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. 🙂

Reduce to evolve

In spite of a ‘swearing in’ ceremony, where I resolved to keep the Himalayan as stock as possible, I’ve let customisation instincts get better of me. So like the C5, I’ve gone ahead and pushed the Himalayan down the weight reduction path. Allow me to explain. 😊

Stripped Moto. Sans everything. Well, almost everything. 🙂

Last month, my bro-in-law and me rode up to Horseley Hills. On this ride, I loaded the bike with a top box, Studds side cases, a back pack, a trail bag, my camera bag and saddle bag stays. Halfway into the ride, three things happened.

1. At speeds above 100 kph there was a jarring vibration from the front visor.

2. On rough tarmac, broken surfaces, the rear mount and top box, although packed to the brim, rattled a lot.

3. We pulled into a restaurant parking lot, where while navigating a speed bump, I forgot to downshift. The bike stalled, halfway over the bump. Within seconds, the bike tilted over, the weight was too much, and I had to let go. It took some effort, from both of us, to pull it up again.

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Horseley Hills-Givi top box, Studds side cases, saddlebags (missing from photo), screen.

I also wanted to understand how the bike fares, loaded up in this fashion, on a ride. My learning was, a top box is a no no. Side mounted saddle bags or panniers are much better. A loaded top box on a loaded bike, affects handling only ever so slightly, but never eases up the feeling that you are dragging more weight.

Sometime around last year, another nagging thought had got me questioning a statement made by Royal Enfield CEO- Siddharth Lal. “The Himalayan is designed to be your only bike”. If this were my only bike, what would qualify to make the quintessential ‘do it all machine’, without looking like a large kitted to the brim caravan on two wheels.

I wanted a no frills work horse. A pack mule that does the job. Convenient for commuting and adequate for short tours. I should always be confident about handling it’s fully loaded weight on any terrain. The bike should retain its core character, and its puppy dog friendliness. What was absolutely essential for this purpose had to stay. The rest had to go. So, on a DIY weekend after the Horseley Hills ride, I got down to removing bits and bobs, which I figured, had no real functional purpose whatsoever. Here’s a summary of what I did.

The visor– After two years of use, I’m still not entirely convinced that the screen/ visor on the Himalayan, has any real use. The screen is not adjustable on the fly. It affects road edge visibility when dirty, and in my case, is worse because it’s completely blacked out. At speeds where it’s supposed to deflect wind from the rider, it shakes like a leaf. As for the looking good part, I have a concept sketch from Pierre Terblanche, for the Ducati inspired fairing for the Himalayan. The current visor looks nothing like it. Hence, in my opinion does not do justice there either. Time to get rid of it permanently.

Concept sketch for the Himalayan- note how the fairing integrates the tank with headlamps

Rear luggage mount (carrier)- This might be harder to justify, as this is a very handy accessory on the bike, which comes factory fitted. I removed it for two reasons. Reason no 1, is an instance, where the rear mount broke under very nominal weight of the top box. (RE_issues ). It put a big question mark on the quality of this part.

Reason no 2 revolved around the need for putting in a replacement carrier. It so happened that in the interim that I replaced the broken carrier, I started liking the clean, unhindered look of the tail light assembly. I decided to keep with the look. Mounting something like a backpack on the rear seat was taken care of by saddle stays.

Front fender- with the screen gone and the rear carrier gone, the bike started looking more scrambler, less adventure tourer. Now the Himalayan has a beak like front fender, fixed below the number plate mount. Ride the bike for a couple of days and you realise that this fender is a purely aesthetic device, sans function. The front mudguard on the tyre does its job perfectly. So the fender had to go. A couple of instagram posts convinced me that the bike would still look good.

Rear mount gone, saddle bag stays retained.
Here’s how the bike looks now without the front fender!
Need to get a pair of knobbly tyres now!

In the near future, the plan is to get rid of the entire headlight frame and assembly, which is independent of the handlebar and front suspension, and make it a true scrambler. Until then, I’ll be happy with its current avatar. 😊

New lid on the block

Got myself a brand new Bell Qualifyer helmet. Wifey and me just fell in love with the retro themed stripes. Already appreciating some of the finer detailing compared to the outgoing MT Axis, I have used for more than 2 years. Will poke in a review soon!

Spoilt for Choice

As my bro- in- law road trips somewhere Down Under, I use his CBR250R for my office commute, every other day. All my excitement about the free revving and smooth nature of the Himalayan’s engine disappeared once I started riding the CBR on a regular basis. The CBR 250 R is indeed a gem, and at the time of its launch in India, had few equals among bikes which could be used as Sport Tourers. It’s only real competition at the time was the Duke 200 and the Ninja 250. While the Ninja offered similar performance at almost double the price, the Duke 200 lacked the finesse and touring capability that the CBR offered.

So on this crotch rocket with a super smooth mill, all I’d want is a pair of handlebar raisers. I still find the ergonomics too committed for more than an hour’s commute, what with the stop and go traffic in Bangalore, giving you a stiff neck in just about 15 minutes.

I suppose the bikes couldn’t be more contrasting, even when compared on a simple office commute. On the Himalayan, you are perched high over everything else, and have to barely crane your neck to figure out an exit path between car rooftops. You feel exalted and mighty, capable of taking on both the traffic and broken road surfaces at full throttle.

On the CBR, you are crouched low and wary, watching out for gaps between careening cars, estimating closing distances, flicking the bike with your thighs and body weight, and admitting, grudgingly so, that you are actually going faster than you would dare on the Himalayan. That said, the CBR, being the more involving motorcycle, also therefore is the more demanding one. You need to be more careful, you need to maintain body posture, lean in and out in sync and always be super alert. Sums up to an hour, give or take, before you start asking for that all day comfort and rider friendliness of the Himalayan.

Still, until my brother in law returns and claims rightful ownership of his red and silver winger, I pause every morning  before the household key bowl, jangling first the RE, then the Honda keys in hand, contemplating the hour’s commute ahead of me, and wonder if I should ride low and hard or tall and easy. 😊

 

 

 

 

Miss the old hag…

Circa 2016#25kgweightreductiontest#airportcoffeerun

R3

A colleague at work let me take his friend’s Yamaha R3 for a short spin after our site visit, last week. Really loved the feel of the bike. Good throttle response and great ergonomics. Shame that it doesn’t have ABS, for this is a bike you would love to rip and roar to the redline, with abandon. Twin cylinder magic!

Compact, black and menacing, looks are a hit.

 

I want one for race days!
A back road near the airport- good tarmac for first impressions

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. 🙂

 

Twins…

They are drop dead gorgeous. Just watched the launch at EICMA. The Interceptor (California Cool, in the words of CEO Siddharth Lal) and the Continental GT 650 promise to herald a new age of ‘easy and accessible, pure motorcycling fun’. Let’s see what the future holds… for now, I’m rubbing my hands in glee and me eyes are jest feastin’ on them beauties… har har!

More info to be found here

https://royalenfield.com/motorcycles/twins/

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.

Trails in my backyard

A couple of months ago, my cousin and I discovered a great little trail off Shoolagiri, no more than 40 Kms from my doorstep. A small stretch of forest (Samanav Forest) before Shoolagiri, offers an unmarked trail leading to a little rivulet. Keep a lookout for this on the left when returning to Bangalore, a few klicks after the MacDonalds at Shoolagiri. If you are on a Himalayan, you are bound to have a good time!

This great little spot by the river is after 3kms of a dirt trail off the Salem highway.