Himalayan- Essential Upgrades

In my Himalayan, 15000km Update. I had talked about upgrading to a good set of tyres as the stock tyres had worn out completely. After shortlisting various on/off road tyres, including the Pirelli MT60, which does duty on Himalayans sold outside India, I decided to run with Metzeler Tourance Next. The photos below, show how the bike looks with new shoes.

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Metzeler Tourance Next- 90/90 x 21″ Front Tyre- easy fit on the Himalayan.
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Metzeler Tourance Next- 150/70 x 17″ rear tyre. This fitting requires a skilled mechanic as the rim width is designed to hold a 120/90 x 17″ tyre. Nevertheless, once installed correctly, the tyre is a seamless fit. I am using a Ralco 140/17 tube in the tyre. 

The tyres are significantly higher grade (being Metzelers) and therefore, significantly more expensive. But they are comparable to or cheaper than, the other options I looked at. I chose these tyres after a fair bit of research, for the following reasons:

  1. In three years of use, I have not done any serious off-roading on the Himalayan. And I realise, that while any offroad trail which comes my way, when I’m on a ride is more than welcome, I’m not much into off-roading as a sport. Which meant that I required a good set of dual sport tyres that would be ideal for commuting and touring.
  2. I wanted road focussed tyres that could handle dirt trails. Now the stock tyres are good on dirt and okay on road. Folks who are on their second set of stock tyres are bound to disagree with me, and a month or two ago, I would have sworn by the Ceats. However, since I’ve put on the Metzelers, two things have become crystal clear- a. The road grip is amazing- I feel much more confident entering and exiting corners now, and b. braking has improved tremendously.
  3. Off road adventure tyres with knobbly treads have very poor mileage on road. Here the Metzelers stood out, with a lot of online reviews claiming a mileage of 15000 plus miles. This was one big deciding factor.

My second investment was the all aluminium box panniers from Royal Enfield. The panniers are sturdy, lockable and waterproof, with two years warranty. Mounting and removing them is a straightforward affair, and build quality is pretty decent. They add quite a lot of character to the bike. The bike looks purposeful and adventure ready. Here again, I researched luggage systems from Shad and Hepco and Becker, both of which offered hard plastic cases, but were on the expensive side. I went in for the Royal Enfield product as it was very good value for money, robust and simple to use.

Royal Enfield Aluminium panniers on the Himalayan.
Some DIY was required to mount the number plate, but it turned out fine, I think. 
Mounting and removing the panniers is a 5 minutes affair. 

I’ll pop in a review soon, about these upgrades, once I’ve headed out on a long ride. In the meantime, I’ve been commuting. And the panniers are an absolute blessing. Earlier, I’d spend at least 10 to15 minutes daily, strapping my laptop bag on and taking it off the bike; now, its a 30 second affair. The panniers swallow everything. And keep stuff snug and dry. ‘Fill it, shut it, forget it’, is what I say. 🙂

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Commuting, before the panniers. My laptop bag is mounted on the rear seat with the help of bungee cords. Everyday, prepping the bike took at least 10 minutes. 

 

 

Scramble by the lake!

A short scramble on a lake bed enroute to Dandinagahalli Dam.

Himalayan, 15000km Review.

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15000 kms and ticking!

This post might interest potential Royal Enfield Himalayan buyers. My Himalayan is now more than two and a half years old. The bike crossed 15000 kms last November. Here’s a summary of what you can expect, long term, should you decide to buy this motorcycle. Some of the points below have been touched upon in the Himalayan 10000km update

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Himalayan, circa 2019.

THE ENGINE

The carburetted, long stroke engine, with a counter balancer, is easily one of Royal Enfield’s most sorted singles till date (Power 24.5 bhp, Torque 32NM). Whether on an everyday commute or on a longer ride, the motor performs flawlessly. I changed to a lifetime BMC filter more than a year ago, which has lent some smoothness to the mill, and a deeper grunt to the exhaust. Sweet spot for my bike remains in the 80-110 kph zone, when I’m in  4th gear, taking on a curve and revving up to slot to 5th. Its rev happy, provides oodles of  torque and a great rumbling note, making this bike a delight on winding back roads.

