Kokan Photologue – Forts, Beaches and Coastal Roads!

Welcome to the photologue of my solo Kokan trip. It was an extremely pleasurable spontaneous escapade with pristine empty beaches, imposing and rustic old forts as well as mindblogglingly picturesque coastal roads. The best part is, most places I rode through were completely untouched and off the typical Konkan visiting tourist’s radar. Virgin and beautiful. At times you could almost fool someone that you are on some European Coast rather than India.

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The Route

The day started off as usual. Getting up half-hearted, grinding through the morning tasks with half opened eyes and then getting ready for work letting out soft grunts every few minutes. Then something cracks in your head, almost loud enough to be heard by people even living outside it. In this moment you suddenly know this is not going to be a normal day. And my word, it wasn’t. It’s a rare occasion when you suddenly know that you just have to succumb to your wanderlust. Even your wife sees it in your eyes and says, “Just go! Have fun”. You know you’ve married the right woman.

In considerably less time than I took to get ready that morning, I had already packed my overnight bag, put on my riding gear and even researched and booked a wonderful, small farm house for one night’s stay. Bag strapped on the bike and a manically huge smile plastered on my face, I was off.

Rode non-stop from Pune to Khandala on the old Mumbai-Pune highway finally stopping in the Old Khandala Ghat for a few photos of the valley and the Expressway. The ride on the open highway was relaxing and smooth. Continued on through the town of Khopoli towards what I used to call, ‘Pen-in-the-ass’.  The Lonavala-Khopoli-Pen stretch is quite a nice B-road and fun to ride with a few twists and turns. But Pen itself is usually very crowded, slow to ride through and then the road for the next few kilometers is potholed with many traffic jams. But I was surprised that the road has improved a lot and the traffic too was managable, which may be because it was a weekday.

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Moving on, the road gets quite nice as you approach Alibaug, with more greenery and twisty roads with occasional peeks at the sea. Just before Alibaug I took the bypass towards Revdanda, which can be a bit confusing as there are multiple right and left turns before you finally get on the right road. Now this is proper Konkan territory. Small winding roads making way through tiny villages, lined with coconut and betel nut trees, picture-perfect homes and temples. I made my customary stop at Nagaon beach for lunch.

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Beautiful Konkani Homes
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Bangda Thali – Nagaon beach (Rs. 200)

I had left with literally no plan, except to explore as many coastal roads, use the ferries as much as possible and stop and explore anything I found interesting. As I was passing through Revdanda, I found exactly that – Revdanda Fort! I’ve never seen it before though I had passed by many times, so I went for it. Just a little ways from the main road, it is right on the Revdanda beach. The fort itself is mostly in ruins, but it still is imposing, though small, and really a sight to behold. You can see the Korlai fort from here too which was next on my agenda.

I met a few guys there who were travelling through Konkan and kayaking on various beaches. They were carrying their own kayaks and all. Badass!

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Revdanda Fort

I crossed over the brigde and rode along looking for my farm house near Borli village just after Korlai. I found it and I was so chuffed! The Devrai Farm House is a small property just off the main road. It’s clean, well maintained and extremely beautiful. A local couple are the caretakers who are very sweet and gracious hosts. The cottage is facing west towards the sea, which you can just about see beyond some farmland. (Tariff – Rs. 1000. I got a discount as it was a weekday and I was travelling alone)

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 Devrai Farmhouse

The room is quite decent too, nothing fancy but with all amenities and very clean and comfortable. I dumped my bag and left for Korlai fort. Korlai is a small fishing village and you drive to the fort through fish drying areas (close your nostrils if you’re not used to it! I like it though). The road is a trail really, not a tarred one but still manageable for all manner of vehicles, both big and small. You reach the lighthouse, where you can park and then trek to the top of the hill.

 

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Korlai Fort

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Korlai Fort

This fort too is in ruins, but this one is bigger spread over the top of the whole hill. It’s very beautiful, especially basked in the orange glow of the evening sun. I trekked and checked out all corners of fort and then made my way back to the farm house for some freshening up and tea. I lounged on the hammocks for a while, taking in the fresh air, the trees and the blue sky while the pet dog and her adorable little puppies gave me some company!

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I changed into comfortable clothes and went to Korlai beach for the sunset. I wanted to go for a swim, but Korlai beach is a bit rocky and not suitable for swimming. So I hung out on the rocks, with my feet in the water, watched the sun go down and then decided to turn back. As I was about to leave, the sky burst into a brilliant pink and orange glow. Then suddenly I was viciously attacked by two more little puppies on the beach! They jumped and played until sadly, I had to ride away.

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Korlai Beach

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I went back to the farmhouse, had another cup of tea and sat on the terrace of the cottage as it went dark and the stars came out. It’s nice to see stars actually appear in the sky as opposed to the city where we don’t seem to see anything apart from the moon and the glow of the city lights against the smog!

Soon I heard a growl from my gut and I asked the caretaker about some good seafood. He gave me the address of his friend’s restaurant just down the road – Shree Samarth Krupa. I called before hand for some crab and then rode down there. I gorged on some prawns fry (Rs. 180) and crab thali (Rs. 160!!!). Man, it was so good! The prawns were spicy, chunky and juicy. The crab curry had two medium size crabs in a spicy coconut based curry with 2 chapatis, rice and sol kadhi. Nothing like a nice leisurely dinner under coconut trees with the cool winter breeze.

