A motorcycle Ride is essentially about the journey and the pleasing comfort of being in the company of fellow riders. However, I have found it to be equally good even when not in a group, riding in meditative solitude as rest of the world goes past my helmet’s visor. The process of journey is at its best when it is not rushed, but savored at each stage. The routes chosen ask to be enjoyed, while feeling the motorcycle engine’s response as you wrist the throttle with a childlike glee and a smile on your face. The views that go by beckon to be soaked in & captured by a camera if possible, but without fussing too much. The ride needs to be paced in such a manner that the planned breaks for having coffee, food, sugarcane juice or perhaps plain water…can be enjoyed at leisure. For this, it is important to either start early or be easy about the arrival time at destination. So, with all this gyaan…I planned our first father-son ‘Trips On Bonneville’ to Naukuchiatal in Uttrakhand.
An avid rider (someone like me!) wants a motorcycle that is ‘ikkees’ of me and my riding capabilities.
Once you have a good bike, then comes the very important aspect of finding desirable riding conditions. A good ‘Ride’ should have, in no particular order: – a sensible destination (should be purposeful), there should be good roads i.e. smooth tarmac, scenic vistas, twisties (for thrills) etc. Most of all the weather should be kind to you; excessive heat, torrential rains & gusty winds upset the Chi of your riding ‘avataar’.
Full riding gear (specially-Triumph’s Navigator) is very unforgiving in hot conditions. Anything north of 300C gets uncomfortable, ideal temperature would be a mild 200C; as it is easy on big and powerful litre plus/minus engines of superbikes also.
The month of Oct is a festive time in North India. We have Pujo, Dussherah, Diwali …and the evenings / mornings become cool & pleasant. So most of my riding buddies & I call it the beginning of biking season…wherein one can choose any destination, without worrying much about getting drenched in rains, baked in heat or getting adversely affected by cold. Most of the monsoon induced greenery is still around; lakes are full and rivers abundant with rainfall’s bounty.
If one is riding in the hills then a waterfall spouting chilled water will delight the rider at almost every corner as the low flying clouds cover your visor with mist.
In plains too the winter smog of Dec-Jan is still some weeks away and the clear blue skies and cotton ball clouds teasingly await you to tail them!
Choosing the Destination
As is natural, one finds/seeks like-minded riders, so about two years back a small group was formed with three other keen rider colleagues to visit Naukuchia Taal in Uttrakhand, where some of us have a small piece of land; we aimed for “ek panth do kaaj” i.e. to visit the plot to check its upkeep & have a good ride in the process,however the ride never happened. The ‘destination’, now it seems, was waiting for the right time & opportunity. Which finally happened when I sensed that my Son is keen to do a Ride (he is an abinitio). I could have chosen to take him on the ride to Lucknow as well, via the new expressway (other riding buddies were doing that highly desirable Ride at the same time). But it would not have suited us Father-Son as there seemed little scope of imparting lessons to an abinitio rider with that group of fast riders. At this point I must share my view that my generation learnt to ride two wheelers in a relatively forgiving environment. The scooters/bikes of the 1980s were forgiving & catered for awkwardness of a newcomer; and the traffic density too was lesser back then, as were the speeds.
With all this on my mind, I decided to plan a trip to provide an exposure of a relatively longer trip of 300 km on Triumph Bonneville T100 a superbike, and a mix of driving conditions. Thus this #TripsOnBonnieville was planned; this Ride mandated that I was in communication with my Son at all times while he was on controls or even when he was pillion. So I set up a Bluetooth Intercom system in our helmets and got familiar with its operating procedures to be able use it on the go.
The aim of doing this was to have the ability to talk & guide him when he was riding and while he was pillion I could think aloud & explain the decision making process with examples while riding in hills, on highways etc…and it definitely helped us to discuss the menu at a Cafe Coffee Day outlet (Virk Filling Station near Rampur) while I was refueling outside at fuel pump and he was in the restaurant placing the order!
Four Day Weekend Rush!
As per plan we were to start at daybreak, but due to a contingency there was a delay and we could start only by 0730 hrs. The route planned was Noida-Rampur-Rudrapur-Haldwani-Bhimtaal-Naukuchia Taal. This had been done earlier on many occasions by a four wheeler and the poor road condition after Rampur till Haldwani was a dreadful reality. However we ended up getting roasted in sun due to chock-a-block traffic jam! It started right from ‘Dasna Toll’ and continued till beginning of ‘Hapur Bypass’, a good 20 km distance. I was again a casualty of a four day weekend-rush with traffic heading to hometowns, hills etc; June’s Manali Ride & its monstrous three hour traffic jam at Old Manali town was constantly echoing in my head. But that had happened late in the night, in hills where it was cool; while this one was getting us toasted in Ten O Clock sun in our full riding gear. It was a rude initiation for my Son, but he pulled on stoically and I was happy that he was slightly better in heat because he was wearing a mesh-jacket (by RE).