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Road, no road… the Himalayan is great fun if the pace is unhurried.

The bike’s limits are more evident when you travel on an intercity six laner. As soon as you rev past 100kph, you feel the torque tapering off. Hit 120 kph, and you know you really don’t want to keep this up for too long. The engine isn’t exactly on song. There’s good amount of vibrations creeping in on footpegs and near the tank. Under favourable conditions (sunny day, smooth road), I have touched 130-135kph. It wasn’t a very enjoyable experience.

Throttle happy thrill seekers? No sir, not your cuppa.

Lazy tourers who believe in all day riding? Aye! Grab an easy chair, this is for you!

Earlier in the ownership experience posts, I had raved about how smooth the engine is, and in one report, compared the motor to the CBR 250R. Two years on, I can confirm that the RE engine has a few rough edges, fares poorly against the butter smooth Honda, and can’t sustain a top end whack. All moving parts have since settled in, and roughness is at bare minimum, but its there. The upside is that the UCE Engine, doing duty on all other RE single cylinder motorcycles, feels primitive compared to the Himalayan’s mill.

Current lot of Himalayans being sold worldwide (post 2018), feature fuel injection and have better response. Maintaining speeds in the range of 100-120kph is decidedly smoother as well. They also feature dual channel ABS, which should give riders more confidence at these speeds.

RIDE AND ERGONOMICS

Ergonomics on the Himalayan are well sorted, as is the long travel suspension. All day rides on all manner of surfaces, is a breeze. This is one Royal Enfield, where the bar and the seat positions, need no tinkering with at all. While they did get the ergonomic triangle right, the bar and seat, can do with better quality. I have opted for a braced handlebar which is a lot better finished and feels sturdy. The stock seat starts hurting the insides of your thigh after 3-4 hours of continuous use. The cushioning on the seat is beginning to deteriorate. Time to look for a replacement.

CHANGE IS THE ONLY CONSTANT

Fiddling around with the look of the bike, I felt this bike is better off as a scrambler. It meant stripping it down as much as I could, without investing in any real customisation. Most of it was DIY on weekends. Now when I’ve stripped this bike clean, it’s so much more accessible. It’s easier to see where the front wheel is going. There’s less stuff on the bike to worry about. And there’s decent amount of weight reduction as well. Read more about these changes at Reduce to evolve

At present, I’m riding with these accessories, which I will strongly recommend:

  • Upgraded the handle-bar to the Braced Handlebar Kit (Part no. 1990206). The handlebar weighs 20% less than the stock bar, is beautifully finished, and Made in Taiwan. From Royal Enfield Brand Showroom, BTM Layout, Bangalore. 
  • Installed Bar-End Finisher Kits (Part No.1990220) for the same handlebar. From Royal Enfield Brand Showroom, BTM Layout, Bangalore. 
  • BMC Lifetime Filter for the Himalayan- Sourced from Big Bear Customs, St. Marks Road, Bangalore. 
  • Brake Reservoir protector from the Continental GT (535). (Available at most Service Centres)
  • Continental GT (535) Rear View Mirrors. (Available at a few RE Service Centres)

The following upgrades are in the pipeline. I hope to get these on before crossing 20000 kms on the Odo.

  • Touring Seat (Part No. 1990208) (From Royal Enfield Accessories)
  • 90×90/21 (Front) and 150×70/17 (Rear) Tyre setup. Brand Options- Metzeler Tourance, Pirelli Scorpion Rally, Pirelli Scorpion Trail. (Researching online Sources, Dealers)
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Braced handlebar kit offers precise fit, better strength and quality

 

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Touring Seat upgrade…soon!

