Category Archives: automotive

What if a downgrade is ‘the’ upgrade you were looking for?

Concerned fellow biker buddies – “But, why did you ‘downgrade’ to a Royal Enfield Himalayan?”

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One of the most common questions I was asked by people when I bought the Royal Enfield Himalayan. The funny thing is I find the tagging of ‘upgrades’ really stupid. You move or change to a motorcycle as per the riding style. If you can’t change you improvise and use what you have. And, on that point, people who know me well did not bother to question my choice.

Now, my question is, what is an upgrade? Is it bumping up to a higher cubic capacity? Is it a more powerful bike in terms of numbers? or just spending more money, compared to your existing one, on a new motorcycle? Or is it just doing more than what you did with the last motorcycle?

I feel the matter is imperceptible and cannot be summarized by just throwing around numbers. If I could afford to, I would love to keep both the motorcycles. Maybe, sometime in future, I will.

My last motorcycle was the Benelli TNT 300, a street bike which I had used extensively for the daily commutes and touring. Even a fair number of off-road trails have been covered on the motorcycle. And, I still do not have anything to complain about the TNT 300. A 360-degree parallel twin with oodles of low-end torque, kicking in as low as 2500rpm. Subtle linear power delivery made it a breeze to ride, especially while touring.

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So, coming to the point of why I sold my Benelli TNT 300? Well, I have just one reason. My riding style changed. I started avoiding highways and travelling more of B Roads and off-road trails. People who have ridden with me also know that I have taken the Benelli to a fair number of technical trails. As long as ground clearance was not an issue, the motorcycle chugged away miles after miles. I loved the low-end torque and how useable it was when I was tackling trails and inclines. But – there is always a but, when it came to rocky terrain, the ground clearance was a hindrance. I had to take it slow and worry about the motorcycle making it past an obstacle. For water crossings, the under-belly exhaust was an added worry.

Now, coming to the Royal Enfield Himalayan. I had a few parameters for my next motorcycle. It had to be less than 3.0 lakhs INR on road in Bangalore. It had to be an off-road capable and comfortable stress-free touring motorcycle. The RE Himalayan fit the bill and the bonus was a wide service network across the country and low cost of ownership. This also meant I could spend on some good premium accessories and have extra moolah for my travel funds. Show me another touring motorcycle in India capable enough, within the said parameters. The Hero XPulse, some might say. A capable off-roader, yes, it is. Touring, maybe not.

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So, in my outlook, the purchase of the RE Himalayan is an upgrade for me (even though I went from a twin cylinder to a single) as I can do all that I did with the Benelli TNT 300 and additional I can do more off-road trails, even the rocky terrains. I had money left after selling the Benelli and buying the RE. My service costs are less now because the motorcycle and spares are made in India and labour costs are less, which in turn lets me save more for my travel & motorcycle fund.

Eventually, I had to take a call between my ‘wants’ and ‘needs’. What I ‘need’, may not be what I ‘want’. But it will get me going for sure. And, what about my ‘wants’, well – that story is far from over my friend.

Why the Himalayan? Why a Royal Enfield?

Since my last post, “Almost There!!!”, two of the common questions that I have been asked are – Why a Royal Enfield and Why the Himalayan? I thought why not write about it to make things a little less repetitive for me.

So, let me start with the motorcycle first.

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Why, the Himalayan?

To begin with, off-road capability. The Himalayan is the first purpose-built motorcycle from the Royal Enfield stable. 21-inch wheels up front, mated with a 17-inch at the rear, with dual purpose tyres to tackle no-road situations. Ground clearance of 220mm while keeping the seat height at a comfortable 800mm. This was the perfect recipe for a dual-purpose motorcycle, regular highway touring and off-road trails, both could be handled with ease on the Himalayan.

One might argue that the Himalayan had so many issues when it was launched. Yes, it did. And have you ridden the BS4 variant yet? Anyone who has ridden the BS4 variant will agree that Royal Enfield has no doubt taken all the learning and feedback and fixed most, if not all, issues in the Himalayan. The engine has got a good low-end grunt and stress-free even at high speeds. The motorcycle I tested allowed me to cruise comfortably at 120/130kmph. The low-end torque is a saviour in off-road conditions. It would have been nice to have a little more power and torque but nothing to cry home about. All this at a lovely price point of just 1.8 lakhs INR ex-showroom. Honestly, I do not see any other motorcycle in the country which is as purpose-built as this in such a price point. Before I continue, I think I can get the 2nd question into consideration here.

Why, a Royal Enfield?

Continuing from where I left off, one of the reasons for selecting the Himalayan is the low cost of ownership. Royal Enfield has somehow managed to price it right. I do not have to worry about dropping the motorcycle, which is inevitable in an off-road terrain as the spares are pocket-friendly and easily available. With over 1000 service centres across India, I will never be far from one, in case I need help. It’s like the SBI of motorcycle service centers, you will always find one, no matter which part of the country you are in.

