Jharkhand. Loosely translated, this name means ‘Land of Forests’. The state has witnessed rapid infrastructure changes in the last few years. These changes are most evident in the smooth, well laid state highways connecting the districts. Add beautiful vistas of abundant forests, gushing waterfalls, rolling hills and winding rivers that these roads lead to, and it’s difficult to ignore this region as the perfect motorcycling destination!
One fine Sunday morning, in late October, my cousin and brother in law decided to explore some back roads around Ranchi. The weather had been glorious for the past few weeks, with warm, sunny days and starlit, chilly nights which heralded the onset of a cold winter.
I had an unusual ride for the day, borrowed from my uncle, who has an interesting collection of motorcycles. The maxi scooter themed Aprilia SXR160 is the latest entry into India’s burgeoning two wheeler market. It looks terrific and is a promising little runabout.
The route to the waterfall was through an idyllic country road that skirts the main highway and passes through some lovely villages. This route is best approached from the newly built Ring Road that bypasses the city and had little or no traffic. Not wanting to get left behind in the company of a Bonneville Street Twin and a Honda CBR250R, I was able to comfortably stick to 80kph, and the Aprilia seemed to promise more. Once we turned off the Ring Road, there was no real need to hurry, and we soaked in the scenery at a gentle, rambling pace.
It felt great to be outdoors on such a brilliant day, made better by the fact we were riding. The waterfall was spectacular and an absolute treat at the end of the ride. It’s a must visit, if you are ever in this neck of woods. At the parking lot to the falls, I did notice a cross-country rider from Kerala on his kitted up Himalayan. Led me to think this place was getting some traction on the motorcyling circuit after all…
Its a pity I only had a week off in Jharkand. This little sojourn was a glimpse of the many charming places the state has to offer. We made plans to regroup in a few months time and head out further inland. Back in NammaBengaluru, I get greeted by grey skies, pouring rain and generally gloomy weather as I step off the plane. The forecast is not friendly either, more rain to come…ah well, back to the grind!
I can imagine how frustrating the current situation might be for an avid motorcyclist. Coronavirus has affected several countries around the world and the motorcycling fraternity in many of these countries would be raring to ride out at the slightest easing of restrictions.
Out here, for a good part of three months, I did not even look at the motorcycle. I stayed home, stayed put, stayed safe. Come June, with the lockdown lifted, I did roll the bike out. It needed a battery replacement, which got done. And on 16th June, we quietly accomplished 4 years of being together through thick and thin. To celebrate the occasion, I went for a quick highway run with my cousin, who also owns a four year old BS3 Himalayan. The short ride, gave us a chance to reflect on two things-
1. How much we had missed not riding
2. We were really among the last of the breed, with our BS3 Himalayans. With the success of the EFI Himalayan in the last couple of years you don’t see many of the older ones about. I felt lucky to have this simple forerunner of a machine. And it felt great to have it running so smooth and true four years on.
However, aside from this small outing, for most of the Lockdown, I consoled myself browsing through some of my favourite reads on the shelf.
Looking through them brought back nice memories of my own rides and good times with the bikes I’ve owned and ridden.
Here’s hoping that the world overcomes this crisis soon, and we find ourselves back on our machines, rolling happily into the new millennium.
“When in Bangalore”, I heard a wise man say, “pick a direction and ride. You’ll get somewhere nice!”.
The year gone by has been hectic for me, to say the least. Work was demanding, and so were some family commitments. I also did many road trips to Pondicherry, Coonoor, Coorg, Madurai and Kodaikanal, on four wheels. The upside was that I spent a lot of time with family and enjoyed driving my 5 year old Renault Duster, to these beautiful destinations. The downside was that I could not really go for a long ride on my Himalayan. What I did do, however, was discover more of the hinterland outside Bangalore and found some neat little spots.
Ganalu Waterfalls, Mandya
The sheer beauty and accessibility of these falls (you can get quite close to the water) is an awesome experience. Still off the mainstream tourist map, this place is a hidden gem. The falls are just 100kms from South Bangalore and great for a day’s ride.
While the falls were breathtaking, I found this lovely canal enroute even more enticing. It was the perfect spot to just park the bike and revel in the gentle flow of water, watch reeds waving in the wind and listen to birdsong.
This place is a little tricky to get to but extremely rewarding, once you have found it. Its barely 50kms from Bangalore and less than an hour away on a good day. You can access this one off Kanakpura Road. Google Maps tends to mislead on the final approach, as there’s a couple of waterbodies close by-and we were led to believe that these were the dam. So we asked the locals and they pointed us in the right direction.
