Yamaha FZ25 v Ri­vals

Yamaha’s 250 not just takes on other quar­ter-litre bikes, but strikes at the very sim­i­larly priced 200-cc ma­chines as well


Mus­cu­lar street-bikes head into bat­tle

EN­EMY LINES WERE DRAWN WHEN Yamaha priced the FZ25, a 250-cc mo­tor­cy­cle, at just Rs 1.18 lakh (ex-show­room). This was neck to neck with smaller ca­pac­ity bikes such as the TVS Apache RTR 200 V4 (Rs 1 lakh) and Ba­jaj Pul­sar NS 200 (Rs 96,000). We de­cided to test the met­tle of the three best mo­tor­cy­cles ag­gres­sively priced at Rs 1 lakh. Start­ing from our place of work we bat­tled the city traf­fic to reach the wide open high­way, and fi­nally did some sharp bend­ing around cor­ners to explore the scenic hill roads. All this to find out which one stands out. Here’s how it turned out to be.

All the three bikes have a sporty and mus­cu­lar de­sign that tugs at the heart of en­thu­si­asts. The Yamaha is the youngest in this lot but its de­sign isn’t re­ally rad­i­cal. It looks like a nat­u­ral evo­lu­tion of its pop­u­lar younger sib­ling, the FZ16. The beau­ti­fully chis­elled tank of this bike with its in­tri­cate tank ex­ten­sions add mus­cle to the de­sign. It has the ca­pac­ity to carry 14 litres of fuel, which is a cou­ple of litres more than the others. The good-look­ing ex­haust is also sim­i­lar to that of the FZ16. The small head­light and min­i­mal­is­tic rear de­sign give it the mass-cen­tralised look which works well for us.

Com­ing to the Apache RTR 200 4V. TVS took the Apache legacy for­ward when they launched the 200 last year. One can’t miss its TVS Rac­ing DNA. It’s among the better look­ing bikes from their sta­ble, with its edgy form. The ra­zor-sharp tank and belly-pan look lethal; how­ever, the wedged ex­haust de­sign doesn’t appeal to me and looks bare. I do like the off-set fuel filler lid, the split seat and ‘grin­ning’ head­light which make it the most rad­i­cal among its ri­vals.

Speak­ing of ri­vals. The Pul­sar NS 200 is the old­est here. It was launched about five years ago, phased out in the mid­dle and res­ur­rected yet again this year with some up­grades. Not much has changed in terms of de­sign, apart from new body de­cals and dual-tone colour, which has slightly en­hanced the style quo­tient. It has now got a two-piece fair­ing on the belly, which the older 200 didn’t. Over­all, the NS 200 looks and feels big­ger and bulkier than its com­peti­tors.

I com­pared the specs and re­alised that the Pul­sar has the long­est wheel­base, fol­lowed by the FZ25. Be­sides, it has the high­est seat height of 804 mil­lime­tres. You sit low­est on the Apache, which also hap­pens to be the most com­fort­able. Not sur­pris­ingly, the Pul­sar weighs more than its com­pe­ti­tion by four kilo­grams, with both the TVS and Yamaha tip­ping the scale at 148 kg.

One has to give credit to Yamaha for their fit and fin­ish. We can say that with ex­pe­ri­ence. Ear­lier, we’ve used sev­eral other Yamaha bikes, and can say with con­vic­tion that those things are built to last. Even on the FZ25, the qual­ity of switchgear, aes­thetic de­sign, and over­all at­ten­tion to de­tail are top-notch.

The TVS isn’t too far apart and its but­tons and switches, too, have a nice feel to them and won’t wear down eas­ily. This is not

to say that the Ba­jaj is lack­ing in qual­ity, but the others feel a smidge better in this de­part­ment. The ad­van­tage the Ba­jaj has is the back­lit switchgear, which is use­ful in the dark.

