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Old 5th June 2014, 02:01   #1
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Default Replacing the KB-RTZ offroad specials - My Hero Impulse

A long history (that try as I might, I can't seem to make shorter), that finally leads up to the purchase of my first new (against dozens of used) motor vehicle ever:

I guess it started more than a decade ago in Bangalore. A student doctor friend from St. John's had a sideline of buying/selling bikes (at that time was trying to sell a fully restored RD350 for which he'd painfully lost the papers, having inadvertantly left them in an overhead storage when he'd left the hostel the previous year); but knowing Indian bikes well, his recommendation for me was to find a good second-hand K(awasaki)-Bajaj KB to buy - prices were way below that of the ever-popular RX's, they got much better mileage - and they sported a tachometer!

Instead, my heart was temporarily captured by a little Enfield Explorer cafe-racer, bright red with the original little front bikini and rear tail fairings, alloy wheels, and the terrifying little chrome-bored Zundapp 50cc two-stroke (they offered these bikes in Europe with disc brakes, water cooling, and 5-speeds). Excellent shape, purchased from the original elderly owner for six grand (a KB would've cost me ten in those days, an RX 25,000 and up). The featherweight "cafe racer" would do 70kph - with a strong tailwind. It did its job admirably the couple years I was in / around the city, and later in rural S. Andrha, where I ran it up and down smoothly paved and gloriously traffic-free stretches of the old grand trunk road.

(My KB100RTZ in its original form):
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I ended up in Himachal a few years later, and just when my need for transportation came up (i.e., when I made the move to a little village away from town), a dentist friend offered me his old '92 model KB100RTZ (which he'd bought new years before in med school in another KA city, Mangalore, having since replaced with a 535 Lightning, and finally a Wagon-R). The price? "Take it for nothing. Fix it up and use it, and give it to someone else who needs it when you're done with it." I was thrilled. It was black and though lately neglected was in surprisingly solid basic condition, with an unopened engine.

(Lean and mean - the purposeful KB in its final dual-sport iteration)
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Over the course of a few years, that KB - rebuilt and modified just a bit with imported IRC trials tyres, an extended swingarm with improved shocker mounting geometry (for softness, lengthened wheelbase, and greatly increased suspension travel), an imported set of enduro forks, and widened two-section seat - took me all over the Western Himalayas - from Manali to Leh, Nubra, Zanskar, Pangong; through Lahaul up over the treacherous and challenging Sach Pass to Chamba (perhaps among the first to do so after it became open to the public in 2007); across Uttarkhand, crossing into western Nepal; and all over other parts of Himachal besides. Apart from broken cables and once, a broken gear selector spring (repaired it roadside), it never, ever let me down. I frequently pushed man and machine to the limit and had a number of crazy crashes on that bike; but it was so light that it hardly could damage itself or the rider. The bike had a lot of soul and seemed SO eager and willing; I came to see it as pretty much the perfect bike for a solo traveler with light luggage - could better 100kmph, got over 40kpl in the hills (driven carefully), was extremely simple mechanically and hence utterly reliable, and it could run circles around Bullets on rough tracks, with a fabulous "sweet spot" around 50-60kph.

(Somewhere in Zanskar)
Replacing the KB-RTZ offroad specials - My Hero Impulse-f1320004.jpg


When the prospect of marriage loomed on the horizon, I figured something with a little more torque might be useful; the logical choice for me was (of course) the KB125 - a couple more bhp and a LOT more low-end grunt. But twelve years after production stopped, in a region where the RX's had totally dominated the scene, how/where was I to find one? Answer: in pieces in a mechanic's shop in Kullu. Bought it at just over scrap value at Rs3,500 and rebuilt it with my own hands, now with an upgrade to a 5-speed gearbox (imported) as well. Extremely torquey engine, so I could now run a bigger drive sprocket and lower rpm's out on the open road. The trick Nikasil-type plated all-aluminum cylinder block reduced the weight of the bike marginally over the 100's all-iron unit. What a blast this bike was to tear around in. Did a lot of similar riding to similar (and sometimes the same) places I'd done earlier on the first bike. When it turned 15 years old, I cleaned it up a bit and got it inspected by the RTO, who granted another five-years registration (I had to beg, though, as no turn indicators were fitted - seeming unnecessary for my purposes / riding destinations).

(In Spiti)
Replacing the KB-RTZ offroad specials - My Hero Impulse-f1000003.jpg

I built the bike with Spiti Valley in mind. And to Spiti I did go, to every high village I could get to and sometimes beyond, even in Pin Valley.

