Having sold of my Pulsar 150 DTSi after having rolled more than 1,70,000 kms both in chaotic traffic and paradisiacal destinations, I was on a lookout for an upgrade. Wished for the traits that I found missing in my beloved Pulsar earlier- refinement, more power, comfort, handling, better electrical et al. Having initially set my eyes on the Pulsar 220 and having ridden my colleague’s bike- I found it seriously lacking in refinement and comfort. It had terrific straight line stability and the raw power to leave major of the two wheeled species in its vibrating rear view mirrors- but blame the higher center of gravity, it took that extra effort to make this heavy brute change directions, for e.g. riding on the ghats. Other goodies coming stock with the bike were worth considering but could be upgraded on most bikes today. The Pulsar 220 had great points for a streetbike, but certainly not for touring and as far as I was concerned I had already come out of the impulsive racy boy character to more of a tourer long back . So enter the Hero Honda Karizma- hailed as a sports-tourer by most experienced bikers today.
At the HEART of the matter!
17ps pumping out of a 223cc mill might not look impressive on paper- but a decent test ride of the machine will change your perception simply because of the way this bike makes torque across the rev range. The maximum torque is at a point where most of the bikes start building up. You don’t need to whack it like other rev-happy species around- this machine is like a horse and needs no more than a gentle pat as an order to run at its best. The initial torque kick is extremely addictive and the way it builds up on speed without fuss and your knowledge is simply loveable. It will run at over 100 clicks with the same vigor it had during the morning start and without showing up an inch of tiredness, till you run out of fuel. You might not feel the rush of riding over a 100 as you would do on other bikes- this might be a negative factor on one hand because after all motorcycling is about fun and thrill. But then on the other hand for a long distance runner- it’s a blessing. Lesser vibes and stress will unknowingly translate into you covering those extra miles than what you would have certified yourself to. An absolute gem of any engine to sum it up.
THE COMFORT-ING FACTOR
Being classified as a Sports-tourer, the ergonomics of the bike are no different. Swing your leg across and you fit into the bike irrespective of your height (in sane terms). Your feet naturally find their position on the rearsets and the handlebars would keep you in an upright position, which means no added pressure on your wrists. Except that the seat disappoints both for the rider and the pillion, but strictly in the terms of it being called a sports-tourer, though not as bad. A few minor foam modifications are enough to give a plush and cushy ride for your butts. The front suspension is the best I have found on any Indian bike I have ridden- ever ready to soak up the minor niggles on the road ensuring that the fate of the uneven surfaces are best kept minimal from traveling up your body. The damping at the rear too is decent enough for solo and two-up riding depending on the settings chosen on the shocks. To conclude on the comfort part- with just a small seat modification as mentioned, this would be one of the most comfortable bikes to ride.
After the engine, the biggest plus point of this machine. It handles like a veteran surgeon’s knife. Show it your line of travel and be assured it obeys your anticipation. Again it won’t give you a thrill or the goosebumps on going faster that you expected on a wide sweeper or a tight corner, but what it would succeed is bringing a smile to your face. You can divert all your attention looking at the geometrical beauty of the corner and enjoy the leaned-angle view of the stretch ahead. An unseen irregularity on the surface or a reckless creature crossing the road forcing you to slow down or stop in an SOS situation- the front would hold up in the panick-iest of situations. Again be assured that the handlebars won’t wildly swing a-la the horns of a raging bull- surprisingly it’ll end up consoling you saying “Don’t worry, all’s fine!” in an utter calm sense. Its composure in such an emergency state automatically implies that it holds up on hard straight line braking too. On my last ride to Rajasthan, I was amazed at the handling of this machine despite being loaded like a donkey.
The biggest misconception I had about this bike was flickability- a relatively bigger steed with a longer wheelbase would make flicking a difficult task compared to other bikes with shorter wheelbase. Take my word for it- if you had the same misconception, be ready for a surprise. You can flick it like any other bike and with even greater confidence- thanks to it stability even during sudden direction changes at any given speed. Seems like too many praises for the handling nature and I even haven’t spoken about its balance on bad roads and offroading. Throw anything at it and it willfully accepts. AWESOME is the word!
