Monday, April 16, 2012

Bajaj Avenger 220 Ownership Review by Kousik

I have retired from Indian Air Force and I am presently employed with a PSU bank. Because of the unruly and chaotic Kolkata traffic, I had stopped driving two wheelers. For my emergency needs I used a 15 year old LML Vespa NV which was like a recurring deposit account without any return as it broke down every now and then.
I used the Metro railway or the city bus service to travel to my office and back. One fine evening in 2009, as I walked down to the Metro station after a busy day in my office, I was shocked to see a huge rush infront of the station. I came to know that the metro services have been disrupted and may not restart on that day.
The buses were over crowded and there was a mad rush for every taxi that came into the vicinity. While waiting for a cab, I was casually glancing at the Bajaj Pro Biking showroom located at Park Street. Out of curiosity for the mean machines on display I walked into the showroom. I was promptly guided through the display arena by a customer service representative.
The mean and muscular looks of the Avenger 220 impressed me at the first sight. I told myself “Enough with trains and buses. Henceforth I am going to ride my bike to office.” I took a test drive and requested the representative for a price quotation and a technical specifications manual. He suggested me to go for the more popular Pulsar 220.
But since I was obsessed with something different and muscular bikes I opted for the Avenger 220. It will be worth mentioning here that I started my riding lessons on a Royal Enfield when I was 16 years old. I had a fascination for Bajaj bikes because I grew up seeing Bajaj products all around me and when I purchased my first bike way back in 1989, it was the Kawasaki Bajaj KB 100. So it was by my instincts that I had a blind faith on Bajaj products. Within a weeks time the jet black Avenger 220 bike was delivered and my joy knew no bounds.
My bike became a centre of attraction in my office as well as in my locality. At times when I stopped at traffic intersections, other road users would give me a good look. Some young turks would ask the price while some elderly gentlemen would like to know about the fuel consumption. I was once chased by a mini bus driver constantly honking from behind.
When I stopped at an intersection, he drove next to me and started shouting at me. Actually he wanted information about the bike as he was plannning to buy one for his teenaged son. Once, I was stopped by a traffic policeman. He started verifying my documents, but ultimately he confessed to me that he actually wanted to know about this bike and that was the reason for which he had stopped me.
Well after a few days of merry, I started losing interest for quite a few reasons. Firstly, because of its weight I found manouvreing in the chaotic traffic very cumbersome. Secondly, finding the neutral was an extremely tedious task. Stopping without cutting off the engine became a punishment as I had to keep the clutch engaged since the bike refused to shift to neutral mode.
I did a lot of research by surfing the internet and came to the conclusion that my bike needs some fine tuning and adjustment. I took the bike to a nearby Bajaj service centre. They did their bit but I was not satisfied. I shot an e-mail to Bajaj Auto. The next day I got a call from one Mr Arindam Sengupta, Customer Service Manager, Bajaj Pro biking Service Centre, Kolkata.
He requested me to meet him and bring my bike along. I got a warm welcome and I was told that Bajaj has a dedicated service centre exclusively for 220 CC bikes. He told me that, I should not had gone to any other service centre as they do not have the expertise to handle 220 cc bikes. Within an hour’s time my bike was serviced right infront of me.
I was given a special permission by the manager to enter the working bay. While handing over the keys, Mr Sengupta assured me that whenever I have an issue with my bike I could feel free to call him on his cell number. As if some fairy had touched my bike with a magic wand, all the problems vanished in thin air.
Gone was the handling problem and the problem of neutral selection. I was told that the neutral can be selected with a feather touch of the lever and I will become used to it the more I drive the bike. On an average I drive for almost 40 kms daily and frankly speaking I am enjoying riding my Avenger.
As I said earlier, I learned riding a 2 wheeler on a Bullet. It was my late father’s possession of pride. An old war horse it needed a lot of calf and thigh muscles’ strength to kickstart the engine. I would rarely get a chance to drive solo as my father believed that I was too young to drive a Bullet.
Later he sold off the bike, when on a few occasions he caught me riding it without his permission. Later, after I joined the Indian Air Force I purchased a Kawasaki Bajaj KB 100. I had to wait for two months for getting the delivery. My heart was pounding with joy when I got the keys and took possession of the lovely machine.
It was indeed a mean machine by the standard of yesteryears. In those days there were hardly a few 100 CC bikes on Indian roads. We had the Hero Honda CD100, the Yamaha RX 100 and IND Suzuki Max 100. I don’t remember if there were any other contemporaries of KB 100. It was a wonderful bike with a lovely appearance and an equally attractive instrument console.
It had a tachometer and a fuel gauge. The pickup was excellent and the cost of spares were quite affordable. In fact as it was a product of the Bajaj stable, it had to be meant for the ordinary Indian. When I sold the KB 100 after owning it for almost 11 years, I had tears in my eyes. Would you believe I never spent a penny for the cables whereas I rode it for almost 1 lakh kilometeres.
In those days, in our Air Force station, only a handful of youngsters had 100 CC bikes. Rest all had scooters. I and my colleague Sachin, were the objects of envy of several colleagues with our brand new KB 100s. By now you might have understood that I have a soft corner for Bajaj products.
It would be unjustified if I try to compare my experience of the Avenger 220 with that of the KB 100 because they are two different bikes of different genres and era. Avenger is a 4 stroke bike with a more refined 220 CC engine and has a self start option while KB 100 had a 2 stroke air cooled engine.
But there are quite a few features in both the bikes which deserve merit. KB 100 had two (left & right) display lights for both indicators while Avenger has one common display. The pillion seat of KB100 was far more comfortable than that of Avenger. However without going into further comparison, I would like to highlight the merits and de-merits of this wonderful machine, Avenger 220.
There is a saying used in Indian Air Force which goes as “Man Behind the Machine” which actually intends to highlight the role of the man who handles a machine. How much technologically advanced a machine may be, a lot depends on the man handling it. Taking that into consideration, I would like to put forward a few points about Avenger 220.