The traffic jam made us to make very poor pace for first few hours, as did many other Bike Groups riding (on clutch!) along with us in the maddening traffic. At least their presence in the traffic jam did not make us the odd ones out, only specimens in riding gear! The Bluetooth intercom was a blessing, as we could chat that whole time and curse the erring drivers together.
We made a short tea break at a Dhaba and also hydrated ourselves. As usual, when the bike pulled in to the tea stall / Dhaba, the usual questions came in…cost, mileage etc. This is when the bike is inconspicuous to most (mistaken for an ‘angrezi’ modified Bullet!), I guess they all know why we ride, because no one asked why were we doing it!
Refuelling and Lunch Break
The traffic eased out after we crossed Moradabad, and conditions seemed ideal for handing over the bike to my Son, his first time on this bike. After getting familiar with bike in few minutes he made good progress, and I could discuss and monitor his decisions on the intercom.
However the downer turned out to be my inability to sit for long as pillion without any back rest (backpack too), (need to improve my core strength!) So as we approached traffic of Rampur town I surrendered the pillion seat to the young man.
After crossing Rampur I was dreading two things, one was the inevitable traffic jam due the bottleneck at Bilaspur and the extremely poor road conditions on that stretch. The heavy-load traffic and lack of maintenance has turned that stretch of road into a ‘trail’…fit only for Triumph’s Tigers!
For lunch we wanted to stop at a Dhaba where we could park the bike right next to us.
And after some scouting we spotted one, there was no customer…but we braved in after attributing the lack of customers to us being early for lunch.
After taking our gear off, we spotted a hand pump, a rarity in our big towns, cooled off dousing our heads with water and ordered simple daal roti to fill ours stomachs.
As we were cooling off & waiting for our food the Dhaba filled up with other customers, a big relief!
After a good one hour break we set course again, negotiating the badly broken road and worrying if the bike will hold against the punishment it was being subjected to.
That’s when I observed the Pulsars, Hondas & Enfields trudging on and I relaxed, though it was physically very taxing to cover those 20 odd kms in 1.5 hrs. I also noticed this time, my first with a bike on the route, that traffic jam takes different dimension if you are on a two wheeler, we literally squeezed ourselves out of all tight situations where I would have spent a lot of time stuck …had I been in a car!
Evening at Naukuchia Taal
After a quick filter coffee break at Udupiwala at Haldwani we pressed on for our destination.It was quite liberating to be on a two wheeler and riding in hills again, enjoying the brute power of the machine negotiating gradients.
We simply flew by the long queues of cars and hit the town at about five in the evening.
Since it was only us two with no ladies to fuss around, we just gallivanted around Bhimtaal and Naukuchia Taal, super confident that we WILL find a place for a night stay. After inquiring at more than five places, panic set in and we were then willing to spend the night in a store room also if the situation came to such a pass, and that is what it ended up as! All hotels etc were making a killing with four days weekend tourist rush adding to their delight. We could only get a makeshift arrangement in the staff quarters of a small five room hotel…with huge spiders for company! It certainly added to the experience.
Dinner at Bhimtaal
After a much needed bath, the father-son duo set out to search for dinner and settled in for the ‘famous’ pizza joint in Bhimtaal. The inquiry to pizza shop address always got us an answer that it was just ‘thoda aagey-slightly ahead’ a statement which in highlander speak can mean anything from 500 m to 5 kms! The pizza was good… we were hungry, but a hungry mind-stomach situation made us order for four instead of two stomachs that we were! We carried a full uneaten pizza with us to feed the monkeys (that area has plenty) the next morning.
Sleeping with Tube light On
Such was the scare of creepy crawlies in that dilapidated room that we decided against putting the lights off for sleeping and slept soundly right through the night; lights were not even noticed. The establishment’s manager was very keen that we buy a ‘sortie’ of Paragliding from his facilities, but I backed off after few queries about qualifications of paragliding pilots ! and also cribbed to no end about the room he gave us.
