Bajaj has just unveiled its all new "commuter sports tourer" called the Discover 125 ST. We take it for a quick spin
Evolution is a fact of life and for the better part, it has always led to new and improved beginnings. When it comes to machines though, how the evolution turns out pretty much depends on the manufacturer. So when Bajaj announced the arrival of their new Discover ST, we were left guessing on what the next step for this popular commuter would be. The first glimpse pretty much got raised eyebrows from all of us. Bajaj, as usual, had got it right again. After the awesome new Pulsar 200NS, we didn’t think the company could do any wrong - and they have proved us right with the new Discover ST.
So why 125 ST when the Bajaj already had the Discover 100, 125 and 150? The Discover saga originated in 2004, and the bike was the first to move away from the ‘just a commuter’ tag in the 125 cc class. And Bajaj didn’t have to do much. A nice, sleek design complimented by a very peppy 125cc motor, the Discover was an immediate hit. The second generation of the Discover spawned 100cc and 150cc variants and gave the brand a good spread throughout the segments. The sports tourer, as they call it, is for those who commute long distances. Makes sense actually considering there are lots of people whose commutes involve in-city travel and highway jaunts as well. The ST then is pretty much the next generation Discover and it gives us a fair idea about what we can expect from Bajaj in the future.
While the first and second gen Discovers were more or less identical to look at, the new ST is on a different level altogether. The headlight and the front fairing are a nice blend of the old gen Pulsar and the new 200NS. The front mudguard has a nice chiselled look and adds a lot of character to the front of the bike. The newly designed tank has all the right curves, and it’s not just the aesthetics; the knee recesses accommodate the knees beautifully too, for a change. The centre panel is a silver piece of plastic which also incorporates the fuel cock and sports the “4-valves” moniker. This however is the only bit on the bike which does not really gel with the otherwise fantastic design.
The Discover ST is all about the details, the cleanly executed exhaust, the well finished bar end weights, those amazing spider alloy wheels and not to forget those lovely petal discs up front. All these fine details come together make one good looking and feeling motorcycle. The only glitch in the looks is at the rear. While the inclusion of the monoshock suspension at the rear gives the bike a very clean overall look, the hugger along with the extended mudguard and tail piece makes things quite fussy at the back. There are just too many things happening there.
The speedo console has been kept at a bare minimum to keep costs down and is dominated by a large speedometer flanked by a fuel gauge and the usual telltale lights. However considering the kind of performance the ST dishes out, a rev counter would have been more than welcome.
A small mill with a lot of heart
Housed in the semi double cradle frame is the similar 125.58cc twin spark unit from the current Discover but now packing 4-valves-per-cylinder and then some. The first thing you notice are the corrugated engine fins. To the layman they may look like straight fins which are bent but there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye. The corrugated engine fins not only aid heat transfer by 28 per cent but also increase horsepower by 15 per cent. Expect this treatment on more Bajaj bikes in the future. Bajaj have also worked on the NVH level big time considering the bike is meant for long commutes and vibrations are a strict no-no for the same. There is also a paper element now in the fuel cock which increases filtering efficiency. Considering how pure our fuel is, this bit is sure to make a lot of difference in the long haul.
As a result, compared to the current engine, the Discover ST’s mill now makes a very impressive 13PS at a higher 9000 rpm. Torque however remains the same at 10.78Nm but again made at a peaky 6500rpm. To know how impressive these figures are, just check the power figures of 150cc bikes of a couple of years back. The ST now makes the same or a little more power from a 125cc unit. Says a lot, doesn’t it?
So how does the ST perform in the real world? While we are yet to test the bike for numbers, the ST comes across as a strong performer. Power delivery feels nice and linear and going through the 5-speed gearbox is an absolute breeze. What is especially noticeable is the newfound smoothness and brilliant gearing. To see how flexible the engine was, I dropped speeds to as low as 15km/h in 5th gear and then whacked the throttle open. The bike surged ahead without a single knock as the speedo wound its way from 15km/h all the way to 80km/h in the same gear as I ran out of road. The engine also feels pretty comfortable at non-commuting speeds which would range between 60 and 80km/h. As far as performance is concerned, Bajaj has got it bang on the money.
Beneath that sculpted body is a semi double cradle frame with a triangular structure connected by a vertical strut. As a result the best balance of durability and rigidity is achieved. For better NVH levels, the engine mounts are integrated for a vibe free performance. There is also a bigger tube cross section for the swingarm with needle bearings which aids extreme cornering stiffness.
But the show stealer here is the rear suspension set-up. For the first time, the 125cc segment sees the inclusion of a mono suspension unit. A piggyback nitrox gas canister takes care of the damping. The rigid chassis and the monoshock suspension set-up give the Discover ST a very nimble feel. Even when leaned over enthusiastically, the bike feels nice and planted. While a few did have problems with the TVS tyres, I think grip levels are more than acceptable.
But since we shot mostly on good tarmac, only a full test will reveal how the tyres perform over a variety of surfaces. The rear suspension is a bit on the stiff side but it evens out nicely with a pillion on board. The 200mm petal disc at the front coupled with the 130mm drums at the rear work well when the anchors are dropped. However, the front brakes could do with a little more bite.
While prices are yet to be revealed, expect the Discover ST to be priced at a slight premium over the current Discover 125. So who does the ST go up against considering the current Discover is already doing well against the competition? If you ignore the slow selling Gladiator 125, the ST does not really have any direct competition. In fact if it does well it will pretty much spawn a Sport Touring commuter segment. It definitely has the goods and Bajaj definitely seems to have another winner on its hands. Pricing however will be a key factor in the ST’s success. Watch out for a full blown road test soon!