The next morning after a solid peaceful sleep, I left just after 7.30 towards Murud, where I planned to catch the ferry to Dighi. On the way I stopped at Kashid beach for breakfast. Small shacks are usually open early. Further down the road, there are couple more beaches that are devoid of crowds. I stopped first at Chikni beach, which basically is the southern end of Kashid beach. The beach is extremely clean, great for a dip with a small river opening up into the sea with a hill on the left. It’s very pretty and peaceful. The beach is lined with many luxury villas which are empty most of the time and the locals have much gossip to tell about the properties as well as the owners!

Kashid Beach

A few kilometers down the road is a fishing beach called Danda. No one stays there but fishermen have their storage huts and boats on the beach. This beach is less clean but beautiful nevertheless as it arcs into a ridge and continues on the other side.

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Chikni Beach

There is a huge bungalow on top of a hill on Danda beach which currently has been closed off. Locals had told me an interesting story about this house on my last trip. They said that some Don-type guy from Mumbai used to live here and carry out smuggling from the sea to Mumbai from this house. It was complete with a secret entry for boats and internal passages! But soon he was caught and the house is under police custody as part of evidence. The villas on Chikni beach too apparently were owned by him and his lawyer, some of which they sold, but with their activities caught, everything is just lying unused. Interesting!

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Danda Beach

 

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The Don’s Bungalow!

I rode along the very picturesque coastal road towards Murud to catch a ferry from Rajpuri port to Dighi. I had asked multiple times to multiple people for exact ferry timings and frequency. I learnt the hard way that the Kokani people, though extremely sweet, hardworking and friendly, aren’t exactly reliable! They never say that they don’t know something. They will just give you completely wrong information in a very matter-of-fact way, making you believe it instantly. So basically, the Rajpuri-Dighi ferry was at 9 am and the next one was at 10.30 am, but I was told it was at 8.30 with ferries every 10 minutes. So I was relaxed and reached late just missing the 9 am ferry. But then I found out that another ferry from Agardanda to Dighi was at 9.30 which I was told by two local boys, who too were in the same boat as me – literally. They too had missed the Rajpuri one and wanted to catch the Agardanda one. So we rushed to there!

Murud

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Murud-Janjira Fort

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I parked my bike on the boat and sighed in relief. After about 10 minutes the ferry departed. It is a decent sized vessel with space for about 6 cars and few more bikes. The ferry is quite clean and well maintained with good staff. The trip along with my bike cost me Rs.50. The view of the sea is amazing and really saves a lot of time. It is the ideal way to travel through Kokan.

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View from the Ferry (sorry for the bad panaroma)

Within 15 minutes it was time to disembark at Dighi. I got off and had tea at a small shop and confirmed the coastal route via Nanavli on Google maps as well as the owner of the shop. I set off expecting an average road all the way to Diveagar but was shocked to see that it actually was a fantastic black strip of tarmac winding over the hills and along the pristine coastline. There was no traffic with really mindblowing views. The sea was sparkling in the sun, brilliant blue in colour, with white sandy or rugged rocky beaches along the way.

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Dighi and the view of the sea. Agardanda Port in the background.

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There were tiny villages every few kilometres which were completely untouched by commercialization. Then I reached Adgaon beach – I was blown away. The beach is so beautiful and there are houses right along the beach. Not a single restaurant or hotel in sight but extremely picturesque. Just beyond the village is the Adgaon koliwada or the fishing village.

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Adgaon Village and Koliavada

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Velas Agar

Next is Velas Agar, another untouched village with a huge white sandy beach. From here on to Divagar the road becomes a bit rough, but Diveagar itself is beautiful. Tiny lanes winding through typical Konkani homes with sloping roofs, dung front yards with huge coconut and betel nut plantations. Every lane apart from main roads is a tiny trail, red from the soil. I rode on the massive beach which extends for kilometres on either side. It is a lot of fun. The bike slides around a bit in the sand and leaves big rooster tails behind. At a beach stall, I had some tea and took in the view of the vast sea. Diveagar is a very popular beach and is a bit crowded even on weekdays, so I moved on towards Shrivardhan.

Diveagar

The road from Diveagar to Shrivardhan via Bharadkhol and Aravi is another gem. It winds it’s way right on the coast over hills providing excellent views of the sea and the rocky coastline. Aravi beach is another beautiful beach. I reached Shrivardhan, had some refreshing lemonade on the beach and hung out for sometime. The beach is very clean and has been developed quite well. A nice walking plaza has been constructed with benches and lighting. There are good toilets and bathrooms too. Kudos to the local government.

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Shrivardhan Beach

After a little while I left for Harihareshwar, my last destination, before I started my return journey. I wanted to take another ferry and visit Kelshi, Anjarle etc but I realized it would be too late. I would have done that if I could stay one more night or if I would have left early in the morning the day prior. The ride to Harihareshwar is not exactly the best one as there is no coastal route. The road goes through Shrivardhan town and then a B road. The village of Harihareshwar too isn’t that pretty. But the beach is quite big and beautiful with many hotels near the beach. But it isn’t suitable for swimming as the sea floor is very steep and the currents are very strong. I again hung out for a while, had a refreshing kokam drink and decided to eat lunch and leave.

There was a nice home-style mess near the beach which was suggested to me by the juice vendor. But being Kokan, they refused to serve lunch before 1 pm, which was almost an hour from now. So on the way back I stopped at another restaurant and ordered pomphret thali. Unfortunately the place wasn’t a Kokani style place so they served me North Indian style curry, rawa fry and tandoori rotis; but it was tasty and some welcome change in flavour.

