Wanderlust

 High and dry in the long hot day,

Lost and lonely, every way,

Flats all around, sky up above…

Yes I need a little water of love…

Dire Straits: Water of Love

The sky is the greatest distracter….

Imagine a clear, azure blue sky. A few flecks of cloud dust drifting, in the whereabouts of this empty vastness. Down below is the barren desert, flat and featureless except for an odd tree dotting the arid landscape. You are a weary traveller, tired from the long walk across this dry ocean. You pause, take a break. You look about, look up and notice the sky. The languorous, aimless journey of the clouds tempts the eye. Following their movement is like following time itself. It puts one in a sort of hypnotic trance until at last the mind bores itself of its silent reverie and focuses attention on objects closer to mother earth.

It picks out a naked tree. Its trunk sporting sleek, sinuous veins that snake up to the unfolding branches and reach out like long, slithering tentacles into the sky. Your focus reverts to the emptiness above. Somewhere below is the lonely tree trying to answer the call of this beyond. It is at this supreme moment then that you forget your long tiring journey ahead. The pressures of the material world from which you have run and remain suspended in time wondering… at all around you. The blue sky beckons, happily, loftily, away, unknown perhaps, to all the worries that plague you on mother earth.

The long lonely road to nowhere…

An oft used phrase, this one is so scintillating in the depth of its cry. There are them Harley Davidson angels, riding the breadth of the continent. They burn America’s interstates, the wind in their hair, the sun on their faces, the distant horizon calling them as it recedes further and further away. To a layman they are aimless drifters. They shape their lives on the highway with no known purpose or ambition. But sit around with one of them in one of them countless motels along the way and you will discover that they will describe the land better than any map or journal can.

Every creek along the way, every bend in the road is firmly etched in their minds. Life is a journey without an end. To stop is to decay. As Louis L’ Amour, the famed Wild West writer puts it, “When a man settles down, he stagnates and dies”.

Imagine then, this long lonely road to nowhere, snaking here between pine clad mountains or burning flat across the desert floor. Every where, of course, there is the same, clear blue sky above; the universal binder… the greatest distracter.

The land is the simplest form of architecture….

(Frank Lloyd Wright)

A lot about traveling the land is noting little details that occur in the surrounding terrain. The long serrated line of ridges broken by a craggy mound; the sweeping plain complimented by a lonely tree; the wheeling hawk mirrored on lazy river… the list is endless. A good landscape photographer always looks out for details of the kind. Knowing the lie of the land and all its myriad features thoroughly calls for sharp powers of observation.

A photographer traveling across the English countryscape supplies an amusing anecdote. Cows, he says, are the most awry of all animals. They are always scattered on the terrain, never in a composition. All animals, he argues, should be like sheep; sheep that just mould themselves into the topography in perfect harmony. A photographer’s delight. On a recent trip to Khajuraho, I had the opportunity to observe this phenomenon myself.

What is it about the beauty of the distant horizon that compels great artists to render masterpieces?

The uncharted wilderness…?

The infinite loneliness…?

Or is it just plain curiosity.

I do not know.

I wonder though if there is a way to connect to all of this: The sky, the wind, the earth, the sun and the rain. The bugs, the flies, the heat, the dust, the fog, the mist. The road, the tree, the ever compelling horizon, the pain and the joy?

Maybe there is…

Take a camera and go on a trip to the nearest scenic spot.

Read a book by Louis L’ Amour.

Take a course on the Zen Philosophy.

Yet better still, try riding.

A motorcycle.

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The early days- a 115cc Kawasaki, backpacks and backroads through the Aravallis, Circa 2001

It’s a pity we do not exploit the freedom this wonderful machine can give us. I do not mean struggling with an infernal machine on the congested streets of Delhi. But try riding in the country. On those rutted dirt roads and the dusty state highways. You will feel things you never experience in the air-conditioned cocoon of a car. The wind in your hair. The sun in your face. The dust in your eyes. The tarmac slipping by below your feet. At sixty miles per hour, life is a dull roar in your ears.

You stop at will. Look at the land. Fall in love with it. Look at the sky; notice its changing hues from dawn to dusk. Follow the unending road, forget your tomorrow and forget your past, present and future. Your worries, your pains diminish in the horizon. Loneliness is your greatest companion, the sky your source of sustenance.

Atul Lakra

Article, etecetera, the students’ magazine, school of planning and architecture, New Delhi, May 2000

 

A tale of two motos…

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My two beauties, July 2016

Thought I’d take the opportunity to talk about life with my two machines, while the joy of owning two motorcycles is still something I can call my own. That heart tugging decision to let the C5 go, has been taken, and I may have found a right nice guy who will take good care of it.

