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-   -   Think before buying Karizmas for touring in India (http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hubb/southern-asia/think-before-buying-karizmas-touring-22189)

a1arn 7 Jul 2006 09:10

Think before buying Karizmas for touring in India
There are many like me who have bought their Karizmas for touring in the mistaken notion that an Indian bike would be easily serviceable, or at least serviceable in all parts of India. The truth is that there will almost never be Karizma specific parts at anything other than the major metro cities, and regular consumables such as the drive chain set may not be available for months on end even in metro cities. Be prepared to ship your bike back by train/truck to where you live in case you have any minor problem out of town!

The extremely poor quality of the overpriced parts is another issue which causes mechanical failures.

I've had to replace the cam chain tensioner FOUR times in the last six months under warranty before (the dealer) running out of stock. The next one failed completely out of town, on my way to Allahabad. In 1000 km, the timing chain got damaged, as also the chain guides (the rubber disintegrated, forming a very efficient grinding paste with the engine oil), destroying the cylinder bore. By then I had reached Jhansi (city, north India), and because the HH dealer there had NO parts (nearest dealer who MIGHT have had parts being 100 km away at Gwalior), I had to ship the vehicle back to Mumbai by train. All this is inspite of carrying out regular routine maintainance at the authorized service centre.

I've also had clutch plates wear out in 8 and 10 thousand km (one defective set wore out at 2500 km!) whereas my previous bike, a CBZ (150cc), did not require any such attention for at least 40000 km. And the less said about the Karizma plastic parts,(or their cost) the better.

Even more annoying than the third rate parts and having to pay for engine damage etc caused by the same, not to mention the inconvenience and time wasted, is the attitude of the those at the very top of the company. Mr Brij Mohan Munjal, chairman of the Hero board has not thought it fit to acknowledge my complaint even one and a half months after receiving the complaint letter.

It is sad that the “no 1 motorcycle company in the world” gets away pushing their “no 2” products and spare parts at the public due to the protectionist polisies of the government. Unfortunately, Hero Honda seems to be more than satisfied that “no 1” stands for volume, rather than quality.

So give it a thought when deciding which bike to purchase if you intend to tour in India. Waiting for elusive parts to arrive is a surefire way to ruin your travel plans.

yogesh Sarkar 7 Jul 2006 18:10

Quite true Doc, in fact this is an issue with most of the manufactures in India. However such a scarcity in consumables and other parts is some thing that is not expected. This is some thing that I have noticed since the launch of Karizma, first the major problem was Chain set which was not even available in Delhi which is less then 50kms from Hero Hondas factory.

This is some thing that is well taken case of by Bajaj for Pulsars. When I had a CDI failure two years back while coming back from Manali and it was readily available at the first Bajaj service center I came across in Mandi. Even other parts are readily available in Delhi and rest of the country both in service centers and other shops.

This is due to the no. of pulsars that have been sold till now and also the fact that only a few things have changed over the three revisions and even then most of the parts from the newer revisions can be used in older models.

However the service quality and spare quality isn’t that good, but it is cheaper then karizma. From what I have heard a karizma’s chain set now costs Rs.2100 now, almost 4times the cost of pulsars chain set. For that price I would expect at least double the life or more, but this is not the case.

I think it is about time that we make the manufactures sit up listen and address these problems. Unless and until we can force them to improve the situation, nothing will be done by them. Best way to do this is to let others know about the problems that we face with our bikes and the service support from the manufacturers, only when their sales take a hit because of this, they will sit up and try to fix the problem.

a1arn 7 Jul 2006 19:52

Yes, at least Bajaj parts are easily available.

I've personally advised other riders from across the world to use a Karizma rather than the bigger bullet. I still say that the Karizma is the best package, but any package, however good, can be destroyed by poor attitude and execution.


yogesh Sarkar 7 Jul 2006 20:50

Agree on the part that Karizma is overall a good package, but getting stranded in another city because of a failure of a part and the failure of the company to provide replacement is not at all acceptable. This is the only reason I believe comet is not for touring, if so is the case with karizma then I don’t think I would want to take it out of the city.

yogesh Sarkar 8 Jul 2006 03:50

Doc this post was posted on BCM Touring a while back by Manas from Mumbai


Some of you might remember I had nicked a truck sometime back, and the headlight just touched the truck and broke. I had put it off for sometime.

Today, dad took the bike to Axis motors, Thane(w), and the guy tells him the front alloy is bent. I've gone through two services before that and I mentioned this to them both times that the bike's having some wheel-alignment problem or something. I even thought about the Alloy being bent (infact that was the first thing that came to my mind), but never having really had any "moment" it was just hard to believe that an alloy can bend so easily.

