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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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. 🙂
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.
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 :).
Some more touring modifications, circa 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
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.
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
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.
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.
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. 🙂
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!
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.
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
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.
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’.