A twisty mountain road astride a modern classic motorcycle could be the near-perfect way to spend a few days, if you're not in too much of a hurry, or have any fixed plans of reaching or arriving anywhere. And the Jawa Forty-Two is almost the ideal companion for such a laid-back excursion. Smooth performance, great road manners, and period-correct looks with a design straight out of the '60s, there's not a lot to dislike about this Jawa. Scraping the right exhaust around a fast corner, I begin to think; it may have the styling of a classic, but it's willing to be hustled around corners.
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The updated Jawa 42 is my first outstation assignment in the post-COVID world. And then it hits me; in this era of social distancing, nothing possibly comes close to a motorcycle ride, to make the perfect getaway from civilisation. And the Jawa Forty-Two has got the qualities to make it quite a likeable companion, and not just to me. The Forty-Two is the most popular motorcycle in the Jawa Motorcycle range, and it's the most affordable Jawa as well. Last year, it got updated to the latest Bharat Stage VI, or BS6 emission regulations, and now, in 2021, it gets some more updates, with small changes, but significant in their own way. So, enter the Jawa Forty-Two 2.1!
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The Jawa 42 is a modern classic in the real sense, and it beautifully blends the age-old Jawa's lines with modern elements. The round headlight, offset, single-pod instrument console and matte colours are carried forward, but for 2021, the 42 wears a blacked-out theme; with a blacked-out engine, and now gets blacked out alloy wheels, shod with tubeless tyres (the outgoing model had chrome and wire spoke wheels). There are three new colour options, new body graphics, and a sport stripe which runs along the length of the bike.
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Jawa maintains that the company has been listening to customer feedback, and the changes in the 2021 model are a result of that feedback. The seat has been improved, with better cushioning and increased length; so it's said to be better for long rides, and the seat pan has been lengthened, to offer more room, for a pillion, or to haul some luggage, if required. The design of the side stand has been changed to offer more leverage while cornering, and the rear grab rail is also new. The flyscreen and headlight grille are optional extras, but I do see a lot of customers opting for such accessories.
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Performance & Dynamics
On the move, the new Jawa 42 has familiar performance. That's because, the engine has been left unchanged, except for a minor change in the cross-port design (which offers two exhaust ports from the single-cylinder engine). The result is more efficient emissions and a marginal increase in performance, to pre-BS6 levels. In numbers, the 293 cc, single-cylinder engine now makes 27 bhp at around 6,800 rpm and 27.03 Nm at 5,000 rpm. The engine has a strong mid-range, with eager and rev-happy performance. It's not exactly a pocket-rocket, but it's no slouch either. The bike accelerates nicely from standstill and the engine retains its refined and smooth performance till about 80 kmph (we managed to hit around 90 kmph on the twisty road that was part of our test route).
From past experience, the new 42 should top at around 130 kmph, with a little patience, but 100-120 kmph can be retained on the highway, if that's the kind of riding one is looking for. There's no apparent strain from the engine, and minor vibes will begin to creep in only at very high speeds. The six-speed gearbox is slick, without any misses or false neutrals, and so long as you work the gearbox, it's a happy place to be in, to keep the engine at the meat of its power band; nice, torquey and with enough shove to scrape exhausts around corners.
Speaking of which, the Jawa Forty-Two likes corners! It turns sharply and easily and in fact, its sharp dynamics are only let down by lack of lean clearance. On the left, the side stand still scrapes tarmac when leaned over, and on the right, the bottom part of the exhaust will scrape, if you're into 'spirited' riding. The suspension is slightly on the stiffer side, but sails over broken patches without a care in the world.
And part of the updates for the 2021 model is to retune the front suspension. Apparently, the suspension now doesn't compress as much while going over bumps and potholes, so the ground clearance has apparently improved while going over rough terrain. During our first ride, it wasn't easy to make out if the changes to the suspension are significant, but overall there are no complaints, as far as ride quality or handing is concerned.
Safety, Tech & Ergonomics
The brakes are nice; the dual-channel, anti-lock braking system (ABS) works well, and offers good stopping power. Oh yes, the riding position is nice, too, upright and comfortable, and the flat handlebar falls into place, offering good leverage, whether cruising along a highway, or pushing around a set of corners. Apart from ABS, there are no other tech gizmos, so the 42 is a simple machine, focusing on being easy to ride, and with good dynamics which make it simple, yet entertaining.
The 2021 Jawa Forty-Two is offered in three new colours - Orion Red, Sirius White and AllStar Black. The updated Jawa 42 is priced at ₹ 1,83,942 (Ex-showroom).
The Jawa Forty-Two 2.1 certainly makes for a more appealing package, particularly with the new updates, which are not just skin deep. The tubeless tyres will offer peace of mind to riders, the seat will offer a more comfortable perch, the exhaust note has become throatier, and the ride quality is supple, and firm. The changes in the suspension are imperceptible, unless we ride both the older version and the new one back to back.
Overall, the new Jawa 42 is a nicely put together bike, except for cornering clearance, and a few glaring welds on the frame and on the back of the forks. It's still not a performance bike, but for easy riding and cruising, the Jawa 42 has adequate power, a refined engine, and the dynamics to keep things interesting.
(Photography: Pawan Dagia)