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Additionally, the roadside assistance also ensures you do not break a sweat trying to get to one either. Royal Enfield has managed to build an ecosystem around motorcycles and motorcycling activities. From being the oldest motorcycle manufacturers in the country to creating a community around riders. No other brand can boast of having a dedicated ride team which creates experiences for its riders. Various brands, like Mahindra-Jawa, KTM, Bajaj have tried their hand at creating something similar and I have been to a few. However, none of them implement it as grandly as Royal Enfield. The legacy and lineage show in the finesse with which these rides are conceptualized. There is no stone left unturned to ensure that the rider is part of the entire experience.

To cut the story short, I chose the Himalayan because it meets my requirements as a capable off-road motorcycle, one on which I can also tour comfortably. I chose a Royal Enfield motorcycle because of the low cost of ownership and easy access to spares and service.

No manufacturer can vouch for a 100% perfect machine, what matters is what they are willing to do to address the issues if you have one. I believe Royal Enfield is doing a good job of it.

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BluSnap – How Bikers Can Keep A Cool Head This Summer

All ye riders and motorcyclists, lend me your ears!

Summer is here and by the likes of it, it’s gearing up to be a scorchingly unbearable one. So what I’m gonna do is slap-on my ventilated riding gear – Mesh Jackets, Mesh Pants and Mesh Summer Gloves and my BluSnap to beat this heat and hit the road.

Wait. Blu what?

BluSnap is a wearable cooler for your helmet. You just snap it on and enjoy the ride as it helps you stay cool in traffic. When fixed onto your full-face helmet, it cools your head through a water-based cooling mechanism which uses a battery-operated fan to pump air through a wet air filter to direct cool air into the helmet. This, in turn, creates a microclimate inside your helmet which is 6-15 degrees cooler than the surrounding environment. In a nutshell, BluSnap is like a desert cooler for your helmet.

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Normally, by the time I reach my destination, my hair is sweaty and my face, due to the constant opening and closing of my helmet visor at the traffic light, is so baked it would put Jesse from Breaking Bad to shame. In short, it’s suffocating and icky to ride in traffic with a full-face helmet. Not to mention the tiredness and burnout. Sound familiar? Now, thanks to BluSnap, created by BluArmor Helmets, I can kiss my helmet woes goodbye.

I’ve been using BluSnap for a few weeks now and I’d like to share my experiences.

Cooling – City Commute

Yes, it works! It was an absolute ‘breeze’ during my city commutes especially during stoppages. Once on, I felt a subtle draft of cool air on my face and around my head. The closed helmet visor ensured no loss of cooling. What a difference compared to before when my entire head would become unbearably sweaty or worse, when I’d open the visor for some air circulation, I’d be exposed to the elements, mainly dust which would stick to my sweaty face. Now, not only is my face dust-free but the cooler temperatures inside the helmet ensure a freshness and comfort I’ve never known before.

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Cooling – Highway Commute

Once proved during city commute, I decided to test run BluSnap on a stretch of highway, where speeds are higher. And it didn’t disappoint! As I increased my speed, I switched off the fan on the device. As a result, the air got pushed in automatically because of the higher speeds. The subtle flow of cool air became cooler and the air flow, faster. The best part is that I wasn’t even using the device battery power to do this. The device was working on its own, assisted by the air flowing into it, due to high speeds of the motorcycle. While this device may be pitched for the folks from the two-wheeler user segment for the daily city commute, BluSnap packs quite a smart punch also for those who hit the highway for longer rides.

Simple Installation

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1 minute. That’s how long it takes to install BluSnap. In case your helmet chin-bar is not rounded and not an exact fit to the device, a couple of Velcro strips are added to hold the device in place. As a norm, the funky colorful elastic band holds the device to the helmet. And, you get five different designs to choose as per your liking. I used it across multiple helmet brands – Daijya, HJC, SMK, MT to name a few. It worked fine with all of them.

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Once fixed, all you need to do is fill the water reservoir and charge the battery and you are good to go. One full charge lasted me around ten hours – that’s enough for a five-day working week, assuming daily usage of two hours. A reservoir full of water will give you around two hours of cooling. A knob at the bottom of the device switches off the water-flow into the filter while the helmet is not in use. The air filter is washable and can be used for six months with regular use. The product, replacement filters, and straps are available in their online shop. Basically, I like the simplicity of the product.

Room For Improvement?

I love BluSnap. It’s a simple device that does what it claims to do and does it well. However, being a seasoned rider and a strong advocate of anything that makes a rider’s life easier while on the road, I’d be very interested in seeing how the makers of BluSnap iron out the following observations.

