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Bajaj Pulsar N160: First Ride Review

Authors Image

Vikrant Singh

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Introduction

Bajaj Pulsar N160 Right Side View

Why buy it?

- Good road presence

- Refined and torquey engine

- Comfortable seating ergo

Why avoid it?

- Basic instrumentation

- Stiff rear ride

- Side stand is difficult to use

This is the new Pulsar 160N. And no, it doesn’t replace anything from the current Pulsar lineup. So, if you were to walk into a Bajaj showroom today looking for a mid-spec Pulsar, you will have all three generations of the bike to choose from — the old Pulsar 150, the Pulsar NS160, and now this, the N160.

Bajaj says it needs all three to continue because the old 150 remains an aspirational commuter with strong demand in smaller towns. The NS, meanwhile, brings in big margins that are keeping the dealers happy. And with the N, Bajaj aims to tap into the growing entry-level sports market.

The latter isn't a recognised sub-class, but one that’s been defined by Bajaj. And the bike maker says the customers in this sub-class of bikes are looking for sporty looks. They also want above-average performance compared to a regular 150, along with the affordability and running costs of a typical commuter-friendly 150. This segment, as we understand it, currently includes the likes of the Hero Xtreme 160R and the Apache 160 RTR 4V; two motorcycles we have to enjoy, appreciate and recommend unabashedly.

So, does the N160 offer the same or better value as the other two? And does it carry that ‘sport’ essence Bajaj is talking about?

The Visuals

Bajaj Pulsar N160 Left Front Three Quarter

The first step towards justifying the ‘sport’ tag is visual drama. Its design must be distinct, aggressive, and thoroughly modern. With the N160 borrowing the design from its 250cc sibling, it does manage to check all these boxes.

It has good proportions. Its head-down-tail-up stance gives it an authentic naked bike look. Then, the tank extensions, the belly pan, and not to mention this black paint scheme, all come together to deliver one likeable and cohesive design. Nothing feels out of place on this 160.

Bajaj Pulsar N160 Head Light

Now, the MT15 reference dripping off the headlamp could have been avoided. But apart from that, we do like the way the N160 looks.

The Package

Bajaj Pulsar N160 Left Side View

Besides looks, a bike must also feel sporty when the rider gets astride. Having rear-set footpegs and a sightly forward slant for the rider’s seat help the N160 in this regard. Neither does it feel too uncomfortable nor too committed. But it isn't upright like a commuter either.

The handlebar is flat. It’s not high or low set. And in our book, it strikes a good balance between control and comfort. Overall, you get a seating position on the N160 that’s sporty without being uncomfortable.

Now when it comes to features, the N does score over its competitors, somewhat. It gets dual-channel ABS and bi-LED projector headlamps. Both are expensive add-ons that don’t just tick the box for more features but also bring in more value.

Bajaj Pulsar N160 Instrument Cluster

Having said that, the N gets a simple and basic, partly digital instrumentation with just trip and distance-to-empty reading. The competition, on the other hand, has a nicer, more tech-savvy system complete with Bluetooth connectivity and performance readouts.

The Ride

Bajaj Pulsar N160 Left Front Three Quarter

But it's the on-road performance that separates the wheat from the chaff. And the N160 clearly falls with the wheat. What's more, it's not just what the engine delivers, but the whole riding feel — the handling, the braking, the stability, and a hint of hooliganism — that makes up the experience.

The focus for the N seems to be low- and mid-range grunt to aid rideability and to give the feel of performance lower down the rev range. Thus, the torque curve on the N is almost flat, and it kicks in early. This is felt almost immediately when you start riding. So, whether one is riding to work or keeping up with his or her friends on a weekend ride, short shifts become the norm.

Bajaj Pulsar N160 Left Rear Three Quarter

We mostly rode the bike between 3,000-5,000rpm in the city, and it felt tractable and useable throughout. Moreover, downshifts to overtake or plug a gap in traffic isn’t needed if you are around 4,000rpm. Just open the throttle and it's done. The progress is potent too, with the N never feeling lazy or underpowered in such a scenario.

However, for enthusiastic riding, one must use the gearbox more liberally to keep up the progress and momentum. And having an engine that’s refined and near vibe-free helps here. On our ride, the engine never felt intrusively buzzy, even when close to 8,000rpm.

Bajaj Pulsar N160 Engine From Right

The Pulsar N160 isn't out of its depth on highways either. It will comfortably hold 90kmph all day long with enough grunt in reserve to make overtakes easy. It will also do 100kmph on the clocks and sit there without protest. And neither the bike nor the engine will feel stressed or out of their comfort zone. But at 100kmph, the N doesn't have enough juice left to propel itself from there for quick overtakes.

Now, the N160 is a lively motorcycle when it comes to changing directions. Plus, it doesn’t require much effort at the handlebar to get it to drop into corners or to switch sides. Moreover, there’s no delay or loss of communication between your intent conveyed at the handlebar and how the front, and with it, the rest of the bike, responds. Basically, this N has got the handling department sorted as well.

Bajaj Pulsar N160 Right Side View

As a result, the N160 feels light and nimble. And it makes for an easy bike to filter through traffic too. Plus, there’s decent turn lock-to-lock as well. At higher speeds, again, the N doesn’t feel nervous, be it going over bumps, passing traffic, or taking on flowing corners. Plus, the tyres offer good feedback closing the circle on N being a communicative and predictable motorcycle to ride.

There's, however, no discounting the fact that the N160 is a city bike at the end of the day, and therefore ride quality is important. And it is pretty agreeable. It handles the small undulations and bumps well, flattening them with authority. And even the more pronounced stuff like shallow potholes and bridge joints don’t send rude shocks or upset the bike or the rider. But, no, it isn’t plush or pampering and the rider can feel those potholes and joints quite clearly. And it's the fast rebound on the rear that causes whatever little discomfort that seeps

Should you buy it?

Bajaj Pulsar N160 Right Front Three Quarter

The new Pulsar N160 is being positioned in a category Bajaj likes to call entry-level sports. And the N160 needed to check three broad boxes to qualify as ‘sport’ in our book. And it does.

For starters, it is good-looking — modern, sporty, and desirable. It also has the right balance when it comes to seating ergonomics. It's not upright or laid back. And it's not back-breakingly or arm-achingly committed either. Like we said earlier, it strikes a good balance between comfort and control.

Bajaj Pulsar N160 Left Front Three Quarter

Finally, it makes for a nice, involving, and to an extent, fun motorcycle on the road. It is agile, torquey, communicative, and predictable. And it doesn't mind being ridden hard either.

But is it better than the competition?

It doesn't come across as such. And as first impressions go, it seems more at par for the course. The Xtreme might still be more involving. And the Apache is still the benchmark when it comes to tech and outright performance. But the Pulsar manages to hold its own in terms of design and refinement while striking a good balance between ease of riding and being an entertaining ride.

Photography: Kaustubh Gandhi

Gallery

Bajaj Pulsar N160 Left Side Pillion Footpeg
Bajaj Pulsar N160 High-Beam Flasher
Bajaj Pulsar N160 Branding/Fuel Tank Decal
Bajaj Pulsar N160 Front Brake Fluid Reservoir
Bajaj Pulsar N160 Left Side View
Bajaj Pulsar N160 Key Ignition
Bajaj Pulsar N160 Rear Turn Indicators
Bajaj Pulsar N160 Head Light
Bajaj Pulsar N160 Head Light
Bajaj Pulsar N160 Gear Shift Lever

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