Hero XPulse 200 first ride review
It's a year and half now since the Hero XPulse 200 broke cover at the 2017 EICMA, and we've finally ridden it! The XPulse has been the subject of numerous discussions with friends ever since, as it has been pegged as proper adventure tourer and an affordable one at that. As I flew to Bangalore for the press ride, lots of questions queued up in my head. Has it been worth the wait? Will it be a worthy upgrade for Impulse owners? Will it really boast go-anywhere abilities? Without wasting too much time, let's jump into the thick of things, then!
The Hero XPulse 200 broke cover in 2017 and is finally on sale in the country and is also the most affordable adventure tourer in India now
Now that we have the prices Rs 97,000 for the carbureted version and Rs 1.05 lakh for the fuel injected version the XPulse 200 is the most affordable adventure tourer in the country. It set enthusiasts' tongues wagging with its equipment list and has had many dream about rides to the Ladakh region, well before its launch! The styling has been the subject of numerous discussions as well some liked it, while some just didn't.
The Hero XPulse 200 uses a round, all-LED headlamp unit along with a smoked flyscreen on top
The round headlamp looks retro with its chrome bezel but houses a proper LED setup. The XPulse 200 gets a smoked flyscreen which looked out of place in pictures but compliments the face well in the flesh. The bike sits tall thanks to its long travel suspension, as the 37mm front forks offer 190mm of travel upfront, while the gas charged monoshock at the rear, which is preload adjustable, offers 170mm of travel. Impressive! Ground clearance is even more impressive at 220mm. This, along with the dirt bike style high front mudguard, rubbers gaiters on the forks, metal bash plate, high mounted exhaust and spoked rims (21 inch at the front and 18 inch at the rear) makes for a very appealing stance. Of course, there's a luggage rack with bungee hooks as well, just in case you were wondering.
The instrument cluster on the Hero XPulse 200 is a digital LCD unit split into two. The right side of the display offers turn by turn navigation once your phone is connected to the bike via Bluetooth
The instrument cluster is an all-digital LCD unit split into two. The bigger section houses regulars like the speedometer, tachometer, gear indicator and the like but it's the right side of the display that interested me more. It displays tripmeters and ride data but more importantly it displays turn by turn navigation directions. The XPulse 200 offers Bluetooth connectivity, a first for an Indian motorcycle. You can download the Hero Ride Guide app which offers navigation and relays it to the bike's display. Neat! Turn by turn navigation works well, as it helped me navigate without needing to stop and ask for directions or have to pull my phone out to use Google maps even once.
The XPulse is powered by the same 200cc, air-cooled engine as the Xtreme 200R (and now the Xtreme 200S too). The single pot motor is in the same state of tune and offers 18.4PS and 17.1Nm and is mated to the same five speed gearbox though ratios are different, as the XPulse runs a larger rear sprocket for better initial grunt. The engine feels refined but I wish it was slightly quicker to rev. Fuelling from the fuel injection system is precise, resulting in crisp throttle response.
Fittingly, we were to experience the bike at the Big Rock Dirt Park outside Bangalore, the home ground for CS Santosh, the first Indian to compete in the Dakar rally-raid and Hero MotoSports' star rider. Santosh has worked closely with Hero to help develop the motorcycle's dynamics and our test ride at Big Rock was to be an acid test of sorts. Getting to Big Rock was a two hour ride on open roads where we got a chance to wring the throttle open before hitting the trails and dirt track.
The Hero XPulse 200 feels comfortable on highways but could have done with a slightly higher top speed which would have allowed for higher cruising speeds
The XPulse feels a little underpowered on highways and I would have liked some more grunt, especially at the top of the rev range. Speedometer indicated top speed was in the region of 120kmph, but a higher top speed would have afforded higher cruising speeds, as in its current avatar the XPulse 200 starts feeling strained if sustaining above 90kmph and also has some vibration from the handlebar at the speed. Thanks to the flat handlebar and mid-set footpegs the riding position is upright and thus comfortable for long hauls, but I just wish the seat was slightly softer.
