The Hero Honda Karizma. This is a name that rings bright and true in the hearts of many a motorcycle enthusiast. It has managed to develop quite a significant fan following ever since its launch two decades ago, and justly so, considering how capable it was in willing to go the distance, that too in considerable comfort. From growing up with posters of the Karizma on bedroom walls, to creating indestructible memories, not to mention, setting records (I shall get to this in a while), the Karizma has been pretty significant all along.
Considered widely to be one of the first sport-bikes of India, we have heard tales of riders traversing the length and breadth of the globe, setting endurance records, insane conversions and much more on the Karizma. With the intention of carrying forward the legend, Hero Motocorp has brought back the Karizma moniker with the new Karizma XMR, and it seems to have taken it upon itself to highlight the ‘sport’ in ‘sport-bike’, so we take a closer look at the two motorcycles side-by-side.
Ever since its launch not too long ago, the Karizma XMR has been subject to mixed reviews as far as its demeanour is concerned, owing to the fact that it carries a name associated with unrestrained exhilaration and thrill. Quite big shoes to fill, in general, considering the ongoing gentrification of most two-wheeled troublemakers in the name of emission and safety norms. Still, riding the Karizma XMR, I feel that it is a fairly good motorcycle, but the problem is that a Karizma is not meant to be just fairly good. It is supposed to give the rider a burst of excitement every time they get in the saddle. The Karizma’s free-revving engine was enjoyed by all the enthusiasts, and paired with that smooth five-speed gearbox, it sustained highway speeds effortlessly. No doubt then, that it was the choice of many who had been infected by wanderlust. Not only that, I have personally borne witness to quite a few modified dirt bikes that carry the same 223cc, air-cooled, 4-stroke, single-cylinder engine.
To add more feathers to the Karizma’s cap, the fine example you can see on these pages belongs to none other than Adil Jal Darukhanawala. One of the first bikes to roll off the assembly line, having also been used to set India’s first 24-hour endurance record for time, speed and distance, it is the perfect example of what makes a motorcycle legendary. Knowing that it has achieved all this and more, with decades of usage, while still effortlessly managing to induce a feeling of euphoria while riding it just goes to reinforce what a beautiful machine the Karizma is.
With the Karizma XMR, having ridden it extensively within the city as well as on vast highway stretches, it does well with a bit of prodding. Like that one friend who has to be coerced into joining the collective revelry, but is then capable of a decent amount of mischief. It has a sweet spot between 6000 and 8000 rpm, where it is highly responsive and quite fun, but you need to put in a good deal of effort to get it there.
And since Hero has traded in the easygoing upright riding ergonomics for a sportier crouched position, it, unfortunately, doesn’t have the same touring comfort as the old Karizma. On the other hand, it handles and corners pretty well and feels nimble, courtesy of the new trellis frame setup.
Sure, the new Karizma does offer a lot more, in terms of an adjustable visor, a split-seat setup, a six-step preload adjustable monoshock, disc brakes with dual-channel ABS, an LCD display with Bluetooth connectivity, turn-by-turn navigation, and more. The OG Karizma on the other hand makes do with a simple three-pod instrument cluster with one digital dial and an electric starter, and that’s about it, but what more does one actually need? A motorcycle that won’t let you down and the open highway, that’s all it takes, frankly. Adding to how dear the Karizma is to owners, we happened to stop at an eatery, where we noticed a well-maintained Karizma R parked outside. The motorcycle belonged to Ojas, the proprietor, who enthusiastically told us all about how his first bike was a Karizma, and how, following a small mishap, he was forced to sell it. Not long after, the regret stemming from the sale ate away at him, but he was unfortunately unable to track down his motorcycle by then. Around the same time, he managed to get his hands on this Karizma R, and has had it with him ever since, with no plans to part with it now.
To dissect the qualities that make a legend what it is, the Karizma has a charm that is especially difficult to replicate. Having attempted to give a new spin to the legend with the Karizma XMR, Hero has taken quite a gamble. Purists will put it through a trial by fire and the outcome is yet to be observed in detail, but for those who are able to look at the Karizma XMR without seeing the added burden of the legend it bears, it is a pretty well-sorted motorcycle. Whether it is remembered as fondly in another decade or two, remains to be seen.