Friday, June 06, 2014

Bangalore to Mumbai on a Thunderbird 500cc - Part 2

Continuing from where I left off - [ Bangalore to Mumbai on a Thunderbird 500cc - Part 1 ]

I was exhausted and sleep deprived - and the moment the head hit the pillow I dozed off. It felt as if just a minute had passed when I woke up the next day morning. I got excited thinking about the ride ahead. A journey of 1000+ Kms awaited me. Bangalore was Bangalore that morning - the night rain had cooled it considerably and it was just perfect.

We packed stuff and hit the road around 9AM. This time we were heading to Nice road away from the peak hour madness and the traffic was light. I stopped at a Puncture shop to check the tyre pressure. The mechanic asked me to put center stand since he could not reach the back wheel's inlet. I just couldn't do it. I tried the standing on the stand technique but the bike wouldn't budge. He helped me put the center stand.  Even though the bike weights 200Kgs, I did not feel the heaviness - till this instance.

We then entered the Nice road. Paid Rs.48 till Tumkur Exit - the only Toll I would pay. Bikes ride free on NH4. For Non-Bangaloreans - NICE Road ( Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprises ) creates a big ring road around Bangalore.  NH4 is the double lane highway - which is part of the Golden Quadrilateral Vajpayee had envisioned.

The Nice Road was empty and I shifted gears to a good speed.. and could feel the power and for the first time I experienced wind like never before - it was loud and howling. Having a heavy bike helps I guess - I did not have to lean to offset the wind push or anything. Moment I went to high speeds I could hear the wind scream all around me - what an experience. This will continue for the next 2 days! The good riding jacket was a blessing.

Prithvi boy was very excited - and he rode with me for sometime in the front. I gave him the old helmet - which doesn't have a visor - and he enjoyed the wind hitting his face real hard. After sometime I put him back in the car - he was satisfied and was smiling like crazy!

I was plain thrilled like the first time I experienced a Roller coaster ride and did not quite think much about the ride or bike - just let it flow over me the very experience.

After taking Tumkur exit and joining NH4 and riding at various speeds - I finally realised why these RE bikers are all mad about their bikes. I don't know if I am letting out a secret of RE riders.

I was cruising smoothly and somewhere between 80 and 90kmph I hit the sweet spot. The wind was quite loud and I could not hear the engine noise. The bike was smooth and had no vibrations. I could only see the road and the sky - and the little round dash and the handle bar disappeared.

I felt as if I was flying close to the ground. I kept getting this feeling again and again throughout the trip - whenever I could hit the right speed.

I stretched the bike till 110Kmph once in a while - but felt I was going way too fast - partly because of the wind noise and also the bike started giving new vibrations, so I settled back to the gentle 80 kmph. The speedometer needle is at 12'O clock position at this speed so I could keep an eye if I was speeding. Also after half a day or so even without looking at the speedometer I knew when I was riding around 80kmph - because I will get the feeling of flying :)

Also whenever I had to over take I would raise the throttle a bit and could hear the sweet bud bud sound come and the bike will surge ahead. Felt like a kid - and I did it so many times and never got bored of it!

We reached Chittaradurga around 1:30 PM and stopped for lunch in Naveen Restaurant. Every now and then a toll will come - and I will go through the bike lane and San will get stuck up and she then had to catch up with me.

One side effect of 80kmph was Honda City gave amazing fuel efficiency at this speed. When we came from Mumbai to Bangalore we filled the tank twice. Return it was just once. I have to tally the bills to find out how much petrol we really saved.

It was uneventful till we reached Hubli. San was fighting boredom following me at low speeds and we bought few CDs from a shop for her - Kishore Kumar, mid 80s and latest. I cannot imagine a road trip without songs - but never felt the need for songs while on the bike. The bike ride was entertaining enough. It was evening and the sun was setting. For another 60 or so KMs, NH4 becomes a shared road  for both oncoming vehicles. It was the good old game of over take and hide after the slow moving vehicles and this was lot of fun.

And all of a sudden the twilight sun made its appearance when I went down a hill and what a sight it was. I thought it will make a great photo shot to take the bike with such a large sun so close to the ground - but I was too busy drinking in the moment - and did not want to spoil it. Kept riding and was in awe of this Star.

You cannot time certain things in life - it will just happen by itself. This stretch of the ride was like that. Had I reached this point a little earlier or little late - I would have missed this awesome spectacle.

The original plan was to get to Kolhapur, but it was getting dark and we decided to find a place to stay in Belgaum.

Now it became pretty dark. The medians and the edges were all well lined with reflectors and they all lighted up when I pointed the headlight. The roads had no pot holes or imperfections. The entire stretch till Belgaum is a 3 laner. The road curved well, and I could lean the bike without losing any speed - and it felt so natural to ride this way. I would vote this as the best stretch of the entire trip.

We reached Belgaum around 8:30 PM and checked in to Hotel Eeffa - they also had complimentary breakfast and it was a good deal. A similar hotel in Bangalore or Mumbai would have costed a bomb.

Finally - will answer the question you all have in mind. How was my body after a day of riding? Did my back, arms, bum hurt? - Not a bit. I felt little exhausted as I was alert and excited throughout the day - but had no pain anywhere. This is what cruisers are all about I guess - can keep riding for hours at a stretch.

We slept off watching Hindi Enthiran. Remember seeing the Robot's dance last. ( To be continued..Part 3 )

At the Beginning of the long ride. 

2 Happy Kids!

More than Tolls, this guy delayed us a lot

Some jain temple in the middle of nowhere. 

