The new Jawa portfolio consists of three bikes — the Jawa Forty Two (Rs 1.55 lakh), the Jawa (Rs 1.64 lakh) and the Jawa Perak (Rs 1.89 lakh, all ex-showroom prices), but currently, only the former two are on sale. We ride the Jawa and Jawa Forty Two and find out how they behave on real-world conditions.
Being a Jedi warrior is like somewhat similar to being a motorcyclist. It’s important to hone in your powers or ‘The Force’ and to have control over it. Based on your characteristics, the core powers get separated into the Light or the Dark side. Now all this may sound irrelevant but allow me to explain how this mantra is connected to riding. Motorcycling gives you an opportunity to break your daily grind and experience, what some may call it, Zen. But to attain this, the rider needs the help and guidance of Master Yoda, in this case, your motorcycle, to hone into your riding skills. That’s why, it is important for both the rider and the machine to be in sync, speak the same language and understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. This is where Jawa Motorcycles come in as they have a certain emotional connect with their riders and even manage to romanticize the journey, which other brands may not be able to understand at this numbers pushing corporate world.
Following the same ethos and culture, the Classic Legends, the company responsible for relaunching this legendary brand in India after it shut down in the early 70s’ and then rebranded as Yezdi before it called it a day in the mid-90s’, is all set to start delivering the Jawa and Jawa Forty Two in early 2019. The company is a subsidiary of Mahindra & Mahindra, and the motorcycles are manufactured at Mahindra’s Pithampur plant in Madhya Pradesh. The new Jawa portfolio actually consists of three bikes -- the Jawa Forty Two (Rs 1.55 lakh), the Jawa (Rs 1.64 lakh) and the Jawa Perak (Rs 1.89 lakh, all ex-showroom prices), but currently, the former two are on sale, while the latter will be launched sometime next year. Now we rode both the Forty Two and the Jawa for over 200km on dirt tracks as well as the straight highways in Udaipur, to the winding and broken roads leading us to Kumbhalgarh as we decided to decode whether these value-for-money bikes are truly fun to ride and of course how they behave on real-world conditions.
We first got our hands on a matte finish green Forty Two. I was wowed by the simple yet retro design and was sure that I will be stopped on the way by passersby on the road. The matte finish paint quality could have been better as I saw a light blue Forty Two’s paint starting to fade away around the headlamp area. If you’re not a big fan of the matte finish, the Forty Two also comes in gloss paint. Unlike the Jawa, the Forty Two gets an all-black flat designed handlebar, with a classy touch of Jawa engraved in the middle of it, making the riding stance more involving or if I may say slightly aggressive. It comes with a single instrument cluster pod that houses the speedometer and the fuel gauge, both analogue, and a small digital odometer reading. What’s interesting to note is that the speedometer needle goes clockwise rather than moving from left to right. Initially, it may come across a bit strange, but it hardly takes time getting used to it.
I swung my leg over the bike and fired up the 293cc liquid cooled engine. The exhaust note wasn’t really music to my ears as I felt the gruff noise slightly unrefined, but then this is a very personal thing. I slipped it into first gear easily and twisted the throttle. The bike responded instantly and with every upshift, the 27 ponies obliged obediently. As long I kept revving it, the Forty Two accelerated happily and without showing any signs of having a lazy pick up like a certain Chennai based bike maker. Now what I did notice and was disappointed with was the lack of low-end torque grunt, which is something most retro riders enjoy and look forward to. So, if you enjoy laid back riding at slow speeds without changing gears, then this bike will fall short on that as the engine starts knocking. I felt this quite prominent while riding uphill in the twisties. The Forty Two is happiest at the mid-range power band where it offers plenty of pull, but once it crosses the three-figure mark, its performance starts to flatten out. I also experience mild vibrations from the handlebar and the foot pegs around the 100 km mark, but thankfully it wasn't too uncomfortable.
