The Bajaj-KTM tie-up has led to the development of some really competent motorcycles from both brands. While KTM built higher-performance models, Bajaj offered something similar at a more attainable price point. We saw the companies do this with 200 Duke and Pulsar NS 200 and then with the 390 Duke and the Dominar. One of Bajaj’s most recent models in India is the Pulsar 125, but unlike the bikes I just mentioned, this one has nothing in common with the 125 Duke. This raises the question – does this bike still shares the sporty nature, or is it just a sheep in wolf’s clothing?
Before we dive into the delicate subject of the motorcycle’s character, let’s discuss the ‘wolf’s clothing’ I spoke of. In its entirety, the new Pulsar 125 Neon’s styling sticks to the Pulsar brand’s, which remains unchanged and unbothered by the passage of time – especially without the tank shrouds and belly pan. The rounded tank, minimalist side panels and slim rear end has aged gracefully, and Bajaj is making good use of this fact. The company now has over five different models that look almost identical; in fact, the only visual difference between the 125 Neon and 150 Neon is the colour of the neon highlights.
Styling isn't all it shares with its larger capacity sibling – everything, from the frame and suspension to the brakes, has been carried over. And since it borrows most of its components from its elder sibling, the end product is a bike that looks and behaves like one from a segment above. It also gets the same switchgear and semi-digital instrument console from the 150s, both of which are dated but still impressive in the segment.
Similarly, the engine also began life as a Pulsar 150 unit and Bajaj retained the bore, but reduced the stroke to bring it to the 125cc mark. What this means is that the bike feels, and even sounds very similar to the Pulsar 150, and it’s only at the top end where you’ll find it slower. While the linear power delivery was nice, what we really liked is how the motor felt largely unstressed at higher revs – something not common in the 125cc commuter segment. If pushed hard enough, the bike will manage a speedo-indicated top speed of around 110kph. Not bad for a puny 125cc motor that makes 12hp and 11Nm of torque.
A consequence of the sprightly performance is the fuel-efficiency figure, which is the lowest in the segment, at an ARAI certified 57.5kpl. However, Bajaj did make it clear that the bike isn’t an all-out commuter, but either way, that fuel-efficiency figure is not bad.
The Pulsar 125 and the Honda Shine SP are also the only two bikes in the segment to use a 5 speed gearbox. The sub-125cc motor also means that this Pulsar doesn't require an ABS system by law, which helps Bajaj keep costs in check. We rode the front disc-brake version that’s equipped with CBS, and we found the braking to be more than adequate. The front brake is sharp and feels a lot more confidence inspiring than other bikes in the segment. Despite being 15kg heavier than its nearest 125cc competitor, the Pulsar 125 doesn’t feel heavy, or affected by the weight. The motorcycle is very easy to ride at all speeds and it has a comfortable ride quality. As a result, it will make for a great everyday commuter.
To summarise, the Pulsar 125 is an energetic 125cc commuter. While it definitely isn’t anywhere close to as sporty as a 125 Duke, it is potent enough to leave everything else in the segment behind. At Rs 66,500 (ex-showroom), the Bajaj is slightly cheaper than the Honda Shine SP and a hair above the Hero Glamour. What you are essentially getting for that much money is the iconic, but dated Pulsar styling, suspension and brakes from a segment above, along with segment-leading performance. The only price you pay is at your closest petrol pump, which you’ll visit slightly more frequently than most other bikes in the segment.