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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.
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Weekend Run_posing on NICE Road

Almost a year to my date of purchase, with some significant interventions on behalf of RE, a few tweaks on my part and general good luck, I can say that my Himalayan is running just fine, thank you very much. The bike’s still heating up on my regular commute, but is much more bearable at highway speeds. Reckon 500k more on the odo should do the trick. Until then, it will be slog through traffic on weekdays and breakfast rides over weekends.

I must admit- I have not really tested the bike to perhaps half its potential, if the marketing campaign around its launch, is to be believed.  Part of the reason was lack of time and opportunity, the other part was an unresolved trust issue with the bike, given scary reports every other day of some bugger tortured by his Himalayan- quality woes, parts falling off, engine trouble and what not. What’s interesting to note though, is while there’s a lot of hue and cry on the internet, with junta screaming war against Royal Enfield for handing them a generally dodgy item, there’s also less popular stories where hard core riders have ridden the bike in territory its supposed to excel in, with no issues.

So some days ago, surfing through motorcycle videos on YouTube, I was pleased to find some nice commentary on the machine by three Australians who have all acknowledged its true dual sport nature and have understood its advantages and limitations.

One of the Aussies,  who’s done the stretch from Ladakh to Sikkim on the bike, took the fight right back to our desi boys cribbing their heart out.  His take on the machine is heartening. And it helps that the motorbike was awarded Motorcycle of the Year by more than one automotive media house.

There’s a good report by this rider from Philippines as well.

It seems, the Himalayan is ticking all the right boxes with international riders, with many pegging it to be a great mini adventure bike or a comfortable everyday machine for both new and old motorcyclists.  As I write this, the company has already launched Version 2.0, with EFI and ABS. India launch should be just round the corner. Would be a better buy, in my opinion, as both make a world of difference.

Now with all updates done to my machine, all I need is that one solo odyssey, where my bike and me come to terms with each other. One year’s almost done and I think the time is ripe.

Some days after the incident with the rear carrier, a new issue reared its head. I first noticed it, a month ago, as a sudden drop in power, especially if I had to overtake someone/ something in a hurry. Revving the throttle with the clutch half pressed, generally sorted the issue- but there was a slight lag in the throttle response. In the days to follow, this lag became more pronounced. Initially I thought this was to do with a particular gear or speed that the bike was at, I later realised this occurred just when I had to cross 3000 Rpm on the tacho. I dilly dallied on getting the bike checked, as work and weekends were quite hectic. One morning, while climbing a flyover on Ring Road, I was also trying to overtake a cab. Revving the bike, to clear the 3000 rpm hurdle quickly, I darted past the 60kph mark as the throttle found its response. I carved in between two more cabs and a bus and came out of a thin zone to see brake lights shining brightly, 10 metres ahead of me. Now all this possibly happened in a few seconds, with traffic all round me barreling down the flyover at about 50kph. I braked hard, stopped short of the car’s fender and as the car moved, gunned the throttle to stop someone rear ending me. It was then that I realised that the engine had died..!

The bike had not stalled. I braked and the engine died.  This happened two more times in the following week. I decided then that I did not want any more life-affirming moments. An hour’s commute was turning into a dance with death! The time had come, for the machine to meet its…um, makers.

They kept the bike for a week. The guywhoknowsme, told me it will take time, that they will do a thorough check and resolve the issue. I went back after a week. And the bike was ready with three significant alterations.

  • The engine head assembly had been replaced
  • The oil cooler unit had been replaced
  • The carburettor had been replaced (culprit behind the power drop/ throttle lag).
  • The bike had been given some TLC otherwise and looked neat and clean.

Turns out that Royal Enfield is doing a silent REcall. I was told that certain chassis numbers had been identified for these critical parts updates within the warranty period. I was also told that post December 2016, all Himalayan’s are up to date and without issues. Good news then for prospective owners.

As for Shadowfax, well he is leaner, meaner, smoother and seems happier. I did not get a replacement for the carrier, but traded my GIVI box for a Viaterra Seaty tail-bag, which quite suits the bike. Don’t quite care for putting the carrier back on now, as the photos below will justify. 🙂

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Tailless Stallion

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The tail bag is quite a fit, integrates neatly with the bike. And packs a full size DSLR.

