The plucky little Hero XPulse has been in my possession for three months now and it has provided simple, effective and cheap transport in that time, displaying no foibles or quirks and being utterly reliable. Of course, that last feature should not come as a surprise in this day and age but, given the bad reputation that motorcycles not from Europe, Japan or America tend to be saddled with, it is refreshing to report that a motorcycle that costs half as much – or less – than its Japanese or European equivalents lack none of their mechanical soundness.
The XPulse could fairly be described as an ‘adventure’ bike, in that it has long-travel suspension, dual-purpose Metzeler tyres, crash bars and hand guards. While many KTM/BMW/Triumph/Suzuki/Yamaha/Ducati adventure riders might scoff at its diminutive stature and meagre power output, let alone a dearth of electronic trickery, there is really nothing an adventure bike costing R200,000+ (often a lot of +…!) can do that the Hero can’t also do, while depleting your bank balance by a mere R49,900.
No, you’re not getting to Cape Town in a (long) day on the Hero and neither, are you getting anywhere else in a huge hurry but, as reported in the story of my New Year trip, going somewhere slowly or, rather, slower, seems to be much more in the spirit of adventure riding: taking your time to notice what you are riding through and past rather than rushing to get to the next place. You might need to plan to take three days rather than two for a particular trip but, if you can afford the time and you can’t afford a big adventure bike, then what else could you possibly need?
Given that most of my riding on the Hero has been in and around Johannesburg (as reported here), the editor told me that I really needed to do something a little more adventurous before we, reluctantly, gave the Hero back. Even pointing to my 3,000-kilometre trip at the beginning of the year, which included a good proportion of off-road riding over various passes, held no sway and so, the wheels of the XPulse were pointed towards whatever dirt trails we could find.
I can’t really tell you where we went as I was simply following some friends and I really wasn’t paying much attention to where we were going, just enjoying the ride. But I can tell you that we rode on flat dirt roads, through some mildly hilly terrain, through a mine dump, over hill and dale and to a pub.
And it was at that pub, while drinking a cold, refreshing ale, that my riding companions were forced to admit that there might actually be something to riding a small, light adventure bike. True, none of the routes was particularly technical or difficult, nor did it require any of them to dip into their arsenal of electronic rider aids or surfeit of power. However, they had no more fun than I did while, conversely, I was never left behind. In fact, there were one or two sections that gave me a lot less trouble than they encountered and it was by no means down to skill, of which I possess little.
I am under no illusion that my musings on the Hero XPulse 200 will convince owners of the current crop of large adventure bikes to give them up unless age or infirmity forces them to downscale. But, for anyone who is thinking of taking up the adventure riding challenge and is intimidated by the size of offerings from the major manufacturers, while being put off by the cost of even their smaller-displacement models, I can find no reasonable argument against the Hero. As the brand gains an ever-increasing presence in South Africa, any concerns about servicing and spares availability are rapidly disappearing.
If we can put aside our preoccupation with desirability and image and look only to the practical, then the Hero XPulse scores highly in every measurable parameter.
After three months, the Hero XPulse 200 is due to go back to Hero South Africa and I’ll miss the cheery dependability and utter practicality. Exciting it may not be but as an everyday workhorse that is right at home in the urban environment, it is near perfect. That it can also tackle off-road adventure riding and long touring trips is the icing on the cake.
Veiled hints from Hero SA suggest that there will be a ‘family of XPulse models’ coming to South Africa soon, with various upgrades. If one of those upgrades is a bit more power from the 200cc, single-cylinder engine, then I’ll be first in line to add to my Hero experience but we’ll have to wait and see.
For more information on the full Hero range, visit Hero South Africa.
Hero XPulse 200
For more information on the bike featured in this article, click on the link below…