At Big Rock is where the bike came into its own element. After all, it has been engineered for trail and dirt riding and felt really impressive there. Santosh took us out onto some trails where the bike's agility came to the fore. It also feels surefooted thanks to the 21 inch front wheel and dual purpose Ceat tyres, adding to confidence. The ground clearance helps you go almost anywhere, while the Endurance-sourced suspension soaks up bump, ruts and pretty much everything without a hitch. Standing on the footpegs and riding is an easy affair too and in fact, the XPulse 200 feels like a dedicated trail bike!
Ergonomics on the Hero XPulse 200 allow you to stand comfortably on the footpegs when riding off-road
Even more impressive was the handling on the purpose built dirt track. The track is used for training riders and proved to be the perfect place to test the XPulse 200's credentials. The seat height stands at 823mm which isn't too high and as Markus Braunsperger, Chief Technology Officer at Hero MotoCorp pointed out, the intent while designing the motorcycle was to ensure seat height won't make it cumbersome for shorter riders to put their feet down, while not compromising on ground clearance and suspension travel and Hero has nailed the setup well.
The 21 inch front wheel on the Hero XPulse 200 is quick to dig into dirt or gravel and offer good grip which offers lots of confidence
The bike's poise and confidence it offered on the loose stuff is very impressive as the 21 inch front ploughs through dirt effortlessly while the light front end affords quick directional changes. What I really liked though was the fact that I was able to get used to and understand the XPulse 200's handling on dirt in just a few minutes. And once I got a hang of it, the XPulse 200 was huge fun. The dirt track obviously has its share of various obstacles which the bike was clearing effortlessly. And then there were the jumps. Getting airborne is a cinch for the XPulse 200 as I found out. I first tried clearing the smaller ones before moving onto the bigger table top, where the bike pretty much egged me to go faster and jump higher! For someone who's never done this, the joy in jumping the bike several feet above the ground and then landing back safely thanks to the chassis and suspension was immense!
Getting airborne on the Hero XPulse 200 is easy and extremely addictive too!
The XPulse 200 is equipped with a 276mm petal disc upfront and a 220mm petal disc at the rear and a single channel ABS system. I've never been an advocate of single channel systems the primary intent behind single channel ABS is to save costs but in the case of the XPulse it also serves an important purpose. No ABS at the rear meant I could lock the back wheel at will and slide the bike around to make quick directional changes on dirt. And while sliding, the feedback from the chassis was excellent and so was the rear brake lever's modulation. ABS calibration is such that it works well on the front wheel, even on dirt and there were only a couple of occasions when the system seemed to have gone into panic mode.
The Hero XPulse 200 comes across as a well-packaged, go-anywhere motorcycle that's priced very sweetly and has the potential to do well and continue the legacy of the erstwhile Hero Impulse
Hero has clearly hit the nail on the head with the XPulse 200's ride and handling package. In fact, I feel it will be a great motorcycle for riders wanting to cut their teeth on dirt and trails as it offers lots of confidence. And in that sense the power output is adequate, as opening the throttle is never going to produce dramatic effects. More experienced riders though will be left wanting for more grunt. The bike's build quality also deserves a mention here as the XPulse 200 feels well-built and took all the thrashing it was subjected to in its stride, without showing hints of getting stressed. And its price of Rs 97,000 ex-showroom, the XPulse 200 is an excellent buy if looking for an affordable, go-anywhere motorcycle. It has no direct rival in the country, though you could call the Royal Enfield Himalayan a competitor, considering that the Himalayan is a 410cc, single cylinder engine equipped 24PS motorcycle with the same intent. However, the XPulse 200 costs about half as much as the RE, which makes it a steal if you want a true-blue adventure tourer.
Photography by Anis Shaikh
Also see: Hero XPulse 200 first ride review
Also see: Hero X-Pulse 200 walkaround Video