Later rode to Ladakh again, this time via the longer and extremely remote Tso Moriri route. Also toured the Western Nepal hills a bit, where a group of agitating tribal women at one point stood across the road at their blockade, the ringleader looking at me menacingly and starting to hit my front wheel with a stick just after I'd launched the sprightly KB up over their obstacles. Got up to Pithorogarh and Munsyari and unknown little places across UK, as well as nearer home, getting it into some places that motor vehicles had rarely if ever dared (i.e., Rajgunda, beyond Billing in Kangra, H.P.), enjoying it all and creating a lot of fine memories... EXCEPT THAT...

Oh, man... Somehow, this 125 just never seemed to have the spirit the 100 had. Yes, it was more powerful, at least in the midrange. Yes, driving around locally it was a lot of fun. But it lacked that eagerness, and when pushed hard, it seemed to complain. I guess that the greater strains on the otherwise identical crankshaft / bearings / cases, and the added vibes from the heavier piston, and the less damped noise of the iron-less cylinder, really served to make the bike a harsh, noisy, nasty companion on those long trips. That maiden voyage to Spiti had been a disaster, besides. A shocker shaft broke. The starter sprag broke, something impossible to fix on the road. I push-started the bike on those rough tracks all that following week, but the breakages forced me to rethink the plans to ride through to Kinnaur.

(The spot where the sprag broke, opposite Ki Monastery)
Replacing the KB-RTZ offroad specials - My Hero Impulse-f1000009.jpg[

Though in time, it ultimately proved to be a reliable bike, it had let me down at the start. It just had never really wanted to be my mule, and seemed to want for me to never forget that. I coaxed it to every place where I wanted to go these past few years... but it was forever irritating my tinnitus, and probably was the cause of a bit of actual, measurable hearing loss besides. I knew the party would have to end at some point, that none of this was really worth it. But there were two issues stalling its replacement, one practical and one emotional: First, I really felt that there was nothing out there available that I thought could ultimately do as good a job as this bike on the rough, steep terrain I rode just about daily; And second - honestly, now - the fact is that when I'd get it stoked up on a cool autumn night for a wild, power-tripped banzai run back up the valley from Manali, the thing simply took to flight and was just so inspiringly FUN!!! And I'd start weighing it all out again: possible hearing loss and continued adrenaline rushes, vs. resigning myself (very responsibly) to the boring side of motordom...

So what was I to do? (To be continued...)

Last edited by GTO : 5th June 2014 at 14:12. Reason: Moving your new post up :)
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Old 5th June 2014, 03:31   #2
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Default re: Replacing the KB-RTZ offroad specials - My Hero Impulse

Briefly, an assessment of the contenders, based on personal riding experience:

RE 350 Classic: Absolutely beautiful bike one could probably own for decades, with impressive FE for the size. But despite improvements, UCE engine still just too noisy, vibratory, and underpowered for my tastes, and the bike too heavy and too low-slung for my type of riding (and/or crashing). And then there's that ever-unadjustable headlight. Am told (by friends who own them) that the maintenance costs are high (500's even worse). In fact, it was a 500 Classic owner with extensive travel experience, who told me to definitely steer clear of RE.

Karizma: Nice package overall, but really more the road bike. Non-articulating headlamp not very practical in hill riding. Mileage only 25-30 up here. Seemed overly pricey considering the highly conventional, purely low-tech underpinnings. Not a whole lot lighter than a Bullet. Engines, though fairly strong, tend to get a bit rattley and loose sounding with age.

FZ16 : Father-in-law has one. Nicely refined engine, enough power for double-up hill riding, well balanced, seemed like a lot of bike for the price. But felt Yamaha compromised handling dynamics for the sake of looks a bit (i.e., fat rear tyre); I just never could corner that confidently on it. And anyway, something about fake petrol tanks really turns me off.

Duke/NS200: Great and truly modern machines - but for various reasons not really the best for my type of touring (re: the racy seating posture and pillion-unfriendly nature, the road-oriented suspensions and tyres, etc). No way to ride with my 2-1/2 year-old son up front, either, on account of their bulbous tanks.

Hero Impulse: Immediately interested when introduced. Finally a nice suspension on an Indian bike; but then heard from an internal source that the quality control had slacked a bit since the H-H days. Everyone said they were underpowered. Certainly heavier than this type / size of bike should be. Poor sales = questionable future parts supply. Prices had gone up, against the dollar/rupee rate. Then on top of that, there'd been labor unrest at the Gurgaon plant - and having heard past stories of how that sort of thing affected the final products produced during such times - finally - I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Test rode three of them, two of which had funny noises (not valves) in the engine. Didn't want to pay an advance to order a bike of unknown quality, and end up losing it when I found the machine unacceptable. Yet couldn't choose one off the showroom floor, because nobody up here was stocking them anymore.

