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Two Wheels to Move the Soul

Writing about my motorbike rides and other motorcycle related stuff

Month

May 2018

Goa, again!

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The IBW organizers decided to change the pattern for 2017 (or if you believe some sources, ran in to sponsor problems😊). So instead of Feb it was held in Nov. There was some concern on whether bikers would turn up in sufficient numbers or not. I for one quite like the idea of the IBW. I was keen on attending.

But then it is also a group effort to plan a ride to Goa. Esp. to go at a time as busy as the IBW. A lot of things need to be planned, not least of which is the accommodation because Goa gets really busy. It is also peak season in November. The plan was executed reasonably smoothly, we have become veterans of a sort I guess at planning these things now. We got together two options for resorts and put it to a vote along with TripAdvisor ratings. This helped us narrow it down to one.

Ride tenets

Along the way, we also created a set of overnighter guidelines which we could use for future plans. Sharing it here in case you want to use it ever.

 

We were going to stay at Morgim beach, in a quieter less touristy part of Goa. This time let me deviate from the script a bit. I will talk more about the ride rather than the organizing.

In my case the Goa ride was in 2 parts. I rode a few days earlier, ahead of the group, to Dharwar, solo! Will write about that ride separately.

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Debashish my long-standing riding buddy did the same (on a different day), he rode up to Hubli & stayed overnight. We both then rode together to Goa. Our riding styles are similar more of the stately pace than hectic.

We met just off the NH4 turning near Dharwar. There is a Petrol bunk about 1 km from the turn-off one of the few petrol bunks on the route. If you are using this route then I would recommend using this bunk to tank up for sure. In the time that I waited for Deb, I met bunch of riders from Kerala, all on Triumphs riding to Goa. I met another large group of Harleys, mostly Iron 883s riding to Goa from Hubli. So, no need to worry, IBW was attracting a ton of people to be sure. If at all, we needed to worry about hitting the road soon, before it became chockablock with superbikes.

So, after a nice cup of tea and some early morning upma, at roadside stall, we were all set to head off. The road is under construction, they are building a flyover, over the railway crossing. This thing has been WIP for a while now, we had to wait at the railway crossing which is not necessarily a flat road at all. There are a few huge craters and it is a bit of a pain to maneuver a super bike there I dread to think how I will do the same with my Thunderbird LT. The Superlow itself was tough to manage along those craters. Hopefully the flyover will be complete and we won’t have to use the old route. Since the railway crossing was closed we caught up with some of the Hubli HOGs at that crossing.

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Just before the bedlam, people are still lining up

Of course, like at all crossings, people on either side believe that they are the only ones and take up all the space on the road. It is a funny sight if you can objectively observe it. Before the train arrives, you can see the other side and there are vehicles taking up the entire road with sundry motorcycles and cycles plugging any small gaps. You look at your own side and see the same thing, the last few guys driving up to the barrier are going further and further right. You can already see it in your mind, how on Earth will people go across?! Then for the space of about 5 minutes there is utter chaos, total bedlam, people go all over the place. To make it even more exciting the road is in seriously bad shape, not only are people trying to avoid each other they have to avoid craters and the train tracks which are exposed in places and need to be managed too. Phew! The fun thing is that this whole thing lasts for about 5 minutes and then it looks like nothing ever happened here, it is a nice quiet back country road.

Further from here the road gets in to the forest area. Single lane road through reasonably thick wooded areas. Last time, February (2016), when I had used this road it was in bad shape and I needed to get some welding done on my front fender because of the rough roads. I was fearing the same this time as well, however the road was in much better shape now. It was a really pleasant drive all the way from that railway crossing till you reach Mollem in the state of Goa, the road is a quiet forest route with not too much traffic. There are almost no places stop & take a refreshment break. For people riding directly from Bangalore to Goa it is recommended to eat lunch around Dharwar or before, as there is no lunch spot till you hit Mollem. Ideal thing is to tank up at the petrol bunk once you are off the NH4 and to eat at Mango Moods which is right there. You might need to warn them in advance if you are a large group though. In 2016, we had all stopped to eat here, about 200 of us.

The ghat section is of course brilliant, quiet roads with graceful curves what more could you ask for when you ate on a bike. While I am not the most experienced ghat rider I would like to point out to any beginners some of the basics in the box alongside.