There are two incidents I recall, one was with a 70KG pillion when I hit a ditch, and I was doing 30-40 kph then.

Second was when the road was being contructed near my college and it had a "step" in it from the strip under construction to the existing tarmac. I was doing ~50kph when I hit it and the bike kinda jumped out of it.

Now I've ridden the splendor for more than 5 years, and I've abused it terribly. I've gone through three terrible monsoons (implying the endless potholes) and I've ridden through them like a typical motoX bike. Like I said, abuse.

But all I ever needed was to get the rim aligned once.

The karizma, I havent even ridden it through the monsoons yet, and it's already costing me Rs. 5550. If this is how bad the quality of the ENKEI's is, what's the point in paying for a wheel that costs approx 4 times that of a pulsar's.

I just fear what would happen in the monsoons. Gimme spokes anyday.

Two thumbs down to Hero Honda. Quality <> HH.


a1arn 8 Jul 2006 19:35

Yes, it was on xbhp for some time as well. Unfortunate, he seems to have got a lemon here. But far too many people who have bought Karizmas lately have got to experience that flavour.

Today, I'm scared to replace parts on my bike that have passed their use by date. Who knows how quickly the new parts will fail?:rolleyes2:

Hutch 14 Jul 2006 21:41

Thinking of buying an enfield over there, possibly to ride back to the UK. I've heard good things about them and their dirt cheap to.....

a1arn 15 Jul 2006 20:04

May I suggest you ride one for some time and then buy one.

Ridden at a leisurely 60kph, it will go on for ever. Problem is, you'll only overtake bullock carts and cyclists cruising like that. Trying to ride at 100kph can result in a lot of things ranging from bent valves to seized pistons. Be prepared to do a lot of maintainance. Every day.

A new bike may not pass the homologation requirements in your country. Better to buy a chassis that is 30 years old, and fit new a new motor and cycle parts - at least that way you'll get to keep it, not donate it to the authorities on arrival. Beter to check the rules out before you purchase the bike.



Matt Cartney 15 Jul 2006 21:15

Alarn is right about the EU rules. An Indian Market Bullet will cost a fair bit to 'upgrade' to the correct specification. As a foreign national you will not be legally allowed to buy one in India either, although I believe you can buy them in Nepal. A simpler option to the idea of riding the bike home might be to buy one in Nepal and do a tour of the sub-continent, returning to Nepal and selling it at the end. (Note: I don't know what the Carnet issues with this would be,)
You will hear a lot of guff spoken about Enfields, usually by people who have never owned one, usually that they are terrible. It seems a shame that a truly legendary bike should be so badmouthed on such a regular basis, I cannot work out why. The Bullet has to be the longest produced model of bike in history (not sure if the Ural copy of the wartime BMW counts!), they've been making them for fifty years, surely if they really were no good they'd have stopped making them by now! The Bullet is genuinely the motorcycling equivelent of the Mini or VW Beetle only better than both! By riding one you are riding a piece of automotive history, not sure the Hero-Honda qualifies in that mold!
However, you do have to recognise the Bullet for what it is, essentially a nineteen fifties motorcycle. You have to LOOK AFTER them! This means regular pre-ride checks and adjustments. Although this has the benefit of making you get to know your Bullet intimately! They are also under powered and the brakes are TERRIBLE!
The down side of this is that if you buy one second hand which has not been looked after and been filled with non OEM parts then you could easily buy a complete dog, but that goes for Japanese bikes too.
Go with what your heart tells you, if it tells you to buy a Bullet and you aren't scared of a little spanner work then do it.
PS- I ride my 350 unforgivingly at full throttle regularly, it will happily bang along at 100kph, although I ran mine in extremely carefully. If you buy a new one you will notice the manual gives what seems ridiculously slow running in speeds for long distances, do as it advises!

a1arn 16 Jul 2006 06:32

Unfortunately, a new bullet is still a matter of pot luck. I have a close friend who rents out bullets in Mumbai, and a few of his bikes hardly ever require major work regardless of what is thrown at them, while others require engine rebuilds within 10000km.

He has several bullets, including 500s and diesels, but has found out the hard way that sustained high speed running (if 100kph can be called a high speed!) is not, well, let's say the best way to keep the engine in good shape. He advises that people take the much smaller engined Pulsar for touring, as people return from weeklong trips without getting their hands dirty, something which is practically guaranteed on the bullet. (that people dont listen to him, and insist on the bullets is another thing, but having been warned, they can't moan and whinge that 3 days out of 14 were spent at the local garage instead of on the road)

The disc brake (available as an option) is excellent.