Unicorn: Not actually too bad as a solo mountain tourer. Even better than the Hero in some ways (bigger tank, kill switch, center stand, great quality control, pretty reasonable to buy second-hand, wide seat and very comfy riding posture, etc); Had been to Chandra-Tal in Spiti astride one, and found myself completely unfatigued and pain-less even after the grueling Rohtang-Batal stretch. But front suspension and ground clearance not up to the KB's, breakable aluminum bits (those side bracket/rear footpeg mount things on each side), a little underpowered, and just not confidence-inspiring (for me) in terms of handling, especially on rough roads.

Aaaarghhh....!

So, as with anything else outside the heavenly realm, there was nothing approaching perfection on offer. So the question, I suppose, became: "What is the least imperfect of these?"

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Finally took the plunge yesterday two days back and bought a new, Terra Rossa (red) Hero Impulse (more photos later):

So why, you ask, after two years of consideration, buy a discontinued model that was looking a little storage-worn and a lot less shiny / fresh than anything else in the showroom? Simply, it came down to really needing a travel-worthy bike for the summer, and there not really being anything else out there right now as suited to the rough tracks I ride on, both locally and far beyond. The low-maintenance and high-mileage nature of the beast promised to make it easy to live with daily. Yes, I wish it had an adjustable rear shock, a kill switch, more tank capacity, beefier fork tubes, less weight, more power, more "normal" 1-2 gear ratios, and better quality plating, welds, and paint. But beggars can't be choosers, as they say. Every one of these weaknesses can be dealt with via upgrades later if/when I find it necessary. For now, I intend to make the most of it / enjoy it as much as possible as it is.

So I've got this bike. Red, just like my first ever ride (in childhood) - a friend's Honda XR-80 trail machine (it took me about five minutes of riding before I crashed it and ended up on my back in the water of a streambed); RED, just like a highschool friend's cammed-up XR200, on which a certain one of my feats caused him to remark, "I thought you were a dead man" (hit a meter high/wide ditch while speeding across a farm field at maybe 80kph - somehow not only survived, but kept it upright (the suspension on that thing was just SO HUGE!!)).

Cannot honestly say that the purchase / delivery process for the Impulse was pleasant overall. Nobody'd been stocking them here this past year, but on a whim called a week ago and asked if they had any. "No, but what color do you want, I'll call the factory and find out." A couple days passed with no intimation, and I concluded I'd probably never hear back from him. The third day I get a call saying a red one just arrived at the showroom. I was busy, so headed down after the weekend.

Called beforehand to make sure he still had it. "Yes, and a green one, too". The latter had already been sold - at Rs73,000 (incl VAT - saw the sales receipt) - by the time I arrived a few hours later. One of the shop hands had just bought an orange one which must have come in at the same time, which had just been cleaned up for delivery, but was looking a little rough around the edges. I had a look at the remaining red one and almost turned around and came home. Not exactly clean. A scuff on one front shocker. Deep scratches on the front mudguard. Paint scraped off an edge of the heat shield. Brake disc showing some use. Rust on the frame, and even on some chrome bits. A dead (or missing?) battery. You've got to be kidding me. If I wanted a year-old used bike, I wouldn't have come an hour and a half down here to pay for a new one. "Just take a seat and wait" the salesman/owner said. "Tell me what you think of it after a half hour." (I must have been out of my mind). But I had to admit it looked better by then, though I'd still pretty well lost interest.

Figured I'd may as well test ride it anyway. Unfortunately, it ran absolutely great - really strong - with no funny engine noises. So I got thinking that if I didn't just go ahead with this despite any reservations, I faced a strong possibility of not having anything to ride this season - can't find them used up here, and I was completely weary of researching / looking for bikes. Figured that we're only talking about six months; i.e., if I'd found a completely fresh and perfect one to purchase, it was still going to look like this - or more likely worse - after I'd owned it a few months and done a ride or two in the outback. Had the full warranty anyway. I did figure I was due a considerable discount on account of this particular bike's weaknesses.

Salesman said it had been a long, hard day, and he didn't feel like bargaining, so I could have it for Rs71,000. He threw in a K&N-type filter for it that they sell for Rs600, a seat cover, locking fuel petcock, and two replacement hand levers for when I head to Ladakh. He would also get a new mudguard put on the front to replace the scratched one. Done.

Plunked down the cash.

