On Nice Road, did a dry run with the bikes ahead of our ride to Coorg. Testing the Go Pro Hero 3. Circa2013. Soundtrack: Asleep at the Wheel/ The Cinematics
2013 was our year of rides. I did many short rides through the year, most of them with my group Enfield Explorers, and two long rides with my wife and brother in law, also a keen motorcyclist. Our ride to Coorg, around Easter Weekend, turned out brilliant. The weather was good and our place of stay, beautiful- but on this particular trip, it was the motorcycle friendly, smooth roads with lots of twisties that were particularly awesome. Add some really intense, flavoursome coffee to the experience, and one comes back completely ‘Coorged’. 🙂
The motorcycles could not have been more different- one carried the burden of decades of nostalgic tradition on its shoulders (besides my wife, me and luggage) and was out to prove its touring friendly nature with a new UCE engine. The other was a quarter litre sibling of cutting edge, modern machines that promised performance and hassle free touring for years to come. One was all metal, a remnant from the realm of ancients, with retro dials and spoked wheels, flaunting an incomplete electronic fuel injection circuit in the name of high tech gadgetry. The other was a fully faired, shiny red crotch rocket loaded up with fancy instrumentation, EFI, dual disk brakes, ABS and a whole lot of fibre. Once out on the road however, both machines stuck a chord with their respective riders. My wife was happier on the Classic, thanks to the comfy seat and some back support she got from the tail bag. My brother in law enjoyed the smooth mill and great handling- he had just finished the running in period on the bike-so the trip was an opportunity to open up the engine a little. I really enjoyed the torque from that half litre single-riding two up with luggage was a breeze. Holding a straight line without vibrations numbing my hands at 120kms per hour, wasn’t.
I must say this at the outset- this was 4 years ago, lest you go check up on me- the road conditi0n is no longer the same. Having said that, the roads, circa 2013, freshly laid or resurfaced, took the cake. The stretch from Mysore to Coorg especially, was heavenly. Gorgeous two lane blacktop flanked by rolling coffee plantations and tall Silveroak, Sapota, Eucalyptus pine and other beautiful trees. There was little or no traffic, and the twisties were wide enough to power through without the need to lose speed. Motorcycle Nirvana. All hail the State Roadways Division.
The ride to Coorg was my first long ride on a motorcycle in South India. I had driven to Coorg twice before, but for both my wife and me, riding down was a whole new experience. The ride in was particularly good, we started early morning and reached Coorg by noon- with the weather playing its part. The next few days were spent pottering around Madikeri and Bylakupe and visiting the Elephant Camp at Dubare. The motorcycles proved indispensable, and helped us explore some areas off the tourist trail as well. Apart from the ride itself, the fun part was also planning the ride as a family- sorting out stuff to pack in saddle bags, gearing up, talking my wife out of carrying too many items of personal use (the hardest part), and establishing road rules with regard to loo breaks, hand signals and points of re-group in case we lose each other en-route. All in all it was a fantastic ride and a great memory- one I hope to revisit this year, on the Himalayan.
Thought I’d take the opportunity to talk about life with my two machines, while the joy of owning two motorcycles is still something I can call my own. That heart tugging decision to let the C5 go, has been taken, and I may have found a right nice guy who will take good care of it.
Perspective plays the strangest tricks. Couple of months ago, my entire riding interest and experience was focussed on the C5. Whether it was the daily commute to work or a weekend jaunt into the nearest woodland, the C5 was the centre of my appreciation, jeers, joys and disappointments. There were times when we were in absolute communion- man and machine in well timed harmony, that grunting British single on song. And then there were times, when you wondered just how you’d been tolerating this beast for 4 years- a broken clutch cable, a misfiring exhaust, lights not working, dead battery, pushing deadweight on a puncture, blown fuse, chain’s loose… you get the drift. And to top it all off- vibes. But then that’s the charm of this half litre royal singleton. And you get used to this dichotomy. Nothing is ever perfect for too long. And nothing bad lasts forever. I was once told -its not an ‘ownership’ with Royal Enfield, its a ‘relationship’. You get the good with the bad. And I got used to it.
