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Top bikes in the affordable premium segment

Top bikes in the affordable premium segment

Snapshot: Almost every motorcycle mentioned here has an emotional touch to it. Depending on what tickles you and when, we have selected these motorcycles that have more chances of being in your bedroom at night than in the garage.

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Do you remember when owning a Pulsar 180 with those round headlights used to be the coolest thing in town? How there was nothing that could come close to it and how it redefined speed at an affordable price! However, internet was not in every house and there was no smartphone to make us smart, that simply made adrenaline, howsoever little was available to us, sheer unadulterated. Time has been changing ever since. With more power to spend, people have started to look at motorcycles as not just commuters, but also as a tool to liberate themselves. Liberate themselves from the anarchy society shoves down our throat from the time we open our eyes, from the boundaries that we have not been seeing but feeling since our inception, from the dos and don'ts we are supposed to follow as religiously as our parents' orders.

Not all the motorcycles we have mentioned here are fast, but are surely a part of a certain lifestyle. A lifestyle where speed, image, style, attention all exist in perfect harmony.


KTM Duke 390

  • Price starts from: Rs 1,80,934
  • Engine: 373 cc
  • Power: 43.5 bhp Torque: 35 Nm
  • Fuel economy: 25 kmpl

Most of us had a childhood where we spent a considerable amount of time figuring out how it must be to ride a motorcycle with its front tyre in the air. It was a fair question as only the mighty ones had access to the wheelie prone Yamaha RD 350 and the few ones who had didn't quite think of pulling a wheelie on it.

The KTM Duke 390 helped most of those dreams to come alive and the latest technology ensures that you do in a very controlled fashion. The Upside-down forks with the ABS, Metzeler Sportec M5 tyres, Bybre calipers and a very aggressive stance makes taming this 43 bhp, 35 Nm mad machine the easiest thing ever. The way it is always overeager to leap at the slightest twist of the throttle is always a reason to rejoice. Other than an Aventador or a Veyron on an open highway, the Duke 390 will rip almost anything on the city roads as well as on the highways. This is a motorcycle that will let you defy Physics, go above 150 kmph with zero effort, negotiate potholes with a sarcastic smile, pull wheelies without getting high with a price tag of Rs 2,00,000. Here is the proof that God does exist and he also listens to our prayers.


Kawasaki Ninja 300

  • Price starts from: Rs 3,38,697
  • Engine: 296 cc
  • Power: 39 bhp Torque: 27 Nm
  • Fuel economy: 25 kmpl

In many ways, Kawasaki Ninja 250 resembled the old man-eater Yamaha RD 250. The major resemblance  was a parallel twin engine that produced almost same horses at the crank, but the poor braking, poorer suspension and drum brakes on both the wheels made the RD more brutal and more menacing. And the fact that it was a 2-stroke twin cylinder meant that it was supposed to be taken more seriously than an angry wife.

The Ninja 300 is an upgraded version of the previous 250 R and delivers a very refined 39 bhp and 27 Nm of torque. By refined we also mean the feel has reduced a little. The new Ninja 300 despite being a parallel twin doesn't threaten you, which is not a good thing if you ask me. It is as easy to ride as any other single cylinder machine and doesn't need very skilled rider to excel. I am sure you would have figured it out by now that our cribbing, in a way, has said a lot of good things about the motorcycle.

But for a bike that costs a little over 3.5 lakhs (Ex-showroom) and has no USD forks at the front, no ABS, it is a bit of let-down. If you like the whole look and feel of a sports bike and are willing to pay a lot more than the Duke 390 for almost similar performance, this is the one for you, but for serious buyers like us who want to invest our hard earned money is something that is more worth it, the Duke 390 is clearly our winner here.


Hyosung GT 250 R

  • Price starts from: Rs 2,75,103
  • Engine: 249 cc
  • Power: 28.4 bhp Torque: 22.7 Nm
  • Fuel economy: 28 kmpl

Roughly 10 years ago, a Korean aspirant thought of entering into an emerging market hoping to enjoy the success its fellow national Hyundai enjoyed in India. But, most of us know what eventually happened. The Hyosung GT 250R is a nice package overall that comes with an engine that is a V-twin and is designed by a Japanese team. The GT 250R looks massive with its double discs at the front, but the styling is a bit dated despite its twin projector headlamps. Silencer looks purposeful and has a nice growl to it and can confuse people for a 650 cc sports bike with ease. The broad 150/70 rear tyre enhances its muscular stance which lets you use its 28 bhp with ease and confidence. The 5 speed gearbox is not at par with its other siblings, but with the bike's linear power delivery, serves the purpose well.