Perspective plays the strangest tricks. Couple of months ago, my entire riding interest and experience was focussed on the C5. Whether it was the daily commute to work or a weekend jaunt into the nearest woodland, the C5 was the centre of my appreciation, jeers, joys and disappointments. There were times when we were in absolute communion- man and machine in well timed harmony, that grunting British single on song. And then there were times, when you wondered just how you’d been tolerating this beast for 4 years- a broken clutch cable, a misfiring exhaust, lights not working, dead battery, pushing deadweight on a puncture, blown fuse, chain’s loose… you get the drift. And to top it all off- vibes. But then that’s the charm of this half litre royal singleton. And you get used to this dichotomy. Nothing is ever perfect for too long. And nothing bad lasts forever. I was once told -its not an ‘ownership’ with Royal Enfield, its a ‘relationship’. You get the good with the bad. And I  got used to it.

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This coaster from Happily Unmarried summarises it all. 🙂

In walks that horse of a motorcycle. From the Royal Enfield stable no less.  Two days on the new machine and I realised that the level of sophistication on this brute was way past anything Royal Enfield has ever churned out before. First thing I notice- gone is that majestic thump. Second thing I notice- no vibes. None. This, clearly, is no ‘Bullet’. Nope, not even close. Now don’t get me wrong. I am no ‘Bullet’ worshipper. And I am no fan of that legendary ‘thump’. Nor do I believe that louder is better. In-fact I cannot understand folks who buy a Royal Enfield Bullet- Classic, Standard, T-bird, GT… whatever, and then fix that mega-phone exhaust to announce to the world that they have ‘arrived’. The roads would be much quieter without them, in my opinion, and the world, probably a better place. Besides, they kill their engines with those aftermarket boom boxes. I digress… Back to the Himalayan, then. On every commute, I am hard pressed to believe that I’m actually riding a thoroughly modern, bare bones moto that has been well engineered, and is capable of taking on almost anything you throw at it. There is an assurance of rock solid dependability on every ride, and from every department- the engine, the electronics, the suspension, the ergonomics, it all works! Surely, there’s been a mistake- how can this be a true Royal Enfield? Where is that endearing character? That promise of uncertainty? That lure of the unknown? It fails to show up. Repeatedly. I wouldn’t say that the machine is without niggles and issues- but most of them have been sorted out for me after the first service. And there’s character too- past the 600km mark on the odo, the exhaust now does some lovely pops and cackles when de-accelerating. There’s enough grunt to the throttle  and once you are used to it, you realise, this is a refined traffic carver.

I remember my first extended ride on the Himalayan. On the second night of ownership, I have a CBR250R for company and we are headed to the Airport for a cuppa. The Himalayan is a breeze to ride at 70kph. Its easy riding with the CBR- two cool runners- I think, this is nearly up there with the super smooth Honda. There’s dazzling instrumentation in front of me- ‘all systems are a go’. Speed, heading, RPM, temperature, fuel, time, trip distance- there’s a host of details. I’m cruising. The engine, after a few days of running in, is slightly more rev happy, and I’m having a ball. And standing on pegs is so damn easy..!

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The console on the Himalayan, seems borrowed from a spaceship, when compared to the C5.
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The console on the C5-utilitarian, at best.

Some days on, I feel a pang. Something’s calling me… a quiet pull at my shirtsleeves, while I’m looking away, all in awe of this newbie. I finally notice it one day- that hulk of old, shiny black metal. Standing solemn next to the white horse. Counting its days with me. Waiting…

Two weeks of riding the Himalayan, and that pang has gotten intense. I’m used to the Himalayan now, I tell myself. I know how that corner feels. I know what speed to tackle that speed breaker at. But I’m asking myself, how was it on the C5? Do I still remember? My hands are aching for the feel of those handlebars. That vibey assault on the senses. Those days of hard cornering. That instant feedback…that guttural thump!

That’s it. I’m riding the C5 out today..!

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Bedtime reading. 🙂

 

 

 

Lost in the hinterland

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The Himalayan on its home turf, July 2016

I had been raring to take the newbie (Himalayan) out of the city and last weekend presented that opportunity. Three of us ‘weekend enthu cutlets‘ from the workplace decided to do our usual Sunday breakfast run. As the engine is still running in, I was keen to choose a slow, scenic route. A Facebook post by one of the bikers about a route to Jawalagiri Reserve Forest on the outskirts of Bangalore, had caught my attention- the road promised to be a divine little sojourn through a beautiful forest. WhatsApp invites were sent out, but as is often the case, everyone dropped out at the last minute, and we ended up like we always do- three messieurs always ready to ride.

