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Riding the Pulse of the bikers

Riding the Pulse of the bikers
Highlights

There was a time when bikes meant serious business, it meant work. Around a bike that was way ahead of its time. The bike came as an abuse to mediocrity, laughing at the conventional and made a point.

There was a time when bikes meant serious business, it meant work. Around a bike that was way ahead of its time. The bike came as an abuse to mediocrity, laughing at the conventional and made a point.

The bike was contrary to everything that seemed to work. Possibly because it wasn’t meant to work, it was meant for play. This was the time when Bajaj’s Buland Bharat ki Buland Tasveer… Chetak became rarer, and people looked upon motorcycles to commute.
The spurt was preposterous with Hero Honda dominating the scenario. It was difficult for any other company to launch its bike against any Hero Honda bike for it had the much coveted Splendor and Passion. Bajaj Auto in joint efforts with Japanese bike-designing firm R&D anticipated the idea of launching its new bike, which in following years created the history of success and changed the scenario of Indian bike market.
The story of success that Bajaj Pulsar and its successors created was unexpected. Even the designers had an inkling that they were creating an illustration to be followed by the coming generations for before the emergence of Pulsar, Indian bikes were mainly engineered with engine capacity varying between 80 and 125 cc.
Riding a powerful bike was like a dream for riders even when the rest drooled on those props for a ‘Sallu’ song. When everything changed The first generation of Bajaj Pulsar started rolling out in October 2001, the vehicle had a round headlamp, adorned a 150 cc aircooled single cylinders with four-stroke engine generating a maximum power of 13 HP. For the first time, disc brakes were integrated in the history of Indian bikes.
But above all, it was muscular design that wooed everybody. Muscles like Arnold rubbed against granite, the bike was ‘Definitely Male’. Until January 2002, Bajaj did not have the anticipated sales. The unconventional design and aesthetics was a risk, and Bajaj thought they had lost the game.
But gradually sales started picking up, slow and steady. Every time a person spotted a Pulsar on the road, four others wanted to buy it. Eventually Pulsar became the most sold bike of the year and what followed was a legion of bikers who got their confidence to wanderlust. Two Years down, in October 2003, Pulsar got its first update. The round headlamps were replaced by a more aggressive faired bikini headlamps. The power increased to 16 and 13 PS for the 180 and 150 respectively. Pulsar also received an engine kill switch and the revolutionary DTSi technology.
The wheelbase increased to these models. This was one of the most significant technological update. In November 2004, it further lept. UG2 had many technological upgrades that are till date a part of the Pulsars, and a standard for the industry - 17' alloy wheels that allowed for greater suspension travel, nitrox suspension and the legendary ExhausTEC were all introduced in this period. In terms of styling there was the broader rear tyre, tyre huggers and "All black styling" on the Pulsar 180. The third generation Pulsar was the most successful bike Bajaj had ever made. Roads were flooded with the machines and was yearned by the urban lot.
The bike was a guilty pleasure, a street magnet and the best looking and most powerful in the segment. In two years, Pulsar reached the 1mn mark. There were fanatics, or how Bajaj calls the ‘Pulsarmaniacs’ everywhere. It was around this time when Bajaj made an outrageous announcement that it was building a 220cc Pulsar, which was meant to take down the revered and the legendary Hero Honda Karizma. Around the same time, Pulsar got its fourth update.
The fourth gen Pulsars had the highest number of total upgrades and ushered in the digital era picked up from the promised Pulsar 220. It was the first time that the digital speedometer, back-lit switches, self-cancelling indicators, LED tail lamps etc, were introduced.
Multiple sensors and the digital console gave the riders a lot of information about the overall performance of the bike, and with it a confidence to push forward with additional power that the Pulsar dished out. It also humbly increased power to 14 PS for the 150. 200 and 220: Bajaj had confirmed that after the launch of the best-selling Gen3 Pulsar it was focusing on 200cc and above segments. Nearly four years of R&D and intensive market study, thorough research, Bajaj wanted to build a product that would define them in the new era. The idea bore its fruit as the Pulsar 220- and India’s first Sportsbike was born. The new Pulsar changed the image of Bajaj.
And even for the debut, Bajaj took a walk on the memory lanes and brought back the Humara Bajaj song, which this time meant different. ‘Reh khud se hi hum aage… Nayi Bharath ki Nayi Raftaar… Humara Bajaj, Alag Andaaz, Hai Aage Aaj.’ Bajaj was indeed ‘Distinctly Ahead’. While the 200cc sported a carburetor, the 220cc was fuel injected. These babies dished out undulating power of 18 and 20 Ps respectively and also boasted of oil coolers. The 220 also had both front and rear disc brakes and wider wheelbase. By 2009 another two million Pulsars were added, taking the total to over three million Pulsars on Indian roads. By this time the sports segment had also expanded to over 15 brands from all major manufacturers like Honda, Yamaha, Hero Honda, TVS.
The segment accounted for about 17 per cent of the total motorcycles sales and Pulsar contributed half of that with its 50 per cent market… and also got a few minor updates like clip-on handle bar and 15Ps power in February 2010. Change in the scenario Pulsars continued to get those minor tweaks and added PS even for the 220. But its obsession in challenging itself didn’t stop. People started losing interest in the Pulsars, for they were common, more than three million were out there.
In November 2007, Bajaj Auto had acquired 14.5 per cent stake in KTM Power Sports AG (holding company of KTM Sportmotorcycles AG). The two companies signed a cooperation deal, by which KTM will provide the knowhow for joint development of the water- cooled four-stroke 125 and 250 cc engines, and Bajaj will take over the distribution of KTM products in India and some other Southeast Asian nations. The fruit of this joint venture was the Pulsar 200NS. The Pulsar did not look like the Pulsar anymore. It was skinnier, lighter but more powerful, even than the 220.
The similarities it could only draw was from the KTM Duke 200. When the Duke became a panacea among the new riders, the 200NS became the second choice. Even though the NS was one of the best Pulsars ever made, it could not do the magic of the traditional Pulsars. Pulsar wasn’t the most loved anymore. Today, what Bajaj has is the 200RS. This is a reminiscence of the first Pulsar. It is as unconventional as the first one.
But nobody knows how the future of sports bike in India will evolve into. However, the name Pulsar will be always be remembered as the bike that started it all.
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