One cruiser to do it all and five questions to help find the one for you.
Cruisers are in. Wait, let me rephrase that. Cruisers have always been in, but we just haven’t gotten our fair share of them over the years. Royal Enfield’s (that name just had to come up, no?) version of a cruiser – the Thunderbird – is more for the old-school types and it isn’t for everyone, for more than one subjective reason. That leaves us with the two motorcycles you see here – the Bajaj Avenger Street 180 and the Suzuki Intruder. To quickly refresh your memory, the Avenger Street 180 is what Bajaj has recently replaced the Avenger 150 with, and it stretches the legacy of Bajaj’s popular cruiser further, while also offering a few more value adds. The Suzuki Intruder, meanwhile, is a flamboyant take on the cruiser format, based on the formidable Gixxer’s underpinnings and we’re riding the carburetted, ABS version today.
Which is cooler?
You probably wouldn’t be seeking a cruiser if you didn’t – even in the slightest – want to look cool. It’s a cruiser thing, yeah? Cruisers are meant to be statements on two wheels, ones you can ride while looking stately but relaxed. And both, Bajaj and Suzuki, have their own spin on this brief. The Avenger has an only-too-familiar silhouette and even when you bring it out of the shadows, it’s instantly recognisable as the motorcycle that started life as the Eliminator. This isn't a bad thing, because the Avenger is stylish in a classical way and in this (Street) guise, it does look quite up-to-date as well. Thanks to the funky new headlight, all-black cycle parts and all-round healthy proportions, the Avenger is effortlessly good-looking. The flipside is that this is a motorcycle you see everywhere and its age-old design – despite the best of Bajaj’s attempts – just doesn’t make it stand out in a crowd, anymore. Great, if this works for you.
The Intruder sticks to the other extreme when it comes to design philosophies. This is an extroverted, almost-outlandish design which draws inspiration from the original (bigger) Intruder and looks like an exercise in excess. This is a motorcycle that may not be up everyone’s alley but, boy, it does make heads turn. I suppose Suzuki has gone to an uncomfortable length in its quest to make jaws drop, but the Intruder, undoubtedly, looks snazzier as a result. Would I rather be seen on it? No, thanks – I’m conservative when it comes to design – but cooler, younger dudes amongst you might find it in-sync with your technicolour sneakers.
Having said that, Suzuki does take an extra point home for being the better finished motorcycle, overall. The Intruder does wear a lot of bodywork (it’s going to be one rollicking insurance claim, I guarantee you), but all of it is neatly assembled together. The welds, mounts, brackets and joints are neater on the Suzuki and it definitely looks more expensive (which it is, in any case). The Avenger is lagging in this aspect primarily because it’s stretching what is a two-decade old platform – one that’s visibly nearing the end of its lifespan.
Lastly, let’s talk features. The Avenger gets an analogue single-pod speedo, a fuel gauge mounted on the tank, a single-piece seat, alloy wheels and a neat LED DRL housed within the aforementioned funky headlight. The Intruder, meanwhile, gets a fully digital instrument console (borrowed from the Gixxer), which includes a tachometer as well as a gear position indicator. Other features include a split seat, alloy wheels, a monoshock, a disc brake setup at either end and single-channel ABS. The math is simple enough for those amongst you who aren’t rocket scientists. The Intruder is better equipped, and that does attempt to justify the premium it commands. Is it the cooler motorcycle, then? Yes, in a very millennial context.
|Bajaj Avenger Street 180||Suzuki Intruder ABS|
|Fuel tank capacity||14 litres||11 litres|
|Brake (f/r)||260mm disc/130mm drum||Disc/disc, ABS|
Which is comfier?
Swing a leg over the Avenger and you find yourself seated in a commanding position with an unrestricted view. The shorter handlebar (in comparison to the Cruise 220’s mini ape hangers) adds a dose of sportiness to the mix – and since the Street is targeted at the urban audience, it works in its favour. For my six-foot frame, the Avenger does feel cramped, however. This is mainly owing to the footpegs, which aren’t too forward-set and are also positioned higher up than they should have been. You also find yourself sitting ‘on’ the bike rather than ‘in’ it, although this feeling does disperse to a fair extent once you clock in some decent saddle time. When you do, though, you’ll also find that the seat isn’t the best you could have asked for, for a long day out on the highway.
