Riding Season!

From autumn last year through to spring this year, I’ve been riding out on the bike every chance I can get. We’ve had a long dry spell with little or no rain. Our merry band of motorcycle mates has been great company for short escapes beyond city limits. Call it revenge motorcycling if you will- but if 2020 shocked us into submission, 2021 gave enough dire warnings lest we got too comfortable, and 2022 took all our energies to get back to normal life, then 2023 surely calls for some bravado! With this objective in mind, we’ve been stepping out eagerly, on two wheels and four. 😊

All manner of bikes. All manner of rides.

A company offsite in mid December to the coffee country of Coorg, provided a good opportunity to create a motorcycle trip for ‘official reasons’. We would save on fuel, get there faster, be environmentally friendly, etc. The office folks did not have much say in this and were readily convinced. Acceptance of the same reasons by la familia was another matter altogether. I was in the middle of elucidating the benefits of two wheels over four when my kid cut to the chase with “ Daddy, you just want any excuse to ride out don’t you?”. 😊

Cold, fog, dawn, open highway. ETA 60 min to rendezvous.
Rendezvous. A foggy start to our official tour.

It’s a great feeling when you thumb the starter before dawn in your empty parking lot. After weeks of planning, anticipation and excitement, that calming sense of purpose as you roll out on the exit ramp is incredible. I think it’s one of the essential joys of motorcycle touring, to see it all come to that moment, when you start the ride. You’re sort of done with the rigours of…

All the gear? Check.

Pannier balance? Check.

Tail bag strap adjustment? Check.

Phone mount secure? Check.

Did I forget my sunglasses? Third pair of underwear? Check.

Charging cable? Check.

Did I lock the house?

Darn it, let’s just ride!

An early start and meet up with my fellow riders on the Hassan highway was interrupted by heavy fog within a few miles. Don’t know if you’ve ever experienced this, but fog + motorcycling is a bit of a no go. It’s a complete dampener (no pun intended). In less than an hour we were chilled to the bone and begging for that hot cuppa.

After some delicious dosas and piping hot filter coffee- perfect antidotes to frozen fingers- it’s all smiles.
We moved off the highway to explore a short trail in an ageing forest.
Dry leaves and mulch littered the landscape. But the forest was beautiful, with that mid morning sun filtering through the haze.
A Scram 411, A KTM 390 Adv and my Royal Enfield Himalayan. All have adventure in their genes but are configured completely differently.

We reached Coorg around midday. An incident en route which I’d call amusing and terrifying at the same time, became the unusual highlight of my ride.

My friend on the Ktm decided to gun the throttle at the first sight of the twisties. Snaking through coffee plantations and tall silver oaks, the ghat section approaching Madikeri is a joy to ride on. While the Ktm disappeared, the two of us took on the bends at a gentle pace enjoying the scenery. As we approached town, Google maps announced a short cut to our place of stay. I heeded Google mausi and followed her advice down progressively narrowing lanes which ended in a super steep 45 degree incline leading right into the tiny courtyard of a very rudely awoken Kodava gentleman. With barely a few feet left to spare, I managed to turn the bike around just to see my friend on his Scram following right after!

Now the only way out of that courtyard was that steep 45 degree incline down which we’d just come down. I was suddenly aware that my bike was loaded with panniers and easily tipping the scales upwards of 220 kgs or so. That’s typically the weight of a large 1000 cc adventure bike. The point to note is the large adventure bike comes with a really powerful engine and truckloads of torque. It would have made short work of that incline in front of me. A meagre 32NM of torque mated to just 24 odd horses on the Himalayan suddenly made the task ahead really daunting.

I let the Scram go first. It’s a lighter bike and had lesser luggage. The rider pulled up without much hassle. My turn. A silent prayer on my lips. Engage first gear. Build up revs. Twist of the wrist. Release the brakes. The Himalayan jumps forward. So far so good.