In walks that horse of a motorcycle. From the Royal Enfield stable no less. Two days on the new machine and I realised that the level of sophistication on this brute was way past anything Royal Enfield has ever churned out before. First thing I notice- gone is that majestic thump. Second thing I notice- no vibes. None. This, clearly, is no ‘Bullet’. Nope, not even close. Now don’t get me wrong. I am no ‘Bullet’ worshipper. And I am no fan of that legendary ‘thump’. Nor do I believe that louder is better. In-fact I cannot understand folks who buy a Royal Enfield Bullet- Classic, Standard, T-bird, GT… whatever, and then fix that mega-phone exhaust to announce to the world that they have ‘arrived’. The roads would be much quieter without them, in my opinion, and the world, probably a better place. Besides, they kill their engines with those aftermarket boom boxes. I digress… Back to the Himalayan, then. On every commute, I am hard pressed to believe that I’m actually riding a thoroughly modern, bare bones moto that has been well engineered, and is capable of taking on almost anything you throw at it. There is an assurance of rock solid dependability on every ride, and from every department- the engine, the electronics, the suspension, the ergonomics, it all works! Surely, there’s been a mistake- how can this be a true Royal Enfield? Where is that endearing character? That promise of uncertainty? That lure of the unknown? It fails to show up. Repeatedly. I wouldn’t say that the machine is without niggles and issues- but most of them have been sorted out for me after the first service. And there’s character too- past the 600km mark on the odo, the exhaust now does some lovely pops and cackles when de-accelerating. There’s enough grunt to the throttle and once you are used to it, you realise, this is a refined traffic carver.
I remember my first extended ride on the Himalayan. On the second night of ownership, I have a CBR250R for company and we are headed to the Airport for a cuppa. The Himalayan is a breeze to ride at 70kph. Its easy riding with the CBR- two cool runners- I think, this is nearly up there with the super smooth Honda. There’s dazzling instrumentation in front of me- ‘all systems are a go’. Speed, heading, RPM, temperature, fuel, time, trip distance- there’s a host of details. I’m cruising. The engine, after a few days of running in, is slightly more rev happy, and I’m having a ball. And standing on pegs is so damn easy..!
Some days on, I feel a pang. Something’s calling me… a quiet pull at my shirtsleeves, while I’m looking away, all in awe of this newbie. I finally notice it one day- that hulk of old, shiny black metal. Standing solemn next to the white horse. Counting its days with me. Waiting…
Two weeks of riding the Himalayan, and that pang has gotten intense. I’m used to the Himalayan now, I tell myself. I know how that corner feels. I know what speed to tackle that speed breaker at. But I’m asking myself, how was it on the C5? Do I still remember? My hands are aching for the feel of those handlebars. That vibey assault on the senses. Those days of hard cornering. That instant feedback…that guttural thump!
That’s it. I’m riding the C5 out today..!
Here’s what you do for an awesome Sunday-
1. Round up your mates
2. Start your engines
3. Head for the nearest patch of woods
4. Grab some idly-vada and great coffee on the way
5. Banter with mates on whose bike is better
6. Watch out for elephants en-route
8. Consult Google Mausi for directions in the woods
9. Ride home in time for ‘Real’ Breakfast. 🙂
About another 40 minutes of riding and Google Mausi decides to give up the ghost. I had been standing on pegs in that stretch, and as I sat down, I noticed Mausi is silent. I beckon others to stop and we do a quick look around.
Nothing much around- a quaint little temple, where the Pujari probably visits on a fortnight, some make believe grass and a beautiful Jacaranda tree. Photo op not to be missed? You bet!
There wasn’t much to do beyond that in this place. So we decided to move on. Now did I tell you that Google Mausi moonlights as a Goddess? (To understand this phenomenon better, I suggest you read American Gods, by Neil Gaiman). Well Goddesses, often find favour with the cool candidate. Deepak has a cool bike- therefore Goddess lights up his phone. We discover a way out of there- turns out we just need to keep on moving down the same trail.
Well, that broken forest road throws up another surprise- and we find a boulder outcrop with a great green vista. Needless to say, the bikes were lined up, on the rocks. Metal sided with plastics and looked onto the great greenfield beyond!
After this call of duty it was time to bid goodbye. We left our separate ways and joined that rush of weekend traffic and caged imbeciles on the road. It’s always fruitful to start a great Sunday by getting lost in the neighbourhood wilderness!
