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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How it all began…

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

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At the base of Nandi Hills, Enfield Explorers, April 2013

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A lonely rider fleets through dawn, April 2013

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Two’s company, April 2013

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A lot of bulls, out on a ride, April 2013

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Motographer, high speed run, Nice Road, April 2013

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

Some rides to remember…

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

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At Manchanbele reservoir, some bulls and Harleys, June 2013

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This HD image went viral on Harley Davidson’s India page. 🙂 June 2013

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

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On a ride that didn’t turn out as planned, June 2013

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Out in the middle of nowhere, a solo motorcyclist makes his mark, June 2013

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When you ride by places like this, a few miles out of town, nothing else matters. June 2013

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

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

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En route  to Anchetty, January 2014

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The paratrooper on a Desert Storm, January 2014

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Anchetty, the forest road starts…, January 2014

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…and into the forest we ride, January 2014

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The route out of Anchetty offered some brilliant tarmac, January 2014

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Everyone wants a piece of that Bullet action! January 2014

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

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A beautiful sunrise rewards a pre-dawn ride, November 2013

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Bulls in the greens, November 2013

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

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Ride to Yogavana Hills, July 2013

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Two wheels and an open highway_happy days!

Ministry of Torque

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

C5 Evolution

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Fresh off the press, April 2012

First Day at work, circa April 2012. 

This is the bike in its stock version. Factory fresh. Only change requested at the showroom- give me a single stay instead of that awful saree guard, any day.

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Tour ready, March 2013

First Tour with Pillion, circa March 2013

Front tyres changed to Ceat Secura Sport. Seats changed to Perfect seats (Mumbai)- for both rider and pillion. These are extremely comfortable. Yamaha RD350 handlebar with cross bar, made by Art of Motorcycles, Bangalore. Custom performance exhaust and heat wrap to exhaust pipe by Art of Motorcycles. Note the GIVI box mount and carrier. Removed that funny beak over the headlamp. My wife and me  Coorg’ed for the first time in this avatar :).

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Handlebar, Bucket Seats and Givi Mount, March 2013

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Heat wrap on the exhaust, March 2013

Some more touring modifications, circa November 2013

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Touring in the Nilgiris, November 2013

For an extended ride to Ooty and beyond (with pillion) the C5 got a Ladakh carrier with the Givi mount and a large windshield for those friendly green bugs that come your way as dusk falls. The big change was to the rear tyre. Went in for a  MRF on-off road button tyre with a huge sidewall.  This increased ride comfort and ground clearance.

Scrambler- beginnings, circa February 2014

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An attempt at a crown. Cree Fog lamp, February 2014

On the insistence of Junaid from Art of Motorcycles, the C5 went in for Cree Fog lamps and a wider, straight handlebar. The large screen, was replaced with a visor, which was fixed using an elaborate set of cast iron clamps. To date, I think that was the worst thing I ever did to the looks of the moto. Glad it was on for a short while.

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New front mudguard. The seeds of  a scrambler are sown, February 2014

Our breakfast runs with the group Ministry of Torque, were increasingly ending up in areas where we used to lose tarmac for a while. My constant conversations with the folks with AOM were also headed in the direction of weight reduction. The front lightweight mudguard was the first step towards a scrambler and to this day, I marvel at how sturdily its been built, and how well it defines the bike. I always felt that the stock mudguard was a bit to large for those skinny 90x90x19″ wheels.

Scramble tamble, ready to ramble, circa June 2014

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Scrambler, June 2014

My craving for a scrambler started getting better of me. Added to that was the need to reduce weight and start pushing the capabilities of the machine. So one fine weekend, out went the pillion seat, in came the GIVI mount, sans carrier. Also, at the insistence of friendly folks at AOM, the rear shock absorbers were replaced with those from the Hero Honda Karizma. The ride quality and feedback shot up a gazillion times. Took it out for a run on a dry lake bed off Mysore highway. Managed some drifting. Was all smiles.

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Inspiration. Scrambler, June 2014.

Around this time, I discovered Bike Exif (http://www.bikeexif.com) and other custom motorcycle websites/ publications like Iron and Air (http://ironandair.com/throttle). Found the Tendance Roadster in one of those. And drooled. The C5 needed to lose more weight (and perhaps me too!). Family priorities took hold however, and the C5 ran in the above avatar for almost a year. I fell in love with the new rear shock absorbers. They could take on anything, really.