An early morning start, and we were cruising down Hosur road by 5:30 am, for a quick run till the outskirts of Hosur. We turned off on the ring road circling Hosur- and at that point Google Mausi tells us it would be an hour till Jawalagiri village. Now if you want to ever do this circuit, be advised, the first one hour or so from Bangalore can get extremely boring- all we had was a four  lane ring road, which dissolved into a two lane blacktop with bits of uneven tarmac. This is a fairly urbanised stretch with lots of factories on either side of the road. Some 30 minutes on this road and I was really beginning to not enjoy the scenery- here’s a biscuit factory, oh there’s a cement factory, there’s one that makes spare parts- in short, too many factories…and it was boring. We seemed to be cruising through the heartland of small scale manufacturing. And it was plain BORING! This wasn’t great, I told myself- not the best route for a breakfast ride!

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The route- the first stretch till Thally, is well, boring. July 2016

And where was breakfast?? It was getting on to 7am, and I was hungry. We seemed to have left even the semi decent joints behind in Hosur. We reached Thally, a nondescript village with two cross-roads that seemed to signal the end of factories. We weren’t keen to stop here- and a passerby told us you could get a cup of tea further ahead. Now, part of the reason we had chosen this route was that we were under the impression that this same route leads to Hoggenakkal falls-a popular waterfall at a distance of 150 odd km from Bangalore. This route wasn’t the regular route to Hogennakkal however, and none of us knew how exactly one connects to the falls from Thally or Jawalagiri. The FB post photos seemed a bit hazy now- and we continued with some trepidation.

I was in the lead, and in the last stretch up to Thally, I had been riding fast, mainly because I wanted to not have to look at those dreadful factories around. I continued in the same manner past Thally, not expecting much. A few miles out of Thally, and the road changed. I was past a beautiful spot before I could see it- there was a lake, I noticed Deepak slowing down, but I was too focussed on the bend up ahead. I come around the bend and there’s a forest! Really? Where did those factories go? So from here on till Jawalagiri village, the road becomes more bearable. We stop at a village tea stall- and a lil birdie alights on OP’s bike. It’s a sparrow. Now, I haven’t seen many sparrows in the city- all you see are those nasty pigeons- with their nasty shite all over the place.

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A sparrow! Don’t see them in the city much. July 2016

Further on, the road brightens up. We enter Jawalagiri forest. And inspite of a cloudy morning, the sight lifts us up. We stop for photos- I take the Himalayan into a field as the country opens up- more photos. This is turning out like one of our regular rides- not too bad, I think.

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The forest road, finally. July 2016
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Out on the fields, July 2016
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The Himalayan off-road-photo op. July 2016

We are now headed towards Anchetty- from where, we are told, we can connect towards Hogennakkal. The road narrows down, and we pass through another village. We seem to be in rolling country now- and we are climbing-I see hills in the distance. Past the village, the road turns, and suddenly we come upon a gorgeous vista.

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Hills in the distance, July 2016
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A view we did not expect on this road, July 2016
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Vistas the Himalayan loves. July 2016

We are now in beautiful hinterland and we are not sure if we are headed in the right direction. It doesn’t matter- we are three mates, lost on a Sunday ride. Photo opportunities in this lovely, dale-ish country abound and we don’t miss them. This is what Sunday mornings should be about, I tell myself, take your moto, take your mates and get lost in the process of discovering the lie of the land. I have forgotten all about breakfast.

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Hillocks, rolling fields and a moto you love. Bliss.
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These roads are meant for motorcycling through. July 2016

I can see that the others are loving this too. We are in the heart of motorcycling country. There’s nary a cart on the road-and at this hour in the morning, there’s not many souls about. There are three motorcycles traversing through gorgeous landscape. Perfect.

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Motorcycles, and an open road. Sunday morning recipe.

On almost every ride, you often come across what one would call ‘the spot’. It’s that definitive place you discover, one that captures the ride’s memory for days to come. On this ride, ‘the spot’ was a hidden gem. And it was somewhere midway between Jawalagiri and Anchetty. Go figure.

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The Spot, July 2016
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Moto mates at the spot.
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Yonder blue mountain calling, July 2016

We finished the ride at Anchetty- had delicious dosa for breakfast and piping hot tea brewed in a copper vessel, before calling it a day. A minor fall on the way and a bent handlebar on my newbie, was the only lowdown on what was a brilliant ride and route. I was glad Shadowfax finally went in for a gallop, and what lovely woodlands it was able to roam!