Lean in

We stopped for a break on the top of the ghat, where there is a signboard welcoming you to Goa. It is a little in the middle of nowhere so feels a bit weird to be welcomed to Goa out there, where is the beer and the beach ?! At that point when we were ready to roll again I took my bike off the stand and promptly over balanced on to the other side. I made the mistake of trying to recover from the over balance and still have a golfer’s elbow 6 months later still because of that. Then I gently let her down. Deb was on hand of course and he picked up the bike on his own. There is a proper way to pick up these heavy bikes. Do look it up on YouTube, super useful to know. The dash very helpfully said ‘bike tip’!

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Tip Point !!

 

This brings me to the point that it is really good if you can ride with someone you know and trust and get-along with. I have a few friends who meet that criteria and it is always a pleasure to ride together. They are great company on the road and off it. Of course, it does not mean we see eye-to-eye on everything but we are able to have a sit-down discussion and disagree. I think the world is losing its ability to disagree and get-along at the same time. Sigh!!

Back on the road. So, we made our way down the hill and in to Goa. I must say there are few things more pleasurable that riding a motorcycle on a hill with curves. The sheer fun of leaning in to curves is what we riders live for. The little ghat has plenty of these to offer and it was a super fun experience. Thoroughly enjoyed the ghats. Of course, one of the highlights of reaching Londa is you get Vada-pav. Living in Bangalore one is a little starved of this simple delicacy. So, we made a beeline for the food stalls and dug in to a couple of good old Vada pavs followed by chai.

Once you reach Mollem, you know you are in Goa. Why?! You see a ton of booze stores 😊, peppered all over the place. The whole 500 mtrs from a highway does not seem to have had much impact. Or was that just national highways?!

From Mollem the roads diverge quite a bit, depending on which part of Goa you are looking to get to. We trusted our fate to aunty Google who told us where we turn and where we don’t.

We were heading to Morgim Beach, Montego Bay Beach Resort. Google knew where it was and decided how we got there. My word! Google that day decided that we deserved to go the scenic route. We went through such small roads that even our bikes felt like they were being squished, god save any cars that follow those directions. The roads just seemed to wind round and round and not go anywhere meaningful. We rode for well over 90 minutes from the time we felt we were close to the destination. Not sure what got in to Google aunty – but she really led us a merry dance that day.

Nevertheless, we did finally get to the resort and figured the faster way to get there upon asking the guys at the reception. Not trusting technology completely might have saved us 45 minutes but then who cares, we got to ride around the back roads for 45 minutes more!

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Bellur Cross

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Bellur-cross breakfast, always attracts a crowd !!

The Mecca of Breakfast rides from Bangalore. It is 80 odd KMs from the Nelamangala turn-off on Tumkur road. On highway 75, the Bangalore – Mangalore highway, also known as Hassan road. While it is popularly called Bellur cross, that is the name of the area, the actual restaurant is called Hotel Mayura.

Once you turn off Tumkur road and take the Hassan road, this comes up shortly after the second Toll collection point. While this route is currently over-served with restaurants, Mayura still retains its premier positioning among bikers.

Mayura

The fact that it is about 80 Km, the fact that Hassan road is really good to ride on and most of all – the quality of the Dosas and Vadas, these are what make it the Mecca. Approx. one in two breakfast rides, we end up at this place.

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Seating is in the open, given that you are here for breakfast and in general the weather is quite salubrious in that part of the day, sitting outside is a very pleasant thing. There is plenty of parking for the bikes and you are seated not far from them. This is probably far more important for bikers than for anyone else, a non-biker might not appreciate it as much either. But my tribe believes it to be supremely important to be able to see the bike.

Helps digest the breakfast much better.

Speaking of breakfast, the usual South-Indian fare is available. The must haves are the Benne (butter) Dosa, the Kesari bath and the Vada. Their Sambar and Chutney are also really good. As any self-respecting connoisseur of breakfast joints around Bangalore will tell you, no point how good the Dosa is, if the chutney can’t measure up then it is a waste. In this case both chutney and Sambar are excellent in taste and add to the overall breakfast experience.

The ritual for our gang is to land up and order a round of Idlis, Vadas and Chow-chow bath to share while the Dosas get ready. The Dosa is guarded and eaten one per person, not shared, unless it is your second or possibly third one.

The filter coffee is decent too. Given that we have done approx 100 Kms typically to get here, it is very much expected that we will linger for some time. Therefore the coffee is important. I don’t think I have ever been to Mayura and come away in less than an hour.

It is also a place that you typically run in to other bikers you know or friends who are travelling to Chikmagalur / Hassan etc. Always a pleasure to run in to people you know.

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The Conversation just flows…
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This was from my first ride to Mayura, back in 2015. Pre-Harley ride.
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This was from my first ride to Mayura, back in 2015. Pre-Harley ride.

