Wednesday 26 December 2012

Test Ride - New Thunderbird 350

A friend has been bitten by the enfield bug and I was asked for helping him decide on a model from RE stable. Well, it's matter of personal taste, but still due to the request, all I can do is give my opinion on the bikes after riding. That's what I did and posting here as well. I test rode 2 bikes; 1) New Thunderbird 350 2) Classic 350

Here is the verdict:

1)Tbird 350:

+ Looks good
+ Effortless handling (same as any high rise handlebar setup)
+ Chunky (May be due to the big tank and new round foot pegs)
+ Projector lamp for low beam (didn't check this as I rode during the day)

- Length of the bike seems shorter (shortened wheel base?)
- Feels toyish (compared to Typical Enfield riding posture in Electra, Standard, or even in Classic series)
- Not for me

No offense but having seen/ridden the best of Harley stable, I find TB is a cheaper imitation of the bigger cruisers. However seeing the possibility of liter size displacement engine is in talks, it won't be long before RE would be reaching the heights of brands like HD and Indian.

2) Classic 350

+ Classic Good looks
+ Good riding feel with upright sitting posture
+ Spring seats helped on minor bumps on the road
+ Carburetor - means one can get it fixed by any mech in case of any emergency/breakdown

- Didn't inspire confidence (may be as am riding an Electra with taller seat height)
- Enfield thump is gone:( No really!! It sounds like a 350cc Hero-Honda bike, more you rev more noise it makes, but no thump.

So all in all am not much impressed with the UCE lot despite of this test ride. Actually I started loving my CI model Electra.

So last but not the least, always go for a test ride before booking something.


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Sunday 23 December 2012

Road Trip - Bangalore to Bheemeshwari

I have been wishing to take the bull out on a road trip, but really hadn't put any serious thought or effort. So always ended up with, what-else..but reasons why I couldn't go. Well pushing all that aside finally I teamed up with my college buddy and fellow biker Rahul and later Jeetu n Divya joined as crew. So the destination we selected is Bheemeshwari, which seems to have a fishing camp and some Nature Education  Camp from Govt of Karnataka. The point of my interest was the fractionally interesting mountain road that we'll cross on the way  (checked the terrain view on gmaps app). Well, we did ride through the mountain roads and that turned out to be the best 10 km (or so) out of the whole 162 km of ride.

Note to self: O'ways decide on the roads first (as my heart says) and then pick a destination and not the other way round. That's what a ride is for anyway!!!

Itinerary (Timestamps noted here are not accurate and this is the best I could recall at the time of writing this post):

7:10 am - Started from near the Sarakki Signal

7:20 am - Fuel & Air at a fuel station on Kanakpura Road
I filled the Bull for 500 bucks as it hit the reserve just 2 minutes ago. Kept a tire pressure of 26 (F) and 36(R).
Note: There is a Shell petrol bunk on Kanakpura Road. I suggest if could manage for at least 5-8kms, better fill here as they seem to be good (read un-adulterated).

7:40 am - Breakfast

Stopped at a small shop on the left-hand side after a km of crossing the Shell petrol bunk. Do remember to grab bottled water from here.

8:00 am - Stopped for a few minutes to sort out a brake issue my bull had. I had over-tightened the free play adjustment of the rear brake, and add to it my boot was pressing against the brake pedal constantly. Due to the power of the bike I never felt any pressure on the engine till Rahul pointed out that the rear drum is smokin' :D Lollzz Glad, it was nothing serious, we stopped tweaking the adjustment to a loose setting. Got the chain oiled at a garage ahead and that's it. Rolled all the way from there no buzz.

On the way, you will cross the Nice road deviation, DO NOT TURN there, KEEP HEADING STRAIGHT for another 40 km (at least) straight right on the Kanakapura road till Halaguru. Do ask people for Halaguru and the LEFT-TURN towards Bheemeshwari.

11:00 am - Reached a Private Resort (Below pic taken from another blog, I am not sure if the prices quoted are still the same).

We had no plans for such guided tourism at this location, so we headed further ahead and came across the 'Govt Nature Education Camp'. After having a word with the attendants here we decided to park our bikes there. They had a paid package for visitors:

Rs. 200 per person per day : For a hike across the semi-dense forest/shrubs to a location near the river (they call stone beds in the river as islands (lolz), so don't get too excited when you hear that word.

Rs. 500 per person per day : Same as above + Lunch (Really good veg and non-veg home-cooked food) + Tea + Snacks in the afternoon + A Room with attached bathroom and toilet (western commode) to change clothes and take rest till 5:00 pm.

*Please confirm with the staff about the room before booking. However, we as a group of 4 people got it and there were not many people in the camp at that time. So not sure during a crowded season how they will allot the room.