For professional reasons, I am not at liberty to reveal what TEMC stands for. Rest assured, it has something to do with my workplace. And yes the last two letters stand for Motorcycle Club. Now it so happened that parking lot discoveries revealed to me that there were quite a few ardent motorcyclists in office. It was only a matter of time before a Whatsapp group was created. Official emails were sent and the first day ride was organised to Yelagiri on August 28th, 2014.
We were a motley bunch with most of us riding Royal Enfield motos and a couple of lads on an Avenger 220 and a Yamaha FZ 150. The plan was to cover the 160 odd kms to Yelagiri in good time and start real early.
Now this ride was a first with folks from my office. My expectations from this ride were so so. There were some inexperienced riders in the group who would need some amount of shepherding. At the same time, four of the riders had done a lot of touring- A moto couple, Vaishali and her hubby Ashutosh, had also done the Leh/ Ladakh circuit. Sabith and Rajeev were experienced riders. I had had my share of rides.
We assembled in front of Total Mall, Koramangala at 5:00 am and most of us showed great discipline and turned up within minutes of each other. The last rider, Sabith, was to join us somewhere near Hosur. We made a cracking start and were at the second rendezvous in no time. Sabith turned up some 10 minutes later and it was surprising to see him sans his riding jacket. Instead he had a yoga mat strapped with a bungee cord on his seat! I still wonder what he had been thinking at that time…
On and off, the group would fall into a two by two ride formation, but it was mostly each man for himself. Ashutosh had the good sense to ride tail and make sure no one was falling behind. Breakfast halt was at Shoolagiri- and many a masala dosa, idlis and vadas were gulped and washed down with steaming filter coffee. We made good time after that and reached the foothills of Yelagiri by 7:30 am.
The real fun started after that, the ride uphill was exhilarating. At that hour, there was no traffic, so you had all the bends to yourself. I could see Sabith, just ahead, scraping his footpegs on every corner. On this ride I had a custom performance exhaust strapped on my bike and this was a good opportunity to test it (more details here- https://yonderbluemountain.wordpress.com/2016/06/26/c5-evolution/). I gunned the throttle and took pole position. I think that was the fastest climb I have ever done in my life. I had no time to count the bends, nor to admire beautiful mountain vistas flashing past me. All I could see was the corner ahead and Sabith in my mirrors, hugging bend after bend. The logic was simple, slow down just before the corner, accelerate through the bend, make sure you time yourself around the corner and keep your eyes glued to a spot at least 50m ahead. Before long, the entire fast bunch was at the top. This was good riding, I told myself.
Yelagiri is best described as a sleepy hill side town, I would go to the lengths of calling it a kasba-something between a town and village. The townsfolk were just rising- a tea stall owner was setting up his pots and pans, when we rolled in. It seemed like a scene from an old western. There you have it, a main street. Townsfolk just starting to go about their business. Shops starting to open, smells of breakfast wafting into the street from a few meagre cafes and schoolchildren being cajoled out of their houses by their frantic moms. Suddenly, there’s a thunderous sound, and a bunch of cowboys ride in on iron horses. We get stares. Some appreciative glances from a few youngsters. A few minutes of drama and we are the centre of it all. But this town is no stranger to visitors. We park and dismount, kill our engines, and the towns people just shrug and go about their business. This is clearly no event for them.
We stand together, sipping coffee when one of us glances at his watch. Its 8:30 am. We applaud each other- wow! We made good time. We are happy. And then it strikes us! This was meant to be a whole day affair! We have made it to our destination too early! What are we supposed to do now? This was surely a first in my history of rides.
Grand plans are charted immediately, some of which promise to be a mini tour around half of South India. We soon remind each other that we have wives, children, uncles, aunts and mouths to feed. Indeed the nation’s economy hangs in balance until our return- not to mention the rest of the office eagerly waiting for us to return to work! We finally decide to survey and explore local flavour. Directions are asked of village folk and we take one of the smaller roads leading out of town.
An old gent tells us of a spot on a hill and we head off in that general direction. A spot of off-roading and a steep climb leads to a hill top parking lot- with views to behold.
Some of us head off for a trek after that. I lose and find my phone on the trail. A lonely goat herd doubles up as a guide/ sneaky murderer in our collective, fertile imagination. A couple of hours later, we decide to head back home. Some photo sessions on the way down and we conclude that this has been a good day out. A short detour to Krishnagiri dam turned out disappointing, but I did manage to take a couple of photos.
With that first ride ending on a happy note, I have one more reason to love my workplace (yeah right!).