As we gear up for the eventual launch of the XPulse, here’s a throwback to Hero’s first crack at the on/off-road segment
Too soon. Ahead of its time. Too radical. Too tall. Too under powered. Just some of the hypotheses put forward to explain the Impulse bombing spectacularly on the sales charts. They’re all probably correct. Or they’re all missing the wood for the tress, ignoring the fact that Hero never believed in the Impulse. They never pushed it and never took the time and effort to build that on/off-road segment, in the manner that Triumph have done with the Tiger. Yet for a bike that got no love when it was launched, the Impulse is now the most in-demand out-of-production bike after, I’m guessing, the RD 350. Nobody wants to sell their Impulse. And for a 150cc bike, the used prices are quite crazy.
It’s not hard to see why. As a commuter the Impulse is still excellent. It has very comfortable seating, a very comfortable ride and there are no problems at all with the on-road handling. Good roads, bad roads, you stand on the pegs, jump speed breakers and don’t brake for potholes. Commute times are shaved by half. And while tall, I have to clarify that it isn’t intimidating. In fact everybody calls my friend Sunil, who owns the bike I’m riding, Chotu – a direct reference to him being vertically challenged. This is Chotu’s runabout to beat traffic in Pune, so where’s the question of it not selling because of being too tall?
As for the styling being too radical…. What? I can’t see it. What is radical about it? I think it still looks cool after all these years.
Yes, you can complain about it not having enough power. The 150cc motor is just about adequate and in fact this bike is one of the very few to not be retro-fitted with the Karizma’s 220cc engine, the most common mod to the Impulse be it is for rally raids (plenty of them still in the hands of privateers!), weekend dirt-track hooning, or just everyday street use.
In terms of capability though the Impulse is still unmatched. What it loses out on grunt it makes up in ability. If you want to learn to ride off-road this still is by far and away the best bike to start on. Light, agile, controllable and forgiving the Impulse also has very good suspension travel and excellent ergonomics. Plus if you fall there’s nothing (on the bike, not you!) that will break. It is so good Markus Braunsperger, the boss of Hero’s massive R&D setup (built up after the Impulse was launched and then ignored), has repeatedly told me the Impulse is the best bike Hero made. He rode an Impulse to the Himalayas and laughed at his friends on their Bullets. He’s also the person behind Hero’s Dakar program (“the world’s toughest commute”, as he’s fond of terming it) and signing up C S Santosh to the team. And that gives me the confidence to tell Chotu that the upcoming XPulse 200 will finally be the upgrade to the Impulse he’s been crying for. I just hope this time round it isn’t too late.