KANCHANABURI is a long, long way from Kuala Lumpur, and Chiangmai is even further away. But since Chiangmai is the “regular” starting point of Thailand’s famous “1000 Corners”, it is the destination that I am aiming for to start the “1864 Corners by Pulsar” adventure. However, this is not the core of the story. It is merely the background for the road test of the Modenas Pulsar NS200.

The sun is setting and there is a further 90km to go to Kanchanaburi and Death Railway.

Launched back in May 2017, the Modenas Pulsar NS200 is justly considered the “naked” version of its sportier brother, the Pulsar RS200. However, the NS200 is very different. They are similar in terms of the engine, the 200cc DTS-i, SOHC, four-valve, fuel-injected power plant, with triple spark technology. It produces just 21.5hp at 9,750rpm and 18.6Nm of torque at 8,000rpm, and capable of a maximum speed of around 150kph. Both the RS200 and NS200 have the same suspension package with front telescopic forks and a Nitrox monoshock absorber with canister on the rear. The chassis is the same, a steel perimeter style frame with corresponding steel swingarm. A conservative chassis geometry gives stable, solid handling and the suspension is well-damped with adequate spring rates.

Both bikes come standard with MRF tyres, made in India. Both share the same meter panel which sadly, does not have a gear indicator.

Everything else is different. The RS200 has an aggressive sporty headlights in a full-coverage fairing. The fairing provides good wind protection and the lower handlebars put more weight on the front wheel making the RS200 a better handling bike. The naked NS200 has different styling forwards of the fuel tank. The wider cowling looks more conservative, but the single headlamp is still quite attractive and aggressive. It, too, has daytime running lights like its brother. Higher handlebars and a lack of wind protection mean that the NS200 is more suitable for town riding and commuting.

However, I chose the NS200 for riding up to Chiangmai. The bike came equipped from Modenas with a Givi topbox and Givi panniers. Modenas assure me that a better system of securing the panniers (which wobbled slightly) was available, but not quite in stock just yet. However, the panniers gave no trouble whatsoever, except during my incursion into the infamous Bangkok gridlock.

A touring bike is anything you ride long distances. What separates a good touring bike from a bad one is how far and how long can you ride it without falling prey to fatigue and extended pit stops.

A good touring bike needs a good fuel range (either through a large tank or excellent fuel mileage), a comfortable seat and suspension that doesn’t pummel you into submission. The NS200 scores excellent points in all aspects.

The highway up to Bukit Kayu Hitam from Kuala Lumpur is smooth and fast. Speed is not necessary for touring (how else would you enjoy the sights and smells?) and the NS200 covered the distance on just two fill-ups of its 11-litre tank (with a third just before the border). While the seat is just about acceptable, the lack of wind protection was a major bugbear on the highway. A small fairing, easily fitted by owners, would help a lot.

However, once into Thailand, average speeds were lower due to road conditions and traffic. Here, the lack of a fairing was less felt and the seat was more insistent about pit stops. Still we covered a good distance right up to Suratthani.

The next days’ riding up to Kanchanaburi revealed the suspension to be excellent at absorbing the sometimes rough surfaces we encountered. The firm damping and springs hardly ever bottomed out and provided a safe, stable platform to enjoy the trip. Further up to Chiangmai, the featureless, straight highways made me wish for Malaysia’s RON95 as the Thailand petrol made the Pulsar breathless and slow. The best I could get on Siamese fuel was around 135 kph.

Once onto the 1000 corners proper, the other major difference between the RS200 and NS200 made itself felt. The RS200 has a single-channel ABS that works in tandem with its front 300mm brake disc. The NS200 has no ABS at all on the single 280mm front brake disc. This meant more careful consideration of road surfaces and speeds were necessary while traversing the treacherous corners. The choice of a smaller disc actually makes sense as it means that it is less likely to lock up. And, while the brake is none too powerful, it is eminently controllable even while panic braking (quite a few of that on the 1000 corners).

The NS200 proved itself a capable touring bike (even as standard), and with the addition of a small fairing would be just as good as any other similar machine. The clincher is that it is actually better than any other in its class at touring (except its brother) due to the superb tank range, good(ish) seat and great suspension.

When you consider that the selling price is RM9,222.00 (including GST) the NS200 looks even better still. Get a windshield and go ride!

Highway 1095 marks the beginning of the Chiang Mai-Pae-Mae Hong Son route.

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