OWNERSHIP

On this bike, highs last and lows don’t. I was lucky that most technical issues, were quickly sorted out by my friendly neighbourhood service centre. There’s some things to be conscious of, which I have highlighted below:

Tyres– The stock tyres (Ceat Gripp XL 90×90/21 F & 120×90/17 R) are capable of taking on quite a beating. I’ve run them through all kinds of roads and trails and not suffered a single puncture to date. But they also wear out quick, compared to other tyres serving this category of motorcycles. My rear tyre, almost featureless at 15000km, had to be replaced. The front tyre, seems like it’ll live for another 5000 kms, tops. These tyres are not an easy find either. If you’ve loved the stock tyres on the Himalayan, chances are, you’ll not want to deviate from this spec. Unless you have moolah enough to invest in 21″ and 17″ Pirelli Scorpion Rally doing duty on Tigers, BMW 850 GS and Africa Twins. I’ve also shortlisted Metzeler Tourance and Pirelli MT 60 as possible upgrades. They are expensive upgrades which will need some forethought. Won’t offer a lot of mileage in Indian conditions, either. Roadholding and cornering ability  is said to improve tremendously though.

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Keep running the stock tyre past 15000km and you’ll be slippin’ an slidin’ everywhere!

Wear and Tear– Face it, if you’ve owned a Royal Enfield, chances are, you’ve made your peace with fading paint, rust issues and low life rubber parts. The Himalayan can be said to be a notch better. Engineering that qualifies it to be an adventure tourer, is mostly spot on- the suspension, brakes, wheel hubs, chain drive, general body balance and tightness, have fared well. There’s a beautiful acquired patina to the cast Aluminium fittings on the bike, revealed after each wash. What could be better, is the quality of rubber parts, especially fork boots, wire housings, bolt washers and connector caps. These have frayed visibly. The right fork seal was the latest to give in. Rusting is one of those subjects that’s talked about vigorously on the Internet, but has not been a major issue on my bike so far. The paint’s holding up.

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Rubber parts, high on wear & tear.

DIY Friendly- This aspect of the bike is hard to beat. A simple bike, that a novice like me can take apart with basic tools. I can strip it down to chassis (with some bits like the battery and electricals still on the bike) in about 20 minutes flat. Here’s a list of things I’ve done, which I have never ever dared to do before on any other motorcycle.

– Stripping the bike of tank, seats, fender and number plate and tail light assembly.

– replacing the air filter

– removing the carburettor/ cleaning it

Furthermore, I have observed the following activities being done- and am confident of doing it myself because of how easy the Himalayan is when it comes to maintenance.

– Removing/ fitting the rear tyre

– Engine Oil change

Now if you look at the list above, there’s a good bit of DIY maintenance covered. I’m excluding instances of pannier mounting, chain lubing, carb tuning and other bits of easy maintenance which, for me were not new ground. But attempting the above list on the Classic 500 was a straight no, no, only to be trusted to my mechanic. Engaging with the bike, on a lazy Sunday afternoon, has taken on new meaning.

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Strip it down? Took me all of 20 minutes!

 

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Oil change? Three bolts on the right, two on the left. Drain oil, Replace oil filter, clean the oil mesh, refill oil and pop the bolts back on. No bottom of engine, faulty washer oil leakage issues here.
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What you see in this picture, is everything that keeps the tyre in place. Tyre removal? Easy peasy.
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Air filter access? 6 easy bolts to loosen and its out!

Touring and commuting– Having heard enough stories of how far folks are travelling with the Himalayan, I realise I’ve not used the bike to a quarter of its potential. I will vouch for it as a fantastic commuter. And most days of the year, for my 40km chaotic commute, the Himalayan has been my weapon of choice. On a few tours that I have done, the machine has been a comfortable mile muncher. The longest ride, was a 1200km plus two day sojourn round Wayanad, (Rolling Through Wayanad). The bike fared admirably, taking on offroad sections, twisties and high speed straights with equal aplomb.

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The Himalayan is meant for roads like these.

So I think I’ve covered most of the aspects about the bike that I wanted to talk about. In the year gone by (2018), I’ve seen a lot of serious motorcyclists appreciating the Himalayan for what it really is- a no nonsense, do it all, everyday and everywhere motorcycle.