The initial stretch that we came across in Udaipur was a dirt track where, to my surprise, the Forty Two felt at ease, though the MRF tyres, especially the rear, kept losing grip. As the rear suspension is adjustable, Jawa had the Forty Two on firm settings, therefore, every time it went over ditches and potholes, it felt like it was trying to punish me as I could feel each and every thud on the way.
On the other hand, the firm suspension set up did have its advantages. In terms of handling, it was neutral and in the mid-corner, whenever I had to step on the brake, it remained stable and pulled in easily. I was totally in control of the bike. It’s also pretty easy to throw it around or muscle it while taking on corners. Also, when sweeping past turns, gear selection is very important, therefore, it’s better to shift a gear down to have better control over the bike. It’s not always possible to sail past a turn on the 4th gear. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a bad thing, as this makes it more involving.
It was time to say adios to the Forty Two and make acquaintance with the majestic looking Jawa. Even though everyone was raving about the maroon colour, I was glad that I got to ride the steel grey one, which looked exquisite and regal. The Jawa has a more classical chrome finish and it beautifully glistened in sun. I pressed the ignition button and the exhaust note sounded more refined and at the same time, a bit subdued when compared to the Forty Two. I personally don’t pay too much attention to these things, but it could have made more of a statement if there was more character from the twin exhausts. The Jawa too is powered by the same 293cc motor and provided an instant response like the Forty Two, though the engine did feel smoother. The 6-speed transmission in both bikes are the same, but for some reason, I experience a lot of false neutrals in the Forty Two, while the Jawa was spot on and never put a cog wrong.
When it came to handling, the Jawa was there and there about the Forty Two, even though it came with a more traditional shaped handlebar and a straighter riding stance. It took on sharp turns at ease. What was a pleasant surprise was that soft suspension set up comfortably carpeted potholes without a fuss. The ride quality is easily the best in the segment.
Another thing that I noticed was how effective the front 280mm disc brakes was, the same in the Forty Two. It offered instant resistance. As I do use a lot of back brakes, I did feel that Jawa missed a trick in the book by opting for rear drums instead of disc. Honestly, it did offer decent bite, but at times it felt soft as well and in time the drum brakes will only get softer. I understand this option does help the company in keeping the costs low and also no other bikes in this segment offer rear disc brakes, but they could have been the trendsetter in this class. Both the bikes also come with effective anti-lock braking system (ABS) from Continental, but here again, Jawa could have offered a dual-channel unit instead of a single one. If what we are hearing is correct, Jawa bikes will soon come equipped with it after the financial year.
Keeping in mind that both bikes that we rode— the Forty Two and Jawa — are preproduction bikes, they did show a lot potential but there are still some rough edges that need to be ironed out. The engine could have been more refined and as mentioned earlier it could have offered more low-end torque. Coming to the seats, they are wide, but sadly are too flat and hard, making them not ideal for a long distance ride. Due to lack of seat squabs as it more like a flat plank, they don’t provide any support to both the rider and the pillion. The Forty Two’s matt finish paint quality needs to improve as well, but the good thing is that both bikes’ fit-and-finish is consist. We loved the all-chrome Jawa’s retro design with a unique dome-like headlamp and the classic analogue speedometer.
Jawa has announced that they have appointed 105 dealers out of which 64 are under development as we speak. The company wants to start the deliveries of the Jawa and Jawa Forty Two from early next onwards and we can’t wait to see how the final products look like. But if you don’t want to wait till then than we suggest you book the Jawa as it felt a better-finished product.
- Jawa & Jawa Forty Two
Engine: 293cc / 4-Stroke Liquid Cooled / DOHC
Power: 27bhp @ 6,000rpm
Torque: 28Nm @ 4,750rpm
Price: ₹1.64 lakh & ₹1.55 lakh (Ex-showroom India)
X-Factor: Jaw-dropping retro design, especially the Jawa’s chrome finish and dome-like headlamp. Apart from the aggressive pricing, the Jawa duo feel solid and the fit-and-finish is impressive.