The Bajaj Pulsar 125 promises to bring the thrill of the Pulsar 150 into the commuter segment. But is it a step backwards, or does the new 125cc derivative of the Pulsar actually pack something special as claimed?
The Bajaj Pulsar is without a doubt one of the longest running nameplates in the two-wheeler space in India. The Pulsar journey began all the way back in 2001 when Bajaj launched the 'definitely male' Pulsar. It was an instant hit and set the benchmark for ‘sporty’ performance-oriented entry-level bikes in the Indian market back then. Over the years, the Pulsar name has turned into a brand in itself, owing to its popularity among the masses. Naturally, Bajaj cashed in on this formula for years, which means the Pulsar family is now a wide range of motorcycles today. And it continues to grow even bigger.
Now while the brand's expansion continues, the latest Pulsar is not really a bigger capacity bike. Instead, Bajaj has decided to go a size smaller with the newest Pulsar, as they’ve launched the Pulsar 125 Neon in the market. On the face of it, this does seem like a step backwards. However, Bajaj says this has been done to make the aspirational Pulsar brand more accessible to the masses, while it also brings the ‘thrill’ of the Pulsar 150 in to the 125cc commuter segment. Is it really the case though?
Same same but different
It's very easy to mistake the Pulsar 125 for the Pulsar 150 Neon at first, and that's understood because everything between the two bikes is identical as far as their appearances go. The design, dimensions, equipment, brakes and even tyres are shared. This also means that it gets bright accents all around as well as a digital instrument cluster and clip-on handlebars – which is first in segment. There’s no visual difference as far as I can tell, and that's good in a way because it doesn't look cheap.
Bajaj says that the 125 has a smaller tank capacity (11.5 litres vs 15 litres), but the shape and dimension of the tank are unchanged – it’s just that the 125’s tank has a longer and narrower neck, which reduces its volume. In fact, Bajaj has been a little clever here as a smaller tank capacity means the kerb weight (includes 90 per cent of the full fuel tank) automatically comes down by around 3 kilos.
Overall, there's no real fault in the design of the Pulsar 125 and it still looks good and the proportions are right. Personally, though, I feel this design is getting a little too long in the tooth. It's been around for over a decade and to me it looks very common and uninteresting, regardless of the fact that it’s a 125cc offering.
The single-cylinder air-cooled engine is based on the Pulsar 150’s architecture, but because it has a shorter stroke of 50.5mm as against 60.7mm (bore is identical at 56mm), the cubic capacity stands at 124.4cc. The engine has a rated power output of 11.8bhp and develops 11Nm of peak torque. According to Bajaj, this makes it the most powerful bike in the segment. Now while that’s true, the performance isn’t ground breaking in any way. Plus, at 140 kilos, it’s the heaviest motorcycle in the segment, and as a consequence, its performance does take a hit.
Having said that, it's a very relaxed motor and the power delivery is linear. The NVH levels are quite impressive, too, and the handlebars only start vibrating after 6,000rpm. You can reach to an indicated top speed of 105km/h, but the motor feels the happiest cruising at around 80km/h. The 5-speed gearbox is smooth and effortless in operation. Overall, I’d say the performance is decent for city usage, but the thrill factor is definitely missing and it feels very commuter-ish.
Since the chassis hardware is shared with the Pulsar 150, the 125 feels familiar in terms of ride and handling. The ride quality is plush and handling is neutral. The soft suspension setup however makes it a little twitchy at high speeds, but apart from that it's a very comfortable motorcycle to ride in town. More than anything, its road manners are more mature than other 125cc motorcycles and it feels more stable while cruising or going over bad patches. This is something that I believe sets it apart from the rest of the commuters as it feels more composed.
The 240mm front disc brake offers strong bite and its performance is good. The rear wheel has a 130mm drum, which also works fine. Combined braking system is standard. For people on an even tighter budget, there’s also a lower variant that has drum brakes on both wheels. However, since the difference is only of around 2,000 rupees, we suggest the disc variant for obvious reasons.
The Pulsar 125 is not an extraordinary proposition in any way. In fact, the Pulsar 150 Neon offers better value since it’s got more power and ABS for just a premium of around Rs 6,000. But, having said that, that kind of money does make a difference for an average buyer of this segment. And more than anything, the customer of this segment has a mental barrier, so he may not necessarily want to buy a ‘bigger’ bike that sips more fuel. For this type of buyer then, the Pulsar 125 works on a tried-and-tested formula, while also bringing along the aspirational Pulsar tag at a more affordable price. In that regard, the Pulsar 125 should do well and will eventually make the Pulsar brand more popular among segments.
- Bajaj Pulsar 125
Engine: 124.4cc / Single Cylinder / Air-Cooled
Power: 11.8bhp @ 8,500rpm
Torque: 11Nm @ 6,500rpm
Price: Rs 66,618 (Ex-Showroom, Delhi)
X-Factor: The Pulsar 125 brings the tried-and-tested formula of its 150cc sibling into the commuter segment.