Stay­ing on the topic of fea­tures, the Pul­sar has an ana­logue-dig­i­tal con­sole which of­fers ba­sic in­for­ma­tion such as trip me­ter, clock, fuel-gauge and red-line in­di­ca­tor. The FZ25 of­fers a com­pletely dig­i­tal unit, al­beit a very ba­sic one. The only ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion it has is fuel econ­omy and av­er­age for trip me­ter. It’s the RTR which has the most com­pre­hen­sive con­sole with ad­di­tional info such as a lap timer, top speed recorder and gear in­di­ca­tor. The FZ25 and NS 200 both of­fer tyre hug­gers which avoid spray­ing while rid­ing on wet roads, although we have no­ticed many an en­thu­si­ast re­move it for the sake of aes­thet­ics.

Fi­nally, the pow­er­plant. The FZ25 sports a 249-cc air-cooled sin­gle, which is mated to a five-speed gear­box. It’s equipped

with fuel-in­jec­tion and de­liv­ers 20.9 PS at 8,000 rpm. The Apache with its air-cooled 197.7 mo­tor and four-valve en­gine (the Yamaha has two valves) churns out sim­i­lar power but at a higher rpm, thus mak­ing the Pul­sar the most pow­er­ful bike in this fist-fight, where its four-valve, liq­uid-cooled unit, breath­ing through the car­bu­ret­tor, punches out 23.5 PS at 9,500 rpm. In­ter­est­ingly, the FZ25 makes the most torque, 20 Nm to be pre­cise, which is two Nm more than the others.

Us­ing the ex­tra cu­bic ca­pac­ity the Yamaha pro­duces these power and torque fig­ures at lower revs. This gives it a re­laxed power de­liv­ery, mak­ing the FZ25 the most re­fined among the trio. It doesn’t de­mand a down-shift while slow­ing down a lit­tle and it pulls seam­lessly even from lower speeds. Twist the throt­tle and there’s enough torque to set you sail­ing again with­out the en­gine knock­ing. It’s a sim­ple and sweet mo­tor­cy­cle which is dif­fi­cult not to like.

The Apache is a com­plete con­trast. It has the sporti­est na­ture, al­ways buzzing and push­ing you to wring the throt­tle and have more fun. The track is its play­ground. The raspy ex­haust note and quick throt­tle re­sponse make it the most in­volv­ing bike here. The Pul­sar has a sim­i­lar tem­per­a­ment but is a mite more docile. Be­ing taller and heav­ier, it has more traces of an ad­ven­ture bike than a track tool or a street bike. The TVS and the Pul­sar en­sure that the rider feels every ounce of power be­ing de­vel­oped. Since they have to be revved higher to achieve peak per­for­mance, this makes them both vibey, es­pe­cially in lower gears.

Since the NS 200 is the only bike here of­fer­ing a sixth gear, it feels most com­fort­able on the high­way do­ing three-digit speeds. This is where both the Yamaha and TVS leave you want­ing for an­other gear to shift up to. The top whack we could achieve on the Apache was 125 km/h, the FZ man­aged a slightly better 129 km/h, while the Pul­sar slayed them, us­ing the ex­tra cog to record 133 km/h on the test­ing equip­ment.

Here comes the fun part — per­for­mance run. Its light weight and ef­fort­less drive make the Yamaha sur­pris­ingly quick from 0 to 60 km/h: just 3.46 sec­onds. Yes, it’s close to a sec­ond faster than the Apache and half-a-sec­ond quicker than the NS. No one could have guessed that in the 0-100 km/h sprint, the fluid Yamaha would be 1.5 sec­onds faster than the Pul­sar and beat the Apache by nearly three sec­onds!

De­spite their sporty stance these bikes are essen­tially de­signed for city use, with the oc­ca­sional week­end run on moun­tain roads. So, mid-range plays an im­por­tant role. We tested the three bikes rolling from 30 km/h in third gear to see which one reached 70 km/h first. The Apache was the slow­est in the group, man­ag­ing it in 6.62 sec­onds, the Pul­sar fared better and shaved off a sec­ond, while the Yamaha took merely 4.75 sec­onds.

