The Hero Xpulse 200 Rally was crowned Indian Motorcycle of the Year (IMOTY) in 2020. News24 Motoring contributor Wilhelm Lutjeharms takes the new Rally version for a ride in Helderberg, outside Somerset West.
Which is the most fun, a road bike or an off-road bike? It is a discussion that motorcycle enthusiasts have been having since the beginning of the bike and will have for years to come.
Having ridden selectively on gravel roads, I have not been exposed to many small-capacity off-road bikes. But one of my favourite memories is the first motorcycle I ever rode, a 1974 Suzuki RV90 "Fat Cat", which is incidentally still with the same family and on the same farm since day one.
However, it didn't take me long to realise how much fun small-capacity bikes can be in the right conditions – and the Hero Xpulse 200 Rally rejuvenated these thoughts again.
The Hero Xpulse 200 Rally is visually appealing. Fitted with an Akrapovic slip-on exhaust pipe and those knobbly Maxxis tyres, plus the white hand guards, it does look the part and is ready to tackle some trails or the nearest farm road. It is also relatively high off the ground.
At 1.87m tall, I could put my feet flat on the ground, but more often than not, it was the front part of my feet that I used to keep my balance. The Rally does, after all, offer a claimed ground clearance of 220mm.
There is a kickstarter should the need arise to use it; otherwise, the electric starter is a nice touch. The seat is comfortable, and the small and compact nature of the bike allows you to feel fully in control of the bike at all times. It is powered by a 200cm3 engine, delivering 14kW at 8 500 r/min and 17Nm at 6 500 r/min.
The light switch has a dim and bright setting, and the small digital information screen shows the rev counter at the top while the trip computer indicates the fuel consumption, fuel range, and speed. There are also foot pegs for your pillion and metal handlebars.
On a tarmac road, you can sense the knobbly tyres are not happy, but the moment I hit the gravel roads, they dig into the gravel and easily kick up some stones and dust as I open the throttle. The benefit of such a small-capacity engine is that you never have to worry if the front wheel will lift. You can open the throttle to the stop and be confident that the bike will accelerate without surprises.
If you want to raise the front wheel, you must use your weight and the clutch. Even over bumpy terrain, the suspension did an excellent job absorbing the bumps, while tricky terrain can be tackled with relative ease as the first gear is extremely low. At tick-over, I could ride on challenging flat surfaces at around 10km/h. When the road became smooth again, I went through the five gears and achieved an indicated 100km/h. This is more than enough speed for those weekend excursions to learn your favourite playground.
There are five colours to choose from; this test unit came in the Pearl Fadeless White, while green, grey black and red are also available.
There is also a 5-year or 100 000km warranty, which means you can pile on the miles and rest assured it is still under warranty. The first service is at 500km, which is free, and then every service is at 3 000km.
Priced at R59 499 (slip-on exhaust pipe excluded), the Rally offers an ideal introduction to off-road riding and the fun that can be experienced when you venture onto the trails.