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Hero XPulse 200 Fi ABS – Adventure Ready!

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

Editor: Do you want to test the Hero XPulse 200?

Contributor: Errr, no!

Editor: Why not?

Contributor: because we don’t live in India or any of the Asian countries and I’m not a delivery rider.

Editor: Do you like your job?

Contributor: On my way, boss.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

OK, so the above might be a dramatisation of the conversation….well, more a complete figment of my imagination, if I’m honest. But it sums up motorcyclists’ attitudes and mentality toward any bike from anywhere east of South Africa. The idea that a small-capacity motorcycle could be anything other than a workhorse is totally alien to many motorcyclists.

Hero might be a new brand to South Africa but the company’s influence on global motorcycling cannot be understated. The figures are simply staggering: around seven million motorcycles are produced every year – that’s more two-wheelers than the second, third and fourth-placed motorcycle manufacturers combined! In the second quarter of 2018, 2.1 million motorcycles were sold! Since the company was formed in 1984 as a joint venture between Hero Cycles India and Honda of Japan, more than 100 million motorcycles have been built.

Photo credit: Donovan Fourie

What makes the figures so impressive is that the vast majority of these motorcycles are sold in India but now, with the dissolving of the partnership with Honda, which prevented Hero from exporting to markets other than Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal, Hero Motor Corp is making inroads to international markets, including South Africa. Hero South Africa’s operation might be small beer compared to India, but momentum is gathering as the qualities of Hero become increasingly apparent, not only to fleet managers but also to the average motorcyclist on the street. Having ridden the latest XPulse 200, I am beginning to understand why.

We live in interesting times, where living costs, including fuel prices, are rising relentlessly. Motorcycling might be seen as a playful pastime for the wealthy but, more and more, the logic of running a small motorcycle for practical purposes is getting ever more difficult to ignore.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

Another barrier that has to be broken down, is the idea that small-capacity motorcycles are dull and boring. Certainly, alongside a near-R400,000 adventure, sports or cruiser bike, the sub-R50,000 Hero XPulse 200 looks underwhelming, with a specification that hardly screams ‘luxury lifestyle’. But that’s missing the point. This is transport we are talking about here, in all its mundane practicality.

Not that I would call the Hero XPulse mundane. OK, a single-cylinder, 199.6cc, 18bhp engine might not get the heart racing, but it’s not there for that. What it’s there for is to provide inexpensive transport. But don’t ever think that “inexpensive” means “cheap”. We all know the guilty parties building cheap motorcycles, but Hero is not among them. This is a quality product: the type that we have all forgotten about in the rush to go bigger, better and faster as our motorcycling lives have progressed. Didn’t we all start out on something like this?

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

It’s all a case of readjusting expectations. Jump off your 200bhp superbike and, yes, the XPulse is going to feel a tad slow. But see it for what it is and get on with the right mindset and things quickly start to come into focus.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

It performs as you would expect a 200cc single to perform: no fireworks but enough performance to keep up – and ahead – of urban traffic. And, boy, does it sip at fuel. One 13-litre tank of petrol took me 350 km and I was using all the performance all the time, with the throttle on the stop more than it was shut. The riding was a combination of road and off-road, for the XPulse 200 is nominally a dual-sport bike, with a 21-inch front wheel and decent Metzeler Sahara Enduro 3 tyres fitted as standard, an engine bash-plate and crash bars.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

It has tall suspension (but still nowhere near the height of most adventure bikes, making it eminently accessible to everyone), wire-spoked wheels, a high-mounted front mudguard, LED lights, bark-bashers protecting the hands and an LCD dash onto which can be projected turn-by-turn navigation from your phone. There’s an oil cooler mounted within the left-hand crash bar. The suspension is on the soft side and soaks up any bad road surface you’d care to mention.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

For the off-road portion of the test, I rode out to Mooinooi and up Breedtsnek in the company of Donovan Fourie riding another XPulse, and what a hoot that was: light, manoeuvrable and, with enough power to get you anywhere without scaring yourself silly, the XPulse is utterly unintimidating to ride off-road. Because of that, you feel that you can attempt routes that would have you thinking twice about on larger adventure bikes. I mean, it’s not entirely out of the question that you could carry the bike out if you found yourself at a dead end, either of road or talent.

Photo credit: Donovan Fourie

No, the suspension isn’t as good as WP Xact found on KTMs or the semi-active set-up on a BMW GS and others, but it doesn’t need to be. I feel we have been brainwashed a little into thinking that we absolutely must have all this expensive technology and, on the behemoths that pass as go-anywhere adventure bikes today, maybe we do, but there’s no denying that the simple suspension on the Hero took everything I could throw at it and it never lost its composure.

On a bike this size, you’re not getting anywhere in a hurry: top speed is around 125 km/h, in a crouch, downhill, with a following wind so not terribly practical for long-distance journeys but it will sit at 100 km/h all day long and, what’s even better is that you will not regret the decision to ride all day because the comfort is surprisingly good, the seat being thick and relatively softly padded.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

The simple fact of the matter is that the more I rode the Hero XPulse 200, the more I liked it. It’s all very well having 150bhp at your fingertips but, with today’s standards of driving, is that really a good idea around town? The Hero was never outrun by a car, was super nimble threading through traffic, comfortable, frugal, practical and not a little fun: there is something about going as fast as you can everywhere knowing that the speed is never going to rise to the point where things can go wrong very quickly.

Another thing about the XPulse 200 is the looks: it’s really not a bad-looking bike and anyone who saw it was impressed and couldn’t believe it cost less than R50,000. It would be fair to say that it took me by surprise and I find myself struggling to think of an argument against having one in the garage.

Photo credit: Donovan Fourie

Hero XPulse 200 Fi ABS

For more information on the bike featured in this article, click on the link below…

Harry Fisher
Harry Fisher
From an early age, Harry was obsessed with anything that moved under its own steam, particularly cars and motorcycles. For reasons of a financial nature, his stable of fine automobiles failed to materialise, at which point he realised that motorcycles were far more affordable and so he started his two wheel career, owning, riding, building and fixing many classic bikes. Then came the day when he converted his love of bikes into a living, writing, filming and talking about them endlessly. The passion for four wheels never left him, however, and he has now converted his writing skills into singing the praises of cars in all their infinite variety. Bikes are still his favourite means of getting around but the car in its modern form is reaching a level of perfection that is hard to resist. And they're warmer in winter....
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