The handling is not very precise and that can also be blamed on the suspension which feels a bit on the stiffer side. The front forks are upside down though while the rear monoshock is hydraulic, but lack the feel of it.

With a price of almost Rs 2.9 lakhs, it surely is not the best buy amongst its fellow competitors and the brand being Korean does make people a little skeptical about investing this kind of money in it, when you have a plenty of Japanese option with a price tag a lot lesser than this one's.


Royal Enfield Continental GT

  • Price starts from: Rs 1,84,518
  • Engine: 535 cc
  • Power: 29.5 bhp Torque: 44 Nm
  • Fuel economy: 41 kmpl

Finally something from Royal Enfield that has not been seen by our last two generations, has a refreshed look and does not share most of its parts with its other siblings. The Continental GT is more of a motorcycle that should find its place in your drawing room than on roads. The look and feel is premium, and Continental GT ensures that you make as many heads turn as a bollywood actress walking around some crowded market.

The seating position does not break your back on long stretches. It is aggressive, but not overly, hence saving you from the pain that comes as a standard with clip-on handlebars. The single seat, the uplifted exhaust, the unmatched colour tone, a newly built chassis, clip-ons all make sure that together they give a look to the watcher that will blow his every sense in every way possible.

Now the things that got us thinking. The engine is an overbored version of the Unit Construction Engine (UCE) 500 that is used in Classic, Thunderbird and now the Standard too. Gearbox remains the same which helps the linear power delivery in a smooth fashion. The max power output is 29.1 bhp which is not much for a 'Cafe Racer'. The single cylinder means loads of torque which is a whopping 44 Nm. The bike literally struggles above 120 kmph and shivers more than a rattle snake above it. For a machine that does not go insanely fast, neither in terms of acceleration nor in top-speed, we could not understand the need of a Brembo caliper at the front. According to the what veterans say, a Cafe Racer is meant to go at least 100 mph (160 kmph) which it fails to match by a huge margin. The performance is anything but like a true-blue Cafe Racer. The gas charged shockers from Paioli at the rear work just fine, and the front suspension is nothing phenomenal.

However, if you are not into the speed business and do not expect a Cafe Racer kind of performance from this premium Royal Enfield, this machine will surely keep you happy. The bar-end mirrors, the sporty stance, the stylish front mudguard and a disc brake at the end will surely make you feel (hopefully) that you have extracted every penny you have paid to Royal Enfield for this beautiful looking, yet less powerful Cafe Racer from Royal Enfield.


Honda CBR 250R

  • Price starts from: Rs 1,51,973
  • Engine: 249 cc
  • Power: 26.4 bhp Torque: 22.9 Nm
  • Fuel economy: 38 kmpl

If done nicely, no one enjoys success like the first player in the market. The Indian market was getting used to the power of the mighty Yamaha R15 when Honda took it by storm when it launched the mighty CBR 250R and changed the game in the performance segment. It was slick, looked beautiful and offered power delivery in a very refined manner, something that Honda is known for, thanks to its racing genes. The highly advanced Honda technology managed to churn out maximum power it could from a single cylinder and as always, a single cylinder means a decent amount of torque at your service. The bike boasts of a 249 cc, water cooled mill that generates 26 bhp and 22.9 Nm, and to make the Continental GT and the GT 250R a little more ashamed of themselves, it has a 6 speed gearbox to make the power band a lot more useful. It is not as maddening as the Yamaha R15 around the corners, but has a lot more in its kitty that means a lot more than being nimble and light.

On long stretches, you can expect it do 120-140 kmph all day long and also to negotiate the city chaos with a smile. Yes there are more potent ones in the segment, but what the CBR offers you is something that is incomparable. Others are either not a good overall package, or value for money, or technically way less advanced, or much more expensive than it. Probably that's the reason, CBR 250R still enjoys the same respect it enjoyed long long ago when it started the quarter litre segment in India.

Well, we would like to conclude this piece here, but we are unable to figure out how to do it. Once again, we are no able to zero in one particular winner here. Because these motorcycle here cannot be compared based on their performance or the price category they belong to. Instead, as we had said, they belong to a particular lifestyle and that lifestyle includes aspiring racers, motorcycle enthusiasts, intellectuals, wannabe travel writers and people who use motorcycles to attract the opposite sex. Depending on what you plan to use your motorcycle for, one of these motorcycles should be able to satisfy your expectations and needs.

But for us, who want a bombshell with less clothes and too much of intellect, and do not have enough money to go to a 5-star hotel for a dinner, KTM Duke 390 is a clear winner here. Every part has been carefully crafted and installed keeping every random possibility in mind. The parts that could have been borrowed from its Bajaj siblings have been borrowed to keep the price low and have been avoided wherever KTM thought was needed.

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