which scooter or bike for a middle aged tourer with back problems?

I am looking for a bike or scooter that can do tarmac runs and carry me to Ladakh or Spiti without a pillion and minimal luggage.

BHPian SidharthaN recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

I am a 44 year old, working professional based out of Delhi/NCR, have a cervical shoulder, and lower back, with slowly developing arthritis in the knees. Five feet eight inches and eighty kilos of weight.

My current ride is a 2016 RE TB UCE at 1,20,000 kms on the odo. The bike still runs till 80 without any major issues, except the pick up has slowed a bit, and vibrations have increased over the kms.

Some background on my touring. Started with a RE TB AVL for 50,000kms sold and got a P220 which was used for 30,000 kms and finally my RE TB UCE at 1,20,000kms. I would say city vs highway usage currently stands at 80/20 ratio.

However am looking to bring a new vehicle to the stable. My RE is aggravating my spondylitis and am not confident if I can venture out on the highways with it now. I know I will be advised to shift to a 4 wheeler and quit riding, but is like leaving a long standing addiction to smoking, just not have been able to give up biking altogether over the years.

My requirements are comfort to my ageing torso; I keep speeds between 80-90kmph on highways. Am looking for a vehicle which can do the tarmac and probably carry me to Ladakh/Spiti this year without pillion and minimal luggage.

Budget is 1,80,000 INR max

My shortlisted vehicles:

Hero XPulse 200 4V – This meets my requirements of upright seating, good suspension, a top end which I will have no problem with. Cheap to maintain, with hopefully available spares, and Hero not axing the model with the upcoming 300 ADV. Also in my budget. I test rode the vehicle for 1-2 kms and found it quite comfortable. The fly in the ointment is will the engine last till 1 lakh kms as my TB and we actually do not have any long ownership reports of the 200 4v.

Pulsar N160 – The latest breed of pulsars. Have owned the OG definitely male pulsar, along with the 1st gen DTSI, and a P220 down the line. Have been associated with Pulsar’s for long. This seems to be a sporty commuter with advanced features and a top end of 80 kmph and definitely better tractability in the city. The slightly sporty posture is something I am not sure my knees can take in the long runs, and can the engine be stressed continuously at 90 kmph over extended time. You tube has gaga reviews of the N and F series pulsar’s, but have not seen any on the roads. My budget permits till the 250’s, but what is the future of these latest gen pulsar’s

I am also open to looking at scooters for touring. I am a big fan of maxi scooters but that segment will be lukewarm in our country. Keeway Vieste is a good product but atrociously priced, and was destined for failure with the pricing. The convenience of gearless with adequate power is the perfect combination for cities and highways. My choices in this category.

Yamaha Aerox – Fits the bill for power with the 150 R15 mill and can keep 80-90 on the highway without getting stressed. The small tank range vs the power is a deterrent. Also have not seen a single Aerox in Delhi/NCR or anywhere much pan india, even at the dealers. What is the future with sales and spares of this model. Lack of parts availability and long term support might be an issue.

Vespa 150 – Am a sucker for retro looks and the Vespa’s get you weak on the knees (which in my case will be wobbling soon). The 150’s seem to have the max power and a tank range of 7 liters. Can cruise at 80 on the highways with sustained breaks. Have never ridden one so am not sure on the comfort. Will be a boon for the city and highways combined. Price is definitely on the higher side.

Aprilia SR and SXR 160 – The SR though having power has extremely stiff suspension as per feedback, have not ridden one, but has the power to pull on the highways, comfort goes for a toss. SXR is the stylish version with added comfort and same characteristics. Do not see much on the roads so same issues of long term spares availability and reliability. Also priced higher.

Suzuki Burgman – Definitely not a maxi scooter, but a wannabe, however the comfort factor seems good. Again have not ridden it, but had owned a 1st gen Access, hence can guess the power characteristics. A normal 125 scoot, will be out of breath on highways, but the streched out seating is a temptation.

If anyone has long term experiences on these vehicles kindly share. I am not planning to sell the TB and will be using it till it falls apart. I know the TB can still do what I want, but am looking at a better comfort option, with maybe slight reduction in speed.

Here’s what BHPian drt_rdr had to say on the matter:

Considering your requirements, I’d say get a bike with ergonomics that put you in all-around control of the bike: upright seating and neutral placed or slightly rearset pegs.

I personally find sitting upright is just a more conducive position for relieving various stresses while riding longer distances.

And neutral peg position would allow you to stand up or slightly lift yourself with ease to avoid hits from bad road conditions. The forward set pegs on cruisers makes the sitting posture very comfortable, but also makes it difficult to lift yourself to save your backbutt over bad roads or dirt.

So, I see 3 good options for you within your budget.

Xpulse 4V> This seems to be a trial-and-error platform for Hero, but they’ve been making confident strides with every update. Unless I put it to the rigours of competition, I don’t think I’d be worried about the engine on this. Hero’s 5-year warranty is also there.