That seat is to be found on the Intruder instead. The Intruder is plusher, more welcoming and is definitely more in the cruiser mould than the Avenger is. The split seat is a better-designed unit for long hours in the saddle and its deeper contours make you feel one with the bike – a feeling you just can’t discount. The handlebar is more swept-back and the overall riding position is easy-going and almost completely laidback. The foot pegs are positioned better, too – in the sense that your legs are more comfortably stretched out – completing the cruiser imagery perfectly. The Intruder’s elaborate bodywork does take up more real estate in your visor, however it doesn’t take long before you adapt to its dimensions. It’s also the easier motorcycle to do low-speed U-turns on (with your feet up, that is), since the lower-positioned ‘pegs ensure the handlebar doesn’t foul with your knees. The Avenger’s does – and I speak purely from experience. Without a doubt, then, it’s the Intruder that's comfier.
Which has more punch?
That the Avenger houses a bigger, slightly more powerful motor within its frame is not news. And that Bajaj had clearly been out to get the Intruder shouldn’t surprise you, either. Now, Bajaj knows a thing or two about making its bikes go fast; and given that the Avenger’s motor comes from the Pulsar, you can predict what’s about to follow.
For those who came in late, the Avenger Street 180 gets a 180cc, two-valve, DTS-i motor paired to a five-speed gearbox – same as in the Pulsar but detuned to suit its cruising aspirations. Thankfully, it hasn’t been detuned all that much, and it still produces a healthy 15.5hp at 8,500rpm and 13.7Nm of torque at 6,500rpm. This results in an encouraging performance package that’s linear and tractable, and it sure does advocate aggression. It’s got the grunt where you need it, and it definitely won’t run out of breath in the city. It goes without saying that it has the better top-end as compared to the Intruder’s, but more crucial to its cruiser arsenal is its better ability to cruise at high speeds, which is a merit it has been endowed with thanks to its larger displacement motor. Bajaj has also made a commendable effort in the area of refinement; as a result, the Avenger 180 is smooth and also pretty vibe-free. The vibes do emerge towards the top-end of its rev band, however, and you can feel them more at the pegs than through the handlebar.
The Intruder’s motor feels tamer in comparison, even if it isn’t actually so by a huge margin – it has the edge on torque, in fact. Yes, it’s super-refined and linear; but I’ve met no one so far who doesn’t think it’s like an Access 125 with gears. Okay, an Access 150, if such a thing could come into existence. The Intruder’s 155cc, two-valve motor is one that delivers its 14.8hp (at 8,000 rpm) and 14Nm (at 6,000 rpm) effortlessly, almost as if it’s an app-controlled phenomenon, and while this is commendable in its own right, it robs the Intruder of an important cruiser element – character. To be fair, the Intruder can keep pace with the Avenger very well, in a non-competitive riding environment and it, too, has terrific tractability. In fact, it’s the Intruder which has the better 5-speed gearbox of the two, and this unit is slick and seamless, even under hard acceleration; the Avenger’s unit (at least on our test bike) liked sticking around in 3rd when an aggressive shift to 4th was demanded. All things considered, however, it’s clear that the Intruder needs to churn out a little more power (or a lot more power, if you’re into that sort of thing). In its current tune, it’s a breezy, stress-free motor you will never find fault with, but a cruiser needs a powerplant with substance, and that’s something Suzuki needs to dig out – not that it doesn’t know how to, I’m sure of it!
|Bajaj Avenger Street 180||Suzuki Intruder ABS|
|Engine||Single-cylinder, two valves||Single-cylinder, two valves|
|Power||15.5hp at 8500rpm||14.8hp at 8000rpm|
|Torque||13.7Nm of torque at 6500rpm||14Nm at 6,000rpm|
Which fares better on our roads?
