But it's the on-road performance that separates the wheat from the chaff. And the N160 clearly falls with the wheat. What's more, it's not just what the engine delivers, but the whole riding feel — the handling, the braking, the stability, and a hint of hooliganism — that makes up the experience.
The focus for the N seems to be low- and mid-range grunt to aid rideability and to give the feel of performance lower down the rev range. Thus, the torque curve on the N is almost flat, and it kicks in early. This is felt almost immediately when you start riding. So, whether one is riding to work or keeping up with his or her friends on a weekend ride, short shifts become the norm.
We mostly rode the bike between 3,000-5,000rpm in the city, and it felt tractable and useable throughout. Moreover, downshifts to overtake or plug a gap in traffic isn’t needed if you are around 4,000rpm. Just open the throttle and it's done. The progress is potent too, with the N never feeling lazy or underpowered in such a scenario.
However, for enthusiastic riding, one must use the gearbox more liberally to keep up the progress and momentum. And having an engine that’s refined and near vibe-free helps here. On our ride, the engine never felt intrusively buzzy, even when close to 8,000rpm.
The Pulsar N160 isn't out of its depth on highways either. It will comfortably hold 90kmph all day long with enough grunt in reserve to make overtakes easy. It will also do 100kmph on the clocks and sit there without protest. And neither the bike nor the engine will feel stressed or out of their comfort zone. But at 100kmph, the N doesn't have enough juice left to propel itself from there for quick overtakes.
Now, the N160 is a lively motorcycle when it comes to changing directions. Plus, it doesn’t require much effort at the handlebar to get it to drop into corners or to switch sides. Moreover, there’s no delay or loss of communication between your intent conveyed at the handlebar and how the front, and with it, the rest of the bike, responds. Basically, this N has got the handling department sorted as well.
As a result, the N160 feels light and nimble. And it makes for an easy bike to filter through traffic too. Plus, there’s decent turn lock-to-lock as well. At higher speeds, again, the N doesn’t feel nervous, be it going over bumps, passing traffic, or taking on flowing corners. Plus, the tyres offer good feedback closing the circle on N being a communicative and predictable motorcycle to ride.
There's, however, no discounting the fact that the N160 is a city bike at the end of the day, and therefore ride quality is important. And it is pretty agreeable. It handles the small undulations and bumps well, flattening them with authority. And even the more pronounced stuff like shallow potholes and bridge joints don’t send rude shocks or upset the bike or the rider. But, no, it isn’t plush or pampering and the rider can feel those potholes and joints quite clearly. And it's the fast rebound on the rear that causes whatever little discomfort that seeps