The bullet has survived here in India only because it was the only "big" bike, and because of the peculiar circumstances of the bike manufacturing industry here. Even the Trabant was produced for a long time - it did niot make it a good vehicle. The 1100cc fiat was produced in India for over 40 years. The ambassador is still produced now. These were/are really CRUMMY vehicles, by today's standards. Yes ,anything produced for 50 years, I guess, is motorcycling history, but whether they are any good is open to question.

One has to sometimes decide whether one wants to ride history, OR something reliable, esp while touring.

The problem is, that when people purchase a vehicle they tend to defend their decision, as admitting that they bought the wrong vehicle implies that they had faulty judgement in the first place and bought something unsuitable/without sufficient research. And personal experience is not a good barometer of reliability either, esp. with something that has as much variation from piece to piece as a bullet.

This is not to say that bullets are ALWAYS unreliable. They are not. But much more TLC is need to keep them running properly. Unlike the modern, albeit smaller singles being produced now in India.

Matt Cartney 16 Jul 2006 11:15

The difference between the Ambassador and the Bullet is that the Bullet wasn't a crummy vehicle. In it's day the Bullet was an extremely advanced machine, racking up wins both on the track and in trials competitions. The ambassador (possibly due to it's crumminess, I don't know I've never owned one!) never made it as an export; you can buy Bullets in several countries in Europe, America and Australia where we have a vast range of bikes to choose from. And they still sell.

My personal experience is at least personal and not second hand. And I'm not defending the Bullet because it's 'my choice'. I also ride a Yamaha XT600E which is about as reliable as those lovely Japanese bikes get, unbeleivably tough and I love it. But I enjoy riding my Bullet just as much, only for different reasons.

I agree with you in so far as the Bullet, due to it's outdated manufacturing process, is a highly variable machine, and if you are afraid of oily hands you should probably avoid it. But for me motorcycling is a thing of the heart, not the head and there is no way putting along on an (essentially) modern Japanese 125 is ever going to compare with cruising along on an (essentially) 1950s British thumper.
I wouldn't presume to tell Hutch what bike he should get for his trip, taking the dull but reliable choice* might be the best one for him. But I think he deserves to know why so many people, with realistic knowledge of what their bikes are capable of, still love their Bullets and why it might make his trip that much more special!

*Although this thread seems to suggest the Hero/Hondas aren't so great as they're painted!

a1arn 16 Jul 2006 17:46

The ambassador is a 1950 Morris of some sort.

Yes, it is also exported, with an Isuzu engine. To, er, UK. Nostalgia value, I'm told.

Second hand Lambrettas and Bajaj scooters (Vespa copy?) are also exported to the European countries, as are bullets powered by water pumps.

A bike may be a record breaker in it's time, but half a century later, the game has moved on, over the horizon. The reason the bullet has remained practically unchanged is not because of it's intrinsic goodness, but because there was no need to improve it. Customers could take it, or get lost, and the few alternatives had pedals attached.

RE, Bajaj did not even have indicators on their products for a quarter of a century until forced to, by legislation. Bajaj scooters had a waiting list that ran into several years, and the premium on a 3 year old scooter led to it's price being more than the list price of a new scooter. NOT because it was that good, simply a matter of demand far outstripping supply, as was also the case with RE products.

It is only now, once the competition has come in, that improvements in terms of quality are surfacing on the enfields manufactured lately. A lot of enfield's sales have come from the fact that other bikes produced here are perceived as underpowered as compared to it. The day a big v twin cruiser comes along, at a reasonable price, RE will probably have to shut shop.

Hero Honda is neglecting it's bigger products, like the Karizma, because there is a lot more by way of volume on it's smaller ones. Which, BTW, will get serviced in all nooks and crannies of the country. And are powered by derivatives of the legendary Honda Cub engine. Those engines never fail, They are the things which made the Honda name what it is today. I've never owned one of these, but a five year old example will command a higher resale value than a four year old CBZ (150 cc, costing 70% more when new).

However, it would be foolish to use a sub 10bhp bike for touring. But there are alternatives to the bullet which will travel a lot faster, brake better (than the front drum brake bullet) and handle a lot, lot better. This is very important, because if the bike you are riding on cannot scrub speed off quickly and get onto the shoulder to avoid oncoming traffic overtaking on the wrong side of the road, you have a horizontal trip to the hospital coming up. I think you may have ridden in India before, you know how it is.

These will also allow one to spend ones entire holiday on the road, without ANY work on the bike, save routine maintainance. I'm talking of the Pulsar 180, and the Honda Unicorn, and yes, also the Karizma (new, before parts start failing). ALL these have made it to destinations like Leh, hauling luggage, and in some cases, pillions as well.

