Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Yamaha line-up is a visual delight

Picked this picture up from the Yamaha website. The website remains as hopeless but these bikes look ravishing standing in one line. Starting from left, the bikes are Gladiator Type SS (Stylish & Sporty), YZF-R15 and FZ15. While the first is an improvement of the current Gladiator, the other two are 150cc bikes modelled on two of the best (also big) global bikes of Yamaha, R1 and FZ1. Late, really late but eye-pleasing nonetheless.

From what I've read in Bike and on 2wheelsindia.com, the R15 is expected to redefine what we call performance bikes. Here's a picture from one of the posts on Payeng's blog.

Payeng is 5'5". Comparing the bike's build with Payeng's, the two seem to be a good match :). So, is it a small bike for the average Indian male? Some comments on Payeng's blog suggest that readers do think it's a smallish bike considering what all it promises in terms of performance.

I have some thoughts. If we look at Yamaha RD350 and Yamaha RX100, the two performance bikes of yesteryears, both had a rather naked look. RD350 had twin cylinders, packed 32bhp power and yet wasn't really as big. RX100, the same. The tyres weren't really fat. Reason, the broader the tyres, the more it takes to propel the bike and therefore loss in pickup and loss in fuel-efficiency. The narrower the tyres, the better the concentration of power to propel the bike (Forgive me for not using the technical jargon. This is the best I can explain. Hope you are getting it). Of course, the tyres can't be cycle-like! :)

So, why does one need broad tyres for YZF-R15? Are we gonna take really close-to-the-ground turns on racetracks at 100mph or what?

There have been comments on the size of the bike too. It is said that the wheelbase is lesser than the likes of Pulsar, Karizma, etc. Does the length of the bike matter so much? Perhaps not. In fact, it's the sitting height which matters more. If it's too high it can affect handling since your feet might not touch the ground comfortably; if it's too low it might feel more like a cruise-bike instead of a sports-bike.

So guys, just chill. I would rather reserve my judgments until the time I take a ride on R15. As far as the specs and the styling are concerned, I think the bike excites. Let it come out on the roads. Then we'll discuss the rest too :). What say?

Thanks Payeng for getting the bike closer to us through your blog.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

TVS, where dost thou go? (Part-3)

Alright, so the Chennai High Court verdict has gone against TVS. Consequence: TVS can't produce and market TVS Flame in its current shape. If the engine is replaced (rather rendered in a way that it isn't seen as theft of Bajaj's patented technology) then, of course it can still sell Flame. It's a dampener surely for TVS. This gives me one more opportunity to take a dig at TVS's marketing strategy; though, only for its good.

I've been watching more Apaches on the road. They are also more noticeable and better representatives of TVS; Apache is a good product (mind you, not brand; I said 'product') to say the least, or that's what I make out from various magazine reviews, that's what I make out when I compare it to earlier products like Fiero, and Victor etc, that's what I make out when I compare it to other products in the same category.

Apache has also helped improve TVS's market share. In its category, it's second only to Pulsar! Wait, wait. But then how many other brands are there? Achiever, Unicorn, Hunk... Any more?

Marketing men responsible for marketing Apache and the agency (or agencies) responsible for devising the 'brand strategy' for TVS Apache would like definitely like to feel good for themselves - Apache has succeeded coz of them. I am sorry; Apache worked in spite of their strategy! I would like to think that Apache worked solely because it is a good product and, because there was no great alternative other than Pulsar to look forward to in the 150cc category. And so people voted for the Apache; anti-incumbency factor, you call that in Politics. Though note that, Pulsar hasn't been dethroned; so the anti-incumbency factor is only restricted to Politics. Markets are ruled by brands and categories they can believably stand for.

Cut to the point. The current campaign says 'It's now or never'. Say what? What does it mean? How does that represent the bike, the brand Apache? Yes, there would be some convoluted, layered explanation for that line. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. Pulsar says 'Definitely male' - amply clear. What's 'now or never'?

