The monsoon had been making its way rapidly across the South when we first decided to go for a spin down into neighbouring TN. This would be a slightly longer ride than the usual breakfast sortie, with an interesting route and a promising breakfast at the Rocky Ridge Farms Cafe (https://www.rockyridge.in). I’ve now done the route twice already, where the second ride had more friends join in- such is the allure of the route and the breakfast place. 😊
Now if you live in Bangalore and are tired of the usual dash to Bellur Cross or halfway to Hyderabad for a bite to eat, then think of this place as a welcome respite. Be cautioned however, that this route is best enjoyed at a slow gentle pace, with lots of scenery along way, places to stop, soak in and build your appetite.
An early start had us cruising down Hosur road post dawn. After the toll, we soon turned off towards Thally. I’ve been on this road before, quite a few years ago, on my first outing on the Himalayan. You can read about that ride here- Lost in the hinterland. The road to Thally has since undergone a massive transformation. The broken two lane blacktop from our earlier ride was now replaced with a smooth four lane state highway, which cuts travel time in half.
After a sumptuous breakfast at Rocky Ridge we moved on towards a 50km circuit that promised a lake, a forest and a waterfall. This route is the highlight and also includes a narrow and twisty hill section, with equal parts tarmac and gravel, which is a delight to ride on an adventure bike.
I rode my friend’s Triumph Scrambler 1200XC, for good stretches on these rides. With Mark Knopfler belting out ‘What It Is’ in my Bluetooth headset and a roaring twin cylinder pumping oodles of torque under me, I was having a ‘best of the British’ time! This is a bike that redefines ‘easy with an attitude!’. Roll slow and it purrs to your input. Wring the throttle and it jumps like a startled hare- the rear slides, traction control cuts in arresting it in a fraction, I strain to keep the front wheel pointed straight while feeling an adrenaline rush! All transpires in a few seconds. Cruising at 80kph or 120kph is pretty much the same. The tall suspension flattens everything in its path. The bike’s fantastic geometry and handling belies it’s big engine weight. In all of this, however the bike is super friendly and comfortable. Takes some getting used to, but you never lose the feeling of being in complete control, at all times. Compare this with the other two bikes I rode the same day- a Ducati 1100 Scrambler and a KtM 390 Adv. These are power hungry, raging beasts and do not want to be tamed!
A beautiful lake with a solitary fisherman’s skiff was the first point of interest, on the circuit. This was a gorgeous setting, with wind blown grass and native wildflowers all round the lake shores, surrounded by hills. We spent a short while here taking a few photos.
Beyond the lake the circuit climbs through some hills with narrow switchbacks, that is pure adv motorcycle territory. For this stretch I had the 1100 Scrambler. The Ducati is super aggressive to throttle input and would be a blast on city streets. However here, I was having trouble keeping up with the Triumph, the Himalayan and the GT. This was because the narrow hairpin bends occurred one after another every 100 metres or so, such is the nature of the hill track. What this implied was me having to downshift at the corner, rev the throttle when half way through the turn, shift up and then immediately cut down on speed and downshift again in half a minute at the next corner. This was tiresome. The Himalayan and the Triumph in comparison, lumbered on smoothly through the bends in one gear, right up to the top. The smaller wheels on the Ducati also were not reassuring on the gravel edges of the asphalt. It was hilarious. I was easily on the fastest motorcycle in the group. Yet I came up last.
The views at the top however, were very rewarding for any latecomer. What’s also nice is that this trail is not on any tourist map. It’s just a road that leads from one village to another, with a hill range in between.
On the way back, three of us, riding in close formation, had a scary moment. A snake suddenly tried to cross the road ahead of the leading bike. Panic braking ensued. We were more concerned about whose wheel the poor creature would get wrapped up under! Luckily, all of us (snake included) just about managed to dodge each other. Whew! Just one of those things to consider when riding in India- expect the unexpected!