The Pros

The first thing that attracts me is its looks. It has a solid muscular as well as bygone era looks. The round headlamp, the single round speedometer, the bulky yet traditional fuel tank and the elongated rear portion gives it a different identity among the crowd. Next comes the excellent chrome finish.
With a bit of care and polish, these chrome plated parts radiate a glare strong enough to compel one to wear anti glare glasses. Even the side stand has chrome finish and despite using it for close to 2 years the shine is still as it was when I bought the bike. The chrome plated rear view mirrors are extremely stylish and provide perfect view of the traffic trailing you.
The tripmeter located on the speedometer console is ideal for those who are concerned about point to point distance. The DC horn is also quite good and provides sufficient decibels to attract the attention of the motorists or pedestrians ahead of you. The rear tyre is very wide and ensures wonderful grip on treacherous and wet roads.
The front disk brake is just awesome and for experienced riders it is the brake every rider dreams off. The large fuel tank confirms that your weekly visit to the local gas station does not become a routine. At the same time the nice and small fuel gauge reminds you about the amount of petrol left in the tank every time you turn the ignition on.
However the fuel gauge gets a bit misty when exposed to rain or fog. This mist disappears within a few hours due to evaporation. The push to cancel side indicator switch is very handy and hassle free. The battery performance indicator light is another extremely useful and value addition to the bike’s portfolio. The headlamp is extremely powerful.
It not only lights up the pot holed Indian roads for you but also ensures that car and SUV drivers are forced to lower their high beams so that you oblige them by lowering your beams. Another beauty of the headlamp is that once the engine starts running the electric supply to the headlamp is routed through a device which supplies steady DC current.
Actually it ensures that the intensity of the light does not change with the acceleration. So, even if you are driving at a very low RPM you are able to get a bright and steady light. The drivers seat is extremely comfortable and gives a well laid back and comfortable posture. The rear brake pedal is quite elevated and is located at a very relaxed position.
The position of the steering column is perfectly aligned with the rider’s seat making every ride a memorable one with the speedometer and rear view mirrors at perfect position. For the health conscious bikers, unlike other bikes there is no long drive fatigue or low back pain. The pickup of the 220 CC engine, ignited with dual spark plugs and its oilcooling technology deserves special mention.
It has enough power and strength to leave quite a few envious bikers and car drivers behind when you start from a stop position at traffic signals. The engine responds very smoothly to the twist of the throttle. Both the shock absorbers front (telescopic) and rear (hydraulic) are quite tough and navigating small humps and potholes is just a child’s play.
You will hardly feel the jerk on your torso as everthing is absorbed by the shockers. Although my advice would be, if you are rookie try and be patient while you get used to this monster. Bajaj Auto provides a warranty for 2 years or 30,000 kms on this bike but it is mandatory to get all the free as well as paid services done from an authorised service centre to get the benefit of this warranty. The company provides a windscreen but at a cost of almost 3000 bucks and I personally feel the windscreen does not suit my taste. So I did not go for it.

