One of the many perks of turning sixteen is the fact that you can finally get a riding licence. And for me, that meant a bit of freedom and, more importantly, the first taste of the Thrill of Riding. Back then, we were strapped for choice. Three, in fact, ignoring the public transport system. Most got permission to use the old family scooter, and that was that. If you were luckier, a brand new scooter would be bought with much fanfare before you were told that you’d be sharing it with mom. But the luckiest among us would actually get own our own rides.
I did and in 2008 that happy turn of events could only lead me to one specific scooter – the Honda Dio. Although similar under the skin, the Dio was all about the rider’s attitude compared to the Activa’s sedate family orientation. The fact that a good looking and peppy scooter could be used as a tool to garner attention from the fairer sex only helped the Dio’s cause amongst testosterone-charged teens.
But that was 2008. Now, the Dio might still have cut it but I would have my eyes firmly set on two rather different, but attitude-filled bikes − the Honda Navi and the Aprilia SR 150.
Based on the Dio, the Navi is a brand new concept in the twist-and-go transport story. It seeks to offer the convenience of a scooter while simultaneously offering the essence of a motorcycle. The Aprilia SR 150, meanwhile, is a ground up new development by the legendary Italian marque. Sure, it’s built like a step thru but its character couldn’t be more motorcycle like.
So, what you have then are two scoots that are genuinely created keeping the youth as the target consumer and are meant to deliver the Thrill of Riding with a hint of practicality as well.
Indians are master innovators, and the Honda Navi proves it beyond argument. Who would have thought that Honda could have scrounged around in the parts bin, added a few new ones and ended up creating a product as radical as the Navi? As a matter of fact, so brilliantly different was the bike that Honda itself was unsure if it was a scooter or a motorcycle when the thing was shown to the masses at the Auto Expo 2016.
What the boffins at HMSI were sure of though was the target audience for this product. Yep, you guessed it. The youth. The same juvenile delinquents who would want dollops of style and peppy performance but in a package that would be approved by the sponsors (read parents). And boy, does the Navi live up to this demand.
A majority of the cycle parts and mechanicals, like the rear suspension and the wheel assembly, as well as the trusty 110cc engine, have been carried over from the Activa. The Activa’s under-bone chassis receives minor modification, altering the head stock’s positioning, without altering the co-ordinates of the hand-leg-bum triangle. The front end though, gets an upside-down fork that totally changes the cornering characteristics from the Activa. The lithe form is also due to the relocation of the 3.8-litre fuel tank from the rear to the conventional motorcycle position, thus centralising the mass of the bike, the latter affecting its dynamics (for the better).
Honda India has brilliantly taken inspiration from the Grom, designing the Navi with parts adopted from some of their motorcycles for the basic necessities (the tail lamp assembly comes from the now discontinued CBF Stunner). The faux carbon fibre parts continue to adorn the centre panel as well as the instrumentation console area. The side-panels are swappable for different colours with the entire range of basic accessories costing Rs 6,000 only. The empty space out front is not utilised (although the storage box comes as an additional option) and if we may provide Honda a suggestion; if a simple hook like the one found on the Activa is provided, it could solve few shopping hassles.
Swing a leg over it and the hooligan in you comes alive. The seven kilos of weight saved over the Activa really help the Navi accelerate quickly. You can literally thrash the living daylights out of it and it would only egg you on further. The bike is as slim as a runway model; thus standing up on the pegs to catch a bit of air-time is fairly simple with absolutely no obstruction to your feet. Even pulling a wheelie is simple as you could just get on to the rear foot-pegs and lift the front giving it just a little bit of gas for the sake of momentum. Even our not-so-motorcycle-friendly Anand Mohan could do the same after a fair few tries. If you are a side-stepping enthusiast, the rear 130mm drum brakes are enough to whip the bike around after carrying enough speed. All in all, Honda’s WTF mantra (What The Fun) is certainly apt for the monkey mo’bike.
Aprilia SR 150
Italians are known for their outrageous creations that evoke emotions of the highest order. Sure, sometimes those emotions may not favour the product but in this case, I’m falling head over heels for it. The latest scooter from the Piaggio stables, which is nothing like any scooter we have seen before in India, is on its way to set the trend for the future rivals to come (we surely do hope so).
The Aprilia SR 150 makes its entry as the first mass-oriented product of the Aprilia range in India, which currently caters to naked bonkers lovers and track fanatics, as the scooter aims to combine the two qualities for the everyday user.
Unlike its sister company Vespa, Aprilia makes use of the under-bone chassis with a heavy usage of plastic parts to mould the body panels into one sleek, edgy and racy scooter. The double headlamps, the nearly-there front mudguard and clean yet sharp rear section help accentuate the SR 150’s appeal. Even the dual tone seat covers go well with either paint scheme – white or black.
The 150cc Vespa motor powers the SR 150, but with a retuned CVT which makes it extremely zippy despite the drop in the power. Torque however stays the same. The engine sounds better too on the Aprilia with a slightly racy burble from the end can.
You could either get on the scooter by just planting your feet on the floorboard or else even swing your leg across the seat as it gives you the impression of a premium commuter motorcycle and that’s not the only place the comparisons end. The scooter can keep pace with a similar capacity motorcycle to sixty and has the ability to max out at 120kmph (for moderately built riders).
It’s unfazed even when you show it a section of bends which it carves through with ease. The suspension has been set-up to give you phenomenal cornering confidence which is amplified by the 14-inch wheels shod with Vee Rubber tyres from Thailand. The downside to the stiff suspension setup is that it makes city riding, especially over small bumps and potholes, a bit too bouncy. Something that won’t be appreciated by all.
My problem with this futuristic Italian babe is the instrument panel. While its analogue shape does the job, a semi, if not fully, digital option would have been extremely welcome to go along with the SR 150’s contemporary psyche.
The other small niggle comes with the six-litre fuel tank, which may allow you endless fun in the city but for those amongst us who like to stretch their legs on the odd day, would have liked the Vespa’s eight-litre option to extend the range.
But how great would it be to boast about owning an Aprilia at say, sixteen?
These are two completely different bikes: poles apart, yet both on the face of it make no sense given the traditional commuter mindsets of the Indian two-wheeler consumer. And therein lies the answer to their appeal!
Taking the Aprilia SR 150 first, this one is for those who take their two-wheeling joys very seriously. Fast corners, slow corners, straights and chicanes can be revelled in their entirety across its performance spectrum. In fact given its cycle parts, it can make a very effective starter machine for the track attack set. Priced at Rs 67,396 ex-showroom Delhi, this is a top notch Italian fun-offering for any youngster to take to at an early age.
The Honda Navi is however the supreme hooligan in this duo! Not only is it a bundle of joy and fun, it is also the most versatile projectile on the Indian market since the Pulsar first burst on the scene to create a whole new segment! The Navi blurs the senses as it dispenses with conventional thought and given Honda’s thinking of the spares and accessories (a whole host of them already in showrooms and many more on the anvil) in typically logical feel good manner, this is a most competent package at truly sensible money. Heck even I haven’t been able to decide whether I want to customise my bike in street, off-road or tourer forms! A happy problem to be burdened with I should say.
To put the seal on the story, I would like to state that the red Navi featured in the story is my own personal baby but I have also been saving for the SR 150! Both do the trick for me, whether it be for the daily grand prix commute to work and back or just to scoot down to the grocer for milk and bread!
As for which one to buy, ultimately you will have to decide who you really are and then choose your tackle: the ultimate speed-freak or the hooligan in you who’s calling out to be heard!