Before the Ronin barged into the scene, the territory of neo-retro motorcycles was rather uncharted for TVS. In terms of racing pedigree and motorsports, TVS has earned every bragging right there is but this unexplored territory was proving to be so fertile for other manufacturers like Royal Enfield, the thinktanks at TVS had to pull off something unique. Something ‘unscripted’. And that’s where the Ronin comes in. By this time, you might already know that Ronin is a fancy name for a Japanese samurai with no master and when you think in that way, the Ronin justifies its moniker to some extent. It doesn’t cater to one individual genre of motorcycles and thus, it has no master. History suggests that not every rebel or maverick has tasted success but what about the TVS Ronin? Is it a masterstroke by TVS to snatch the pie away from the oligarchs of neo-retro genre or just a marketing debacle?
Ronin’s tagline ‘Unscripted’ makes the most sense when it comes to its aesthetics. Kids, this is what happens when you try too many things at once – you fail to excel in any one of them. The Ronin is essentially a premium lifestyle product and that shows but when you start factoring in the conventional notions of automotive design philosophies, it struggles to prove its point. It tries to be a cruiser, a scrambler and a neo-retro motorcycle… all at once! However, there are many visual elements that add to its premium appeal. Over the past few days that I’ve spent with the Ronin, I’ve really come to admire how it looks from up front. The T-shaped DRLs might not have any significance but they make the Ronin quite distinctive and instantly recognizable. Then there’s the meaty 110-section block-pattern rubber that works in tandem with the lustrous golden USD forks to make it look beefy. The 14-litre fuel tank looks muscular and plays the role of making the Ronin look like a cruiser motorcycle. Things start getting a bit awkward as you slowly pan your eyes towards the rear section. The boxy side panels and the unnecessarily curvy rear fender don’t gel well with the rest of the motorcycle and further establish the fact that not all curves are pleasing to the eyes. Especially when they look artificially bulbous. Still talking about the motorcycle, peeps. I swear! The Ronin might be suffering from an identity crisis, but it still manages to look and ‘feel’ premium. We have come to expect good build quality from TVS and since Ronin is being pitched as a premium product, it doesn’t disappoint in that regard. Be it nifty touches like the mirror stalks or the levers for that matter, everything reminds you that special attention has been paid while developing the Ronin.
Its cruiser credentials are further highlighted right after you bring the Ronin to life as its exhaust lets out a deep growl, reminiscent of small-capacity thumpers. Instead of developing an entirely new powertrain, TVS borrowed Apache 200’s mill and tweaked it slightly to meet Ronin’s characteristics. The end product is a 225.9cc, four-valve, single-cylinder engine that puts out 20.4hp at 7,750rpm and 19.93Nm of torque at 3,750rpm. As compared to the Apache 200, this engine features identical bore and stroke dimensions of 66mm. This squared-out architecture makes the Ronin a bit livelier in the low and mid-range as compared to the Apache 200. The clutch mechanicals include slip and assist function as well, translating into light clutch action which makes this samurai a perfect urban warrior. The Ronin rolls off quite spiritedly as soon as you dump the clutch and get going. The oomph available low down in the rev range makes the Ronin a very tractable and easy motorcycle. Vibrations are kept at bay for the most part, but they start making their presence felt as you make your way higher up in the rev range. It is no tarmac scorcher, and the spread of performance reflects this fact as the Ronin starts losing some breath after crossing the 100kmph mark. The gear ratios of the Ronin aren’t that spaced out, meaning that there’s always oodles of pull available at your disposal, irrespective of the gear you’re in. Light clutch action, good low-end performance and the overall tractability of the engine made my commutes rather easy-going and fun most of the time. However, when the roads open up and the horizon starts appearing ahead, the Ronin starts feeling a bit stressed-out. The Ronin is meant for laidback riding and don’t get us wrong. The Ronin is a potent tourer but only if you aren’t clocking license-revoking speeds.
Cruiser credentials like relaxed rake angle, comfortable ergonomics and slightly rearset footpegs will have you believe that the Ronin changes directions like a freight train. But thankfully, that isn’t the case. We have to also factor in the fact that TVS’ army of mechanical maestros have made the company a formidable force in the Indian motorsport scenario. The reason why their road-going bikes handle beautifully and the Ronin isn’t very different either. The steering is very reactive to inputs and the overall light weight of the motorcycle also assists in making the Ronin a very easy and intuitive motorcycle to live with. In the urban confinments, the Ronin shines because of how approachable it’s. The seat height is nice and low and the riding ergonomics are so sorted that you won’t be hurling curses every now and then. Be it crawling through Mumbai’s infamous clogged routes or splitting lanes like a bloodthirsty maniac, the Ronin does it all with composure. The swanky golden USD forks are sourced from Showa and that SHOWs! The general consensus regarding USD forks is that they’re destined to be stiff but the Ronin is a prime example why this notion is anything but a widespread hoax. It all boils down to how you tune the internals and the Ronin comes out as an absolute winner in this department. Despite being quick on its feet, it never unsettles on harsh surfaces and lets you know that you’re riding something premium, and you deserve to be treated that way. The compromise between ride quality and agility is downright commendable. I’ll just leave it here. There’s nothing to write home about when it comes to Ronin’s braking because the equipment does the job just fine. The front brake has good initial bite, and the feedback is pronounced as well but in emergency situations, I found myself pulling the lever a little more than I would like in hairy situations. Good braking performance is further assisted by the dual-purpose tyres. At the first glance, they might not look like the grippiest hoops but their performance considering their purpose, was more than what we could have asked for! On dry tarmac, they perform well according to the performance Ronin packs and they continue to perform well, paying no heed to the road conditions.
Ditching symmetry for offset instrument cluster has worked aesthetic wonders for motorcycles like the Ducati Scrambler and that can be said for the Ronin as well. The LCD dash comes loaded with information and TVS’ SmartXConnect bluetooth tech. Regular readouts include the likes of distance-to-empty readout, gear shift assist and indicator, side stand indicator with engine cut-off function, hazard lights, twin tripmeters, service due indicator along with other run-of-the-mill info. TVS’ GTT (glide through technology) also makes its presence felt here, adding another arrow in Ronin’s quiver as it hunts down urban elements. This low-rpm assist technology makes life easier when the vehicles are barely moving. Other notable features include Rain and Urban ABS modes that tweak the ABS’ sensitivity, assist and slipper clutch and adjustable levers (reserved for top spec).
The TVS Ronin might be a little amused by its own appearance, but it does know what it’s: a ‘good’ motorcycle with no major flaws apart from a visual identity crisis. It looks (from certain angles) and feels (from all the angles) premium, and not to forget, different as well. The Ronin turned out to be a brilliant commuter and an able tourer, something which the targeted set of audience is currently demanding from their potential garage queens. If you can ignore the gaudy looks, the Ronin will definitely impress you with its easygoing nature.