, LED turn indicators, disc brakes for front and rear, contoured, stepped seats for rider and pillion and the projector headlamps should add to their appeal. The quality of cast parts is also excellent, though my only gripe was with the relatively thin section for the brake and clutch levers.

 

Similarly, the switchgear and knobs are all well-made overall, though I’d have liked them to feel a bit chunkier in terms of build. The stubby, short tube exhaust is another neat change that gels with the new design and adds a certain degree of novelty. It has also led to a change in the exhaust note of this Pulsar. But, though it is meatier, the sound continues to have a rough edge.

Sitting astride the new Pulsar is when the design similarities strike me starting from the shape of the fuel tank. But I also observe that the lower 795mm saddle height offers better reach and a better riding position. The sit-in feel and the wider, contoured seat also makes it comfortable. Bajaj engineers managed to lower the saddle height because they’ve moved the battery to the rear and the airbox is also flatter and sleeker. The red decals and accents on the body panels and 17-inch alloys add a sporty flair to the new Pulsars. The instrument cluster is part analog (tachometer needle), part digital and it features a modern, rimless construction - Bajaj calls it an infinity display. There is also the addition of a USB charging socket. But there is no Bluetooth connectivity option offered for smartphone integration. Bajaj officials feel that this feature could be more a distraction than an aid.

Performance

The new Pulsar 250 is all-new from the ground up and that shows in its track and on-road performance. The most obvious being in its handling and dynamics. Under the taut panels of the new Pulsar is a lighter and stiffer chassis. The tubular frame, with engine as stressed member, and the rectangular swing arm construction has been tuned to deliver considerable torsional stiffness to this bike.

This has also allowed the rest of the power unit and other mechanicals to be positioned to get a 50:50 weight distribution between the front and the rear. At about 160kg plus, this is about the same weight as most other competitors in this segment. But, a lot of focus is on weight reduction, even for smaller features like the fairing (50 per cent lower than the 220’s fairing) and the new alloys (one kilo lower).

 

The new single-cylinder engine is a 249cc, oil-cooled unit that generates 24.5PS of peak power and 21.5Nm of torque. In terms of sheer numbers, it is a step up over 200cc competitors and even the Pulsar 220; it is a shade better than the NS 200; but it is lower than the Dominar 250 and the Duke 250. Yet, in the power to weight measure, the lighter Pulsar 250 manages to match the heavier Dominar 250. The other change in the new engine is the return to twin sparkplugs from the triple configuration we have seen in the NS 200. Bajaj engineers say that this has been driven by the richer air-fuel mix in the engine and the reset stoichiometric ratio is better served by a twin-spark set up.

The new engine’s refinement is a leap forward and offers a wide mid-range rpm band where much of the power can be exploited. The assist and slipper clutch combines with the 5-speed gearbox to offer crisp, clean shifts. The clutch is really light to use, downshifts are quick and there was no instance of a false neutral during my test ride. The ride quality is also a highlight with the suspension set up being telescopic forks at the front and a monoshock at the rear.

After the monoshock and nitrox combination in the NS 200, it is good to see that the dual shocks of the 220 weren't carried forward. On-road and track performance get a boost with consistent damping and predictable cornering. The ride does feel a tad sporty and stiff and I wonder if a few riders may want more travel for the front forks.

Bottomline

The new Pulsar 250 is a bit more compact in its footprint with a lower wheelbase than the NS 200 and Dominar 250. It feels more nimble than any of the previous Pulsars. Bajaj officials also claim that it has the lowest G-force levels at the rider’s seat. Braking performance is also good with a 300mm front disc and a 230mm rear disc brake. But the bike only gets single-channel ABS, unlike a few competitors that offer dual-channel.

Overall, the new Pulsar 250 twins are a big leap forward for Bajaj. The design stays true to the original, though some of you (like yours truly) may find the cowls and side panels a tad bit overdone. It also represents a big leap in the performance and refinement departments. The Pulsar N250 has been priced at ₹1.38 lakh and the F250 is being offered at ₹1.4 lakh.

Published on November 05, 2021

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