Sunday, 10 December 2017

My Ride to A Wedding


This post had been hiding for almost two years in the drafts section of my blog (from February 2016 to be precise). This trip I somehow had forgotten. Unlike other rides, this wasn't really meant for motorcycling per se. It was a close friend's marriage I had to attend last year, and I originally had thought of taking the car, as I would reach the event fresh and presentable. But then me being me, thought to make this visit a bit more special and interesting. The challenge of riding this time was, at the end of the ride, I had to be presentable enough for a social gathering. This has never really been a requirement during my usual trips. So after a bit of deliberation (with myself mostly), I chose to ride. I decided to attend this event, only because Sampath (the groom) was a really good friend of mine and also the wedding guest list comprised of very small/niche and selected individuals, whom he really wanted to be part of his special day. Otherwise, I am usually not very keen on attending functions as such, especially if it's a huge gathering. So I had to be there and had enough time in hand and this friend already knew how much I Luv Riding motorcycles (you see what I did there! :D). So few days before the wedding day, I texted him to confirm that I was coming and also told him about my plan of riding there (just in case he had any apprehensions about it). Much to my delight, he didn't mind at all, of me coming on the motorcycle to his wedding. Rather, he was quite supportive and was enthused about this whole idea. So there was nothing else on the way of this trip. This route I had done almost 8 or 9 years ago on my CBZ, and after all these years I am happy to say that, I had a lot of fun again exploring this route at a leisurely pace (which I loved for a change). The marriage ceremony was total fun. Myself along with Sampath's school time buddies, we had a blast. Now as I look back, there are some of the photographs I had shot on the way during this ride, which reminds me of the fun I had and places I saw. So sit back and enjoy this journey.


Bangalore - Yadiyur - Tiptur: (164 k appx)


Google/Android's spy shots of my travel route.


There were trucks on this route, but the broad road and ample breakdown zone on the side was a safe spot for breaks


If a bulleteer isn't obsessed with his motorcycle, then be sure he has bought the wrong one in my opinion.


This route had the best kinda highways.


There are riders, there are commuters and then there are people relying on two-wheeled transport in this country.


The stallion in full shinning glory :)


This spot was a higher ground and gave a nice view of the long stretch of the highway behind.


After leaving the highway, I finally found myself a nice spot for a break.

I was munching on a bar of sneaker and appreciating this huge tree for the shade it was providing to passersby like myself.


This was the end of some nice twisties passing through paddy fields


By all means, trust the technology (/google) for its convenience but its always good to validate.


This route though lacked any variation in terrain, still had a view or two to offer.


Unpacking after reaching the destination. The clothes I was supposed to wear for the event made it without much crease or damage.


Note: No pictures of marriage here, until I get a response my friend, who has moved to Austrailia after his wedding and we haven't been in touch ever since. That was a fun wedding and we had some interesting photoshoot of the bride and the groom, which I would love to share here. But that has to wait. Meanwhile, continue enjoying some of the photos of my ride back to Bangalore via a different route.


Tiptur - Honnevali - Tiptur - Tumkur - Bangalore:


This was the route I took back home

Artsy stuff eh?!! I know.


An abstract art of nature! 
The other side of this story is that it must have been cut by us humans :/


An old Temple I visited on the way back. I like temples for their unique architecture and in some cases the tranquil environment that they provide.




Nope, I didn't get inside this one, as it was sunny and I couldn't just leave my luggage, especially boots outside, unattended. All I had this time was mostly a walk around and a preview; maybe will step inside on my next visit.


Nice mud tiles, I have seen back home in Orissa, where we had an outhouse of sorts with such roofing.

Though not the best in food (or even drinks), they do provide a good space and ambience in most parts of India. Our very own Indian Cafe chain- Coffee Day. I decided to have lunch here, for the sake of the air conditioning, as it was very hot outside on this day.


A boulevard with shades of green and brown...


hmm..

As I got close to Bangalore, the increase in pollution was getting so obvious that I couldn't ignore it anymore. I had to pull over twice to avoid riding behind a fast-moving tempo truck, which seemed to be running more on engine oil than fuel.

Well, looking back to this trip, I am glad for the share of peaceful and relaxed riding time I had on the road, the greenery en-route and the clean countryside air I got to breathe. If you haven't been on this route, do check it out, as the roads were car friendly too and you may like it, just like I did.

So until next time... 