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Pomphret Thali

I wanted to return to Pune via Mahad and Varandha ghat but due to some road works and resultant confusion, I ended up back on the Shrivardhan road. So, I decided to take the Mangaon-Tamhini ghat route which turned out to be a brilliant decision. Being afternoon, it had started getting quite hot and tiring. But once I crossed Mangaon and began the ascent of the Tamhini ghat, the air became very cool and fresh. The road surface was smooth, with amazing twists and turns and the lower temperatures put a huge smile on my face again. I had a lot of fun putting my knee down on tight corners after all the bad roads and mostly straight line riding for 2 days.

I stopped for tea one last time and rode back home before sunset, completely refreshed by my 2 day impulsive trip!

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Tamhini Ghat

I hope you enjoyed this photologue. Don’t forget to let me know in the comments if you’ve done a similar trip, your experiences and any similar routes. Thanks for reading and don’t forget – “Keep Wandering, Keep Driving and Keep Eating!” Cheers.

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RE Himalayan New Problems Emerge

We have discussed few teething problems for the Royal Enfield Himalayan in a previous article here – Royal Enfield Himalayan – Reports of Early Problems

In this article we will be talking about more serious problems that have emerged in the last few months. Some cases of the entire engine head assembly being replaced, complete electrical failure, front suspension problems and one case of the chassis cracking have emerged.

1) Engine Replacement – Some owners had complained about very noisy and inefficiently running engines. Initially, problems with the rocker arm and few other components in the engine head were diagnosed leading to the recall to replace the faulty parts. (Read – Royal Enfield Recalls the Himalayan for Engine Problem) But despite this, some owners continued to have engine problems. So as a last resort Royal Enfield replaced the complete head assembly for these Himalayans. We got reports of at least 4 such cases.

2) Cracked Chassis – One case has been reported where the chassis of the Himalayan had cracked. It happened on the left side of the bike, between the engine and the battery next to the engine mount. We don’t know the conditions due to which this has happened, whether the bike met with an accident or it was dropped on the road or off road. So it won’t be fair to blatantly blame Royal Enfield’s build quality. The whole frame was replaced at the service centre.

3) Front Suspension Issues – A few owners had complained about the handling of the Himalayan getting very heavy and also of the bike swaying to one side. The effort required for turning the bike was very high and the handle felt very stiff. On disassembling the front fork assembly it was found that the front forks, cone set, bearings or other components were either rusted or damaged. Royal Enfield replaced all these problematic components under warranty.

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4) Complete Electrical Failure – A few owners complained of the bike suddenly shutting off completely while riding. The bike just died and refused to start again. The neutral light, horn or indicators also did not function even after turning the key off and on. After waiting for a few minutes, some bikes started again while others did not and had to be towed to the service station. The whole electric system and wiring loom had to be replaced for some owners while some required just changing the faulty dashboard and lock assembly.

5) Stalling – Many owners complained of the bike stalling a lot, especially at signals and low speeds. But most owners reported that after proper tuning and servicing of the bike this issue was resolved.

6) Rear Tyre Locking up – Almost all owners have complained and experienced this. The rear tyre does tend to lock up very easily on the Himalayan. It happens even at low speeds or sometimes while downshifting. We can blame the hard compound of the dual purpose tyres for this. It is not extremely dangerous but one surely has to ride carefully keeping this in mind. The only solution is replacing the tyre with a premium tyre with more grip. (This? – Michelin To Introduce Off-Road Tyres in India)

7) General Rust Issues – A few components have been found to rust quite easily. A few cases of the headlight assembly and petrol tank cap rusting have been reported. All rusted components were replaced by Royal Enfield under warranty.

8) Fogging of Speedometer console / Headlight – A few cases of the meters (speedometer, tachometer etc) and headlight fogging up have emerged. Again Royal Enfield has replaced the whole console / headlight for the owners who faced these issues.

These issues are rare and not very common. We know for sure that Royal Enfield has replaced all faulty parts under warranty for each owner facing these issues. So I would not blame Royal Enfield about sub-par quality and I definitely appreciate their efforts to correct any faults discovered. We would have loved a completely trouble free bike, but we have to accept the issues are rare, even though some are quite serious.

I too own an Himalayan and love it to bits. I have not faced any major issue with my bike ever. I did have small issues like the bike stalling once in a while, but that problem vanished after the second service. Go through this article for more – Is Himalayan A Problematic/Unreliable Bike? – FALSE!

Disclaimer – These are not my original photos. I got them from the internet and the Facebook group – Royal Enfield Himalayan Owners Group

Madhe Ghat-Lingana Off-Roading

This is a photologue of my recent trip to two really exciting off-roading spots near Pune – Madhe Ghat and Lingana (Railing Pathar). I also ended up discovering a really beautiful road which leads vaguely into the Bhatghar dam area. Unfortunately I couldn’t reach Railing Pathar due to time constraints and the last section seemed quite difficult to try alone so I decided not to risk it. But I shall be back and ride to Railing pathar soon. Enjoy the photologue!

The map for my ride –

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The map will just give you a general idea.

I started from Pune and ended up on my ususal haunt, Panshet road. Here instead of using Pabe ghat, I used another ghat that i discovered couple of years ago which directly connects Panshet and Velhe village (via Kadve khind/pass). Velhe is the base for Torna trek as well as a regular stop for Madhe ghat and Lingana. On the way, the Khadakwasla Lake was extreme foggy. Some TV crew was shooting in the area so I suspect the fog could have been artificial as it was concentrated in just one large area where the cameras were pointed.

