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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!!
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.
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.
- 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.
- Headlight Bulb – Upgraded to OSRAM Night Breaker Unlimited
- 40W x 2 Aux Lights from Ali Express
- Custom made Pannier Frames (pictures shared in post)
- Puig Rafale Universal Windscreen – works well for solo riding but is of no help for pillion, hence removed now. Pillion’s helmet experiences a lot of wind buffeting due to the visor.
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.
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.
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.
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.