Ride Safe & Ride Far,

Sid

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Which Spare Parts for Cast Iron Electra 5s ?

If you happen to own an older bullet (cast iron 4/5 gear) and ride a lot (I mean a lot!), then being stranded on the road is probably nothing new for you. I personally, have been stuck in the middle of nowhere, more number of times that you would believe. May it be because of a dead battery at Nubra Valley (extreme north),  a broken kicker spring (and a dying battery) near Rameshwaram (down south) or a broken rear wheel bearing on the way to Tawang (far east). Now you may ask what about western India, "haven't you faced any issues there?!?". Well, as of this date, I haven't yet set foot (tyres!) in that part of our country, but am sure, I *might* come across some similar challenges there as well!:D Talk about surety. lol. So the point is, every time I had a breakdown which required a part to be replaced, I was away from a Royal Enfield workshop (obviously, as am away from a city). And I had to call up the nearest (sometime 80-100 Ks away) RE workshops to enquire if they have the part in stock. And 4 out of 5 times they would be confused with the part number, because my motorcycle is a Cast Iron. Up until a few years ago, it was still ok to not know the Royal Enfield part numbers for iron barrel bullets, as the RE mechanics or workshop staff used to figure it out based on the model number and year of manufacturing. But now things have changed drastically, especially after the UCE bikes have become the staple and RE has sold so many to be busy taking care of them. I won't be surprised if most of the new mechanics working at RE service centres to have never really put their hands on an iron barrel engine, let alone knowing spare part details. So if you ever have to speak with such a staff/mechanic, they may not be able to help you with your emergency needs.

So what am coming to with this is, how handy it would be if you (and I) have the list of part numbers specific to a model of a bike made available; which can act as a quick reference, not only in case of touring emergency scenarios, but also during self-maintenance/repairing projects. So in this post I will try and do just that; list down the spare part name, part number and an image for reference. Initially, I will start filling in the details about the parts I can think of, keeping in mind their priority and probability of replacement in a touring/maintenance scenario.

RE ELECTRA 5s (Electric Start, Disc Brake) / 2009 model :-


Sl# Part Name Brand Part# Cost
(appx)
Looks like..
1 Battery Exide Bikerz
12BI14L-A2
2600.00
2 K S (Kick Start)
Spring
RE 146450/B 17.00
3 Clutch Cable RE PART-NUMBER YYYY.ZZ IMAGE-SRC
4 Throttle Cable RE 145713/B 63.00 IMAGE-SRC
5 Air Filter RE 143548/A 175.00
6 Spark Plug RE (by Bosch) 141148 70.00 IMAGE-SRC
7 Front Disc Brake Pads RE PART-NUMBER YYYY.ZZ IMAGE-SRC
8 Rear Drum Brake Shoes RE PART-NUMBER YYYY.ZZ IMAGE-SRC
9 Oil Filter Element RE 140029/6 28.00
10 Gasket Cylinder Head RE 146843/B 108.00
11 Gasket Cylinder Base (STD) RE 146545/B 64.00
12 Gasket Kit - Electra K/Start 5 Speed RE 146947 457.00
13 Cap/Peak/Beak for Headlamp RE 582657/A 109.00 IMAGE-SRC
999 XXX BRAND PART-NUMBER YYYY.ZZ IMAGE-SRC


If you have any suggestions/information regarding this post, please feel free to leave it in the comments.


Ride Safe & Ride Far
 Sid

Thursday, 26 October 2017

A Ride to Kolli Hills


What would happen when two solo riders plan a ride together? First of all it doesn't really happen that often, then when it finally does, it turns out to be an epic trip. A very short one though, but still, epic! So Sandesh and I had been talking about doing a short spin together, ever since we bumped into each other in our office after my north-eastern ride. It was enough of an introduction on his part that, he too had done the Indian north-east belt (all the way from Bangalore) solo, in early 2016. We had our own stuff (life, ride, job, family matters, etc) to take care of, so, despite our regular coffee time discussions, nothing really materialised regarding a ride together. This was the case for almost a year, up until last Thursday; i.e. 19th of September 2017, when we finally could take the bikes out for a spin.