My helmet fogged up and visibility was quite poor, so my progress was quite slow till I started the climb for Kadve Khind (pass). The road is utterly beautiful, Panshet dam was filled up to the brim, the winter morning sun vibrantly lit up the blue water as well as the green – yellow fields and the air was cold and fresh. After quite a few photographs I traversed the narrow winding ghat and finally reached Velhe, where I devoured egg bhurji and tea.

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It was a beautiful hazy morning.

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You can see the fog concentrated only over the Khadakwasla Lake.

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Hotel Swapnil – My favourite joint in Velhe.

I proceeded towards Madhe ghat. The road varies from well paved to quite broken but again is very beautiful and goes through the mountains until it reaches Kelad village where you pay an entry fee to enter the protected Madhe ghat area. After the gate, there are multiple trails inside but all of them converge to ultimately reach the Madhe ghat cliff and waterfall. They have put a trailer to mark the easiest trail which even small hatchbacks can traverse. Rest of the trails are best done in an SUV or bike.

The trails are extremely fun to ride and the Himalayan just gobbles up everything in it’s path. When you finally reach the main cliff area, the view is breathtaking with a small stream heading over the cliff into the valley. The waterfall is quite impressive during the monsoon, but now it was not as great.

Many people camp here and is an absolutely amazing experience. I too plan to camp solo at Madhe ghat in a few days. Most campers had just left when I arrived. I met a couple of guys (they too were on a Himalayan) who pointed me to another cliff where they had camped and I decided to check it out. The route to the other cliff was an unused and slightly tough trail. Only off-road oriented bikes like the Himalayan or Impulse will reach here. Parts of the trail were fairly hard (especially if you’re alone) but a lot of fun and with a bit of momentum the Himalayan lapped it up quite well. Even on narrow, steep, loose climbs (and descents) I never once felt insecure. I don’t have photos of that part as I was too busy trying not to fall down. (Yes, I badly need a GoPro)

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The boy at the toll gate told me that there was a road that leads to Bhatghar dam so I decided to check it out. And man! It turned out to be a good decision. The road was quite broken and the last 2 km was kind of off-road. The views were amazing! I came up to a river and I just sat there by the river’s edge listening to the flowing water and the chirping birds. It was almost noon, but it wasn’t that hot and it was so peaceful! I moved on to end up in a tiny village of just about 6-7 houses. I enquired about the dam and they said this area is the Bhatghar dam backwater area and you don’t get to see the main waterbody. The village had it’s own tiny two room school, but even that was so nice and quaint. I turned back extremely happy. Discovering such roads and untouched villages puts a big smile on my face.

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river

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I decided to check out the road to Lingana or Railing Pathar (the latter is the base for Lingana trek). Lingana is a tall slender tapering hill (hence the name, due to it’s peculiar shape) which can only be climbed using ropes and mountaineering gear. It used to be an old prison for traitors during the rule of Shivaji Maharaj. It has caves where prisoners stayed with limited water and food supply. The only way to escape was to plunge down to your own death! Grim, but it’s an interesting story and I’ve trekked till Railing pathar on foot once and I have been wanting to ride there ever since.

The initial kilometre or so has been tarred recently but the rest of it is still the same. Sandy, full of stones and proper off road. The road is much longer than I remember and I think the whole ride (to and fro) will take at least 4 hours. The last kilometre or so, unfortunately, was quite a steep climb, with many ruts and along with my time constraints, I decided to turn back and conquer it another day. But the ride was worth it and a lot of fun. The views are fantastic and the road is fairly challenging too! I can’t wait to complete the ride.

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I hope you enjoyed my photologue, I had an exceptionally good time. It had great off-roading, brilliant views and moments of utter peace and quiet. If you’ve been to any of these places and have anything to share or suggest definitely don’t forget to share it in the comments. Also don’t forget to like us on Facebook.

 

Mindblowing Off-beat Route to Shivthar Ghal (Photologue)

Let me clarify, I did not actually reach Shivthar ghal. My main purpose was to explore the small roads surrounding the Bhatghar and Nira-Deoghar Dams and visit Shivthar ghal as a bonus. But the road was a lot longer than expected, which made me extremely happy but lack of phone service and some commitments later that evening made me turn back prematurely. But it was an awesome ride, extremely picturesque and really peaceful (read completely lonely and devoid of traffic; the anti-social part of my brain was buzzing!) Shivthar ghal proper shall be dealt with some other time.

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Route Map

A fairly early start from Pune lead me to Pabe ghat, a wonderful little ghat joining Panshet road (Khanapur) and Velhe road (Sh-65) (this is a great road to visit Rajgad, Torna and Madhe Ghat). The crisp morning air was cool and foggy.

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Foggy Pabe Ghat!
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At the Summit of Pabe Ghat

From there I turned towards Rajgad fort and had breakfast at the base which is a good idea as you will not find anything to eat till Bhor. Ask for Bhutonde village near Rajgad and just keep following the road. The road is called Sangamner-Bramhanghar-Bhandravali road. (According to Google maps at least)

The road surface here on is a combination of good tarmac and rough roads. But never appalling or jarring. But it is superbly picturesque with lots of twists and turns and mini ghats. Suddenly you come up on incredible views of the bright blue Bhatghar dam backwater with lush green fields and tiny villages perched on the shores. The fields are bursting with beautiful yellow, purple and pink flowers.