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Tails I win, heads you lose

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Love the fact that all you see now is that LED cluster at the back

I have also installed a mobile charger (ChargePLUS from Resonate)- which I felt, was a big miss from the manufacturers on a bike like this. Lloyd from Bike Nation, HSR Layout was a big help here- he is one of the few who stock this great product and he replaced a faulty charger immediately and without any fuss. I have used the charger off and on while commuting- on my i-phone, the current seems to come in after a time lag of about 3-4 seconds but sure enough it charges continuously after that. The only thing I’m not a big fan of, is the lightning cable itself, which could have been slightly longer and better armoured. Otherwise, the rest of the product is very well engineered. More details here-

http://myresonate.com/ChargePLUS.html

I rode the bike to-and-fro the workplace for a couple of days, after it came back from its makers. I had a hard time. You see, when you change half the engine, you are trying to run an engine with a multiple personality disorder. My understanding is that you have worn in, settled in parts and new parts which need to settle in. The initial few rides are best used to let the new parts settle in. Not so in crazy Bengaluru traffic! The bike heated up like an oven every 5 km, so I took one too many breaks watching traffic, breathing fumes and generally scrolling through the 5 apps on my phone like a zombie!

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Rest easy my friend, for at dawn we ride!

Which brings me to tomorrow. Sunday. I want to ride out. Out there in pure country, let the stallion run. Let it pace itself and find its rhythm. Let it come back refreshed and ready…to take me through next week’s grind!

RE_issues

It had to happen, eventually. My tryst with RE’s quality issues. Nothing lasts forever, they say. If there are Royal Enfield haters out there who read my previous  posts and have been gloating ever since- well, rejoice. Caught me out in the open, this one, I can only thank my stars that no one was hurt and that the mishap occurred twenty steps from home.

I used to run my bike with a set-up like this, with a GIVI top box mounted on the rear carrier. Now I’ve been running this set-up pretty much since I bought the bike (more than 6 months) and the only things I carry in the top-box are my macbook (13″) and a 1L water bottle. How much can that weigh , eh?

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So one fine evening, on a regular commute from work to home, I hear some creaking sound from the bike, as I swing into my neighbourhood. Two streets later, something falls off and hits the road. I look back- the top box and carrier, are gone…(with my laptop!). At home I park the bike and inspect the damage (thankfully my laptop started up, safe inside its bag)- the carrier has sheared off at the point where the load transfer should be optimum. I also realise that this is made of some alloy, not proper steel. This is a serious issue- how does one take on the mighty Himalayas, if on an adventure bike, the luggage carrier falls off with the weight of a laptop!

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Shear failure- rear carrier falls off!

….and this…

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The broken carrier at the workshop!

Took the bike to my friendly neighbour hood service centre, and the ‘guywhoknowsme’ promised that the carrier will be replaced (and shouldn’t have failed!). Well, fingers crossed. Lets hope the replacement lives up to some expectations.

On the flip side, the bike has become a looker. With the carrier removed, the tail assembly and fat rear tyre catch the eye easily and the sleek silhouette of the bike looks more appealing…

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Here’s a teaser, will publish better day shots soon!

2013 was our year of rides. I did many short rides through the year, most of them with my  group Enfield Explorers, and two long rides with my wife and brother in law, also a keen motorcyclist. Our ride to Coorg, around Easter Weekend, turned out brilliant. The weather was good and our place of stay, beautiful- but on this particular trip, it was the motorcycle friendly, smooth roads with lots of twisties that were particularly awesome. Add some really intense, flavoursome coffee to the experience, and one comes back completely ‘Coorged’. 🙂

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Moto One- Royal Enfield Classic 500 EFI- Photo Credit-http://tusharekka.com

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Moto Two-Honda CBR250R-Photo Credit-http://tusharekka.com

The Motorcycles…

The motorcycles could not have been more different- one carried the burden of decades of nostalgic tradition on its shoulders (besides my wife, me and luggage) and was out to prove its touring friendly nature with a new UCE engine. The other was a quarter litre sibling of cutting edge, modern machines that promised performance and hassle free touring for years to come. One was all metal, a remnant from the realm of ancients, with retro dials and spoked wheels, flaunting an incomplete electronic fuel injection circuit in the name of high tech gadgetry.  The other was a fully faired, shiny red crotch rocket loaded up with fancy instrumentation, EFI, dual disk brakes, ABS and a whole lot of fibre. Once out on the road however, both machines stuck a chord with their respective riders. My wife was happier on the Classic, thanks to the comfy seat and some back support she got from the tail bag. My brother in law enjoyed the smooth mill and great handling- he had just finished the running in period on the bike-so the trip was an opportunity to open up the engine a little.  I really enjoyed the torque from that half litre single-riding two up with luggage was a breeze. Holding a straight line without vibrations numbing my hands at 120kms per hour, wasn’t.

