‚ÄėYou asked for this,‚Äô Shumi yells at me through his helmet without a hint of humour. Both he and Alan then leave me behind and head to our destination to sip on virgin mojitos through frilly straws. Me? After seven backbreaking hours in the searing heat and 215 clicks on the odometer, my bike seemed to show no signs of giving up. What began as range anxiety about whether I was going to breach the 200km mark had evolved to amazement at how far my bike had gone. But now it was rapidly turning into irritation. How much can this Platina possibly run on two litres of fuel?
Let‚Äôs rewind a bit. 200 is a big number. It took OVERDRIVE nearly 17 years to put out that many issues so we must of course do something big to celebrate. However, we decided to avoid the obvious extravaganza on 200PS superbikes and aim even higher. To truly go big, we had to go small. I suggested we attempt the seemingly impossible – 200km in just two litres of petrol. To do so, we‚Äôd be riding three tiny machines from three of the largest two-wheeler manufacturers in the world. In all likelihood, these three bikes are most fuel efficient forms of personal transport ever.
There was no fair way to decide who rode what, so we chose by a draw of lots. Alan was hoping for the Platina 100 ES as he thought that would level the playing field. But as it turns out I ‚Äėwon‚Äô the Platina, Shumi was happy that he got to ride the Dream Neo because he‚Äôs always been fond of it. And that left 120kg (in full gear he insists) Alan to squish the Splendor iSmart. This was no bad thing because Bert had warned us that one of us had better crack the 200km mark. Since I was not only riding the most efficient bike but, as Shumi puts it, weigh as much as a tall jar of air the odds of breaching this barrier were good.
But was I really on the most efficient bike? Just after we completed this test Hero announced that the iSmart returns a claimed 102.5kmpl (not ARAI rated like the other two), six more than the Platina‚Äôs claimed figure. So it turns out Alan was on the most efficient bike after all. But we didn‚Äôt know it at the time.
We were going to be as meticulous about this as possible. First we ensured there was absolutely no fuel in the bikes. Then precisely two litres of fuel went into each tank. We also used a weighing scale to measure how big a burden each of us was going to be for our motorcycles.
As you would imagine this took quite a while and no one noticed that Shumi had sneaked away almost immediately after the weighing. Soon he returned with a triumphant grin and proudly proclaimed, ‚ÄúI‚Äôve just dropped another 500grams. In your face!‚ÄĚ Err, thanks Shumi but that‚Äôs 500 grams of stuff no one wants anywhere close to their faces…
Honda Dream Neo
|Claimed economy||89.45kmpl (ARAI)|
|Price||Rs 51,919 ex-Mumbai|
Shumi takes his testing very seriously. Which is why he spent hours reading up on hypermiling. Thankfully, Bert burst his bubble and said we weren‚Äôt allowed to coast or kill the engine. Undeterred, Shumi then attempted an unconventional weight saving measure involving morning coffee and a rest room. We‚Äôre relieved to report it did not work.
Finally the bikes were set up and we were ready to roll out. The original plan was to head out towards Gujarat where the roads are flat, wide and sparsely trafficked. With a steady speed we could have easily hit 100kmpl. Of course Shumi said this would be too easy and that we should go to Pune and back instead. The ghat, narrow road and traffic would make it fun, he said. So we started discussing how we‚Äôd make up for it by cutting the engines and coasting in neutral as often as possible. Almost immediately, Bert yells from his cabin that we can do anything except those two things. OVERDRIVE bosses – constantly striving to make our lives easier.
Finally, our route began at Cafe Monza in Khargarh on the outskirts of Mumbai, a few kilometres short of the old Mumbai-Pune highway. We planned to ride all the way to Pune, make a u-turn at the by-pass and return to Khargarh. The loop was just over 200km and would take us through rolling countryside and a steep ghat up to Lonavala. Theoretically, every incline and corner would offset each other as we were taking the same route both ways. Still we were worried whether all the climbing would consume more fuel than the downhills would save.
Our test last month showed that the Platina is super efficient, quite a bit more than the other two in our tests. Given that it and I collectively weigh about 21kg less than Shumi on his Honda (47kg less than Alan on the Hero!) you‚Äôd expect that I was quite confident. Quite the contrary – I was seriously nervous. What if the other two went further than me? I had to beat them and I was willing to do whatever it took. The fact that our annual appraisals are just around the corner had nothing to do with this, of course.
As we gingerly set off, I went through the main things I was going to have to do over the next few hours. I may be light but my height means I stick out like a windsail which is bad for efficiency. Just as I was thinking this, I saw Shumi adopt a mild crouch and I followed suit. Soon we rolled up to the traffic light at the Panvel circle before the start of the highway and Alan seemed very pleased with himself. His Hero with its stop-start system had automatically switched itself off in an effort to save fuel. Sadly for Alan, this was the last time we‚Äôd come to a standstill all day. If he was going to win this, it wasn‚Äôt going to be through the Splendor‚Äôs USP.
I quickly settled into a speed where the engine was just above the straining point. On the Platina with me on board, this meant a 10kmph window between 35kmph and 45kmph after which I felt I was consuming more fuel than necessary. However, both Shumi and Alan decided that their ideal cruising speed was above 40kmph and I was soon left behind.
My next brainwave was to slipstream my way to more efficiency. However, I then discovered that at 35kmph I was the slowest thing on the road. Even the most wizened of rural men on their ancient step-throughs were faster. It was going to be a long and lonely ride. Alan on the other hand decided that given his girth he was better off closely following rickshaws rather than two-wheelers. This resulted in some rather spooked auto drivers resorting to speeding up and weaving to avoid this menacing looking geared up rider comically perched on a 100cc motorcycle. Suffice to say, none of us managed to hook a tow for too long!