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Chikmagalur Ride – June 2017

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Been a long time since my last post. Well it has been a long time since my last long ride too. Since last Aug, been mostly doing breakfast rides and those too, sparingly. So, you can imagine, how I was itching to do a longer. There was a long weekend coming up in July, with Id being on a Monday.

I pushed my biking buddies to plan for a ride. We discussed venues within a 350Km radius of Bangalore. Options from Ooty to Masinagudi came up, including Kodaikanal and Valparai. Some of our buddies had recently been to Valparai and it looked heavenly. We zeroed in on Valparai as the destination and all but finalised the hotel we would be staying at.

Click here to see a video on Valparai by my Bullet riding buddy AJ.

Then a discussion around better halves and kids accompanying us came up. So, Valparai as a destination suddenly became too far off, being an 8 hr drive time as per Google Maps.

This meant we had to reduce the radius down to below 300 Kms and mostly very good roads. Chikmagalur and Madikere were prime contenders. Don’t remember exactly how but we figured that Chikmagalur was where we were headed. Luckily for us one of our buddies is in the travel industry and was able to rustle up quite a few options for budget resorts.

As on all such trips, there were a number of people who signed up in the beginning but as the date grew nearer there were dropouts. Finally leaving us with 11 bikes, 3 pillions and 4 people (including two kids) driving in the car.

As is the norm, we decided we needed to meet and plan the ride over a few drinks. And as is the norm we met and had the few drinks. We then had a few more and just to be sure we leave no stone unturned, we had a few more. Like all excellent plans this one was simple. Get up early on Saturday morning and ride to Chikmagalur.

Hatching the Ride Plan
Hatching the Ride Plan

Actually, just to be sure, we did publish time and meeting points on the Whatsapp group. In case anyone forgot which day or where we were riding to.

Come Saturday a.m. we were all excited and up at the crack of dawn, literally. The south Bangalore bunch was getting together at 6 a.m. at Meenakshi Mall and the north bunch at Mekhri Circle. Ofcourse everyone was on time and we began the ride promptly at 6:00. Oh well…..actually it was more like 7:30 a.m. First the driver we had hired to drive my Innova showed up half an hour late and then each one of us decided to

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fuel up at different points in time……Sigh !!

 

Finally , after much

ado, we were off! Yay!

 

 

Kind of! At least the journey had started in earnest for some of us. The plan was to get together on Tumkur road so the north Bangalore boys could transfer their bags including precious liquid cargo in to the car.

As luck would have it the toll road had some severe confusion and the entrance was being used as an exit. This predictably caused utter chaos. There was traffic piled up for a couple of hundred meters on the toll road and off it. Both streams making for the same opening but heading in opposite directions. Utter bedlam! (was too cheesed off by it to take a photo, would have been entertaining to look at now).

It took us a good 20 minutes to realize that it was futile to try and get on to the toll road. By which time we were deeply entrenched in the traffic. Luckily two wheels can maneuver much easier and we were able to get out of there and head down the service road. Finally we all managed to meet, only 2.5 hours behinds schedule. The car of course had gone much further ahead so the north boys had to bear their load till Nelmangala.

At Nelmangala, we actually got together, finally. Bags were transferred and everyone was all set for the long ride. But of course, the driver had duly disappeared. He chose that very moment to demonstrate his independence of opinion and decided it was time for him to have breakfast. Well…..

We bikers are a resilient bunch and not deterred by such minor inconveniences as traffic bedlam and a sudden absence of drivers. We held steadfast and after a few hundred phone calls managed to convince the driver that when we were speaking of going ‘fast’ it didn’t mean were not going to eat.

So, a mere 3.5 hours after waking up, the journey to Chikmagalur actually began..

The decided breakfast destination was one of our all-time favorite breakfast ride destinations, Mayura Cafe on Bellur cross.

Click here for a post on Mayura at Bellur Cross.

 

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Post Breakfast Conversation

Having wrapped ourselves around some super yummy benne-dosa, we were ready to get down to the business of serious conversation. This is of course the lifeline of all rides. The fact that we can all get together and repeat the same old ride stories. It is needed, since there is a slender chance that one of the people at the table might not remember every nuanced detail.

Mayura always has a plethora of bikes visiting for breakfast. This time around too, there was a sizeable number. I met and briefly chatted with a group of bikers who were going around south karnataka and one of their number was planning to do it on a Navi . This of course elicited the required comments such as, he must have set off last night to reach here for breakfast etc. It is a must to make these remarks you know.