The Roads…

I must say this at the outset- this was 4 years ago, lest you go check up on me- the road conditi0n is no longer the same. Having said that, the roads, circa 2013, freshly laid or resurfaced, took the cake. The stretch from Mysore to Coorg especially, was heavenly. Gorgeous two lane blacktop flanked by rolling coffee plantations and tall Silveroak, Sapota, Eucalyptus pine and other beautiful trees. There was little or no traffic, and the twisties were wide enough to power through without the need to lose speed. Motorcycle Nirvana. All hail the State Roadways Division.

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View from the cockpit 01-Approaching Kushalnagar

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View from the cockpit 02-Cruising into Coffee Country

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Yours truly loving the bends

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I love those speed limit signs- clean and elegant

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Short breaks are important on long rides

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Riders banter on the pros and cons of two different touring machines

The Ride

The ride to Coorg was my first long ride on a motorcycle in South India. I had driven to Coorg twice before, but for both my wife and me, riding down was a whole new experience.  The ride in was particularly good, we started early morning and reached Coorg by noon- with the weather playing its part.  The next few days were spent pottering around Madikeri and Bylakupe and visiting the Elephant Camp at Dubare. The motorcycles proved indispensable, and helped us explore some areas off the tourist trail as well. Apart from the ride itself, the fun part was also planning the ride as a family- sorting out stuff to pack in saddle bags, gearing up, talking my wife out of carrying too many items of personal use (the hardest part), and establishing road rules with regard to loo breaks, hand signals and points of re-group in case we lose each other en-route. All in all it was a fantastic ride and a great memory- one I hope to revisit this year, on the Himalayan.

Republic Day 2017, marked the beginning of rides for the year, with a short half day ride to Kolar and back. I was joined by my brother in law on a CBR 250R and my cousin on another Royal Enfield Himalayan.

The ride plan had been in the making for Kabini, with the idea of a wander round this beautiful body of water, as indicated in the map below. Now I’ve been to Kabini one too many times, but always in a car. On every visit, I have wanted to re-visit the place on a motorcycle. Unfortunately, the ride plan fizzled out as many of the riders in my riding group dropped out. We decided to make it a family affair, and head somewhere closer. Kabini, remains on the to-do list…for the next ride.

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Kabini Reservoir- ride around…

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The Himalayans pose en-route to Kolar

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Selfie in the fields.

 

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A bit of off roading never hurt no one

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Sometimes, all you need to do, is get out of the city, take a beaten path into the hills and thank your stars for living in this moment.

Work from home

Work from home offers many respites, one  being organising your favourite files and folders, and feeling good about it all. 🙂

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Digging around for a file in the back up from my old computer, I found these. My collection  of brilliant BMW Motorrad advertisements, downloaded when just published at the time. To this day, I have not found any ads that capture the spirit of motorcycling in such a soul stirring way.  One look might make you want to drop everything and head out on a ride! Enjoy!

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Without question.

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Nothing like two soulmates on two wheels.

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This one’s my favourite.

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Every time. All the time.

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And I’m sure most of us who ride to work, have felt this one day or the other.

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And then, these two blokes came along. The rest, as they say, is history.

As the city slumbers
We roam its streets
Whitewalkers in the dead of night
Pale shadows who drift at the speed of light
Around dying embers we try to be warm
And keep on riding
Till the break of dawn.

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Shadowfax stares into the night

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My riding buddy is a relative- it runs in the family

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A sports tourer and an adventure tourer

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Crossed 4500km-the engine is one smooth mill now

Shadowfax turned 6 (months) recently and just returned from second service.  Family and work commitments had kept me busy through most of September-so when two small chances to ride came my way, they were grabbed without further ado and the horse reigned in, on each occasion.

The first one was a short, half day affair to the fishing camps of Bheemeshwari and Galibore. My riding group wanted to head to the river, park the bikes by the banks and just chill with no more on the agenda, so we set off on a  sunny October morning. We could not hang out for long by the river however, as all of that region has recently come under the purview of the State forest department and with tusker presence growing in the area, you are only allowed to linger by the river for five minutes tops. Tusker and crocodile warnings notwithstanding, this beautiful stretch of road connecting the two camps along the river, is now only to be traversed if you have a stay reservation at Galibore. Way back in the day, on my very first ride with my C5, we had been able to ride along the river and take the bikes down to the waterline. I guess with these places now being a very popular weekend destination for Bangaloreans, it becomes necessary for the forest department to introduce these measures to preserve the unique biodiversity of this region. We did manage to  explore some of the terrain around, amble through a reserve forest and kill a few hours when one of the bikes suffered a flat tyre.