  • Size – Currently, it’s big and bulky because of which it tends to catch the wind, albeit slightly if you turn your head at high speeds but it’s manageable. Although it doesn’t block your view or cause discomfort due to weight, I’d have liked it to be smaller.
  • Water Level Indicator – There is no water level indicator. So, there is no way to figure out if the water is over. I realized it was over when some fine dust crept in as the filter dried off. The workaround is to fill water after every two hours or so.
  • Air Flow – There is no way to stop or filter the flow of air into the helmet. Even if the fan is off and you are moving, the air movement through the fan will suck in any ambient smells, too. So watch out while riding next to a drain or a garbage dump. But hey, this happens in regular helmet setup too.

At the end of the day, I would highly recommend this product to anyone who loves traveling by motorcycles, especially in the summertime. And at a price point near 2000 bucks INR, which includes a strap and an extra filter, this portable helmet cooler is the coolest thing bikers could want this summer!

Click here to purchase >> Blu Armor Helmets

Use code HELMETKAAC at checkout to avail a discount.

May the COOL be with you!!!

Long Term Ownership Review – Benelli TNT 300 – 24000km

Read the first part of the series here – 7000km Ownership Review

I have covered 24000kms on Aarini, and it’s time for another update on my ownership of the Benelli TNT 300. I will not be repeating most of the things I have mentioned in Part 1. Here it will be more of my ownership experience with the motorcycle, usage and issues.

I have done multiple trips over the 20 odd months, including a 5000km trip across the west coast of India for 18 days. One thing I can say right away is that this motorcycle is totally at home when on the highway, munching miles, as it tours across a myriad of landscapes. Good roads or bad, Aarini munched away the roads like a piece of cake. Mind you, all my trips I have travelled with my better half as a pillion. The Benelli TNT 300 is very comfortable with two people on and with all the luggage we were carrying. The below image will give you an idea of how we were loaded during the 18 days trip.

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Even with all this load, we faced no issues riding all the way to Kutch from Bangalore and back down the coast of Maharashtra. The motorcycle did not feel stressed or out of power even when it was tackling the Western Ghats. The tall gearing helped us effortlessly cover distances, day after day.

Manufacturing Defects

  • Starter Relay stopped working intermittently – The motorcycle would not start and give a click sound when you press the start button. The spare was replaced during one of my visits to the service centre, in warranty. I have never faced any issue related to this after replacement.
  • Rear Brake Disc Rotor developed cracks – This was during our Kutch trip. As we were approaching Surat, we heard a scraping sound when I applied the brakes. On inspecting the rear discs, we found that the discs had developed cracks, two big ones and multiple hairline ones. We contacted the Pune service team for DSK Benelli and updated them about the concern. We decided to ride all the way to Pune without using the rear brakes. As it was a Sunday, getting support at Surat was not possible. Next day, the service team arranged for a replacement rotor and it was replaced along with my 20k service. The replacement was under warranty. The cause was suspected to be overheating. The exact cause (of overheating) is not known yet.

Apart from these two instances, I have not faced any problem with the motorcycle and I must add that DSK Benelli was prompt in resolving the above-mentioned issues.

Consumables & Rate of consumption

  • Brake Pads – My front brake pads are still running the stock set. For my rear brakes, I am on my 3rd Set. The first two were replaced during the 8k and 16k service. My second set of rear brake pads got replaced at 22k, a little premature, probably to the disc crack issue or due to us running a higher load than usual. Here, I would like to point out that the life of brake pads is totally dependent on riding environment and individual riding styles. I have not met a single fellow rider who has got the same life out of his brake pads.
  • Engine Oil – 3 Litres replaced every 4000 km. Yes, I hate the fact that the manufacturer forces you to change oil every 4000 km. The oil definitely has more life left in it. In my opinion, I feel that the oil change interval should be 6000km, at least. Replaced oil filter every time I replaced the engine oil. UPDATE – DSK Benelli has come with an AMC scheme (will discuss in detail on this later) in which the oil change interval has been updated to 8000kms. This move will help reduce ownership costs.
  • Air Filter – One replaced every 8k km. The stock ones are the basic foam filters. The plan is to change to DNA Air Filters. There is a stock replacement model available.
  • Spark Plugs – A pair replaced each at 12000kms and 24000kms.
  • Tyres – The motorcycle was shod with Pirelli Angel ST as stock. Replaced the tyres at about 23500km on the odometer. I was looking for the Angel GT as the replacement but the availability of the 160 size tyres was an issue. Came across the Metzeler M7RR Sportec and liked the review and ratings. The M7RRs are stickier than the Angel STs, so I am expecting a slightly less mileage. Review on both the tyres will be posted soon.

Aftermarket Add-Ons

 

Overall, the motorcycle has been a great experience. I wish I could say the same about the cost of ownership. The service is quite good, however, very expensive for a 300cc motorcycle. At 22000km, in less than 1.5 years, I had already spent a little over Rs. 50000/- on routine maintenance, which includes regular service, oil change and consumables like brake pads. That’s like over Rs. 2/km and it does not include fuel expense, of course. You can maintain a car at less than this.

