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.

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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/

Of heathlands and monoliths…

This little overflowing creek made for a nice splash

This Diwali, the long weekend came about promising at least one day of riding fun. I headed out with my cousin (who also owns a Himalayan), towards Manchanbele dam, for a lunch ride. To make the regular route a little more interesting, we chose a detour featuring a beautiful back road between Kanakpura and Mysore highways.

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Post monsoon greenery adorns the connector linking Kanakpura and Mysore highways

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Lunch was a quick affair on Mysore highway, this thali was delicious

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Heathland, retreating rain clouds and sunshine. Riding season is here!

The day forecast glorious weather with long sunny spells. This time of the year heralds the start of the riding season in South India, with late October through to February generally packed with organised tours and riding events. So it felt good to be back in the saddle, even if it was for a short spin.

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Manchanbele Reservoir, off Mysore Road

The short route to Manchanbele from Mysore highway passes through open country that features a lot of heathland like un-farmed land. This year the monsoon strayed well into October, so everywhere we looked, we saw green. At Manchanbele, there was a fair crowd. Entry to the dam is restricted, taking vehicles down to the water is prohibited, so all you could do was stare at the water from higher vantage points. On an earlier occasion, I had been able to park by the water. So there wasn’t much to do but carry on. Savandurga, one of Asia’s largest monoliths, loomed high above the water. I had always wanted to see it up close and we decided to head there.

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Offroading enroute to Savandurga

The road to Savandurga monolith cuts through the lovely Savandurga State Forest, and both in the forest, and on its fringes, we found great spots to stop, shoot and chill :).

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Selfie time!

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At Savandurga State Forest.

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In the shadow of the mountain

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The wild grass was inviting, the late afternoon sun, relaxing

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Heathland and monoliths

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Spots for posing with the monolith abound enroute

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Bikes are dwarfed by the lofty Savandurga

Savandurga, is majestic and towering. I had never come close to a monolith before. All I had was childhood memories of leafing through my geography text book and marvelling at the splendid isolation of Ayers Rock. I had always imagined giant monoliths to be far off the grid, in places that existed at the very edge of the map. Savandurga, is no such thing. There were tourist stalls at the parking lot and a temple at the top. We were lucky that there wasn’t much of a throng, so we found ourselves a green spot close to the base and lingered for a while.

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Beautiful rock this, if ever a rock can be called beautiful. Worth the visit, I say

The highlight of the ride home, was this shot at dusk, which I feel captures so well, the essence of motorcycling. This is a good start to the riding season. 🙂

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Mellow evening light frames the motos next to some beautiful srubland.

Motorcycling Country

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Roads around Steel City, like this one, are newly laid blacktops to motorcycling heaven

The last few years have seen a host of transport infrastructure improvements in many parts of the country. On a recent trip to my hometown of Jamshedpur, I was pleasantly surprised to see some excellent tarmac connecting major cities in the state. The bountiful, naturally blessed topography of the Chotanagpur plateau is also a delight to discover on these new roads. And what best way to discover new places, than on a motorcycle?

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Subarnarekha river glimpsed from a Ghat section near Jampot

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A village pond near Chandil

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Forests give way to fields, Kandra

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Topography, Taimara ghat section 

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Fields of ripe green paddy stretch to the hills, Bundu

Hold that thought, I say to myself. Have to spend a few days touring here, sometime in the near future. Until then, I will keep these photos as a memory, captured during a three hour drive from ‘Jampot’ to Ranchi.

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Sangam- Subarnarekha and Kharkhai

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Rolling Through Wayanad

 

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Bandipur, Wayanad border. Motorcyclist’s paradise

Plans for a weekend ride had been brewing in my riding group for most of the year gone by. However every time, a ride was proposed, come the date, enthusiasm waned. While it was the usual ‘weekend is for family’ excuse for older gents, the younger ones cited commitments to their busy social life. It was a miracle then, that once the idea was thrown in, six people decided to join. The initial plan was to ride to Avalanche Valley, an area of extreme natural beauty, beyond Ooty. Deepak had been there recently and complained of bad roads. Wayanad came up as an alternative, and all of us agreed unanimously.

The ride plan was finalised for last weekend of May. We decided to take the more scenic, longer route in- via Kanakpura Road and Kabini Reservoir. Having been to Kabini on more than a couple of occasions, I had seen KL registered vehicles plying in the area. I figured Wayanad must be a neighbouring district. The condition of the road leading into Kerala remained uncertain. We decided to risk it anyway- after all, what’s life without a little adventure?