Halfway up the incline I think I hear the engine knocking- I wring the throttle as far as it can go, my heart in my mouth…uh oh.. if I lose traction now, it’s a long long way down to the valley floor beyond the homestead. From somewhere in the depths of its heart the bike pulls out a last reserve of power and tractors up to the top. It takes agonisingly long seconds. But it gets me out. Hats off to all the brilliant engineers at RE! 🥵

It was ironic that our four day trip to Coorg involved a nice ride in on day one, three days of conferences and sessions with office folk behind closed doors and a rain soaked ride back to Bangalore on day five. But in the end it was all good.

I’m out on the same highway in the following month. This time on a Ninja 650. This is a seriously fast bike.

More rides followed in the next couple of months. I seriously considered purchasing a friend’s Ninja 650. On a ride out towards Bellur cross, I’m cruising at 150kph plus speeds on the Ninja. It’s a seriously fast bike and eager to input. The sense of speed is enormous, the feel sporty. This bike impresses with its smooth bulletproof engine. My friend’s machine is nearly nine years old but none of those years or wear and tear have affected its performance in the slightest way.

When the Ninja has smoked the horizon, and the Himalayan no longer has to play the underling in the ‘catch me if you can’ game, I take it down to its comfort ground- a dirt trail by the water. (it’s where the Ninjas dread to tread) 😊
Rocky Ridge Cafe and the environs beyond are revisited with a team mate on his Interceptor 650.

I followed up on the test ride of the Ninja 650 with yet another breakfast ride to Rocky Ridge Ridge Cafe, this time with a Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 for company. To know more about how we came to discover this place read this.

The backroads leading to Rocky Ridge are a delight to ride the Interceptor on.

The beautifully surfaced back roads leading to Rocky Ridge, are full of gentle arcing curves which beg you to take them at full throttle. These roads are mostly devoid of traffic (except the odd farmer on his newly bought tractor). As I lean into one of these sweeping curves at 80kph, I realise what it is about the RE twins that the Brits are going ga ga about. You see, at these speeds, on roads like these, with gentle twisties, the 650 twin engine is an absolute gem to experience. Think of a B Road in England, lined with hedges and the hawthorns on a sweet summer day. And a happy motorcyclist wearing smiles in an open face helmet just trundles by on his Interceptor, scattering the dragonflies. It’s idyllic. That’s the notion the RE’s engine lulls you into. A gentle idyll. It promises more power on tap, but is happy to chug along sweetly at 60 to 70 mph. It’s perfect for what they call ‘lazy riding’. When you’re never short on power, but never in too much need of it.

A B Road somewhere in the UK. Perfect for enjoying an Interceptor or GT 650. Back home in Namma Bengaluru you can head out on the smaller state highways and back roads beyond city limits. For more information go here.

The perspective here is that the RE 650 Twin is not about all out performance like the Kwacker’s 650 twin. I feel, the engineers at RE had a different goal in mind. The Kawasaki is a high revving engine with more than one and half times the power output of the RE. It’s decidedly smoother at high speeds. And although it’s not bad on roads described above, it’s not so endearing at low speeds. It’s at these speeds of 80 to 120 kph that the RE 650 twin comes into its own. It’s buttery smooth gear shifts and even engine note, and promise of generous low end torque is an absolute dealbreaker. I’m sure it sustain a top whack of 160kph or so easily, but it will be way past its enjoyable nature at that speed.

Papa Himalayan Baby Himalayan face off!

Umm, is that a larger Himalayan? Heck no, it’s gorgeous! You have to tear your eyes away from this beauty. A friend of a friend who joined us on the next ride had brought the Ducati Desert X along. A few jokes ensued on the resemblance of the Himalayan to the Ducati. Did Pierre Terblanche have a hand in shaping them both? Brothers from another mother?

Add some white fairing to the Himmy, and you’d be fooled for a few seconds. But only a few. The Desert X is incredible!

Well the Ducati is striking to say the least. And an easy crowd puller. So much so, that it almost overshadowed the raja bike. The BMW GS 1200. The undisputed king of Adv motorcycles. And how.

I surge ahead as the lights turn green. The big Beemer is mightily comfortable. It’s an open highway and on this Sunday, Bangaloreans are at their motoring best. I can hear some howling super cars behind me, had spotted an Audi TT and a Porsche 911 Carerra going neck and neck a few miles back. They’ve caught up.