With a nice brekker and even nicer conversation we were now ready to move on. We took out the trusty old smart phone and decided a common rendezvous point. We zeroed in on a spot where the road looked like it was developing a severe case of the twisties and was going nuts. We knew that if some of us were not to be helplessly lost, to wander about the highway for all time to come or till the tank runs out, we needed to meet before the turns. With a point of meeting established, we all set out.

Back on the road and towards Chikmagalur.

Might be time to point out that our little gang, loftily called, the Ministry of Torque, hosts bikes and riders of varying abilities. There are some who ride fast, some who ride very fast and others like me who ride at a measured stately pace (also called slow). So whenever we go on a long ride like this, in under a minutes we are strung out across the better part of a kilometer. Therefore, it is very important for us to establish common meeting points along the route.

Of course, being seasoned bikers that we are, we never meet at the designated points. However luckily, in this instance, we did manage meet at ‘a’ point and did not lose any of us.

Any regrouping quickly degenerates in to a chai-sutta stop. But then we are out for the ride so the occasional stop and break is always nice. The non-smokers took the opportunity to sample some local ‘nariyal paani’ and the whole thing was now threatening to become a full-fledged picnic.

Just about then we remembered that there was lunch waiting for us at the resort. Hey, didn’t I mention, this group loves its food. The waiting lunch was enough to get us motivated and back in to the saddle. Post Hassan, the route to Chikmagalur becomes a small 2 lane road with no divider. It is very picturesque, though it was spring / summer time it was still quite green and great fun to ride through. I took a couple of opportunities to ride ahead of the group and stop to take pictures of the riders going past. Got a couple of nice pics and plenty of pics with random vehicles blocking the shot 😐

In due course, we overshot the resort. The road is so nice that the lead riders did not bother to look left or right, just kept riding. However, someone spotted that we had overshot, so we backed up and in to the resort. The parking at the resort was a bit tricky, it was down a steep ravine (almost) and the route was unpaved. It was challenging to get ourselves down to the parking but we managed it sans mishap. The customary arrival photo done we were all set to remove the boots and hit lunch.

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The resort owner was kind enough to send one his boys to fetch us some chilled beer. Best thing about a long ride in hot weather is how good the cold beer tastes afterwards.

Good food and great tasting beer was what we needed to get us in to a happy mood. one of the guys had carried a Bluetooth speaker along, we put on some toe tapping numbers and off we went dancing the blues away. It was super fun to have everyone stand and dance to the music. Nothing like some beer and dancing to iron out the cricks of a long ride.

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Shortly thereafter we were ready to hit the sack. another great thing of long rides is the afternoon / evening nap. It is almost a ritual to snooze off, unless you do a very long ride reaching only in the evening, in which case a good massage helps too.

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The evening was a repeat of the afternoon ritual of alcohol and music. This time though we had the good old story telling too. Any long ride is incomplete without the reminisces of other long rides. The stories of breakdowns and near saves are also de rigueur at the evening campfire. There was an actual campfire, the resort had put together for the guests, there were a few others besides us over there. It was a fantastic evening for all of us sitting around snacking, drinking and chatting.

Next morning we all woke up , just about. Post Breakfast there was consensus that we should go and explore the town. On the net, we found what looked like a nice coffee shop. Plenty of coffee estates in the area, so one assumed it should be easy to find a good coffee shop. As it turns out all the coffee shops in the Chikmagalur main-market sell coffee – the beans & powder, not the brew! 😦 Anyone going to Chikmagalur please take note and don’t get misguided by the names in Google maps.

 

We did eventually find a nice small place on the first floor that served decent filter Coffee and had nice pakodas to boot. We belted a few of them. Something about good coffee – it makes you want to kick off and ride. The same happened to us and we all took off wanting to explore the surrounding areas.

The hill roads were marvelous, all of us riding in a staggered formation taking the curves in synch, was super fun. We rode like that for about 30 kms before turning around.

Lunch & some more snooze later it was almost the end of the trip. We had a slightly sedate evening since we had to ride back to Bangalore the next Morning.

The ride back was a straight and Simple affair. Before leaving, we had to have the usual photo-shoot.

On the way back we stopped at the CCD on Hassan road to take a break from the heat. A couple of cold coffees and cooling of heels later we were ready to get back home.

In the words of good old Willy (The Solitary Reaper), long afterwards the memory of the ride still lingered in our hearts.

“The music in my heart I bore,

Long after it was heard no more.”

 

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First Ride – Triumph Thunderbird Storm LT

Big BoyBeen three years with the Harley Davidson Superlow 883.