That's why I feel that Mr Hutch should not buy first based on hearsay, and decide for himself as to what he wants out of his trip - cruising on a big thumper (which can be done at home), or discovering India (and there are a lot of places to discover) in the limited time at his disposal on something which will not require anything more than routine maintainance.

yogesh Sarkar 17 Jul 2006 11:00

Lets face it, people buy a lot of things not because they are better then what is available in the market, but simply due to the nostalgia value attached to that product. Right now Royal Enfield motorcycles sell for the same reason as Harley Davidson motorcycles are sold in US and around the world.

Matt Cartney 17 Jul 2006 11:25

Of course things have moved on since the fifties! If you buy a Bullet expecting 21st century reliability and performance you're an idiot. :) People buy Bullets BECAUSE they are NOT what you get in any other machine.

I think there may be no way of logically explaining to someone who doesn't understand (a famous mountaineer once said "If you have to ask, you'll never know.") what makes the Bullet so attractive but your freind who owns the rental shop goes some way to explaining why. The tourists ask for Bullets because they have so much more character than the alternative. Yes they have their faults, but the whole package is so inherently positive.
I love to park my Bullet next to bikes worth literally twenty times as much, Ducatis and BMWs etc. and watch the little crowd develop round MY bike! My mate with a BMW Dakar admitted it niggled him just a little to see the attention my 'old heap' got when parked next to his bike just after he bought it!

I've had everyone from non biking joe public to guys who had one in the fifties, to guys on ZZRs and even a guy on the nicest Vincent I've ever seen, come up, admire the bike and ask me about it.

You can't boil biking down to "what is the most reliable bike" or even "what is the fastest bike", you have to look deeper. Some bikes just have SOUL and the tourists who come to India and the guys who buy Bullets in the West know that the Royal Enfield has it in spades.

I agree though (if he hasn't got bored with our discussion and decided to Ural round Russia!) that Hutch needs to research carefully before commiting to doing the Bullet thing. You need patience, an implacable nature, time and to be a wee bit of a mechanic to enjoy running an Enfield. Any old tube can get on a Jap/German bike and ride it (as the A9 in Scotland is daily proof of) but it takes a bit of 'CHARACTER' as my Grandad would have said, to be an Enfielder. The rewards are there though.


a1arn 17 Jul 2006 20:16

Most of my friend's rental customers ask for a bullet because it is the biggest bike around, and it is not unreasonable to assume that a low revving 350 cc engine would be much less stressed on a long trip than a much higher revving engine 170 cc smaller.

Also, because their friends have ridden bullets at a time there were no alternatives!

About the character bit, I can only say that there are two categories of bullet owners, the larger group that admires and loves them, spending hours every week maintaining them in their pristine glory, and the much smaller group that actively loathes them (and have since sold their bullets!).

I had a choice of buying a bullet too, for touring, but at that time the first trip that an average bullet made was one to the local mechanic (not the company approved one) to plug the leaks in the crank case, change all the rubber parts and seals, and adjust anything that could possibly require adjustment because a lot of these parts would come out of the showroom wrongly adjusted. The front disc was not even an option at that time. Things have improved since, but could be a lot better.

I still remember the time I accompanied Andy (the rental guy) and two of his friends a part of the way home (about 5 miles) after he had bought two brand new bullets (for a couple of his clients). They stalled about 20 times in traffic within that 5 miles. I later learnt that the total journey took them about 3 1/2 hours (there was heavy traffic) for about 15 miles more. The clutch cable on one of the machines lost adjustment, and one of the riders had to switch places with his pillion because he could not kick any more. Poor fellows had to kick their stalled machines to life at least 60 times each. Now this sort of a thing can be rectified in the city with mechanics easily available, but when it starts to happen on a lonely side road, esp in an area where there is a law and order problem (and there is no shoratge of these in north India), you have very tough choices to make. I also remember another client of his who rode up to the pump with me on a 535 lightening (he had this thing about wanting to ride the biggest bike in India), and it took him 40 kicks to start up, longer than the time he took to fill fuel. This particular machine even seized up while he was touring with his wife. But it did take him around quite a bit of India. Eventually.

Again, not all bullets have horror stories like this, which I have seen firsthand. But as you have mentioned there are also many bullets which continue to give trouble free service, and as you have mentioned, a bullet's reliability cannot be compared with an UJM, but with a little TLC, they can manage reasonably.

Being fairly common, it does not draw any attention here, but it does have a positive image, simply because it is not the choice of the average hooligan or criminal here, (no prizes for guessing why) and because it is used by army/law enforcement types.

Yes, it would definitely draw a lot of attention in UK, where the alternatives (for bikes of this type and vintage) are vastly more expensive.

It would be intersting to see what Mr Hutch decides.... :)

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