Happy Sundays in the saddle…

Brilliant weather, a gorgeous route, great company and a British Twin to make your day. Happy Sunday!

The monsoon had been making its way rapidly across the South when we first decided to go for a spin down into neighbouring TN. This would be a slightly longer ride than the usual breakfast sortie, with an interesting route and a promising breakfast at the Rocky Ridge Farms Cafe (https://www.rockyridge.in). I’ve now done the route twice already, where the second ride had more friends join in- such is the allure of the route and the breakfast place. 😊

Stop for a breather, a bit of a view, a little banter, with the crew.

Now if you live in Bangalore and are tired of the usual dash to Bellur Cross or halfway to Hyderabad for a bite to eat, then think of this place as a welcome respite. Be cautioned however, that this route is best enjoyed at a slow gentle pace, with lots of scenery along way, places to stop, soak in and build your appetite.

An early start had us cruising down Hosur road post dawn. After the toll, we soon turned off towards Thally. I’ve been on this road before, quite a few years ago, on my first outing on the Himalayan. You can read about that ride here- Lost in the hinterland. The road to Thally has since undergone a massive transformation. The broken two lane blacktop from our earlier ride was now replaced with a smooth four lane state highway, which cuts travel time in half.

This place is a hidden delight and a restful haven. Serves great grub for many a hungry biker!
At Rocky Ridge Farms Cafe, the owner has thoughtfully provided racks for keeping your riding gear away from the eating tables. 😊
Breakfast at Rocky Ridge Cafe is a yummy buffet spread washed down by loads of good coffee, juice or tea.

After a sumptuous breakfast at Rocky Ridge we moved on towards a 50km circuit that promised a lake, a forest and a waterfall. This route is the highlight and also includes a narrow and twisty hill section, with equal parts tarmac and gravel, which is a delight to ride on an adventure bike.

Riding the Triumph Scrambler 1200 XC. What a brilliant, playful machine this is!

I rode my friend’s Triumph Scrambler 1200XC, for good stretches on these rides. With Mark Knopfler belting out ‘What It Is’ in my Bluetooth headset and a roaring twin cylinder pumping oodles of torque under me, I was having a ‘best of the British’ time! This is a bike that redefines ‘easy with an attitude!’. Roll slow and it purrs to your input. Wring the throttle and it jumps like a startled hare- the rear slides, traction control cuts in arresting it in a fraction, I strain to keep the front wheel pointed straight while feeling an adrenaline rush! All transpires in a few seconds. Cruising at 80kph or 120kph is pretty much the same. The tall suspension flattens everything in its path. The bike’s fantastic geometry and handling belies it’s big engine weight. In all of this, however the bike is super friendly and comfortable. Takes some getting used to, but you never lose the feeling of being in complete control, at all times. Compare this with the other two bikes I rode the same day- a Ducati 1100 Scrambler and a KtM 390 Adv. These are power hungry, raging beasts and do not want to be tamed!

This lake is a few kms down the road from Rocky Ridge Cafe!
Sunday idyll.

A beautiful lake with a solitary fisherman’s skiff was the first point of interest, on the circuit. This was a gorgeous setting, with wind blown grass and native wildflowers all round the lake shores, surrounded by hills. We spent a short while here taking a few photos.

Motos by the water!
Wayfinding in the countryside

Beyond the lake the circuit climbs through some hills with narrow switchbacks, that is pure adv motorcycle territory. For this stretch I had the 1100 Scrambler. The Ducati is super aggressive to throttle input and would be a blast on city streets. However here, I was having trouble keeping up with the Triumph, the Himalayan and the GT. This was because the narrow hairpin bends occurred one after another every 100 metres or so, such is the nature of the hill track. What this implied was me having to downshift at the corner, rev the throttle when half way through the turn, shift up and then immediately cut down on speed and downshift again in half a minute at the next corner. This was tiresome. The Himalayan and the Triumph in comparison, lumbered on smoothly through the bends in one gear, right up to the top. The smaller wheels on the Ducati also were not reassuring on the gravel edges of the asphalt. It was hilarious. I was easily on the fastest motorcycle in the group. Yet I came up last.

View from the top!

The views at the top however, were very rewarding for any latecomer. What’s also nice is that this trail is not on any tourist map. It’s just a road that leads from one village to another, with a hill range in between.

Riding a spirited bike like the Scrambler up to the top was challenging but fun!

On the way back, three of us, riding in close formation, had a scary moment. A snake suddenly tried to cross the road ahead of the leading bike. Panic braking ensued. We were more concerned about whose wheel the poor creature would get wrapped up under! Luckily, all of us (snake included) just about managed to dodge each other. Whew! Just one of those things to consider when riding in India- expect the unexpected!

Heading down into the valley.
Adv Moto heaven.

This reptilian encounter notwithstanding, we had a great ride! We’ve discovered a new hideaway with great food and beautiful back roads to explore beyond. Can’t wait to return to the neighbourhood and catch up on what else it has to offer!

The route offers plenty of spots to take a breather and revel in natural beauty around you.
More folks join in on the second ride. A KTM 390 Adv and a Scram 411!
On the 2nd ride, the lake has changed character after the first rains. Gone were the grass banks, blue skies and clear water. It was still nice though!

Hot damn! It’s a Scram!

