A few months of examining and reflecting upon viable options that matched my needs has led me to acquire "RAMBLƏR ONE", a Hero X-Pulse 200 (BS4 model). This is a single-cylinder 200cc carb fed 5-speed dual sport. (The BS6 model, not yet sold locally, is fuel injected).
The bike looks trail-ready. High, upswept exhaust. Spoked 21" front tyres, 18" rears coupled with 190mm (front)/170mm (rear) suspension travel and 220mm ground clearance make its case. But it isn't posing as an extreme machine - stock 50/50 Metzeler Enduro 3 Sahara tyres rather than full-on knobblies announce its intentions for both street and bush.
The single-piece seat looks good, though cushioning is minimal. So long trips will likely need breaks and bum massages every so often. The pockmarked texture of the seat means it holds little droplets of water when wet, and the moisture's not easy to wipe off.
In the parking lot, the light weight and wide steering angle make it easy to handle. The long side-stand takes some getting used to. Finding neutral is sometimes as epic as finding Nemo.
On smooth tarmac it tracks true on those Metzelers. On bumpy tarmac you can feel the long-travel suspension iron out the creases, but it does feel a bit edgy. Maybe something needs adjusting.
On the highway, the engine encourages you to short shift through the ratios to top (5th) gear. This 2-valve head thumper is a laid back unit, in its element at low to middling revs. Red lining is not its natural habitat. Torque is modest, but there's enough on tap that you don't need to downshift much when rolling on. During this break in period i'm keeping rpms low. The upper reaches of the rev range will be explored many miles ahead.
It handles traffic very well. The high-set side mirrors make lane splitting easy, and the soft power delivery reduces stress levels considerably. ABS front brakes work well but feel a bit spongy. Rear brakes have good bite.
The LCD digital dashboard is quite compact and provides the basic information needed. It has bluetooth connectivity for navigation, but I haven't yet tested this feature.
RAMBLƏR ONE feels like it can go anywhere. Words that come to mind as I ride: Enjoyable. Light. Fun. Versatile. Easy. I liked it on sight at the showroom and after a test ride. Now 50km in, I like it even more.
The X-Pulse 200 (BS4) costs 303k from CMC motorcycles division. But you can also buy through authorised dealers and negotiate sweet deals. I sourced mine from Road Tigers Motors and Spares on Jogoo Road (Tel. 0704 931 001 or 0721 473 767) - ask for Nancy.