I did raise the concern with DSK Benelli and I am sure many other owners did the same. The good news is, as I had mentioned earlier, the manufacturer has come up with an AMC option. This is reducing the cost of service by almost 30% annually. They also have plans to localise spares like the brake pads and chain sprockets to reduce the costs. How effective is this going to be? Well, we will have to wait and watch. I will update on this later.

To sum my experience, all I would say is that the Benelli TNT 300 is an able tourer which can be a street hooligan if you want it too. And sounds the part too. This is by far the most melodious sounding motorcycle in this segment. If DSK Benelli can help owners by reducing the overall ownership cost, they will be around for good. The bikes are built rock solid and I for one have not come across any major issues. And if at all they did come, they are machines, after all, the service centre was able to sort it out, right away.

More updates at a later date. Ciao.

Aarini – Benelli TNT 300 Ownership Review

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The search for my next motorcycle started soon after my last one, a Yamaha R15v2, which I fondly called Zurina, got stolen in Bangalore. This was in February 2014. I never got the motorcycle back, so I was managing my rides by borrowing friends’ motorcycles or renting one every now and then. I knew that I would eventually want my own motorcycle as soon as I got the moolah sorted.

The Selection Process

To start with, it had to be an upgrade to the previous motorcycle. A pillion-friendly naked tourer, something that could munch miles all day long and not stress me out, is what I was looking for. When I started off my search, the KTM Duke siblings, the Honda CBR 250, the Kawasaki Z250 and even the Royal Enfield GT Continental were the contenders. I was also hoping that the Mahindra Mojo and the TVS–BMW offering would see day light so that I would have more options. Keeping my budget in mind, there was nothing else I could consider. Having the Yamaha R15v2 as a benchmark, this wasn’t going to be an easy task.

Things I was looking for.

  • It should be an all-rounder, something I could use in the city daily and could tour effortlessly all day.
  • Should be comfortable to ride long distances, preferably the riding stance should not be too aggressive. Had to be pillion friendly.
  • Should not feel stressed cruising in triple digit speeds.
  • Good brakes and handling. ABS was not something I was looking for.
  • Good tires which would work well in dry as well as wet conditions and manage well some occasional off road too.
  • The build quality had to be good.
  • The motorcycle had to look good, but at the same time be inconspicuous.

I had already ridden the RE GT Continental and, even though it felt good to ride, I could not connect with it. I had rented out the Duke 200 for the BikeNomads Annual Meet in November, 2014. It was peppy and a lot of fun to ride. However, the 10 liter fuel tank and uncomfortable seats were a turn off. The limited range between refills and my sore bums were enough to strike it off the list. Honda stopped making the CBR 250 and I was tired of waiting for the 300. Kawasaki was another story altogether. My friend and I visited their showroom probably three-four times, but they did not have test ride motorcycles available for either Z250 or Ninja 300. The Kawasaki showroom sales people are probably the least interested bunch I have ever seen. Finally after pulling some strings through our network, we managed to get test rides for both the bikes. The Z250 was the one displayed at the showroom and it looked nice with the z800ish head lights and the green tone. But the ride was a disappointment. The power delivery was late and did not meet my requirements for the touring aspect. Add to that the seating, which was not exactly what I would term as comfortable. The Ninja 300 we got was a motorcycle being used on race tracks. It was pretty beaten up, and was missing rear view mirrors and rear foot pegs. Nonetheless, the bike was fun to ride and had a crazy acceleration. Pillion comfort and the price factor kind of kept this choice on hold.

In between all this, DSKBenelli created a flutter by launching five motorcycles, and the TNT 300, with its naked street format, managed to catch my attention. As I started researching it online, I realized that almost every Indian reviewer was gaga over the sound it made. It was as if most were sold the moment they heard it roar. Digging for more details got me to a post in Cycle World, which had a good detailed review on the bike. Also managed to find a very nice comprehensive review by Shumi from Overdrive. I decided to test ride the TNT 300. I told my friend, who had come along, to not let me buy the bike only for the sound. 😉

The dealership managed by Vinayaka Cars Pvt. Ltd. was very pleasant with a very good sales staff. They knew their motorcycles and were more than willing to answer all my queries. I spent a good hour scrutinizing the motorcycle from every angle. I was pretty impressed with the build quality, something I was a little skeptical about as the motorcycles are manufactured in China. The TNT300, if I may put it this way, was over engineered. Benelli is owned by QJ and they have partnered with DSK in India to get the Benelli range of motorcycles into India.