Royal Enfield have aced it again. The internet is abuzz with the good looks, nimble manners and all round worthiness of the new Royal Enfield Scram 411. Inspired by a few reviews- I went in for a test ride and was pleasantly surprised. It’s a fun bike with a peppy, retuned engine, great body balance, very agile dynamics (was filtering easily in peak hour traffic, thanks to that smaller front wheel) and confidence inspiring on-road manners. Have compiled some feeds from my favourite YouTube Channels below, where the motorcyclists are coming back grinning from ear to ear! 😊

Image copyright- Royal Enfield

https://youtu.be/UriSCL1e3QQ

https://youtu.be/_um42oBoNM8

https://youtu.be/YcpGbvITx0I

https://youtu.be/gDS9LKE4kz4

Best of what’s around…(B’lore)

Over the past 11 years, I’ve pretty much covered almost every exit route out of Bangalore, in the format of lazy Sunday breakfast runs. These early morning rides have enabled new friendships fostered by our common love for motorcycles, exploration of some great back roads and discovery of some excellent places serving delicious local cuisine. You can read more about some of these rides here- https://yonderbluemountain.com/tag/back-road-beautiful/

Have captured below, images from rides in and around rural Bengaluru that I’ve done over time. Most of these areas are not more than a couple of hours ride from the city centre, so depending on where you live, some of the spots may be closer than an hour for you! Next weekend, if you are craving that mouth watering thatte idly or shavige bath all washed down with a hot kaapi, at the end of a short and sweet ride, do look up these places on Google. Give a shout to your moto mates and get going!

En- route to Manchanbele Dam
Nelligudde Kere
Wind Hill, Ramanagara. Savanadurga in the distance
At Sabbanahalli lake
A trail near Nandi hills
En route to Chota Ladakh off Kolar Road
Chota Ladakh!
Off Berigai -Shoolagiri road
Muningara Dam
Sanamavu Reserve Forest, Thenpennai River
Ragihalli State Forest
Anchetty
Savanadurga State Forest
Harohalli Jigani Road skirting the Bannerghatta Wildlife Reserve
Jawalagiri Forest
Manchanbele Reservoir

If you can’t ride, read.

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.

Short highway run within the district to clear cobwebs from my mind. Seen here with the other BS3 Himalayan, both 4 years old.
The Himalayan has evolved over the years, but stayed true to its core purpose of being an everyday, everything, anywhere use machine.

However, aside from this small outing, for most of the Lockdown, I consoled myself browsing through some of my favourite reads on the shelf.

Here’s a glance at my budding motorcycle reads collection. Would strongly recommend all three, if you haven’t had a chance to get your paws on them yet.

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.

Himalayan update- 23000kms and counting…

A few weeks ago, I finally managed to lay hands on the last item required for build ideas I had for the Himalayan. 23500 kms and 3 years, 8 months in the making, I’m very happy with the way it has turned out. Almost everything added to the bike is a genuine Royal Enfield accessory. No cheap aftermarket bits and bobs here.

Himalayan, circa 2020
Himalayan, circa 2020
Retro-tourer, circa 2020.

In my last post Essential Upgrades, I had talked about replacing the worn out stock seat with a Touring Seat. The Touring Seat took me more than 6 months to locate and buy. For some weird reason, Royal Enfield does not have online sales for bike accessories. And this one is a best seller that almost every dealership runs quickly out of.

For more than a year, I ran the bike without any kind of wind protection. I was glad to get rid of the fiddly stock visor which had a serious buffeting issue at high speeds. However, I still felt the need for a smaller cowl or fly screen to complete the look of the bike.

Made a quick sketch to see how a flyscreen would look.

A quick sketch on my iPad convinced me that a flyscreen might just do it. Got myself an Interceptor 650 flyscreen the next day. Had to convince my mates at Highlander, my friendly neighbourhood Moto workshop, to file and shape the mounting bracket. But other than that, it was an easy fit.

Short Flyscreen from the Interceptor 650. A high intensity LED bulb from NightEye replaces the stock bulb in the headlight.

Here’s a summary of additions to the bike at 20000kms.

  • 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)
  • Metzeler Tourance Next tyres- 90/90-21 to the front, 150/70- 17 to the rear. (Orion Motors, Koramangala)
  • Short Flyscreen from the Royal Enfield Interceptor 650, (Royal Enfield Brand Showroom, BTM Layout)
  • Royal Enfield Aluminium Panniers with mounts (Royal Enfield Brand Showroom, BTM Layout)
  • Royal Enfield Touring Seat for the Himalayan (Royal Enfield Brand Showroom, BTM Layout)
  • NightEye headlight replacement bulb (Sourced online)

To know about other bits of DIY which shaped the bike, and my overall ownership experience, you can catch up here. If you are a Himalayan owner and have done some fiddling yourself, do drop me a line. 😊

The bike setup feels perfect for lazy ganders through backroads like this. 😊

Lead me not into temptation…

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? 🙄

Interceptor. Pic courtesy: Royal Enfield

This is how we used to roll…

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

Reduce to evolve

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. 😊

Stripped Moto. Sans everything. Well, almost everything. 🙂

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.

IMG_6257
Horseley Hills-Givi top box, Studds side cases, saddlebags (missing from photo), screen.

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.

Concept sketch for the Himalayan- note how the fairing integrates the tank with headlamps

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.

Rear mount gone, saddle bag stays retained.

Here’s how the bike looks now without the front fender!

Need to get a pair of knobbly tyres now!

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. 😊

Miss the old hag…

Circa 2016#25kgweightreductiontest#airportcoffeerun

Twins…

They are drop dead gorgeous. Just watched the launch at EICMA. The Interceptor (California Cool, in the words of CEO Siddharth Lal) and the Continental GT 650 promise to herald a new age of ‘easy and accessible, pure motorcycling fun’. Let’s see what the future holds… for now, I’m rubbing my hands in glee and me eyes are jest feastin’ on them beauties… har har!

More info to be found here

https://royalenfield.com/motorcycles/twins/