Hero Impulse : Road Test
- by Varad More
- Nov 29, 2011
- Views : 141611
The first product from Hero Motocorp, the impulse ushers in a new class of motorcycles that ideally should have been introduced long ago. But, Better late than never they say and the Impulse surely is here to stay with its charming adventure bike poise matched by an equally competent off-road friendly dynamics. This Hero has a lot more to it than what meets the eye
Despite being the second largest motorcycle market in the world, the Indian motorcycle space has always had a massive void with regard to diversity of products. While there have been some bold initiatives in the context of off-roaders and cruisers, their makers have failed to keep the steam going. The off-roader segment in particular holds tremendous potential in India, but no manufacturer has had a single decent offering since the Bajaj SX Enduro happened in the nineties. But all that is set to change with the arrival of the impressive off-roading machine from Hero MotoCorp, the Hero Impulse, which seems ideal for Indian roads and is a much needed shot in the arm for the steadily evolving Indian two-wheeler industry.
The origins of Hero MotoCorp’s first entrant in the Indian market can be traced to Brazil, where Honda sells this gorgeous looking 150cc off-roader as the Honda Bros 150. Unveiled amidst a lot of fanfare at the brand launch in London, Hero MotoCorp ensured that the Impulse drew enough eyeballs, what with top Bollywood celebs and stars in attendance. Interestingly, the Hero Impulse has what it takes to be the centre of attraction, since it has no competition in the Indian market currently.
But besides looking different from the current crop of motorcycles sold in India, the Impulse also signifies Hero MotoCorp’s bold move to venture into an all-new domain, leaving behind its ever popular 100cc-125cc commuter bandwagon. And they seem to have got their act right again with a new, fresh yet practical offering like they did almost three decades ago with the CD 100 SS, when two-strokes ruled the roost. What the Impulse brings to the table has a lot to do with where the two-wheeler industry is heading. The number of enthusiastic buyers looking for more than just commuters is growing with each passing day and everyone is looking for that extra bit for their moolah. And Hero has hit the nail right on the head with the Impulse’s exclusive true blue go-anywhere appeal and committed off-roader stance.
Besides looking the part, the Impulse is also brilliant at doing its job, which is what we shall speak about before getting to the design or tech talk. Packaged around a semi double cradle frame made of high tensile steel tubing which holds the 149.2cc engine in place, the feel and feedback from the chassis is outstandingly spot-on and precise with regard to what is happening between the tyres and the road, or in this case, dirt. The trademark off-roading long front forks with 180mm of travel do a fantastic job at damping the shocks and bumps on the road without any of it reaching the rider and without compromising the handling at the cost of overall ride quality.
Hero Impulse Photo Gallery:
The Showa mono suspension unit at the rear is directly linked to a box section swingarm and has been tuned to off-road friendly settings allowing newbies to try basic jumps or ride over off-road terrain with ease. The combination of 19-inch and 17-inch spoke wheels on front and rear, respectively – clubbed with its massive 245mm ground clearance, give the Impulse a great ability to easily clamber over rocks and boulders without drama. Riding the Hero Impulse over the harshest of terrains was a revelation as to how composed, planted and sure-footed the bike felt dealing with every bump in its path. Certainly this is not an all-out off-roader, so keep that ambitious air-time for something bigger like a 223cc Impulse complimented with a beefier front suspension! But as a beginner’s bike to master the art of dirt riding, the Impulse is right out there, the only one as of now!
Bring it back to tarmac roads and the Impulse’s super motard genes are quick to come to the fore. The easy steering Impulse is quick to change direction and the well damped suspension absorbs the bumps smoothly without unsettling the rider and making him feel in control at all times. Its balanced chassis and rider-friendly ergonomics go a long way in making the Impulse a hoot to ride. The straight up wide handlebars and the long flowing seat merging into the small-ish fuel tank together hand the Impulse a solid off-road friendly riding stance. The seat-bars-pegs geometry is devised in a manner that offers a phenomenally comfortable and confident riding posture making the rider feel at ease astride the Impulse instantly.
