It was uncharacteristic for the usually ultra-cautious Indian buyer to show a deep interest in UM Global, a virtually unknown brand that showed off its motorcycles at the 2014 Auto Expo. And when the company announced pricing for its Renegade series of cruisers in early 2016, the interest spiked! This probably goes to show how large the near vacuum in the affordable cruiser space in India is, with just a couple of offerings at the moment. With the choice of displacement, price and style (cruisers, instead of nakeds), UM and its Indian partner, Lohia Auto, have positioned the Renegade range in a very sweet spot.
Now the two bikes we got to sample are the pre-production prototypes of the Renegade Commando and the Renegade Sport S (the production-ready bikes will be available from September onwards). Although the two motorcycles share a lot in terms of design, the final outcome is wildly different. The Commando, for example, has clearly been inspired by classic American cruisers such as the Harley-Davidson Fat Boy. Our test bike came in a sort of matte military green colour scheme with a giant star painted on the tank, driving home its “American-ness”. The handlebars are raised to offer a proper cruiser-like stance and it also gets typical chunky front and rear fenders. The large analogue speedometer with a small LCD unit for the odometer, the trip meter and fuel gauge are mounted smack dab at the centre of the fuel tank, while the tank itself remains common for both. This classic cruiser appeal is further strengthened by the wire-spoke wheels in a 16/15-inch front/rear combination. The Sport S, on the other hand, seems to draw inspiration from muscle cruisers such as the Suzuki Intruder, and is even available in sportier colour schemes. There are LED strips on each side, mounted on faux air intakes under the tank, which double as turn indicators. The fenders are skinnier and the bike gets drag-style handlebars which make for a slightly outstretched riding position (at least compared to the Commando). The two-tone paint scheme looks quite attractive – especially the orange-black colour of our test bike – and the body- coloured pinstriping on the alloy wheels is a nice touch. And while the Sport S shares its instrument cluster with the Commando, it’s mounted above the handlebars, making it a lot easier to see while riding. Overall, both bikes look quite good and the sheer number of heads they turned during our test ride proved testament to that.
Or do they?
However, when you look at the bikes up-close, that’s where things start to go a bit wrong. Both the bikes have their fair share of quality problems with plastic centre panels not aligning exactly, and the plastic quality (on the panels and even the switchgear) feeling like it was built to an ultra-low price.
While paint quality was good, we did notice some chipping around the lip of the fuel-filler port on the tank. The lack of an overflow gutter around the port was also a severe issue when topping up the bikes, as excess fuel would invariably flow over the tank, and this had even left stains on the matte finish of the Commando. Then there were some other QC issues on the Sport S test bike such as, the handlebar being slightly bent to one side, the misaligned shroud for the fork slider hitting the fork legs, the speedo needle vibrating to the point of illegibility, and the final end plate of the muffler that seemed to be missing, resulting in an exhaust noise that was unbearable after a few minutes. In addition to that, the fuel gauges showed completely wrong readings.
Things get a little better when you come to the 279.5cc single-cylinder, liquid-cooled motor. In a bid to keep costs down, UM has opted to use a carburetor for fuelling as opposed to an FI system; the short-stroke motor, on the whole, works quite well. It’s quick to rev, makes an acceptable 24.8hp of peak power and while aural refinement is somewhat lacking, there aren’t too many vibes to speak of, unless of course, you rev the motor hard. Its 21.8Nm of peak torque, although adequate, feels a bit lacklustre. This is largely because UM has opted for excessively tall gear ratios for the six-speed gearbox. We found first gear redlined at an indicated 70kph, second gear at an indicated 105kph. But after hitting a speedo-indicated 140kph in fourth gear, there was simply no more acceleration available in the top two gears. As a result of the gearing, to get a quick move on, you need to wind the motor up; something mildly unappetising on a cruiser.
Under the skin
The underpinnings of the Renegades are quite simplistic, but that’s absolutely no reason to fault them. The frame is a dual cradle, while suspension up front consists of conventional telescopic forks and the rear gets twin hydraulic shocks. But this is one area that UM has got spot on. The ride quality is pretty much impeccable, and the suspension doesn’t crash except over the largest and sharpest of bumps. Even in terms of handling, the Renegades threw no surprises our way. While the bikes ran out of cornering clearance rather quickly and ended up dragging the footpegs, the TVS ATT tyres did inspire a lot of confidence. And getting these aspects right shows a capable hand behind the design. But when it comes to braking, the Renegades with the 280mm front disc and rear drum are able to shed speed predictably, but they could certainly do with more feel.
Yay or Nay?
UM and Lohia have also done a spectacular job with the pricing, with the Sport S coming in at Rs 1.49 lakh and the Commando at Rs 1.59 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi). And there’s no denying the sheer appeal of their designs. However, judged just on quality alone, we would have labelled these motorcycles appalling. But the ride comfort and handling, to some extent, manage to rise above these troubles and make an impression that connects you to the road and spurs the desire to travel. But, as is, the UM Renegade Commando and Sport S have a lot of promise left to live up to.