The retro motorcycle gets rid of its past demons and dons a sportier avatar
Revivals can be a tricky business. Besides getting the product right, you need to also ensure it garners the right reception. Classic Legends hit the sweet spot with the whole nostalgia around the Jawa brand and received an ecstatic response too. Meeting customers’ expectations on several fronts turned out to be a challenge though. Just about two years after the rebirth of the Jawa brand, we now have a heavily updated Forty Two on sale with which the bike maker is keen on making amends. One that promises to address all concerns and build on the strengths of the original. Interestingly, the media ride for the 2021 Jawa Forty Two was held at Lavasa near Pune. And given the controversy the place has been mired in over the years, it is a bold move on Jawa’s part to unveil the new motorcycle there. Nonetheless, it did make for an interesting location for what is an interesting motorcycle! The Forty Two is supposed to be a more youthful, sportier alternative to the ‘Jawa’ after all. It was cool looking and looks even more stunning now.
More importantly, Classic Legends claim this one takes care of the outgoing version’s quality niggles. That’s besides the improved engine performance. On the visual front, the outgoing version’s old school colours have made way for brighter hues like the red you see here, giving it a dash of youthfulness. The red stands out with the blacked-out engine, exhaust and everything in between. It even gets a racing stripe running down the motorcycle’s length. The Forty Two also gets cool-looking bits like blacked-out alloys, bar-end mounted mirrors, darker orange turn indicators and a headlamp grille. You can amp up the style quotient further with optional bits like a smoked visor, flat grab rail and olive-canvas saddlebags with leather buckles. It retains the old-school pod housing the analogue speedometer and fuel gauge but you now get two digital tripmeters. The seat pan has been redesigned and gets more supportive cushioning for better comfort.
The bike was quick to convince me that quality levels are up by a notch. The satin paint wears an even sheen and looks premium. Weld spots are cleaner and even the switchgear offers a more tactile feel. That said, fit-finish levels still have room for improvement but yes, the Forty Two feels significantly better built. The updated motor gets an X-shaped exhaust port that Jawa calls cross port technology. It facilitates a cleaner exit for exhaust gases while allowing the lambda sensor to be positioned better. The engine also feels like it breathes better now and Jawa claims midrange punch has improved. At 27.33PS and 27.02Nm the power output is 0.82PS up and torque 0.03Nm down as compared to the BS6 version launched earlier. When it comes to performance the Forty Two still has the upper hand in its segment. Fuelling is still erratic at low revs which means you have rev harder and slip the clutch when taking off from standstill to prevent stalling the motor. It feels quick off the line and acceleration is brisk and you do feel a noticeable bump in the mid-revs. When it comes to acceleration the Forty Two feels quicker than the competition, but like the outgoing version misses out on character. As a result, you know you are building speeds but I wish the experience was a bit more engaging. The distinctive exhaust note hasn’t changed much and feels polarising, you either love it or loathe it.
As a motorcycle, the Forty Two is easy-going and will appeal to newer riders. It weighs just 172kg which is lighter than its rivals, seat height is low at 172mm and the bike is compact overall. That makes the Forty Two accessible to a wider audience. The suspension hardware remains the same and feels firm. The Forty Two is thus a confident handler. A quick run around the Lavasa hillside also helped me re-establish the fact that directional changes are quick owing to the short wheelbase. Jawa has even raised the side stand mount to improve cornering clearance which helps when leaning over and stability is good. I was left wanting more confidence from the MRF Nylogrip tyres around Lavasa’s less than perfect corners though. However, the Jawa does feel sportier than its rivals on the handling front by a significant margin. On another note, the bike is reasonably good at soaking up the imperfections on our roads at slow speeds, but at higher speeds and over larger bumps you could get tossed up a bit.
The updated Forty Two then is a better-rounded package with most of the rough edges of the previous one smoothened out. It looks a lot more eye-catching (it even reminded me of the Harley-Davidson Street Rod!) and with the quality niggles sorted feels more premium too. The bike has been priced at Rs 1.84 lakh ex-showroom, New Delhi which is Rs 6,800 over the outgoing dual-channel ABS version. That’s a sizeable premium for colour options and a bunch of cosmetic updates. More so, when compared to its arch rivals like the Honda H’ness CB 350 and Royal Enfield Meteor 350. So would I recommend the Jawa Forty Two? Let’s put it this way. A while back, a good friend asked me if she should go in for the Forty Two owing to its easy to ride dimensions. Back then I wasn’t entirely sure myself but I think I can recommend the new one to her wholeheartedly!
Jawa Forty Two
Engine: 293cc, single-cylinder, liquid-cooled
Price: Starting at Rs 1.84 lakh ex-showroom, New Delhi