For the ride, the suggestion of route came from Sandesh and he picked Kolli Hills (also locally known as Kolli Malai). Now mountains are always the preferred destination when motorcycling pleasure is what we seek. This mostly had to do with the twisties one gets to enjoy flicking the bike on, also the lean angle you achieve (MotoGP anyone ?!!) while doing it. Now, these aspects also have a lot to do with making motorcycling dangerous as well. Because on the mountains, we may not always get a second chance to correct ourselves, after a serious mistake. As that would either throw you off the cliff or put you right in front of an oncoming vehicle or ram into the stone sidewall/tree within seconds. These scary bits of scenario needs to be told, as we have a higher number of younger and inexperienced riders in the country now (including some from my family/friends circle) than experienced ones. So they must not follow everything they hear or read (even in this blog) without knowing all possibilities of a route/ride.

So coming back to the ride planning, I had a look at the route to realise, its 80% highway and 20% twisties, that to hairpin turns. What surprised me most is the number of hairpin bends this place has. Guess what 70 in total!!! I personally have never ridden (or been through) that many continuous hairpin-bends in my life so far. Take a look at the map view of that stretch:-




Sandesh rides a Duke 390 like a pro and I was supposed to ride my bull. The average speed a KTM 390 can do on a good road like Hosur-Salem highway, would be close to 120 kph;  Mind you, I am talking about the average here, not the top speed. So one day trip to do a highway run with such a route, got me thinking to try something new in terms of my ride. Why not the very best mountain carver out there to match; there I was enquiring about the Duke 390 itself as my prefered motorcycle for this very trip! I found one available with Wicked Ride (WR), Koramangala. Booked it in a jiffy. I had some prior experience with WR guys and they were fairly good in terms of rentals and choice of motorcycles they had. Sandesh wanted me to try out the Ducati Scrambler, but unfortunately, that was no more available at the time I was booking. Plus, both riding the same bike will not only allow us to keep up with each other, it will also mean we carry only one set of spares and tools for the road repair scenarios, resulting in reduced luggage. This actually turned out to be a good decision, as we were able to do some good speeds on safe stretches and none of us had to struggle to keep up (slow down or speed up) unnecessarily, which happens when you ride with different bikes with different capabilities.

Picking up the motorcycle from Koramangala:
Wednesday night, the plan for me was to leave my car at the office, take an Uber to WR outlet in Koramangala, pick up the motorcycle and ride home. And so I did. However, I had to replace the Duke they first gave me, as it was part of a crash recently. Even though it was serviced after the incident, I didn't want to risk my safety on the highway or twisties, suspecting possible fork or wheel alignment issues. Thankfully they had another 390 around and they were happy to offer that. That had just come from a ride and was covered with mud. Getting it cleaned was a much simpler task on my part than figuring out a handling issue while on the road (had I taken the other bike). So  I picked up the motorcycle, tanked up just enough to get to Shell Bunk near my home, and rode back. To be honest I hated the ride back home in heavy traffic. I cursed the bike and it's short gearing all the way until I reached Shell at Bannerghatta road. However, just before reaching Shell, I took some back roads which were empty and it allowed me to open up the throttle a bit and whoa!!! The feel was so much better, that I decided to keep the Duke and see what it does when it gets the much-needed highway. I called up Sandesh to give me a quick 101 on recommended tyre pressure and about the tell-tale lights on the console, etc. I didn't have time (or energy) to go through the user manual for the bike. Thankfully Sandesh's instructions were good enough for me to get going on this machine. Oh wait, the bike was still dirty and I don't like a dirty motorcycle to start a trip with. It was already 10PM1 and hardly any bike-wash shops were open. Still, I was able to locate an open garage and thankfully was successful in convincing the workshop guy (who was working late) to get this baby cleaned and it's chain lubed. Am so glad he obliged and did a great job too.


Getting rid of the mud and grease

Applying the chain lube

Once the bike was all ready, I was relieved. Now all I had to do was to pack. This time packing was much lighter, as I didn't have to carry any tools at all. Only clothes, my RAM mount, first aid kit, few bars of sneakers for snacking and usual electronics. Chucked the camera this time. So all in all, it was one of the lightest setups I have had in a very long time. This allowed me to focus on handling the beast that the 390 is on the highways as well as while cornering in the mountains. So with packing done, the alarm was set at 4AM. Meet up time was decided to be at 5:30AM, at NICE road's Bannerghatta entry point, while heading towards Hosur/EC exit.

Leaving Bangalore on Thursday Morning:

Motorcycle is all set with a duffel as the tail bag


I had used 2 bungee cords tied in X shape, which held up fabulously during the whole trip


Got onto the NICE road from Bannerghatta Road, and waiting for Sandesh


Early morning fog and usual traffic on Nice road


Sandesh was riding so fast, he missed seeing me standing on the side of the road, so he stopped some 3 kms ahead and sent me his location. I caught up and we officially started off together from that point, with he riding in the lead. 