Especially in the monsoon, there are parts where you forget you are in India. Then you hit a pothole and are shaken back to reality, but it’s all in a days’s work for the Himalayan which handles the rough stuff with aplomb. This road is so remote that the locals literally chill out on the roads. There were shepherds and kids actually sleeping in the middle of the road! (Not kidding; don’t have photographic proof for the sceptics though)

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Rajgad Balekilla
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Awesome Hairpin!
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First View of the blue Bhatghar Backwater
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Bhatghar Backwater Panorama

After treating you to the beautiful backwaters, the road goes through hills and then comes right along the backwater again with the water almost spilling over the road. It’s beautiful. After one more round of the same, you are alongside the main dam wall.

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The road runs really close to the water at places

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Main Bhatghar Dam

Continue on and take right onto the Bhor-Kapurhol road. At the T-junction just before Bhor, you take another right to join the Bhor-Pasure-Varandha-Mahad road (again, according to Google maps). There is an HP petrol pump on the right at the corner of the junction. This road runs parallel to Varandha ghat and rejoins the Varandha ghat a bit before the main descent starts. It runs along Bhatghar dam on the other side of where we rode earlier. I had discovered it an year ago on a random aimless ride but had turned back halfway at the time.

The initial part is a typical country road going through couple of villages and along the backwater for a bit. Then the traffic dwindles leaving you with lush fields, rivers and amazing views for company. The phone service vanishes for good and does not return till you reach Bhor again! The road starts to climb into the mountains and slowly you ride through thick forests as it gets dark, foggy and cloudy.

The pretty yellow, purple and pink flowers make a comeback and line the roads and fields as far as your eyes can see. The villages here are tiny and remote. The road becomes more and more like a trail – gravelly, rough and then slightly muddy. Tarmac does poke it’s head once in a while. There are many waterfalls high on the mountainsides and in the forests. I couldn’t get a picture though.

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Bit of Off-roading at Pasure Village
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View of the Valley we just traveled through
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Lot of Off-shoots to get your feet dirty!
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Polishing my macro skills! Knowledgeable folk may name the flowers!

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The Road Gets Rougher

At one place the road becomes really confusing though. You come up on a slight rise and one road goes extreme left upwards and other carries straight on towards Sangvi. Take the extreme left road. There are no signboards here and no people to help. Keeping the area downloaded on google maps helps as GPS works and it helped me take the correct road. Of course you can take the detour if you’re in a mood for exploring. All the off-shoots just go to some village and the road just ends. You can always turn back and join the main road again!

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Merging with Varandha Ghat
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Fresh Vada Pav and Chai!

After almost 2 hours you join the main Varandha ghat road again. I had some – fried right in front of my eyes – fresh vada pav and kadak chai! Then I started my return journey finally deciding to ditch Shivthar ghal. Varandha ghat is another gem. Narrow but mostly well paved asphalt with incredible views of the Nira-Deoghar dam as you ride along it’s backwaters. Being the tail-end of the monsoons, the dam was full with turquoise blue water sparkling in the sun, surrounded by bright green hills sprinkled with dark green forests. The road twists and turns through the mountains finally ending in Bhor. Bhor to Pune is straight forward via Bhor-Kapurhol road and then the NH-4.

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Waterfall in Varandha Ghat

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Nira-Deoghar Panaroma

This was a mind blowing ride with lots of different road surfaces, ghats, beautiful dam backwaters and stunning hills. The road is quite long though so it’s better to leave early in the morning as I would not advise travelling on this road in the dark. I travel alone because I like it but it is really lonely with no help, no food, no puncture repair shops or anything for kilometres on end. So best to travel in a group or carry all essentials. The road is easily doable in any car as well.

So what did you think of my trip and this amazing route? Have you explored such off-beat routes? Let me know in the comments below and remember – Keep Wandering, Keep Driving and Keep Eating!! Cheers.

Four Forts and a Lake – Photologue!

I recently did an amazing 200 km ride visiting 4 forts around Pawna Lake from Pune. The plan was simple, explore as many new roads and off road trails circumferencing the Pawna lake and visit as many forts as possible. No trekking of course, only riding. Trekking four forts in a day is definitely not my idea of fun!

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Route Map

 

Pune – Lonavala – Awesome early morning ride from Pune to Lonavala. It was the first time for my Himalayan on the highway. The bike performed flawlessly. I rode in the 80-90 kmph range and it just purred along. I gave it a bootful once in a while to overtake at about 100 kmph. I could feel the Himalayan raring to go even at that speed. I had just completed 1000 km so I shall wait a few more kilometres to ride upwards of 100 kmph. I had taken the wind screen off my bike and forgot to put it on before this ride, so the wind blast was quite bad, but fun nevertherless.

Lonavala serves only one purpose in my rides – delectable breakfast at Ramakrishna! Idli-wada sambar and a superb strong filter coffee later, i was off to Tungi Fort.

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The Wall of Lonavala Lake

Lonavala – Tungi Fort – This is where the real fun begins – The Aamby Valley road. This road is a Meccah for us bike nuts. Twists and turns with really good tarmac. The Himalayan took on these on-road duties extremely well. Great handling and fun to ride. It was sunny when I left Lonavala and as soon as I started climbing, the scenery changed. Fog and drizzle made the ride picture perfect. I took on a few random off road trails and had a bit of fun in the dirt.

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Some Off-Road Action!