This reptilian encounter notwithstanding, we had a great ride! We’ve discovered a new hideaway with great food and beautiful back roads to explore beyond. Can’t wait to return to the neighbourhood and catch up on what else it has to offer!
Royal Enfield have aced it again. The internet is abuzz with the good looks, nimble manners and all round worthiness of the new Royal Enfield Scram 411. Inspired by a few reviews- I went in for a test ride and was pleasantly surprised. It’s a fun bike with a peppy, retuned engine, great body balance, very agile dynamics (was filtering easily in peak hour traffic, thanks to that smaller front wheel) and confidence inspiring on-road manners. Have compiled some feeds from my favourite YouTube Channels below, where the motorcyclists are coming back grinning from ear to ear! 😊
Over the past 11 years, I’ve pretty much covered almost every exit route out of Bangalore, in the format of lazy Sunday breakfast runs. These early morning rides have enabled new friendships fostered by our common love for motorcycles, exploration of some great back roads and discovery of some excellent places serving delicious local cuisine. You can read more about some of these rides here- https://yonderbluemountain.com/tag/back-road-beautiful/
Have captured below, images from rides in and around rural Bengaluru that I’ve done over time. Most of these areas are not more than a couple of hours ride from the city centre, so depending on where you live, some of the spots may be closer than an hour for you! Next weekend, if you are craving that mouth watering thatte idly or shavige bath all washed down with a hot kaapi, at the end of a short and sweet ride, do look up these places on Google. Give a shout to your moto mates and get going!
Every once in a while, work, weather and pandemic permitting, my family likes to drive out of Bangalore, for a break in the wilds. In this post, I will talk about my family vehicle- a 2014 Renault Duster, which we’ve driven more than 50000kms over the last seven years.
At the time, I was happy with the ‘all I can afford’ base model, which seemed a significant step up from our outgoing Chevy Beat. It did not have much in terms of safety equipment and as we realised over time, was disappointingly basic on interior features. Today, it probably qualifies more as a ‘truck’ than the trailblazing off-roader that started the SUV revolution in India.
Still, I feel old Dusty has endearing characteristics that warrant its legendary status. It’s torquey diesel engine is pretty frugal when it comes to fuel consumption. Seven years on, the fabled ‘magic carpet’ ride quality endures. A decent mile muncher, its a pleasure to drive on the open highway. All round visibility in the vehicle is one of the best in its class. There is no raked window line, subduing occupants into car sickness. As a driver, I’m more confident piloting the Duster through narrow bylanes of Shivaji Nagar (an old neighbourhood in the city) than my wife’s little Honda hatchback. The car is a bit of a ‘carry it all’, like American station wagons of the 70’s- the boot space is surprisingly large! I’ve once transported a single bed in it, with the seats folded down, the boot half closed and a passenger beside me! The Duster is no fancy frilly, loaded to gills, gizmo flaunting Korean ‘softroader’. It’s a joy to drive off tarmac, with its 30 degree approach angle and 205mm ground clearance. It’s built tough and can take punishment. And because it handles dirt with aplomb, it WILL get you from Point A to Point B, wherever they may be.
We have roamed a fair bit of the South in our beloved family ‘truck’. Its always been a trustworthy, accommodating and fun vehicle to explore the outdoors. But with diesel phasing out and electric the way to go, I’ve been thinking of what’s next for good ol’ Dusty. Some days ago, I came across some Youtube videos which certify this car as a popular camper van conversion, especially in Europe, Russia and South America. And that is giving me exciting ideas for the long run!
Jharkhand. Loosely translated, this name means ‘Land of Forests’. The state has witnessed rapid infrastructure changes in the last few years. These changes are most evident in the smooth, well laid state highways connecting the districts. Add beautiful vistas of abundant forests, gushing waterfalls, rolling hills and winding rivers that these roads lead to, and it’s difficult to ignore this region as the perfect motorcycling destination!
One fine Sunday morning, in late October, my cousin and brother in law decided to explore some back roads around Ranchi. The weather had been glorious for the past few weeks, with warm, sunny days and starlit, chilly nights which heralded the onset of a cold winter.
