There are many strange ideas that exist in the Indian motorcycling scene, but the one that I just don’t get is our expectation for powerful engines that don’t produce heat. Far too many bikes get bashed online because their engines run hot and I come across the gross misuse of the word ‘overheat’.
I think this obsession with heat really kicked off with the first-gen KTM 390 Duke in 2013. Before the bigger Duke arrived, 25hp was the ceiling when it came to horsepower on a budget. Suddenly you had a motorcycle available at a realistically achievable price point with nearly triple the power the riders of an average Pulsar 220 or Royal Enfield rider were accustomed to. But what many of those early KTM adopters didn’t know was that this was a polar opposite to the mellow motorcycles they were used to. KTMs are uncompromising machines whose sole purpose is to blow your mind. Words like ‘sensible’ and ‘practical’ simply didn’t exist in KTM’s dictionary; and so, to many fans, that’s just what makes these bikes so intoxicatingly special.
But we were raised differently and after decades of being drip-fed practical and easy motorcycles, the KTMs – with their unabashed aggression and relentless heat – came as a slap in the face. The average buyer seemed to expect a faster motorcycle that was just as comfy and civilised as what they were used to, and the KTMs certainly weren’t going to deliver.
Many years have passed since, but the trend of cribbing about the heat a motorcycle produces is still very much alive. Well, let’s make it clear: if you want a fast and exciting machine, this is just something you have to live with. High-performance motorcycle engines produce crazy amounts of power from not a lot of space and heat is going to be a by-product. I mean, there are thousands of explosions happening right beneath you!
Of course, there are varying degrees here. Some bikes simply don’t produce much heat, while others do a good job of diverting that heat away from the rider’s body. It’s also vital to recognise the difference between a bike running hot and a bike overheating. I remember the Panigale V4 absolutely murdering
my legs in Mumbai traffic, but the cooling system ensured that the engine never overheated and the only weak link was my own willpower.
It’s only in rare cases that the heat gets to the point of being truly unbearable, and ironically enough, there’s one such case we rode very recently that you can read about here. But the bottom line is that if you want to buy a performance motorcycle, please make peace with the fact that it will produce heat and that it’s up to you to bear it.