What is the best bike under 2 lakh?



A few days ago I wrote an article about how to buy a motorcycle. That piece is supposed to be a very general explanation of how to make a decision. Today I’d like to extend that principle and talk some specifics, the idea is to apply the same decision making process and arrive at an answer to the question, what’s the best bike under 2 lakh that you can buy in India? I’m trying to answer this question because it gets asked to me a lot, 2 lakh seems to be the upper budget limit for a lot of people, and we do have a lot of choices in this price range for every type of rider.

Practically the answer is quite simple, go to the monthly motorcycle sales figure report and see what motorcycle is selling the most. It’s the Royal Enfield Classic 350, 47000 of them were sold in December 2017. I do not know how, I cannot explain why, but that’s the hard reality. For the purpose of this article we are going to ignore this hard reality, and try to ask instead what bike under 2 lakh deserves to sell the most based on pure logic.

Best bike under 2 lakh – The budget

Well, we already have that, but we’re going to have to be strict about it. There’s a hard stop at 2 lakh, and that’s 2 lakh on-road, not ex-showroom. Because of our stupid road tax system, vehicle prices can vary wildly between states, so it’s possible that some of the options we would like to choose might be eliminated just because of the on-road price rule.

The reason we are choosing the on-road price is because it’s too easy to fool yourself with the ex-showroom one. The new TVS RR 310 has an ex-showroom price of 2.05 lakh, but on the road in Delhi it’s going to cost you about 25000 more. Buying a new bike is usually followed by a number of other purchases like accessories, gear, and parts, that’s why it’s important to start with the on-road price that’ll tell you exactly how much you are going to spend.

Best bike under 2 lakh – 3 requirements

Now is the time to restrict our choices, there are far too many bikes in our budget range, especially because we don’t have a minimum. The following 3 requirements are what I feel are must-have in any motorcycle under 2 lakh:

  1. ABS
  2. Electronic fuel injection
  3. Large service network

The first requirement should be obvious, ABS on our roads should be mandatory, it’s a simple piece of tech that literally saves lives. Electronic fuel injection is also important because why bother with cleaning carbs? Why bother with up-jetting? Why bother with an old-fashioned technology when there’s a much more advanced and reliable option? You need a large service network because of 2 reasons, first you don’t want to get stuck in some area with no service support available, second if your city has multiple service centers of the same brand you usually get better service due to internal competition.

Keep in mind that these requirements are chosen specifically to reduce our choices, these are the items that help us drastically reduce the number of options. ABS probably eliminates 80% of the market straight off, like Duke 200 and FZ 25. EFI removes a further 10%, like Royal Enfields and variants without fuel injection. The service network takes care of 5% more, like the bikes from UM. You end up filtering away 95% of the choices, making the decision easier.

Best bike under 2 lakh – 4 choices

Based on our 3 all-important requirements, we end up with the following choices:

  1. Bajaj Dominar 400 ABS
  2. Bajaj Pulsar RS200 ABS
  3. Bajaj Pulsar NS200 ABS
  4. Suzuki Gixxer SF Fi ABS

I have not included the TVS Apache RTR 200V in this list because there’s no variant with both EFI and ABS together. Apache 180 doesn’t make the cut either because of lack of EFI. Mahindra has been teasing an ABS Mojo version since 2 years now, but haven’t delivered anything. Suzuki Intruder 150 isn’t in the list either because it uses a carb, and because it’s ugly.

The bikes are listed in decreasing order of engine capacity, we’ve got everything from 373 to 155 ccs. There are no “sports” bikes in this selection, there’s are 3 nakeds and 2 nakeds with a fairing on them. Some of people’s favorite bikes are not in this list, there are no Royal Enfields, there are no Dukes or RCs, and there are no Yamahas.

Royal Enfields fail on two levels, most of the bikes in their range don’t have EFI, and none have ABS. As awesome Duke and RC200 are, they don’t have ABS, and neither does the Duke 250. Yamaha sold some 2000 FZ 25s in December last year, but they forgot to add ABS as well.

You have to be brutal in your decision, brutal to yourself. Sure the Duke 250 is new, the RC200 is good looking, and the FZ 25 is smooth, but they don’t have what we want, so off they go. You might feel a bit bad initially, but you’ll thank yourself after living with the bike for a year or so.

Best bike under 2 lakh – The sheet

Let’s create a sheet to compare the bikes and quantify their positives and negatives. As always the score for a particular feature goes from 1 to 10, 1 is bad, 10 is good. It’s important to understand that I have given points for the features based on my own taste and judgement, the numbers could be different for you.

[table id=18 /]

In the ABS section, Dominar gets a 10 but others get a 5 because only Dominar has dual-channel ABS, rest all are single, only front brake.

Best bike under 2 lakh – The answer

Well, the answer is right there. In some ways this was a one-sided contest, how can a Gixxer fight against the Dominar? But this is how a non-emotional process works, you set the rules, you execute, and then whatever answer comes out is the end of the discussion.

One important thing to notice from this article is that Bajaj has got their strategy right, at least from the point of view of someone like me. A lot of the bikes in their range have ABS as an option, they have moved onto EFI, and have one of the biggest service network in the country. This strategy isn’t exactly translating to sales, but I’m sure in the next few years as more and more people get educated about new technologies, Bajaj will do well.

Dominar as a bike has really impressed me, it’s impossible to create a perfect bike, impossible to make one machine that does it all, but I think Dominar is the closest any manufacturer has come to this idea. It isn’t ugly to look at, is quick, isn’t too heavy, has ABS, isn’t uncomfortable, is smooth, it ticks all the right boxes, and has something for everyone.

Bajaj Dominar 400 ABS is  easily the best bike under 2 lakh in my opinion.

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