I have compiled below, a list of youtube feeds, from across the world. These happy owners are on a roll with the new 2018 Himalayan. Their stories are inspiring, and in some cases eye-opening. Enjoy!

Roaring Forties!

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At Bannerghatta Nature Reserve

I had not done much riding since my last trip to Horseley Hills. In fact, for most of June through to August, 2018, I hardly used the bike. So come September, on the day I welcomed the roaring forties, I planned to gift myself a short breakfast ride. My cousin decided to join me on his Himalayan.

We chose Kanakpura Road without debate, especially because it offers one beautiful back road after another, all the way until Mysore. The route map promised a fun circuit- rounding off to just under 100kms.

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Turnoff at Harohalli to head into Bannerghatta Forest Reserve.
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A recent review by an American motorcyclist, compared the Himalayan to a tractor, after its ability to take on any sort of terrain, at its slow steady pace. 🙂

The ride was uneventful until the turnoff from NICE Corridor. Here we found a group of riders astride Royal Enfield Himalayans and Bullets. Decided to stick with them till our usual breakfast haunt at Harohalli. The day favoured us with cool weather- with hints of sunshine behind departing clouds. It felt good to be on the bike, after my three month hiatus. The riders were a civil lot, maintaining speed and line, and I soon relaxed into the pace of the ride.

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Und vada, und masala dosa, washed down with filter kaapi- essentials of a breakfast ride.

After breakfast, we bid farewell to the pack and head towards Jigani through a back road that circles Bannerghatta National Park. Enroute, the country opens up with plenty of enticing dirt trails to wander off into. We spend a good part of the morning in this area, exploring a couple of trails. Not much luck sighting wildlife in the nature reserve, but enough spots to chill and revel in the scenery.

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Dirt trail leading off to quaint little villages, lovely fields all round
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Sadarahalli stone posts with barbed wire demarcate farmlands through most of Southern Karnataka
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Happy trails.
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Only so much of natural to beauty to take in, not too far from home. 
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This field was meant for a drifting’ aka Captain America style 🙂

Around mid day, the promise of a birthday lunch and meeting up with family lured us back home. But it was a great start to my 40th, is what I say. 🙂

Himalayan 10000km update

If sources are to believed, my Royal Enfield Himalayan has had a production run of less than a year. Production started in April 2016 and ended in Feb 2017. The second production cycle started after June 2017, with the machines hitting showrooms in September. But these machines had an EFI unit, with minor cosmetic updates. They also sported better components and are reported to have none of the issues which plagued carburreted machines like mine, produced before Feb 2017.

Shadowfax, circa Nov 2017
Himalayan, Circa 2018

So, as I hit 10000 Kms in the running, and the EFI machines started showing up on the streets, I had a realisation. I was now part of a rare breed of Royal Enfield motorcyclists. We owned an adventure tourer which had been a market probing experiment for the vehicle manufacturer. Our numbers are in a few thousands, at the most, and we are scattered across the nation.

Looking back over one and a half years of ownership, here’s an executive summary of service updates, hates and likes.

Service Updates

  • The magneto coil- conked off after about a year and 5 months of ownership- replaced last month.
  • Oil cooler unit-upgraded with mesh at the 2nd Free Service
  • Carburettor changed after a year of use
  • Engine head assembly changed at the 2nd Free Service
  • Rocker arm replaced at first free service
  • Handlebar bent- replaced (at cost) at the 2nd Free Service
  • Carrier broken- replaced at the 2nd Free Service
  • Clutch assembly- I’m not quite sure what happened here but after the 2nd Service, it was butter smooth- I reckon it was replaced with the modified clutch assembly

I must add here that with the exception of the handlebar, all other updates were done free of cost. Would laud the mechs at  my friendly neighbourhood RE service centre, for their prompt response on every occasion.

