ORIGIN OF THE SPECIES
One of the auto magazines said, “To many, the unicorn is hardly
an apt name for a bike, but when it comes from the Honda stable,
anything goes”. Fact is Unicorn is actually the MOST apt name
for this bike because the Japanese never do anything without solid
logic, Honda even more so. When Alexander invaded India in 326 BC,
he saw for the first time in his life a one-horned Indian Rhinoceros
(which does not exist in Europe). He named it Uni-corn (Uni=one;
corn=horn). Now everyone knows that this bike is the first bike
in India to have mono-shock (Uni-shock) rear suspension. Thus, mono=one=uni,
and as we all know the shape of a shock absorber is cylindrical
like a Rhino horn. The rear end & tail light is also very horny.
So what else would you call this bike but Unicorn?
History apart, mono-shock really makes technical sense, because
un-even-ness is impossible in this design. It is a fact that in
our body, our two legs are not absolutely identical, neither are
our two hands or eyes or ears. We might be born with identical pairs,
but as we grow our limbs and components become non-identical due
to the unequal work we put them to. Same with twin rear shock absorbers.
As we ride any bike, our personal biases and external conditions
cause them to wear un-evenly. And over time we get wobble, pulling
to one side, instability etc. But in the Unicorn, this is obviously
impossible. Indeed, rear mono-shocks are almost de-rigueur in most
modern super bikes. I would not be surprised if the Pulsars too
adopt this pattern sooner than later.
The first time you ride the Unicorn, the thing that immediately
strikes you is the PROGRESSIVE nature of the braking characteristics
of the front disc brake, which is brilliant. Indeed, I would say
this is the best disc brake on two wheels among all bikes in India
today, and it shows in the sixty-to-zero braking distance figure
for this bike, mentioned elsewhere in this report.
I have already done over 1500 km on the Unicorn. Many solo long
rides PLUS a long double seat ride with FAT pillion on bad country
roads made worse by this year’s heavy rain as also shorter
rides in the city, with equally bad roads due to the rain. And Honda
launches Unicorn when the roads are in the worst condition as if
to say, “You bloody horrible road, lets see what you can do
to me.” And as I found out, the answer is, “nothing”!
The bike is very much at ease in all conditions, whether double
seat on country road puddles or singles on city pot- holes. Pickup
is great, in any gear. Low End Torque (LET) is unbeatable. Surprisingly,
so is High End Torque (HET) as well as mid-range. This is most gratifying.
Sometime ago, when two-strokers still ruled the road, I used to
fit Expansion Chambers (EC), also known as Proton or KRP exhaust,
on my 2-stroke bikes such as Shogun, RX, Shaolin etc., to enhance
performance. I had to choose between three different types of ECs
depending on my requirement, be it Low End, Mid-range, and High-end.
There were no ECs available that would enhance torque all thru the
rpm range. Yet, thru ONE tuned silencer of the Unicorn, Honda has
been able to achieve un-paralled torque spread, something that needed
THREE different ECs earlier.
holding and cornering are superb. Again I feel this is thanks to
the monoshock. Leaning confidently into corners is much more easier
than any other bike with same tyre sizes. Rectangular cross-section
swing-arm helps further. Handling and criss-crossing to get away
from “road-hogging-100cc-mileage-maniacs” is a breeze
and a lifesaver, especially for those having high blood pressure.
Shocks and brakes apart, the rest of the bike is tops too. Paint
and plating, fit and finish, weld quality, is all Honda. If you
want to know the quality of workmanship of any bike, just take a
look at the shape, size and contour of the welds and you’ll
The lockable seat (with tool-kit and first-aid-kit under it) is
very thoughtful. The instru-dials are top class, but the absence
of a trip-meter was sorely missed, and I found the horn not loud
enough for such a fast bike. Apparently, Honda thinks that Indian
road users are as well mannered and courteous as the Japanese, which
of course is not true. Therefore I am going to fit a VERY LOUD horn.
I’d rather pay a fine for noise pollution than have an accident
with deaf people. The other surprising thing is that there is only
one single tell-a-tale light on the dashboard to indicate turning,
which only indicates that one of the blinkers is flashing, not telling
whether it is the left one or right one. This is definitely a drawback
on such a premium bike. More important is that I am not really thrilled
with its headlight beam quality. Sure it is 35 watts and as bright
as any other 35 watt job, but again, it’s throw and spread
is more concerned with being polite to oncoming traffic rather than
to the visibility of the road to the Unicorn rider. Obviously, the
Japanese would rather commit seppuku (=hara-kiri) than survive by
being impolite! I am a bluddy impolite Indian and would rather blind
the oncoming traffic than be blinded by them!
HEART OF THE MATTER
The Unicorn is powered by 149.2 cc engine having 57.3 mm bore and
57.8 mm stroke. Contrary to convention, the Owners Manual DOES NOT
mention any BHP or Torque figures. However, it is known that it
develops 13.3 bhp (9.9 kilowatts) of power at 8000 rpm and produces
1.3 KgF (12.8 Nm) of torque at 5500 rpm. The engine breathes through
a constant vaccum (CV) carburettor for which air is filtered through
a paper element air filter. Ignition is through a multi-mapped CDI
unit. The engine has a two-way air jacket and cam followers are
rollers, which reduce friction and hence reduce power loss. A pulse
exhaust system (EC?) mentioned earlier, gives it the brilliant torque
spread that it delivers. Electric power is produced by a 125 watt
AC Generator backed by a 12 volt -- 2.5 Ampere-hour battery. Headlight
power is 12 volt - 35 watts, while tail-lamp is of 5 watts.
The advanced design diamond chassis frame has a 1337mm wheelbase
with a ground clearance of 168mm, and rectangular section rear swing-arm
for good road holding. Dry weight of the bike is 126 kg, while kerb
weight is 138 kg. Fuel tank capacity is 13 litres, including a one
litre reserve, while engine oil capacity is 1.2 litres. Front tyre
size is 2.75 x 18, while rear tyre is 3.oo x 18, and tubes are of
the tuff-up, puncture resistant type such as used on the Honda Activa.
Stopping is by a 240mm disc brake in front and a 130mm drum brake