The Next Morning
We decided to skip the breakfast offer made to us by the hotel and headed towards our plot on the outskirts of town. The approach to the plot had always seemed daunting earlier while on a SUV or even a smaller car, as the roads/tracks tend to be narrow and gradients steep. This time, on a torquey-powerful bike the steep gradients were a cakewalk (the fear of scrapping the underside-sump was already taken care of by the two protective guards that have been installed on my Bonnieville T100) and the same roads/tracks seemed like a four lane!
May be it was the magic of the morning freshness or lush greens with which the monsoons bless our countryside each year, the area looked resplendent and the happiness was in realizing that I owned a piece of land right there!
Right next to my plot a resort/homestay has come up; we approached the property to scout and have some breakfast, but were turned away by the restaurant staff as it was only meant for resident guests. However, the owner was kind enough to entertain us (we are neighbors after all) and we gorged on yummy ‘andaa-bread’ with coffee- my comfort food!
The Return Ride
The resort owner told us about an alternate route after I narrated the harrowing time we had on the broken road we had taken the previous day. He advised that we take Naukuchia Taal-Nainitaal-Kaladhhungi-Bazpur-Doraha-Daowd-Rampur-NH24-Noida. I had not done this route before, but I did recall about One Triumph’s Jim Corbett ride, which had no cribs about the roads whatsoever, and this route was same. So despite knowing that we would encounter the holiday crowd while crossing Nainitaal, we set course.
The stretch between Khurpataal and Kaladhungi is a biker’s delight.
The road is fantastic, there wasn’t much traffic and the twisties and hairpins bends were good for a, I dare say, mid level rider like me.
It was also a good opportunity to impart some demonstrative maneuvers for the benefit of my Son.
It was almost as if I was in an aircraft, imparting lessons on Intercom. Priceless.
The stopover for lunch was a premeditated effort.
We wanted to stop a place where I could stretch out on a ‘manjee’, and we spotted the ‘manjee’ under a tree placed by Gill Brothers Dhaba (it has four star Google rating!).
The food ordered was Daal, Roti & Curd (since it was homemade by the dhaaba) and I mentioned to my Son about the importance of avoiding heavy proteins / paneer etc while on a Ride.
I have stayed near Aligarh for 11 years and another two years in the town itself, but I had never seen a Tazia procession till date, had only read about them in newspapers and Hindi literature. That day we saw three big processions on state highway 49W as we approached Rampur. The religious fervor was palpable and the processions grand.
We were categorically told to follow this route by my friend from cottages @ estates, though it was longer but it made us skirt Moradabad city and we intercepted NH 24 near Rampur town avoiding its traffic congestion.
Coffee Break at MacDonald’s
The Mac’s outlet falls on the wrong side of the road while on the way back to Noida and a large number of cars were using wrong way to reach MacDonald’s. But demonstrating patience, I went past the MacDonald’s outlet, located a break in the road and circled back to the outlet. We had our coffee etc and once again did that extra kilometer to get back on the road to Noida. The things you do for a coffee!
Night Drive to Noida
Sitting at MacDonald’s we cleaned our helmet’s visors, bracing for the onslaught of insects and the dusty stretch due to ongoing construction work between Pilakhua and Masuri. The ride was easier than anticipated with much lesser traffic than usual, perhaps it was middle of a festival-holiday and those who had to reach somewhere were already there and would be traveling back the next day, it also being a holiday.
Since it was his first motorcycle ride on highway in night conditions, I could explain to my Son, with examples, the importance of having a clear view of the road ahead while riding and more so at night. The requirement of keeping in mind the longer reaction time that is needed, so that a pot-hole or something fallen etc on road can be spotted early and avoided comfortably. Night driving on a highway is never comfortable. The faster one is riding, the more is the gap required to be maintained with the car/vehicle in front and also because it will have better braking capability. At times this, want-to-have-a-view-ahead-but-will-drive- close-to-the-bumper-ahead caused the entire width of the road getting occupied by a group of 4-5 cars travelling at same speed but at an angle to the one in front! We saw plenty of such examples, much to his amusement…group of cars moving at same speed making a diagonal ! lazy driving essentially, none of them wanted to speed up and overtake. We did! most of the times.
Despite being cautious and having a Cyclops LED bulb illumination, I did manage to go in a few pot-holes! Bonnieville T100 handled them with aplomb, maintaining her composure.
We had been on the bike since 1000 hrs and by 1900 or so the only discomfort felt was due to long hours on the seat. I was expecting it, but for my son it was quite a downer. Perhaps seat of a cruiser would have been more comfortable!
We reached home at 2022 after clocking 670 km as per Google map’s message, end of a enjoyable two day trip which shall always be a fond memory for us.