We received a cryptic invitation to come ride something new from TVS two days ago. It requested to come see the "new products." That's interesting because the TVS Apache RTR 200 being ready to launch is not that well kept a secret. However, company officials refused to even broach the topic of the plural in the invitation. Which tells us that the TVS Victor, a commuter-class motorcycle which has popped in and out of the buzz over the past four years is ready to meet the public.
A quick history lesson, the TVS Victor was on the first motorcycles I tested from the brand when I joined this line of work. It was TVS' first all-indigenous development and in 2001 it was pretty good as well as pretty popular too. It was impressive in corners, fast for its class down the straight and TVS had done a terrific job. In about 2004 came the Victor GLX, a 125cc motorcycle, that was nearly the exact opposite. It wasn't badly made or engineered but it lacked that spark of life of the smaller sibling and while that's perhaps not the scientific reason why it didn't find traction, it wasn't popular. TVS' Victor was on the downslope and luckily for the company, the bike disappeared from the market sometime in 2006-7 without the brand name suffering.
Over the years, the Victor name has always brought a smile to the R&D boffins at TVS - it is clearly a motorcycle they remember fondly. The number crunchers must be fond of it too - it was a good seller. So what does that tell us about the new motorcycle.
I'm reading a lot of stories that the new bike is going to enter the 110cc class where TVS already have the Max 4R and two versions of the Star City on sale. TVS do well in this segment, managing about 17-18 per cent market share. But I don't agree with this speculation. TVS rever the Victor brand and I would be surprised to see them squander it in a segment where success is hard to come by and profits are even harder to generate. It isn't an economy brand that'll sit in the meat of that market anyway so making it the top 110cc motorcycle in their range makes little sense to me. The flip side of the argument is that it is easy to enter that segment. TVS could easily tweak or tune an existing engine and create that top rung 110, right? Would you give that bike a name as powerful as Victor for TVS?
That's why I think the TVS Victor is going be the 125 that starts the company's representation in the 125cc segment. It will be all-new - that's a new chassis and a new engine. The 125cc segment is going through a bit of an upheaval. Recent sales for the Hero Glamour and the Hero Super Splendor have shown an uptick while traditional leader Honda's Shine continues to lead but the gap appears to be smaller. Introducing an understood and well-liked brand could give TVS the leg-up it needs to make a dent in this competitive space while TVS shareholders will probably like the fact that 125s make more money overall than 100s and 110s per unit sold.
There is one more reason why I think the TVS Victor is going to be a 125. The 100-110cc space is well represented in terms of sub-positions. There are bargain basement bikes, mid-order bikes of all flavours as well as top-end bikes. The 125s aren't like that. The glaringly open position is for a sportier 125 than the others which are all more or less vanilla commuters with slightly differing positions.
The spy shots we have also suggest that top-end 125cc class position. The petal disc brake in the front, the mesh inlay on the side panel, contrast stitching and textures on the seat, aircraft-style gas tank cap and a clean but muscular tail end all suggest a top-end product rather than a mid-order motorcycle. What I am surprised to see is the twin rear shock - I would have thought TVS might have gone the monoshock way with the Victor.
Stay tuned to OVERDRIVE for all the details on the Victor as we report live, as usual, from the launch event on January 20. And don't forget the TVS Apache RTR 200 will go on sale that day too.