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Feature: Pocket battles
One twisty stretch of road, two little motorcycles and one incredibly rainy day. Mondays should all be like this…
So there I was, staring at the blankness, trying to make sense of everything that has happened over the past few hours. My mind seemed to be drawing a blank. I couldn’t seem to make any progress. What do I do? The situation was killing me… But then I realised, it wasn’t so difficult to make sense of all this.
Because, at the core of the matter, while the RTR 160 4v and the Gixxer might be two motorcycles of the same kind, they are both starkly different. Once I broke things down into little boxes and squares, the answers would all come. Oh, I also realised Aatish’s bald head was blocking my view as I tried to make up my mind. So clearly, things weren’t all that blank. Except for Aatish’s head. It’s still bald.
Jokes aside, once the moon moved over. Dammit! I mean, once Aatish moved over, I could really have a look at both the motorcycles side by side. And to be honest, the formula is similar. The styling cues are similar. It’s the same line that the first Pulsars took. Naked street-fighter, to be exact. No, not the video game kind, you dirty minds! The motorcycle kind!
So yes, the basic formula is the same. Muscular lines, alloy wheels, disc brakes, flashy paint, un-faired headlight, mono-shock… You know, the works.
But despite all this, there was one crucial difference. The RTR somehow, to quote Moto Moto the hippopotamus, seemed more “chunky”. It took us a while to figure out why, but we finally did. Turns out that the RTR’s belly pan is what makes all the difference. It creates the illusion of the RTR being a bigger motorcycle despite both being roughly the same size. The fact that the Gixxer has been around a fair bit longer than the RTR doesn’t help its case either. Familiarity and all that…
But I’ve always said that looks are subjective. So I can’t keep harping on about that bit. What I can dive into, in depth, is the way both motorcycles ride. And there’s a significant story to be told there.
Now both these motorcycles are specced very similarly. Air-cooled singles making 14 and 16 horses and roughly 14 and 15Nm of torque. The RTR has a few more ceecees and hence more power while the Gixxer is a bit lighter in kerb weight.
Other specs are the same – steel frames, discs at both ends, right-side-up forks, semi-adjustable rear shocks, five-speed gearboxes and the like. The Gixxer does get ABS, though. Which gives it 23,456 brownie points in my books. Ergos too are a bit different. The Gixxer is a bit more relaxed while the RTR has a more committed riding position – both comfortable though. The real difference is in how the two ride. And that, you can break down further into handling and performance.
Of the two, the Gixxer is slightly more stiffly sprung. You can feel the firmness when you go over broken stretches. It lacks the absorptive nature of the RTR’s suspension. But if you would imagine this would give the Gixxer a big advantage in cornering performance, you would be mistaken. You see, TVS has played around with the geometry very cleverly. So while the RTR runs a longer wheelbase than the Suzuki, it also gets more aggressive rake. And in doing, this, they created an incredibly quick-steering motorcycle.
Direction changes on the Apache are so quick that it takes you a moment to get used to them. At first, you end up using too much input and the motorcycle will overshoot your intended trajectory and do one singular weave when you relieve pressure at the ’bars. It’s a little unnerving and nothing like the calm, composed and mature nature of the Gixxer.
Where the Suzuki is a well-trained Doberman, the Apache feels more like a teething Labrador pup - nipping at everybody’s heels and peeing everywhere.
To be fair, the RTR isn’t lacking in anything. You just need to understand its cornering behaviour a bit before you get on the attack. Through and out of corners, both these motorcycles feel great. They do not get upset by bumps and changes in input. The only difference the setups bring is that the Gixxer has a certain level of accuracy that the RTR doesn’t. Also, I like the RTR’s brakes better. The lever travel to bite point is much shorter than on the Gixxer and I like having the ability to shed speed right at the tip of my fingers rather than halfway down the lever stroke.
But then, the RTR does turn quicker… But then, the Gixxer does get ABS… Ooooh! Conundrum again! But the indecisiveness ends there. Because, with that extra bit of power that the RTR gets (two horses more), it is able to charge more aggressively than the Gixxer. Low-end torque is great and the RTR takes off from standstill with as much aggression as that Rottweiler whose tail you just stepped on. The Gixxer seems to take a bit more time getting its act together when the flags drop. Throttle response too is quicker on the RTR. The Gixxer, in comparison, feels a tad lazy with the way it picks up and drops off revs.
The trade-off though, is in refinement. The Gixxer, with its butter-smooth motor, stays calm and composed even when you’re wringing the very life out of that little single-pot. It never complains except for a little buzz of protest right at the redlines. The RTR, on the other hand, is quite a buzzy motorcycle. There are noticeable amounts of buzz from the handlebars at almost all times. They’re not unbearable, but they are there nonetheless.
The RTR also has terrible feel from the gear lever. You can almost not feel the cogs click into place unlike on the Suzuki. The Suzuki, meanwhile, feels spot on. Click, click, click... No vagueness here!
There are other things that I like and dislike on both these motorcycles. Nothing significant, but things that you should probably know when making your decision. The Apache’s handlebar grips are larger than usual.
So they do feel like a handful in your, err, hands. Both motorcycles have nicely shaped tanks that allow you to grip them very well. But the Gixxer doesn’t get heel plates. A glaring omission if you like to be anchored on the bike all the time, like I do.
And when you combine it with footpeg rubbers that tend to get extremely slippery when wet, it can lead to some hairy situations.
For two very similar, fast and fun motorcycles, the Gixxer and RTR 160 have very different characters. But the bottom line with both these motorcycles is that whichever you choose, you won’t go home a loser. Both of them do the fast commute and the occasional highw ay run very well. But we’re in the business of making decisions and that being the case, I have to say that if I were to pick between the two, I’d choose the RTR.
Why? Because the RTR brings to the table a level of excitement and fun that the Gixxer isn’t able to match. The Suzuki is an incredibly good motorcycle and one that I still recommend. But the RTR is just so much more fun... But it also costs around `1,500 more... But the Gixxer does have ABS... There comes that blankness again... Oh, wait! Dammit, Aatish! Get your head out of the way!