I had an unusual ride for the day, borrowed from my uncle, who has an interesting collection of motorcycles. The maxi scooter themed Aprilia SXR160 is the latest entry into India’s burgeoning two wheeler market. It looks terrific and is a promising little runabout.
The route to the waterfall was through an idyllic country road that skirts the main highway and passes through some lovely villages. This route is best approached from the newly built Ring Road that bypasses the city and had little or no traffic. Not wanting to get left behind in the company of a Bonneville Street Twin and a Honda CBR250R, I was able to comfortably stick to 80kph, and the Aprilia seemed to promise more. Once we turned off the Ring Road, there was no real need to hurry, and we soaked in the scenery at a gentle, rambling pace.
It felt great to be outdoors on such a brilliant day, made better by the fact we were riding. The waterfall was spectacular and an absolute treat at the end of the ride. It’s a must visit, if you are ever in this neck of woods. At the parking lot to the falls, I did notice a cross-country rider from Kerala on his kitted up Himalayan. Led me to think this place was getting some traction on the motorcyling circuit after all…
Its a pity I only had a week off in Jharkand. This little sojourn was a glimpse of the many charming places the state has to offer. We made plans to regroup in a few months time and head out further inland. Back in Namma Bengaluru, I get greeted by grey skies, pouring rain and generally gloomy weather as I step off the plane. The forecast is not friendly either, more rain to come…ah well, back to the grind!
In the midst of another lockdown to counter the deadly second wave, the humble Himalayan has turned five. I think back to all the negative attention the motorcycle garnered in its early days. Luckily, mine persevered and with a little help from Royal Enfield, we managed to overcome mechanical and quality issues. Five years on with some minor upgrades, it has remained a fun, endearing and purposeful motorcycle. Here’s to many more rides ahead!
It’s December, 2020 and here in India, scientists say, we have peaked the pandemic. We have learnt to live the ‘new normal’. Being cooped up, working from home, ordering groceries in and living the socially distanced life, takes physical and mental toll. Eventually we got fed up. We started venturing out, with due precautions, either for a drive to my sister’s place out of town or for a spin around the neighbourhood. I also started riding, mostly on Sundays, with a group of old friends from the workplace.
Motorcycling is a great way to maintain social distance. Inside my helmet, behind my mask, I’m in my own little world, away with thoughts, munching miles at 70 kph. I’m comfortably snug in my riding gear, the tall visor doing a great job of deflecting windblast. The big hearted Italian twin I’m riding is purring gently along the highway that connects Bangalore to the west coast. A slight twist of the throttle, catapults me to 168kph in a heartbeat. The torque on this engine, is enormous! And man, this stallion is fast, as is sure footed. I’m riding my friend’s Ducati Multistrada 950, while he’s trying hard to keep up on the bike I switched, a Honda CBR 250R. The little quarter litre single is smooth and can whack up a good pace, but its 26 horses are no match for the 113 raging stallions of the Italian. It’s such a beauty, this gleaming red firebird on wheels, and I can’t help but grin from ear to ear, everytime I feel the torque wave.
We are headed back to the city from an early morning ride to Belur Cross. Today was a good day, out here in the open, after many dull, housebound days. A long ride out in the country, was just what the doctor ordered. For once, I did not wake up to more depressing news, but was up at dawn with eagerness that befits a long awaited motorcycle ride. We have two friends on Ninja 650s, and another Ducati 950 Multistrada to keep us company.
At Belur cross we stop for coffee. I take the newer Ninja 650 for a quick spin. This is such an incredibly friendly bike. It puts you at ease immediately. The bike is extremely flickable, and I remember an earlier occasion where I rode comfortably through town in dense traffic, without breaking a sweat. The second big positive is the heat management- I never felt the engine heat near my legs. I would venture so far to say, that the cooling system is better than any other similar bike I’ve ridden. I prefer the bigger bike feel and touring friendliness of the older model – we had a 2013 model on the ride with us. This one with its single sided rear monoshock, taller windscreen and flamboyant green and black livery, is to my mind, a beautiful motorcycle. This would have also been a great bike to pick up as a second owner, had it come with ABS as standard. In this day and age, for a decently agile and fast sports tourer like this, it’s a big miss. The latest Ninja 650 has righted these wrongs, and is a delight to ride, but somehow is not as evocative as the previous model.
