I’ve decided to write a blog post (and update it as and when I have something to add) as an ongoing diary of my thoughts and experiences with my Hero Xpulse 200 4V. Sections in this post may or may not have a relationship or connection with each other as these are my thoughts at different points in time while doing different things with the motorcycle.
Hero has completely changed the gearing and rear sprocket of the Xpulse 200 4V. This has made a huge difference in the off-road ride quality. Previously, the first gear was too short and the gap between the first and second was so large that you had to constantly switch between the first and second gear when riding technical trails. But in the 4V the first gear is quite tall and the gap between the first and second gears isn’t that large. The much larger rear sprocket complements the revised gear ratios. This smoothens the ride allowing the motorcycle to easily tractor along without irritating the rider too much.
Well done Hero MotoCorp!
The off-road capabilities of the Xpulse 200 4V are a given, even without the rally kit. I was curious to know how the motorcycle felt on the highway. This is important for me since the trails I want to ride are often out of state hundreds of kilometres away. I haven’t had the chance to ride Bolt for an entire day somewhere yet. So I will reserve my judgment on whether the Xpulse 200 4V is suitable for highway cruising.
But from a short highway ride that I did this evening, I noticed that the motorcycle reaches 80 kmph relatively quickly and feels pretty comfortable and stable there. Twisting the throttle more takes you to 90 and 100 kmph at which point you notice the lack of weight in the machine and it starts feeling nervous. Twisting the throttle all the way took me to 110 kmph and it felt like I was wringing its little neck. The motorcycle was quite unstable and I couldn’t stand it anymore. So I slowed down to 80 kmph and enjoyed the ride from thereon.
I think 80 kmph may be the sweet spot for the Xpulse 200 4V, which is pretty good if you don’t want to do long-distance touring in a tearing hurry.
A reader asked me if a Xpulse 300 would make sense. I don’t think it will. A powerful motorcycle needs to have a corresponding weight to keep it stable on the highway at high speed. That is why cruisers and large-capacity adventure motorcycles are heavy. A light and powerful motorcycle is extremely unstable at high speed.
When I rode a KTM 450 EXC in Mongolia, we had some long straight highway stretches to cover. We cruised at a steady 100 kmph and it felt a little uneasy. At one point I stopped for something and then twisted the throttle to catch up with the group I was riding with. The motorcycle hit 150 kmph in no time. But the 111 kg motorcycle shook violently due to the strong wind blast and its low weight. It was quite a struggle to ride it safely. After I caught up with the group I was relieved to drop back to 100 kmph.
The Xpulse 200 already feels quite uneasy at 100 kmph. Adding 100 cc more to the engine will only make it more unstable and unsafe at higher speeds. The Himalayan is a nice cruiser because of its high weight. But that becomes a drawback when you ride gnarly trails.
A Xpulse 300, 400 or 500 would make sense only for taking part in cross-country rallies where you need to ride flat out like a maniac. But for an adventure rider looking for a motorcycle to commute to work during the week and tour highways leisurely or ride trails on the weekends, I think the Xpulse 200 is absolutely perfect.
I haven’t yet installed the Rally Kit on Bolt. But I must say that the stock suspension of the Xpulse is pretty amazing. It’s definitely a lot better than the Impulse. The last time I rode my Impulse through this field the ride was quite jumpy and I struggled quite a bit to stay upright. You can’t see it in the picture but there are some pretty gnarly sections in this field. Today I rode the Xpulse across the same field and I had a lot more control over the motorcycle. I’m looking forward to installing the Rally Kit this weekend. It should make things even easier.
I’ve started personalizing Bolt to suit my needs. For starters, I installed a taller windshield, a tail rack and a tail tidy.
The taller windshield is mainly to protect my handlebar-mounted mobile phone from fine specks of dirt that fly into the camera lens. This happened to my iPhone 6 and the only solution is to replace the camera unit. Once a speck of dirt gets into the lens there is no way to take it out. Thereafter photos taken using the phone camera are ruined with large brown circles in the image. The phone is supposed to be water and dustproof. But that seems to be only on paper.
The tail rack is meant to hold my Viaterra Raptor tail bag which is my main luggage on a motorcycle.
The tail tidy is more for cosmetic purposes. The one I got is pretty neat. It is a direct replacement for the rear mudguard and accepts the stock side lights and number plate lamp.
