The history of modern, affordable performance motorcycling in India is incomplete without the Bajaj Pulsar. When the firm launched the first Pulsar twins (the 150cc and the 180cc models) in 2001, it wouldn't be a stretch to state that they redefined what the industry was capable of – and what the consumer wanted.
No longer was the cheap, bare-basic and ultra fuel-efficient commuter bike the sole focus; younger buyers wanted more powerful and better-looking bikes, and Bajaj delivered exactly that. For 20 years, the Pulsar has been a hot seller in numerous iterations, and now the all-new Pulsar 250 twins (the F250 and N250, the most powerful Pulsars yet) look set to carry forward that tradition.
About time too, if you ask me – the previous generation Pulsar was becoming a little long of tooth. A new approach was required.
Same, same, different different
The new bikes are immediately recognisable as Pulsars, but they also look significantly different, which is a good design trick to have pulled off. They definitely look like they've gone on a weight loss programme – they look sleeker and more lithe.
The F250 is semi-faired, and thus has a more substantial presence than the N250, which is ‘naked’. The F250 also has a different DRL design, but other than those, the bikes are identical - lightweight alloy wheels, a 14-litre fuel tank, a pillion grab rail, split-style seats, a twin-barrel exhaust and more.
The fairing will give the F250 better wind protection, but I prefer the more spare styling of the N250. Currently, you can choose between Racing Red and Techno Grey in terms of colours.
What about features?
In terms of features, the twins just about meet the standards buyers expect today. For example, you get full-LED lights and a pretty sharp looking instrument panel with very thin bezels, but the flip side is that the information displayed is rather basic – and there’s no Bluetooth connectivity, which is rather surprising; perhaps Bajaj will offer this option later.
The switches are backlit and feel very solid, and the overall fit and finish levels are admirable. Single-channel ABS comes as standard on both models.
The underpinnings have had changes made to them, as you would expect, the most significant being the engine being used as the stressed member. The twin rear shock absorbers on the older models have made way for a preload-adjustable mono-shock, and there are telescopic forks at the front.
You can feel a marked difference in the ride quality, with both bikes feeling plush and soaking up bumps without fuss. They also feel slightly different to ride when it comes to the handling department, although both are suitably sporty, in the best Pulsar tradition.
The F250 has more heft and consequently has a very solid feel, whereas the N250 feels more precise and light on its feet; which one you opt for will depend on your preferred riding style, naturally. The F250 has clip-ons, whereas the N250 comes with a single-piece handlebar; again, the difference is negligible.
The heart of the matter in both bikes is the engine, a new 250 (249.07cc, to be precise) single-cylinder unit which is oil-cooled. It makes 24.1 bhp at 8750 rpm alongside 21.5 Nm of torque at 6500 rpm, both of which are very respectable numbers.
Now, about performance
Bajaj has tuned the engine for plenty of mid-range performance leading up to a good amount of top-end shove, which makes the Pulsars entertaining to ride fast. However, at the lower end of the rev range, they feel a little hesitant, and you have to give them gas to really get them moving.
When you do, you will almost certainly enjoy the proceedings, since the bikes accelerate cleanly till their red line and will easily hit 145 kph. Neither bike is exceptionally refined, with vibrations setting in from around 5,000 rpm onwards, but then the Pulsars have never had Honda-levels of smoothness.
The gearbox is a 5-speed unit with a light action, and it has a slipper clutch unit which is useful when you want to downshift quickly. There’s also a clutch assist mechanism which makes the lever light to operate. As far as braking is concerned, there’s a 300mm front disc and a 230mm rear disc, both of which provide assured stopping power and great bite.
These are bikes that will greatly appeal to the market, I have no doubt. The all-new engine and chassis are genuine improvements, both machines are lots of fun to ride and although the features list is a bit thin, there’s still enough to cover the basics.
Importantly, for the price (Rs 1.66 lakh for the F250 and Rs 1.64 lakh for the N250, on-road Mumbai), they’re excellent ‘quarter-litre’ motorcycles. The Suzuki Gixxer SF250, for example, is Rs 2.18 lakh.The Yamaha FZ25 is exactly the same price as the N250 and is by far the more striking-looking bike, but the Pulsars do come with years of pedigree, which is important in this game. Two more winners from Bajaj, all told.