Hero XPulse 200 Review

It's affordable, it's relatively light, un-intimidating and promises proper adventure capability. The Hero XPulse 200 is a one of its kind motorcycle, with no real competition. And it promises a level of versatility no other motorcycle can boast of. So, you can practically use it for the daily commute, hit the nearest off-road trails for some fun, and even go touring on it. That's the basic premise of the Hero XPulse 200, to be a do-it-all motorcycle, and with a price tag that won't bust your bank account.

The idea of riding a purpose-built off-road motorcycle may be a relatively nascent concept in Nepal. Sure, there were some attempts from manufacturers in the past to introduce an affordable dual-sport motorcycle. Remember the two-stroke, 100 cc, Kawasaki-Bajaj SX Enduro and more recently, the 155 cc Hero Impulse. Now, in 2019, Hero MotoCorp has taken another shot at introducing a 200 cc motorcycle with off-road capability with the new Hero XPulse 200. 

Sure, there's a road-oriented touring variant as well, the Hero XPulse 200T, but we'll focus on the off-road focussed XPulse 200 with more suspension travel, spoked wheels and standard dual-sport tyres. The XPulse is the successor to the 150 cc Hero Impulse, which despite being a capable and fun bike with dual-sport capability, failed to achieve any commercial success. Low sales numbers compelled Hero to stop production and finally discontinue the Honda-based Impulse in 2017. Now, in 2019, Hero's back in the game, but this time with a completely homegrown product, with a slightly bigger engine, better suspension and more performance. As the name implies, the XPulse 200 is powered by an all-new 200 cc, single-cylinder engine, shared with the Hero Xtreme 200.

It's an adventure bike after all, so the XPulse gets a 21-inch front/18-inch rear wheel combination; yes, the same wheel size combination as most mid-size and full-size adventure bikes come with. Couple that with 220 mm ground clearance, with a standard engine bash plate, 37 mm front fork with 190 mm suspension travel, and a 10-step preload adjustable monoshock with 170 mm travel, and you're looking at decent kit to go trail bashing; and the wire-spoke wheels come shod with Ceat Gripp dual-sport tyres.

The Hero XPulse 200 has a simple design, and isn't exactly something you'd say is revolutionary. Sure, the LED lighting and the small windscreen help freshen up things, but overall, it's a simple bike, and with the high-mounted motocross-style front fender, wire-spoked wheels and the wide handlebar with the plastic hand-guards, it leaves no doubt that this is primarily meant for rough terrain. It won't win any beauty contests, and from some angles, particularly the left rear section, it looks like a commuter motorcycle. But there's no denying the fact that the XPulse wears a purposeful look.

Swing a leg over, and what's immediately apparent is how accessible the XPulse is, compared to the Impulse. The 823 mm seat height is lower than the Impulse, and that would be welcomed by riders of different heights and build. With my near 5'10" frame, I could put both my feet flat while astride, and this will certainly give a lot of confidence to riders with less experience on motorcycles, and in crawling city speeds. But the low seat height means, ground clearance has been compromised from what the Impulse had, but 220 mm is decent enough to go over almost any kind of terrain and is identical to what the Royal Enfield Himalayan offers. Braking is handled by a 276 mm petal disc on the front wheel, and a 220 mm disc on the rear, with single-channel ABS on the front wheel which can't be turned off.

The small LCD screen is easily readable and offers all the info you will need, including speedometer, rev counter, trip meters, a clock and fuel consumption. After the TVS NTorq 125, the XPulse is the second two-wheeler to offer turn-by-turn navigation assist. But you will need to download the Hero RideGuide app to get this to work. It's not as intuitive as Google Maps, but it's helpful in traffic, if you need to find your way to an unfamiliar destination, without having to constantly fish out your phone and check Google Maps.

Now, the XPulse gets the same 199.6 cc single-cylinder, two-valve engine as the Xtreme 200R, and it puts out 18 bhp of maximum power at 8,000 rpm, and 17.1 Nm of peak torque at 6,500 rpm. It's not a significant increment if you're graduating from a 150-160 cc motorcycle, and that shows in the performance of the XPulse. From standstill, the clip to 60 kilometres an hour is perky, and performance is satisfactory, with the engine accelerating smoothly. The five-speed gearbox is precise too, with smooth shifts and does not disappoint on any count. And despite the big 21-inch front wheel, the XPulse handles quite predictably, and even around a corner it remains planted and stable. Within city limits, the XPulse is ideal for the commute, if tarmac duties are what you're looking at primarily.

On the highway, you can cruise at 80-90 kmph comfortably, but if you're looking to cover hundreds of kilometres in a day, the performance will leave you wanting for more. Sure, you can get to over 120 kmph, but it will need some real estate to get there. The dynamics are well-sorted, but the engine lacks the punch for long hours on the highway, and on a two-lane road, you will need to carefully plan overtaking manoeuvres. It can certainly take you on the occasional long run as well, as long as you're content with cruising at 80-90 kmph. If there's one thing the XPulse lacks, that is performance for serious touring duties. But as long as you're not in a tearing hurry to get anywhere, it will do the job quite well.

Off-Road is where the Hero XPulse absolutely shines. With a 154 kg kerb weight for the fuel-injected variant, the XPulse is a light motorcycle, and just about perfect for going trail riding, if that is what you intend to do mostly. The long suspension travel allows you to go over almost everything, and the engine has adequate juice to keep things interesting, over sand, humps and the like. And if you intend to do some sliding around in the dirt, you can lock the rear wheel easily, but the engine lacks the grunt for some proper rear wheel power slides to use it to steer over the loose stuff. And it's built solidly. After a day of jumping and frolicking around in the dirt, nothing felt loose on the XPulse nor did it feel like it will start falling apart, so full marks for build quality there. In fact, the Hero XPulse could be just the perfect bike to start riding off-road, and to explore trails if that's what the primary purpose of ownership is.

The Hero XPulse is certainly a good bike. And it's definitely a good bike if you want to cut your teeth trail riding, and learning the nuances of riding off-road. It's cheap, will be relatively affordable to maintain, and fix even if something breaks, and is an accessible dual-purpose bike that you can use to its full potential, and learn a lot of tricks riding off-road. It's a fantastic starting point for learning to ride off-road, but what it needed is a little more punch, a little more performance to make it a really capable, and versatile all-round adventure bike. But let me tell you this - some fun things come in small packages, and the Hero XPulse right now is almost perfect in that sense, if off-road riding is only what you're thinking about.

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