Hate

  • The first giveaway are the tyres. They are a brilliant fit for the bike and can take a whole lot of punishment. But, with almost all of my riding being tarmac focused, the rear tyre’s tread has worn out at 10500km. And that’s just half the life of an average motorcycle tyre.
  • I hate RE’s promises. The promos for the motorcycle feature the bike being ridden with many accessories- which the company claims, have been tested in harshest terrain. There are saddle bags and panniers, a handlebar cross bar, better integrated rear mount, fuel and water tanks and a completely different exhaust. Now none of these are easily available in any showroom in the city. I can live with foregoing most of the list, but the free-flow exhaust is a must have item. Anyone who has ridden the bike with the featured exhaust will tell you that the bike was designed with this exhaust in mind. My search continues…
  • Don’t know how many Himalayan owners will agree with me here, but it seems the cushioning on the seat also has a lifespan of about 10k. A couple of hours of spirited riding makes it impossible to continue sitting on the bike.
  • Lack of Power, no ABS. There’s no two ways about this- The bike just needs more power. I have replaced the stock filter with a BMC lifetime filter, and the performance is smoother, but there’s only so much you can do. ABS is sorely missed as well.
  • Tubeless Tyres. I understand that spoke rims take punishment better. And they prove to do so, on my Himalayan. But I’m also, almost always carrying a spare tube for that      21” front and 17” rear tyre- both uncommon sizes, not available readily.

Love

It’s easy to love a lot of features on this bike, and in many ways it’s incredible value for money.

  •  Touring friendliness: if you want a budget adventure tourer, love distance and don’t miss tarmac scorching performance, then this is the bike for you. It’s great for days spent in the saddle, and has room enough for all manner of luggage arrangements.
  • User friendliness: Pretty durned easy to ride, commute and tour on. Good for everyday riding.
  • Off-road: Arguably the bike’s best behaviour is when it’s ridden off road. It’s a hoot to ride on dirt trails. And standing on pegs on this bike for miles on end is my idea of Sunday fun.
  • No thump does not mean lack of grunt. The engine note, has character, and combined with a free revving motor, has a distinct sound, which I have come to love.
  • And finally, I feel, this is a bike to keep. It’s built to last, is technologically simple and will guarantee miles if you take care of it. Sometime in the near future, when a larger machine has taken pride of place, I will roll out my customised Himalayan for an afternoon ramble up the hill, and then finish off in the evening with some tinkering, some TLC and a well earned lager. 🙂

 

Of heathlands and monoliths…

This little overflowing creek made for a nice splash

This Diwali, the long weekend came about promising at least one day of riding fun. I headed out with my cousin (who also owns a Himalayan), towards Manchanbele dam, for a lunch ride. To make the regular route a little more interesting, we chose a detour featuring a beautiful back road between Kanakpura and Mysore highways.

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Post monsoon greenery adorns the connector linking Kanakpura and Mysore highways
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Lunch was a quick affair on Mysore highway, this thali was delicious
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Heathland, retreating rain clouds and sunshine. Riding season is here!

The day forecast glorious weather with long sunny spells. This time of the year heralds the start of the riding season in South India, with late October through to February generally packed with organised tours and riding events. So it felt good to be back in the saddle, even if it was for a short spin.

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Manchanbele Reservoir, off Mysore Road

The short route to Manchanbele from Mysore highway passes through open country that features a lot of heathland like un-farmed land. This year the monsoon strayed well into October, so everywhere we looked, we saw green. At Manchanbele, there was a fair crowd. Entry to the dam is restricted, taking vehicles down to the water is prohibited, so all you could do was stare at the water from higher vantage points. On an earlier occasion, I had been able to park by the water. So there wasn’t much to do but carry on. Savandurga, one of Asia’s largest monoliths, loomed high above the water. I had always wanted to see it up close and we decided to head there.

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Offroading enroute to Savandurga

The road to Savandurga monolith cuts through the lovely Savandurga State Forest, and both in the forest, and on its fringes, we found great spots to stop, shoot and chill :).