Off to a terrible start (Dealership Woes):
And then I hear: "We misplaced the owner's manual [and service logbook] for you someplace - we'll order you one" (Oh, great. So was this a used bike after all, or what?). The mechanic finished his final adjustments and test ride, and proudly handed me the keys. It took me all of about a half kilometer to realize that the speedometer wasn't working, the brake light wasn't working, and the headlight was aimed sky-high. Came back and got him to resolve all that (five minutes). Oh, boy... headed home after nightfall, feeling completely unexcited and dubious about my purchase. Got on a rough patch of the Kullu bypass and realized something was clunking around in the front shockers, and it felt a little squirrely, like you were riding on a knife edge. Too dark to see anything. I'd noticed it on the earlier test ride, but the tech said it'd be taken care of at the 500km service. I figured I couldn't retain sanity for that long, and that every good clunking was going to remind me of my folly. I'd bought this bike for rough roads, and this was unacceptable. Oh, what have I done? Would I end up giving the bike away to someone who wouldn't know the difference?

Got home and dropped into bed exhausted, sleeping off immediately, then waking up in the night and getting down to some worry. Would I take it back and have them tell me it was "normal"? Refuse to do anything since I'd signed something confirming "received in acceptable condition"? Should I have gone for that 350CL after all? Then I thought I heard God say to my heart, "I don't give my kids junk". True, unexpected financing had come through at exactly the time a red Impulse showed up at a showroom that hadn't been stocking them. I don't think it was just me arranging / deciding all this. Truly comforting. And I felt this was very likely to finally work out, one way or another. Figured I'd head back down to the agency in the morning and have them get to diagnosing it.

A solution:
But some technical inspiration late last night (or was it early AM?) had me out there early with my tools, tightening the steering head bearings (couldn't see much point in spending minimum half a day driving all the way down there and back to have them do something I'm at least as qualified to do myself). They hadn't seemed loose according to my normal tests. But that did the trick. It was perfect - for five minutes, before the clunking started again! But I knew I was on the right track now. A final re-tightening, and all is well. Abused it fairly well on the roughest of roads today, where it exhibited perfect poise. I have a feeling that Hero failed to get the bearing races fully seated during assembly, and that it's only through a little riding that they begin to get into their proper positions - at which point the bearings get loose and need adjusting. Maybe this loosening is part of the reason we're hearing some complaints about the short life of these components. Can you imagine what damage could've happened if I'd just left it like that for the next 500km on these rough roads?

Anyway, I'm very happy with the bike now. Looks great in red, rides well, and the engine is really, really smooth and pulls pretty hard from 5000-8000rpm. And P.S. The owner's manual turned up right where I guess it was supposed to be all along (why the dealer wouldn't know this is a mystery): In the side box!

Replacing the KB-RTZ offroad specials - My Hero Impulse-dscf2977.jpg

Vs. my KB125 "offroad special":The Hero definitely lacks the broad midrange torque, the nimble tossability, the feeling of "do anything right now" complete control that the older machine has. Ground clearance, wheelbase, even suspension travel are similar between the two bikes; it's the 30kg's extra weight on the Hero and the lazier 4-stroker that makes most of the difference in feel. Don't really know where all the weight is coming from, as my old DR350 (kept abroad) is of similar proportions but size weighs at least 15kg less, with a much larger engine of more than double the power. Anyway, I'm not going to want to lay this bike down at speed, as I've done with the KB's - I'd more likely end up with damage to man and machine.

Directional change is nowhere near as instantaneous as the old bike, and the extra weight makes it hard to pull the front wheel up and over big rocks and other obstacles, which the KB does so effortlessly. Also harder to back yourself out of tight spots with your feet, since the saddle's a little higher (4-strokes being inherently taller engines) and the bike's so much heavier to push. The KB's vintage Suzuki enduro forks are actually pretty "trick" with progressive springs AND (more rarely seen) progressive damping as well, so even though there's a tad less travel, they offer great control and are pretty plush. The Hero's rear suspension is, as others have noted, a bit hard for normal use.

But I'm not disappointed. The Hero is a much more refined machine all round. It will be much easier to cruise at 80kmph on this bike, in its quiet smoothness. Might not be as flickable, but then again, a little more leisurely pace / riding style probably suits my present station in life (as husband and father of two little ones) better anyway. Going forward, it will be much easier to find genuine (engine) spares for the international 149cc mill than (never could find an original cylinder block for the KB). I'll be saving some money on fuel, too. And the icing on the cake is that my wife will like it better too, and not feel embarrassed riding on something as ugly as the KB had become.

So should YOU buy one? Well, if you think you might, do look it over very carefully and test it as much as you can before purchase, and make sure everything that's not right is being made right before delivery. And do bargain hard.

I do think we Impulse owners will have to stick together... I'm starting to doubt whether the line will ever be resurrected in any form.

