Will you go ride an ATV in Satara? Sirish asked. Hell yes, would I need air to breathe, or water to drink? The question then seemed moot. Give me anything on two wheels and I dare say I can make magic. Behind a handlebar, even if it is in this case guiding four wheels rather than two, I find it hard not to enjoy myself. See the picture on the facing page, that's my definition of fun. Thankfully, my job as an auto journalist warrants me to have the most fun amongst my peers, as I get to ride and drive almost every car or bike sold in the country before it goes on sale. But ATVs are not mainstream, they are purely recreational vehicles and as classified by our government, farm implements. That makes them illegal to ride on the streets in our country and they can only be ridden in a closed environment or off-road then. Which suits most ATV owners. But ATV ownership isn't akin to owning a bike, it's an expensive proposition, be it recreational or agricultural. This is one reason why the ATV market in our country is still not as popular as we would want it to be. We only see ATVs at resorts or beaches, and for a fact, there aren't too many on sale in the country. Needless to say, I was still looking forward to riding an ATV then. And then I've always wanted to pop a wheelie on an ATV. So did I want to ride an ATV? How silly, of course I did!
But I was in for another surprise when I met the guys from Harison Motors, importers of the Funty brand of ATV's - I was to ride not one, not two but three ATVs. A fourth model is on sale as well, unfortunately I was too big for it - this being an ATV solely for kids. This ATV, the smallest in the line-up is the Junior, which uses a 50cc automatic engine, followed by the Striker, which has a 110cc engine mated to a 3-speed gearbox with an auto-clutch. The third ATV is the Fighter, which uses a 150cc engine with a CVT. The biggest model is the Terminator, with a 200cc 4-speed manual gearbox. As of now these ATVs are being sold as CBUs, but the company plans to invest in a manufacturing facility near Satara in Maharashtra in the near future.
Prior to this, I had only ridden an ATV once in my life. Hence, in the interests of self preservation, I began with the smallest ATV, the 110cc Striker. The initial few moments were really awkward, as I was able to neither use the thumb throttle nor steer the ATV well. But I soon realized that there is a technique involved to riding an ATV. You have to lean into a corner to ensure optimum balance and stability or the chances of tipping over while making a turn are high.
As for throttle control, responses from the 6.2PS, 106cc, air-cooled single cylinder motor were quick for an engine this small. Gear ratios were short, but gearshifts demanded more effort than expected because of the TVS Jive like auto clutch which felt a bit stiff. That wasn't the only stiff thing in the Striker, even the suspension was on the stiffer side to aid handling. Seeing the track and its surface quality I didn't try to go above 25kmph as the ride got bouncy on the off-road track. Neither did I try to examine her top speed claims of 40kmph.
Handling was good once I got past the problem of being unable to steer, and after some time I found the ATV to be as nimble as a bike. Adding to the fun was the reverse gear, which allowed turning around in a jiffy. The Striker uses dual drum brakes at the front, and a centralized disc brake at the rear. Suspension duties at the front are taken care of by two hydraulic shock absorbers, while a monoshock performs duty at the rear.
Next was the Fighter. Its automatic transmission made the Fighter a breeze to ride, as I was able to concentrate on riding rather than trying to change gears. Low down grunt was impressive, the single-cylinder 150cc engine producing 9.7PS of power. To shift into reverse, the Fighter had a gear lever similar to that in cars on the right hand side, which I felt was the only drawback, the lever being cumbersome to operate. The Fighter boasted of dual front disc brakes and a centralized rear disc, and braking felt better as well. Suspension at the front was a pair of gas-charged shock absorbers, which helped improve ride quality along with the rear monoshock.
I finally moved to the Terminator, the biggest and most imposing of the lot. It uses a 196cc, air-cooled, single cylinder engine that produces an impressive 15.6PS of power. The engine also gets a small auxiliary fan to aid cooling which can be operated via a switch on the handlebar. The Terminator gets a four-speed gearbox, which made it feel more like a conventional motorcycle. Low down grunt was good and the gas-charged suspension up front and monoshock at the rear felt better than the rest of the lot, making the Terminator the best handler. The clutch and gearbox felt light as well, but overall the ATV felt heavy. Common features for all three ATVs are electric start, exposed drive chain, PU air filter, metal guards at both ends, a rugged tubular chassis, maintenance free batteries and all-digital clocks. The clocks feature a speedometer, odometer, tachometer, gear indicator, fuel gauge and battery voltage indicator.
The Junior retails at Rs 1.38 lakh, the Striker at Rs 1.6 lakh, the Fighter at Rs 2.25 lakh and the Terminator at Rs 2.75 lakh on-road. The Funty range of ATVs is cheaper than the much bigger Polaris ATVs sold in the country, which should help Harison Motors give leverage to its sales. Being a new brand, these will take time to find acceptance, at least until production commences in India, which should make them even cheaper. Given their performance and decent build quality, these ATVs do have the potential to attract the target audience, and should do well once prices come down.