Eventually, the steep climb to Lonavala began. Just as I expected, I quickly caught up with the other two. Where Alan and Shumi were wheezing up in second gear, my Platina was happy in third the entire way. But just as soon as I passed the Splendor, Alan overtook me again. It would appear he had enough and opened the gas a bit more than he should have. Once the downhills arrived, Shumi and Alan both pulled away from me. While I fed in just enough throttle to keep my speed steady they made the smarter move of opening the gas enough to overcome the engine‚Äôs compression braking which slows you on descents. Shumi claims he hit a gravity-assisted 90kmph at one point with nothing more than 20 per cent throttle! My hill climb wasn‚Äôt as efficient as it could have been because twice I accidentally down shifted to second when I wanted to go to fourth, thanks to the all-down gear shift pattern. Come on Bajaj, nearly everyone these days uses an upward shifting pattern.
Three and a half hours later we were at the half way mark in Pune. It took double the time it usually does and we were only half way through. Fortunately, the descents on the way back easily outnumbered the inclines and I was eventually at the point where I had clocked 190km and my bike was still going strong. But I was worried – neither of my colleagues was stranded on the side of the road which meant they both were running too! The numbers clicked by agonisingly slowly but then finally at the 196km mark I cleared Shumi and his futile attempts to chetak his Honda to life on the side of the road. 2km later I passed a dejected looking Alan (so close!) who excitedly waved me on. This was it. For the last 10 kilometres, I was in a dedicated crouch and it seemed that my patience and efforts paid off. Just before I exited Panvel for Mumbai, the odo clicked past 642km (my odo was at 442km when we started). It was done. I had averaged 100kmpl and the Platina was still running. I rode past our starting point at Khargar and made a u-turn at Belapur and headed back towards Panvel. Soon, I was nearly at the 210km mark when I hit a nasty jam at the new toll plaza after Khargar. As I crawled in first gear I thought surely the Bajaj would have had enough. But no; on she ran.
Bajaj Platina 100 ES
|Claimed economy||96.9kmpl (ARAI)|
|Price||Rs 46,616 ex-Mumbai|
Rishaad went much further than the others. This was partly because of his light weight and the ultra efficient Platina. But it was mostly down to his commitment and skill. He is also particularly good at writing in the third person. In fact, he has done such a good job that the editors have rewarded him with the honour of mileage testing every 100cc motorcycle that comes their way. He now regrets shooting his mouth off so much.
Eventually I got back to the point on the highway where the others were waiting for me in the burning sun. I gesture to Shumi that I can‚Äôt stop and that‚Äôs when he and Alan had had enough and left me behind with Varun in the backup car waiting for me to run out.
So on I went. Soon I had cleared the 230km mark with no problem. 240km then rolled by and despite returning a mind bending 120kmpl, the Platina still refused to stop. 250km. 255km. 260km. Still nothing – by now the bike had run so long even Varun‚Äôs camera battery ran out of charge. Finally, just as I was beginning to become convinced that Bajaj‚Äôs R&D team consisted of a crack team of witch doctors, I felt a cough. At first I thought I imagined it. But then I felt it again. The bike was definitely running out of fuel. Finally, at exactly 804km, the Platina had run its course. I did the math and it took a few moments for the number to set in. The Platina returned 131kmpl. One Hundred And Thirty One kilometres to the litre!
Now for the hard part, and that‚Äôs getting you to believe what you‚Äôve just read. I don‚Äôt blame you if you don‚Äôt – I‚Äôm still struggling to comprehend it myself. But you must understand what we did was in the interest of getting the best possible mileage possible. And that meant crouching, coasting, intermittent twists of the throttle and massive reserves of patience. This is far from how we normally test bikes and no one rides this way so don‚Äôt expect to go getting similar numbers from your machines. Sure it‚Äôs possible but takes stupid amounts of work and it‚Äôs also not a very safe way of riding. In fact, this is pretty much the worst way you could ride a motorcycle – we certainly don‚Äôt recommend you imitate our foolishness.
Hero Splendor iSmart
|Claimed economy||102.5kmpl (iCAT)|
|Price||Rs 52,427 ex-Mumbai|
Alan is OVERDRIVE‚Äôs heavy duty tester. Literally. Happily, Alan is also quick on a motorcycle but that doesn‚Äôt matter one bit here. Luckily for him, it turns out he was riding the bike with the most claimed efficiency (Hero declared that huge mileage figure right after this test was done) here. Ideally, that should have given him a good chance at coming out on top. It didn‚Äôt.
The Platina had the advantage of my light weight and willingness to go as far as possible – both Shumi and Alan admit that they did occasionally go faster than they should have. I didn‚Äôt. Could the Hero have done better? Most certainly if we also rode in the city where its stop-start system would have helped out. And to be fair, our Dream Neo was arranged by Honda at the last minute and its engine wasn‚Äôt at 100 per cent. Despite this, both the other bikes returned just a shade under 100kmpl each, the Hero doing a painfully close 98.9kmpl to the Honda‚Äôs 95.7kmpl. Of course Alan points out that I considering I was 47kg lighter than him and I could only go 64km further than him was just shameful. I should have gone at least double that distance. Clearly Alan thinks with his stomach. And there are a lot of thoughts in there.
And that‚Äôs what we accomplished. You now know just how crazily efficient these machines can be out there on real roads. And I now expect a fat raise.