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Selfie time!
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At Savandurga State Forest.
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In the shadow of the mountain
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The wild grass was inviting, the late afternoon sun, relaxing
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Heathland and monoliths
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Spots for posing with the monolith abound enroute
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Bikes are dwarfed by the lofty Savandurga

Savandurga, is majestic and towering. I had never come close to a monolith before. All I had was childhood memories of leafing through my geography text book and marvelling at the splendid isolation of Ayers Rock. I had always imagined giant monoliths to be far off the grid, in places that existed at the very edge of the map. Savandurga, is no such thing. There were tourist stalls at the parking lot and a temple at the top. We were lucky that there wasn’t much of a throng, so we found ourselves a green spot close to the base and lingered for a while.

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Beautiful rock this, if ever a rock can be called beautiful. Worth the visit, I say

The highlight of the ride home, was this shot at dusk, which I feel captures so well, the essence of motorcycling. This is a good start to the riding season. 🙂

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Mellow evening light frames the motos next to some beautiful srubland.

Rolling Through Wayanad

 

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Bandipur, Wayanad border. Motorcyclist’s paradise

Plans for a weekend ride had been brewing in my riding group for most of the year gone by. However every time, a ride was proposed, come the date, enthusiasm waned. While it was the usual ‘weekend is for family’ excuse for older gents, the younger ones cited commitments to their busy social life. It was a miracle then, that once the idea was thrown in, six people decided to join. The initial plan was to ride to Avalanche Valley, an area of extreme natural beauty, beyond Ooty. Deepak had been there recently and complained of bad roads. Wayanad came up as an alternative, and all of us agreed unanimously.

The ride plan was finalised for last weekend of May. We decided to take the more scenic, longer route in- via Kanakpura Road and Kabini Reservoir. Having been to Kabini on more than a couple of occasions, I had seen KL registered vehicles plying in the area. I figured Wayanad must be a neighbouring district. The condition of the road leading into Kerala remained uncertain. We decided to risk it anyway- after all, what’s life without a little adventure?

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Route Map- Kanakpura and Kabini on Day One

Days of planning followed, and tea sessions in office centred on gear selection and what to carry. While Deepak bought himself a brand new lid, OP San was happy to be finally bring in use a pair of saddlebags purchased more than a year ago. Evenings were spent in the parking lot- bungee cords, rain gear and other accessories, were tested and secured on the bikes. We realised that every single bike on the ride would be a different machine. Between five of us, we had most of Royal Enfield’s product line covered- a Bullet 350 (Cast Iron), a Classic 350, a Classic 500, a Thunderbird 350, and my Himalayan. A  Pulsar 180, was the lone horse from the Bajaj stable.  I must admit, the very idea that I would be out and about in a few days gave me a new high, and I was quite looking forward to it.

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Photo Op on Kanakpura Road.

Come the day of the ride, we started bright and early, at 6am. Leaving Nice Road exit onto Kanakpura Road, I knew this route had been the right choice. The day promised to be beautiful- with misty spots of sunshine peeking between rolling clouds promising rain in far off lands. There was a good breeze about, and coasting along on a twisty two-laner seemed to be the perfect start to the weekend. Now I’ve done many rides down Kanakpura Road. It’s that simple early morning ride recipe you can’t go wrong with. The road runs on a high embankment past four lakes and passes quaint settlements. Traffic is often sparse. What I love about this road is its easy riding friendliness. You are forever in that sweet spot between 70-90kms per hour. On a Royal Enfield, that equates to bliss. Higher speeds, on a road like this, make you miss all the sights and sounds around you and are dangerous as well.

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Offroading on a muddy lakebed on Kanakapura Road

We had a bit of fun off-roading around a lake, just after Kanakpura. Mud and slush  on tracks leading to the lake had the bikes struggling. My Himalayan, fared the worst. I had mud caked tyres within the first few yards. It was a good place though, to be visited in drier times.

