Hinterland beautiful…

“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.

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Landscape enroute to the falls.
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The last 5 kms is through lovely scubland.
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Ganalu Falls viewed on approach.
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This quaint canal is about 5 minutes away from the falls…
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…with a spectacular little bridge to park your moto.
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Loved this spot!

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.

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Route options from the Mysore and Kanakpura higways.

Muninagara Dam

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.

Waterbody en-route to Muningara dam
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Muningara dam- pumping station bridge

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.

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The hills on the far side belong to the Bannerghatta Wildlife Reserve
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Great spot to to soak in views and observe wildlife
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The electric fence behind the bikes is a deterrent for wildlife entering the village area
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Route options to Muninagara Dam

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.

One can get to far end of the lakebed, on the bike, between these shallow bodies of water
Lakebed enroute to the dam
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Dandiganahalli Dam

 

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.

Morning ride, hot tea, Indian Paratha Company
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Lovely back road to ride around the hill

 

Scramble by the lake!

A short scramble on a lake bed enroute to Dandinagahalli Dam.

Himalayan, 15000km Review.

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15000 kms and ticking!

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

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Himalayan, circa 2019.

THE ENGINE

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.

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Road, no road… the Himalayan is great fun if the pace is unhurried.

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)
  • 90×90/21 (Front) and 150×70/17 (Rear) Tyre setup. Brand Options- Metzeler Tourance, Pirelli Scorpion Rally, Pirelli Scorpion Trail. (Researching online Sources, Dealers)
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Braced handlebar kit offers precise fit, better strength and quality

 

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Touring Seat upgrade…soon!

OWNERSHIP

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.

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Keep running the stock tyre past 15000km and you’ll be slippin’ an slidin’ everywhere!

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.

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Rubber parts, high on wear & tear.

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.

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Strip it down? Took me all of 20 minutes!

 

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Oil change? Three bolts on the right, two on the left. Drain oil, Replace oil filter, clean the oil mesh, refill oil and pop the bolts back on. No bottom of engine, faulty washer oil leakage issues here.
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What you see in this picture, is everything that keeps the tyre in place. Tyre removal? Easy peasy.
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Air filter access? 6 easy bolts to loosen and its out!

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.

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The Himalayan is meant for roads like these.

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!

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.

Trails in my backyard

A couple of months ago, my cousin and I discovered a great little trail off Shoolagiri, no more than 40 Kms from my doorstep. A small stretch of forest (Samanav Forest) before Shoolagiri, offers an unmarked trail leading to a little rivulet. Keep a lookout for this on the left when returning to Bangalore, a few klicks after the MacDonalds at Shoolagiri. If you are on a Himalayan, you are bound to have a good time!

This great little spot by the river is after 3kms of a dirt trail off the Salem highway.