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Two Wheels to Move the Soul

Writing about my motorbike rides and other motorcycle related stuff

Author

pankajjathar

Hi, I live in Bangalore and love my sports, playing and viewing. I also love motorbiking and hiking. Walking around in the Himalayas is a real pleasure and I try to do that at least once a year. I blog about Sports and about my Motorcycle rides.

What goes up …. !

MoT pic 1
The Usual Suspects !

Riding has always been an adventure sport, there is literally nothing separating you from the elements. The vehicle requires balance and the smallest loss of concentration can have severe consequences. Of course as a rider one always believes accidents happen to other people who are reckless. When you are out riding short or long there are a number of elements at play of which only some are directly controllable. But then, it is part of the joy of riding where you are part of the world around you and not disconnected from it in an aluminium bubble.

So, it was nothing short of a severe shock when I took a toss recently. I was riding to Goa for the India Bike Week – 2019. The best thing about riding for an event like this is the number of riders out on the road. There is always company to be had.

This happened in Chorla ghat. The roads were messed up due to the excess rain that came down in Aug Sept ’19. Unfortunately for me , at that particular point I was riding alone in a space of about 200 metres ahead and behind. Just around the curve was a massive crater. There had been other craters that had come by but up to that point the road had been ok, nothing very different from other bad roads one has experienced.

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En Route to Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh
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Serious mud splaterring….

 

To step back a bit, I had recently ridden in Arunachal Pradesh, the roads there were really bad. We were on much smaller bikes (Himalayans) and were able to negotiate the seriously bad roads without any issues. The Arunachal kind of trip is very good to help one understand how to ride in hills and on bad roads. It teaches you some amount of humility and a lot of camaraderie. But in my case it probably gave me a certain hubris of having been there done that. And moving from the Himalayan to my monster of a bike I was even more confident of being able to negotiate anything the road had to offer.

Therefore up to that point any pothole or other road features did not get any respectful slowing down from me. I would just point the bike straight at the pothole and ride through it hardly slowing down, just rising in my seat a bit. All classic examples of what not to do.

The huge crater that got me was just around the bend, so I did not get a chance to spot it early. I was singing in my helmet (actually trying to recall lyrics to purani jeans). I looked at the crater and rose a little in my seat. That was probably the second mistake, first one was not emergency braking as soon as I saw how big the crater was. I was definitely not speeding (I very rarely do) , was cruising at 40ish, but that too was faster than I should have been for that road condition. The bike went in and bounced up really hard. I was already half-standing and got thrown off the bike completely. Luckily for me the bike and I went in separate directions from that point. I landed on my face and chest. At the moment of impact I was conscious and stood back up. There was a car which had come up and I actually remember declaring to the person in the car that I was fine before passing out. Next when I came to, I could see a number of bikers had gathered, some of them were pulling my bike out of a ditch (or the side of the road) and others were helping me with my helmet and jacket.

Helmet 2

This is a good time to appreciate the importance of equipment. I was wearing a Shark helmet, carbon fiber. It is a testament to the helmet that all I got was a swollen lip and a cut on the inside lower lip where my teeth went in at impact. My jacket and trouser are a set from Alpinestars. I have added chest and back protectors to the jacket. Landing on my chest, the protector definitely helped, other than getting the wind knocked out for a few seconds I was fine. My gloves were the cheapest piece of equipment I had. The palm tore and I had scratches near my wrist – probably my watch and bracelet were the cause. The gloves were gone, however the jacket & trouser had no sign of damage at all. When I bought these, it was certainly an expensive deal and I have my wife to thank for egging me to buy good equipment. While she might not be a fan of biking (certainly not after this incident) she was responsible for helping me make the choice for better equipment. Certainly glad she did that.

The most important factor in all this was the action taken by other bikers. My friends and biking group I was riding with were of course there, and so were a number of unknown bikers, some of them turned and came back to help when they heard of it. A genuine heartfelt thanks to each one of you out there who came to help. A special shout out to my bunch the Ministry of Torque who stood by me all through. A few of them waited till the bike could be fixed up enough to be ridden to Goa. I was immediately taken to a local hospital where they did basic first aid, luckily that is all that was needed.

Heartfelt thanks to Raj, Parth, Sharad, Shalin, Kiran, MJ and Suhail (who worked his magic to get the bike in rideable shape). Thanks to Joe as well, who helped with getting the bike offloaded in Bangalore on a Sunday.

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Thats the baby being packed for the roadtrip to Bangalore

Well, I am still recovering, my wrists are still not back to 100%, esp the right one where I might have landed and taken severe impact, nothing broken but it is weak. The bike is also recovering courtesy of Joe’s Garage.

Respect the road

Lessons to take away from this: i. always ask yourself if you are being too cocksure and extra smart, be honest and down to earth (else you might get down to earth like I did) ii. Ride in groups and have a friends who will stand by you iii. Invest in high quality equipment, this cannot be emphasized enough and iv. Put in some effort to learn riding skills either through tons of practice or formally.

I am of course back to riding. Currently riding to work, since I do have a bullet and a Harley still in the garage. Ride on and stay safe !!