The reservoir forms one edge of the Bannerghatta Wildlife Reserve and on a good day, you are likely to sight wildlife. An electric fence separates the village fields and runs along the bank highline to keep predators at bay. A great spot to spend moments in idyll and admire nature at its finest. The good thing about this place is that its not accessible by car. If you aren’t on a Himalayan, you probably cant access it by bike either. 🙂 So its very heartening to see the place only frequented by village folks who have kept it clean and beautiful.
Dandiganahalli Dam, Chikabalapura
If you own a Himalayan (or any other similar bike for that matter) and want to a ride to a place where you can generally thrash about, then this one is for you. While the Dandiganahalli Dam is a lovely destination by itself, its this dry lakebed enroute that caught our fancy. We had a ball scrambling and drifting on this lakebed, which was part slush, part grass, part gravel. Check footage here- Scramble by the lake!
The dam is best visited early morning, when the sun is just lighting up the waters and you have the whole place to yourself. There’s a fair bit of ‘beach’ area by the water where one can set up a small tent or have a picnic.
Nandi Hills Circuit, Nandi Hills
If you live in Bangalore and are into motorcycles, its a no brainer, you would have ridden to Nandi Hills. I used to do that quite often, about 5 years ago. Lately though, with the place receiving a whole lot more attention, with a whole lot more people living in Bangalore, going up and coming down can become an annoying affair- traffic snarls are common at the start of the climb and towards the narrow entry gates. On weekends and public holidays, this place is best avoided. A few months ago, we decided to chance it and see how the hills were faring. Once we turned off the airport highway, it was evident, we had not picked a good day. On a whim we continued past the turnoff to the climb and ended up doing a 20km loop around the base of Nandi Hills. This turned out to be a very nice road indeed. So next time you are in these neck of the woods and dont want to battle the sunrise crowd, head on round the hills- you might like it more.
This post might interest potential Royal Enfield Himalayan buyers. My Himalayan is now more than two and a half years old. The bike crossed 15000 kms last November. Here’s a summary of what you can expect, long term, should you decide to buy this motorcycle. Some of the points below have been touched upon in the Himalayan 10000km update
The carburetted, long stroke engine, with a counter balancer, is easily one of Royal Enfield’s most sorted singles till date (Power 24.5 bhp, Torque 32NM). Whether on an everyday commute or on a longer ride, the motor performs flawlessly. I changed to a lifetime BMC filter more than a year ago, which has lent some smoothness to the mill, and a deeper grunt to the exhaust. Sweet spot for my bike remains in the 80-110 kph zone, when I’m in 4th gear, taking on a curve and revving up to slot to 5th. Its rev happy, provides oodles of torque and a great rumbling note, making this bike a delight on winding back roads.
The bike’s limits are more evident when you travel on an intercity six laner. As soon as you rev past 100kph, you feel the torque tapering off. Hit 120 kph, and you know you really don’t want to keep this up for too long. The engine isn’t exactly on song. There’s good amount of vibrations creeping in on footpegs and near the tank. Under favourable conditions (sunny day, smooth road), I have touched 130-135kph. It wasn’t a very enjoyable experience.
Throttle happy thrill seekers? No sir, not your cuppa.
Lazy tourers who believe in all day riding? Aye! Grab an easy chair, this is for you!
Earlier in the ownership experience posts, I had raved about how smooth the engine is, and in one report, compared the motor to the CBR 250R. Two years on, I can confirm that the RE engine has a few rough edges, fares poorly against the butter smooth Honda, and can’t sustain a top end whack. All moving parts have since settled in, and roughness is at bare minimum, but its there. The upside is that the UCE Engine, doing duty on all other RE single cylinder motorcycles, feels primitive compared to the Himalayan’s mill.
Current lot of Himalayans being sold worldwide (post 2018), feature fuel injection and have better response. Maintaining speeds in the range of 100-120kph is decidedly smoother as well. They also feature dual channel ABS, which should give riders more confidence at these speeds.
RIDE AND ERGONOMICS
Ergonomics on the Himalayan are well sorted, as is the long travel suspension. All day rides on all manner of surfaces, is a breeze. This is one Royal Enfield, where the bar and the seat positions, need no tinkering with at all. While they did get the ergonomic triangle right, the bar and seat, can do with better quality. I have opted for a braced handlebar which is a lot better finished and feels sturdy. The stock seat starts hurting the insides of your thigh after 3-4 hours of continuous use. The cushioning on the seat is beginning to deteriorate. Time to look for a replacement.