Photos– OP San

Riders– Deepak- TBird 350, OP-C5, Yours Truly-Himalayan

 

On Any Sunday…

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TEMC, March 2016

Here’s what you do for an awesome Sunday-

1. Round up your mates
2. Start your engines
3. Head for the nearest patch of woods
4. Grab some idly-vada and great coffee on the way
5. Banter with mates on whose bike is better
6. Watch out for elephants en-route
8. Consult Google Mausi for directions in the woods
9. Ride home in time for ‘Real’ Breakfast. 🙂

Sometimes, the best rides are the ones which have never been planned. The young blood in office had been clamouring for a ride. Now, as is the case with young blood anywhere- they lead glamorous lives. Folks in office are no different. Saturday nights are spent partying till late and Sunday mornings in mournful stupor about the impending Monday work blues. So it was a pleasant surprise when the youngest ones turned up on the dot, at 4:00 am,  and had to wait for us older paunches to roll in-a full 10 minutes later. The route had been decided vaguely the night before. Google Mausi had shown us this:
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Google mausi’s back of the woods circuit. March 2016
This was a good 100kms loop. Breakfast was planned at our usual Harohalli joint on Kanakapura Road, a favourite since my days with MOT. We would be skirting the edge of the Bannerghatta Reserve Forest- and on a previous ride, I had seen this road to be scenic and of good surface. What I did not notice was the roadworks sign at Ragihalli.
After breakfast at Harohalli, we took the first left and came upon a beautiful stretch of tarmac. Popular with cyclists, this two lane minor state highway is a  gorgeous connector between Kanakapura Road and Hosur Road, both arterial highways leading out of the city. Roadworks at Ragihalli village, however, forced us into a detour through the  sleepy hamlet, and we missed a turn at the fork. We unknowingly entered the reserve forest on a dirt trail. About 20 minutes of riding brought us to a point where the trail petered out at a line fence and its makeshift barrier. The area up ahead looked like a forest, and was inviting. I crossed the line fence through the barrier and was about to downshift to take on the incline, when I saw this sign. And stopped.
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We always take the broken road, and end up in places like this! March 2016
We noticed that the fence was (supposedly) electrified, and we were bang in the middle of an elephant corridor! We had barely done forty odd kilometres of riding , and here we were, in a state forest- with real live elephants! Needless to say, we calmed our fears of getting raided by tuskers and posed for some photos- this photo op was not to be missed.
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A young blood shoots the pack, March 2016
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Another young blood shoots the lone wolf, March 2016
We decided to continue onward as Google Mausi, told us of a secret path out of the woods. Soon we were passing through some lovely stretches- like the one below- this was real country!
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#intheheartoftheforest#bullstakeonelephantterritory#March 2016
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Run through the jungle….can you hear CCR in the distance? March 2016

About another 40 minutes of riding and Google Mausi decides to give up the ghost. I had been standing on pegs in that stretch, and as I sat down, I noticed Mausi is silent. I beckon others to stop and we do a quick look around.

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When I pulled a stunt and Google Mausi died! March 2016

Nothing much around- a quaint little temple, where the Pujari probably visits on a fortnight, some make believe grass and a beautiful Jacaranda tree. Photo op not to be missed? You bet!

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Deepak’s Tbird strikes a cool pose.
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For some, finding a place to chill involves some serious off roading, and a forest. March 2016

There wasn’t much to do beyond that in this place. So we decided to move on. Now did I tell you that Google Mausi moonlights as a Goddess? (To understand this phenomenon better, I suggest you read American Gods, by Neil Gaiman). Well Goddesses, often find favour with the cool candidate. Deepak has a cool bike- therefore Goddess lights up his phone. We discover a way out of there- turns out we just need to keep on moving down the same trail.

Well, that broken forest road throws up another surprise- and we find a boulder outcrop with a great green vista. Needless to say, the bikes were lined up, on the rocks. Metal sided with plastics and looked onto the great greenfield beyond!

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When raw iron and pure plastic stood by one another! March 2016
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Soon however, we stole the thunder from the plastics! March 2016

After this call of duty it was time to bid goodbye. We left our separate ways and joined that rush of weekend traffic and caged imbeciles on the road. It’s always fruitful to start a  great Sunday by getting lost in the neighbourhood wilderness!

TEMC

For professional reasons, I am not at liberty to reveal what TEMC stands for. Rest assured, it has something to do with my workplace. And yes the last two letters stand for Motorcycle Club. Now it so happened that parking lot discoveries revealed to me that there were quite a few ardent motorcyclists in office. It was only a matter of time before a Whatsapp group was created. Official emails were sent and the first day ride was organised to Yelagiri on August 28th, 2014.

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First photo op_on NH7, Ride to Yelagiri, August 2014

We were a motley bunch with most of us riding Royal Enfield motos and a couple of lads on an Avenger 220 and a Yamaha FZ 150. The plan was to cover the 160 odd kms to Yelagiri in good time and start real early.

Now this ride was a first with folks from my office. My expectations from this ride were so so. There were some inexperienced riders in the group who would need some amount of shepherding. At the same time, four of the riders had done a lot of touring- A moto couple, Vaishali and her hubby Ashutosh, had also done the Leh/ Ladakh circuit. Sabith and Rajeev were experienced riders. I had had my share of rides.