-Eric
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Old 5th June 2014, 05:02   #3
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Default re: Replacing the KB-RTZ offroad specials - My Hero Impulse

@Ringoism, you bring back memories ! I had both the - KB-100 RTZ & later the KB-125. Though wasnt able to ride as much as I wanted to. I had found the bike to be more balanced in all respects than the competition.
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Old 5th June 2014, 07:32   #4
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Default re: Replacing the KB-RTZ offroad specials - My Hero Impulse

Congrats on the bike. Make it complete. The Karizma engine is a direct fit. Quite a few friends here have that setup. Buy a second hand karizma. Rebuild the engine if required and plonk it in the chassis. Simple way to a nice boost.
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Old 5th June 2014, 13:06   #5
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Default re: Replacing the KB-RTZ offroad specials - My Hero Impulse

Ah, so that is the back story and what a story it is, Eric.

Brings back old memories. By the time I was given the go-ahead to get a bike, the RX100 was no longer in production, had to settle for the RXG and later a Shogun. The RTZs were last in the pecking order in those times and were famous for one thing it could and, boy, could it do really well, which was serious insane lean angles that would scare the living daylights of anyone who could watch. But those days are long gone, now only prefer two wheels if they are pedal powered.

It takes some courage to travel those areas on a bike that few would repair at that time. There is something mesmerizing about the Zanskar and Key monastery shots.

Have always found the Impulse to be on the shortlist, should I ever want to get back to biking. For all its flaws (including the pricing), the bike still looked like a best compromise for use cases that involve bad terrain and touring. Congratulations on the buy! And please do post more old pics of the tours if you have them stashed away somewhere.
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Old 5th June 2014, 14:18   #6
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Default Re: Replacing the KB-RTZ offroad specials (not quite Impulsively)

Eric

What a wonderful KB story. And those travel photos are my dream.

I have always rated this bike higher than its peers from 1995 - safety, stability, instrumentation and looks.

I have just completed rebuilding my handsome RTZ, bringing to almost showroom condition. Did all work myself, everything except the coloured paint. Almost everything is new.
Sharing some photos, not bad for a 19 yrs old bike isn't it?

cheers
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Old 5th June 2014, 14:41   #7
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Arrow Re: Replacing the KB-RTZ offroad specials - My Hero Impulse

Eric, That's a straight from the heart review! A nice read in the two wheeler section after a long time. I remember, when I was a child, I was always fascinated with the KB RTZ and KB 4S, somehow more by the blue coloured 4S. It was simply so amazing. The Impulse will serve you well and I am glad that you didn't consider any other bike in it's place. This one will suit your travel perfectly. Wish you all the best with your new bike and hoping to see more of your travelogues here; with your new bike.

O.T: It seems you have crashed a lot on your bikes! Do drive safe
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Old 5th June 2014, 14:47   #8
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Default Re: Replacing the KB-RTZ offroad specials - My Hero Impulse

Thank you for the long story - please do post more of the pics. Love the way both KBs look - the no nonsense purpose build dual sport look. There was one bike from Bajaj - SX Enduro - I always used to drool over the bike though I could never own one.

This post stirred lot of fond memories - I had one of the first 'built in Japan' KB RTZ with me - the instrument cluster was one of the best and I used to love watching the tacho racing with each twist of the throttle.

Congratz on the Impulse - it is the only bike which can do at least some justice to your kind of terrain. Every time I see the bike, I feel that I should have brought one. Came so close to buy it at last, but at last , decided to go for Duke 200. Duke is a fun bike but still, every time I see an Impulse, I am sure that my heart will rue the lost chance. Enjoy your bike and do treat us with more photos.

--Anoop

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Old 5th June 2014, 17:09   #9
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Default Re: Replacing the KB-RTZ offroad specials - My Hero Impulse

What a co-incidence! I've got a slightly-modified KB125 lying, rather rotting, in Ahmedabad. And here I am, in Bangalore, thinking about going for the Hero Impulse. Maybe it has got something to do with slender looks and a heart for going after things that aren't necessarily perfect.

I think this thread has helped me a great deal to go for Impulse. And I might too plonk the money soon on the Hero dealer's table!

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Old 5th June 2014, 19:05   #10
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Default Re: Replacing the KB-RTZ offroad specials - My Hero Impulse

Congrats Eric on the well educated bad decision ....but then its not like we have choices. My impulZMA is currently being prepped for Ladakh for the second time. Its been a year with the thing and it has begun to grow on me. I get this feeling that its gonna stick around for a loooong time to come. I even have visions of gifting it to my grand children (provided I last) hehe.

It has been mine and my bro's daily ride against all odds and the duke has been fairly neglected. Its an everyday affair to watch us fight over the keys and find the unfortunate one ride off on the duke with a grumpy face.

Yes this is one of those rare bikes that you have to buy new and immediately send to the workshop for various things. But then it is the only kind that will take you to ladakh and back without even a flat. A lot of my friends complain about its vibrations and the clunk sound you mention when going over bumps and say they'd rather wait for the KTM adv or something similar. But again I am more of a right now kind of person and would gladly ride away on something inferior right now than wait for god knows how long until a better product shows up.

