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Best bikes: Who won the race?

December 29, 2007 18:59 IST
The Bajaj XCD 125! The XCD 125 brought a new scale of value-for-money to the volume-end of the Indian motorcycle market.

But more importantly, it is the sole all-new motorcycle to be launched this year. Our awards format has always respected and rewarded the manufacturer who puts in the effort to create an all-new product.

2007 was characterised not by all-new machines, but by six other significant variants and upgrades and we decided to bring them in for the awards evaluation. They made the XCD's task more difficult, obviously, but at the end of the evaluation, while the results were interesting, the XCD's ability to fit its role left us impressed.

Perhaps the biggest name in this year's contenders list was the Bajaj Pulsar 220 DTS-Fi. It led the performance scores, shared the top subjective scores with its close sibling, the Pulsar 200 DTSi, and was the clear leader in the features class as well.

And why not, it is a superbly crafted motorcycle, easily the most effortless, cohesive of all the Pulsars. The unrivalled headlamps and sporty ergonomics also won it points.

However, our awards evaluation structure favours the less expensive and more frugal motorcycles. So while the 220's excellent economy won it points, the price tag lost it the biggest chunk of the points.

Its sibling, the 200, shared similar scores on many parameters, but trailed the 220 on performance as well as features and economy. But its significantly lower price added to its advantage over the 220. So, in the final score, the 200 actually outscored the 220 by just under 1 per cent.

Hero Honda had two contenders this year, both variants or upgrades -- the Splendor NXG and the Hunk.

The Splendor was the smallest bike in the contenders list, and while it topped the fuel economy charts, it scored the lowest in the performance category. But on the whole, the competition was simply too strong. Even winning lots of points for a low price tag would not bring it close to winning.

The Hunk, on the other hand, did rather well. And it should. After all, it shares all of its powertrain with our 2007 Bike Of The Year, the Hero Honda CBZ X-Treme.

In the company of the 220, the 200 and the Apache RTR, its performance score was middle-order. It also lost points to the trio on a number of subjective parameters as well as features.

A handful of points earned with marginally greater economy only meant one thing -- the 150cc class price tag would get it the points needed to inch ahead of the more expensive competition. As it turned out, the Hunk's points deficit turned into a minute advantage over the Bajajs, thanks to the lower price alone.

Royal Enfield could not provide us with a Machismo 500 in time for this test, and therefore was not actively considered for an award. But, having extensively ridden the motorcycle, we decided to score it anyway, to be able to pin down its position on the charts. While the 500 did fairly well throughout, its six-figure price tag was a huge burden, and it lost a substantial number of points.

Which brings us to the TVS Apache RTR 160. The aggressive new TVS impressed with its engine performance as well as dynamic character. It did well in the performance department and stayed close to the 220 in the subjective evaluation as well, only to lose out on the features front.

However, its massive price advantage took the Apache RTR well ahead. Since it scored the highest among the variant/upgrades, we've decided to salute TVS' achievement with the RTR. Which is why the TVS Apache RTR 160 wins the debut Business Standard Motoring Performance Bike Of The Year 2008.

But standing head and shoulders above the variants and upgrades is the Bajaj XCD 125, the Business Standard Motoring Bike Of The Year 2008. Its biggest achievement is that it brings a significant change in a segment which we've always criticised as sluggish and status-quo oriented in product evolution terms. It takes on the mighty Indian 100cc commuter, with a frugal, larger displacement engine and a superb price tag.

It also looks modern and fresh, rather than template styling that most of the segment's motorcycles tend to resort to, while enjoyable dynamics and good ride quality only make the package that much more compelling. Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for our 2008 Bike Of The Year, the XCD 125. Congratulations, Bajaj!

Business Standard Motoring Scooter Of The Year 2008 – Kinetic-Sym Flyte

Even closer than the motorcycle battle, this year, was the scooter battle. The two leading contenders for the award were the Suzuki Access and the Kinetic-Sym Flyte.

Both all-new, both 125cc and both impressive and closely matched. In the evaluations, our impression was confirmed. The Access inched ahead with a minor performance advantage, only to have the Flyte catch up in the subjective evaluation, scoring better in areas like styling, handling, braking, and crucially, fun-to-ride.

The duo are evenly matched on features and economy, and the points difference became significant only when the price entered the equation.

Here, the Flyte put the Access firmly on the defensive with a significant Rs 5,000-odd cheaper price tag. Suzuki put up a incredibly hard fight for the crown, but ultimately, the just over 1 per cent difference in price points decided the Business Standard Motoring Scooter Of The Year 2008, the Kinetic-Sym Flyte.

Team BSM in Mumbai