We assembled in front of Total Mall, Koramangala at 5:00 am and most of us showed great discipline and turned up within minutes of each other. The last rider, Sabith, was to join us somewhere near Hosur. We made a cracking start and were at the second rendezvous in no time. Sabith turned up some 10 minutes later and it was surprising to see him sans his riding jacket. Instead he had a yoga mat strapped with a bungee cord on his seat! I still wonder what he had been thinking at that time…

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En route to Yelagiri. White helmet, black machine-yours truly. August 2014

On and off, the group would fall into a two by two ride formation, but it was mostly each man for himself. Ashutosh had the good sense to ride tail and make sure no one was falling behind. Breakfast halt was at Shoolagiri- and many a masala dosa, idlis and vadas were gulped and washed down with steaming filter coffee. We made good time after that and reached the foothills of Yelagiri by 7:30 am.

The real fun started after that, the ride uphill was exhilarating. At that hour, there was no traffic, so you had all the bends to yourself. I could see Sabith, just ahead, scraping his footpegs on every corner. On this ride I had a custom performance exhaust strapped on my bike and this was a good opportunity to test it (more details here- https://yonderbluemountain.wordpress.com/2016/06/26/c5-evolution/). I gunned the throttle and took pole position. I think that was the fastest climb I have ever done in my life. I had no time to count the bends, nor to admire beautiful mountain vistas flashing past me. All I could see was the corner ahead and Sabith in my mirrors, hugging bend after bend. The logic was simple, slow down just before the corner, accelerate through the bend, make sure you time yourself around the corner and keep your eyes glued to a spot at least 50m ahead. Before long, the entire fast bunch was at the top. This was good riding, I told myself.

Yelagiri is best described as a sleepy hill side town, I would go to the lengths of calling it a kasba-something between a town and village. The townsfolk were just rising- a tea stall owner was setting up his pots and pans, when we rolled in. It seemed like a scene from an old western. There you have it, a main street. Townsfolk just starting to go about their business. Shops starting to open, smells of breakfast wafting into the street from a few meagre cafes and schoolchildren being cajoled out of their houses by their frantic moms. Suddenly, there’s a thunderous sound, and a bunch of cowboys ride in on iron horses. We get stares. Some appreciative glances from a few youngsters. A few minutes of drama and we are the centre of it all. But this town is no stranger to visitors. We park and dismount, kill our engines, and the towns people just shrug and go about their business. This is clearly no event for them.

We stand together, sipping coffee when one of us glances at his watch. Its 8:30 am. We applaud each other- wow! We made good time. We are happy. And then it strikes us! This was meant to be a whole day affair! We have made it to our destination too early! What are we supposed to do now? This was surely a first in my history of rides.

Grand plans are charted immediately, some of which promise to be a mini tour around half of South India. We soon remind each other that we have wives, children, uncles, aunts and mouths to feed. Indeed the nation’s economy hangs in balance until our return- not to mention the rest of the office eagerly waiting for us to return to work! We finally decide to survey and explore local flavour. Directions are asked of village folk and we take one of the smaller roads leading out of town.

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Local knowledge is best when it comes to directions! August 2014

An old gent tells us of a spot on a hill and we head off in that general direction. A spot of off-roading and a steep climb leads to a hill top parking lot- with views to behold.

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To get up to the parking lot, we had to ride this trail! August 2014
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The parking lot…
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…had views to behold. August 2014

Some of us head off for a trek after that. I lose and find my phone on the trail. A lonely goat herd doubles up as a guide/ sneaky murderer in our collective, fertile imagination. A couple of hours later, we decide to head back home. Some photo sessions on the way down and we conclude that this has been a good day out. A short detour to Krishnagiri dam turned out disappointing, but I did manage to take a couple of photos.

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Krishnagiri Dam, August 2014
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A quiet canal leading off the dam, August 2014

With that first ride ending on a happy note, I have one more reason to love my workplace (yeah right!).

 

 

Enfield Explorers

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There’s nothing quite like riding through the morning light, Nandi Hills Ride, April 2013

In the years 2013-2014, I had great fun with a bunch of like minded, ragtag motorcyclists, most of whom were based in south Bangalore. We wanted to spend our weekends exploring our very own back of the woods in the format of short breakfast rides, with the intention of going in for longer weekend rides in the future. After two great Sunday rides, I sat down one balmy afternoon and penned this introductory write-up for the group, now called Ministry of Torque, on Facebook. A few edits from Pankaj, one of the founding members, and the intro summed up like this-

“We are an enthusiastic motorcycle club started by a bunch of passionate South Bangalorean motorcyclists. We think of ourselves as a bit old school, ‘weekend enthu cutlets’, who thrive on the old adage ‘they dont build ’em like this anymore’, which means we love our Royal Enfields, Harley Davidsons, Triumphs and the glorious old RD 350s and Yezdi 250s. With us its all about pure, quintessential motorcycles that ooze character, scream nuts and bolts and wear steel and proclaim business.

