Bajaj Distinctly Ahead

Xcd 135 DTS-Si Road Test Review

Bajaj has been the first two-wheeler company to flag off this year’s new launches with the XCD 135 DTS-Si. While it’s easy to dismiss this bike as either a XCD 125 with 10 extra CCs, or a Discover 135 with DTS-Si technology, our staffer Priyadarshan Bawikar found out how this new bike ends up being like neither of them and really sets a new standard for stylish commuter motorcycles.

When all of us here at the office heard that a new Bajaj bike for testing, we were all positively abuzz with excitement. Discussions soon turned into arguments whether it would be the fabled new Pulsar being rumored about, or if we’d finally get our hands on the holy grail of Indian motorcycling, the Ninja 250. So naturally we were all a bit disappointed when it turned out to be the XCD 135 DTS-Si. But our apprehensions were rather short lived because even at first glance, the bike really caught our fancy. Immediately, it became apparent why Bajaj refers to this bike as a “sports commuter”, thanks to its “junior Pulsar” good looks inspired from its larger cousins. And after we all had one ride on the bike, our initial arguments about which Bajaj bike we were going to get changed into which one of us would get to keep the XCD 135 for its short stint at the office. Yes… it impressed us that much!

Design & Style:
The old XCD 125 was a fairly good looking bike, but definitely wasn’t the top of its class, competing with the likes of the Honda Stunner. The new XCD 135 however, looks absolutely fabulous. Though the old bike’s familiar genes are all still there, the changes really do a good job of making the new 135 look very handsome and well proportioned. The newly designed tank extensions are larger now and make the bike feel much more muscular. The extensions also feature mesh covered vents in them, which along with details like the flowy centre panels and the razor sharp tail panels give the new XCD 135 sporty appeal. One important aspect of any bike’s appeal is the design of the lights, i.e. the headlamp, turn signals and the tail lamp. Needless to say, all the lights on the new XCD 135 have seen a complete redesign. We just loved the delectable indicators which resemble exquisitely crafted arrow heads, and also the unique way in which they are mounted up front - on the nuts which connect the forks to the top of the T-Section. The headlight is now bigger to go with the enlarged bikini fairing and adds to the beefier looks of the bike. And of course, one really can’t miss the new tail lamps. The twin LED strips are completely unlike anything we’ve seen on any other bike in the market and, dare we say, look even better than the Pulsars’. Well, “better” might be an exaggeration, but they definitely look fresher. Overall, the XCD 135 manages to look really handsome and definitely more up market than its predecessor. Just riding around town, we were overwhelmed by the amount of attention and stares the bike managed to draw from people on the road.

The XCD 135 is primarily designed with the commuter market in mind, so obviously a sporty posture with low handlebars and rearset foot pegs is out of the question. But the bike manages to fulfill its chief role with flying colours. The neutral seating position is extremely comfy in the daily hustle-bustle of rush hour traffic, and in fact is rather relaxing compared to most other bikes. The long single bench seat is perfect for two-up riding and even some of our large sized staffers (yours truly being the largest of the lot) had absolutely no problems sitting pillion for extended periods of time. Odds and ends such as the such as the brake pedal and gear shifter are very well positioned and are a breeze to operate with any kind of footwear, right from heavy motorcycle boots to a pair of formal loafers. One thing the XCD 135 manages to do better than its larger siblings is undoubtedly the newly designed console. The basic design is about the same as that on the Pulsar family (albeit a bit smaller), with a digital speedometer along with an analogue tachometer. But small changes to the digital area dramatically improve the legibility of information displayed, especially with regards to the fuel gauge. The tell tale lights placed on the right on the console also include a low-fuel light, which should serve as a good reminder to head to the nearest petrol pump, though those trips should be few and far between (as you shall read about ahead).

Now this is one aspect of the new XCD 135 that really had us floored from the moment we hit the starter button. While its 10.2 PS of power is comparable to that of its competition from the Honda stables, the 11.58Nm of torque its 135cc DTS-Si mill produces makes it the undisputed leader in its class. All this torque manifests itself in the bike’s roll-on acceleration figures, which are significantly better than any of its competition. Even in outright acceleration, the bike managed to get from a standstill to 60km/h in 6.81seconds, which is again, among the best in its class.

Impressive as the figures might be, they alone are hardly a very important aspect of XCD 135. What’s more important is what these figures translate into - and that is a bike which has excellent pull and can manage to lug a fair amount of load around rather easily. Even after piling up nearly a 175kg load on the bike (in the form of two of our staffers), it proved itself to be just as perky to ride around the city.