Cherish it man, it might not be perfect but it definitely has character.

Ps. Any chance of a meet-up...I will be taking the Kaza route this time (leaving Delhi on Jul 5th). And your wealth of knowledge about the mountains less travelled will prove to be priceless for us plain dwellers from the south. Do PM me if you could.

Cheers,
Girish.

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Old 5th June 2014, 19:33   #11
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Default Re: Replacing the KB-RTZ offroad specials - My Hero Impulse

Quote:
Originally Posted by nitro.1000bhp View Post
Congrats Eric on the well educated bad decision ....but then its not like we have choices. My impulZMA is currently being prepped for Ladakh for the second time.
Hi Girish, slightly OT - but was it you who built a Red karizma with very less plastics, round headlight and TVS 50 fairing? Always loved that build and if ever I buy a zma, your ride would be the base line for modification.

Do start a thread on your Impulzma - would love to read the build log.

--Anoop
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Old 5th June 2014, 21:02   #12
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Default Re: Replacing the KB-RTZ offroad specials - My Hero Impulse

Quote:
Originally Posted by theexperthand View Post
Hi Girish, slightly OT - but was it you who built a Red karizma with very less plastics, round headlight and TVS 50 fairing? Always loved that build and if ever I buy a zma, your ride would be the base line for modification.

Do start a thread on your Impulzma - would love to read the build log.

--Anoop
Hi Anoop,

If you are talking about the one below, then yes I certainly helped my friend build it and did guide him in the right direction...While I was building this yellow Yamaha for myself. It was all show and no go, the rear unicorn shock was rock hard and the front were'nt any better. It was useless off-road and damn right scary ON it. But it did teach me words like frame geometry, suspension travel, rake and trail etc etc....and what ultimately led me to buy the impulse and the betterment of my love towards off-road bikes in-general.

I've always wanted to write a blog about the implZMA but never got down to it...probably because I dont have many pics of the build in-progress and also because it is quite a simple job. Its just a matter of removing the old(new) engine and bolting the new(old) engine, yes it required a bit of shaving here and a some drilling there but nothing that deserves any head scratching.

Currently I am getting some fork braces milled and also figuring out why I have never had any brakes. And then there's Ladakh to look forward to. So may be after my trip I might just sit down and go about writing that blog.

Meanwhile if you have any doubts specific to plonking the ZMA engine then feel free to PM me, I'd be glad to help.

Cheers,
Girish.
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Old 5th June 2014, 22:37   #13
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Default Re: Replacing the KB-RTZ offroad specials - My Hero Impulse

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Originally Posted by ringoism View Post
Briefly, an assessment of the contenders, based on personal riding experience:

RE 350 Classic:

I do think we Impulse owners will have to stick together... I'm starting to doubt whether the line will ever be resurrected in any form.

-Eric
Terrific story telling, Eric.

Cheers,

Jay
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Old 5th June 2014, 22:54   #14
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Default Re: Replacing the KB-RTZ offroad specials - My Hero Impulse

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Originally Posted by nitro.1000bhp View Post
Hi Anoop,

If you are talking about the one below, then yes I certainly helped my friend build it and did guide him in the right direction...
Yes, this is the one I am talking about - loved the way the bike have turned out.

--Anoop
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Old 7th June 2014, 03:07   #15
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Default Re: Replacing the KB-RTZ offroad specials - My Hero Impulse

Really amazed at the number of responses here. Thanks to all for joining me in my journey for awhile.

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Originally Posted by nitro.1000bhp View Post
...While I was building this yellow Yamaha for myself. It was all show and no go, the rear unicorn shock was rock hard and the front were'nt any better. It was useless off-road and damn right scary ON it.

Meanwhile if you have any doubts specific to plonking the ZMA engine then feel free to PM me, I'd be glad to help.
That Yamaha sure does look good... where'd you get that high-exit expansion chamber/pipe?

Will certainly contact you if the ZMA swap ever seems the thing to do. For now, I feel there's a lot of untapped potential in the 150 itself (see below), so want to see what I can do with that first.