We do weekend rides, long and short, to destinations around Bangalore. We feel there’s enough living culture to explore in our own backyard- right here in the heart of South India…from the lush greenery of Coorg to the verdant, chilly peaks of Ooty and all of the lakes, rivers, valleys, monuments, wildlife and villages in between.

If you are passionate about motorcycling, are based in Bangalore and have the right bike (Bullet, Harley, Triumph (we love Bonnevilles!), Yezdi, RD 350…) or the right attitude (all plastics above 250cc), please feel free to drop us a line and join us on our next ride.

Until then its Cheerio from the Enfield Explorers! Happy Trails Everyone!

* Please note- We promote safe riding with appropriate safety gear – good lids, gloves and shoes are a minimum must, and exercise strict group riding formation at all times.”

How it all began…

Our very first ride, using an alternate route to the ever popular Nandi Hills turned out great. We had Nikhil (on a Harley Davidson Iron 883) join the group that day. He just happened to be looking for riding companions, and we just happened to pass that way. Considering that most of us had only been introduced to each other an hour or so before,there was an easy camaraderie in the group that said- come on in mate, so long as you love to ride.

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At the base of Nandi Hills, Enfield Explorers, April 2013
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A lonely rider fleets through dawn, April 2013
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Two’s company, April 2013
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A lot of bulls, out on a ride, April 2013
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Motographer, high speed run, Nice Road, April 2013

The Nandi Hills sojourn was also good because we actually avoided the regular route to Nandi Hills (Airport Road), and took an inner route through Nelamangla, off the Hassan highway. Pankaj was the route master, and Shalin got the bunch together. You can read more detailed reviews of the rides here- https://bulletmerijaan.wordpress.com, Pankaj’s very own blog. We got on well on that ride and promised to meet up again soon.

Some rides to remember…

The next ride was not to happen before early June, however, and we rode to Manchanbele, a lovely reservoir off Mysore road. A giant monolith, Savandurga, frames the reservoir, and its a fantastic getaway, if you have couple of hours to spare on a weekend. We were able to take the bikes right down to the water at that time-  I’m told now the authorities have fenced off the area and you can only see the water from the approach road.

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At Manchanbele reservoir, some bulls and Harleys, June 2013
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This HD image went viral on Harley Davidson’s India page. 🙂 June 2013

Our next ride, to what Dev fondly remembers as a ‘Forest’ did not turn out as planned. We wanted to visit Anchetty, a forest stretch in Tamil Nadu, but a couple of wrong turns off Kanakapura Road and we ended up in the middle of nowhere. We found a government school, abandoned in 2002 and whiled a bit there. There were photo sessions and bike talk, with the guys completely ignoring the fact that this was not the ride destination. What I was beginning to like was that the riders in the group were a happy go lucky bunch- every ride equalled discovery + fun, even the ones that did not turn out quite as expected.

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On a ride that didn’t turn out as planned, June 2013
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Out in the middle of nowhere, a solo motorcyclist makes his mark, June 2013
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When you ride by places like this, a few miles out of town, nothing else matters. June 2013

We were determined to do Anchetty, and that happened in a sort of refreshing way actually. The group had been fairly quiet through autumn/ winter of 2013, and 2014 brought in the promise of a good ride. I managed to rope in Sabith, an experienced rider and a colleague from work, and Abhijit, my neighbour, and a core member of the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Club, on this ride. Now Abhijit is an ardent motorcyclist- in life you are sometimes fortunate to meet people who live by a motto. I guess his motto is “Two Wheels Only”. More about him, here- http://www.motorcycl.in

We also had Som join on his Desert Storm- he had come ‘geared up’ for the ride- as a paratrooper! The rest of the group were the usual suspects and the core members- Pankaj, Shalin, Dev and Anand. We missed Bipin and Nikhil on this ride though- and what a ride this turned out to be!

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En route  to Anchetty, January 2014
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The paratrooper on a Desert Storm, January 2014
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Anchetty, the forest road starts…, January 2014
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…and into the forest we ride, January 2014
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The route out of Anchetty offered some brilliant tarmac, January 2014
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Everyone wants a piece of that Bullet action! January 2014

Every once in a while, ride plans are made with gusto and talked about on the FB group page. People promise to join the ride, but when the alarm shouts 4:00 am, only the determined few make it to the start point. On one such occasion, there was only Pankaj and me who turned up. En-route, we were rewarded with a dazzling sunrise over a lake on Kanakapura Road.  A hearty breakfast and a short detour on our way home and it was a Sunday morning well spent.