The tacho climbs as I rev the bike- I know it’s a matter of seconds before they pass me in a blur. The big Beemer is not ready to give up yet. I can see 156kph on the speedo and the cars have gone ahead. Flashing brake lights fill my vision ahead and I can hear squealing tyres…what’s going on here? A large speed bump. They are skirting this cautiously now. Crawling underwater as far as I’m concerned. I’ve throttled down to about 120kph but there’s no time (or space) to brake or cut speed. I’m on pegs. The Beemer squeezes between the two cars and sails over the speed bump. There’s no wobble. No lurch. Nothing. A clean landing which I almost didn’t feel. Behind me, my friend following on his Ninja 1000 observes my rear wheel in the air, and gawks as the moment passes. Later, at breakfast he recalls the moment and how he uttered something so profane, I can’t write it here. 😀

I repeat, Mightily Comfortable.

My friend takes me through a pre ride checklist as I sit on his bike. It’s more akin to a Captain and co-pilot exchanging notes and running through flight controls prior to takeoff. The BMW has electronic suspension which is activated at the touch of a button. It has multiple modes for (wait for it) turn signal indicators! There’s on the fly selectors/ toggles/ switches etc etc. I’m in a cockpit.

On the ride, we enter a small village which hosts a legendary breakfast place. In one narrow village lane, the bike stalls. At this point in time I’m expecting a dozen warning lights to pop up and completely fluster me. None of that happens. I downshift to neutral, thumb the starter, pop the clutch, drop first gear and off we go. Yup, it’s still just a lovable old motorcycle underneath it all. And May I say. Mightily Comfortable. 😃

Enroute to Sabbanahalli lake. The little Himalayan in the company of biggies.
Mirror mirror on the wall. Who’s the smoothest mill of them all?

Which brings me to the Ninja. Nope this is another one. The 1000. Is it fast? Yep. But I didn’t feel it like I did on the 650. Is it smooth. Yep. But I didn’t feel it like I did on the 650. Ok. Wait what?

Yep. It’s fast. But it’s not manic. It’s mature.

Yep it’s smooth. Too much to qualify. So you don’t feel it.

Is it like a car? Far from it. You feel everything. Enough said.

In an elusive quest for the perfect bike, for his current and future needs, another colleague and friend has recently settled on a 2023 Ktm 390 Adventure. This is easily the most talked about, most versatile bike in the adventure segment in India right now.

An early morning ride out to Murugan Idly, which serves lip smacking dosas from 6:00 am. We are witnessing this strangest phenomenon. Every few miles I’m alternating between dazzling sunshine and a light fog. It’s a bit crazy. The sky when visible, is a brilliant blue. My friend has switched to sunglasses. We pause and admire this freak of nature.

The cloud bank in the distance signals another area of fog we will be crossing. But right here, we are in glorious sunshine.

While the dry spell lasts, before the summer really scorches us, we intend to ride out to the mountains. That’s something to look forward to. Riding season ain’t over yet!

Yonder blue mountain calling! 😊

On the horizon…

It’s December, 2020 and here in India, scientists say, we have peaked the pandemic. We have learnt to live the ‘new normal’.  Being cooped up, working from home, ordering groceries in and living the socially distanced life, takes physical and mental toll. Eventually we got fed up. We started venturing out, with due precautions, either for a drive to my sister’s place out of town or for a spin around the neighbourhood. I also started riding, mostly on Sundays, with a group of old friends from the workplace.

Motorcycling is a great way to maintain social distance. Inside my helmet, behind my mask, I’m in my own little world, away with thoughts, munching miles at 70 kph. I’m comfortably snug in my riding gear, the tall visor doing a great job of deflecting windblast. The big hearted Italian twin I’m riding is purring gently along the highway that connects Bangalore to the west coast. A slight twist of the throttle, catapults me to 168kph in a heartbeat. The torque on this engine, is enormous! And man, this stallion is fast, as is sure footed. I’m riding my friend’s Ducati Multistrada 950, while he’s trying hard to keep up on the bike I switched, a Honda CBR 250R. The little quarter litre single is smooth and can whack up a good pace, but its 26 horses are no match for the 113 raging stallions of the Italian. It’s such a beauty, this gleaming red firebird on wheels, and I can’t help but grin from ear to ear, everytime I feel the torque wave. 

