True story – my first drag race on a motorcycle was against a Fiero. I was three months into my internship, and tagged along as a reserve rider for my first big group test of all the motorcycles in the country at that time. There were five!
The Fiero was the newest in the test and in the middle of the shoot a senior colleague asked me to take the CBZ and line up for a drag race against the Fiero. Quivering, for I was still an intern and thought everybody in the magazine rode like a god, I lined up, revved the motor and popped the clutch. My senior colleague did the same on the Fiero, except with only four speeds and shorter ratios, he nearly looped the bike over himself. Second time, another big wheelie. There was no third time, the intern was asked to grab a cloth and clean the bikes.
The Fiero did go on to win the group test though it would never win anybody’s hearts, what with that scooter-ish biking fairing that had the indicators and headlamps merged into one unit. The ultra-conservative styling was the single biggest let down on the last Suzuki to be made at Hosur, looking as confused as its positioning. ‘India’s first 150cc 4-stroke performance motorcycle’ was used in the same press conference as ‘100cc plus commuter motorbike’. And so the Fiero had a butter-smooth engine – that feels buttery smooth even today – but only a four-speed gearbox. It had a chassis that worked very well for motorsport but the front end was too light and imprecise at speed. It was one of only two 150cc motorcycles in the country but the riding position was as upright as any commuter machine. It could do over 100kmph but had weedy tyres to eke out over 50kmpl. It was confused as hell.
By the time the fairing was revised and regular indicators added on the F2, and later a blindingly-chrome headlamp came on the FX, the Pulsar was well into its stride and the Fiero was finished and would eventually be replaced by the Apache.
Today it is nearly impossible to find a Suzuki Fiero in original condition. The Fiero was so good off the road (it still is!) that it soon swept everything in its wake – supercross, rallying and every other dirt track event in the country. In fact TVS’ rallying team were so instrumental in development that the F2 version became even better, off the road than on it. It still is great off road but when you take your bike off the road you invariably will fall and that’s how the fairing met its (merciful) end on the bike I’m riding and (mercifully) original replacements aren’t available.
The Fiero however established TVS’ leadership in all kinds of bike racing and all those learnings – including impromptu drag races – have played no small role in the new Apache RTR 200 sweeping every Motorcycle of the Year award there is.