On paper, the Pulsar 125 Neon seems to be an attractive entry-point into the Pulsar family. But is it the sporty 125 you’ve been waiting for?
The 125cc two-wheeler segment is aimed at people who are looking for motorcycles that are cheap to buy, fun to ride and easy on the pocket. On one side, we have the Hero Glamour Fi, Super Splendor, Honda CB Shine SP and a few more entries. On the other end of the spectrum lies the KTM 125 Duke and RC 125 whose primary focus is performance. However, Bajaj has brought a new contender to this fight - the Pulsar 125 Neon - which is not only affordable to own but also wears a badge which is synonymous with performance. We have ridden the entry-level Pulsar in the city, on the highway and even on some serpentine roads to check if it strikes the right balance between affordability and fun in the 125cc segment.
- Matte black shade along with blue highlights is a head-turner.
- It gets a clip-on handlebar, which is a segment-first feature.
- The plastic quality on the Pulsar 125 feels top-notch.
- The seat cushioning is on the harder side.
- Engine feels a bit strained at high-speeds.
- It is the heaviest of all 125s on sale in India.
- The suspension setup can soak up undulations really well.
- The 125cc engine makes just 2PS less than the Pulsar 150!
- It is the most affordable Pulsar on sale right now.
In terms of design, the Pulsar 125 Neon and the Pulsar 150 Neon look exactly the same. However, Bajaj has introduced a new black/blue paint option to differentiate the two motorcycles. Apart from the ‘125’ and ‘Pulsar’ badging, there are absolutely no styling highlights thrown on it. It’s simple, it’s sober and we like it!
Although it’s an entry-level Pulsar, the fit and finish on this bike is the same as you’d see on other Pulsars and even the plastic quality is top-notch. However, the welds on the fuel tank and frame are quite visible, and the paint on the frame isn’t super well finished either. But we’re just nitpicking and there isn’t any aspect of the quality that’s really questionable.
Get in the saddle and you’ll quickly realise that this is a very familiar place to be. And that’s thanks to the slightly sporty stance being identical to the Pulsar 150 Neon. Despite having clip-on handlebars (first in its class with the exception of the substantially more expensive KTM RC 125), the riding position is comfortable as they’re slightly high-set and the footpegs are perfectly placed as well. But what isn’t comfortable is the seat. Even though it’s roomy, the cushioning is noticeably on the harder side.
Technology & Features:
The Pulsar 125 Neon gets the same old orange-backlit semi-digital instrument cluster which does its job of displaying speed, fuel level, trip distance, odometer and other info in a crisp manner. However, we feel that this layout is getting a bit dated now and Bajaj might want to bring a new design just to freshen things up. Apart from this, there’s the usual stuff like the AHO (Automatic Headlamp On) feature and backlit switchgear that you’d find on bigger Pulsars.
Engine & Performance:
Bajaj Pulsar 125 Neon
Honda CB Shine SP
Hero Glamour Fi
12PS @ 8500rpm
10.3PS @ 7500rpm
11.7PS @ 7500rpm
11Nm @ 6500rpm
10.3Nm @ 5500rpm
11Nm @ 6000rpm
30-70kmph in 3rd gear
40-80kmph in 4th gear
First things first, the 124.4cc engine in the Pulsar 125 Neon isn’t an all-new unit and neither is it the same as the one that powers the Discover 125. This is, in fact, the Pulsar 150’s motor with the stroke reduced from 60.7mm to 50.5mm. This effectively gives this motor a short-stroke configuration and that makes it quite revvy. Of course, the power and torque figures have come down compared to the 150 - 12 PS and 11Nm. That’s 2PS and 2.4Nm from lesser than the Pulsar 150. So while you won’t get the same level of performance as the Pulsar 150, this little Pulsar has a similar ‘get-up-and-go’ attitude as its bigger sibling. Unfortunately, that attitude doesn’t translate into outright performance. It sprints from 0-60kmph in 7.11 seconds, which is 0.56 seconds slower than the Hero Glamour Fi. Blame this on the 140kg kerb weight (which makes this Pulsar 15kg heavier than the Glamour). Also, while getting off the line, thanks to its 100/90-section rear tyre, the Pulsar’s motor needs to overcome higher rolling inertia compared to the Glamour.
