The Bajaj Avenger has to be credited for being a non-conformist offering which not only managed to sustain in the unforgiving market conditions but also garnered its own share of admirers despite not being attended to by the company for a long time. Now that Bajaj has started revisiting its forgotten models one by one (first Platina, then CT 100), the Avenger came into a focus again.
Without putting much into the project in terms of capital, the company gave the Avenger a well deserved shot in the arm. Final result is a set of three variants in two distinct flavors – Street (150 and 220) and Cruise (220). We spent some time with all the three derivatives and here is what we think of the Street twins. We will talk about the Cruise in a separate article.
What meets the eye?
The most significant addition to the new Bajaj Avenger Street series is the 150 cc engine which is derived from the Pulsar 150 but has been tuned to suit the cruiser (more about it later in the article). The Street 150 and 220 are visually identical but receive different paint jobs. The former settles for Midnight Blue while the latter dons Matte Black, both featuring excellent paint quality.
The Street variants differentiate themselves from the Cruise 220 by means of a sportier flat handlebar, alloy wheels, rear view mirrors, clear lens indicators, different handle bar grips, contoured seats, new Avenger logos on fuel tank and a smaller grab rail. While the cruise prefers traditional chrome elements, the Street twins go for sporty black finish for pretty much every visible component including engine, front forks with rubber bellows, wheels, rear coil springs, headlamp, speedometer, fuel tank console, exhaust (with silver tip and guard), handle bar end weights, etc.
The Street 150 and 220 target the younger audience with its sporty character. They clearly stand out of the usual compact premium motorcycle crowd in an urban environment.
How good is the 150 cc powertrain?
Bajaj never shies away from exploring an uncharted territory and the Street 150 compact urban cruiser is the latest testament to this fact. Neither the engine nor the platform is new but the marriage is, and a fresh proposition in a segment which is filled with familiar body styles and specifications is always a welcome addition.
The Bajaj Avenger Street 150 borrows its 149 cc single-cylinder air-cooled engine from the popular Pulsar 150. Mated to a 5-speed transmission, the motor’s 14.5 PS at 9,000 rpm and 12.5 Nm of torque at 6,500 rpm haven’t changed on paper but the company claims to have altered its character to suit the cruiser.
For starters, the motor is tuned to achieve a flatter and stronger low- and medium-range torque curve. The bottom-end performance is further enhanced by employing a larger air filter and a 38-teeth rear sprocket.
The net result is plainly apparent right from the word go. The Avenger Street 150 moves off the block eagerly and the motor indeed has a strong low- and mid-range punch, alleviating any reservations one would have on the idea of a 150 cc cruiser. Naturally, there is nothing much to talk about its top-end performance but cruisers are hardly required to rev their heart out. So to answer the question directly, no, it doesn’t feel underpowered.
The 150 cc variant can cruise comfortably at 80 kmph and the engine has to be worked hard to extract anything more than that. We managed a speedo indicated top-speed of 105 kmph with a little bit help from a downward slope.
The 5-speed gearbox complements the engine’s cruiser friendly tune and the heal-and-toe shifter offers a positive feel. Obtrusive vibrations on the handlebar and foot pegs do creep in when the motor is pushed beyond its comfort zone, i.e. post the mid-range but the overall refinement level is well within the acceptable limit under normal operation.
Any mechanical changes in the 220 cc engine and gearbox?
The Bajaj Avenger Street 220 continues to employ the older model’s 219.9 cc single-cylinder liquid-cooled engine which breathes via a carburetor and is mated to a 5-speed gearbox. The motor dishes out 19 PS at 8,400 rpm and 17.5 Nm of torque at 7,000 rpm, like before. However, the powertrain receives a new drive chain with better hardness and lubrication to enhance the life by 15-20%. The CDI (Capacitor Discharge Ignition) has been improved for sharper throttle response, and Bajaj also claims that various measures have been taken to improve NVH characteristics.
In real world conditions, the Bajaj Avenger Street 220’s engine felt pretty much same as before – bass rich idling sound, reasonable refinement, and strong performance throughout the first two-thirds of the rev range. The gearshift quality isn’t any different from that of the Street 150. In other words, the Street 220 shares is fundamental characteristics with the Street 150 but is significantly faster and more relaxed.
We managed a speedo indicated top whack of 120 kmph but the motor feels best while cruising at around 90 kmph.
Have new changes influenced its riding, handling and braking?
Compared to the old Avenger 220, the seat foam thickness has been increased to achieve 15 mm higher saddle height. This combined with a flatter handlebar alters the Avenger Street’s ergonomics quite significantly. Though the low-set handlebar makes the rider lean further, the forward set foot pegs ensure that the authentic cruiser riding posture is preserved.
The low slung Streets feel less inertial to directional changes, especially the quick flicks that is warranted by the city traffic. Slow speed maneuverability has improved too and it’s much easier to execute U-Turns. It has to be said that in an attempt to have better agility within the confinements of the city, the overall comfort level during a relaxed long distance cruising is compromised slightly. That said, the Avenger Street twins still are more comfortable than most of the 150-250 cc motorcycles out there. But if highway comfort is what you look for, then there is the Cruise 220 to meet your requirements.
Engineers have played with the second spring rate in rear suspension system to delay bottoming out on bad roads. The overall ride quality can be described as comfortable albeit with a hint of firmness, especially at the rear. Stability on bad stretches of roads is predictable and so is its behavior around the corners. Both Street 220 and 150 come shod with 90/90 x 17 front and 130/90 x 15 rear MRF Zapper tyres that offer good grip. Surprisingly, these are not tubeless tyres.
While both variants employ a 130 mm rear drum brake, the Street 150 and 220 opt for 240 mm and 260 mm front disc respectively. The bite is progressive and adequate, but both cruisers displayed a tendency to lock up the front wheel under heavy braking. ABS would certainly be a valuable addition and it would be offered in the future (it will be compulsory on all motorcycles in India from 2017).
Should I ride one home?
The Bajaj Avenger Street 150 is a delightful combination of two entities (engine and chassis) which have already proven their mettle individually, and after our first ride experience, we can’t see why they won’t work well together. What the new variant offers is a completely different and attractive avenue for a young and budding biker to explore. At INR 75,000 (ex-showroom, New Delhi), one doesn’t need to shell out extra in order to get his/her hands on something that’s unlike other products in its displacement segment.
Coming to the Avenger Street 220, the aesthetic enhancements and sportier character go a long way in increasing its desirability compared to the understated old model. People who looked elsewhere because the Avenger was too relaxed for their liking may change their mind after taking the Street 220 for a spin. It looks more upmarket than its INR 84,000 (ex-showroom, New Delhi) price tag would suggest.
To sum it up, the whole upgrade exercise has been done right!