This is how you get on a bike! 

Waiting at a toll

Mandatory Selfie. 

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Bangalore to Mumbai on a Thunderbird 500cc - Part 1

Yep - Did a crazy ride from Bangalore to Mumbai.

Here is the full story.

On May 23rd ( the night before we released the new UI - product plug 1 - ), I was doing QA on the site.

I stumbled upon this Classified on Buzzar ( product plug 2 : an open post-it area for buy / sell related stuff for ApartmentADDA Users ) about a Bangalore dude trying to sell his MH Thunderbird. As part of testing on the new UI I clicked I am interested and sent him a message. Immediately I got a call from him - and we started chatting.

If you know me - I am not a biker. A biker is one who grows a thick moustache, has a beer belly, has a tattoo on his biceps, can explain to you what the C in CC is in layman terms, and can fix his own motorcycle. I am none of the above.

I love the idea of riding a cruiser - like a Thunderbird, or a Harley or a Triumph. I drool on all the pictures in Top Gear, or Team BHP. I would read the stories of solo rides, long rides, crazy rides and imagine.. some day.. some day I can do these trips.

And then I  read about the horror stories of the bikes from Royal Enfield. Oil leaks, clutch cable getting cut, vibrations above a certain speed - and the fanatic RE fans.. who like Apple fanboys phoo phoo any criticism of their bikes - and I would drop the idea and go back to my life.

Now the dude I was getting the bike from is an avid rider. Has gone to Ladakh, Bhutan, Mum to Goa and in this very bike he was selling - had just done a trip to Kanyakumari. The bike was well run and he offered a good price. I thought this is like buying a trained puppy.

Not only that - the bike was in Bangalore - and I had to go there to get it. I was bit by the idea of a long ride.

It came to convincing San, the wife. Actually it was easy. I told her - I am getting old - there will come a time when I have the time and money but I will not be able to ride a bike. And my soul wants this badly. Sold.

Bike guy came to office the next saturday, he gave some useful tips and we signed the papers.

I booked a bus immediately to Bangalore. But then the forces who love me started working against me - send it through packers, you crazy or what to ride it back? Thankfully San was behind me. We had to move some equipment to Bangalore and back and also wanted to checkout the new office the Bangalore team is moving into - so it was decided that we will drive down - and I will ride the bike back,  and San will escort me in the car.

Started on a Sunday morning and when we stopped for lunch - around 2PM I had my devil1 creeping into my head. You sure Venkat? - this is so damn hot. You will get cooked in this heat and you have never ridden a Thunderbird before. But again another devil2 whispered - isn't this a nice challenge? Should you not push yourself to the limit - how will you know what is your limit then? Throughout the drive I kept listening to the arguments of these 2 devils.

Reached pretty late on Sunday night - and couldn't sleep. Was listening to Queen title song full blast on the way - and it kept running in my head and the thought of Thunderbird and was imagining how it will be to finally ride it.

Woke up pretty groggy.. and planned to go to Cramster shop first - this was a brand the bike guy had suggested. The wind hits you pretty hard on long rides and if you do not have a good wind cheater -  it tires you out. He swore by this brand - said it also has elbow, spine protection. Decided to check it out. This shop was in Cunningham road, and had to wade through Bangalore Traffic from Bannerghatta Road - from San's sisters place where we sheltered - a Route drawn in hell.

We go there and the shop is closed. I had checked the website twice before going. Luckily the cleaning lady said - Bharthaarae ( they are coming ).. so I waited and kept avoiding the question San asked - did you call to see if they are open? which I hadn't. The shop guy came finally - and tried out the jacket. 5k - worth every paise. Picked up gloves too.

Then went to Whitefield to pick our colleague and also meet the bike - it was parked in at her home. And it was disappointment at first sight. The Thunderbird I see in Top Gear and all auto magazines look stunning. And here was this dusty bike with no glitz or glamour. I did not show my disappointment, but kept a fake enthu face - oh its just dust. Then went away to the office meetings and got sucked into it.

By 6:30 was out of all engagements and noticed it was raining really bad and all the roads were jammed. By 8 we reached her home and borrowed a cloth and dusted it off the bike and finally started it.

It did not sound like the heavy thump of a bullet - which I like and dislike ( when it wakes me up in the night ). But it rattled a bit. I am used to riding Japanese bikes  ( Sleek, Splendour and Unicorn ) - and they are all silky smooth. Felt perhaps this is how REs are - very rough and unfinished.

Then went to the Petrol Pump ( the E was blinking in the digital display - you bike guy... grrr.. ) and took it for a spin in AECS layout. It was dark and was raining. I did not know what gear I was in, did not see what speed I was in - tried to change gears and it was clunky - my disappointment grew. It was really hard to ride it at low speeds.

Then started from AECS Layout to Bannerghatta road - via Kundalahalli gate - Route drawn in Hell just got revised -  on a rainy day around the time all the 2nd shift ITPL shuttles return,  on a bike - which does not ride well slowly. It was an inch by inch traffic. And to make matters worse - I did not have the gloves - and the rain and gripping clutch made my hand numb and the palms started itching with all the vibration. I never touched more than 60 kph. Doubt if I went to even 5th gear. It was not fun. Devil1 was laughing its head off.

At home everyone was asking - how is the bike. Said could not really ride the bike well, there was too much traffic. But did say that the bike feels rough - and gave some explanation of how cool this is or whatever. I think they all felt sorry for me.

Depressing so far right - hope things will turn for the better tomorrow. ( To be continued...  Part 2)