Tuesday, 7 February 2012

The KTM Duke 200 and What it Means For Motorcycling in the India of 2012.

A Motorcycle can mean different things to different people: From thrill seeking, to commuting, from utility to touring, from freedom to drag racing nuisance. In the India of 2012, motorcycling, despite many obstacles, of notion, of bravado, and of efficiency, promises to come into its own finally.
In the best of years, India has been a price sensitive market, where the upwardly mobile, would in the normal logical course choose a small car, rather than spend the same few Lakhs of Rupees on a higher displacement motorcycle. A market where the motorcycle buyer would in the normal course chose a lower pricing over added functionality. These are typical responses fashioned by India’s socialist years, tough years of limited choice and obsolete technology. Somewhere in these instincts, of brevity, of thrift, the emotion, desire and style associated with Motorcycling globally had become rare sights.
From the days of the iconic Royal Enfield Bullet, the flash in the pan Yamaha RD 350, the now vestigial Jawa, the Yezdi, somewhere along the 1980s and 1990s India had changed to a through and through 100cc displacement game of commoditized mobility, devoid of any real character or distinctive style. Then came the years of joint venture motorcycling through license raj and red tape, like metal horses straining to break free.  The fight between bean counters, economic efficiency versus good design and emotion seemed to go on and on, to a jaded end.
So why do I say this now? What is so different? And what has changed? The demand never waned, what has changed today is the pricing, the functionality and the range of displacement of motorcycles, available, from sub 100cc to Litre and Litre plus displacement, from less than Rs. 50,000 to 20 Lakhs plus. What has changed is the durability, comfort and safety on offer as standard. Indian motorcycling has changed in its demand for better quality and it has a pocket to match.
The launch of the Yamaha R15 with a no-compromise posture on bells and whistles and contemporary looks changed and all that but not really as it was still underpowered, tuned to the boy racer, and its price was still a sticking point. The naked 150 cc variants in the FZ and faux tourer in the Fazer, again came close, but somehow the price and functionality equilibrium, just wasn’t right.
Another motorcycle that was eagerly expected and did not make for a happy ending was the Honda CBR 250 plagued with quality issues, rusting and high pricing. While the folks at Honda seek to mitigate these niggles made worse by the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
It is this magic sweet spot of price and functionality, looks and power, handling and ride, modern design and safety that the KTM Duke 200 seeks to finally fulfill.
Getting down to details. With a torque rating of 184ps per tonne that comes from a 25PS of very linear power delivery and a 19NM of torque, with a weight of 125Kgs without fuel, with its high strength, and low weight components of the highest quality, the Duke 200 comes close.
Powered by a single cylinder, 200cc, liquid cooled, DOHC, four valve engine, the Duke 200, features first in class features such as a Trellis Frame, Upside Down forks by European specialists WP, an aluminium swing arm, and a multifunction cockpit display. The Duke 200 also comes with a six-speed gearshift, top class road feedback, progressive braking, and fat sticky tyres just like a modern naked motorcycle in 2012 should do.
Launched at an attractive introductory price of Rs. 1,17,500 (ex-showroom, Delhi), aided by the value engineering of Bajaj Auto Limited and the global motorcycling prowess of KTM Sportmotorcycle AG, the KTM 200 Duke seems to have hit an inflection point in the journey of the Indian motorcycle.
As always, a lot will be determined by strengths in distribution and many a happy marriages have been ruined by after sales service, and the pricing of OEM parts. I am sure Stefan Pierer and Rajiv Bajaj know the cautionary tales, sense this opportunity and the risks, for them, their companies and the desperate Indian motorcyclist.
Let’s hope everyone has a happy journey as the wheels of the Duke 200 turn on Indian roads.

An edited translation of this story appeared in Hindi in the Business Bhaskar.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

ktm duke 200 is a lightweight bike and also good in these aspects, Looks, Handling, Quality, Price and so on. This is undoubtedly the most anticipated performance bike.

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