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Route Map- Kanakpura and Kabini on Day One

Days of planning followed, and tea sessions in office centred on gear selection and what to carry. While Deepak bought himself a brand new lid, OP San was happy to be finally bring in use a pair of saddlebags purchased more than a year ago. Evenings were spent in the parking lot- bungee cords, rain gear and other accessories, were tested and secured on the bikes. We realised that every single bike on the ride would be a different machine. Between five of us, we had most of Royal Enfield’s product line covered- a Bullet 350 (Cast Iron), a Classic 350, a Classic 500, a Thunderbird 350, and my Himalayan. A  Pulsar 180, was the lone horse from the Bajaj stable.  I must admit, the very idea that I would be out and about in a few days gave me a new high, and I was quite looking forward to it.

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Photo Op on Kanakpura Road.

Come the day of the ride, we started bright and early, at 6am. Leaving Nice Road exit onto Kanakpura Road, I knew this route had been the right choice. The day promised to be beautiful- with misty spots of sunshine peeking between rolling clouds promising rain in far off lands. There was a good breeze about, and coasting along on a twisty two-laner seemed to be the perfect start to the weekend. Now I’ve done many rides down Kanakpura Road. It’s that simple early morning ride recipe you can’t go wrong with. The road runs on a high embankment past four lakes and passes quaint settlements. Traffic is often sparse. What I love about this road is its easy riding friendliness. You are forever in that sweet spot between 70-90kms per hour. On a Royal Enfield, that equates to bliss. Higher speeds, on a road like this, make you miss all the sights and sounds around you and are dangerous as well.

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Offroading on a muddy lakebed on Kanakapura Road

We had a bit of fun off-roading around a lake, just after Kanakpura. Mud and slush  on tracks leading to the lake had the bikes struggling. My Himalayan, fared the worst. I had mud caked tyres within the first few yards. It was a good place though, to be visited in drier times.

100kms or so into the ride, after breakfast, we stopped for a ‘bum break’. There was a quick briefing session on group riding techniques. Deepak, raring to ‘up the pace’, elected to lead. Soon after, heading on past Kanakapura town towards Malavalli, a group of riders passed us. Deepak, not to be outdone, caught up and rode wingman with their ride captain. As the road straightened out, we held good speed with the others. We were all geared up and so were they. We were on similar machines, smaller bikes which did the job. I noticed a nicely souped up Karizma- a sworn touring machine from the days of old, and a neat little Yamaha FZ among the new group. The rest were Royal Enfields, and one Himalayan rider with a helmet mounted cam. We warned each other of road impediments and warned traffic of the approaching formation. I rode wingman with the other Himalayan for a while- this was good, clean fun. Strangers looking out for each other, travelling together, bound by direction and passion. On the outskirts of Malvalli, we parted ways. There was nary a nod, nor a handshake. They carried on, and we did too. But for those miles we rode together, we all knew one great joy- motorcycling.

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Surajmukhi fields forever!

You know, that instant, when you dive out of a corner, see cars posted by the side of the road and tourist cameras flashing?  An incredible vista of yellow appeared to the left of us. I haven’t seen anything like this in a while- after all we are not in Punjab! Sunflower fields spread out for acres, right by the road. Be sure to not miss this if you are ever on this stretch of road. Plenty of photo sessions later, we hit the road again.

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The brady bunch sans one

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This sunflower field by the side of Malavalli-Mysore road was an incredible surprise!

Next stop- Kabini hinterland. I can tell you this, from whatever I have seen of the South, there’s no other place quite like this. This rolling, undulating, daleish country, with vegetable farms and tall grass stretching away into the  distance, is really beautiful. It’s a short stretch that you encounter when you turn off the Manthanawadi road towards the reservoir. The demographic here is mostly tribal. Living with the land, without making undue demands of it, is evident in their lifestyle, as we ride by.

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Rolling greens en-route to Kabini

I had set my expectations high for the first sighting of that large expanse of water. When we rounded the crest beyond the fields, I was disappointed to see the waterline receded by a mile. We rode further inland.  I was feeling a bit peckish by now. At Jungle Lodges Resort, lunch wasn’t available without prior reservation. So we decided to head down to the water. The road leading to the Serai Resort runs along the lakebed. What greeted us here, was amazing. Kabini lakebed is all grass. Not mud, not slush, not rocks. Grass. With cattle from the village grazing all over. You could lie back on the grass and stare at the sky, for water was far far away.  Photo sessions followed- some of the shots turned out worthy enough to send to RE for their annual ride calendar.

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Into the great wide open…This first sight of a dried up Kabini, took my breath away.

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And the bike’s portfolio gets a boost, courtesy OP San

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The Royal Enfield Bullet, unedited.

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And then we had some annual calendar worthy poses too!

Its funny how in open country, the weather can create a sense of delusion. As the afternoon wore on, there was sunshine beyond the clouds. In the distance, near the horizon, were  blue skies. But clouds came gathering just above our heads.  It started with a few drops, which turned into a spitter-spatter, which turned into a drizzle, which turned into a downpour, which was in fact, a cloud burst. This happened in a matter of minutes. You can see me, in the photo below, struggling to take out my rain gear from the saddle bag.

