Think of the Hero Honda Karizma as a working mum who’s a champion boxer. She’ll earn money to run the family, prepare meals for her husband and kids and bash up the bad guy on the street who tries to act funny. The trusty Hero is an all-rounder in the truest sense of the word. One of the punchiest and the most reliable bikes in the country, a proven tourer and a sweet handler, the bike has all bases covered with aplomb.
With the likes of the Yamaha R15 and the Pulsar 220 in contention for the ultimate honour, it was always going to be difficult for the HH to be crowned the champion. The oldest performance bike in the Indian market, however, refuses to go down without a fight. After having ridden all the bikes exhaustively around the racetrack, almost all the jury members felt that the Karizma Fi felt more reassuring, stable and poised around the corners than the gruntier and flashier Pulsar.
The commuter oriented tiding position, the low footpegs, the conventional handlebars along with the relatively low power output when compared to the Bajaj makes this Hero Honda Karizma Fi slightly slower around the MMSC track. However, it isn’t as spoilt a brat as the Pulsar which throws a tantrum at every attempt towards making it do something.
For the amount of power the bike produces, it remains surprisingly composed and acts in a supremely obedient manner. It’s not the fastest bike around any of the sections or corners as our test data suggests. However, it’s excruciatingly close to all its peers and finishes a respectable third with a very honourable overall timing.
The brilliance of the Karizma Fi is in its subtlety. It doesn’t make any tall claims about its prowess around the track, and yet when you take it around the course for a timed spin, it delivers in the most understated manner. There’s no drama, noise or scary moments as the bike’s chassis and underpinnings are supremely composed even under high torture conditions. The low footpegs keep scraping intermittently and bring some doubt in your mind as you try to dip the bike too hard.
Footpeg scrapes have brought riders down previously too; a scraping sound always tends to make you slow down. You keep wishing that the pegs were slightly higher and the handlebar a little lower, but then there’s a reason why they are the way they are; the Hero Honda was not designed keeping the racetrack in mind.
The grip from the MRF Zappers is impressive and at no point did we feel that the grand old lady of all Indian performance biking was losing its rear. Although impressive in almost every perceptible department, the Karizma Fi wasn’t quite as flickable as the TVS Apache RTR Fi or as powerful as the Pulsar or even as immaculate a handler as the R15. The motorcycle is a phenomenal overall package. It delivers on every count but doesn’t have a clear lead in any of the performance parameters. Even with all those wrinkles on its face, the trusty Hero Honda Karizma Fi remains an impeccable force to be reckoned with, both on the street and on the racetrack.