Mid-range motorcycles that are not only fun, but also highly functional, are making a mark in the Indian market. We ride two of the most versatile and affordable premium bikes to find out why.
India has never been a particularly good market for truly potent motorcycles. Whether they’re big American cruisers, European adventure bikes, or Japanese super sports bikes, the deplorable conditions of our roads, along with heavy traffic, mixed with the unlimited supply of incompetent and lawless road users, has meant that India hasn’t been very superbike friendly. Thankfully, though, there are motorcycle manufacturers out there who are making machines specifically for the Indian market –without necessarily knowing it though!
Cruisers are very comfortable, but they’re too heavy and impractical for Indian roads. Super sports bikes are just way too powerful, and we definitely don’t have the type of infrastructure to allow you to use them to their full potential. Then you have the big adventure bikes, and even though they seem to be the most capable for Indian roads, they’re still too big and powerful to really enjoy. Thankfully the mid-capacity segment of bikes available in the country is increasing, and these machines are actually perfect for Indian road conditions. Plus, they’re more affordable and practical too. Two of the best examples are the Scrambler Ducati and the Kawasaki Versys 650.
Both these ‘go-anywhere’ machines cater to a global customer base who want light, practical, durable and powerful bikes. Now, obviously, they aren’t practical in the sense of a commuter – but there is now a customer base in India that can afford slightly pricey machines and still use them on a day-to-day basis. Moreover, they’ll take you to Ladakh too without a fuss. These bikes are highly versatile, but they’re also powerful and fun, and, most importantly, they’re comfortable and easy to ride – anywhere!
The new Kawasaki Versys is the latest offering in the adventure segment, and it’s based entirely on the Ninja 650, which is one of the best mid-capacity sports tourers available today. The Versys 650 gets a 649cc parallel twin that is both liquid-cooled and fuel-injected, and it’s mated to a 6-speed gearbox. Power is rated at 68bhp and 64Nm of torque. The engine is beautifully refined and feels very composed at all speeds. It’s got enough power to have plenty of fun within the city, on the highway, or even when off-road.
The slightly more expensive Scrambler Ducati is an entirely different breed of motorcycle, and it gets the Monster’s L-Twin 803cc engine tuned to provide instant torque. With 75bhp, there’s a lot of power and it’s got nearly the same torque rating as the Versys (68Nm). The Scrambler is also plenty of fun, and its seating position and light weight make it seem like a rocket.
But where these bikes really win our hearts is in their ride quality and range. The Versys is not a heavy bike, and weighs just 216kgs. So, it’s not difficult to handle in the city – unlike larger adventure bikes that weigh well over 250kgs. The Scrambler is much lighter, at just 185 kilograms, and the seating position is very low to the ground – so it’s very easy to handle in the city. Both bikes are also very compact and, therefore, easy to maneuver.
The Kawasaki Versys gets a brand new suspension setup, which includes Showa’s excellent Separate Function Forks that can be adjusted according to your needs and road conditions. The rear gets a simple offset monoshock, which is also preload adjustable. The suspension really works well and offers a fantastic riding experience on all road surfaces. On the Scrambler, the front and rear suspension use Kayaba inverted forks and a mono shock, and the setup is pretty soft and great on all road surfaces. The great thing about the Scrambler, though, is that it gets specially designed MT 60 RS tyres that are great for off-road use.
Both these bikes are priced quite aggressively, and there’s no other bike within the Rs. 7-lakh range that offers as much functionality as these two. Both are powerful, and therefore can be a lot of fun. And you don’t need to worry about what kind of roads come your way because you’ll be able to tackle pretty much anything. Plus, both bikes are compact so you’ll be able to use them on a daily basis. If I had to choose between the two, I would go for the Scrambler for the simple fact that it’s lighter, more powerful and it’s got a lot more character. Yes, it’s a little more expensive and a completely different machine than the Versys 650, but when it comes to capability and range of use, the Scrambler is without a doubt one of the best bikes available today – and its success in the global market just shows that it’s highly desirable in urban environments as well. Plus, there are four different versions of the bike. Having said that, it’s true there are other bikes out there that are more capable – but they’re far more expensive. The Tiger 800, for example, which is my favorite mid-capacity bike, is Rs. 5 lakhs more than the Scrambler.
The Scrambler and the Versys 650 are the first entrants in a segment that will certainly get bigger and more popular. The only other competitor in this range, and with a cheaper price tag, is the Benelli 650 GT – but it’s just not as capable. But the new Benelli TRK 502 will be here soon, and many more products will follow. And it makes perfect sense, because these versatile machines are best suited for Indian roads and can be used – and enjoyed – to their full potential.
- Scrambler Ducati
- Kawasaki Versys 650
Engine: 803cc / Air and oil-cooled L-Twin / Desmodromic
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Power: 75bhp @ 8,250rpm
Torque: 68Nm @ 5,750rpm
Price: Rs. 6.8 lakhs (ex-showroom Delhi)
Engine: 649cc / Parallel-Twin / DOHC
Transmission : 6-speed manual
Power: 68bhp @ 8,500rpm
Torque: 64Nm @ 7,000rpm
Price: Rs. 6.6 lakhs(ex-showroom Delhi)