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Two Wheels to Move the Soul

Writing about my motorbike rides and other motorcycle related stuff

Month

December 2018

Riding in the Olympic National Park

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I was on a work trip to the state of Washington and had a weekend available to myself. I have been wanting to rent a bike in the USA for a while. This was the opportunity. Booked a Fatboy with Eagle Rider in Seattle. One of my batchmates (Walia) lives there and he was also keen on the ride. He rented a GS1200 (BMW).

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Another thing I have wanted to do is ride in the Olympics peninsula. It is an absolutely gorgeous place in terms of natural beauty. It is a place where rainfall is approximately 12 feet per year. Forks, a town in one corner of the Olympic peninsula is the home of the teeny Vampire romance ‘Twilight’. I have been here once about 6 years ago. It was a phenomenal experience. Really making me want to go back to the Olympics.

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So, the grand plan was to ride up to Forks and then come back the next day. I realized very soon that it was a bit of an over-ambitious plan. By the time Walia and I finished breakfast at his place and moved to the Eagle Rider and got saddled up it was past midday. We then had to negotiate traffic on the Interstate Highway which is no fun. I don’t know if Washington state allows bikes to split lanes, but heck we did it anyway. No point being on nimble two wheels if you cannot ride past cars on a busy highway. Of course, you cannot weave around on the highways the way you would do in India, but then it is also a necessity in India and not choice. In the US one could move fast enough keeping to the same lane at most times.

Soon we crossed the most beautiful bridge to ride on – the Floating Bridge – and soon were in to the Olympic National park and the broad Interstate gave way to a much smaller 2 lane road and the traffic thinned quite a bit. The real pleasure of riding started from here. We rode for the most part of an hour, till hunger started gnawing at our insides. Walia was quick with his phone to identify a nice restaurant and we turned off in to this lovely little town in a cul-de-sac port.

If I were ever on the lookout for a retirement place (though quite cold) this would be perfect. At that point the Sun decided to come out and pay us a visit. It became just the perfect lunch spot, nice restaurant overlooking a bevy of beautiful boats, with the sunlight playing off the water. To complete the scenery there was also a totem pole in an open ground further up. Retirement haven!

The locals in most small towns are very friendly as they were here too. We spoke to a few people, they appreciated the bike and commented on the weather being good for a ride etc. Overall it was the perfect afternoon lunch, really glad we found the place and stopped. Walia had to turn back from there as he had some stuff to take care of the next day in Seattle. We exchanged rides up to the fork in the road where we would part ways. We then bid adieu to each other and headed separate ways.

GS

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Port Angeles was another 50 miles from that point. Highway 101 is a nice route and I quite thoroughly enjoyed riding the 101. Soon I was cold as an icicle as I drew in to Port Angeles. It was getting on in the day, figured I would rather stop at this lovely little town than go further. Definitely did not want to ride in the night. I spotted a Walmart on the outskirts. Noted it for future reference as I was quite under-prepared and would need to come and pick up some clothes from here. While it had not rained down on me, the roads were wet, which meant plenty of water on my shoes, hands and jeans.

 

I saw signs saying Hurricane Ridge. Turned in to the info-center, checked with them if it was ok to ride up, they reassured me it was perfectly fine. That road was just gorgeous, winding and curvaceous perfectly banked as well so you could ride with confidence on the curves. Though it was wet and getting colder, so the riding had to be slow. My word dense woods and winding roads, these are what my riding dreams are made up of. As I rode up that road, I really really enjoyed that ride, it was just amazing. Forgot all about the cold losing myself on the ride. All good things of course must come to an end. Being foggy with scant chance of the Sun returning, there were no views to be had from the top.