The left turn for Tungi fort is just ahead of Cloud9 Hills Resort. Just follow the signs for Club Mahindra Tungi Resort. The surface becomes rough and the road is narrow, but on the Himalayan its fun to rip around these roads. Soon the fort was in my sights.

After taking a few snaps I turned back and tried out as many off shoots as possible to find some good off-road trails as well as to get a good view of the Pawna lake. And I did!

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My kind of Traffic Jam!
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Amazing view of the Pawna lake.

The off-roading required to reach the view!

Tungi Fort – Tikona Fort – Take the road going along the lake to a village called Javan. Basically follow the road to Hilton Shillim Estate Retreat and Spa and keep going till you reach Javan, then turn left. This road is incredible. Mostly smooth tarmac, narrow, full of twists and turns with quite steep climbs. Its any rider’s idea of heaven. The views are fantastic too!

Beautiful roads. Very steep ghats!

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Pawna Lake yet again. With Tikona Fort in the background! (rightmost hill)

Tikona Fort – Bhaja Caves – Ride along with the majestic view of Tungi fort encircled by the blue waters of Pawna lake. Turn left at the T-junction at Kale towards Dudhiware Khind which is an amazing pass cut into a hill. You ride in between huge walls on both sides. Its quite exciting. Immediately after the pass take a sharp right towards Lohagad fort.

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Feeble attempt at panaroma – Tungi on the left, Tikona on the right.

 

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Tungi fort from Pawna dam.
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My favourite place to take a snap – Pawna Dam.

Dudhiware Khind road.

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The Dudhiware Khind itself.

 

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Lohagad fort

This is a popular trekking route and the tarmac sort of ends. Both me and the Himalayan were smiling. I rode from Lohagad fort to Visapur fort standing up comfortably on the foot pegs. I am slowly getting accustomed to it and I must say it does give much better control on loose surfaces. Road surface past Visapur fort is quite decent. Extremely narrow, twisty and steep downhill to the base of Bhaja caves. I was tempted to climb up and visit the caves, but the crowds put me off slightly. Some other day perhaps!

Zoom shot of Bhaja Caves and a Waterfall.

Bhaja Caves – Pune – Time for the home stretch. Ride to Malavli, cross over the Expressway and the train tracks to the old NH4 and cruise back home! Hot lunch awaits!

Hope you enjoyed this mini-photologue. Have you ridden this or a similar route? Have you got any information about great unexplored roads? Definitely let me know in the comments below. And remember – Keep Wandering, Keep Driving and Keep Eating!

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One of the most important aspects of a ride – Tapri Chai!

Why The Tork T6X Has Me Electrified

 

It’s not everyday that a new automotive company is launched in India, especially one that sounds more fantasy than reality. A new company built completely from scratch by a common man, with a vision to build a revolutionary motorcycle with almost all components manufactured by themselves. A company which developed and perfected its technology on racetracks around the world.

Who am I talking about? Soichiro Honda? MV Agusta? Not really. What, if I told you it was an electric motorcycle? Has Tesla made a motorcycle? No. What if I told you it was an Indian company? Surprised? Say hello to Tork Motorcycles from Pune.

Tork Motorcycles was the brain child of Kapil Shelke, a young mechanical engineer. It started off as a college project in 2009 which blew up into a highly ambitious undertaking of trying to build the world’s fastest electric motorcycle. After building many amazing electric race bikes which reached podiums in international races and honing their electric technology for seven years, they are now virtually ready to launch their first road bike – the T6X.

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History of Tork Motorcycles

Their first prototype, the TX 01, was a race bike purpose built for the Isle of Man TTXGP. Tork Motorcycles built their own trellis frame chassis from scratch which was powered by an electric motor producing 30 Nm of torque and 40 HP of peak power.  The bike soared to the podium on its maiden outing in the TTXGP championship in 2009.

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The next bike was the TX 02 which participated in the TTXGP UK/EU championship in 2010. The TX 02 had a parallel twin electric motor, doubling the torque to 60 Nm and power to 80 HP with a top speed of 214 kmph. It used a Yamaha R15 frame which was lighter and was tuned for hard core track racing. The TX 02 won the opening race of the championship at the Snetterton Race Track.

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The third prototype, the TX 03 was built around a Suzuki GSXR 750 frame and had a twin electric motor (in series) producing 70Nm of torque and top speed of 240 kmph. This bike entered the Isle of Man TT Zero in 2012.

The fourth prototype, the TX 04 was built for something closer to home, to change the perception of Indians towards electric two-wheelers and to showcase their technology in a very recognizable package. They took a Yamaha FZ-16 and replaced the stock drive train with their own bolt on electric motor and battery pack. It had an output of 30 Nm and 40 HP. The Tork FZ cracked 0-100 kmph in an astonishing 8.7 seconds and whizzed on to a top speed of 127 kmph. They did a demo run at the Valley Run Drag racing event as well as gave the bike for review to many automotive magazines and online portals. A commercial conversion kit for the FZ-16 was also launched.

Their next prototype was the characterful TX 05 which was an economical commuter built to showcase their advanced battery management system which resulted in an astonishing range of 200 km on each charge. The retro-modern scrambler-esque design packed advanced electronic features like multiple riding modes along with upside-down forks, LED lights and had a peak power of 12 HP with a top speed of 80 kmph.

Now finally, after all those amazing prototypes, their production ready electric motorcycle is on the verge of breaking cover. The T6X has been completely designed in-house, the motor, the chassis and most of the components are even manufactured in-house, which is a huge deal for a new manufacturer.