I have been itching to get me a bigger bike. The choices ranged from a Street Bob to a Fat Boy. Was seriously contemplating buying a Fat Boy when the opportunity to buy a Triumph Thunderbird Storm LT presented itself.

The bike was eye-poppingly gorgeous. That was it, the decision was made and I have got myself a seriously big cruise bike.

The Triumph Thunderbird Storm LT.

Engine capacity and weight wise it is more than 2x my Harley Superlow. 1700 CC and more than 400 KGs (when loaded).

(Aside: This takes the family count to 3 🙂 )

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Predictably, I was a little skeptical of how I will be able to handle it. While I am bigger than the average Joe, 400Kg + of bike is seriously BIG.

This Wednesday I got an opportunity to take the bike on a big broad road, thanks to my office offsite.

Rode it out of JP Nagar for the first time. Out on to the airport road. Having reached close to the destination well ahead of time, I decided to go and cruise some miles on the Hyderabad highway. It was a great opportunity to experience the ride. Got an opportunity to open the throttle a bit and feel the wind. It was fluidity in motion.

Next day the off-site ended around 5-30 pm, giving me the opportunity to ride the beast in total peak hour traffic. Something that I was dreading.

Here are my thoughts after my first real ride on the Thunderbird LT.

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Obviously, the bike is really heavy to move around from a stationery position. Especially if you are trying to back out of a parking. The Superlow itself is a bit heavy to pull out of parking and this one is seriously tough. So, whenever looking to park this baby, have to make sure that I can come out of the parking easily enough. Most often though try and park in reverse, facing the way you will be heading out.

Because it is so heavy, like all cruisers you need to make sure the bike is vertical at point of stopping or even slowing down. And preferably, keep it in a straight line. In peak hour traffic, straight line was the toughest challenge.

But once you are on the move, my word, the Thunderbird LT can eat up the road like nobody’s business.

The seating position is perfect, keeps your relaxed and the back straight. The stock seat has plenty of cushion and good back support built-in, the pillion seat adds further support too. The foot boards just make the whole ride so much more comfortable, never thought it would make so much of difference. Would expressly recommend, all those wanting to do long rides, to immediately upgrade pegs to boards. Seriously.

Now to speak of the power. Even in low gears, steering from a standstill, the bike can literally rocket off. The size and comfortable stance belies the kind of Torque and power it generates. In most cases you will leave the rest of the people at the signal staring in awe, unless there be superbikes.

Once in motion the bike handles like a dream, you have immense power available to you in almost all gears, so you can cruise and rev up whenever you want. More than once I just kicked the bike in to 20kph more by just revving a little bit. This worked even in fifth gear, did not get a chance to get to the 6th.

It is totally planted and rock solid on the road (plus side of the 400+ Kg), I hit a few bumps and a couple of potholes, did not have any impact in the least. The clearance is pretty good too, did not scrape any speed-breakers. Riding the Superlow for 3 years I am very conscious of speed breakers and the clearance, you can say I have developed serious respect for them.

The bumps and speed breakers gave an opportunity to get a feel for the shock-absorbers. They are good, you can feel the cushioning of the bump. They are really soft on the bumps, but not so responsive that they act as a damper on normal speed and uneven roads.

I also loved the ability of the bike to take curves, the weight comes in handy of course. While I did not go on any hills, just the usual sweeping turns on the highway. I found that I did not need to adjust anything to hold a line through the curves. Just lean on the handle bars a little and you are in business. Need to do some hill riding to get the hang of it though.

Need to figure a way to get someone to photograph me on one of these long sweeping highway curves.

The one issue I did find was with the handling at very low speeds. As I was stuck in traffic on the Hebbal flyover, I had plenty of opportunity to test this out as well. The handle bar wobbles and needs really firm handling, pressuring your arms.

Heating, peak traffic gives one the chance to really test the heating effect. Given the size of the engine, it was not too bad really. Especially when compared to the air cooled Harley I have been riding. Of course, this is liquid cooled with a huge radiator up front. However, it did get uncomfortable, so much that after an hour of riding in first and second gear I actually stopped for a few minutes to cool myself and the bike down. So, not really a bike for that city commute.

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Cooling down, both of us, self and the bike.

Last but not the least is the road presence. No one can ‘not notice’ this bike on the road. The massive size, the sheer volume of air it occupies is enough. The curves, the blue-white color, the windshield, the saddle bags, the lights all lend to the uber-cool look on the road. Then to add to it is the sound of twin engines revving.

All in all it is an awesome bike.

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Here is to many many miles to go.

Ride Hard, Ride Safe!

 

 

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