The Cons

However, by today’s standard’s and fuel prices, Avenger 220 is a fuel guzzler. I get an average of 40-44 km per litre of petrol and to many its a bit too much. My take is if I love something different and if I want to stand apart in the the crowd, I wont mind to spend a few extra bucks.
While every extraordinary thing has something ordinary in it, so does the Avenger 220.
The first drawback is, it does not have a kick start option and in case the battery refuses to crank the next option is to push the bike to the nearest service centre. Touchwood I have never experienced that. I have been advised by the service centre technicians, that the battery power indicator light provides sufficient warning before the battery actually stops performing.
Another disadvantage of the Avenger 220 is the pillion riders seat. It is extremely thin and pillions with more than average buttocks, find long distance rides quite painful. The ignition switch key hole is located under the steering handle on the left side and is definitely a handicap for riders who have not been blessed with a long arm by the almighty.
But recently I have noticed that the latest models are being rolled out with the ignition key just below the fuel tap. The number of service centres having the infrastructure to service this bike is limited. Hence before buying it you should ensure that you have one in your locality. The side and neutral indicator assembly is located in such a place that you need to put some effort to catch a glance while driving in congested city conditions.
Therfore you need to install a buzzer for the side indicators to prevent the battery from draining out by inadverently leaving the indicators blinking. With a price tag of almost INR 85000 (all inclusive) on Indian roads, Bajaj auto could had done better by providing tubeless tyres and rear disk brake as well.
The front mudguard is made of plastic and is prone to break due to minor accidents common in overcrowded Indian roads. While negotiating high anthill type bumpers/humps, the centre stand of the Avenger 220 gets knocked a few times and is a cause of heartburn. On speaking to the technicians I came across a local remedy but I did not want to tamper with the original size or design of the centre stand.
It would be prudent metioning here that, during the winter I noticed that the bike refused to start without the choke and almost througout the year the engine needs to warm up for atleast 5-7 minutes before it is put into action.
Although I am settled in Kolkata, I have some ancestral property located at a remote village in Hooghly district which is around 135 km from Kolkata. So whenever I get an oppurtunity, I strap up my helmet and leave for the village with my brother as pillion. The first 16-20 kms is all about negotiating the horrible city traffic of Kolkata.
Then its a joy ride driving for almost 60 kms on a highway maintained by NHAI. The next 20 kms is extremely treacherous full of nasty potholes, encroached roads, indisciplined truckers and full of pedestrians and cyclists. The final journey is through serene greenery and lavish streches of agricultural land on both sides of the road.
I have travelled on this route quite a few times and my Avenger 220 has stood by me as an able and trusted companion. Be it in Kolkata’s mad traffic or the National Highway, my bike has never let me down. Overtaking long distance buses or convoys of trucks is just a part of the game. The Avenger 220 has been able to withstand a speed of almost 90 KMPH without a fuss and sudden braking at that speed has also been un-eventful.
I have experienced that whenever a heavy vehicle comes from the opposite direction, lighter bikes tend to lose balance, but with the Avenger 220, balancing has never been a problem. Even after driving for almost the entire stretch of 135 km at one go, I have never experienced fatigue nor did I feel that the bike was over tasked. The superb headlamp and powerful side indicators have taken care of the night driving.
At times I have run into potholes or humps while driving on village roads but my bike has been able to withstand the shock quite easily. Yes at times I have observed that with a pillion it has been quite difficult to shift to 3rd gear while driving in kuccha roads. Overall the Avenger 220 has been able to negotiate all sorts of road and mud tracks with relative ease.
Overall, to be honest its a wonderful bike with the Bajaj assurance stamped on it. Its not a bike for the beginners or rookies and needs to be handled efficiently. The chrome plating needs to be taken care off, otherwise it is likely to get rusted specially in humid and coastal areas.
Because of its excellent ride quality, superb gear speed ratio, awesome electricals, a rough and tough 220 CC engine, and electrifying looks I would recommend this bike to anyone who has the passion for riding something different. Because of the Exhaustec technology, the silencer produces a Boom sound which is very soothing as well as unique. If I were to rate this bike on a scale of 10, I would give it 9 for looks, 8 for performance, 6 for fuel efficiency and an overall 8.5. Indeed the Avenger 220 gives the feeling –”Feel Like God”.

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