Stirring things up just when they seem to have settled down is something Bajaj Auto excels at. Take the case of the Pulsars. Just when the Indian market had settled down to the Hero Honda CBZ phenomenon over a decade and a half ago, the Pulsars came and raced away with everyone’s attention. Then came the Eliminator (later the Avenger), which suddenly offered an affordable cruiser option. Over the years, there have been many examples. The latest chapter in their saga comes in the form of the V15 — a premium commuter constructed with bits of the legendary INS Vikrant in it. Hence, the tagline, ‘Part Motorbike. Part War Hero’.
There is no doubt that this brand new motorcycle, which Bajaj says has been developed from scratch, is an attention grabber. Some may question the design of the headlight, and the bikini fairing that adorns it but none will argue over its ability to turn heads. It’s also a difficult motorcycle to categorise. While the wide handlebar and upright riding posture scream commuter, the combination of the 18-inch front wheel and 16-inch rear wheel lends a cruiser-like stance. At the same time, there’s no doubt that the rear seat cowl howls cafe racer. In essence, the V15 is completely in a class of its own.
The chunky, sculpted fuel tank is the visual focal point on this machine, and seamlessly holds the varied design elements together. Rather than raid the parts bin, Bajaj has made good use of the last three years developing this bike from the ground up; the chassis, engine, 5-speed transmission and even the switchgear are all new, although we would have liked if they had included an engine kill switch.
The lack of a rev counter betrays the V15’s commuter heart.
Thumb the starter and the 149.5 cc DTS-i engine instantly growls to life with an impressively meaty note from that wide, round exhaust. Bajaj has strayed away from its custom of building rev-happy engines with class-leading power figures in lieu of commuter-style, low rpm rideability. Hence, this bike is endowed with a 2-valve head, rather than the 4-valve unit used in her 150-cc cousins, that is more tuned towards making torque at low revs than outright power and helps keeps costs down. The result is a maximum of only 12 PS at 7,500 RPM, but a healthy 13 Nm of torque at 5,500 rpm, 80 per cent of which is developed at as low as 3,500 RPM. In the real world, this translates to a strong pull right off idle and fewer downshifts when negotiating city traffic, as the bike can easily pull from as low as 25 km/h in top gear thanks to her low gearing. However, vibrations start to creep in over 60 km/h.
V15 carries the memory of the aircraft carrier INS Vikrant
On the road, the V15 feels sturdy, and the build quality and finish are deserving of applause. The telescopic fork up front and twin gas-charged shock absorbers at the rear, although basic, seem to have been well thought out, and do a great job of ironing out road imperfections and imparting a solid feel to the bike. The motorcycle stays planted over not-so-great roads. We would have appreciated a little more flickability, which would have aided filtering through traffic. A special mention must be made of the excellent brakes that have the most progressive bite and feel of any Bajaj product till date.
The V15 will compliment the Discover 150F in Bajaj’s premium commuter line-up, and the INS Vikrant connection will surely make her a novelty among patriotic Indian customers, as well as those serving in our armed forces. In one way or another, the legendary warship lives on.