CHANGE IS THE ONLY CONSTANT
Fiddling around with the look of the bike, I felt this bike is better off as a scrambler. It meant stripping it down as much as I could, without investing in any real customisation. Most of it was DIY on weekends. Now when I’ve stripped this bike clean, it’s so much more accessible. It’s easier to see where the front wheel is going. There’s less stuff on the bike to worry about. And there’s decent amount of weight reduction as well. Read more about these changes at Reduce to evolve
At present, I’m riding with these accessories, which I will strongly recommend:
Upgraded the handle-bar to the Braced Handlebar Kit (Part no. 1990206). The handlebar weighs 20% less than the stock bar, is beautifully finished, and Made in Taiwan. From Royal Enfield Brand Showroom, BTM Layout, Bangalore.
Installed Bar-End Finisher Kits (Part No.1990220) for the same handlebar. From Royal Enfield Brand Showroom, BTM Layout, Bangalore.
BMC Lifetime Filter for the Himalayan- Sourced from Big Bear Customs, St. Marks Road, Bangalore.
Brake Reservoir protector from the Continental GT (535). (Available at most Service Centres)
Continental GT (535) Rear View Mirrors. (Available at a few RE Service Centres)
The following upgrades are in the pipeline. I hope to get these on before crossing 20000 kms on the Odo.
Touring Seat (Part No. 1990208) (From Royal Enfield Accessories)
On this bike, highs last and lows don’t. I was lucky that most technical issues, were quickly sorted out by my friendly neighbourhood service centre. There’s some things to be conscious of, which I have highlighted below:
Tyres– The stock tyres (Ceat Gripp XL 90×90/21 F & 120×90/17 R) are capable of taking on quite a beating. I’ve run them through all kinds of roads and trails and not suffered a single puncture to date. But they also wear out quick, compared to other tyres serving this category of motorcycles. My rear tyre, almost featureless at 15000km, had to be replaced. The front tyre, seems like it’ll live for another 5000 kms, tops. These tyres are not an easy find either. If you’ve loved the stock tyres on the Himalayan, chances are, you’ll not want to deviate from this spec. Unless you have moolah enough to invest in 21″ and 17″ Pirelli Scorpion Rally doing duty on Tigers, BMW 850 GS and Africa Twins. I’ve also shortlisted Metzeler Tourance and Pirelli MT 60 as possible upgrades. They are expensive upgrades which will need some forethought. Won’t offer a lot of mileage in Indian conditions, either. Roadholding and cornering ability is said to improve tremendously though.
Wear and Tear– Face it, if you’ve owned a Royal Enfield, chances are, you’ve made your peace with fading paint, rust issues and low life rubber parts. The Himalayan can be said to be a notch better. Engineering that qualifies it to be an adventure tourer, is mostly spot on- the suspension, brakes, wheel hubs, chain drive, general body balance and tightness, have fared well. There’s a beautiful acquired patina to the cast Aluminium fittings on the bike, revealed after each wash. What could be better, is the quality of rubber parts, especially fork boots, wire housings, bolt washers and connector caps. These have frayed visibly. The right fork seal was the latest to give in. Rusting is one of those subjects that’s talked about vigorously on the Internet, but has not been a major issue on my bike so far. The paint’s holding up.
DIY Friendly- This aspect of the bike is hard to beat. A simple bike, that a novice like me can take apart with basic tools. I can strip it down to chassis (with some bits like the battery and electricals still on the bike) in about 20 minutes flat. Here’s a list of things I’ve done, which I have never ever dared to do before on any other motorcycle.
– Stripping the bike of tank, seats, fender and number plate and tail light assembly.
– replacing the air filter
– removing the carburettor/ cleaning it
Furthermore, I have observed the following activities being done- and am confident of doing it myself because of how easy the Himalayan is when it comes to maintenance.
– Removing/ fitting the rear tyre
– Engine Oil change
Now if you look at the list above, there’s a good bit of DIY maintenance covered. I’m excluding instances of pannier mounting, chain lubing, carb tuning and other bits of easy maintenance which, for me were not new ground. But attempting the above list on the Classic 500 was a straight no, no, only to be trusted to my mechanic. Engaging with the bike, on a lazy Sunday afternoon, has taken on new meaning.
Touring and commuting– Having heard enough stories of how far folks are travelling with the Himalayan, I realise I’ve not used the bike to a quarter of its potential. I will vouch for it as a fantastic commuter. And most days of the year, for my 40km chaotic commute, the Himalayan has been my weapon of choice. On a few tours that I have done, the machine has been a comfortable mile muncher. The longest ride, was a 1200km plus two day sojourn round Wayanad, (Rolling Through Wayanad). The bike fared admirably, taking on offroad sections, twisties and high speed straights with equal aplomb.