First stop at the fuel bunk next to A2B; for filling up fuel in Sandesh's bike


Two KTMs with full tank of fuel and an open road; you can see the smile right through the helmet :D


First proper break during the ride to cool off and have some breakfast

We were staying above 110 all through, as the road condition was excellent and traffic was manageable. I remember touching 1X0+ (X=unsafe digit to be shown here :P) at few patches (unintentionally of course!) when the road allowed. Duke got me hooked with the power delivery and the ABS-assisted braking. Then came the first few corners before Salem. These are 3-5 bends on the highway which are notorious for accidents, as they bank too sharply for a 3 lane national highway. I realised I was going wide on first two turns. So I had to dial down the speed and get the knee down a bit to maintain my line. It took me few hours of riding the 390 and a couple of more turns to realise, that the chain on my bike was loose than it should be. The night I brought it home, I hadn't noticed this. It affects the bike so much, I never had assumed. This was (one of) the reason, I had a tough time riding it in stop-go traffic the night before, as the chain was making noise at the lower gears and making me to shift too much in traffic. Having said that, once we got the chain adjusted, I was right at home in the twisties. The bike handled flawlessly from that point on. This was a good learning for me. I wish I had noticed/fixed the chain issue much earlier.

Stopped here to check map/GPS, just after leaving the Salem highway, to head towards Kolli Malai


The only viewpoint on the way up to Kolli Malai

Found this small tea shop on the side, just before the temples' area.

We made it to the top by noon as planned. Found ourselves a restaurant inside a resort, for having lunch. We took rest at the restaurant post lunch before our descent started from Kolli Hilltop. Our destination for the night was Yercaud, which too have a couple of twisties but neither as many nor as sharp as what we came across at Kolli Hills. So we started off around 3PM from Kolli Hills towards Salem and then from Salem towards Yercaud. By the time we entered the foot of the Yercaud, it was dark already and there was this crazy beeline of cars on the ghat road. Most of the traffic was coming from the opposite direction. That was the good part. We could filter through easily and made it all the way to the top of the hill station by late evening. We could find ourselves a comfortable accommodation. We didn't have to sweat much to find this place, all thanks to Sandesh and his contacts. Got fresh, had some coffee and then decided to head out for a spin and possibly find a good place for dinner.


While looking for a place for dinner, came across this interesting place. Alas, it required a prior appointment to get a table here.


So finally after a bit of goofing around the hill station at night, we got into Silver Oak Restaurant, inside Shevroy Hotel. It was a bit pricey, but the food was delicious, and we had a stomach full. Well deserved supper after a long day of riding. I presume they stay open till late. So just in case you land in Yercaud late and don't find any decent eatery nearby, do enquire for this hotel. Post dinner, we sat there with a cup of coffee in our hand, discussing the day's ride. After a good long hour, we headed back to our hotel and before we know, we had dozed off.

Morning at Yercaud:

Our stay at Yercaud.


We checked out from the hotel around 9AM and headed to the place for breakfast, which we had found last night :). Visiting this cafe was an interesting experience for sure. The place is called 'Sweet Rascal', it's a resort and cafe. Founded and owned by Mr Vishu Kalliappa. Our visit here became more interesting when we bumped into the man himself, who turned out to be a biker. Well, what are the odds?!! We had a great time chatting with him and knowing about his collection of motorcycles. His taste in things and choice of businesses that he has created and runs are very unique.



We had a booking for breakfast this time :D @ Sweet Rascal Cafe!

This place is green, tastefully decorated, with lots of bonsai plants, many dogs, few exotic birds and tons of funny quotes :) Yep all these are part of this quirky resort and cafe.

After a hearty brunch and a cup of coffee, before we catch up again with our good 'ol National Highway 44

Taking a break under shade for sipping water and some chit-chat; on the way down from Yercaud 


The beasts in their natural habitat; at the twisties.


Stopped at Krishnagiri around 3PM, for the last fill-up of our hydration packs. 


Whew! By this time, it was starting to get a *butt* painful to be on the saddle :P Hence this break!


So that's how I celebrated this year's Diwali :) Riding a cracker on and off the twisties and open highway!

We had recorded some footage on Sandesh's action cam, but not sure when that will make it to youtube. As and when that gets uploaded, I will try and put a link here.