Other Facilities:

Rs. 300 - For bonfire if you wish them to arrange for that

Shacks on Rent - Shacks cost you Rs 1500 per day. I felt the place is very clean and usable for families. Do carry a liquid soap as I didn't see any of those. As a traveler, you must always carry one, especially while traveling anywhere in India.

Camping - They have a lot of camping space in case you wish to camp outside and experience Nature. I highly recommend this if you know how to camp. I am planning to camp there on my next visit:)


We saw deer from a distance playing around the river. It is not that common but when we were resting the staff called us out to witness the sight. It was a great feeling to see them in the wild. Other than that monkeys will be your constant companion in this camp. However we noticed they are kinda well behaved here, but I would take chance with my gear so I always ensured they are never left unattended.  We also saw a wild boar with its baby. Elephants are also residents of this area, but luckily we didn't come across any, as they might not be as friendly as the other animals I explained above.


3:15 om - Started from the Campsite

3:20 pm - Stopped on the way to get a ticket for Rs 10 per bike to enter the area near Muthhathi (another well-known Trekking site) and also this same route connects to Bangalore

6:00 pm - Reached Bangalore City (While there was still some sunlight around)

We took the opposite route while returning home hoping for more twisties, but it was not that awesome. However still worth a ride as you will cross some roads on the edge of the mountains with a great view of the valley. Finally reached home exactly at 6:00 pm. Was a great ride and a good trip. The total distance covered was 162 km.

So all in all I loved this place for the following reason:

1. Experienced solitude, there is no noise at all, as this place is miles away from the nearest city

2. You can experience nature without having to trek or hike a lot to reach here. Just a drive away.

3. Cleaner accommodation (including toilets) and good food easily accessible

4. Very less crowd, at least in the mid of December when we visited

5. River bed was a good place to spend some time

6. Mountain roads to reach this place, were a biker's delight (However maintain a healthy speed as the road is narrow, most are blind turns, and frequency of vehicles is less and hence more unpredictable)

Note: There is NO SIGNAL for Vodafone users. So do inform friends and family about your whereabouts before getting deeper into this area once you leave the main roads. I scanned the area for other networks and still couldn't find any network around. So for other mobile phone service users, this tip goes for you as well:)

Hope this post gives you enough information to step out of your sofa and hit the road. Well just to get you going here are some photographs just for your visual delight:

a quick click before I left home.

My ride took it out of the parking early in the morning.

A quick stopover on the way

My ride with the luggage.

Met this donkey on the way back (He might be thinking the same:P Lollzz)

This is the quality of asphalt we rode on.

Me, Rahul, Jeetu

Hope you have a safe ride,

Monday 17 December 2012

Wednesday 12 December 2012

Royal Enfield Maintenance - Replacing the Chain

This post is to celebrate another not-so-big-but-it-does-matter-to-me kind of WIN, in my mission to maintain my own motorcycle. Trust me the pain and grease in the fingernails were worth the satisfaction and boost in confidence that I got from this task.


My mech (whom I have not visited since I started doing the minor check-ups of my bullet myself) last told me that the chain and sprockets need replacement as they making unbearable noise while climbing up a slope. Which I too checked and was true. The interesting part is, even in that stage it rides perfectly well (i.e. without much noise) on usual/level roads, like the one I go to the office through. That's why I never realized that the chain/sprocket has been worn out. So after noticing the effects (loud unhealthy noise from a chain) I decided to replace it myself.

Pre-replacement Thoughts:

As a standard procedure, I was considering the replacement of both Chain and Sprockets, as a mismatch may cause more wear in the new component(whichever is new) and its life will reduce. Hence it's always advisable to replace both together. But after having a discussion with Nandan I decided to check the wear pattern first, which will be a great aid to understanding how chain/sprockets wear out and why they make noise.


Sprocket seemed to be in rather a good condition. But the chain seems to have a play even when held tight against the rear sprocket. If you hold the chain snugly wrapped around the sprocket and try to pull one link (which is resting tightly on the sprocket teeth) away from the sprocket, it ideally shouldn't pull up. If it does, it shows that the chain has lost its form. Tightening the chain won't make any difference to such deformation of the chain.


