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TVS Apache 310 RR – A Shot Across the Bows of the World’s Other Motorcycle Manufacturers

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

My history with TVS motorcycles is well documented in the two Tiddler Tours we did with 160 and 180cc Apaches. The first dated back to 2011 when we took some Apaches through Botswana and Zimbabwe, visiting Victoria Falls [read the article here]. The second, a year or so later involved more bikes in a trip around the Okavango Delta, along the Caprivi Strip and back to Botswana and home [read the article here]. Both trips were unsupported and we carried everything we needed, camping as we went, on the plucky Apaches. The incredible economy and perfect reliability of all the bikes despite the harshest conditions made me a firm believer in the brand.

It came as no surprise when BMW partnered with TVS in their G 310 R and G 310 GS projects. I have also been fortunate to visit the TVS factory in Hosur outside Bangalore, where I witnessed the pride and commitment to quality that goes into every TVS product. TVS is currently the fifth-largest manufacturer of motorcycles on the planet. Indian brands are becoming a force to be reckoned with in world motorcycling, growing at a pace that defies belief. TVS is one of the brands leading that charge.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

TVS is now being re-introduced to South Africa by an importer with significant financial muscle. We will see a broader swathe of the TVS range. I got the opportunity to be the first journalist to review their flagship road bike. The TVS Apache 310 RR.

When I collected the bike from one of the first dealers to be appointed, Speed Hut (TVS Fourways) located in the Pineslopes Centre behind Monte Casino, I literally stood back and feasted my eyes on what can only be termed a magnificently styled bike. As the RR in the name suggests, this is a 310cc little Sports weapon. Well, 312,2cc’s if we really want to be precise. The motor is the familiar unit utilised by BMW in their 310cc range, with Bosch Fuel Injection utilising a fly-by-wire throttle.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

Let’s talk about the engine. I say in my header to this review that this bike, in my view, represents a shot across the bow of other bike manufacturers. The motor design is one of my reasons for making a statement that may be considered by some as somewhat outrageous. The motor is a 312,2cc liquid-cooled DOHC single. It features hollow cams (to keep the valve train light) and a hydraulic cam chain tensioner. But then it gets particularly clever.

TVS have turned the cylinder head around, so the inlet faces forward and the exhaust backwards. The advantage is that the air flows directly into the inlet for a Ram effect, pressurising the air box. The exhaust does not have to make a U-turn to exit out the back of the bike as it is already pointing backwards. The end result is a more efficient flow, resulting in more power. A liquid-cooled oil cooler also keeps engine temperature down when the little mill is singing its high rev song. The bore and stroke is massively ‘over-square’ at 80 mm x 62,1 mm. The short stroke allows the engine to rev freely without generating dangerous piston speeds.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

The motor is indicative of the engineering excellence that is becoming a feature of TVS design. Power is 25 Kw @ 9,700 rpm, with Torque at 27,3 Nm @ 7700. This is channelled through a slick and accurate 6-speed box via a slipper clutch. Bolted into a trellis steel frame with 140 mm of front wheel travel via non-adjustable KYB 41 mm USD cartridge forks. Back wheel travel is 131 mm, also via a KYB shock with preload adjustment only. Observant folk will recognise the 17-inch wheels as identical to those 5-spoke mags on the 310 Beemers. Properly pretty they are too.

Tyres are 110/70×17 in front with a 150/60×17 in the rear. To show their intent with the bike, TVS have superb Michelin Road 5’s spooned onto the bike. Brakes are discs at both ends featuring braided hoses and Brembo’s Indian brand Bybre, callipers. Braking is progressive, with decent feel. Dual Channel ABS is standard. The fuel tank is 11-litres and gives decent range thanks to an economy of around 30 km/L at commuting speeds.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

Instrumentation is via what TVS call their Smart Connect Multi-Function race computer. Longitudinally mounted in the cockpit, it tells you all you need to know about the bike’s vitals, as well as trip info, fuel consumption and engine modes. The three engine modes start off with Urban, with linear power delivery, Rain, with a softer torque response, Sport, with full power and torque as well as Track, which is virtually a Data Logger with lean angles, acceleration and deceleration and engine rpm data displayed graphically. In Track, the dash is dominated by a large tachometer and clear digital speed indicator. A Satnav and ‘phone app gives connectivity for those that want it, as well as a ‘Ride Planner’, with distances, ETA etc.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

So, by now you need to get the picture that this is a totally engineered, seriously impressive modern motorcycle, with all the bells and whistles and then some. Nothing is tacky or kitchy but really well executed. The kind of displays and features that you would expect, and that would not be out of place, on a bike four times the price of the 310 RR. It is the styling and bodywork that makes a first favourable impression on you. You start to realize what level of competence is on display from an Indian manufacturer. If and when they start to build bigger cc motorcycles, the other manufacturers better take note. They will be a force to be reckoned with, especially when you consider the inexpensive skilled labour in India which allows quality bikes to be built at decent price points.