As much as it feels at home on dirt, the Impulse is just as comfortable and easy to maneuver in city traffic. The saddle height of 835mm may intimidate the stubby rider, but get on to the bike and as the soft suspension settles down, the ride height is no more an issue. Scything through tight gaps in traffic is a breeze with the short rake and the light steering of the Impulse and minimal effort is needed to get the motorcycle pointing in the right direction. And the well damped suspension set-up means slowing down for bad patches on the roads is the least of your worries. Keep the throttle open and glide over potholes with conviction.
Despite the confidence inspiring dynamics with the sorted feel and enthusiasm, the 149.2cc Impulse motor - identical to the one employed in the Honda Unicorn and Hero’s other 150cc offerings, feels a bit lazy and a bit of a slouch in its power delivery. The carb-fed engine makes 13.2PS of power at 7,500rpm and though the figure is on par with its competition, it doesn’t really match up to the excitement the chassis endows it with. However, the 13.4Nm of torque available low down from 5,000rpm provides the Impulse with impressive low end grunt to easily scale steep inclines and obstacles.
But a perky little off-roader like the Impulse demands a peppier and lively feel from the motor which excites and tickles the rider each time he whacks open the throttle. Barring the way the power is delivered in a typical Honda-like ultra smooth fashion, there is nothing technically wrong with the tried and tested engine. Fairly quick off the line with a 0-60km/h time of 5.12 seconds, the Impulse is not a dud but just a bit too sophisticated for an off-roader, which is instantly evident as soon as the motor breathes to life with the exhaust letting out a rather soft drone.
Hero Impulse Photo Gallery:
A little louder exhaust note, not an eardrum shredding growl but one that added more punch to the Impulse’s off-roading capabilities and its charismatic form, would have certainly gone a long way in endorsing the motorcycle’s overall allure. As a design, the Impulse is spot-on with its off-road styling cues and its tall stance. The front end gets a very youthful bikini fairing that holds a multi-reflector headlight unit in place. The raised front mudguard encircling the 19-inch wheel looks the part, while the tank gets nicely curved floating panels for added oomph.
The two-tone graphics are neatly done and endow the Impulse with a very sporty aura as they seamlessly flow from the tank to the centre panels. The LED tail lamp looks sleek and offers excellent illumination, mounted on a sturdily fixed rear mudguard. The beefy split grabrail is positioned accurately to provide excellent grip for the pillion without interfering or spoiling the curvy lines of the Impulse. The raised exhaust on the side completes the off-roader look and truly gives the Impulse the ability to be taken anywhere, and even through deep water crossings without having to worry about water entering the exhaust. And the semi off-road Ceat tyres on both ends complete the look.
As much as it looks the part, the Impulse also boasts impressive detailing like the spiked grippy rear brake pedal as well as bungee loops on the pillion footpeg hangers for tying down luggage safely. Knowing and understanding the psyche of the off-road enthusiast willing to explore places, behind the saddle there is also an arrangement for a rubber-surfaced rack to hold the luggage in place with a maximum payload of 7kg. Another interesting feature is the small storage compartment with a lock on the left had side below the seat to keep the essentials like papers, tools, first aid kit etc, behind which there is also a small locking mechanism for a helmet. There is certainly no dearth of features on this Hero and it packs in enough equipment to outrun any of the current 150cc contenders.
The only dubious component on the Hero Impulse is the 110mm rear drum brake that feels a bit weak and has a tendency to lock up instantly during hard braking. However, the 240mm front disc unit has a strong bite and does a decent job of bringing the Impulse to standstill from 60km/h in 15.76 metres and 2.12 seconds, while the Ceat rubber provides excellent feedback under braking on dirt as well as on tarmac with a smooth progression aided by a well damped suspension.
A truly versatile machine, the Hero Impulse is a genuine go-anywhere motorcycle that does many things well, while rewarding the rider with excitement and thrills without burning a hole in the pocket. With an overall fuel efficiency of 47kmpl, it’s not very frugal by current market standards but then it does a lot more than what its 150cc competition can. And all of this at an incredibly competitive price of Rs 66,800 (ex-showroom, Delhi) puts it directly in the line of fire but armed to the teeth, the Hero Impulse is certainly an able competitor in its segment. It’s only a matter of time then before other bike makers jump into the ring and bring out their respective on-/off-road motorcycles to counter Hero’s innovative impulse. Either way the average Indian biker now can play the grinning Roman Emperor perched atop the Colosseum and watch the gladiators do battle.
Hero Impulse Photo Gallery: