Why I despise my Hero Xpulse Rally Edition

It is the cheapest off-road focused machine in the market, so a lot of beginners would buy it to get better at off-roading. However, it is not a great beginner bike to learn off-roading on, and to make good use of its abilities you already need to be reasonably good at off-roading.

BHPian RiderZone recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Sometimes when I’m tired and frustrated after work, or with life in general, I play video games for fun and distraction. Video games have helped create some of the most memorable moments in my life, and it would be a sad existence without them. A few months ago, during a particularly stressful time in my life, I started playing another game for fun and distraction. That game is called Dark Souls III. I was frustrated before I started playing this game, I was raging and crying when the first boss killed me 20 times in a row.

Most of the time when I’m tired and frustrated after work, or with life in general, I ride motorcycles for fun and distraction. Motorcycles have helped create most of the memorable moments in my life, and I can’t imagine an existence without them. About a year ago, during a particularly stressful time in my life, I bought a new motorcycle for fun and distraction. That motorcycle is called the Xpulse. I was frustrated before I started riding this motorcycle, I was raging and crying when I kept falling off of it every 20 minutes or so.

Yes, Xpulse is the Dark Souls of motorcycles.

The Dream

I ride motorcycles exclusively for entertainment, I’m lucky to not have to use them for commuting, and even luckier that I don’t ride them for a job. Part of this entertainment is being able to ride to places that a car can’t reach, and normal people wouldn’t even wanna walk to. I did that quite a lot with my Pulsar 150, and then again with my Duke 390, and then again with my Interceptor, and even with my Activa, with some hilariously catastrophic consequences. My primary motivation behind buying the Xpulse was that it will make this exploration even easier and more fun.

The Reality

I ended up buying an Xpulse with the Rally Kit already installed, because there was no stock bike available anywhere near me, and the bike looks absolutely smashing with the Rally Kit. I have no experience riding a stock Xpulse, and that experience may be entirely different, but with my Xpulse, the trouble started right at the dealership, when I tried to majestically ride away on my new steed, only to be unable to reach down to the side-stand to kick it up, and having to request an amused mechanic to help a brother out. Things only went downhill from there as the new bike excitement quickly died away.

As I was approaching home I tried to stop and park the bike in front of the gate, only to find myself in a false neutral, the bike already leaned at an angle expecting some power, and down it went. The neighbours and my dad looked at me, their faces clearly saying “What a jackass”.

Pretty quickly after this I developed a fear of leaning the bike, which is not a good fear to have, motorcycles kinda need to lean for basically everything except going in a straight line. This fear was reinforced when each time I tried taking a slow U turn, the bike would lean a bit, I would immediately panic, and just walk away from it, like Ajay Devgun from an exploding car.

I did not let these falls discourage me too much, still kept exploring, but I had lost confidence in my riding abilities. Trails where I’d happily take the puny Pulsar 150, I was scared of taking the Xpulse. What if I get stuck and need to make a U turn? What if I drop it and get stuck under it? These thoughts are unhelpful, and I never had them with other bikes, but once they’re there, you’re done. Motorcycles are risky business, but you never really think about the risk, until you think about the risk, and then there’s nothing but the risk.

About a year after getting the Xpulse, I bought an Interceptor. In the year I had the Xpulse, I had done about 2000 kms on it. I did about 5000 kms on the Interceptor within half that time. When I went to Spiti, I took the Interceptor. That’s like having a spaceship ready to take you to the Moon, but deciding that shooting yourself out of a cannon is a more desirable option.

This created even more doubt in my mind about the Xpulse, why would I even want to keep this thing when I don’t really enjoy riding it? Every time the weekend came along, and I had to decide where to go and what to ride, I nearly always chose the Inty. Riding the Xpulse felt like a math exam, riding the Interceptor felt like watching a movie with friends.

The Problems

The fundamental paradox of the Xpulse is this: It is the cheapest off-road focused machine in the market, so a lot of beginners would buy it to get better at off-roading. However, it is not a great beginner bike to learn off-roading on, and to make good use of its abilities you already need to be reasonably good at off-roading.

What this translates to is a very steep learning curve, and a lot of pain and agony. This bike makes nothing easy for you, it’s taller than anything you’ve ever have ridden, so simple moves like U turns are the stuff of nightmares, even after removing the handlebar risers and dropping the bike an inch on the front suspension.

Throttle control is non-existent, the accelerator is basically an on/off switch, and it is extremely difficult to be smooth at slow speeds. 1st gear is too short, 2nd gear is too long, and the redline comes too early. Seating position is weird, handlebars are too high when you sit, and too low when you stand.

The overall build quality is cheap, each bump loudly rattles the front brake pads, the throttle side switch housing likes to rotate without reason, and the whole package creates a rather unsatisfying ownership experience. The suspension is adjustable, but as a beginner both the highest and lowest settings feel exactly the same to you, so the adjustability is entirely pointless.

Finally, and most importantly, this thing has no power, so you really have to rely on your undeveloped skills to get you out of a jam. You have to plan an uphill section in advance, maintain momentum, and really commit, because unlike other bikes just twisting the throttle won’t do you any good, especially when you can’t even put your feet down.

I’m 5 foot 7, 5 foot 8 on a heavy breakfast. With the Rally Kit, I can just about put the tip of my left foot on the ground. This is with the stock seat, if I put on the rally seat, the bike is basically a horse.

Everything I’ve said above can be disregarded if you’re willing to put in the effort to learn to ride this machine. It is a terrible bike to learn on, but if you manage to do it somehow, your fundamentals will be pretty ironclad. Which brings to me to my second set of complaints.

The Xpulse is Xtremely off-road focused, which means to really enjoy it, and learn on it, you need to take it off-road, surprise surprise. I live near Himachal, hills and rivers are literally 10 minutes away from my home, but even then it takes so much effort to find the special places where this machine is in its element. Sand is fun, but stony river beds are not, and any uphill sections that are too steep aren’t great either. Your preference may be different, but how easy would it be for you to find a jungle nearby? If you're really serious about learning, you'd want to ride this thing in a dirt-riding training facility of some kind, but I don't have one nearby, how far is one from you?

If you’re thinking “Well there’s a trail just an hour or so away by road”, prepare yourself for the torture of taking this thing on the highway. The Maxxis tires sound like a truck at any speeds above 80 kph, but that doesn’t really matter since you can’t go beyond 100 anyway or the entire thing threatens to shake itself to bits like an old Royal Enfield. Overtaking anyone on the highway requires a 5 year plan, and the engine constantly sounds like it wants to commit suicide.

The tires have tubes, so a puncture is the end of the world. You can’t really ride at night because the headlight is a joke. Because of the very nature of its existence, after every ride this thing gets super filthy and must be washed, especially the chain, mine is already destroyed at less than 3000 kms. You can't really keep the Xpulse as your only bike, because the handlebars are too wide for lane-splitting, and getting on the pillion seat is an Olympic sport.

On the bright side though, you sit so high up that striking conversations with truck drivers is easy.

The Realization

A good question can be asked at this point, why don’t I just sell this devil spawn and be done with it? The answer is simple, I was, and am, too proud to admit that I can’t really ride this thing properly. I will make jokes about myself falling off the seat for sure, but deep down it hurts me to know just how much I suck off-road. I will not sell this machine, I'll keep struggling, but it is a struggle. I’m a self-proclaimed “biker”, I have even done some proper off-road training, I ran a whole website about motorcycles for crying out loud, I’m supposed to be good with 2 wheelers. What the hell has gone wrong?

After months of frustration, I finally spoke to a friend who is really into off-roading, to get her help and opinion. I told her about the problems I was facing with the Xpulse, and she told me about things I could do to improve. There were body strengthening exercises, exercises for balance, on-bike training, foot positioning and a bunch of other ideas. That all made sense when she said it, but exercise was not something I had ever associated with riding motorcycles. I was unsure and confused, and then she said something profound.

“Maybe off-roading is not for you”.

It is kinda funny that I had never thought of this possibility. I love motorcycles, and I thought I enjoyed all kinds of riding, I MUST enjoy all kinds of riding, touring, track riding, and off-roading of course. I had failed to appreciate that there are levels within each of these activities, track riding can be around a go-kart track on an Aprilia SR150, or it can be around Mugello on an Aprilia RSV4.

"Off-roading" can mean many different things.

The Acceptance

I do like off-roading, and I am good at off-roading, but only the non-hardcore kind, the kind where you go on a trail and go “Whoa dude that’s so gnarly did you see how my rear fishtailed over that rock”, only to see a local uncle on a Splendor doing the same route with 15 kg of milk cans at the back.

Xpulse is not a toy, it is a professional tool with a very specific purpose. To make use of that tool, you have to train yourself physically and mentally, you have to gain competence in using that tool, you have to understand and respect the tool. I ride motorcycles to go “vroom” and occasionally see mountains as a side-effect, I'm entirely too comfortable being a mediocre off-roader. The Xpulse is wasted on someone like me, but sadly for it, stuck with me it is.

Most of us can imagine that having a dog would be fun. They are cute and cuddly, they do silly stuff, and they make life a bit more interesting. You have booped a couple of dogs in your life, have seen a lot of dog memes, why not just go out and get one? Buying an Xpulse is like having this idea, and buying a trained Army sniffer dog.

You like dogs, so why not get a hardcore variety right? Right? Then you get the dog, and it needs 6 hours of exercise each day, and more mental stimulation in a day than you provide for yourself in a year. You, who wakes up at 11 after snoozing 6 alarms, is now woken up by the dog at 5 or he is going to poop on the couch, after he has ripped the said couch to bits because he has too much unspent energy.

To justify the Xpulse, to make use of the Xpulse and the wonderful abilities it has, you need to work hard, exercise and train regularly, push your limits, and find out there’s so much you don’t know about motorcycles. It is not fun, it is tiring, it is frustrating, and most of the time it hurts. It is a serious piece of kit that demands your attention and respect, and it is a beautifully rewarding experience when you finally start taming the beast and getting in control. I mean I’ve heard it is beautifully rewarding from other people, I’m too lazy to find out.

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