Finally I decided to take a test ride. The motorcycle was a black one with a red trellis frame, shod in Pirelli Angel ST tires. It was quite inconspicuous till the engine was fired up, when the nice growl of the engine/air intake caught my attention. It actually sounded like an inline 4. This is a 300cc parallel twin, by the way. Like I mentioned earlier, I will get to the acoustics later. I loved the fact that the weight of the motorcycle was very well balanced and you would not realize how heavy it is as long as you are in motion. Tipping the scales at close to 196 kgs kerb weight, this was way heavier than others in the segment. The engine with close to 38 BHP of power and 27 NM of torque had a linear power delivery and I found that I could putter around in city traffic and do good speeds on open roads with ease without the engine feeling stressed at any point. I adjusted very easily to the motorcycle and found the upright seating with slightly rear set footpegs quite ergonomic. The seats were comfy for the rider as well as the pillion. It almost matched all my requirements for my next motorcycle. I left out mentioning ABS because I did not want one on my motorcycle. Somehow, I trust my instincts more than electronics. On that note, the dual disc brakes upfront and the single disc doing its job at the back were confidence inspiring. They have a very responsive feel and do a great job at getting this heavy machine to a halt from triple digit speeds. The brake levers are adjustable for reach and can be tinkered with to suite your need.

Extensive research online post the test ride, and endless discussions on xbhp, with my biker buddies (Santa and Sanket) and partner in crime (Poornima) led me to confirm the motorcycle which would fill the void left by Zurina.

Selection done, I had to wait for three weeks for the motorcycle to be delivered. Due to some delay in imports, it got extended by one more week. What I liked was that the sales team kept me in the loop about the delay and did not wait for me to call and enquire about the status.

Ownership Views

Finally, I got the call to come and pick up my motorcycle. The dealership guys made me stand on a podium to take delivery. It’s a custom they follow it seems and, I would not deny it, it did make me feel special. I christened her Aarini, the adventurous one.

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The first service was due at 1000kms and the run-in was 1600kms. Manufacturer recommendation was to keep the engine running below 5000rpms during the run-in period. I was too eager to open her up and managed to finish my run-in within a matter of weeks. The motorcycle did not have any issues all this while and performed well even in the stop-and-go traffic in Bangalore.

This would be a good time to mention the heat it generates. The meter console has a temperature display and the fan kicks in once the temperature crosses 92–93 degrees Celsius. The heat is evident but not too much. The fan does a decent job of sending the hot air towards the side away from the legs. This happens only when you are not moving much. As soon as you are able to get a clear road and get moving, the temperature drops and you don’t feel any heat on your legs.

The bottom mount exhaust was another area of worry for me. I was worried it might touch the ground, especially over nasty bumps we find here in India. However, I have had only a couple of instances with the pillion sitting where it touched the bump. You just need to be a little careful when going over un-scientific bumps with a pillion.

The mirrors may need to be adjusted to suit your height and riding posture. Once adjusted, they are very functional. The ends of the mirrors jut out beyond the handlebars, something you might need to get used to.

The headlights were good but did not provide adequate throw, even after adjusting high and low beams. You can adjust both individually by yourself and need not go to the service center.

Run-in completed and this purring cat became a roaring lion. The induction roar beyond 5000 rpm is just mind boggling. Yes, the induction roar. Most people mention the exhaust note to be really nice and forget that the air induction also plays a good role in the symphony this machine creates. Both together definitely make this motorcycle the most harmonious parallel twin in the world. Unlike other LOUD motorcycles, this one did not tire you out, even on a long run.

The Pirelli Angel ST rubbers complement the motorcycle well and perform very well on dry as well as wet tarmac conditions. On the occasional off road runs through slush and gravel, the tires hold well and motorcycle is very much in control. To say the least, I am pretty impressed by these tires, which come as stock on the Benelli.

The seats are very comfy, unlike the other bikes in the segment, even for the pillion. You can do long rides effortlessly with good distances between the butt breaks complementing the 16 liter fuel tank, which gives it a decent range of around 350 kms.

The windblast is evident considering it’s a naked motorcycle. However, the weight helps keep it planted and doesn’t shudder even with crosswinds at speeds of over 140kmph. I have managed around 157kmph with a pillion and around 172kmph on the odo while doing it single. My phone GPS based app showed a speed of around 164kmph when I did the latter, an expected speedo error.

Kon Si Bike Hai? Kitne Ki Hai? Kitni Deti Hain?

The most common questions I get asked, by family, friends and strangers alike.

I have been asked why I did not buy a car instead. I have had to explain the origin and existence of Benelli, as not many know about the Italian, now Chinese owned, brand. I have been told bluntly, “My bike gives four times the mileage you get, even though it’s way cheaper.” All I do is give that sheepish grin, knowing that they would not get it.

On the efficiency bit, I have got the worst in city stop-and-go traffic, around 22kmpl and the best on highways, where it touched 30kmpl. Pretty decent for a 300 cc parallel twin. I have been using fuel from Shell as much as possible but switch to other brands enroute my long trips. It definitely runs smoother and cooler when running on Shell.