Thankfully, the XCD 135 incorporates something that neither the XCD 125, nor the Discover 135 had - a 5-speed gearbox. The extra fifth cog is really a blessing in the way it is tall enough to allow effortless cruising once out of stop-and-go traffic, and also a top speed of 102.03 km/h. The ratios of the other four gears have also been revised to optimally use the improved torque of the engine, and the bike is extremely refined and easy to ride in any traffic conditions our roads can manage to throw at it.

We were always fans of the old XCD 125’s handling abilities - flickable, but neutral overall, making it excellent for riding through city traffic. The XCD 135 doesn’t disappoint in the handling department either, and in fact scores a few points more than its predecessor thanks to improved rear suspension and better rubber. Bajaj have dropped the SnS (Spring in Spring) rear suspension system from the old bike, replacing it with dual gas-filled “NitroX” units which are standard on the Pulsar family. This is a great move on the company’s part as it has made the ride quality of the bike extremely smooth and also doesn’t upset the bike even if it’s loaded up with the heaviest possible rider/pillion combination.

The bike now comes shod with better Eurogrip tyres on both ends, a 2.75 x 17 at the front and a 100/90 x 17 at the rear (which is the same profile that comes on some bikes which have almost twice the cubic capacity of the XCD). In any case, the new rubber really improves the handling of the bike. It still feels neutral like its predecessor, but manages to feel much more planted. Where the old bike, at times, felt slightly flimsy while leaned over through a corner, this one manages to inspire a huge amount of confidence in the same situation.

If it was one aspect that we had serious issues about regarding the XCD 125, it was the drum brakes which came as standard. They had enough stopping power when fresh, but always managed to fade into oblivion in just a matter of weeks of commuting in the city. Bajaj has finally addressed this issue by including optional front disc brakes in the list of the XCD 135’s already vast arsenal. Though the bike we had received for performance testing came with drums at the front, it displayed some rather impressive braking figures, managing to come to a dead stop from 80km/h in just 3.36seconds, covering a distance of 35.51m in the process. We’re quite sure that with the optional disc brakes, the bike can achieve much better figures while improving braking feel by leaps and bounds.

Fuel Efficiency:
Bajaj bikes are always known for good fuel economy and the XCD 135 is no different. In the city, if ridden without an urge to twist the right wrist all the way, it delivers a whopping economy of 62.4 kmpl. But owing to the revvy nature of the engine, cane the bike hard, and that number will whittle away rapidly. Cruising in fifth gear on the highway at about 60-65km/h saw the XCD cover 71.5km in a litre of petrol. Considering the bike will spend three-quarters of its time zipping around on congested city roads and the remaining one-quarter on wide open highways, it should give a overall combined fuel mileage of 64.67 kmpl, which is no small feat for a bike that feels so perky to ride in any gear. And with a fuel tank capacity of 8 litres, the XCD can lug on for about 517km before it runs out of juice.

Living with it:
While the XCD 135 may not be the performance, or even the fuel economy, benchmark in its class, it does to what it is designed to exceedingly well. It is also one of the most comfortable bikes available currently and is an absolute joy to ride around town even through heavy traffic that might leave most other bikes bogged down. Plus, all the goodies it offers, such as the Auto Choke, DC ignition system and maintenance-free battery really impressed us and helped it score a healthy amount of brownie points. Overall, as a package, the XCD definitely delivers more than any of its competition especially when one considers its pricing, which starts at Rs. 43,000 (ex-showroom Delhi) for the basic version with wire-spoke rims, drum brakes and a kick starter and going up to Rs. 47,700 (ex-showroom Delhi) for the fully loaded version with alloy wheels, disc brakes up front and an electric starter. And honestly there isn’t any bike out there that offers so many features and oodles of stylish design elements such as a digital speedometer and all the other goodies at this price. Even the build quality seems up to the mark, with no panel gaps, or rattling plastics anywhere.

Bajaj has kick started the year with this wonderful little bike and while it may not impress those who only appreciate speed, those who want a brilliant all-round machine that offers ride comfort, excellent road behaviour, a stylish new design, fantastic mileage and enough pull to lug around a fair amount of weight on the bike, should look no further than the XCD 135. Even though we gave our 2008 ZigWheels 125cc Bike of the Year award to the Honda Stunner, we’re quite sure that had this bike arrived on the scene last year, it would have really given a tough fight to the Stunner for that award.

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