Pulsar 200 ABS: Ticking all the right boxesThe latest iteration of the Pulsar NS 200 comes with a much-needed upgrade--its ABS, anti-lock braking system.
Three years ago, I was looking to buy my first bike after I graduated from college. The Pulsar NS 200 was on the top of my list but I ultimately went with another bike in the same segment because it was not available in the colour of my choice (please don’t judge me).
I did my research, watched countless videos on YouTube and even took multiple test rides. It had everything I wanted in a bike.
Power, check. Design, check. Price, double-check.
Then it was discontinued by Bajaj due to poor sales, but it later got revived after people realised that it was a very good motorcycle. Since then, it has managed to solidify itself as one of the most popular bikes in the segment.
And the latest iteration of the Pulsar NS 200 comes with a much-needed upgrade in the form of ABS (Anti-lock braking).
You might be thinking, ‘What’s the big deal? It’s just ABS.’
But it is a big deal. Picture this, you are riding along at a fast clip on a one-way street and about to turn right when suddenly, a scooter making an illegal turn cuts in from your right. You only have milliseconds to decide what to do. But your brain freezes and your first instinct is to hit the brakes. You pull the brake lever so hard that your knuckles turn white. You hear the sound of tyres squealing. On a non-ABS equipped bike, you will probably crash as both wheels will have locked and you have no steering control. But on the Pulsar NS 200, you will be able to shed enough speed to avoid a collision--thanks to ABS--while still maintaining control of the bike.
This was one such incident that I encountered while I was on my way to work riding the Pulsar NS 200. You can’t count on other people to drive safely and in the urban jungle of Kathmandu, many surprises are lurking around the roads--from stray animals to jaywalkers.
Aside from the ABS, the NS 200 also features one of the largest front disc brakes (300mm) in the segment and a 230mm disc at the rear. This combination gives the bike immense stopping power and trust me, you will need every bit of it while riding the NS 200.
With the liquid-cooled engine putting out an impressive 23.5 PS of peak power and 18.3 Nm of torque, I was hitting speeds which would make my mother faint. And the scary thing is that I was not even pushing the engine hard.
The Pulsar NS 200 shares the same engine found on the KTM Duke 200, which offers brutal acceleration at the expense of heat. But Bajaj has detuned the engine from its Austrian counterpart and incorporated their renowned 3 spark technology. This means that the bike gets better mileage and riders will not be thrown off the saddle while accelerating. Plus the engine does not heat up in stop-and-go traffic, which is getting worse by the day.
The engine, while powerful, is still not as smooth as Japanese bikes due to its high compression ratio. Vibrations are present, front and centre, on the clip-on handlebars and footpegs. It reminded me of the older Apache series (160 and 180) of bikes from TVS which used to leave my hands tingling.
Riding in the city is a smooth experience thanks to its nimble handling and lightweight (154kg). But do note that the bike is stiffly sprung and does not handle potholes well. Take it out for a romp in the hills and there the bike just shines. It carves corners effortlessly, thanks to its low centre of gravity and nearly 50:50 weight distribution. While it does not have the sexy trellis frame found on their KTM counterparts, the pressed steel perimeter frame holds up well and offers excellent rigidity.
The bike also stays true to its NS (Naked Sport) tag with aggressive styling and muscular looks. I especially like the white version (the colour I originally wanted). With a low seat height of 805mm, it is accommodating to riders of all heights.
With manufacturers incorporating more technology like turn-by-turn navigation in their bikes, Bajaj is bucking the trend by being one of the few companies using a digital analogue console. The NS 200 gets a big analogue RPM meter flanked by telltale indicators on the left and a digital readout on the right. The part digital console shows the fuel gauge, odometer, speedometer and time. But it is the analogue meter that caught my eye. There’s just something mesmerising watching the needle rise as you rev higher and higher till you hit the redline.
And it looks even better when you ride at night. The illuminated switchgear also adds flair to the otherwise boring but sturdy switches.
But Bajaj has cut some corners on the bike as well. The NS 200 misses out on a gear position indicator which is standard even on entry-level bikes. While there is a side-stand indicator, it does not switch off the engine (like in the KTMs) when you engage the side stand. The mirrors are also comically short and I was not able to see my rearview as much as I would have liked.
I did like the underbelly exhaust though which looks good but sounds pretty bland. You have to really rev the bike for it to sound decent.
But is the addition of ABS enough to keep the Pulsar NS 200 on top in a segment that is getting crowded? Only time will tell.