The T6X is a commuter which will compete in the competitive 125-150 cc segment, but is expected to have some fun factor from the instant torque delivery of the electric motor as well as entertaining dynamics derived from all their racing experience. The top speed will be limited to 95 kmph, which is great considering current electric scooters available in India are limited to just 45 kmph. The T6X looks quite handsome in my opinion and also packs quite a lot of ‘never seen before’ technology – full digital display, navigation and cloud connectivity.

The T6X is expected to have a range of 100 km on a single charge. The modern lithium-ion batteries, which will be imported, even have a fast-charging option. The battery is expected to last 80,000 to 1,00,000 km before need of replacement, which is commendable. Tork Motorcycles will also launch dedicated charging stations – as many as 100 per city – before the launch of the bike to counter the range anxiety of their customers.

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But for me the most important feature is that it will look like a conventional motorcycle. Electric vehicles typically, all over the world, look very funky, weird and impractical. The average consumer is turned right off by this.

When you serve futuristic technology in very unassuming clothing it immediately becomes more acceptable. This is where the genius lies.”

Building a great electric bike ground up is a huge feat in itself. But making it as practical, fun and approachable as any other bike is what will surely turn the conservative Indian consumer towards the Tork T6X. And of course, the answer to our favourite question – “Kitna deti hai?” is quite astonishing too. Tork suggest that it will cost just about 10 paise per kilometer to run and maintain, which is extremely cheap compared to even economical commuter bikes. As electric motors do not require any oil change or recurring replacement of mechanical parts, the maintenance cost is almost negligible.

But more than anything, the T6X speaks to me on a deeper level. I was never a big fan of electric vehicles, but this bike has generated tremendous curiosity in me and a longing to own it. The dream, the story, the success in racing (the Isle of Man TT for God’s sake!) as well as the sheer determination and passion oozing out of this young 20-something design and manufacturing team has got me hooked.

This probably is the future of transportation whether we like it or not. It’s still nascent in its development so we cannot call electric vehicles the ultimate do-it-all automobile today, but Tork T6X is a definite stepping stone. This may be a very ambitious analogy, but Tork Motorcycles could be the Tesla of India and may propel Indian electric technology to the International stage.

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For more information visit – Tork Motorcycles

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Write what you feel about Tork Motorcycles in the comments below!

Panshet-Lavasa-Tamhini – Waterfall Trail Photologue

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The Himalayan, Sitting Proud.

There are some roads you discover that just stay in your heart forever. The Panshet-Lavasa route was one such road. It was a piece of broken rough road which no one used. I loved it. I always try to discover new roads every time I ride and I always ride alone. I have just fallen in love with the solidarity and peace it gives me. I had found out about another unmade-unused road which I wanted to ride on for a very long time – Lavasa to Tamhini ghat. The trip basically set itself up. The following was the planned route – Pune – Panshet – Lavasa – Tamhini Ghat – Chandani Chowk – Pune.

This is a photologue of my trip. Enjoy.

Pune to Panshet – A quiet early morning. Very less traffic. Lush green mountains, cool breeze and light rain. Perfect!

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En Route Panshet. Beautiful roads and Breathtaking scenery.

Panshet to Lavasa – After a quick bite, I continued on my favourite road. As expected, completely free of traffic, dense forests, beautiful rice paddy fields and innumerable waterfalls and streams.  The only sounds are my Himalayan smoothly burbling along and farmers’ calls egging on their bulls who toiled away in the fields.

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Rice Fields and Rain. Humongous Puddles. Himalayan likes!

The road is quite broken but much better than before. I did have couple of scary moments as the front tyre slipped slightly under me. The only times that happened was when I rode at speed through water that had slush underneath, which was impossible to see under the muddy water. But of course it was quite easy to control the bike both times and I carried on.

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The Beautiful Warasgaon Lake.
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Muddy Rivers.
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A Breather, with the Gorgeous Backdrop of Lavasa.

Lavasa to Tamhini – After a short tea break at Lavasa, I rode towards the route I was so excited about. After about 2 km from Lavasa, you cross a bridge after which you must make a right turn to join the road. Here starts the amazing  trail. It starts off as just a half-decent tar road, then there is a section with cement surface and then it turns into serious off roading. To top it off it started raining quite heavily adding to the fun and games!

The surrounding mountains are so picturesque with waterfalls everywhere you see. At the summit of the ghat, there was sort of a minor landslide with lot of stones and mud on the road. After that the road just ends. Here the Himalayan comes into it’s own. There are steep downhill sections with mud at first and then quite sharp rocks and stones. You have to ride for the most part in first gear with engine braking while feeding the rear brake once in a while. It’s amazing fun. This goes on for some time and then things go back to being civilized.

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This Right Turn is Important – Towards Tamhini
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You’re Met with This View Immediately
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Always Take Detours – They Are Always Fun!

Multiple Waterfalls! I Wish I Had More Zoom!

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Hairpins! No Knee Down Action Here.
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Mini Landslide – Bring it on!
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Off-Road Action Begins!
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Sharp Rocks and Incline. No Sweat!
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Always Stop To Take in The View!
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Yet Another Waterfall!
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Almost Back to Civilization!
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Beautiful Farmhouse. Why Me So Poor?
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Its Pouring Down, And I Love It! Not many Views Better Than This.

Mulshi to Pune – The Lavasa-Tamhini road ends at Tamhini ghat and the ride home is on good tarmac. But this road is notorious for drunken driving, people stopping and partying in the middle of the road and general reckless behaviour. So fairly controlled and careful driving is advisable.