I faced only one issue till date and I can’t really blame the bike for it. I managed to damage both my wheels. Yes both. Let me explain, I was doing around 70-80kmph and entering an underpass near IISC in Bangalore early in the morning. There are two grilled drains that run across the underpass, roughly 1.5 feet wide. One of the sections of the grill was broken and I took a hit. I had a pillion with me too. Now before you jump to conclusions, No, I did not fall. No, the wheels did not break apart like we saw in the case of some Dukes and Pulsars. I rolled to a stop to the side of the road almost 20-25 feet after the underpass. I started slowing down when I started feeling the front to be heavy, a sure sign of the air leaking out of the tires. On inspection I realized that both my front and rear alloys had taken the impact and they were bent on the left side. The impact was nasty enough to even tear the front tire. You must be wondering why I mentioned this incident in an ownership review.

Well, I got to test the RSA – Road Side Assistance. Yes, a one year RSA support is included when you purchase the motorcycle. I called the number and the vehicle was on the way to the service center within an hour. It would be good to mention that DSKBenelli has tied up with Rescue Vehicle Services. They did an excellent job in handling the motorcycle properly and waited at the service center till it was received by the technician there. The Service Manager was kind enough to open the service center on a Sunday to take in the motorcycle.

Spare inventory and warehousing was still in progress, and so my spares took around two weeks to arrive. DSKBenelli needs to work this bit out. The insurance guys took another seven days for the payout. The repair was cashless so it’s kind of easy on you in case of any such misfortunes.

I have done close to 7000kms on my TNT300, and I have not really got much to complain about, except that the service intervals are too frequent and expensive. They are scheduled after every 4000kms and cost close to 5000(INR) bucks, including the consumables.

So that kind of sums up my first few months with Aarini. Follow me here for more posts on mods and ownership views in the days to come.

UPDATE :

Read my long term review at 24000km on the TNT 300.

BikeNomads Annual Meet 2014 – Tarkarli

It was that time of the year when I was eagerly waiting for the BikeNomads Annual Meet 2014 location and dates to be announced. After a lot of bickering on various locations, Tarkarli was the decided as this year’s Annual Meet location. The dates 7th, 8th & 9th of November, 2014 were confirmed and the plans started rolling out. It was around 700 kms from Bangalore.

My biggest dilemma was arranging a bike, as mine got stolen around 6 months back 😦 . I went ahead and registered anyway, the mantra being that I would beg, borrow or steal rent a bike.

A little about Tarkarli. It is a small fishing settlement south of Malvan, in the Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra, India. What makes this place interesting is that this village is located at the confluence of River Karli and the Arabian Sea. The river curves south right before it meets the sea, the estuary forms a narrow piece of land barely half a kilometer wide. The hotel we had been booked at was right in the center of this piece of land flanked by the river and the sea on both sides. You can see what I mean in the map below.Tarkarli

As the D Day got closer six of us confirmed our registrations and plans started falling into place. The final six from Bangalore were Rajan, Diwakar, Vivek, Sushant, Poornima and of course, me. Rajan, Diwakar and Vivek planned to leave one day in advance as they wanted to take a halt in Goa. Sushant and I on the other hand were leaving early morning on the 7th planning to reach Tarkarli by evening. All of us had decent riding experience except Poornima, who had only travelled pillion on bikes. She was going pillion with me in this trip, and I was initially a bit skeptical but knowing that she had done a trip to Ladhak as a pillion gave me the assurance that she would be fine to go through with this journey. She has otherwise been an avid backpacker and that helped see through things for her.

Bikes ready and riding gear checked we did our final checks on 6th night and hit the sack so that we could start early next day. Oh, I missed mentioning I rented a KTM Duke 200 from Indimotards. And Sushant was using a TVS Apache classic. I think I can add here that this was the same bike I attempted the saddle-sore on. Fondly called Kaira, the tried and trusted one.

November 7th, 2014

We managed to get up on time and were out and about by 5 in the morning, took the Tumkur Road to exit Bangalore. We did good time as early morning meant less local traffic. We stopped for breakfast at Chitradurg and also filled fuel there. Yes, the duke with just a 10 liter tank had a range of only 220 – 250 kms. The roads till Belgaum were good and most of it was part of the Golden Quadrilateral (GQ). We were averaging 100 – 110 kmph. We crossed Devengere, Hubli-Dharwad on the way. It would have been quite eventless and boring considering straight stretches of road, had it not been for the few ‘burnt ego’ car drivers who couldn’t digest the fact that we were going faster than them. This included a Jaguar XF and a couple of local Rossis’. We reached Belgaum by around 4 in the evening, took long considering the pace we were keeping. The culprit had been lack of sleep. We ended up taking a couple of nap breaks. Better safe than sorry.

