After riding my Xpulse 200 4V for 600 kms on highways this past weekend I’m in a position to offer my two paise regarding the motorcycle’s suitability for long-distance adventure riding.
Power: The motorcycle’s sweet spot on the highway is between 90 and 100 kmph. I did push it to 115 kmph at one point to check the top speed, but it was quite stressed and unstable at that speed. 90 to 100 kmph is where everything seems to be in harmony. The handlebar and foot pegs don’t buzz. The engine sings along and the wind completely drowns the quiet exhaust noise. The motorcycle is quite stable and can sit at that speed for hours on end, which is exactly what I did. Note that I weigh 110 kgs and I was carrying around 10 kgs of luggage. This may have added to the stability of the motorcycle while slowing it down a little. Having said this, I strongly recommend never to ride faster than 100 kmph on Indian highways no matter what the speed limit says. You never know when a person or animal will run across the highway or some moron will change lanes or slam the brakes without warning.
The gearing is perfect. This is important to state because the gearing of the first Xpulse 200 was crap. My friends have changed their rear sprockets to make the motorcycle more bearable. Also, the gap between the first and second gears was just too large, which caused problems when climbing steep slopes on trails. All that has been fixed. In fact, I will say that the Xpulse 200 4V is the motorcycle that Hero should have launched instead of the one they did. The gearing and sprocketing are synced perfectly with the motor’s power to result in a smooth ride. The 4th gear has the grunt and is the reason you can get from 60 to 90 kmph very quickly. This is very important on choked Indian highways where you have slow-moving traffic blocking all lanes at regular intervals. We rode with Triumph Tiger 800’s on this weekend ride and we didn’t slow them down too much.
The stock suspension of the Xpulse is great for bad roads. The rally kit suspension takes things to another level. The only time I stood on the pegs was when ramming through the small and sharp speed breakers that the folks in Karnataka love to place on their highways. Otherwise, I just sat on the seat no matter how bad the road was. The rally kit suspension just soaked in everything. In fact, I was looking forward to bad roads so that I could smash the motorcycle through faster to check if the suspension bottomed out. It didn’t. The rally kit is really not necessary for long-distance adventure touring. But if you want to install it for your off-road adventures (which I strongly recommend) then it will just make your highway riding even more enjoyable.
I rode the motorcycle like a hooligan on the ghat section twisties. I was leading the pack and my friends following me thought that I had lost my marbles. The rally kit suspension behaved very well while cornering. The high ground clearance gave me a commanding position while leaning. The fourth gear did its job on uphill climbs. On steep hairpin bends, I had to drop to third and the motorcycle obliged and lept forward. Although my Xpulse has the rally kit suspension it’s sporting the stock tyres instead of the knobbies. The stock tyres let me corner with confidence.
The stock seat is quite uncomfortable for long-distance touring. Maybe a strap-on air seat will make things better. I have the rally kit seat but forgot to swap out the stock seat with it before the ride. As a result, I ended up with quite a sore butt after the 600 km ride.
The brakes don’t match the power this motorcycle brings to the table. The lack of rear ABS adds to the problem. If you slam the brakes in case of an emergency the rear wheel locks up and your muscle memory needs to take over to keep the motorcycle upright. The lack of a rear ABS helps you drag and slide the rear end when riding off-road. But on tarmac, it’s a disadvantage. This is another reason I strongly recommend not riding the Xpulse faster than 100 kmph on Indian highways. If you are about to cross a populated area on the highway it’s best to downshift and slow down. It’s not worth the risk.
For the price you pay, the Xpulse 200 4V is absolutely the best adventure motorcycle you can find in India at the moment. Nothing comes even close. The power is enough for highway cruising. The weight is just right for riding off-road. The rally kit suspension is perfect for smooth tarmac, broken tarmac, potholes, speed breakers and just about any off-road terrain you dare to tackle. I have no plans to do anything to this motorcycle’s powertrain. No change in the air filter or exhaust. No ECU remapping. No nothing. The motorcycle is just perfect as it is. I just need to be respectful of the limits of the motorcycle and ride accordingly.
Back in 2015, I rode my Harley-Davidson Fat Boy 6,500 kms for 14 days around the Golden Quadrilateral. I rode around 450 kms a day keeping a steady speed of around 100 kmph, opening up the throttle only on secluded straight sections. Would I ride my Xpulse 200 4V around the Golden Quadrilateral today? If that’s the only motorcycle I had, of course, I would. But instead of sticking to the highway I would take detours and explore places off-road as well.
Bottom line, adventure riders in India on a budget no longer have excuses not to buy a motorcycle, explore this beautiful country and start making memories they will cherish for the rest of their lives.