Based on the above checks I concluded that the chain needs a replacement and the sprocket will roll for some more time to come. Now there are two types of chains for bullet:

1. O-ring type (OEM)
2. Normal Chain

The first one is a new O-ring type (now comes standard with every new Bullet) chain which has tiny rubber rings on both sides of the links and there is some grease stuffed in each link during manufacturing, hence doesn't require lubrication. On the contrary, the normal chain doesn't have such rings on links and needs minor lubrication as part of usual maintenance. Now the O-ring type isn't that great if you consider the few niggles that this concept of O-rings introduced. What I heard from Nandan is, these tiny rings sometimes cause the links to get temporarily stuck and hence not rotate freely.
 Again the rings don't really make that much of a difference and may give a slight increase in life, which really doesn't matter to me. As I don't (not yet!) maintain a journal for the spares I replace on my bike. So I decided to go for the normal chain (Simply Old School!!!), which costs a few bucks less than the O-ring type.

Spares / Tools Required:

  • Standard Spanner - 24 (for the Castle nut which holds the rear wheel axle), 30(Nut which supports the toothed chain Adjuster on the left side of Electra)
  • Ring Spanner - 18 (to open the nut which connects the rear hub with the left swing arm)
  • Water Pump Plier (Really handy for any type of work. This will be used for removing and fixing the chain link)
  • A new chain (Duh!)

Spanner, Ring Spanner and Plier

A cloth to wipe the grease off hands (trust me, this you will remember for long)
A small stool to sit on while you work on the bike

O-ring type chain link, Water Pump Plier, which can easily remove or connect the link lock (3rd from left)

*** Steps ***

A) Remove the link from the bike chain using the plier (you may use any other tool if not a plier) [AFTER THIS YOUR BIKE CAN'T BE USED UNTIL YOU ARE DONE!]
B) Remove the link from the new chain (after unpacking)
C) Connect one end of the old chain (still on the bike) to one end of the new chain using the old link.
D) Turn the rear wheel to pull the new chain through the front sprocket area until one end is completely through
E) Remove the link and the old chain completely (i.e. disconnect from the new chain which is now through and resting on the rear sprocket)
F) Relax the rear hub and connect the link to the new chain
G) Align the wheel and adjust the chain tension maintaining recommended slackness [LAST CHECK POINT]

I won't spend time explaining how to do steps A, B, C, D, and E, as it's not on my agenda at the moment. This page is just to give you an idea of the process and to act as a future reference for me.

Step F can be done as follows: (RELAXING THE ADJUSTER)
1. Release the size 24 nut holding the rear wheel axle (This will also loosen the adjuster on the right side)
2. Release the size 18 (using ring spanner!) nut so that the rear wheel hub can be adjusted for the new chain
3. Loosen the size 30 not enough, so that the adjuster can be rotated

Left side view of rear wheel

Right-side view of the rear wheel

Note: You may release the rear brake rod if it makes the nuts more accessible. I released the brake rod as I found working on the rear hub easy when the brake rod was out of the way. If you happen to do the same, there could be two open ends expected as marked by the blue circles in the picture above.

Connecting the chain link:

The only thing to remember is, that connecting the link ensures there is no dirt/sand on the link or any part of the chain, as it may get inside the links, which is not a good thing in my opinion. Especially when the chain is brand new:) 

NOTE: Also the chain link lock should be on the OUTER side of the chain (i.e. facing towards you) and the connected side (not the disjoint side) should face the direction of rotation of the chain.

Step G can be done as follows: (ALIGNMENT)

This is a trial and error process as per my knowledge. Size 18 nut is used to adjust the rear hub back or forth and the 'Adjuster' on both sides is used to ensure both sides of the hub/wheel are pushed back/forth equally. So you need to make use of these 3 (Size 18 nut and 2 adjusters on both sides) to achieve the following end result:

1. Chain MUST have at least 3 inches (thumb rule) of vertical (obvious:P) play
2. The gap between the tire and swingarms is the same (almost) on both sides (Use fingers to measure)

WARNING: Keeping the chain loose is ok and the only side effect would be a minor noise and the chain might slightly rub on the left swingarm. But if the chain is too tight, (when the bike is on the main stand) while the bike is running and the rear suspension is in play, the chain might snap.

Once you are happy with the alignment and all the nuts are tightened up, connect the brake rod and adjust the free play of the rear brake as per your needs.

THATS IT! You're done! Now slowly take the bike out of the garage and take a spin around the neighborhood to check how the rear wheel feels. Ride SLOW and observe for any unusual noise from a chain uphill (don't hit a mountain for this, the nearest road connecting to a high ground would suffice). Check for any weird feel while cornering. Which means the new setup may need a bit of adjustment.

Phew!! That was fun! And ya don't forget to wash your hands thoroughly as grease gonna take its own sweet time to come off the skin, especially the fingernails :D But being someone who loves motorcycles so much, I thoroughly enjoyed the work and looking forward to getting my hands dirty again.

Hope this helps you take care of your motorcycle well. Keep visiting for newer experiences;)

Ride Safe, Ride Long,

Royal Enfield Vintage Ad

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