On Friday I finally made it to my office around 4 PM and after a quick change in the washroom could get back to my desk (with normal clothes) and finish some work. I wasn't that tired from this ride, so decided to save half a day worth of leave, maybe for some future ride ;)

My observations from riding the KTM Duke 390:

It was a fun group (well.. kinda!) ride I had in a long time. KTM Duke 390 got me hooked and I ended up loving this machine. My elated appreciation partly could be due to the exceptionally good condition of the roads which we picked to ride it on. Even then, for a newbie (to KTM) like myself, I could push it through its paces, and not a single time worrying about its ability or my safety. Handling was way better than I had expected, both on the highway (while doing higher speeds) or while cornering in the mountains. KTMs (in my limited knowledge) mostly have the short stroke, high revving motor and that is evident from the moment you push the start button. They behave/handle better when they are pushed. This trait is completely opposite to what bullets (or even the Honda motorcycles) offer in terms of riding experience. I had to change my mindset as a rider from passive (/relaxed) riding to that of an active (assertive!) riding, and only then the bike starts obeying your commands (or so to speak). Yes, its weight and power might be a bit too much to handle for a new rider. For them, I would suggest Duke 200 would be better (and much safer) choice, yet equally fun.  Lastly, both the KTMs we rode were running on Michelin tyres, which performed well without any issues.


** Useful Info: **

Bangalore to Salem (195 KM)

Bangalore > (via Electronics City road) > Hosur > Krishnagiri > Dharmapuri > Salem bypass road
NH 44: Srinagar-Kanyakumari Highway: 3 lane, in very good condition


Salem (bypass) to Kolli Hills (60 KM)

Salem > (via bypass road and then on NH44) > After appx 40 KM Turn Left onto > Kalangani-Thirumalaipatty Road > Thirumalaipatty > Karavalli > Hairpin Bends Starts!

Salem Bypass Road: Flyover construction was going on, so in some stretches bypass road was narrow creating a bottleneck for 3-4 KM or so.
Kalangani-Thirumalaipatty Road: Good tar condition, but undivided (/single carriage) highway, can maintain 50-60+ KPH safely.

70 Hairpin Bends (14 KM)

95% in very good condition and remaining few patches have mild gravel due to damaged tar surface. Corners are free from debris/sand hence safe for tyre grip.

Ghat Riding Dos/Don'ts:-



  • Always decide your speed before you arrive at the turn and select the right gear for that speed beforehand (downshifting mid turn would put stress on your gearbox and risky as the rear wheel may lose traction due to the sudden change in speed)
  • Slow down before entering a turn and always be careful/attentive to correct/change your line of the ride; Because turns are very sharp, and all vehicles (going up or down) would take wider turns sometimes coming on your path.
  • Before braking, check rear-view mirrors, that no vehicle should be behind you (or approaching fast).
  • For breaks/halts, pick a spot visible to traffic coming from both sides, at least 50-100 meters away.
  • Do not over speed on the way down, and do not overuse the brakes (you may wear out your brake pads and that would be very dangerous).
  • Always give way to vehicles climbing up the ghat, so keep an eye on those and slow down before a turn to allow them to climb safely.
  • Keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front (even if it's your riding buddy) at all times. And at the bends, have more space for your own safety.
  • Avoid this route at night (so better plan your climb and decent when daylight is still around).

General Tips for riding on this route:-


  • Ensure the engine oil level of your motorcycle is proper (if a cast iron bullet, carry extra engine oil, as highway is good and you possibly would end up ripping at higher speeds than usual, which in turn would burn more engine oil)
  • Ensure your brake fluid level is proper and brake pads are in good shape
  • Ensure your motorcycle chain and sprocket are in good shape
  • Ensure your motorcycle chain tightness is adjusted correctly (or at least get it done at Salem before reaching Kolli Hills ghat section)
  • Carry hydration pack or water bottle and keep filling it on the way as you run out (stay hydrated at all times!)
  • Too much sun and too little shade on this highway, so use sunglasses/built-in sun shade/tinted visor.
  • Wear protective gear (as always), as the highway is good and most vehicles would be at high speeds (even if you are not riding fast)
  • There are many petrol stations on NH44, but not that many once you turn towards Thirumalaipatty; so better do a full tank at Salem

Hope you enjoyed being part of this ride.


Ride Safe & Ride Far, 

Sid