I bought all these accessories online and installed them myself using basic tools. Here are the links:
Windshield – https://www.xplorermode.com/product-page/xpulse-touring-windshield
Tail Rack – https://www.amazon.in/gp/product/B09NCKZGW4/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o01_s00
Tail Tidy – https://www.amazon.in/gp/product/B09SHSVD7Z/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o07_s00
With the rally kit Bolt has started to look and feel a little mental, slowly matching the character of his owner. This is my first motorcycle with an adjustable suspension and I’ve already started to dial things to suit my weight and speed of riding off-road.
I still need to do a few more things like replacing the handlebar. I’m six feet tall and the standing position just doesn’t work for me. I think I will need a deeper handlebar in addition to the rally kit risers. But I’m not sure if the cables will support such a raise. Maybe I will need to do some jugaad here.
With the rally kit suspension and seat, I can barely flat foot the motorcycle. So I will need to tiptoe the motorcycle on trails as and when needed, something that I’m not used to.
The ground clearance is absolutely amazing. I rode my usual trail on the Uccasaim plateau this morning and kept off the track, for the most part, riding over the rocky terrain. I didn’t even come close to scraping the skid plate and the suspension soaked in all the bumps nicely.
In its stock form, the Xpulse is a great motorcycle to ride off-road. The rally kit takes things to another level altogether. A highly recommended upgrade if you are looking to have more fun off-road.
Today I swapped the stock tyres of Bolt with the knobbies of the rally kit. I’m quite used to riding knobby tyres. I’ve ridden my Impulse with knobbies for more than 18,000 kms in Goa, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Nepal and the North East. So I expected the uneasy squishy feeling when riding the Xpulse with knobbies on the tarmac. However, the pleasant surprise was the way the motorcycle braked sharply without getting out of control.
With knobbies the contact patch of the tyre is drastically reduced. So it’s very easy for the tyres to lose grip and lock up if you brake sharply. That’s one of the reasons knobbies are not considered road-legal tyres. You are expected to trailer your dirt bike to the dirt track or trail, ride your heart out and trailer it back home.
On my Impulse with knobbies, if I brake sharply on a corner the front wheel slides out rather easily. That’s why I need to be very careful when I ride winding ghat roads. But if I brake sharply when riding the Xpulse with knobbies on a corner the front wheel stays stable. That’s because the ABS kicks in. I can feel the front brake lever pulsating letting me know that it’s doing its job to keep the front wheel from locking up and sliding out.
The Xpulse has a single-channel ABS on the front wheel. This means the rear wheel is free to lock up, which it does rather easily when the tyre is a knobby.
The Xpulse’s stock handlebar is just too low for a six-footer like me to stand up and ride comfortably. Brijesh Naik sorted me out with an aftermarket handlebar and handguards. He adjusted the cabling such that the rally kit’s handlebar risers could be added as well, thereby raising the handlebar quite high. Bolt now has a commanding seating position when seated and I no longer need to bend over the handlebar when standing on the footpegs.
Brijesh also fitted a 12V USB charger and X-Grip to the handlebar and auxiliary lights straddling the headlight. Looks like I’m nearly don’t personalizing Bolt.
Auxiliary Lights – https://www.amazon.in/gp/product/B07MK7BPJY/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o08_s00
Auxiliary Lights Switch – https://www.amazon.in/gp/product/B08WKCG75F/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o09_s01
X-Grip – https://www.amazon.in/gp/product/B07GH7XL85/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o00_s00
Now that my son is riding the Xpulse to college I swapped the knobbies with the stock tyres. I’ve done some highway riding on the motorcycle and am now in a position to offer my two paisa on the Xpulse as a touring motorcycle.
If you are happy cruising on highways between 80 to 90 kmph (which you should be in India) then the Xpulse 200 4V will work for you. At 100 kmph the motorcycle starts to get shifty due to the high wind speed and its low weight. Beyond that it gets quite buzzy and unstable. Note that this is with stock tyres and not the knobbies. The knobbies make the motorcycle nervous at 80 kmph itself. Also note that I’m 110 kgs and my weight will definitely be contributing to the stability of the motorcycle at 80 kmph. If you weigh lesser then things will change.
… to be continued