Bangalore to Tarkarli via Swantwadi

From Belgaum the plan was to take the Swantwadi route via Amboli Ghats. We were expecting bad roads but with only 150kms left we were expecting to reach our destination soon. The whole stretch was a disaster. Potholes all over the place and the darkness setting in didn’t really help. The roads didn’t even allow us to enjoy the beautiful full moon rising in the sky. The loose gravel and rocks and flowing water at some places made it worse. It was thick jungles and not a place to even buy water in sight. It took us close to 4 hours to cross the ghats. With around 50 kms to destination we found a place to eat. It was already 8 in the night. I don’t know if it was the hunger or the food was genuinely good. It was probably the yummiest egg burjee and rotis I have had in my lifetime. Tummy’s full we geared up to finish the remaining 50kms. We got a call from Rajan and updated that we should be there in an hour or so. Everyone had reached the resort and we were the only ones left.

I couldn’t have been more wrong, if I may say so, to say that we would reach in an hour. You would see why I said that soon. We soon joined the NH 17 connecting Bombay to Goa. We were super glad to be on good roads again. Soon we reached Kudal and turned left towards our destination. Nice curvy winding roads. There were hardly any people or vehicles in sight. I just assumed that it’s probably because the location is remote. I had been following the Google Maps as now I did not have any network and thanks to offline maps I was able to at least follow the route.  At one point the Navigation tool asked us to turn left and behold there was no left. I was beginning to doubt the map’s credibility and called out for Sushant to stop and we checked the map on foot. To our surprise we found a Road Sign showing a left turn but no roads. All we could find was a mud stairs behind some bushes. We did not turn and headed straight thinking that we would come across another road. The Navigation rerouted and gave us new directions. The road started becoming narrower and suddenly we were in the middle of a small opening surrounded by bushes and the tool asked us to take a right. The opening to the right was not visible as it was a steep slope and had lot of gravel on the surface. Not having any choice we went down the trail hoping to reach a proper road after that. To our surprise we encountered a flight of clay/mud stairs, not having much of an option we rode down that and found ourselves in front of a dilapidated house. It was spooky. Thankfully there was a mud road leading away from the house and we ended up on a tarmac road. The joy was short lived as we found the road becoming narrower again and soon we were on a mud trail narrow enough for the bushes to hit our helmets. We could see the Karli River to our left, shimmering under the full moon. I could barely figure out what’s on my right after beyond the bushes. Technically we had not lost the way as the map showed us nearing our destination, but by now we figured that we had ended up taking a shorter but lesser used route.

I don’t know if it was the urge to reach our destination soon or the hunger for adventure we kept heading on via the mud trail. It was bumpy but both the duke and the apache were holding ground pretty well. We had to stop again as both our bikes splashed through a mud slush and our bikes were caked in red mud. The trail was becoming very difficult to ride on especially during the night. I checked the maps again, and found a small clearing of around 200 – 300 meters and then another road. We took our chances and headed that way and suddenly the trail opened on to some house’s back yard. And we had a surprised resident staring back at us. I just shouted out “Rosary Paradise”, our hotel, and he just pointed to a gap between two houses. He was too shocked to utter anything. Passing through the narrow passage and riding up a set of stairs we were back on a tarmac road and we were glad to see people and vehicles on it. Soon we were riding down the road, just eager to give our bums some rest. Finally, yes finally after 15 hours of riding we reached our destination. It was 10:30 in the night and our fellow nomads were just settling in for dinner. They were all a bit worried as to where we were as there was not contact and it had been over two hours since last contact. Pleasantries exchanged, all we needed to do was sleep. After a quick grub we hit the sack.

November 8th, 2014

Next day, while waiting for some fellow nomads to return from a dolphin sighting trip, I figured out what went wrong the previous night. It seems the actual road was the one that went all the way to Malavan and then you head south to Tarkarli.

Kudal to Tarkarli via Malavan

Google had shown us the shortest route, which was actually a mud trail.

Kudal to Tarkarli via offroad trail

On going over the route on Google Maps in earth mode I realized we were riding through a stretch which was in the middle of the river and the backwater canals. Lack of time prevented me from exploring that route in the day, but I would surely try it someday.

earthview_karli_river

The rest of the day went by with a group ride and lunch there on. We were around 28 of us and occupied the whole restaurant we stopped for food at.

The customary photo shoot was held at the beach in front of our hotel. That was a fun moment. And the boys went berserk after the shoot and went dragging on the hard sand beach. There were a couple of spills but still the fun factor was a 10/10.

the line up

During the evening we had sessions by a few of our veteran Nomads. Dr Sanket Kawli talked about Trauma Management, Navendu Singh gave us tips on Long Distance Riding and Vibhu Rishi & Rohit Parik gave us updates on what they have in mind regarding the goals and objectives of BikeNomads in the days to come.

It was a day well spent and it was great to connect a lot of names to faces. I had been in touch with most of them over forums but had never met most of them in person. All in all I would just say that this trip was worth it.

