• Bajaj Pulsar N160: First Ride Review

Does the new Pulsar N160 offer the same VFM quotient as its predecessors?

Over the past years, the 150cc motorcycle segment has given way to a sportier and feature-packed 160cc one. Unlike other manufacturers, Bajaj had its fingers in both the pies and some more. It sold the Pulsar 150, Pulsar 180 and the Pulsar NS160. Last year the bike maker discontinued its iconic Pulsar 220 in favour of the next generation Pulsars - N250 and F250. The same aggressive DNA now trickles down to its smaller-capacity motorcycles, starting with the Pulsar N160. I hopped onto one of the media bikes, and here are the first few impressions. 

The visage is like that of an animatronic from Real Steel, with a front end that reminds me of a beefier Yamaha MT-15, agree? Well, design is seldom newly created but is a manipulation that has drawn inspiration from anything that already exists. That said, the N160 is a good-looking motorcycle. I, for one, kept gawking at the floating illusion the front fender creates while it neatly drapes the beefy 100/80 section front tyre from MRF. The rims come straight from its elder N250 sibling, fancying the same pitchfork design. 

Walking along the wheelbase, I noticed that it is much shorter than the Pulsar NS160, so does that make the N160 a new tool for the stunting stooge's one-wheeled loonies? The bike has some real potential, I reckon. Finishing touches are immaculate, and I broke a sweat hunting for any panel inconsistencies. The chunky 14-litre tank, the tank shrouds with sporty red graphics and the visible section of the perimeter frame sum up to the ripped appeal, and stray eyeballs from afar will unmistakably take this for a 200cc motorcycle.

Seats get the split treatment, and the rear gets the same level of attention courtesy of the LED tail lamp with a fang-like styling going inwards and a neat yet functional tire hugger that keeps muck and splashes in check, especially in this monsoon. I have never been a fan of motorcycles with an underbelly exhaust because they sound like a tuk-tuk, but I have no clue what sort of sorcery has gone into it. It sounds throaty!

Bear in mind this motorcycle is more focused on performance, so the digital-analogue instrument cluster carries an applaudable spatial arrangement of indicators. I like the inclusion of the shift light and the distance-to-empty readout feature. Something to frown upon is the gear shift indicator, and it would do justice if placed on the left side of the cluster, in my opinion. A USB charging port located over the tank close to the handlebars comes with a protective silicone sheath that helps charge your device on the go.

Bajaj offers two variants for the Pulsar N160, a single channel ABS and a dual channel ABS variant. Another difference is that the single-channel ABS variant carries a skinny 31mm telescopic fork, and the dual-channel ABS gets a beefier 37mm fork.

The motorcycle uses an all-new air and oil-cooled engine that displaces 165cc. Official information says that the N160 has a slightly longer stroke than the NS160, thus adding to a 5cc advantage. Power and torque figures are at 16PS and 14.7Nm, and when placed side to side with the NS160, the power is short by 1.2 PS, whereas the torque is slightly higher by 0.1Nm. It is a rev-happy yet tractable motor as I could see it happily chug on the 5th gear at low speeds of 45kph. Typical of a single-cylinder engine, I did find the footpegs and tank surface to carry the buzz at around 4,000rpm, but it quickly subsided as the revs climbed. Gear shifts were smooth and precise, and although missing a slipper clutch, this gearbox can take the brunt of aggressive downshifting and still invoke confidence.

I had a good four hours astride the N160 (Dual-Channel ABS variant) when my team at TURBOCHARGED focused on making me look good at the corners of the Temghar-Lavasa ghat roads. The section witnessing a solid downpour for over a week allowed me to check the wet grip of the tyres and helped offer rock-solid stability. On the go, I also encountered some bad patches and pothole-filled sections, but the baby Pulsar N took all of it confidently. The motorcycle is well sprung as it did not flop like a depressed fish out of the water, nor did it bottom out like a prom queen having anxiety with her new stilettos. As for the rider triangle, I found it to have a good balance between comfort and sporty setting and is also forgiving on the spine.

Note that the seat height is at a friendly 795mm. My knees sat well with the tank recess, allowing me to quickly change body positioning for laid-back riding and when duty calls at the corners. The motorcycle feels well balanced even in the bends as the unwanted inertia is kicked-off by having the low-lying, well-centred underbelly exhaust. You might worry about scraping the cat-con over lofty speed breakers and surprise-filled potholes, but I weigh over 90 kilos and faced no issues with the 165mm ground clearance. Braking units are from Grimeca, a two-pot calliper over a 300mm rotor (40mm more than the NS160) at the front and a single pot calliper over a 230mm rotor at the rear. ABS intervention is smooth while adding to confidence when things get dicey, and the brake bite is excellent. Feedback from the brake levers is just like stroking the domestic cat!

The price tag for Bajaj Pulsar N160 is Rs 1,22,854 for the single channel ABS and Rs 1,27,853 for the dual-channel ABS variant (both prices ex-showroom). Sure it is not the most powerful in its segment, but more affordable than its competitive peers and looks massive. The Pulsar N160 is the heir apparent as it packs a lot of potential to bridge the gap between its phased-out 150cc and 180cc siblings, deemed fit for youngsters stepping into the motorcycling world and promises to leave a lasting impression.

Bikes First rides

Leave your comment