We are headed back to the city from an early morning ride to Belur Cross. Today was a good day, out here in the open, after many dull, housebound days. A long ride out in the country, was just what the doctor ordered. For once, I did not wake up to more depressing news, but was up at dawn with eagerness that befits a long awaited motorcycle ride. We have two friends on Ninja 650s, and another Ducati 950 Multistrada to keep us company.


At Belur cross we stop for coffee. I take the newer Ninja 650 for a quick spin. This is such an incredibly friendly bike. It puts you at ease immediately. The bike is extremely flickable, and I remember an earlier occasion where I rode comfortably through town in dense traffic, without breaking a sweat. The second big positive is the heat management- I never felt the engine heat near my legs. I would venture so far to say, that the cooling system is better than any other similar bike I’ve ridden. I prefer the bigger bike feel and touring friendliness of the older model – we had a 2013 model on the ride with us. This one with its single sided rear monoshock, taller windscreen and flamboyant green and black livery, is to my mind, a beautiful motorcycle. This would have also been a great bike to pick up as a second owner, had it come with ABS as standard. In this day and age, for a decently agile and fast sports tourer like this, it’s a big miss. The latest Ninja 650 has righted these wrongs, and is a delight to ride, but somehow is not as evocative as the previous model. 


This breakfast ride in the company of larger bikes, and a subsequent one on which I rode my Himalayan to TM Hills, with the gang, got me thinking. While for the moment, the Himalayan is an answer to all my motorcycling needs, some time in the near future, I do aspire to add a larger hearted sibling to give it company. Which then, would be the second set of wheels I should start planning for?


When thinking about the another bike, I’m certain about this. The bike has to be a machine for everyday use. I know enough motorcyclists, who’ve spent big bucks to acquire their dream machine, but use it sparingly on weekends to avoid struggling in city snarls in the ever evolving traffic situation. The seasonal condition of our highways dictates the route chosen for these weekend outings as a straight run down the interstate to a coffee stop and a boring, straight run back. Head off the highway, onto smaller dirt roads, and the bikes start showing their limitations. If they’ve bought a large cruiser (read Harley Davidson), its a beast to handle. If they’ve bought a sports bike, it starts showing its delicate side. The suspension’s not up for it, and neither are your wrists or butt. Granted, my friends on their Multistradas would be grinning and gunning at this point. But they would be cautious too, as the trail gets tougher- the last thing they can afford is the thing ending up on its side. This is where I feel, the Himalayan has been a really good fit for me. Its a daily use bike. And it can take punishment without punishing your wallet. But it has its own limitations. On good roads, I need it to be generating upwards of 40 horsepower, which it woefully does’nt. And its fabled low end torque, is just not enough for a full fledged tour with pillion- as many folks have told me. 

The Himalayan is great on trails…
and adequate on tarmac… as long as you are riding solo. With a pillion its 20 horses short, at the very least.

All this ruminating has got me convinced, what I really need is decent middle weight. A 500cc to 800cc twin cylinder motorcycle that does’nt weigh a ton. A bike that’s as easy to flick round a street corner, as round a bend in the trail. A motorcycle that has enough torque to carry rider, pillion and hard luggage all the way to Timbuktoo, at a decent clip. A bike I can improve my DIY skills on. A machine to look long and hard at, every time I come back from a ride. A machine to love more, every single day. A choice of wheels that does’nt warrant second thought for the tarkari run to the bazaar, or to a client meeting in Bangalore’s Central Business District. A vehicle that’s always preferable to my car. 

It’s a tall ask. And these are trying times. However, 2020 has been the year of some promising new launches. And 2021 promises to be even more so. So I’ll keep adding to the brief. And hope that some day soon, in sunnier times, little Himalyan can ride out with a bro he can really look up to.