100kms or so into the ride, after breakfast, we stopped for a ‘bum break’. There was a quick briefing session on group riding techniques. Deepak, raring to ‘up the pace’, elected to lead. Soon after, heading on past Kanakapura town towards Malavalli, a group of riders passed us. Deepak, not to be outdone, caught up and rode wingman with their ride captain. As the road straightened out, we held good speed with the others. We were all geared up and so were they. We were on similar machines, smaller bikes which did the job. I noticed a nicely souped up Karizma- a sworn touring machine from the days of old, and a neat little Yamaha FZ among the new group. The rest were Royal Enfields, and one Himalayan rider with a helmet mounted cam. We warned each other of road impediments and warned traffic of the approaching formation. I rode wingman with the other Himalayan for a while- this was good, clean fun. Strangers looking out for each other, travelling together, bound by direction and passion. On the outskirts of Malvalli, we parted ways. There was nary a nod, nor a handshake. They carried on, and we did too. But for those miles we rode together, we all knew one great joy- motorcycling.

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Surajmukhi fields forever!

You know, that instant, when you dive out of a corner, see cars posted by the side of the road and tourist cameras flashing?  An incredible vista of yellow appeared to the left of us. I haven’t seen anything like this in a while- after all we are not in Punjab! Sunflower fields spread out for acres, right by the road. Be sure to not miss this if you are ever on this stretch of road. Plenty of photo sessions later, we hit the road again.

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The brady bunch sans one
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This sunflower field by the side of Malavalli-Mysore road was an incredible surprise!

Next stop- Kabini hinterland. I can tell you this, from whatever I have seen of the South, there’s no other place quite like this. This rolling, undulating, daleish country, with vegetable farms and tall grass stretching away into the  distance, is really beautiful. It’s a short stretch that you encounter when you turn off the Manthanawadi road towards the reservoir. The demographic here is mostly tribal. Living with the land, without making undue demands of it, is evident in their lifestyle, as we ride by.

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Rolling greens en-route to Kabini

I had set my expectations high for the first sighting of that large expanse of water. When we rounded the crest beyond the fields, I was disappointed to see the waterline receded by a mile. We rode further inland.  I was feeling a bit peckish by now. At Jungle Lodges Resort, lunch wasn’t available without prior reservation. So we decided to head down to the water. The road leading to the Serai Resort runs along the lakebed. What greeted us here, was amazing. Kabini lakebed is all grass. Not mud, not slush, not rocks. Grass. With cattle from the village grazing all over. You could lie back on the grass and stare at the sky, for water was far far away.  Photo sessions followed- some of the shots turned out worthy enough to send to RE for their annual ride calendar.

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Into the great wide open…This first sight of a dried up Kabini, took my breath away.
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And the bike’s portfolio gets a boost, courtesy OP San
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The Royal Enfield Bullet, unedited.
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And then we had some annual calendar worthy poses too!

Its funny how in open country, the weather can create a sense of delusion. As the afternoon wore on, there was sunshine beyond the clouds. In the distance, near the horizon, were  blue skies. But clouds came gathering just above our heads.  It started with a few drops, which turned into a spitter-spatter, which turned into a drizzle, which turned into a downpour, which was in fact, a cloud burst. This happened in a matter of minutes. You can see me, in the photo below, struggling to take out my rain gear from the saddle bag.

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Scrambling to take shelter from approaching rain

Well, some of us got wet. OP San had a fall. We took shelter in a cow shed and waited for it to abate. Saw a couple of lads drenched to the bone, riding around on a Harley and a Triumph Explorer, with their girlfriends following tow in a Hyundai. They were looking for a place, to have lunch. In pouring rain. What surprised me more, was that they were on these two big machines, but were wearing only helmets in the name of safety gear.

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Beyond Kabini, the road had green forests and no traffic.
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That moment when the photo op is over and you are getting ready to mount and ride
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These moments make a lifetime of memories…
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…when you ride through areas like these.
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…with a 411cc single on song. Forest roads and happy days.

