HERO Xpulse 200: Easy on off-roads, easy on the walletIt is also one of the first bikes in the segment to get turn by turn navigation.
The Hero Xpulse 200 goes as fast as a Honda and rides like a BMW. Yet it costs less than Rs400,000. If you are looking for a bike that can tackle the rugged terrain one day and take you to work the next day, the Xpulse should be top on your list.
It has a surprisingly capable suspension setup and the bike did not falter on the worst road conditions in Kathmandu. The Xpulse eats potholes for breakfast, thanks to its 190mm front suspension travel. Combined with the 10 step rider-adjustable monoshock, it offered a smooth riding experience. It reminded me of the BMW G310 GS which I’d argue is one of the most comfortable bikes to ride.
But unlike the BMW, the Hero Xpulse feels utilitarian. And that is actually the bike’s strongest feature. There are no unnecessary fairings and the bike is solidly built. On the front, Hero has gone with a full LED headlight that provides decent illumination at night while an upswept exhaust completes the rear. There is also a small luggage rack. Spoked wheels and knobby CEAT tyres give the Xpulse excellent off-road handling and it does decently in the city as well.
If you drop the bike while off-roading, you can easily pick it up as it weighs just a hair over 150kg. Dust yourself off and turn the bike on again. You may hear the birds chirping in the background before you notice the sound of the Xpulse. The exhaust note is so mild that at times I felt like I was riding an electric bike. And I actually liked it. I felt like a ninja on two wheels.
You also won’t annoy the neighbours like most dirt bikes often do with their unnecessarily loud exhaust (trying to compensate for something). But that also presents a problem. With the lack of proper traffic safety, you have to constantly use the cute sounding horn to warn jaywalkers and errant drivers.
The Xpulse stays true to its all-terrain design with a massive 21-inch front wheel that tackles bumps and obstacles with ease. Further complementing the look is a high front mudguard and rubber gaiters on the forks. A plastic bash plate protects the underbelly of the engine and it gets an impressive 220mm of ground clearance as well. Typically in most bikes with that much ground clearance, you have to sacrifice low seat height but Hero has managed to keep it manageable for the everyday Nepali male with an average height of 163cm (5ft 4inch). The Xpulse gets a seat height of just 823mm and the slim profile of the bike together with the supple suspension means that even shorter riders can hop on comfortably. However, people taller than 6 ft might feel cramped in the saddle.
Powering the Xpulse is an air-cooled 199.6cc single-cylinder engine borrowed from the Hero Xtreme 200R. On paper, it generates 18.4 PS and 17.1Nm which is respectable, but it should be noted that it is one of the slowest in its class. The gearing has been revised for better off-roadability and it shows on the tarmac. It struggles to cross 100kmph as it just runs out of breath very quickly but it does have a good low end.
The full digital instrument cluster is one of the better ones with information neatly laid out and is easily legible. It is also one of the first bikes in the segment to get turn by turn navigation.
To use the feature, simply download the ‘Hero RideGuide’ app on either your Android smartphone or iOS device and toggle to the navigation menu on the Xpulse using the mode button. The bike will appear on your smartphone and you can pair it. But do bear in mind that you cannot use your favourite map application and have to use Hero's own custom map, which is powered by Google maps. The UI is pretty bad and you can't even drop a pin on the map to select where you are.
You will also need an active internet connection for the app to show directions. The Bluetooth navigation is a nice touch but it may make more sense to buy a phone mount and install it on the wide handlebar, use both offline and online maps with ease instead. Hopefully, Hero will update the app to be more user-friendly. But with everything else it has to offer, the new Xpulse is a promising start.