India is slowly but surely warming up to the concept of spending money on big adventure bikes and exploring the vast and beautiful landscape that our country has to offer. But amidst all the Triumphs, Ducatis, BMW and the Japanese fare of ADVs, there was a need for something at the very opposite end of the spectrum. Sure, the Royal Enfield Himalayan and the BMW G 310 GS do service that need but what if you are someone like me, who has very limited off-road skills and an even limited budget but an unlimited desire to ride and explore. Well, for us, the Hero XPulse 200 is here! It's been over a year and a half since it was first showcased as a concept at the 2017 EICMA Motorcycle Show and now we finally had an opportunity to ride it. So here goes!
Watch Our Hero XPulse 200 Review Here
Also Read: Hero XPulse 200T First Ride Review
Yes! It looks dirt bike-ish
It definitely has the look and feel of a rugged ADV. High ground clearance, wire-spoked wheels, the high-set side-mounted exhaust, wide handlebar with knuckle protectors and the metal bash plate are all giveaways that it is meant to take on the rough stuff. The high front mudguard and extended rear fender look to be inspired by legit dirt bikes. The overall design employs a minimalist theme which makes the bike look even more purposeful and while it may not wow you, it will definitely get you second glances on the road.
What is also good that the fuel tank gets knee recesses in case you want to stand up and ride. Get on the motorcycle and the narrow seat might not make your bottom feel comfortable and it could have been a bit softer. Although, the upright seating position along with the wide handlebars and neutral footpegs make for a comfortable perch and the high stance offers you a good view of the road/terrain ahead as well although a seat height of 825 mm may cause some trouble to shorter riders.
How about features?
This is where the Hero XPulse 200 shines! For the price it is loaded with features. You get a fully digital instrument panel which offers Bluetooth connectivity and turn-by-turn navigation (something similar to the console on the TVS NTorq). There is LED lighting all around and in case you want to lock the rear and slide the bike around, the single-channel ABS will let you that as well. The XPulse 200 is shod with 21-inch wheels up front and an 18-inch unit at the rear which are wrapped in Ceat Gripp dual-sport tyres. And it gets conventional telescopic forks with rubber gaiters up front and a monoshock at the rear. The front end has a travel of 190 mm while the monoshock has a travel of 170 mm and has 10-step adjustability for preload. As far as brakes are concerned, the bike gets a 276 mm petal disc up front and a 220 mm disc at the rear.
At the core
Like the Xtreme 200R, its sibling gets a gets a 199.6 cc single cylinder, two-valve engine, and the motor pumps out 18 bhp at 8,000 rpm and peak torque of 17.1 Newton metres at 6,500 rpm. The engine is paired to a 5-speed gearbox and is fuel-injected unlike the motor on the Xtreme 200R, which is carburetted. While 18 bhp might look decent on paper, the motorcycle could have done with a few more horses!
Time to hustle
We like how the XPulse 200 behaves in the city. It is not exactly quick off-the-line but there is enough juice to keep you trundling along at city-traffic pace. The gearshifts are notchy but precise and as you wring the throttle open and the needle on the tachometer inches closer to redline, you begin to feel the vibrations on the handlebars and you can feel the engine getting stressed, especially upwards of 6,500 rpm. The performance isn't exactly exhilarating, but then you have to really wring it open, and break all city speed limits to really talk about the lack of excitement. The engine itself could have been a touch more refined and we really would have liked a few bhp more squeezed out of the 200 cc engine.
If you take the motorcycle on the highway, you will have to contend with a cruising speed of about 80-90 kmph. It can reach triple digit speeds alright but not in a way which will make you go wow! The gem here is the suspension! It makes light work of bad roads and irregularities on the tarmac. Plus, with a long travel, you will find it difficult to resist the temptation to jump off every speed breaker.
While the on-tarmac characteristics are similar to the Hero Xtreme 200R, what did surprise and pleasantly at that is the how the XPulse 200 felt completely at home when we hustled the bike around Big Rock Moto Park, an off-road arena which is home to India's star rally-rider CS Santosh, who also happens to be a member of Hero's Dakar conquering team. We spent a better part of the day riding through trails, tackling steep inclines and sometimes taking flight off a crest as well, and the motorcycle took everything in stride!
It is really meant to take on the rough stuff! And the grip from CEAT Gripp dual-sport tyres is good, on road and more so, when you are riding on dirt. Plus, the single channel ABS works well should you need to grab a fistful of front brakes! The good part is that you can still lock the rear wheel and slide around should you want to dance around with the XPulse 200.
Should you buy one?
The XPulse 200 loved the city grind and off-road hustle we subjected it to! If you are stuck in traffic, you will have a tough time resisting the temptation to go over the divider, which you shouldn't be doing either way. It is light, can be thrown around corners with gay abandon and the while the engine could have done with a bit more power, it keep you entertained when riding on mild trails. The list of features isn't small either so we believe that the Hero XPulse 200 is worth your money at ₹ 97,000 for the carburetted variant and ₹ 1.05 lakh for the FI variant. It is a great motorcycle in case you want to begin riding off-road and cut your teeth on before you splurge on a bigger, more powerful motorcycle.
Photography: Pawan Dagia