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This was easier back in the day when you had a bit of river to yourself. circa 2012

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The Cauvery is still breathtaking in Bheemeshwari, but we could not get the bikes down to the water. circa 2016

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A spot of tranquil in the forest, the river’s not far ahead

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The way in was lit by brilliant blue skies

The second opportunity came about in the form of a family trip to Mysore. While the rest of the family elected to drive, there was one seat short- and it was obvious what would happen next. I must say, this ride to Mysore and back was a revelation for me. I felt that while the Himalayan is great for day long escapades on roads and terrain like the ones in photos above, its absolutely incredible when it comes to touring long distance. Midway to Mysore, and I was in seventh heaven. I was holding speeds of 100/120 kmph constantly without any fatigue to my wrists or bum. Overtaking was a breeze and sticking to the fast lane seemed like a natural thing to do. 3000+ kms on the odo and the engine was running really smooth. Horse and rider reached the city with plenty of breath to spare.

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Mysore palace- a sight to behold after a fantastic ride

These two rides did point out some deficiencies, however. I had been making do with a bent handlebar on the Himalayan, ever since a fall on a ride, some months ago. The Mysore ride made it evident that the handlebar needed replacing-I could feel the strain on one of my shoulders. The stock mirrors also showed their inadequacy on the highway. A bit of online trolling revealed that many Himalayan owners had changed their mirrors- with the Royal Enfield GT stock mirrors being a favourite. When the time came round for the second service, these two updates were on top of my list. Here’s how the bike fares now, looks-wise,with its new handlebar and GT mirrors. Next on the agenda, perhaps the performance exhaust. 🙂 But before that, a ride.

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Tour -ready, Shadowfax with the new mirrors

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Up, close- the RE GT mirrors- wider field of view

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From the archives, circa 2001-the image that started it all

There was a time, many eons ago, when I began to develop a whole hearted interest in two wheels, that I first heard about the BMW R1150 GS Adventure. I chanced upon this image above, during those heady days of late night web surfing while at college, and it made a big impression on my senses. I was hooked on first sight and it signalled the start of a long standing love affair. The R1150 GS was the first true adventure tourer. It was built to serve that one purpose that few dreamed could be accomplished by a motorcycle- Go anywhere, anytime, off road, on road, across borders,  over hills and desert, valleys and rivers. It was designed to cross continents. Suddenly no place on the map seemed too far. It was also designed to be your only bike.

Over the years, I followed the development of this segment of motorcycles closely. While the R1150 GS was eventually succeeded by the 1200 GS, other brands came out with similar purposeful machines- namely KTM, Triumph, Ducati and the Japanese manufacturers to name a few. Through it all the 1200 GS remained the undisputed champion of Adventure motorcycles, and with the kind of publicity garnered through various TV shows, books and movies, it also entered the hall of legends.

Unfortunately, legends come at a price. The bike has been selling here in India for more than a couple of years, but for me it remains a distant dream. A more affordable alternative, the Triumph Tiger 800, beckons as something I might want to lay my hands on in the near future. Until then, I have the Himalayan.

The Himalayan, with its humble origin, and spartan design and engineering has convinced me, in its own modest way, that I will probably never want to own another genre of motorcycle again. The Royal Enfield CEO, Siddharth Lal, had said at its launch that the Himalayan too, was designed to be your only motorcycle. He had meant to put this statement squarely in the Indian context, where unlike the West, owning a motorcycle, for many, is the first step towards eventually owning a car. Here, the practicality of the Himalayan, as a do it all bike-a good commuter, good tourer, off roader and decent luggage hauler, at a rock bottom price was to hold sway against all larger machines of such kind.

6 months of ownership has led to that rare insight, that his vision is coming true. The motorcycle does makes you realise that it is an extension of you. It takes me to work everyday, in reasonable comfort. Its tall seating and straight back ergonomics helps me pick out gaps in traffic over car rooftops. The luggage rack at the rear and the top box is a good stowaway for almost anything. Excellent ground clearance and suspension make short work of all potholes and broken roads. And a torquey engine makes it a great tool for carving through traffic. I’ve said as much, in other posts on this blog before.

What I haven’t elaborated on, is how this bike made me feel on this ride out to Mysore. I felt like a frontiersman, out to explore new land and bring home the bounty. My companion was my horse, in whom I had immense confidence. I felt sorry that the ride would be a couple of days at max, for here was a machine I could really ride for days on end. There came on slowly, a beautiful feeling of oneness. I was perched on the saddle of my trusted steed. There was a certain sure-footedness in the handling, the cornering, the braking and the acceleration. But most of all, there was this immense sense of comfort and companionship, when you sat high and dry on the saddle, wrist on the throttle, mile munching at 100kmph, with that gorgeous autumn sun beating on y0ur back and a smooth ribbon of tarmac stretching before you for miles. Man and machine know nothing better that can be called happiness.