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Originally Posted by nitro.1000bhp View Post
Yes this is one of those rare bikes that you have to buy new and immediately send to the workshop for various things. A lot of my friends complain about its vibrations and the clunk sound you mention when going over bumps

Ps. Any chance of a meet-up...I will be taking the Kaza route this time (leaving Delhi on Jul 5th). And your wealth of knowledge about the mountains less travelled will prove to be priceless for us plain dwellers from the south. Do PM me if you could.
Yeah... the home workshop, since I don't feel like riding an hour down to the showroom to have them fiddle around and accomplish little/nothing. Now I'm having to play with the carb jetting. It was WAYYYY too rich here at 7,000ft altitude, bad missing in the midrange and sparkplug absolutely black. Fuel consumption must've been horrible, too. The high passes would've been impossible. Factory main jet (this is a 28mm Keihin) was a huge #132 (1.32mm). Only other size I had anywhere near as big was a #116. Too big a step down as far as tuning protocols go, but it actually runs fine now. Plug looks a little white, and while it'd probably be just right over 10,000ft, it'll likely run the engine too hot "down" here, so tomorrow will put in a #122 I drilled to size.

My "clunk" turned out to be the steering head bearings. Thing is, I couldn't identify that as the problem by the normal methods (holding front brake and rocking back and forth, watching for movement at the bearing, etc). I think because these forks are so long, you don't have to even notice any play there for it to clunk around considerably. I set my bearing TIGHT and it eliminated the problem completely. I had to do it again after five minutes (indicating that the bearing races were never fully seated when installed at the factory), but since then it's been fine.

P.S. would be great to meet up. Will PM you.

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Originally Posted by creative420 View Post
What a co-incidence! I've got a slightly-modified KB125 lying, rather rotting, in Ahmedabad. And here I am, in Bangalore, thinking about going for the Hero Impulse.
Hey... wanna sell that KB (or its engine cases?)... wait, let me stop and kick myself... hard... Okay, now never mind. IMO I think dual-sports make great city bikes. I've got considerable riding time in one Northeastern U.S. city on both a Honda XL600 and later my Suzuki DR350. Easy to jump curbs, plow through potholed, ill-paved streets, etc, and it puts you up high where you have a commanding view of the traffic around you. In that last sense, much safer. Like in India, there were very few (actually practically none) of these kinds of bikes running around the urban areas over there, whether downtown or ghetto... So I got a lot of attention on these, and a lot of inquiries (sometimes from people who looked interested in stealing them...).

Quote:
Originally Posted by W.A.G.7 View Post
O.T: It seems you have crashed a lot on your bikes!
Ah, yes, that was actually a second hobby of mine... Didn't actually travel all over the mountains simply for adventure, I actually was looking for more beautiful scenery against which to stage impressive road (or off-road) accidents. In truth, I lost count long ago how many times I dropped these. What fun... great memories... and it seriously must have been the angel(s) that I actually never got hurt. Sometimes these were truly, really spectacular incidents (but that would be another thread). Let me think here (some of the more interesting ones):

1. Slammed into the back of a Bangalore city bus (five minutes after purchasing my first bike in India - the Enfield Explorer; I didn't have a helmet yet and body-slammed the flimsy back sheetmetal of the bus, making an impressive crashing sound for bus passengers and bystanders alike).

2. In a long, well-paved sweeper enroute to Ladakh the first time, was pretending my KB100 was a Ducati. Don't know if it was the sand or the 13-year-old hard rubber on the MRF rib, but anyway, the front-end washed out when I was leaned over pretty far, and the bike and me went spinning down the road in different directions (my extreme confidence never really recovered from that).

3. Coming back over Kardung-La a year later, hit some deep, loose dust, I guess. Really don't know how it happened, but do remember skidding down the road face-first on my big camera bag, which I'd had strapped to my belly. Cameras okay.

4. Following year (2007) early AM, just several km after having departed Leh for Manali (this was after Zanskar), I slammed directly into the side of a Sumo taxi that turned across my lane right in front of me. Had been going about 60kmph. That's the time I really could've died / thought I was dead. Bike was crumpled, everything in the front end broken or bent. I got away with about an 8mm slight skinning of an elbow. Got the bike fixed (Juma [?] had a junked one sitting in his back room there) and rode home a couple days later.

5. (Locally) on one of those late-night bonzai runs, had a very stupid dog run out in front of me. Hit him hard. He went off yelping and I flew over the handle bars (the one disadvantage, maybe, of a very light bike).

6. (Uttarkhand) Ran into the back of a dumptruck that stopped suddenly.

7. (Ladakh 2010): Was kind of, eh, racing a friend who had ridden a Pulsar. He shot down a shortcut at a series of switchbacks, and I missed it, so was way behind. The next shortcut HE missed, and I shot down it, without really looking to see how steep and loose and deeply eroded it was. Front tire washed out, bike started going down, and I gracefully launched myself off the footpegs, running my legs in the air, landing on my feet and continuing on down ahead of the bike, till I could break my momentum.

8. (en route to Nepal): Another friend was riding his bike up in front with a pillion. It was a beautifully paved, twisting road with some nice straights, and on one of these I figured it would be great fun to blow past him on the 125 in an impressive show of speed (I was already doing maybe 50). Well, that was a torquey machine as mentioned earlier, and after I'd accelerated a bit, just when the power was coming on strong, I hit an oil slick, the rear tyre slipped outward, and on that nice, slippery surface, man and machine spun down the road moto-GP style. That pillion turned around and just couldn't believe what he was seeing...