So I think I’ve covered most of the aspects about the bike that I wanted to talk about. In the year gone by (2018), I’ve seen a lot of serious motorcyclists appreciating the Himalayan for what it really is- a no nonsense, do it all, everyday and everywhere motorcycle.
I have compiled below, a list of youtube feeds, from across the world. These happy owners are on a roll with the new 2018 Himalayan. Their stories are inspiring, and in some cases eye-opening. Enjoy!
The Royal Enfield Twins are here at a killer price. They have everything going for them- looks, good manners and grace. I’m sorely tempted! Makes me look at the Himalayan in a new light…will it stay or will it go? Now how do I lay me hands on some extra bit of cash, so I can have the best of both worlds? 🙄
Last year, I drove on a very scenic route between my hometowns of Ranchi and Jamshedpur. I marvelled at newly laid roads and natural beauty en-route -see blog post motorcyling country
I vowed to return and explore the region on a motorcycle. This Diwali break, I teamed up with my cousin and uncle, both proud owners of the Triumph Bonneville Street Twin, and went off on a fantastic spree through beautiful heartland. My uncle, who owns a veritable stable of motorcycles and cars, had a spare bike at hand- one lovingly maintained, 6 year old, Honda CBR 250R. I happily agreed to use this ride, though I had my eyes set on the Twins. 🙂 We planned to head for Patratu Valley, supposed to be a motorcyclist’s dream, with the best set of twisties this side of the country. Our circuit for the day covered about 150kms- beyond the Valley, there were some nice reservoirs and forests to be explored.
We set off at about 7:30am from my uncle’s place, with the day dawning bright and sunny. Heading out of the city we encountered light traffic and were near the start of the valley in less than an hour. The first few kilometres into the valley are all about wide sweeping curves with very gentle gradient.
At the start of the famous twisties, we stopped for a breather to take in panoramic views of woodlands and Patratu Reservoir. With this becoming the new hotspot in the state, the area gets its fair share of tourists. Luckily most of them were still waking up at this hour, and we found the generally crowded spot devoid of shutter-mongers. We did however, find a romancing couple, cat-walking on the highway, posing for cameras of a professional crew. Apparently this latest trend in pre-wedding shoots, is big business in the state.
Later, we made a slow descent, stopping now and then to take in incredible vistas, that unfolded, with each bend of the road.
We had a long, leisurely breakfast at a roadside dhaba, near Patratu town. Egg bhurji, Plain rotis and aloo bhujia. A welcome change from the traditional fare of idli vada/ dosa down South. After breakfast, my cousin very generously traded his Street Twin for the CBR. I am seriously impressed with the motorcycle- but will go into detailed review in another post. We skipped the dam visit, as there was some construction activity near the entrance and a pile of tourist buses. From here the roads to and beyond Ramgarh, were a combination of two and four lanes with very good surface.
Well surfaced roads…
are a delight to ride on…
and a joy to capture.
Ramgarh town is an urban horror. Riding in straight and fast from these immaculate roads, we were soon in a quagmire of honking buses, bullock carts, bicycle rickshaws, wayward pedestrians, stray cattle and everything else a busy small town in India can throw at you. The roads in town are nothing to write home about it either. The upside though, was piloting the Street Twin through this mess. The bike is so easy to ride and handle, its hard to believe its a 900cc parallel twin. Of all the larger bikes I have ridden, this felt the friendliest and most accessible. The Royal Enfield Interceptor, may hold a lot of promise on the question of accessibility, but I will ride it to believe it. Until then I’m sold on the Bonnie. 🙂
Few miles after Ramgarh, near a settlement called Gola, we stopped for a cuppa at a dhaba aspiring to be a resort. Over tea we decided to check out Getalsud Dam and Reservoir nearby. Now the dam is an okay visit at best. However the road leading to the reservoir is a gem. Cutting straight through a large swathe of Sal trees, this road is spectacular- check out the photos.
Towards late noon- after a brief wander into the sal forest, we started for home. Lunch was a longer affair, complicated by the need to chase, capture, dress, cook and serve a free roaming country chicken (Or so the dhaba staff claimed). We called it a day at my uncle’s moto stable, piping hot tea in our hands, exchanging motorcycle tales, and making plans for the next ride.
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.
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.
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.
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. 🙂
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. 😊
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.
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.
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.
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. 😊
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. 😊
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!