The sloping seat has been an issue for me on this and the Impulse. But you can get the flat seat from the rally kit to save you some hassles if you can handle the extra height.

Pulsar 250 N> I never liked the DTSi era pulsars and never expected to like any pulsar, but the 250 ended up getting me to respect Bajaj after checking it out and testriding a few kms. It seems to be a thoughtfully made bike with just the right compromises.

This is a low-tech bike featuring technology Bajaj is extremely familiar with. So, personally, I’d not worry much about on this. Suspension and brakes felt excellent for our road conditions. And unlike the other 250s nakeds, the seat is not sloped. I think, ergonomically, the only thing wanting on this is a taller handlebar for an easier reach.

Ronin> Seems to fit your requirements almost as if tailormade. The downside is it’s a new product, but it looks like a confidence inspiring effort by TVS. Seems like they went all in on this and it shows in the robust-looking build and refined ride quality.

The seating position is very comfortable. The footpeg is slightly forward set. It’s not cruiser-like, but doesn’t offer a good position for standing up either. But it felt good enough for easily getting yourself off the seat momentarily if need be. I think the soft seat and the fairly soft suspension will mitigate that need quite a bit though.

Since you were also looking for the convenience of a scooter, this offers that to some extent with the promise of needing minimal gear changes because the torque is spread evenly all across the revrange and you can pick up from very low speeds even in higher gears.

Here’s what BHPian SoumenD had to say on the matter:

The Hero Xpulse is tailor-made for your requirements. Hero engine should last long enough without much hassle, they aren’t very high compression/complicated as such. For long ownership you will have to wait for few years but if reviews till now are to be believed, this bike is everything you need.

Don’t worry about not seeing the Yamaha Aerox in NCR. This scoot sells aplenty down in Bangalore and other cities. Its a fun bike to ride but is stiff again to certain extent as per reviews. Plus the 5L tank range really limits its highway usability.

Do take an extended test ride of the Xpulse 4v by renting it out and check if it suits your back. If yes, go for it. There’s hardly any bike in market which is such tremendous VFM.

Here’s what BHPian deep_bang had to say on the matter:

I have some back and hip joint issues for quite some time and I found that bikes are many times better than scooters in general due to larger wheels, and usually better suspension travel. So, I feel you should not go towards the scooter side.

However, if the need is for short drives only, while keeping the TB for longer rides, the scooter still works, in my humble opinion.

Here’s what BHPian SS80 had to say on the matter:

Bikes mostly have 17″ & higher size wheels which are good at absorbing the road bumps and feel easier on hips especially if you ride on potholes like the ones we see in Bangalore.

I don’t know if others agree, no mono-shock bike can effectively absorb shocks like the dual shocks we find on commuter bikes, usually, they are stiff even on their softest setting. This is one of the reasons why I will not suggest any scooter to you – smaller wheels and single shocker in the rear.

I have used the following bikes extensively – unicorn dazzler(mono shock), discover 100 (5speed) nitrox suspension, activa(10″ wheels), wego (12″ wheels), Electra and lastly I am now with ct110 with SNS suspension.

Nothing absorbs potholes like my current ride, feels plush and is worth every penny, I am 33 and no longer have the urge to ride fast, although I do like riding long distances

  • Buy a bike with the following features
  • Dual shocks in the rear
  • Preferably a new bike
  • Avoid touring/tall bikes if your height is not sufficient
  • Although Xpulse looks great when new, try checking out how impractical it is as a commuter and also the condition of the bike deteriorates after sometime.
  • Add extra cushion to the seat and a modified (removable) backrest for long rides like Ladakh.

For a tarmac rider, Xpulse will be an overkill.

Here’s what BHPian RT13 had to say on the matter:

Scooters – for anything much more than grocery runs they are a terrible idea for anyone with even a slightly dodgy back (such as yours truly who struggles with one too), let alone someone with spondylitis and oncoming arthritis. You need decent suspension trace and excellent ergonomics. Even the best maxis won’t beat a motorcycle in those departments. The Aerox is a phenomenal product but I think you’ll still pay the (health) price over distances.

The Xpulse seems the most optimal choice although I personally am not sure whether the build quality is good enough to age well over 1 lakh kms. Not the engine so much as all the plastics panels, wheels and so on. I’d say keep your expectations modest and you’ll be fine. There’s now a long travel rally version of it which might be even better for your needs.

Having said all of which, given your particular requirements, you may be best off finding a lightly used Honda CBR250 – wonderful ergonomics, beautiful engine, bombproof build quality and hallmark Honda reliability. You’ll spend half the money up front, and keep the rest for any part swapping over time. And even if it lasts you just half the miles (it’ll do much more and quite easily I’m sure), you can re-evaluate options a few years down the line.

Other options may be from the new RE Hunter lineup or the TVS Ronin, although I’d never be an early adopter of any RE product in all honesty.

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