November 9th, 2014

The return journey had all six of us from Bangalore together. We left at 6AM and decided to take the Chorla – Khanapur route, as this was suggested as a better route. This time we went to Kudal via Malavan and headed south on the NH 17 towards Goa. We had planned to tank up in Goa due to the fuel prices there of course 😉 at just 55 bucks a litre.

Tanking up at Mapusa we headed towards Chorla Ghat. This was by far one of the best stretches of roads we had covered in the last two days. Lush green forests and scenic beauty at its best. Excellent, well maintained roads.Chorla Ghats

Then we turned towards Khanapur, knowing that the condition of roads is bad for around 20kms. We decided to take this route as the other okay road would take us on a longer route. The road wasn’t all that bad as it was being freshly laid. So it was level roads without potholes but were either clay or stone topped as the tar was yet to be laid. Our progress was slow but we made it through to Khanapur in around half an hour. From here we connected to the Dharwad highway (NH7) via Kittur.

Tarkarli to Bangalore via Chorla Ghats

Stopping for lunch and later for tea we reached Bangalore by around 7PM. The delays were mostly because of the traffic due to weekend rush.

This was my first BikeNomads AM and I loved every moment of it. I am proud of being part of such a group which has some of the most crazily sensible riders I have ever known.

click here for the BNAM2014 album

20 Reasons Why You Should Date A Biker !!!!!

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1) Date a guy who has ridden across the length and breadth of the Country. He’s the best storyteller you will ever meet.

2) Date a guy who will jump on his motorcycle and ride off in any direction, only to realign himself with this World once again. Respect him for this, because every time he is upset about something, he’ll make sure it doesn’t spill-over at work/home.And when he comes back, he’ll be more sorted than he was earlier.

3) Date a guy who knows how to fix a punctured tube. Or broken gear box.Chances are, he’ll be able to sort out a lot of problems in his own life as well as yours, if you’re close to him. Without taking external help. You can rely on him for most of your problems.Unless they’re medical in nature.In that case ,visit a doctor.(he ll take you to the doc on his motorcycle.)

4) Date a guy who is as comfortable spending a night at a gas station in the middle of nowhere as he is in the plush comfort of his house. Adaptability is something we as humans are kind of running short on these days.

5) Date a guy who will always , without fail, stop to help when he sees another one of his kind broken down on the road, For that matter , even if he sees car drivers. He understands what you’re going through at that moment.

6) Date a guy who gets excited at the mention of hitting the highway and riding off to the hills. The curves on those roads teach him how volatile life can be .In addition to that, he knows how to respect curves. of all kinds.( you know what i mean 😉 ).

7) Date a guy who can actually break each bone in another mans body who is looking for unnecessary trouble with him, with just a wrench. But he wont because he knows its not worth it and its not the solution to any problem. Yes , he respects everybody’s opinions. He wont force his on you. just make sure no one pushes him around too much.

8) Date a guy who will ride 300 km just to have that awesome breakfast that the road-side dinner offers in the town next to the one you’re in. If this isn’t adventurous enough for a mundane day, what else do you think is?

9) Date a guy who will get so excited before each ride that he wont be able to sleep for a minute, even though he has done this a million times. He knows how to keep things fresh. Always.

10) Date a guy who makes sure he packs in everything that he might and most probably will need on a long motorcycle ride. He pays attention to detail. Chances are he’ll be sorted in most of the things in his life.

11) Date a guy who never ever ride his machine without wearing a helmet. He knows his life is not just his own.

12) Date a guy who will pause and skip a few heartbeats every time he sees the Sun ride over the horizon, or comes across a waterfall at the next turn in the hills, or lays his eyes on the first snow-capped peaks in the ranges. He admires nature. The same nature you have chosen to ignore sitting in your cubicles.

13) Date a guy who will ride just for the heck of it, because it makes him feel free and liberated. Honestly he is more free than anyone else, because he turns that throttle, puts the bike in gears and grabs that freedom.

14) Date a guy who would rather be sitting on his motorcycle thinking about God, and not sit in a temple and think of his bike. He has his priorities in place.

15) Date a guy who has seen the dark side of motorcycling and has survived. He’ll give you tips and lessons you didn’t even know existed.

16) Date a guy who will go to any lengths to spend some quality time with his ”brothers”, even when there is no obvious blood connection. He understands brotherhood much more deeply.

17) Date a guy who can go wild on his motorcycle trips and can make everyone have a great time. with his music and his stories. What’s there not to like about this?

18) Date a guy who will look back at his life’s achievements and mistakes while riding his motorcycle. He will chuckle a bit, smile a lot, sometimes shed a tear or two. And that’s what builds character.

19) Date a guy who has crash and burns marks on his self. Warrior aren’t pretty. Barbie dolls are.

20) Date a guy who can keep his motorcycle like any other man would treat his wife. He’ll treat his wife like a queen……

Source – SAM