I went on a KTM Breakfast run to Magaliesburg on the bike. Even the most hardcore “Ready to Race” KTM enthusiast commented most favourably on the truly beautiful TVS. Finished in red with a white stripe down its length, it looks for all the world like something that only the Italians could build. TVS put it so well when they say “Design is not simply art, it is the elegance of function”. This bike is elegant function indeed!

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

When I picked up the TVS I rode back to Pretoria. As I got to grips and familiarised myself with the bike, I found the ergos comfortable for my 6’2” frame. The bars are not too low and the pegs are perfectly and intuitively positioned in their rear-set position. Friday traffic in Jo’Burg is a pain, but the lithe RR slipped through the snarl-up with ease. All the controls work smoothly and seamlessly, allowing you to focus on the road.

The first gear requires a touch of clutch slip to get you rolling and to allow the torque to kick in, then it is plain sailing. As you get familiar with the power characteristics of the bike you start to revel in its ‘planted-ness’ and flickability. 170 kgs never was this easy to toss about. The non-adjustable suspension is perfectly set up. It is firm yet impressively supple over bad surfaces. I have ridden bikes with adjustable suspension costing many multiples of this bike with less accomplished ride quality.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

Once on the highway, I settled into what felt to be a relaxed 125 kph, only to find the little TVS nudging 140 if I wasn’t paying particular attention. I got reminded again why smaller lighter bikes are so much fun. The beauty of the 310 RR is that it isn’t compromised by inferior build quality or components. Everything feels proper and works well. I spent the whole of Saturday hooning around and getting a feel for the bike.

Sitting at a Hazelwood pavement Cafe’ devouring Gelato, I did what we motorcyclists have done since the first engine was slotted in a frame. I just sat and ogled the bike. It is spectacular looking. Inspired by the shark, the designers sought to build something that resembled the functional lines of an Apex Predator. I found out the next day that they have succeeded superbly.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

I was back on the highway to Jo’Burg at 7 a.m. the next day to join RAD KTM on an end-of-year breakfast run. Just for giggles (and because I didn’t want to get off of it), I decided to go with the TVS rather than one of my ‘big bikes’. We made our way out of town onto the Hennops road which undulates and sweeps through the koppies to Hartebeespoort dam. Obviously outgunned on sheer straight-line speed by bikes with engines double or triple the cc, the little RR could be run down that road flat out.

The chassis, suspension and brilliant Michelin rubber work together to inspire confidence that allowed me to keep the bike pinned whilst the more powerful bikes became a hand full. Much of what they gained on the uphills and straights, I could pull back in on the sweeping bends. A different kind of Apex Predator indeed!  Keeping them in sight was way more fulfilling and fun on the brilliant little TVS than it could ever have been on a big bike. The Apache 310 runs on to the rev limiter in sixth gear at an indicated 173 kph. (Don’t ask me how I know…).

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

After breakfast, I needed to get back for another engagement, so I rode back on my own. This is when the TVS really rocked. Riding the back roads, it ran up Hekpoort, strafing slower traffic effortlessly. Riding briskly and without hammering the bike, I could maintain a swift and satisfying 135-odd kph, all the while totally engaged in piloting the bike across the countryside. “Engaging” sums up what riding a smaller slower bike relatively fast is all about. I would revel in this bike on any mountain pass, the tighter the better. On a road where horsepower and weight become a liability, the TVS is in its element. Damn, a one-make race series on these bikes would be indescribable fun, and affordable! On that note, TVS make a Dynamic Kit for the bike with aggressive clip-on bars, raised rear-set race pegs and even race graphics emulating the TVS race bikes that are campaigned in India by TVS.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

Now here is the thing. The economy is punishing us. Big Sports bikes are becoming the preserve of the really well-heeled. Consider also, if you will, which MotoGP class is the most enjoyable for the riders? It has to be Moto3. Small, agile bikes that showcase their rider’s skill rather than the engineering excellence of the manufacturer. We saw this year that to win MotoGP you had to be on a Ducati. In Moto 3 by comparison, the young gladiators traded blows on an equal footing, making for an unparalleled spectacle.

Why don’t you fellows scaring yourselves silly at hyper speed every weekend on the breakfast run on your crotch rockets shell out and buy yourself an RR? Keep the heavy weaponry for “ET” (Eastern Transvaal) and the distance trips. Commute in the week on your TVS, saving a bomb, then match your riding skills at sane speeds on the weekends. You may just rediscover the joys of slow bikes ridden fast. Dynamically, economically and stylistically, the TVS 310 RR is at the top of the list of contenders, a wonderful example of how less can indeed be more. All this fun is to be had for only R79,999, backed by a two-year unlimited mileage warranty.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

As TVS is looking to expand and establish their nationwide dealer network, they are inviting interested parties to make contact via e-mail to: [email protected]. With bikes like the Apache 310 RR, Apache 200 and 125, as well as their bulletproof commercial units and Scooters, this is a significant business opportunity.

For more information visit: www.tvsmotor.com

Dave Cilliers
Dave Cilliers
My name is Dave Cilliers, from as far back as I can remember I have loved travel. Africa provides salve for the gypsy in my soul. My best trips are done travelling to unlikely places with unlikely vehicles, keeping it as simple and basic as possible.
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