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On home turf. The scrambler impressed, August 2014

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Note the stubby cap to exhaust, Yelagiri, August 2014

A ride with TEMC to Yelagiri let me test a small mod to the custom exhaust by AOM. Note the stubby cap at the end. This version of the exhaust is insane. The speeds uphill were scary and the tappets after, scarred. Will always remember Yelagiri for that Pikes Hill Climb like affair. I have since removed the exhaust and given it its rightful place of honour- on the mantlepiece. To be used on special occasions only!

Reduce Reduce Reduce! circa June 2015

On a rainy Sunday, one of the welded mounts on the bucket seat gave way and a tacky job at the local weld shop forced me to start looking for other options. I had been on the lookout for a good mechanic closer to my house, and found two at Iblur junction. The gents, Nizam and Javed, persuaded me to try the Thunderbird Twin Spark (TBTS) seat on the C5. I took their advice and rode with it for two days. The bucket seat kicked the bucket the very next day. 🙂

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Long seat…what need for a mudguard? June 2015

I also questioned the need for a rear mudguard. With the overhang of the new seat, which fits on the stock frame, surely one doesn’t need that weighty rear mudguard? I dreamed of generating  30 bhp at the crank, up from the stock 27 bhp, with that heavy, cumbersome rear end removed. One ride without the mudguard, however, told me all I needed to know about tyre tread patterns and their intimate relationship with slime and mud (slung in all directions). With a dirty backpack and a mud plastered helmet, I realised, I needed professionals on this job!

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Bare essentials, June 2015

Short lived fantasy custom, September 2015

Enter Greasehouse Customs (http://indimotard.com/greasehouse-customs/) and this is what they created. Or rather, this is what they reduced the bike to. Out went the rear mudguard assembly and in came a beautifully crafted (and uncannily expensive) tail job with an imported parking light to complete the rear. I had bought Continental GT indicators as a replacement for my stock ones and they went on too. Some sticker-ing and a bit of re-painting and this one was good to go.

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Loved the rear end, September 2015

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Lean and mean, upfront, September 2015

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GT Continental numberplate and indicators, UK tail lamp, September 2015

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Storage box tossed out, protective mesh thrown in, September 2015

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Blacked out headlight rim, September 2015

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Reduce, Reduce, Reduce- C5, September 2015

The big positive with this iteration, was the ride. Braking improved considerably- with so much less weight to handle, the bike displayed no signs of that legendary fishtailing on hard braking. Pushing the bike into corners and powering down straights was a delight. Acceleration was startling and every twist of the wrist promised a wheelie.

Unfortunately, good times only last so long. One balmy evening, as I was battling bumper to bumper traffic on the ORR, a lorry driver rear ended me. The beautiful ‘tail job’ almost snapped in two. I was heartbroken. The rear mudguard survived a few more weeks before developing a crack at the bend induced on impact. I also realised that the beautiful ‘tail job’ had not been structurally sound and had lacked requisite stiffeners essential to its function. So much for my dreams of featuring on Bike Exif. What next? I asked myself.

Quintessential motorcycle, circa December 2015

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The everyday, do it all moto, December 2015

Four years on, as I post this, the bike is running like a dream, courtesy Javed, my friendly neighbourhood mechanic. I have managed to keep the bike as light as possible. The stock mudguard went in for a small customisation job. The beautiful tail lamp and the indicators were re-mounted, along with the GT number plate, and I installed a pair of stock mirrors from the Hero Honda Splendor. The stock tail lamp assembly along with the number plate and those bulky indicators, I realised, were a major weight adding element to the stock mudguard- weighing no less than 4 kgs by themselves. The Hero Honda mirrors, are just amazing. Not a stir in them, no vibes, no shaking- rock steady at all speeds. I found that they also complement the low, wide handlebar.

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The C5. Current Avatar, June 2016

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Splendor mirrors work well, look good. June 2016

I am happy to keep running the bike in this avatar. Every morning, as I get ride ready for my work day, arguably the best part of my work day, I can’t help admire the simplicity and purposeful nature of the looks of the bike. It says ‘I’m your true moto, an extension of your own self. I am, the quintessential motorcycle. Nothing more shall you need’.

Amen to that. Happy riding all!

 

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

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

Setting up the bike

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

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

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First Ride Impressions- In the City

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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The Avenger 220 off Gunjur Village

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

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The Whitefield Devanahalli Road, sans traffic

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

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Idly vadas and filter coffee, breakfast for the hungry biker

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

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Anchetty Forest Road, Tamil Nadu

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

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

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

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A single that thumps, a road that winds- Off Kanakapura Road

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Lovely backroad skirting Manchanbele Reservoir

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The straight stretch to Nandi Hills

 

 

Motorcycling Magic.

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

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

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

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

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

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The C5, a few days after arrival, April 2012

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The C5, present day, 2016