Five best performance motorcycles in India
The performance bike market seems to be maturing with almost all major two-wheeler companies in India having a model on sale, while those who don't are scrambling to roll out bikes. The success of these models is driven by the growing segment of riders who don't want just another commuter motorcycle, but who are looking to get into serious motorcycling.
The bikes listed below aren't real superbikes and may be sold abroad as bikes used to start off someone's motorcycling career, but in India, considering the cost and efficiency figures that are demanded, these bikes are truly performance machines. Moreover what these bikes have done is open a gateway for bigger and more powerful bikes to come into India when the time is right.
Yamaha R15 V 2.0
The Yamaha R15 was the first real performance oriented motorcycle in India. Despite lacking the displacement or power of a superbike, what the R15 did was offer the latest technology at an affordable price.
Being over five years old, the R15 is still one of the best handling motorcycles in India, if not the best. The bike brought a whole new level of complexity into the Indian motorcycle market not just with its amazing engine but complex frame geometry and quality. There still isn't a bike in India that can challenge the R15's supremacy in handling, power delivery, refinement and quality for the price at which it is being sold.
The R15 recently got refreshed, giving birth to the R15 Version 2.0. Yamaha bettered the pedigree upon which the bike was built, offering sportier styling, which was done to change the balance of the bike to aid better handling. The bike also got a cast aluminium swingarm that boosted rigidity and in turn the handling.
The engine of the R15 may be the smallest among all the bikes on this list, displacing just 150cc, but it's also one of the most technologically advanced. The 150cc mill uses a forged piston and a sleevless DiASil bore, that aids durability and heat transfer while still being able to produce more power. To put that into perspective, the R15's engine is built out of the same materials and using similar techniques as the Yamaha R1.
Price: Rs 1.07 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi)
Engine: 149.8cc – 17PS
The Honda CBR250R does not live up to the legendary CBR badge it carries in terms of sportiness or agility. However that doesn't stop it from being one of the best bikes in India. Honda may have forgotten how to name their bikes right, but what they haven't forgotten is how to build them right.
The CBR250R isn't a sports bike like its name suggests, but a 'sports tourer' – a bike able to crunch up massive miles at high speeds without breaking a sweat. This trait makes the CBR250R the best touring motorcycle on this list.
The bike borrows its looks from the Honda VFR1200, and has very contemporary styling unlike the sharp/pointy/aggressive looks of the CBR family. In terms of riding position and comfort too the CBR250R is relatively laid back, and the bundles of torque available in the low-end and mid-range add to its cruising ability. The bike may lack the top-end grunt, but the linear power delivery makes for a pretty devilish ride, the bike somewhat unleashing itself when it nears the 10,500 rpm redline.
The suspension being on the softer side means reduced feel of the front end while entering corners, but on the open road, it just swallows up the bumps. The CBR250R is no track bike like the Yamaha R15 or the Kawasaki Ninja 250R, and it wasn't meant to be.
Price: Rs 1.57 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi)
Engine: 249.6cc – 25.3PS
Royal Enfield Classic 500
The Royal Enfield Classic 500 takes the award for the best looker in this list of 'best performance bikes in India' and despite having the engine with the biggest displacement, it isn't exactly a performance bike. What puts the Classic 500 on this list is its vintage styling and price tag.
The Classic 500 may have been a performer back in the 1930's but in present standards it really lacks the power or refinement that other cheaper bikes offer. What I just said probably made all you Bullet fanatics out there go, “it has fuel injection!”. But the bottom line is that push rod engines should have been banned from being made in the 21st century, yet they find home on a Royal Enfield bike.
That said, the Royal Enfield isn’t about the power or the modernity, it’s about the age old styling and the feel of riding something from yester year. It isn’t comfortable like most people say it is, but what fun is a bike ride where your backside isn’t sore and your boot soles aren’t melted? (courtesy the massively hot exhaust)
A Royal Enfield is about riding the torque and the Class 500 has loads of it. Its classic styling and somewhat modern reliability and quality make it a winner in our books, but what really makes it unique is its novelty value. People do still turn and stare when they hear the beastly roar the Classic 500 produces, like a steam engine running alongside a Bullet train.
Price: Rs 1.53 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi)
Engine: 499cc – 27.6PS (maybe at the crank, definitely not at the wheel)
KTM Duke 390
The KTM Duke 390 is the latest arrival in the Indian performance bike segment and shares much with the Duke 200. For all those who ever thought, the Duke 200 was lacking power, this bike is for you. The KTM Duke 390 takes the prize for the 'best performer' in our list of best performance bikes in India.
The Duke 390 is built on the same platform as the Duke 200, and apart from sharing the chassis and most of the running gear, the biggest difference comes in the engine. Pushing out almost twice as much power as the Duke 200, the Duke 390 features an engine with a bigger 375cc displacement. It isn't just the average rebore job either – the engine gets a completely new bore & stroke, a forged piston and Nikasil coated cylinder. This helps the engine control the extra stresses of producing more power, without compromising on the reliability of the bike.
The Duke 390 is the most powerful bike in this category and being a naked streegfighter, it may not be the ideal track machine. But with its hard suspension setup and the sticky Metzeler tyres, the Duke 390 is no slouch going around corners. Its short wheelbase help the Duke 390 change direction very quickly, making it a pleasure to ride in the city. Along with an almost linear torque curve, the bike lunges forward in any gear with the slightest twist of the throttle.
The KTM Duke 390 is the ultimate performance bike in the sense that it will not burn a massive hole in your pocket, whilst still putting a smile on your face every time you get on it. With the best power to weight ratio among all the bikes in this list, the Duke 390 is the fastest and probably the most fun to ride bike on Indian roads.
Price: Rs 1.8 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi)
Engine: 373.2cc – 43.6PS
Bajaj Pulsar NS200
The Pulsar 200NS is miles behind the previous naked bike on our list in terms of technology, power, and every other imaginable aspect, but most importantly it's miles behind in terms of pricing. Being the cheapest bike on our list, the Pulsar 200NS is the most value for money proposition out there when it comes to motorcycle buying.
Based roughly on the KTM Duke 200 (though this is highly debatable), the Pulsar has the highest power to cost ratio among the five bikes here. The Pulsar 200NS screams 'cheap thrills', and doesn't just offer decent amounts of power, but also a fairly well handling package.
The Pulsar 200NS is the most advanced Pulsar from the Bajaj stable and what it dose best is set the stage for future Pulsar models to follow, including the smallest 135cc bike. In terms of styling the Pulsar is no 'looker', but that said, styling is highly subjective and just like the rest of the bikes on this list it sure is distinct in its own sense.
The Pulsar 200NS gives the more expensive bikes a run for their money on the power, handling and styling fronts, but short gearing like the KTM Duke 200 it is supposedly based upon hinders some of its riding fun on the open roads.
Price: Rs 85,706 (ex-showroom Delhi)
Engine: 199.5cc – 23.5PS