“Only the final endurance testing and validation is left. Would you like to do it?”
That was DSK Benelli boss Shirish Kulkarni to our Ed Sirish, when the latter inquired about the launch dates of the fully-faired 302R that was shown at the Auto Expo. This is a bike that has the potential to rocket sales numbers of DSK Benelli, building on the already strong response to the naked TNT 300 and offering what many customers have asked for – an affordable, fully-faired motorcycle that is both fast and stylish while still being comfortable for Indian roads and journeys. Shirish told us that it was just a matter of weeks before the 302R would be launched in India as most of the testing and validation work had been complete and they were only waiting for the last endurance tests to be signed off. Would we like to do it? Yes, of course!
Now this is something new for us. Our testing is extensive but the cars and bikes we test are final production units, signed off by the R&D, quality control and production teams. This is the first time we will be handed pre-production prototypes, an engineering checklist that is given to test riders detailing things to keep an eye out for and – very importantly – we will have a hand in the bikes that go into production. If something breaks on the way, it will be up to us to convey to the engineering and production teams how that part failed and what needs to be done to ensure it doesn’t happen if you, dear reader, buy the bike. That means an added set of responsibilities on our shoulders, but we’ve not been one to shy away from challenges.
And so it came to be that on the auspicious day of Ganesh Chaturthi we set off from Pune. Our target? 6000 kilometres over 11 days. Our route? The Golden Quadrilateral. The task that we had set ourselves was finding all kinds of roads and conditions – fast open highways, bad roads under construction, wet roads, extreme heat and nothing offers a better mix of conditions than the Golden Quadrilateral that slices through all four quadrants of the country. It is also the fastest way to clock big mileage without doing something silly like riding from Pune to Bangalore, and back, ten times. There was the small matter of having to get back to the office and put this story in to print in time for this anniversary issue.
You see the two motorcycles in these pictures? Now this is not a comparison test, the TNT 300 is here to provide a benchmark, a baseline from which the 302R will be measured, evaluated and gauged. The TNT 300 is also a motorcycle we are very familiar with – regular readers will remember that last year we did the Coastal Challenge with DSK Benelli, starting off in Nagpur and heading to the three coastal extremities of our country in 24 hours. The TNT 300 impressed us in that challenge, making it to the West coast with hours to spare. If the 302R can sustain non-stop riding at a strong pace without any hiccups like the TNT 300 did, then DSK Benelli have got a great bike on their hands.