So clearly, the Pulsar 125 isn’t winning any drag races against other (lighter) commuter 125s. But it does seem to be more at home on the highway compared to these commuters. Out on the open road, the Pulsar 125 can cruise at 75-80kmph with minimal vibes, although overtaking at these speeds requires a downshift. Beyond 80kmph though, you do feel vibrations at the footpegs and the handlebar. Also, while the 125 is capable of accelerating beyond this point, you can feel the engine beginning to run out of steam.
While most 125cc bikes are focused on low-end grunt, the Pulsar 125 Neon’s focus (being positioned as a sporty 125) is more on the mid- to high-end grunt. Because of this, you’ll end up keeping the bike in a lower-gear during stop-and-go traffic situations. This can be seen in our roll-on acceleration test. Although it can go from 30-70kmph in 3rd gear in 8.1 seconds (which is the quickest amongst its rivals), when it comes to the 40-80kmph sprint, it is 1.76 seconds slower than the CB Shine SP.
This might seem a bit contradictory, but even though the Pulsar 125 Neon is slightly slower than other 125cc commuters, it somehow ends up feeling more fun as it manages to replicate the engine characteristics of its larger sibling. However, this fun comes at the expense of fuel economy, at least against other conventional 125s. The Pulsar 125 Neon delivers 51.46kmpl in the city and 57kmpl on the highway. To put it into perspective, the Honda CB Shine SP currently leads the class by returning a significantly higher 62kmpl in the city and 65kmpl on the highway.
Ride & Handling:
The Pulsar 125 Neon shares its underpinnings with the bigger Pulsars, which means the frame and the suspension components are identical. The suspension hardware can soak up mild undulations with ease and even on slightly bumpy surfaces at city speeds, the motorcycle remains composed.
It comes equipped with a 240mm disc at the front and 130mm drum at the rear, which is the same setup that you get on the CB Shine SP and the Glamour Fi. However, you need to squeeze the lever quite hard to get some bite from the brakes, especially under panic braking. Thankfully, the CBS system works well and helps stabilise the bike under hard braking by adding a bit of front brake when you use the rear. Overall, though, the braking package could have been sharper, especially given that the 125 is a fairly enthusiastic handler.
In the city, the spot-on configuration of the seat, footpegs and the handlebar really works in the 125’s favour, making it easy for you to extract the agility that it sports. However, in tightly packed traffic, at really slow speeds, manoeuvring it can be a bit strenuous owing to its relatively high kerb weight which makes the steering a bit heavy. Speaking of tight situations, the Pulsar 125 has the same ride height as the other 125s, making it quite accessible for average Indians. This entry-level Pulsar continues to amaze us with its handling on the highway as well. With a longest-in-class wheelbase of 1320mm, the motorcycle feels quite stable while cruising down the highway. While the front tyre size is the same as the other 125s, the rear tyre (100/90x17) is the widest in its class and offers an adequate amount of grip even during wet conditions.
The Pulsar 125 Neon is available in two variants. While the base-spec front drum brake equipped variant is priced at Rs 64,000, the front disc version retails at Rs 66,618 (ex-showroom Delhi).
The Pulsar 125 Neon does what it’s supposed to do: give the rider a taste of the Pulsar’s sporty DNA but in a stress-free, relatively more affordable package. However, its lower-than-its-class fuel-efficiency will perhaps not appeal to the more conservative 125cc buyers; for that aspect, the Glamour and CB Shine SP are still the better bets.
However, the Pulsar 125 does make a lot of sense for a novice rider looking for a motorcycle with a bit of oomph without having to forego one’s entire life savings (we’re looking at you, KTM!). However, its biggest competition is not the typical 125 league but its own sibling, the Pulsar 150 Neon. Priced at Rs 71,200 (ex-showroom), the Pulsar 150 Neon is just around Rs 4,500 more expensive than the Pulsar 125. And that small premium gets you not only more performance but also single-channel ABS, which, if you ask us, is a darn good deal!