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The Dependables !!
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Streets of Goa
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Monkeying around
cover photo the fall
On the road…

 

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.

under-prepared

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.

Olympics 1

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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Ramble all day

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A Lovely Day to Ride !

Just one of those days when all you want to do is Ride, Ride, Ride!!

A few days ago, I accidentally ended up with an extra day’s holiday. We had taken a family vacation for the whole week, but we were going to be back by the Thursday. This left one whole Friday to ride.

I informed the Biking buddies that I planned to ride all day. Of course, it could have been better planned with more notice to people to join. But heck what is life if not impromptu ride planning.

A couple of my riding friends concurred that riding all day was a swell idea and signed up. I needed to get to Mysore by Friday evening, so the ride would need to end there. A riding buddy who has frequented every route in this part of the state on his RE and now Versys, suggested a route.

Bangalore to Mysore the long way. The suggested route was to go from JP Nagar South Bangalore to Bellur Cross, breakfast at Mayura, ride on to Hassan, take the bypass to Kushalnagara, take a look at the Buddhist Monastery there, a spot of lunch & then head to Mysore. Further socializing of the plan got a good recco for a Tibetan lunch at Kushalnagara.

Map for blogpost ramble all day

Had all the markings of an excellent ride plan.

All set for a ramble on the road….

1st June Morning, I had some helping out at home to do, getting the kids all set for school in the morning etc. So, had to delay the take off by an hour. I finally managed to get out at about 7:30 in the morning.

When you are riding only for the joy of riding there is no undue pressure of the clock. It also helps when you have friends who think alike and don’t mind the slow start to the day.

First stop as always, the fuel pump to get the tank full, with the big tank that the Thunderbird has (27 liters) it gives a range of 300+ Km – enough to keep me going for some time.

Bannerghata road was the usual mess, since we were already in to commuting time. Just getting to the beginning of the NICE Expressway was a chore. But luckily that was the only traffic part of the day. Once on to the NICE expressway it was a pleasure to ride. While the expressway was a little busy with the commuting traffic, there was enough room and empty stretches to make you sit back and relax while the bike does its bit.

Of course, the entire NICE expressway stretch lasts only about 15 minutes, at the end of which you reach Tumkur road, these days the entry in to the Toll part of NH4 from the NICE exit has become a major bottleneck. It has been so since about Oct’ 17. Some roadwork going on, hopefully a long-term solution to the bottleneck problem. Once on the toll road it is a reasonable ride up to Nelamangala, where you turn off and on to Hassan road.

From there till you reach Bellur Cross it is bliss, excellent road and very little traffic. What I like about the road is the visibility it gives you at most times, you can see ahead for more than a KM at most times and the road is of excellent quality (guess big politicians frequently doing Bangalore-Hassan commutes is one reason for this, I am not complaining)

The simple pleasure of riding a Cruise bike like the Triumph Thunderbird LT is that you can actually sit back, keep the throttle steady and enjoy the feeling of the highway going past beneath and the sky above you. There is enough room and comfort on the bike to be able to do the ‘relax’ bit easily.

LT comfort

Built for comfort 🙂

It is such a joy to ride this route. No wonder it is one of our favorite breakfast ride destinations.

At Bellur we met a couple of other bikers who were also out on a random ramble, the kind where you decide where to go while on the road. The food and ambience were perfect, as expected and with it being a weekday, there was very little crowd. Most of the time when bikers get there, we sit outside on the patio, it is really nice. So much so that in the 4+ years that I have been going there I have never seen the inside of the place J

Mayura
Bellur Cross – Breakfast time…

We did a bit of thinking on the route and decided to stick to the plan. Kumar, who I was riding with, was quite familiar with the route and would lead the way. Like me, he too is of the opinion that riding at a steady pace and enjoying the ride is more important than getting somewhere by a particular time.

The next stage was a nice longish stretch from Bellur Cross to Kushalnagara. Big highway up to Hassan and then a left turn to get in to A & B roads. The road quality was very good though it was a single lane with no divider. Very little local traffic and generally scenic. After riding for an hour or so, we stopped to take a couple of pics – farmland in the background and asphalt in the fore.

Ramble Lake

From thereon, the road afforded a lovely meandering ride. Slow riding on small roads with the wind blowing in your face (helmet in our case) has a joy of its own. The fact that you are out there just to ride means you can take this kind of opportunity to enjoy all the space and breathe in the freedom.

Further riding brought us to a small town where we stopped for some coconut water. The thing with an eye-candy machine is that you attract a lot of attention and people always have two questions that all bikers are familiar with.

“how much is the cost?”

“what is the average?”

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This town was no different. I stopped at a point to click some photos – there were plenty of Brahmini kites swooping around. The bike was immediately surrounded and there were the usual 2 questions and requests for selfies with the bike.