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Once back down to Port Angeles, I did the most important thing of the evening, went and bought myself a sweatshirt, another large full sleeve tee, a couple of pairs of socks and a track pant for the night (I had carried shorts :-D). Just buying that stuff made me feel warmer!! Next step on the agenda to figure out a place to stay. A couple of chain hotels said they were full up and pointed me to smaller places closer to town, which was a good thing. I found a decent place called Riviera Inn, very nice. The girl at the reception was very informative and told me to go and take a look at Ediz Hook. It was on my agenda from Google maps, but a local endorsement definitely helps to prioritize. I put on two more layers of clothing (newly procured) and suddenly the world was a much happier place to ride in.

Ediz Hook is a thin strip of land that juts out in to the sea. You can see downtown Port Angeles and one side and I guess Canada on the other side, weather permitting. Gorgeous little strip of land with the sea on both sides. It is home to sea gulls, it is a conservation area for that specific purpose, so plenty of gulls flying and squawking all around.

Ediz Hook 1Ediz Hook 2

Ediz Hook Bikers

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Back at the hotel, the receptionist recommended a good Mexican restaurant, since beer would be on the menu I decided to leave the bike behind and walk to the restaurant.  Boy was it cold on the walk there and much more so on the way back. The restaurant itself was nice, warm and served pretty tasty food.  Overall a nice way to top off an already fantastic day.

 

 

 

Nothing like a good night’s sleep to rejuvenate one at the end of a long day in the saddle. And nothing like a cold and wet morning with clouds and fog to dampen that rejuvenated spirit. I had planned to ride up the 112 to Neah Bay, from where Orcas could be spotted, but the weather put paid to those plans. After waiting for an hour or so I decided that the weather was as good as it would ever get that day and kicked off. Visibility improved but the drizzle was still on. The Olympics is known to have rained down on better people than me, so who am I to complain!

As I rode out of town the temperature dropped and I was already shivering and cold to the bone.  The roads though were gorgeous.

Roads

Though I was shivering the beautiful surroundings kept me going. Long undulating roads, nobody but me riding along. Sheer Bliss!!!

On any other day I would have stopped and taken pictures but not this time. I was afraid that if I stopped I would turn back for sure. I had set myself the goal to get at least up to Lake Crescent before heading back to Seattle. Finally I made it to the lake, boy was it worth it. Such a hauntingly beautiful sight. Of course, I was too cold to enjoy the view properly but I did drink it all in for a good few minutes before turning back. I did not have the cajones to make it all the way around the lake.

The way back I stopped at the Walmart where I knew I could get a hot drink and a decent toilet to try and dry myself. Thanks to the mist and fog my jeans, shoes and socks were all soaked thoroughly. No wonder I was shivering. When I did stop at the Walmart, and did get my hands on a hot coffee it was a big relief. In spite of the hot coffee in my hand I could not stop the involuntary shivers. Haven’t felt this cold in a long long time.

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From there it was a long ride back to town. I did miss one turn and ended up taking a bit of a detour however the ride was great fun. Finally around midday the sun showed up. Stopped at a gas station, had a bar of chocolate and more coffee standing in the sun. Soon my jeans and shoes dried off with the wind and the sun, socks and feet were however another story.

Thanks to my buddy Walia who came to pick me up from the Eagle Riders bike rental place. We headed out for a spot of good lunch and there is where the fantastic ride came to a close. Only until the next time when I will be better equipped.

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RE GT650 – First feel for the new Twin from Royal Enfield

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Trying out the new RE GT650.

I was lucky enough to get my hands on the new Royal Enfield GT 650, a totally brand new one, one of the (if not the) first GT650 in Bangalore. So, here is what I thought of the bike.

Firstly, let’s get the gorgeous looks out of the way. Of course it is always a matter of opinion, beauty …beholder all that. But seriously, I think the RE folks have got this one just right. It has the perfect symmetry that can only come with twin engines and one silencer on each side of the bike. The Café Racer shape is there but it is a little muted which has the right appeal rather than an overdone café racer long tank etc. The dual dials hit the right spot and complete the symmetry factor. Overall, I think the GT650 is one serious piece of eye candy.

