The Bajaj Discover is back in conventional territory, with its 125 DTSi engine. We pit it against the outright leader of the category, the Honda CB Shine, to see if it can change the dynamics of the tricky commuter space. Sopan Sharma compares
As the ZigWheels team got involved in a heated discussion for the location of this latest shoot, ideas were flying thick through the air. One part of the debaters – the adventurers, (mostly the ones who have a marked dislike for keyboards and hard work) wanted to try new locations and go for some shots of the bikes in city environs where they will almost always be ridden. The other bunch wanted to go with the usual (read wrap-up-work-ASAP), head to our favourite ghat and go with the uncluttered theme of the mountains, which usually works well for us when it comes to shooting motorcycles. After checking out the ‘adventurous’ locations and shooting at them, we did eventually return to the mountains, and guess what, we got our final shots there. Was it a convincing case for the conventional then? Maybe. Bajaj Auto seems to have a better one.
The bike maker’s will to do something different from other manufacturers, even in the plain-jane commuter space, has often spawned some interesting models over the years. Bikes like the Wind 125, the Caliber 115 and the Discover 135 all set to distinguish themselves through enhanced displacement for prices lower than the competition. The massively inertial market meant that some of these were hit-or-miss. The rate at which they were either upgraded or, in more recent times, replaced by equivalent ‘Discover’ models indicated that while the unconventional displacements offered were getting response, they weren’t doing much for building the brand. All this seems to be going out of the parts-sharing window though, with Bajaj Auto’s return to the 125cc category with the Discover 125 DTSi.
We already know the Discover brand, and the sort of feel that the bikes consistently have through its range, so a full-blown review was not really what we were looking for. Instead, we decided to pit it against the long standing ruler of the class, the bike that helped Honda establish itself as a serious player in India – the CB Shine. This is the bike that has been consistently delivering for Honda ever since it was launched, and before rivals knew it, it had taken the same place in the 125cc segment that Hero Honda had enjoyed for so long in the 100cc commuter space. One look at the bike, and you know exactly why it has hit off as well as it did – it is the 125cc equivalent of a Hero Honda. Big shoes for the new Discover to try and fill then? Only one way to find out for sure and it belongs in the saddle.
We may not fancy this form of motorcycling much, but commuters are at the root of making India the two-wheeler superpower that it is today. And as the name of this segment suggests, these are bikes made to be used for thoroughfare through busy city streets, with extended stints on the seat through good roads and bad. While fuel efficiency is the single largest deciding factor for bikes here, ride comfort comes a close second, especially since most manufacturers now have fuel efficiency figures within a kilometer or two of each other for every litre of petrol.
And in the comfort department, the CB Shine is the outright winner. It all starts with the wide, cushy seat and a lower saddle height compared to the Discover 125, which makes the Shine a more welcoming bike to step on to. A wide tank with nice recesses to grip, and well-positioned handlebars complete the ergonomic package of the Shine, especially in favour of commuters with liberal girth. The Discover on the other hand takes being slim a little too seriously, which does not quite add points to it when it comes to long hauls.
The suspension setup on the Shine is also softer, more pliant and more comfortable in general - which is strange since the Discover carries gas-charged shocks at the rear. The only place where the Shine loses out on in terms of comfort are the liberal vibes which become increasingly irritating even at city cruise speeds of around 50 km/h. The short-geared four-speed gearbox does nothing to aid the Shine in this case.
Gas it up:
If the Shine is the ultra-comfy hardcore commuter for middle-aged gentlemen, the Discover 125 DTSi most certainly is the light, peppy and youthful bike for the next generation. In its latest iteration, the bike still remains absolutely true to the Discover genealogy, with light and agile handling, great midrange grunt and a high level of overall refinement. While the Bajaj’s kerb weight of 119.5 kg for the disc brake version is very close to the Shine’s 121 kg, the bike’s manners on the road send a very different signal – one of flickability and quick direction changes. Aided by good pull throughout the rev range in all gears, and communicative brakes, the Discover 125 has the edge as the performance bike.
The fifth gear in the box aids the Discover extract better fuel efficiency figures on the highway, where the Shine’s engine begins to feel stretched. And it’s not just about the speed; the returnee commuter also returns better fuel efficiency figures than the Shine. For the same litre of petrol, our test Discover 125 DTSi traveled 68 kilometres in mixed conditions, as compared to the Shine which could stretch it only to 62.3 clicks.
Cornering is also more surefooted with the Disco, with enough feedback coming in from the suspension and chassis. The budget Eurogrip tyres too find their way to the 125 though, like its other cousins and grip is nothing to write home about, but that does not take points away from the great feel that the bike has. The Shine’s soft setup on the other hand hinders an enthusiastic cornering experience, moving around quite a lot when leant over at speed.
A question of taste:
Design once again is not a deal breaker in this segment, and the template set by Hero Honda in the mid 90’s still carries along, mostly since buyers are used to it and refuse to demand for more. While the Shine recognizes this fact, and remains pretty non-controversial, yet classy in its approach towards design, the Discover takes edgy cues from its cousins and attempts to bring a sense of style into an otherwise visually boring segment. That includes the Magneto-style bikini fairing and the sculpted tank, apart from the smart tail-lamp section.
In fact, that is symbolic of the different sorts of riders and buyers that the two bikes have been made for. Even though they exist in the same segment and are priced close to each other, the CB Shine remains the more conventional commuter which has its success in not trying too much. The Discover 125 DTSi on the other hand is trying a lot of things, in terms of design, performance and technology, to hook the next generation of commuters, and warrants an almost equal credit. Bike per bike for its purpose though, the Honda is a tough cookie to beat, and wins this comparison in our eyes despite the style and the pep of the new challenger from Bajaj Auto.
Bajaj Discover 125 DTSi
Engine: Single cylinder, 4-stroke, air cooled, DTS-i
Power: 11PS @ 8,000rpm
Torque: 10.8Nm @ 5,500rpm
Kerb weight: 119.2kg
0-60 km/h: 6.2 sec
Top speed: 102.2 km/h
Fuel efficiency: 68 kmpl
Price (ex-showroom): ` 48,000
- The Bajaj Discover 125 DTSi comes with the same basic characteristics as the rest of its family - good mid-range grunt, easy and flickable handling and good dynamics. It also offers better fuel efficiency.
Honda CB Shine
Engine: Single cylinder, 4-stroke, air cooled
Power: 10.8PS @ 7,500rpm
Torque: 10.8Nm @ 5,500rpm
Kerb weight: 121kg
0-60 km/h: 6.9 sec
Top speed: 94.8 km/h
Fuel efficiency: 62.5 kmpl
Price (ex-showroom): ` 52,000
- The Honda CB Shine is the more experienced commuter of the lot, much like the riders who will end up riding it. Calm, composed and no frills is the approach. And just like them, the bike could certainly use a dash of excitement and style!