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A beautiful sunrise rewards a pre-dawn ride, November 2013
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Bulls in the greens, November 2013

It was awesome being part of a group of like minded motorcyclists. We learnt important group riding skills and co-ordination.  Before long, learning from each other, most of us acquired proper motorcycling gear- Jackets, Gloves, good Helmets, boots, knee guards etc. We discovered wonderful places, a stone’s throw away from the city and some fabulous breakfast joints along the way.

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Ride to Yogavana Hills, July 2013
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Two wheels and an open highway_happy days!

Ministry of Torque

The tribe of Harleys kept increasing gradually, ride after ride. Amit and Nikhil were already on a Superlow and Iron 883, respectively. Dev, who had a RE Thunderbird 500 and was obviously not happy about its performance, progressed from a Superlow to a Fat Boy. Shalin and Pankaj were to follow suit. More members were added to FB group, many of whom also rode with Riders Republic, the largest independent super bike group in the country. And so the name of the group- Enfield Explorers, was called to question. A more inclusive name, Ministry of Torque found favour with many and was adopted. Here’s an FB link to the group’s activities-

https://www.facebook.com/groups/MinistryofTorque/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shadowfax

I have a new motorcycle. Out of what sums up as a passing interest for all things on two wheels, I have followed its development and launch with some enthusiasm. It became a bike on my near future wish list, but I was too much in love with my C5 to think of this newcomer as a certainty.  Little did I know that it’d be coming my way soon, courtesy my beloved wife, who saw my passing interest more as a mad obsession, and one weekend, while driving past an RE showroom, decided to book one to get me out of my dilemma.

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And that is how the 2016 Royal Enfield HIMALAYAN Snow came to be a part of my life. I have decided to call it Shadowfax, that lord of horses, for as my first ride impression will reveal, an iron horse it is.  Two days on and here is a brief log.

Setting up the bike

After bringing the bike home yesterday, I spent a good deal of time prepping it, working well past midnight. From the C5 kit list, the RAM mount, the Givi top box with its mount and TBird 500 mirrors got added on. I’m not too happy with the mirrors, they manage to just about do the job and are better than the stock mirrors, which were completely useless. Need to replace these with the HH Splendor Mirrors like on the C5. The RAM mount of course, is the one indestructible equipment which is a must on this bike.

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The bike looks more purposeful now with the addition of the Givi top box. It’s ride ready for my commuter runs to work everyday, especially with manic rains lashing Bangalore this year. For many (and the uninitiated), it may remind them of a pizza delivery box. 🙂 The nice thing though is that the huge mono shock and strong rear frame make light of the added weight of the top box and the ride quality is not affected at all. I have also removed that ugly contraption they call a ‘saree guard’. Here’s how the bike fares up front.

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First Ride Impressions- In the City

I’ll admit, the only let down is the lack of torquey spread and instant acceleration I’m used to on my C5, especially in its lightweight avatar. That and the clunky gearbox- the gears might become a royal pain if they continue to be this way. Finding neutral isn’t easy, more so if I’m riding in first gear. The clutch is hard. I did have to down shift once too often last night while riding with pillion. Many new owners are struggling with the same questions, as internet surveys reveal. Some say that the gearbox issue gets sorted after the first service. So that’s good news.

That said, the engineering shines. The ride quality is a dream. The long travel suspension and way the bike is setup aids fantastic handling and corner carving; slicing through traffic and conquering potholes is just too damn easy. The brakes are good- the front brake effectiveness takes some getting used too- its a little slow on the bite, but both brakes when applied together, work really well. So far, contrary to some reports on the wide wide web, the engine noise on this machine is not a clatter. The throttle response is quick. And the power delivery is smooth and linear. I’m not a trigger happy sort of rider, and in the running period, I have no intention of gunning the throttle. But the way the bike responds when I have to do quick overtakes, tells me that the bike can really dart upto triple digit figures. Vibrations are more or less absent at lesser speeds, depending on the way you define vibrations. I certainly have not felt them in the footpegs or bar. There seems to be some on the tank when I clasp it with my legs, at high revs.

I love the way the motorcycle makes you feel completely at ease. There is a laid back, easy going lope to its stride, and a quiet assurance that highway miles will be munched in absolute comfort. Strap up, settle in and relax brother, it tells me- let me take you to the yonder blue mountain.

Can’t wait to do my first long distance run.

 

Back Road Beautiful

A few years ago, on my way back from a meeting in Whitefield to my house near IIM Bangalore, I discovered this road at the suggestion of a colleague. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first rode on it. One minute you are negotiating gaps between heavy trucks on a major state highway leading out of the city, and a minute later, you turn right on an almost invisible lane and you are instantly in the midst of  a motorcyclist’s dream. This back road, which is off Varthur road, touches a pretty village after a series of twisties and then has little bits of straights before dissolving into twisties again. It finally hits Sarjapur Road after a run of 5 km. And hear this- there was little or no traffic. The road condition was impeccable, and although you wont find rolling mountains here, there was ample greenery and smiling village folk on the way.

