It's been roughly a year and a half since the Apache RR 310 started going out to customers, and the bike hasn't really met the hopes and expectations TVS set for it; the reason for which is the poor reputation the bike built for itself soon after launch. It started when word got out that spare parts prices were quite high, but I think the more damaging thing was when a reputation was established for excess vibrations, along with some reliability issues regarding the chain. A bad reputation can seriously hurt a product in our market and the RR sold just about half of TVS' original target of 10,000 units, in the first year.
What is it?
Now, the company has launched the updated 2019 model that, on the face of things, appears to have received a new shiny black paint scheme as well as a slip-assist clutch. I think the new paint looks smashing, with that silver and red racing stripe running through the centre, but fans of the old matt black theme will be disappointed to know it has been discontinued. Currently, the RR is available only in the flagship Racing Red and the new Phantom Black scheme.
Manufacturers don't usually invite us to ride machines after such a relatively small upgrade, but we're back here at the blazing hot MMRT because there's actually a bit more for us to experience on the bike. You see, a couple of months ago TVS issued a free update to all existing customers that aimed to reduce vibrations through a new rubber lining for the windscreen and heavier bar end weights. The bike also got a new chain roller to address issues with chain sound (and life), and finally, it received an ECU update that supposedly smoothed the engine out by a small margin. Today, we're getting to experience all of this put together to see if it has really made a noticeable improvement.
What is it like to ride?
The 312.2cc single-cylinder motor remains unchanged and still produces 34hp and 27.3Nm of torque. Everything feels remarkably similar when the engine starts up, settling into a typical gruff idle and responding quickly to small blips of the throttle. Engaging first gear to ride out of the pit lane at the MMRT gives a small taste of the new slip-assist clutch. Clutch action feels noticeably lighter – TVS says by 20 percent – and this will be a big help in city traffic.
Out here on the track though, the slipper-clutch mainly helped with hammering in multiple downshifts, without the rear tyre locking up. The system works so well, I was able to drop three gears under hard braking and gradually let out the clutch without rev matching, as the clutch smoothed everything out. Engine braking has reduced and TVS says that the new clutch will also enable a small improvement in acceleration, but I honestly can't tell the difference without having a Vbox to verify the numbers.
As for the improvement in vibrations, they're definitely lower in the handlebars now, thanks to the fatter bar ends. The buzz is still there, but it's less intrusive now and I quickly stopped noticing it once the pace went up. Similarly, there's still some buzz in the seat at high revs, but this is greatly reduced from the initial bikes, and I think the overall reduction in vibration is noticeable and appreciable. Smoothness at highway speeds over a long period still needs to be established once we get to ride the bike on the street, but yes, there's been a definite improvement.
What remains unchanged?
The rest is all the same. The trellis frame feels nice and rigid; the suspension set up works on the track, and will also be comfy on the street. The brakes work well, but a little more bite at the front would be nice. Just as before, we'd swap out the stock Michelin Pilot Street tyres for something a little more grippy and communicative.
Handling continues to be a strong point, with agility that belies the bike’s dimensions, and it remains good fun out on the racetrack. Today's session reminded me how likeable this bike's friendly and encouraging nature is. It does exactly what you ask and has no nastiness to show. Most people will appreciate this, but if you like a bit of intimidation from your machines, the quicker and more aggressive KTM RC 390 is still the one to have.
Should I buy one?
The RR has always been a very affable motorcycle and TVS has taken it a step in the right direction with this update. The slip-assist clutch is a welcome addition and it really improves the smoothness and ease of riding at all speeds. The minor changes along the side add up as well to make this a slightly more polished product. As for the rest, well, you continue to get a very good looking, well-built and well-equipped motorcycle for a sizeable sum of money. In fact, the price has actually gone up by around Rs 4,000, taking it closer to the RC 390 and further away from the superbly priced Bajaj Dominar 400. However, to be fair, the TVS feels like a much more premium product. Existing customers will be happy to know that they can upgrade their clutch to this spec at an affordable rate of Rs 3,950.
TVS will certainly be hoping to see sales numbers rise with this update. To that extent, the company is increasing the number of showrooms across the country that will retail the RR, making availability and service less of an issue. At the moment, about 15 percent of the company's showrooms retail the RR, but that number is set to grow to 40 percent by September end. If you've always been fascinated by the RR, but grew wary of its reputation, now is a good time to go take a test ride. After all, everyone deserves a second chance.