Tuesday, 3 January 2017

5 years with Bajaj Pulsar 220F DTS-i | Long term review | TechTalk #2

In 2001, when India was riding 100cc bikes, Bajaj launched the Pulsar series and changed the Indian motorcycle market for good. Sporty looks, great performance and never-seen-before technologies. The Pulsar series is a successful flagship for the Indian market. They kept on upgrading the Pulsar series and in 2007 came the beast with the tag “the fastest bike in India”. Bajaj Pulsar 220 DTS-Fi.

Pulsar 220F DTS-i long term review  5 years with pulsar 220

In 2009, Bajaj downgraded Pulsar 220 DTS-Fi for an aggressive price tag and aimed at increasing the sales. The bike was named Pulsar 220F DTS-i and was given a carburettor instead of fuel injection which the bike previously had. With this change, they not only reduced the cost, but increased the power (21PS) which made this new version an instant success in the Indian market.

I bought the bike in February 2012. I was mainly attracted by the looks and the engine capacity of the bike (I was only 18 back then). But as my knowledge about motorcycles grew, I began to understand its features.

The bike has some excellent features like auto head light switch-off after few seconds of turning the engine off to avoid battery drainage, self-cancelling turn signals, side stand warning light, dual digital trip meter, low fuel warning, low battery indicator, air filter clog indicator, low oil pressure indicator and auto choke system.

Initially I was using a Kawasaki KB100 RTZ. From the KB100 to Pulsar 220, it was quite an upgrade. Getting used to the Pulsar 220 definitely had a learning curve. The high low and mid end torque of the bike took me by surprise quite a few times. Naturally, I used to compare the Pulsar 220 with the KB100. But it was when the KB100 faded out, that I truly started understanding the bike.

2 bikes parked in a parking lot kawasaki KB100 and bajaj pulsar 220
Kawasaki KB100 and Bajaj Pulsar 220

Myth Busted:

Firstly, I would like to debunk the myths about Pulsar. There is a common belief that Pulsar engines don’t last long, gearbox starts giving problems after 2 years and Bajaj bikes are high maintenance. I have been using a Bajaj Pulsar 220 for about 5 years now and trust me, the bike has none of these issues. Sure the engine and gearbox are not as refined as that of a Honda or Yamaha. But hey, these companies have been making motorcycles since eternity. Plus you get a Pulsar at about half the cost.


Design and built quality:

Bajaj Pulsar 220 has some the best looks the market has to offer. The build quality of the bike is also excellent. It has had quite a few falls since I bought it and it has survived all of that. Anytime the bike takes a fall, it rests upon the extremely sturdy handle bar and the leg guard preventing any damage to the fairing. The plastic quality is excellent and has lasted me a long time without any problems at all. Many people complain about Pulsar 220’s fairing vibration. But I have not faced any problem regarding that till now.

The only irritating part of the Pulsar 220 is the Rear View Mirrors (RVM). The size of the RVM is very tiny and you can hardly see anything in it. Setting up these mirrors is also a task. And once they are dabbled with, which happens frequently in parking lots, you have set them again. The RVM’s also tend to become loose and start changing their positions while riding.

When it comes to design, the Bajaj Pulsar 220F has a tubular chassis design which is quite outdated if you ask me, considering the competition in the market. But, it works quite well when combined with the overall dynamics of the bike. The front suspension are nice and stiff while the rear suspension is a bit soft which I feel is a confidence killer for the rider at higher speeds.

Engine & Gearbox:

The Pulsar 220 has an oil cooled engine. And the oil cooling does its job perfectly. Even after riding for 250km non-stop, my legs hardly felt any heat. Now, Bajaj is known for a lot of things, but engine refinement is not one of them. The engine tends to give a lot of vibrations at higher RPM which can get really irritating at times.

The Pulsar 220F has a 5-speed gearbox and it does complete justice to the raw power delivered by the 220cc engine. The gearbox seemed to be a bit rough during the first two years but lately the gear shifts have become really smooth. The bike also responds perfectly to clutch-less shifting.

City use:

The Bajaj Pulsar 220F seems to be a bit heavy for city use at first. But once you get used to it, the bike can be maneuvered easily through city traffic. The bike feels a bit heavier on the front which compels the rider to use the front brake more and makes the rear brake a bit weak. This is the reason why new pulsar owners tend lock the front wheel and fall. But as I said earlier, once you get used to it, it’s all good.

Highway use:

The bike seems to be made for highway riding. Find a comfortable sitting posture and you can ride for as long as you want without any trouble. The large fuel tank lets you go almost 450km before you have to refill.

The bike’s higher weight helps it to stick to the road and keeps it steady in case of crosswinds at high speeds on the highways. The bike seems to lack torque in the 5th gear, but feels quite comfortable in the 4th gear.

Off-roading:

I have taken the bike for some serious off-roading and it has performed like a charm. The heaviness and the stiff suspension of the bike are the thing that hold you down. Also it’s a bit hard to ride this bike while standing on the foot pegs due to the lower handle position. But hey, you cannot complain. This bike is made for city and highways and still it holds up pretty well. (Read about my off-road ride here)

offroad on Pulsar 220F
off road ride to Tav


Cornering:

This is the one thing that this bike is not so good at. The heavy front end and the soft rear suspension of the bike makes leaning or touchdown a serious effort on this bike. A small miscalculation can lead to the front or rear end giving up on you. A leap of faith, lot of guts and skill is what’s necessary for a hard lean angle on this bike. There are a very few who can do that on this bike, and I am not one of them.

Modifications:

After some time, it is natural to get bored of the bike’s stock performance and seek out modifications. I replaced the bike’s stock air filter with a K&N performance air filter and it immediately responded with marginal increase in power output and a nice echo in the exhaust note. (To read my take on K&N performance air filter, click here)

There are several free flow exhausts in the market for the Pulsar 220 which are a good idea. But since they are priced a bit on the higher side, I haven’t used them yet.

Verdict:

After about 5 years, I feel that this bike is worth every penny spent. Of course it has some flaws, but which bike doesn’t? Some features have to be sacrificed in order to gain a few. This is what designing an automobile is about.

Overall the bike’s a champ. Exciting features, excellent long distance touring capacity with the added bonus of off-roader skills. All of this at an aggressive price tag of a little less than a lakh. Everything a motorcycle fanatic can ask for.

Also, do let me know what other topics you would like to see in this blog in the comments section below. 

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