Well, there were the little local wipeouts on mud-slicked roads, etc, and most likely some others I've forgotten... but you get the idea. Usually no damage to the bike, EXCEPT for that kind of weak, brittle headlight housing. It broke (/shattered) in probably at least five of the 8 wrecks mentioned above, and many more times besides. I used to carry a tube or two of Fevikwik with me on all these trips, and after every such road incident, sit over on the side for awhile, doing a nice three-dimensional jigsaw-puzzle!!!

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Originally Posted by lazy View Post

I have just completed rebuilding my handsome RTZ, bringing to almost showroom condition. Did all work myself, everything except the coloured paint. Almost everything is new.
Sharing some photos, not bad for a 19 yrs old bike isn't it?cheers
NOT BAD??? Your bike is absolutely beautiful, and moreover I admire you re: the talent of getting your own hands dirty. I've actually still got my '92 KB100, with a very fresh engine, and now that the Impulse is there for rough-road duty, I'm planning to put the KB back together as more a cafe-racer type thing. Drop-handlebars already on it, so will take the 13.5L (modified) fuel tank, the five-speed, the triple clamps, and the extended swingarm off the 125, but keep the suspension down nice and low and sleek. The seat height even now is so low and the thing is just so light, and with the more peaky powerband than the 125, it's just great fun.

Quote:
Originally Posted by navpreet318 View Post
Congrats on the bike. Make it complete. The Karizma engine is a direct fit.
Good idea and tempting, but I think it'd be even easier to simply bore a junk 150 cylinder to accept the 67mm BBR motorsports (or similar) piston, which brings it to 175cc, and bolt that on in about a half-hour. Should be good for a couple bhp, and would keep the whole setup a little lighter, a little less altered from original, maintaining my serial numbers, etc, and a little better on FE. The stock pipe is really restrictive, too, as is likely the airbox, both of which could be freed up a bit; and as mentioned the factory jetting, on my bike at least, was way out... So all told, I think I will probably be able to get it just about where I want it without the ZMA unit, assuming I will be a solo rider for the foreseeable future.

Quote:
Originally Posted by theexperthand View Post
There was one bike from Bajaj - SX Enduro - I always used to drool over the bike though I could never own one.
That bike was Kawasaki's longest-running production bike abroad, from the 1970's (starting with the G-series) right up till mid-2000's (KE100) or so, I think. People love 'em out there, but they pretty much flopped here. Bajaj went out on a limb and lost. A couple decades later, with a much more mature market, Hero tried it again with the Impulse, and still saw disappointing sales. That's part of the thing that actually led me to finally buy it. Two different Indian companies have attempted to introduce a dual-sport/enduro, and though both were good bikes, neither did well in the marketplace. I really thought, in 2011, that it was an idea whose time had come. Guess not. Will these producers, or any other, dare to try again anytime soon, perhaps apart from high-end, limited production specials (I hear an Enfield Fury adventure-tourer is supposed to be introduced in 2015 sometime, with 500/750cc twin engines), whose price I will be unable to personally justify? Figured that if I didn't buy one of these now and nothing comparable ever comes along, I'd be kicking myself later. And if an "upgraded" (>200cc, etc) does indeed finally appear, no issues. I can either modify my own or live with the 150.

-Eric

P.S. Had forgotten to mention the custom 13.5L tank, the cross-bar handlebar, the collapsible front footpegs, the o-ring chain, clipped (two-finger) brake/clutch levers & foam grips, huge metal wire brush-guard headlamp (man, was I glad to get rid of that plastic rectanglular unit), and battery-delete (used a Minda A/C horn) that were part of the final KB package. I really did put a lot of thought / work into that thing (and it sure did end up ugly in the end!). Kinda glad I've got something now that'll need a little less modifying, and really is fairly "tricked out" right from the factory. Had a fairly astute machinist friend in Manali ask me yesterday whether it was an Indian-made bike. A Bulleteer heading off for Ladakh this AM asked whether the high suspension was stock, or whether I'd modified it. Seems this bike is still pretty unfamiliar to people, but they all seem to like it when they see it. "Great curb presence" as one friend put it. But I'm more interested in getting it dirty. Made a good start on that yesterday, going far up one of the best, nastiest link roads in the area that just climbs and climbs and climbs, and doesn't have one square inch of pavement on it....! Trying to get 500km on it before heading to Ladakh, so I can get the first service done and forget about it.

Last edited by ringoism : 7th June 2014 at 03:20.
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