TVS Ronin first ride review - the misfit?
"A new way of life," said the mail from TVS as they invited us to Goa to ride their latest motorcycle - the Ronin. What's also new is the idea of a test ride in Goa in July, because it's usually raining cats and dogs making testing and shooting quite a challenging affair. It has its charm though if you are on an adventure motorcycle, but TVS is not looking at that segment just yet. Their focus right now is to grab a piece of the tasty modern-retro pie that Royal Enfield has been enjoying without much challenge. They even poached Vimal Sumbly (ex Triumph and Royal Enfield) to lead this charge and while that has been a fairly recent move, the development of the Ronin has been happening for a while.
We know TVS wanted to enter the modern retro space ever since they showed the Zeppelin power-cruiser concept at the 2018 Auto Expo and while the Ronin isn't the same form factor, it does show off beefy 41mm upside forks and a stretched rake angle.
TVS Zeppelin concept from 2018 Auto Expo
The rest of the bodywork makes it a bit of a misfit though. Don't get me wrong - I don't want to take anything away from this motorcycle - it's perfectly good and fun to ride - just that it doesn't fit into any specific genre.
The block pattern tyres, high-rise rear fender, a bash plate and flat seat make it appear very scrambler-like, and the relaxed footpeg geometry for the rider and pillion make it feel like a power commuter, while the shape of the tank and the detailing of the body panels make it look like a modern retro.
The shape of the rear fender is very much like a cruiser and the chain guard which hides a 42T rear sprocket (12T front) has a ridiculous single-piece form designed to mimic the look of a cruiser-like belt-drive system.
Even the suspension geometry is very cruiser-like, but the suspension hardware components and the travel is very much like the RR310.
The Ronin's dimensions aren't too big, which may not appeal to some, but will fit a wide variety of riders. The seat is also easy to get astride on and getting both feet flat on the ground isn't a task either. We did about 60kms on our short first ride on the motorcycle and the seat felt pretty comfortable for it. The pillion end is wide and accommodating too.
Motivation for the Ronin comes by way of an all-new, perfectly square 225cc single-cylinder engine which delivers around 20Nm of torque under 4,000rpm ensuring easy tractability in the city, a fairly strong low- and mid-range performance and lesser need for gearshifts. Relaxed commuting or laid-back highway cruising is what this engine is designed for - much like Royal Enfield - and has a characteristic idling exhaust note too achieved with a high inertia flywheel. Watch our video review to take a listen. Once you do, you may also notice that the engine comes to life with a rather silent starter operation and that is thanks to an integrated starter generator.
The 20-odd PS it produces is more in line with the likes of the Royal Enfield Classic or Meteor 350 than the more powerful Bajaj Dominar or the Husqvarna 250s - but a 160kg weight ensures a healthy power-to-weight ratio that keeps things chirpy. The Ronin can reach top speeds of 120kmph and cruise at 100kmph feels breezy without the engine feeling strangled.
Should you hit the rough patches, standing and riding can get quite cumbersome because of the front set pegs and the bulbous tank which is hard to grip. Also note that with the forward-set pegs, using foot controls with stiff adventure or dirt boots can get difficult when sitting and riding and therefore I recommend a pair of relatively flexible touring boots instead. Sitting and riding on the trails is the better idea with the Ronin. The handlebar is sized just about right for those wanting to go scrambling with this motorcycle and the lightweight form and low seating (795mm) help.
The instrumentation looks inspired by the Ducati Scrambler and is easy to read on the go despite the small fonts and tiny tell-tale lights. It will also pair with your phone and show call alerts and navigation readouts, though I think they should have swapped the displays for turn-by-turn indicators with the gear position readout because the navigation info is very tiny. I'm sure many will use the space on the handlebar to mount a phone instead and use that for navigation.
Speaking of gears, the engine is mated to a 5-speed transmission and like most TVS bikes, the clutch is light and easy to use even in a crowded environment. Being TVS' premium offering, the clutch and brake levers are adjustable too, like on the RTR.
Speaking of the RTR, the performance of the Ronin isn't comparable to the racy street bike, but despite the part-scrambler-part-cruiser form, the Ronin is a typical TVS motorcycle - responsive on the engine front and confident around corners.
Though it isn't exactly a corner carver, the Ronin feels taut despite its relatively soft suspension setup. The bigger advantage is on inferior roads where the plush ride is instantly highlighted - and that supple ride quality will be one of its biggest selling points.
The bike also comes with a progressive rear brake pedal feel which will make even newbies feel at home. The range-topping models get dual-channel ABS with two modes as well - Urban and Rain. The Rain mode keeps the ABS relatively more alert, but on poor road conditions in the wet, we found that the Urban mode offered a better feel and smaller braking distances. Do note that these modes alter the braking only and not the engine performance or throttle maps. But this is a segment-first and welcome addition.
So what does the Ronin go up against or who should consider buying. Let me try and give a consolidated answer. If you are looking to upgrade from a Bajaj V15 without departing from the form factor - this makes good sense. If you want something taller than an Avenger but a typical street bike isn't your thing - this makes good sense. You want something lighter than the Dominar 250 or something cheaper than the Husqvarna 250s - makes good sense.
And it's not just Bajaj - the Ronin even has the 350s from Royal Enfield and Honda or the scramblers from Royal Enfield and Jawa in its sights and with a competitive price tag it could indeed draw competition away from all these motorcycles. Will it, that remains to be seen - but on its own I quite like it.
Photography Varun Kulkarni
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