Humarraaa Bajaj……..Hummmaaaaaraaaaaaaa bajaj was the jingle that Bajaj used to advertise their then highly successful product – Chetak scooter. Chetak (named after the legendary horse of the Indian warrior Rana Pratap Singh) was based on Vespa–licensed design and was undoubtedly a family member for millions of Indians since its inception in 1980. But then Hero-Honda came up with 4-stroke Splendor in 1992 that threatened the very existence of all 2-stroke scooters including Chetak. And in 1999, Hero-Honda launched the first 150cc 5 Speed Geared CBZ that marked the beginning of performance biking for the common man.
Struggling at that time, Bajaj came up with Pulsar twins (150cc and 180cc) to try and maintain their foothold in the market. Big round headlamp, big masculine tank and disc brake gave it a bad boy look. It also rode like one. I was in the 12th standard when one of my dad’s friends lent me his 180cc to take it for a morning spin within the city. I was blown away in 2 ways. 1st was the acceleration and 2nd was the braking. It accelerated like a rocket (that is what you felt if you were a 100cc rider) and the disc brake made it stop quicker than any other bike in its segment. I have both good and bad memories of playing with its Disc brake. The good one was a little squeeze on the lever, the handle bar would dip down and the bike would stop at the spot that you wanted it to. The bad one, the sensitive area between your legs would bang on the masculine tank making you uncomfortable. And the intensity was higher if you had to brake on downhill slope.
These shortcomings were overlooked by the buyers because Bajaj was smart enough to provide timely feature upgrades to Pulsar. Like Honda (which I until now worshipped), Pulsar had gathered its own cult followers. But then it had one major problem – RESALE VALUE. You would get peanuts when compared to same age Honda on resale. This was due to Honda’s engine that was built to run for millions of kilometers. But that did not stop Chinese Manufactures (at least 7 of them) to copy Pulsar and create its clones. These are on sale in Sri-Lanka, Bangladesh and South Africa.
Bajaj always had a foreign friend Kawasaki (remember KB-100 and Caliber 115 aka “Hodibaba”) and now KTM (in which Bajaj owns 47% stake) which has immensely helped them. The result, park a KTM Duke 200 and Pulsar 200NS side by side and you will see the similarity. Bajaj seems to be learning from KTM and applying it to Pulsar. As a result, every new model of Pulsar is packaged with latest technology and comes with an affordable price tag. Plus, the quality doesn’t seem to be an issue now. Not sure if the same can be said about their after sales service.
I recently rode a friend’s 200NS and in no way it felt like I was riding a Bajaj bike; such is the refinement. Moreover, Pulsar has grown to a brand in itself and therefore, the Bajaj logo is nowhere seen on the bike except on the speedometer. On the tank, it is just a 3D Pulsar emblem.
Pulsar’s latest iteration RS 200 is ahead of its age and is the best offering in its class. Even their future plans (Pulsar CS 400 and RS 400) look exciting. All in all, the future for Pulsar and Bajaj looks promising and I expect them to keep surprising Indian riders and bringing in latest technologies in the industry with an affordable price tag.
Would I buy a Pulsar then? If it was year 2005, I would say NO due to its unrefined state. However, in 2015, it is a YES!
Source : Wikipedia