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Scrambling to take shelter from approaching rain

Well, some of us got wet. OP San had a fall. We took shelter in a cow shed and waited for it to abate. Saw a couple of lads drenched to the bone, riding around on a Harley and a Triumph Explorer, with their girlfriends following tow in a Hyundai. They were looking for a place, to have lunch. In pouring rain. What surprised me more, was that they were on these two big machines, but were wearing only helmets in the name of safety gear.

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Beyond Kabini, the road had green forests and no traffic.

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That moment when the photo op is over and you are getting ready to mount and ride

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These moments make a lifetime of memories…

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…when you ride through areas like these.

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…with a 411cc single on song. Forest roads and happy days.

The next hundred kilometres, till our homestay, was sheer motorcycling nirvana. Two factors contributed to this. The first was to do with an immaculate road that twists and turns, then delves into straights, and before you start thinking straight :), turns into twisties again. That wasn’t all. Most of this stretch runs through fringe forests of Wayanad, Bandipur and Nagarhole sanctuaries. This is not a regular bus route, cars passed by once in a while. We had most of the road to ourselves.

The second was to do with food. Now this stretch being desolate, suffers for lack of roadside eateries. We could not get grub at Kabini. For the next couple of hours we were pretty much riding hungry.  When out of a stretch of forest, a clearing emerged, lined with small hotels, Deepak and Sreejith stopped, and were inside one in the blink of an eye. We had crossed the border checkpost a couple of miles before. I can’t recall the name of the place, but I will remember the place for a lifetime. By the time I had taken off my riding jacket and walked into the hotel, the others were wolfing down delicious meals, parothas, ularthiyathu fry and chicken curry. I was starving- it was well past 5pm. The food, yummy, with a hint of home made freshness, really hit the spot. Hats off to Deepak and Sreejith for leading us to this watering hole.

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Atmost Homestay in Kalpetta, is a cheap and cheerful joint to rest your ride tired bones.

We made it to the homestay around 6pm. Atmost Homestay in Kalpetta is good value for money, and has options to camp out in the open, weather permitting. They were missing a cook though. We had to figure out dinner in town. There were plans to ride out early morning towards ghats leading down to the mainland plains. Chilled beer with motorcycle talk warmed us late into the night.

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A taste of Wayanad_Freshly plucked, home grown jackfruit was super yum.

The  next day, we rode down to the Adivaram Ghats after a light breakfast in town. At Adivaram there was a lot of traffic and quite a many tourists thronging the road edge to capture views of the plains below. We hung about for a short while before settling in for the long ride home. En-route we were treated to some gracious hospitality at Deepak’s aunt’s home. We had just made ourselves comfortable and were sipping sweet tea when his Uncle walked in from the plantation with some freshly plucked and dressed jackfruit. For us city slickers, this was a rare treat.

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When in Kerala, expect sights like these at every turn- Gods Own Country.

The homely environment and the alluring laid back life of  Wayanad, was hard to say goodbye to. I think everyone was clear on one agenda- we had to finish the business of lunch in Kerala. The food from yesterday was still fresh in our minds. So it was Deepak and Sreejith again, who led the hungry pack into a den which served heavenly parothas, kerala meals and poppadums. 

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Highlight of the ride back_a lush green forest for 40 kms_Bandipur

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The stretch between Bandipur and Gundlupet is newly surfaced, fast and clean.

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Re-group outside Bandipur.

The route home, promised glimpses of wildlife. The last part of the ride through Bandipur was awesome. I managed to fall behind, taking in as much of the surrounding jungle as I could. We sighted deer, monkeys and a lonely old boar. The rest of the ride was uneventful till Mysore. Perhaps the only downer to the otherwise great ride was the last stretch on Mysore highway. Take heed- do not plan to return on Sunday evening using this route. The traffic here puts most congested city areas to shame.

Well that was that. I was dog tired at the end of the day. Curled up at home with a cold beer, I tried to relive key moments of the ride. This was the first long ride of the year- the machine had performed flawlessly, and my riding days were back on track! 🙂

Rider Trivia

  • Anoop_Artist, Illustrator, not much into motorcycles he says, but had one hell of a ride on his Classic 350.
  • Sreejith_He walks the realm of ancients, the lone rider on a cast iron engine. We sometimes gather round his machine to hear its slow heart beating. Bullet 350.
  • Deepak_Fury on wheels, has to be reined in once in a while. Rides hard. Parties harder. Modded Thunderbird 350
  • OPSan_Calm, composed and ever smiling. Nerves of steel. Rides a Classic 500.
  • Ankit_Big, cheerful man, asks a lot of his little machine. Thankfully, the machine delivers. Pulsar 180.
  • Yours Truly_Happy to have Shadowfax running free. Happy to have me out and about, after a long time! Himalayan.

They don’t make ’em like this anymore.

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Shadowfax stands tall with an ancestor

So many years in the making. Royal Enfield sure took their time. 🙂