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Full throttle

How does India's long line-up of bikes stack up in the power and torque rankings? And will the cruise crowd currently ruling the roads morph into real, big-ticket superbikes some time soon?

Enjoy the adrenalin rush. And don't forget the helmet..Remember Jai and Veeru act out their bike-bonhomie on a ramshackle Bullet? Sure, India's moto-maniacs have come a long way since those 'Yeh Dosti' days. So just how well the current crop of does bikes stack up in the power and torque rankings? Are horses as important for adrenalin-pumping bikers as they are to the gas-heads in the car mart? ET goes hunting for the top-throttle super bikes in the Indian mart and comes up with both surprises and the usual suspects.

Of course, Jai and Veeru's favourite bike is still right up there on the power heap. But a newer and more sophisticated cruiser has pipped the Bullet brigade to the top spot. So the most powerful bike on the roster is the Kinetic Comet, followed by the Bullet 500. At third spot, the Bullet troika of Standard, Machismo and Electra rule the roads. Bullet hogs fourth spot as well with its Thunderbird, while the Hero Honda Karizma is at fifth spot.

The cruiser crowd is definitely in top gear on power performance with the Bajaj Avenger and Pulsar 180 DTSi coming in at fifth spot, followed by the LML Beamer and Graptor at sixth and seventh. The Pulsar DTSi, Honda Unicorn and Hero Honda CBZ bring up the rest of the list. As for the 100-125 cc bikes that currently corner most of the volumes in the market, their power ratings span 7bhp to 12 bhp depending on the engine capacity.

Of course, the 27 and 22 bhp totted up by the Comet and Bullet 500 is modest compared to the kind of growl that the original superbike DNA produces. The Suzuki Hayabusa, for instance, revs out a whopping 175 bhp, while arch rival Kawasaki ZZ-R produces 101 kW and the Honda Blackbird growls out 164 ps.

To be fair, though, Indian bikes aren't as BIG as these moto-monsters. Top power performer Comet is a 250 cc bike, the Bullet 500 is 499 cc, the rest of the Bullet clan is 346 cc, the Karizma is 223 cc and the Avenger 179 cc. In contrast, the Hayabusa is 1,300 cc, the ZZ-R 1,200 cc and the Blackbird 1,100 cc. So what gives - Haven't we made the leap of faith from Sholay to Dhoom? Or is the Indian buyer simply not interested in big bikes? Says Kinetic joint MD Sulajja Firodia Motwani, “In India, typically, mileage has been more important. But now more people are appreciating and demanding more and more power. In other Asean countries, power is definitely given more importance.”

There's a reason for that desi disinterest. Biking in India is more functional than recreational. It's not about passion, it's about utility. Says Prasad Narsimhan, marketing veep, TVS, “Power is not as important a selling factor in India, as mileage is more important for bikers here. In other developed Asean markets, the roads are better, so power becomes more important.”

The good news is that distinction is no longer as pan-industry as it used to be. Increasingly, bikes are getting slotted into utility and lifestyle niches where power and torque demands are very different. Says Sanjay Tripathi, GM, product planning, Yamaha, “India has various segments of bikes - entry-level, executive, power, premium etc. For premium bikes, torque and power are important. The power figure holds an emotional quotient for such bikers as it directly translates into performance. Bhp means acceleration and top speed, while torque translates into better pulling power. So, for style bikes like Enfield or power bikes like Unicorn, these figures are important. But when it comes to executive or entry-level bikes, it's not that important.”

Most marketers agree the current disinterest in power is a commuter virus. And as bikes go beyond that segment, there will be demand for more horses. Says S Vaitheeswaran, director, sales and marketing, Royal Enfield, “In India, commuting bikes give higher emphasis on mileage. But in bikes like ours, which are lifestyle products, power and torque are a priority. That's our USP.”

Indeed, as Indian bike companies push for exports, the domestic bike consciousness too will change gear. Bike marketers are unanimous that power and torque will be key differentiators in the future. Says Mr Tripathi, “In countries like Japan and Thailand, these distinctions become extremely important as there are a lot of modifications that come into play. In the future, power and torque will become extremely important in India as well.”

So forget Jai and Veeru and zoom into Dhoom. Let the growl of a hundred horses take over the roads...


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