In the early days, when I moved to South India, these little discoveries added to the list of everyday delights which made me slowly fall in love with this place. These quaint roads, lined with greenery, on the outskirts of the city, that lead nowhere seemingly significant, but which always leave you feeling refreshed and give you a notion of being away from it all.

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The Avenger 220 off Gunjur Village

Long before the Varthur-Devanahalli-Airport road became a regular favourite with Airport Taxi operators, my wife and me had happened to venture out on it, one fine Sunday on our Avenger 220. We joined the Old Madras Road from Whitefield and continued on till we reached Hoskote. From here we took a left turn and after a kilometre or so started getting into real country.  One starts to notice innumerable vegetable farms in a short while- the lifeline to the fresh produce, the city gets every morning. And then come the bends, and my heart whoops with joy. Apart from the absence of monstrous trucks invading your sense of well being and those nice surprises round every bend, what’s really great about these city limit back roads is that it is here, free from city noise and pollution, that you feel that whiff in the air, and are able to truly enjoy that fantastic weather you get all year round at 917m of elevation.

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The Whitefield Devanahalli Road, sans traffic

Over the years my motorcycle buddies and me, have explored these back of the woods as part of a rag tag moto group that thrives on the idea of ‘Sunday Breakfast Runs’. The format here is simple- wake up real early, start your engines at the crack of dawn, congregate at a designated street corner somewhere in the city, ride towards a pre-ordained breakfast joint on the highway (where the proprietor is as enthusiastic about rising early as you are), gobble down standard fare- idly vada, khara bhaat, maybe some masala dose… and wash it all down with steaming hot, strong filter coffee.

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Idly vadas and filter coffee, breakfast for the hungry biker

Over breakfast, talk bikes and plan the next big ride, and update your dream motorcycle wishlist, based on inputs from your moto-mates. When you are finished with breakfast, you need to take the long way home- which generally involves heading into the nearest patch of woods and perhaps a little loss of tarmac.

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Anchetty Forest Road, Tamil Nadu

On all these rides we have figured routes which venture off the main highways leading out of town. We take them small unknown roads which connect one major route out of the city to the next. You can also read about some more back road discoveries here-

https://yonderbluemountain.wordpress.com/2016/07/03/enfield-explorers/

You don’t need to head far from the city before you are on one of these roads- so take your moto and head out this weekend- you may have a pleasant surprise, waiting at the very next bend.

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A single that thumps, a road that winds- Off Kanakapura Road
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Lovely backroad skirting Manchanbele Reservoir
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The straight stretch to Nandi Hills

 

 

Motorcycling Magic

Motorcycling Magic.

It can catch you unawares. On a long ride out into the wild. Or in a short day trip out of the city. On independence day- 15th August, 2012, we rode in a group of three to Nandi Hills on the outskirts of the city. I have modified the C5 slightly, with a taller handlebar that makes for relaxed riding on long commutes. Our way up was a fast clip early in the morning, with the climb to Nandi Hills being crowded with motorcyclists from all over the region. A couple of  frenzied hours  spent gawping at beautiful machines and taking many photos later, we made our descent for a spot of breakfast.

As we rode down, I switched to neutral and killed the ignition on a whim. Soon however, I was coasting down the hill at 60kph,with 180 odd kgs of heavy metal between my legs. The C5 is an amazing creature. Never had I imagined going so quietly, so fast on a machine known the world over for its guttural thump. There I was, silent as a cat, foot pegs scraping the bends, overtaking running vehicles with  casual nonchalance. This was as perfect as it could ever be- me and my machine in absolute communion. No words spoken. No throaty roars from the exhausts. No clunks of gears falling into place. No revs from the throttle. Just wind on my face. And the fresh morning chill awakening every single nerve end in my body. Twisties all the way down. Bliss. A full 20 minutes of silent running later I coasted to our rendezvous – a roadsdide dhaba, for our breakfast treat.

The ride into the city after breakfast was pretty mundane, even annoying at times, my mind cursing the various autowallahstaxiwallahs and hurried commuters who are constantly a menace on the city’s streets.

Home and a hot cup of tea in hand, I sit pondering my down hill run. Motorcycling magic occurred that day, and I shall fondly remember that ride for just the same reason.

Ode to the Himalayan

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These iron horses will take us far
On paths beyond the highway tar
O’er hill and mountain, vale and dale,
We’ll stop in taverns and drink fine ale
There’ll be talk and laughter and merry and gale
And when the day is done, we’ll rendezvous
And hold ’em straight and hold ’em true
To carry us darlings straight home to you.