A good cruiser, by definition, is one that makes life on the highway easier. However, since these cruisers are squarely aimed at an urban audience (and environment), they have to do more than just offer a relaxing ride. In this context, the Avenger and Intruder are neck-and-neck.
The Avenger isn’t as generously equipped as the Intruder, but does that translate to an inferior real-world package? Not quite. The Avenger’s telescopic fork is pliant over rough surfaces but not soft enough to blur its cornering edge, which is an effective balance. Its dual shock absorbers are also up to the task, although plusher characteristics would definitely help. Unfortunately, owing to the default design, Bajaj hasn’t been able to incorporate its tried-and-tested Nitrox (gas charged) suspension onto the Avenger, something it will do well to fix in the next-generation model. Moving on, its 177mm (8mm higher than the Avenger 220) ground clearance helps it clear all sizes of speed breakers with ease, even with a pillion on board. An area of concern, however, is braking. While the 260mm disc has appreciable bite (the rear gets a 130mm drum), it’s the front tyre that just can’t cope with hard braking. A front wheel lock at 80kph leaves your face a colour that would make Fair & Lovely want to sign an ad contract with you. Unfortunately for my bank manager, it’s not something I’m particularly fond of. That aside, the Avenger (150 kg, kerb weight) really can corner, though. It’s ever-willing to scrape pegs and even though it doesn’t feel as light and neutral as the Intruder (148kg), it’s a delight to chuck around in the twisties – within reasonable limits, of course. The Avenger’s longer wheelbase (1,480mm; 1,405 for the Intruder) also has an impact on its cornering ambitions, of course.
In comparison, the Intruder is friendlier, all around. The telescopic fork/monoshock combination is softly set-up – which is great over broken roads – although it does result in a less committed cornering package. This is, of course, in a relative context and since most cruiser owners aren’t interested in knee-downs (duh!), the Intruder comes across as a corner-happy package. It’s even more effortless than the Avenger when it comes to quick changes in direction, and the soft suspension is something you will undoubtedly prefer in the city. Its 170mm ground clearance isn’t that much off the Avenger’s either, by the way. The brakes, on the other hand, aren’t the sharpest in the business, but thanks to a good front/rear balance (with a disc at either end) and ABS, the Intruder is more composed in a panic braking situation.
Overall, then, the Avenger is an enjoyable motorcycle but so is the Intruder, which is the better all-round package for the streets, as well.
Which makes most sense?
First, the prices. The Avenger Street 180 can be had in one trim only and is priced at Rs 84,346. The Intruder, meanwhile, is available in two variants – carburettor and Fuel-injected – and the base variant is priced at Rs 1,02,072 (all prices ex-showroom, Mumbai). This Rs 18,000 price disparity narrows down to Rs 14,000 if you consider Delhi prices, but it’s still prominent enough for you to sit up and notice. Let’s explore the implications of this, then. Now, the Avenger is more exciting but doesn’t offer a lot of the kit that the Intruder does. True, the Intruder costs more than the Avenger, but it also offers an extra disc, ABS, a monoshock, a digital instrument cluster and a lot more bodywork (which may or may not appeal to you), with the sum of these parts justifying its higher price tag. Come to think of it, when (or if) the Avenger does come equipped with these features, its price tag, too, will go up substantially.
Is a motorcycle merely the sum of its parts, though? It isn’t – and it shouldn’t be. Motorcycles are meant to have personalities and in that scheme of things, the Intruder is calm, friendly and easy to get along with – not a bad thing, per se. The Avenger, however, has the stronger personality and not all of it is down to its extra grunt. It feels more analogue (which you should prefer if a Royal Enfield/Harley-Davidson is your aspiration point) and definitely has more attitude on the road. The Avenger is also the more involving motorcycle to ride, and while it isn’t flawless, it’s not something you can’t live with either.
It’s simple, then. Buy the Avenger if you want a cruiser that’ll blend in, without raising eyebrows. Buy the Intruder – the better cruiser, all things considered – if you want to do exactly the opposite.