Better handling, More information on the dash
Needed much bigger overhaul
The Lion might be the king of the jungle but there’s something elusive and mystical about a Wolf. Be it the folklores, urban or mythological legends, there’s a sense of mysticism that is attached to a wolf howling away when the sun sets. When the affordable performance motorcycle segment in India was at a nascent stage with the likes of the Honda CBR 250R and KTM Duke 200 being the only predators, Bajaj unleashed a wolf, a naked one. The Bajaj Pulsar NS200 went on to become a cult classic, so much so that Bajaj had to bring it back from the dead because the Indian motorcyclists wanted it so bad. Almost a decade after it was first let off its leash and the NS200 recently received its first major upgrade.
The jungle is more formidable now, with even more prowling predators but the NS200 has become more menacing, thanks to the addition of USD forks up front and a couple of other nifty upgrades. In terms of looks, Bajaj has carried forward the approach of not fixing what isn’t broke so apart from new colourways and new alloys, everything remains the same. Missed opportunity or a clever move to retain the same magic? I, personally, fall on the former side. But no one would walk up to you and say that the NS200 is a bad looking motorcycle. It is still menacing but a little more aggressive approach from Bajaj in this regard would have made the NS200 even more formidable. Bajaj has also updated the decade old instrument cluster as it now comes laced with more information like distance-to-empty readout, instantaneous fuel economy and average fuel economy. Now that we have talked about work and the weather, let’s talk business.
Our first stint with the updated NS200 involved experiencing it on Bajaj Auto’s Chakan test track facility. The inclusion of USD forks and overall weight reduction of around 3 kilograms are the talking points here. The NS200, thanks it its perimeter frame, has always been a sharp tool but the addition of USD forks has sharpened its edges even more. It tips into corners with more composure and reactiveness than before. You can feel the motorcycle shrinking around you as the NS200 feels more compact than before, more connected. After testing the prowess of the new setup, it was now time to expose it to the external, the real elements out there.
200 kilometers of road riding revealed that the suspension setup might be a little stiffer than before but it is nowhere near bone jarring. It is more stable than before, but without compromising on the ride quality front. The 2023 NS200 absorbs bumps well and you wouldn’t need to slow down that much over bad patches. Sharp handling traits that shined on the test track, don’t lose their sheen once we get on the road as well because the NS200 hunts corners like a hungry beast out on a prowl. And when things appear to be getting a little nasty, you can always get back to sanity by calling upon the upgraded braking setup which is now borrowed from the N250. Thanks to the massive 300 mm front disc and 230 mm rear disc brakes coupled with dual-channel ABS that now comes as standard, the NS200 wouldn’t send warning signals in your head in panic braking situations.
You aren’t alone because I too, wake up in the middle of the night, wondering why Bajaj is selling so many closely stacked Pulsars at the same time but the more you think about it, the clearer it gets. Take the NS200 for instance which remains the enthusiast’s choice because of its stiff underpinnings and high-revving engine. Let’s put some light on the latter, shall we? The NS200’s heart hasn’t gone any surgery ( a tough old chap, this!) as it retains the same 199.5cc, Liquid Cooled, Triple Spark, 4-Valve FI DTS-i engine that puts down 24.5PS @ 9750rpm and 18.74NM @ 8000rpm. Rather than focusing on low and mid range grunt, this engine is a true sprinter which just wants to reach the finish line as soon as it can. It doesn’t mean that it is completely dead in the lower revs but DJ is summoned to host the party only after the tachometer crosses 5k rpm mark. After that, it keeps on pulling strongly, even when it is nearing its 10.5k rpm redline. Keep pulling its ears and the NS200 would go on to register a top speed of around 133kmph which is what I managed to see on the back straight of Chakan. That being said, compared to its stablemates, the NS200 feels a little coarse to ride. With its latest additions like the N250 or the N160 for that matter, Bajaj has reached respectable levels of refinement and that trait is missing on the NS200. Vibrations start creeping in as soon as you reach 6000rpm and they become even more pronounced once the revs build up. They are not bothersome but this powertrain should have received some upgrades over its past one decade of existence.
The Pulsar NS200 needed this upgrade but that being said, it deserved a lot more. It is one such motorcycle that revolutionized the Indian motorcycle scenario and it is still a formidable package, mind you! As long as pure riding thrill is what you’re after, the NS200 still delivers. In spades. The naked wolf might be a little old now but it has turned even more menacing and it’s certainly here to stay.