Observe Apache and Pulsar a little carefully and you might find a few differences. Or if you haven't observed but read the biking magazine reviews, you would have read that Apache is slightly smaller in size, both in seat height and length (wheel-base) - nothing negative about it though. Also, it looks 'more' compact. It is said to have more power (in 'bhp'; I am not a technical person, so hope you get the point). Also, TVS has a good racing pedigree. Many of its racers and bikes have won national motorcycle racing championships. In fact, it also has a training school for racing.

Marketing men often try sounding and feeling intellectual; nothing wrong with that too but if it comes at the cost of ignoring the obvious, then it can hurt.

In my earlier post (Part-2) of this series, I had suggested three positioning options for TVS. Here's the fourth:

Compact Race Machines

Alternatively, we can just say,

Race Machines

Straight, direct, impactful and converts the so-called negative 'small size' (if it is thought to be a negative) into a purposeful positive attribute. Why 'race'? Coz that's the ultimate arena for performance bikes. Also, it is a silent acknowledgment of the status quo (Pulsar is first, Apache is second) and yet a rebellious powerful intent (come on Pulsar, let's slug it out). It's a challenge. No harm in acknowledging the status-quo and still standing upright. Remember, we like the underdogs (in fact, we relate to them, don't we?) who have the guts to fight it out. Anti-incumbency factor (external) + an inspiring intent (internal) is a deadly combo.

That's too direct, say the marketing men! Then, let me coin something abstract but reflecting the same thought as above:

Packs a Punch!

Let's be honest. Doesn't it sound better? Doesn't it accord a better position to Apache; a position that would justify the beauty of the product and give it the due commercial success? In fact, it offer a strong platform for TVS's future bikes too.

Unsolicited but with good intent.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Helmetless on Sunday - an aesthetic issue

I've been wearing helmet ever since I started riding a two-wheeler (first was Kinetic Honda, followed by Splendor, Yamaha RXG135, Bajaj Wind, Bullet Machismo and finally Avenger 200).

Every time I open Bike, I see some pictures of helmetless riders being chastised for ignoring their safety. Valid. Quite some time back, when I used to own a Yamaha RXG135, I met with an accident and I can vouch that had I not worn my helmet, my skull would've cracked. Even with the helmet on, I suffered a rather dangerous cut on my eye-lid and I bled profusely - to the extent that my friend's mother refused to recognize me when I reached his house close by, right after the mishap. Even my parents didn't recognize me what with my head and one eye bandaged in full white (a la Anil Kapoor in Meri Jung :D). I was saved nonetheless.

Having said that, times have changed for me. Then I was in Ahmedabad, now am in Mumbai. Commute 45kms every day to office and back. And every day cover my face and head with bandanas beneath the helmet to save me from dust and pollution. Helmet's necessary to say the least.

Yesterday, I rode my Avenger without a helmet. Of course, the distance was short and I was in no rush. Also I didn't have to fear any traffic policemen in our area. Wind blew ever so gently in my face and for once I - used to all sorts of covering every day for about 3 hours of riding - felt exhilarating. Hair got disheveled and I loved it. Safety didn't matter; of course, purists would say, you never know when someone can knock you down no matter how careful you are. I did it deliberately, out of convenience, out of a little desire for change. Spare me.

Riding slowly on a sunny morning on an open road is an aesthetic issue. So if you are a 'safety-first' person and never forget to helmetize your head, just do this once - go helmetless. You'll love it. And you'll love the purists frown :).

Friday, February 8, 2008

Irony

Read a quote in one of the posts on 2wheelsindia.com. Mr. Pawan Munjal, CEO, Hero Honda Motors says, "We have focus on all the three segments and more and more on the premium, the youth and on the youngsters."

Amazing how conveniently we can use the word 'focus'. The news is, I repeat, that Hero Honda is going to focus on all the three segments! All the best.

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