An­other as­pect that helps de­ci­pher each bike’s char­ac­ter more clearly is their rid­ing dy­nam­ics. Dur­ing our long ride, we found the Pul­sar to of­fer pretty sorted han­dling and ride; one of the ma­jor rea­sons for this be­ing its modern perime­ter frame, which is more rigid than its com­peti­tors’. None of these bikes are sprung too soft or firm, but the Pul­sar has a good bal­ance. The sus­pen­sion takes bad roads in its stride and its long wheel­base of­fers good straight-line sta­bil­ity. It’s just not as nim­ble as the Apache. The TVS with its short wheel­base and rac­ing genes is the sharpest of the lot, quick to change di­rec­tion, and is ex­tremely alert. Also, it’s not for­giv­ing. So you have to be equally alert while giv­ing in­put. It’s def­i­nitely the most en­gag­ing as it keeps you on your toes.

The Yamaha is a com­pletely dif­fer­ent an­i­mal. The Ja­panese have a way of giv­ing their bike a bal­ance which is close to a Zen­like state. The har­mony be­tween the sus­pen­sion and chas­sis, and how the rear fol­lows the front wheels on the FZ25 are noth­ing short of a sym­phony. It’s a feel­ing of calm­ness which sets it apart from the other two bikes. It’s also slightly softer sprung, and of­fers more com­fort than the others. The Yamaha feels most re­laxed; be it while ne­go­ti­at­ing traf­fic or while scrap­ing the foot-pegs through fast cor­ners. It’s the eas­i­est bike to live with.

Un­til now we’ve only been speak­ing about go­ing faster; so let’s shed some light on their brak­ing prow­ess. All these three bikes have disc brakes on both their wheels and the stop­ping power is closely matched. The Yamaha and Apache brakes of­fer a lit­tle more feel and feed­back, and that’s prob­a­bly why they’ve man­aged better an­chor­ing. The FZ25 is the quick­est to come to a halt from 80 km/h, fol­lowed by the Apache, while the Pul­sar is just a frac­tion be­hind. As of now, none gets ABS as stan­dard which would have re­duced the brak­ing dis­tance con­sid­er­ably.

And that brings this story to a halt as well. As dis­cussed ear­lier, each bike has a set of virtues and a few draw­backs. So, which one is good at what? The Pul­sar is the least ex­pen­sive and also has a fine bal­ance of sporti­ness, prac­ti­cal­ity and is the better ma­chine here for tour­ing — thanks to Ba­jaj’s wide­spread net­work and that sixth gear. Fur­ther­more, it’s a ‘Pul­sar’: the epit­ome of sport bik­ing in In­dia.

The Apache is the most en­gag­ing bike to ride as it makes your re­sponse sharper. It’s also the most funky-look­ing, which is sure to im­press your mates. The one bike which is al­ways game for a race, be it on a track or on the street. If you like rid­ing on the edge, this is your call­ing.

The Yamaha is the most un­der­stated bike in this com­par­i­son. The re­fined en­gine doesn’t feel that it’s the quick­est, the ex­haust doesn’t scream as the bike over­takes the rest, and for a 250-cc it’s very well priced. It clearly is a more ma­ture pick.

Rel­a­tively modern perime­ter frame give the Pul­sar an edge Sporti­est mo­tor here; al­ways ea­ger to have more fun

Sim­ple mo­tor of­fers lin­ear power, and is the quick­est here

Ana­logue-dig­i­tal con­sole does the job RTR of­fers lap timer, top speed recorder

Back­lit switchgear is use­ful in the dark Low seat, also the most com­fort­able

Ba­sic dig­i­tal dis­play hints at cost cut­ting

On the softer side but very com­fort­able

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