The Fastest Indian. This was the phrase often used to describe the Bajaj Pulsars. The Pulsar brand came into being in 2001 with the launch of the Pulsar 150 and the Pulsar 180. The goal of the company was simple, democratise performance. And that it definitely did. The Pulsar range of motorcycles immediately became the poster child of thrills on a budget. It has even been our go-to platform for smashing crazy records like the longest no hands wheelie and the fastest quarter-mile wheelies as well. The Pulsar brand is also what put Bajaj on the international map. And now, exactly 20 years after the launch of the original Pulsar, Bajaj has added to its lineup, the biggest Pulsars yet — the Pulsar F250 and the N250. Now, that you know all about the new Pulsars, why don’t we rewind a little and take a look at the roots, where it all began for the Pulsar brand.
This is genesis, this is where it all began for the Pulsar name. Definitely male was the tagline Bajaj advertised the bike. The first-ever Pulsars were launched in 2001 and were called the Pulsar 150 and the Pulsar 180. These were extremely sophisticated bikes for the time, offering first-in-class levels of performance while remaining practical as well. The 150 made around 11.82bhp while the 180 made 14.7bhp. And best of all, these bikes were mated to a 5-speed gearbox. Interestingly, the five-speed gearbox on the 150 had an all up shift pattern. The Pulsars instantly became the Thrill of Riding benchmark with their sorted chassis. This was a big deal considering bikes like the TVS Fiero and the Hero CBZ were still around, so the Bajaj was really cutting edge at the time! The bikes got their first facelift in 2003 with the UG-1 which got with it a bikini fairing and a redesigned headlamp.
The first significant upgrade for the Pulsars came with the 2004 UG-2 update. With this update, the 18-inch spoked rims were downsized to 17-inch alloy wheels and that in tandem with the new ‘nitrox twin shock absorbers’ further improved the handling characteristics of the Pulsars. But, that was not all. The engineers at Bajaj also introduced its patented DTS-i short for Digital Twin Spark ignition technology which not only improved the combustion process but also bumped up the power of the 150 and the 180 to 13hp and 16hp respectively. The Pulsar 180 also got an all-black theme for this generation.
This UG-3 update was another significant one. This generation didn’t bring with it any mechanical updates however Bajaj really fattened up the feature list of the Pulsars with this gen. The bikes now got updated styling with sharper body panels, the iconic twin stripe tail light design was also introduced with this generation. The headlight also got sharper with new ‘wolf-eyed’ as Bajaj would call it, styled pilot lamps. Now apart from the cosmetic changes the bikes were also equipped with features like a digital speedometer, an engine killswitch, backlit switchgear, an RPM shift light and self-cancelling flexible turn signals that were less prone to breaking.
Next up was the Bajaj Pulsar 200 DTS-i and what brought with it the Worlds fastest Indian tagline — the Pulsar 220 DTS-Fi. The Pulsar 200 was amongst the first oil-cooled bikes in the company’s stable. It featured split seats, an electric starter, a wider 120-section rear tyre and sharper styling. Then there was this, the Bajaj Pulsar 220 DTS-Fi. As the name suggested, the 220 DTS-Fi featured fuel injection and this was a first for the company. The bike got all-new styling with a new fairing, a funky looking headlamp and a rear disc brake, another-segment first feature. The bigger 220cc engine with around 20hp on tap also meant that it was the most powerful Pulsar of its time, the fastest too. However, as much of a pinnacle, it was, adding fuel injection to the bike, this move wasn’t the success story Bajaj hoped it would be. The FI system was not perfect and the bike was soon launched with a carburettor and rebadged the Pulsar 220 DTS-i
2009 saw the launch of the smallest Pulsar, the 135LS DTS-i. This was the first time Bajaj used a four-valve engine with its DTS-i technology. This 135cc four-stroke, four-valve engine was good for around 13hp and 11.4Nm of torque. The Pulsar 135 LS also looked the most different in the lineup while retaining Pulsar DNA. Along with the introduction of the Pulsar 135LS, the Pulsar 180 DTS-i was updated with a split seat design, clip-on handlebars, and a wider 120-section tyre all features lifted off of the Pulsar 200.
The Pulsar NS200 was the start of a new chapter for Bajaj. Short for naked sports, the NS200 was the most powerful Pulsar launched with its KTM derived engine. This meant that it was also the most advanced one with features like a liquid-cooled DTS-i triple spark engine mated to a six-speed gearbox, a stiff perimeter frame and a gas-charged monoshock that also made it the best handling Pulsar to date. Despite being launched in 2012, the bike is still on sale and still makes a strong case for itself. Heck, it’s even been our weapon of choice for breaking national records.
The Bajaj Pulsar RS200 took the handling characteristics of the NS 200 and took it one step further with a slightly more committed riding stance, a fully-faired design and sportbike styling. It got all the things the NS200 was loved for like its engine, stiff frame and added more features like twin projector headlamps.
Bajaj also launched two more faired bikes that year but with a different intent. The AS short for Adventure Sports 150 and 200 were launched. The bike was intended to be a long-distance touring alternative to the NS 200 and to that end, it was essentially an NS 200 with fairing, a tall windscreen and a more comfortable riding position. Though not enough was done to make it a truly different bike and eventually Bajaj pulled the plug on it.
Bajaj launched the Pulsar NS160 in 2016 to give customers the experience of the NS200 but with a smaller power plant in between the perimeter frame. This was also the most affordable NS that was until the NS125 came out five years later. The NS160 is still on sale and we have also used it to smash a national record.
The Bajaj Pulsar 125 was launched in 2019 and it stole the title of the smallest Pulsar from the 135LS. The bike was powered by a marginally detuned version of the NS160’s engine but with less displacement. It gets most of its cycle parts from its bigger sibling, the Pulsar 150 DTS-i. In terms of design, you could easily mistake it for the Pulsar 150 or 18 until you notice the smaller disc brake and skinnier tyres.
The Bajaj Pulsar NS125 is the third, latest and the smallest NS in Bajaj’s lineup of Pulsars. The Pulsar NS125 blended the user-friendly and frugal performance of the Pulsar 125 with the dynamic package (perimeter frame and suspension) from the NS160. The NS160 became the go-to for anyone looking to start their motorcycling adventures on a budget.
20 years after launching the original Pulsar 150 and 180 (now commonly referred to as the Bajaj Pulsar Classic) Bajaj has launched the Pulsar F250 and N250. Now, these are the biggest pulsars to date with their brand new 249.07cc single-cylinder engine. The engine is good for 24.1bhp and 21Nm and is mated to a five-speed gearbox unlike the six-speeders found on the NS and RS. The design of the bikes is also new while retaining the quintessential Pulsar DNA. Even the chassis setup is all-new with a new steel-tubular frame that uses the engine as a load-bearing member. Suspension duties are handled by a 37mm telescopic fork set up in the front and a monoshock at the rear.
You can also watch our video in which we ride all the generations of the Pulsars along with the new Pulsar 250s
Do you have any fond memories of the Pulsar range of motorcycles? Let us know in the comments section of this story.