 

The guys we met at breakfast had suggested stopping at the Café Coffee Day near Kushalnagara. Soon, we pulled up to the CCD. It is a truly picturesque one. Would totally recommend it to anyone visiting that area. To top it all, there was an offer of buy one and get one free on their milkshakes. Nothing better than a cold milkshake on a sweltering day (Well, beer of course, but then we were riding…)

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This CCD is pretty close to the turn-off for the Monastery. Having cooled ourselves down a bit we headed to the monastery. Surprisingly there were plenty of tourists there. The place has an organized parking lot, with a security guard. So, we were ok to leave the bikes in the parking and look around the monastery. Laden with riding gear and walking on riding boots, there was not much we were going to achieve in terms of a monastery visit. So, we just sauntered around a bit, clicked a few photos and we were soon back at the bikes.

We had a recommendation for lunch, at a Tibetan restaurant called Potala. We headed there from the monastery. It is in the market section of the Tibetan town. Feels so quaint to be in a Tibetan town just 80 KMs from Mysore in the heart of Karnataka. Also feels good that our country continually finds it in our hearts to provide refuge and livelihood to those who need it. Parking here was a bit tricky, no specific parking place, but for some reason the crowds were all at the shops & restaurants near the monastery. There are plenty of nice Tibetan shops here and I am sure my wife and kids would love to shop in these.

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The Monastery – well worth a visit

Tibetan food

Authentic Tibetan Food

Lunch was superb. Both of us are veggies and we had a simple lunch of Momos, Thukpa and some fried rice. The quantity was sumptuous and the taste was authentic. Loved the meal. Totally worth riding all the way there just for the food.

All that was missing for us was coffee. That would have to be remedied back on the highway. From Kushalnagara to Mysore is a nice 80KM ride, however as you approach Mysore the road starts getting busier obviously. The road also has its share of Potholes. Do watch out for the potholes and for sudden swerves by those looking to avoid the potholes.

There are plenty of places to stop for a coffee, we chose a random small tea stall. The chap was nice enough to make fresh coffee for us. We answered the two questions to satiate the curiosity of a few locals while we waited for the coffee. A fun thing on the roads approaching Mysore are the Mango vendors. They stack the fruits up in the most colorful pyramids. Couldn’t resist the desire to click a few snaps with the mangoes.

Shortly we were in Mysore (5:30 pm) and reached the hotel we were checking into, thereby bringing the ramble to an end.

I for one totally loved the day and the feel of being in the saddle all day long. Nothing better than to spend a day riding. Already looking forward to the next one.

 

Mango
Fruit Season
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Quite corner in a busy town
Cover photo
Backroads

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!

 

 

22K on the Harley !!

Last week here was an office offsite (overnighter) at a resort near the airport, so I took the opportunity to ride to the offsite on my bike. The temptation being that I could go ride early the next morning. The downside of course was that I would have to ride back home at the end of the day across the city through peak hour commuter traffic. But well, one does these trade-offs to ride.

So, at approximately the crack of dawn, I was up and out. Google said the sun would rise at 6:28 a.m. So, I was off the blocks at 6, which I hoped would give me enough opportunity to click some good snaps with a spectacular sunrise. The previous week, the sky had been blood red at sunrise, was hoping for a repeat. But unfortunately, it was a tepid sunrise as far as colors are concerned. A very unspectacular affair.

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I was riding north of the airport, my aim was to get to a palce called ‘Swathi Delicacy” which serves good filter coffee and the usual south Indian fare. Given that I had to be back at the resort for the 8:30 a.m start. I would just have enough time for a quick run to Swathi and then back. Leaving me about 30 mins to shower, change and be ‘corpo’ again.

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The most interesting thing happened. The world had been reasonably bright and clear up to the point of the sunrise, I was around Devanhalli. As soon as the sun rose, the place totally changed character. It suddenly became foggy. Visibility which was really good up to that point dropped down to less than 25-30 meters. I was wearing my riding glasses, they have foam padding to not let any breeze in, they promptly fogged up, forcing me to remove them. The fog was also extremely wet, leaving my helmet visor wet and lowering my visibility further.

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It was certainly not what I had expected. I was looking forward to a refreshing quick run to get an early morning dose of filter coffee . Instead I was crawling along a highway with no visibility and was soaking wet. I was hoping that the fog would roll off just as soon as it had come but no such luck. I rode along for a good 30 minutes at slow speed and wet to boot. I was also beginning to feel seriously cold by this point, shivering is the word.

So, packing up all the desire for coffee I had to turn back, else I would be late for the morning session as well. On the way back, I looked down at the Odo and wow, I was on 22K Kms.

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It is a good milestone, 3 years on the bike. As you might know, I acquired the bike from a friend, it was 7K on the Odo when I got it and it is now 22K, I have added 15K in the time. Not a huge number I know, but then with a corporate and a family life both taking up bulk of the time it is a number to be happy about. It encompasses 2 rides to Goa, 1 each to Ooty, Chikmagalur, Mahabalipuram and numerous breakfast rides. Hoping to do more of these in the coming time.

 

It is also time for me to move on from the Superlow to a bigger bike. More on that in due course.

p.s. – the offsite was a lovely location, giving an opportunity for a few very nice pics. IMG_20180312_090215IMG_20180313_134758-EFFECTS

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