Back when Hero Motocorp were still Hero Honda, they had set enthusiasts’ heart pounding with the CBZ, India’s first 150cc ‘performance’ offering, paving the way for the Pulsars and Fieros and whatnot. However, two decades on, with market focus having shifted to the higher capacities, the 160cc bikes of today are more like scaled-down versions of their larger siblings. That the Xtreme 160R isn’t so is the very first thing that impresses.
Next, the Xtreme 160R is based on the Xtreme 1.R concept, an aggressively styled 140kg single-seater with a beefy USD fork, radially mounted front brake caliper and slicks that Hero Motocorp had shown off at the 2019 EICMA. The fact the road-going Xtreme 160R carries over a majority of the styling elements (and the kerb weight too!), albeit with a conventional two-up seat and right side up forks, is yet another feather in its cap.
In the flesh
The Xtreme 160R looks striking, yet not overdone. What impresses is the design (created in-house at the brand’s Centre of Innovation and Technology (CIT) facility at Jaipur), which looks ultra-modern without adding unnecessary elements (cough cough, Pulsar 160NS, cough cough). The seamless tank shroud/side panel, the very first thing you notice in profile, immediately imparts a ‘premium’ feel, further reinforced by the all-LED headlights, taillights and indicators, a segment first. Speaking of which, the smoked treatment given to the taillight to help it better merge with the integrated pillion handles initially seems like an unnecessary detail. But surprisingly, the taillight works brilliantly and is clearly visible even under the bright sun. And now let’s climb onto the saddle...
The one-piece saddle with a 790mm rider’s seat height is shaped well and easily accommodates riders of all statures, with the small bump separating the pillion seat from the rider’s acting as the perfect bum-stop when pushing slightly higher speeds. The seat is cushioned well and along with the 7-step adjustable monoshock will undoubtedly mean comfortable ride quality, so let’s find out, shall we?
On the move
Thumb the starter and you hear a muted, yet audible exhaust note, reinforcing the Xtreme 160R’s sporty credentials. From the rider’s seat, the reach to the wide handlebar seems perfect, as does the position of the footpegs, allowing for a sporty yet comfortable rider’s triangle. The plastic shrouds covering most of the tank still leave enough space for knee recesses, and won’t foul with even the tallest riders’ knees (endorsed by your six-foot-plus correspondent). The gearbox shifts easily, and despite quite some low-speed riding, gave no instances of undue juddering or false neutrals.
The eager throttle response from the BS6-ready 163cc engine means you can get off the line cleanly at the traffic lights. But it is at mid-to-higher speeds that the Xtreme 160R truly impresses. Agreed, the 15bhp and 14Nm output may not be class-leading, but its low kerb weight, all-new diamond-type frame and competent MRF rubber means darting through small gaps in traffic seems quite easy.
And that’s not all. Remember what we had said about ride comfort? Yup, this is where you get the full extent of its capabilities. Too often we see sporty handling compromised by stiff ride quality, however this is an area the Xtreme 160R impresses, as it deals with road undulations as well as mid-corner bumps quite well, without undue wallowing. This, by the way, holds true for two-up riding as well, where our photographer Rohit was not bounced around in the pillion seat as we scouted for an empty enough stretch of road. Speaking of which, the integrated pillion grab handles worked admirably, with Rohit never needing to grab on too hard or telling me to slow down, even over a few bumpy sections of Tarmac.
All you’re looking for?
The Xtreme 160R has a peppy (though not particularly powerful) engine, darty handling, comfortable ride and competent brakes, which despite having single-channel ABS, will rarely be a cause for concern. That said, it isn’t perfect. Case in point being the negatively-lit cluster, which shows only basic readouts, and seems slightly difficult to read in bright sunlight. Another niggle (yes, we’re picking at straws here) is the awkward placement of the side stand right below the left footpeg, engaging which will scuff the back of your boots.
Overall, however, the Xtreme 160R is a departure from the usual ‘safe’ thought process people have come to associate with Hero Motocorp. Priced at Rs 99,950 for the front disc only variant and Rs 1,03,500 for the front and rear disc variant (prices ex-showroom, Delhi), and considering the stellar built-to-last quality it exudes, the Xtreme 160R might be exactly what the brand needs to make its mark in the 160cc space.