This breakfast ride in the company of larger bikes, and a subsequent one on which I rode my Himalayan to TM Hills, with the gang, got me thinking. While for the moment, the Himalayan is an answer to all my motorcycling needs, some time in the near future, I do aspire to add a larger hearted sibling to give it company. Which then, would be the second set of wheels I should start planning for?
When thinking about the another bike, I’m certain about this. The bike has to be a machine for everyday use. I know enough motorcyclists, who’ve spent big bucks to acquire their dream machine, but use it sparingly on weekends to avoid struggling in city snarls in the ever evolving traffic situation. The seasonal condition of our highways dictates the route chosen for these weekend outings as a straight run down the interstate to a coffee stop and a boring, straight run back. Head off the highway, onto smaller dirt roads, and the bikes start showing their limitations. If they’ve bought a large cruiser (read Harley Davidson), its a beast to handle. If they’ve bought a sports bike, it starts showing its delicate side. The suspension’s not up for it, and neither are your wrists or butt. Granted, my friends on their Multistradas would be grinning and gunning at this point. But they would be cautious too, as the trail gets tougher- the last thing they can afford is the thing ending up on its side. This is where I feel, the Himalayan has been a really good fit for me. Its a daily use bike. And it can take punishment without punishing your wallet. But it has its own limitations. On good roads, I need it to be generating upwards of 40 horsepower, which it woefully does’nt. And its fabled low end torque, is just not enough for a full fledged tour with pillion- as many folks have told me.
All this ruminating has got me convinced, what I really need is decent middle weight. A 500cc to 800cc twin cylinder motorcycle that does’nt weigh a ton. A bike that’s as easy to flick round a street corner, as round a bend in the trail. A motorcycle that has enough torque to carry rider, pillion and hard luggage all the way to Timbuktoo, at a decent clip. A bike I can improve my DIY skills on. A machine to look long and hard at, every time I come back from a ride. A machine to love more, every single day. A choice of wheels that does’nt warrant second thought for the tarkari run to the bazaar, or to a client meeting in Bangalore’s Central Business District. A vehicle that’s always preferable to my car.
It’s a tall ask. And these are trying times. However, 2020 has been the year of some promising new launches. And 2021 promises to be even more so. So I’ll keep adding to the brief. And hope that some day soon, in sunnier times, little Himalyan can ride out with a bro he can really look up to.
I can imagine how frustrating the current situation might be for an avid motorcyclist. Coronavirus has affected several countries around the world and the motorcycling fraternity in many of these countries would be raring to ride out at the slightest easing of restrictions.
Out here, for a good part of three months, I did not even look at the motorcycle. I stayed home, stayed put, stayed safe. Come June, with the lockdown lifted, I did roll the bike out. It needed a battery replacement, which got done. And on 16th June, we quietly accomplished 4 years of being together through thick and thin. To celebrate the occasion, I went for a quick highway run with my cousin, who also owns a four year old BS3 Himalayan. The short ride, gave us a chance to reflect on two things-
1. How much we had missed not riding
2. We were really among the last of the breed, with our BS3 Himalayans. With the success of the EFI Himalayan in the last couple of years you don’t see many of the older ones about. I felt lucky to have this simple forerunner of a machine. And it felt great to have it running so smooth and true four years on.
However, aside from this small outing, for most of the Lockdown, I consoled myself browsing through some of my favourite reads on the shelf.
Looking through them brought back nice memories of my own rides and good times with the bikes I’ve owned and ridden.
Here’s hoping that the world overcomes this crisis soon, and we find ourselves back on our machines, rolling happily into the new millennium.