The next hundred kilometres, till our homestay, was sheer motorcycling nirvana. Two factors contributed to this. The first was to do with an immaculate road that twists and turns, then delves into straights, and before you start thinking straight :), turns into twisties again. That wasn’t all. Most of this stretch runs through fringe forests of Wayanad, Bandipur and Nagarhole sanctuaries. This is not a regular bus route, cars passed by once in a while. We had most of the road to ourselves.

The second was to do with food. Now this stretch being desolate, suffers for lack of roadside eateries. We could not get grub at Kabini. For the next couple of hours we were pretty much riding hungry.  When out of a stretch of forest, a clearing emerged, lined with small hotels, Deepak and Sreejith stopped, and were inside one in the blink of an eye. We had crossed the border checkpost a couple of miles before. I can’t recall the name of the place, but I will remember the place for a lifetime. By the time I had taken off my riding jacket and walked into the hotel, the others were wolfing down delicious meals, parothas, ularthiyathu fry and chicken curry. I was starving- it was well past 5pm. The food, yummy, with a hint of home made freshness, really hit the spot. Hats off to Deepak and Sreejith for leading us to this watering hole.

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Atmost Homestay in Kalpetta, is a cheap and cheerful joint to rest your ride tired bones.

We made it to the homestay around 6pm. Atmost Homestay in Kalpetta is good value for money, and has options to camp out in the open, weather permitting. They were missing a cook though. We had to figure out dinner in town. There were plans to ride out early morning towards ghats leading down to the mainland plains. Chilled beer with motorcycle talk warmed us late into the night.

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A taste of Wayanad_Freshly plucked, home grown jackfruit was super yum.

The  next day, we rode down to the Adivaram Ghats after a light breakfast in town. At Adivaram there was a lot of traffic and quite a many tourists thronging the road edge to capture views of the plains below. We hung about for a short while before settling in for the long ride home. En-route we were treated to some gracious hospitality at Deepak’s aunt’s home. We had just made ourselves comfortable and were sipping sweet tea when his Uncle walked in from the plantation with some freshly plucked and dressed jackfruit. For us city slickers, this was a rare treat.

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When in Kerala, expect sights like these at every turn- Gods Own Country.

The homely environment and the alluring laid back life of  Wayanad, was hard to say goodbye to. I think everyone was clear on one agenda- we had to finish the business of lunch in Kerala. The food from yesterday was still fresh in our minds. So it was Deepak and Sreejith again, who led the hungry pack into a den which served heavenly parothas, kerala meals and poppadums. 

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Highlight of the ride back_a lush green forest for 40 kms_Bandipur
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The stretch between Bandipur and Gundlupet is newly surfaced, fast and clean.
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Re-group outside Bandipur.

The route home, promised glimpses of wildlife. The last part of the ride through Bandipur was awesome. I managed to fall behind, taking in as much of the surrounding jungle as I could. We sighted deer, monkeys and a lonely old boar. The rest of the ride was uneventful till Mysore. Perhaps the only downer to the otherwise great ride was the last stretch on Mysore highway. Take heed- do not plan to return on Sunday evening using this route. The traffic here puts most congested city areas to shame.

Well that was that. I was dog tired at the end of the day. Curled up at home with a cold beer, I tried to relive key moments of the ride. This was the first long ride of the year- the machine had performed flawlessly, and my riding days were back on track! 🙂

Rider Trivia

  • Anoop_Artist, Illustrator, not much into motorcycles he says, but had one hell of a ride on his Classic 350.
  • Sreejith_He walks the realm of ancients, the lone rider on a cast iron engine. We sometimes gather round his machine to hear its slow heart beating. Bullet 350.
  • Deepak_Fury on wheels, has to be reined in once in a while. Rides hard. Parties harder. Modded Thunderbird 350
  • OPSan_Calm, composed and ever smiling. Nerves of steel. Rides a Classic 500.
  • Ankit_Big, cheerful man, asks a lot of his little machine. Thankfully, the machine delivers. Pulsar 180.
  • Yours Truly_Happy to have Shadowfax running free. Happy to have me out and about, after a long time! Himalayan.