 

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Tamhini Ghat – Magical as Ever!
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Time For Some Tea. And Some Black and White.

This ride, though just a short 6-hour one, has been one of my best rides so far and definitely the best on my Himalayan. The bike performed flawlessly and it’s so comfortable and confidence inspiring off-road and equally so, on-road. You never feel insecure on the bike, whatever the situation.

Don’t forget to comment and let me know if you’ve done this route or ridden off the beaten path and discovered amazing places. Also coming up is a detailed review of the off-roading capabilities of the Himalayan as I tested it a few days ago. Cheers! Keep riding and keep discovering!

 

First Review of the Himalayan From USA

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Cycle World, an American motorcycle magazine has published their review of our beloved Royal Enfield Himalayan. You can read the post here –

Royal Enfield Himalayan – FIRST IMPRESSION REVIEW.

They say – “One small bike for adventures, one giant leap for Royal Enfield.”

Cycle World tested a stock Himalayan, which was one of two delivered to Royal Enfield North America a few weeks ago for market research. Find out more about that in our earlier post – The Himalayan Has Reached North America. They tested it both on-road as well as off-road and were pretty impressed with the Indian manufacturer’s first attempt at an adventure motorcycle.

The American Magazine was quite impressed with the build quality of the Chennai built Himalayan and said that the quality is a huge leap forward compared to old Royal Enfields. They really took to the philosophy of this entry-level adventure bike with it’s simple and accessible design as well as riding characteristics. They call it the perfect adventure bike for the beginner compared to all others currently available in the American market which are quite big, heavy and over-powered.

We have to appreciate the efforts of Royal Enfield for building such an amazing machine which even appeals even to the international market. And it’s always nice to hear the international media praising an Indian designed and manufactured bike that even an average Indian like myself can own and ride.

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Michelin To Introduce Off-Road Tyres in India

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Michelin is expected to launch new Dual Sport tyres in the Indian Market in 2017. The popular French tyre manufacturer has quite a following in India for its road tyres and with adventure and off-road motorcycling on the rise in India, this will be a welcome move. It is expected that the new Anakee Wild will be launched.

This is very good news for many bikers in India as there are extremely limited options for off-road tyres currently. With adventure riding (hint – Leh Ladakh) and off-road riding becoming quite popular in the recent years, these tyres will definitely find a lot of takers. With the launch of the Himalayan from Royal Enfield and a cult following for the now discountinued Hero Impulse among off-road enthusiasts, their owners are looking for high quality off-road tyres.

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Let’s take a look at the Anakee Wild –

  1. 50-50 tyre – Which means it has a 50% bias for on-road as well as off-road usage.
  2. The Anakee Wild is equally comfortable on-road as well as very competent off-road without too much compromise on comfort, grip or stability in either situation.
  3. Radial tyre – The Anakee Wild is a Radial tyre which is a huge advantage over bias-ply tyres in strength and flexibility improving overall grip, comfort as well as durability.
  4. Current Sizes – The Anakee Wild is currently only available internationally in 17 and 19 inch options with two sizes each – 110/80 R19, 120/70 R19 (front) 150/70 R17 and 170/60 R17 (rear)
  5. Excellent reviews for these tyres on many off-road forums as well as professional tests by magazines and websites.

Michelin will introduce more sizes in time which will include 18 and 21 inch wheel size as well, making them suitable for all adventure motorcycles. We will have to wait and see when the tyre in launched in India and hopefully we will get sizes appropriate for the Royal Enfield range (19″ and 18″) including the Himalayan (21″ and 17″) which most probably will be the highest consumer for off-road tyres in India.

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Royal Enfield Himalayan – Wheel breaks off During Rally!

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The Royal Enfield has faced a fair amount of flak for quality issues as soon as the bike was launched. But now, news of the rear wheel breaking off a Himalayan during the National Rally Championship in Coimbatre has surfaced. The media as well as owners are casting doubts on the quality of the Himalayan yet again. We have discussed the previous issues in the following articles – Royal Enfield Himalayan – Reports of Early Problems and Royal Enfield Recalls the Himalayan for Engine Problem.

The Himalayan in question was a stock bike that was rally prepped complete with off road knobby tyres as well as a semi fairing. The rider was the bike’s owner Shahrukh Mohammad, who was participating in the rally. The rider himself revealed the truth about the situation. The bike was being ridden quite hard on an extremely tough rally stage which had thorns at some places. Due to this the rear tyre suffered a puncture. As there was no option to safely tow the bike, it had to be ridden with a punctured tyre all the way back. Due to the extreme nature of the rally stage and the puncture, the wheel broke off by the time the bike reached a safe place.

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If anything the rider, Shahrukh Mohammad, seems thankful that the bike brought him home without leaving him stranded in the middle of nowhere. He also said that its not the bike that let him down but the harsh rally conditions led to the failure.

So it seems yet again Royal Enfield has dodged a bullet amidst the negative media frenzy. The Himalayan is quite a high quality product and most problems the bike has had, have simple solutions. We have discussed the same here – Is Himalayan A Problematic/Unreliable Bike? – FALSE!. In any case it is not fair to judge a product in harsh race or rally conditions. Our road bikes are not really built to handle such tremendous punishment a track or rally puts on the machine as well as the rider.

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Source – Royal Enfield Himalayan broken rear wheel – Rally rider reveals the truth