Starting off with the 276mm front disc brake…I would say is similar to most of the bikes from the Honda stable…slightly spongy and gradual as compared to the Pulsar brakes that bite like a furious cobra . But once you get used to the nature of the brakes- you will actually like the way it goes about simply because it won’t lock up the front that easily and gives you that much needed fraction of a second to recompose under panic. Some credit goes to the front suspension too under such tricky situations. The 130mm drum brakes do an equally good job and when complemented well along with the front brakes bring you to a breezy stop. To frankly admit- the drum brakes on this bike are way better than most of the rear disc-ed bikes available today. Remember the biker quote “Never be afraid to slow down”? Well this bike says and does exactly that.
Another plus point. A full DC setup with a 188 watts alternator ensures that the battery is pepped up efficiently and quickly in the process. Unlike other AC setup bikes where running a single HID for extended intervals gets the battery into a drowsy state, here you can run a twin HID whole night long without having to worry about the battery going weak and intoxicating other electricals on the bike. DC setup also means you can throw away the stock 35W halogen and PnP fit a 55/60W halogen for that added intensity of light. The headlight reflector is one of the best and effective existing in the present range of motorcycles. The indicators are big and bright with the twin-bulb tail light emitting adequate intensity to gesture the one trailing you about your actions. Another PLUS to go alongwith this bike.
There might be other wee-bits here and there, but I feel the above factors matter the most when it comes to on-road performance and experience.
Enough of praises, now the NIGGLES.
Me going gaga over this machine might give an impression that am harping it to be the perfect machine ever launched in India, which unfortunately it is not. The biggest problem is the quality of PLASTICS used- they’re CHEAP to say the least. You don’t even need a crash or impact to break them- they will simply crack under running. Going over bad roads will result in the front mudguard cracking up at the bolt points, the side panels and the fairing (in worst case) will end up with broken lugs. The noise of the rattling plastics will send your frustration and annoyance level to a different galaxy. Unfortunately there is no remedy to avoid this and to add insult to injury- buying a new set will burn a big hole in your pocket. All you can do is take utmost care- not that they won’t break (they will after all), but then the intervals would be longer.
As far as the other negatives go- there are a few but you have options.
- The punny sounding scooty-type horn can be replaced with twin horns (Bosch, Minda etc) with a relay setup.
- The rear stock MRF Zapper can be replaced by better compound tyres (tubeless if willing to spend) available in the market i.e. Michelins, Duros etc.
- Constant high speed running would put a family car to shame in terms of mileage. The drinking habits of this machine shoots north if ridden at its limit for prolonged durations and you’d be turning the fuel knob upwards much earlier than anticipated. But the solution here is to ride it between 80-100 kph where it would fetch you around 30-35 kpl, which is pretty acceptable.
- You will have to pinch yourself to believe the ridiculous prices of some spares. Original HH front disc pads costs Rs.2200/- (yes…..pinch yourself again). Compare that to the Honda Goldwing Kevlar disc pads being sold at Rs.1500/- on Planet DSG. Fortunately an option exists- all thanks to manufacturers like ASK and Allied Nippon which makes these pads at Rs.100/- and Rs.160/- per pair respectively. Don’t worry about the braking efficiency- they are good as the stock pads. The cam tensioner kit was another shot to the head at Rs.2300/-, but recently head they have reduced the prices now to Rs.550/-. Same goes for the sprocket set that used to cost in excess of Rs.2000/- now being sold at Rs.850/-.
- Prices apart, even availability of spares is an issue. A service centre like Fort Point in a city like Mumbai doesn’t have accelerator cables- this was during my last service. Earlier to this event, they didn’t have a bearing and that took 2 days to arrive. These are bare basic inventory, which makes me wonder about the bigger spares. On a long tour it’s better to keep small spares like brake/clutch lever (in case of a fall they easily break off), accelerator/clutch cable etc. Be sure you won’t find anything of it in smaller towns and end up with jugads like these.
So that sums up my review based on my riding experience. The plastic issues apart, I feel it’s a complete all around bike. It might not have the raw power of the P220, the technology of the R15 or the looks of the FZ- but it still holds ground for being an effortless sports-tourer and an extremely versatile motorcycle you can buy today.
STATS OF MY MOTORCYCLE:
Date of Purchase : 06.02.2010 (bought it second hand at 59,500 kms)
Total kms clocked : 25,000 kms approx.
Maximum mileage achieved: 42 kpl (very sedate riding)
Minimum mileage achieved: 20 kpl (crazy high speed running)
Top speed achieved: 139 kph (both on stock and replaced P220’s chain & rear sprocket)
This review of Hero Honda Karizma was written by Deepak Dongre. In case you too are interested in getting your review featured on Indiaon2wheels.com, then please send them to email@example.com.