 

Coming to the feel of the engine when you switch it on. It has a soft purr, no thump here, it has the purr of a tiger waiting to pounce. While I have a leaning towards loud pipes personally, the GT650 has a nice note to the sound and gives a reassuring sense of power under the sound. When you open the throttle, the purr becomes a powerful growl.

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The bike is seriously peppy. I rode it on the Nice expressway and in the city. On the expressway, I could open the throttle and get to 100+ before I realized it. And even while cruising at 110 or so there is plenty more pep in the bike to overtake someone by twisting the throttle some more. It got up to the 130+ range quite easily but I think 140+ would need a little push on the bike. But for most rides and riders this is plenty of power. Within the city of course it has enough pep for you to make that signal before it turns red or overtake someone when you need to. There is serious power in the bike and it is available in all gear positions. I think the engineers at RE have got the tuning of the engine perfect for the urban commute.

The braking was what I was most impressed with on the bike. I own a Classic 500 (my daily commute bike), a Harley Superlow and a Triumph Thunderbird, all three of them have varying levels of braking with only the TB having ABS. This bike however I would say is really superb at stopping when you want to or even when you need to. The weight is front loaded so the front bake needs to be engaged more and hey my weight is getting a bit front-loaded too these days so yeah! But seriously, I was impressed with the braking. This is by far the best feature of the bike and one of paramount importance.

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Handling and taking curves was really good too. Now, I am not the most aggressive of riders and to date my knee has never touched the ground on a curve, though occasionally I have done some random tests to see if gravity is still working. However, on this bike the confidence to make sharp turns is immense. I would rate it as good as the Harley sportsters in making sharp turns. When you come off the Nice expressway at Tumkur road, (heading towards the city) there is plenty of opportunity to maintain a very sharp line as the road curves completely in on itself. It is a great place to experience the stability of the bike. I, for one, was very happy with the bike for the ability to take that and other turns. A more aggressive curve-boy (or girl) might touch their knees on that curve on the GT650.

The shocks were a little hard, but I guess that is the tradeoff for taking sharp turns. You get a feel for the road and all its imperfections. In most parts of India, you will find plenty of imperfections on the road to get a feel for. At one point on the Nice expressway I had to ride over some wooden planks which appeared out of nowhere, while I felt the bump very much, the bike was very stable and did not get troubled by the unexpected bounce.

Clutch and gear shifting is probably an area where the refinement of the bike has not come together completely. I was left wondering at times if the gear shift has completed or not. While down-shifting especially, I would not be sure if I had switched 2 gears or 1 down. I managed to stall the bike a couple of times by slowing down in high gear, though the engine always started on the first press of the ignition. However, I think this area would need some work from RE.

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Now, my least favorite part was the aggressive seating. As you might have noticed all three of my bikes have cruiser style seating. Even the sportster is a more cruiser style seating. So, having my feet behind my derriere is something I am not ordinarily used to. The GT650 has quite an aggressive seating, halfway between a tourer and a sportster. So, in my case it bought my (ample) weight to bear on the palm of my hands where I hold the handle bars. This is most apparent when you brake. Of course, the correct way to ride is to grip the tank with your knees and use your lower back and core to maintain your riding position and not over-burden your hands. In my case though I found that I needed to actually crouch a bit to achieve that state and bending my elbows was the only way I would take pressure off my palms. I guess the riding position is the only thing on the bike I was not a fan of. Of course, everyone has a different comfort level with how they sit on the bike. The low-slung handle bars are part of the aggressive look and the visual appeal, they are also one of the reasons for being able to take sharp turns. So, riding comfort might come at the cost of maneuverability. However, for the daily commute I would say it is fine, though definitely not something you would take on a multi-day tour.

So, in sum, I would say this is one helluva machine. If I were in the market right now (and yes, my wife knows I am not in the market) this is a bike which would be top of the consideration set. I still need to ride the interceptor. On sheer looks, the GT650 wins the day and the peppy ride with superior braking and cornering it is just sweet.

Would totally recommend checking the bike out and taking it for a nice long spin, if nothing else you will have a total ball as I did.

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